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Dublin: 7°C Sunday 18 April 2021

Connacht hoping to extend head coach Friend's contract into next season

The Australian has proven hugely popular with players and supporters alike since arriving in 2018.

Andy Friend joined Connacht in 2018.
Andy Friend joined Connacht in 2018.
Image: Connacht Rugby/INPHO

WITH CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS swinging into life in Irish rugby this month, Connacht are hoping to hang onto head coach Andy Friend into next season.

The Australian is out of contract this summer but Connacht are understandably keen to ensure he extends his deal.

Friend joined Connacht on a three-year contract in 2018, taking over from Kieran Keane after the Kiwi’s unhappy time in charge, and has proven to be hugely popular with the province’s players and supporters.

IRFU performance director David Nucifora played a central role in the appointment of Friend, with both having previously worked with the Brumbies.

The westerners qualified for the Pro14 play-offs in Friend’s first season as head coach, ensuring a return to the Champions Cup in the 2019/20 campaign. 

Exciting European wins at home to Montpellier and Gloucester followed last season, while Connacht sit second in Conference B of the Pro14 in the current campaign, which has been heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Connacht players have repeatedly spoken of the positive off-pitch culture Friend has built in the province in recent seasons, while his personable and open manner has seen him develop strong connections with the playing squad.

Friend has also encouraged his assistants – attack coach Nigel Carolan, forwards coach Jimmy Duffy, and defence coach Peter Wilkins – to take on greater responsibility and bring their strengths to the fore, creating a positive atmosphere among the staff.

With all of that in mind, losing the head coach would be an obvious blow and Connacht are hoping to secure Friend on a new contract that would keep him in this country beyond June.

With Australian rugby currently in a rebuild mode of sorts, it’s understood that Rugby Australia may be keen to bring Friend back into the fold there.

The IRFU had put a pause on contract offers before the New Year but the past fortnight has seen that lift and negotiations are firmly back underway, with Friend among the many coaches and players whose deals are due to expire this summer.

Connacht fans will be hoping to hear of a positive outcome in the coming weeks.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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