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Connacht head coach Andy Friend.
Connacht head coach Andy Friend.
Image: Dougie Allward/INPHO

Friend expects Connacht to have more positive contract news in coming weeks

The Connacht head coach recently agreed a new two-year deal with the province.
Feb 3rd 2021, 6:30 AM 4,058 2

CONNACHT RECEIVED SOME much-welcome good news last week when Andy Friend put pen-to-paper on a new contract, and it is a deal which should set the ball rolling on more players and staff agreeing to stay on at the province.

Friend, who is in his third season as Connacht head coach, agreed a new two-year deal shortly after the IRFU gave the green light for contract negotiations to take place after a lengthy delay due to the financial complications created by Covid.

“It was actually a pretty easy decision once my wife and I got our heads around our family situation and knowing we will be spending time with them soon. That’s not a Connacht issue, that’s a world issue,” Friend said.

“And also knowing that Connacht was going to get the support that had been muted from the IRFU. So once those two things came through it was a pretty easy decision for us.”

One down. Many, many more to go.

Connacht, who play Dragons on Friday, came into 2021 with 27 players heading into the final months of their contracts, but the expectation is that a raft of new deals can be finalised and announced shortly.

“Over the last couple of weeks contracts have been offered. There’s been over 20 contracts offered and more to come,” Friend continued.

“There’s been quite a positive response to that, so at the appropriate time we’ll be able to make those announcements. We had to hold back until we got the green light from the IRFU in terms of the funding, which has happened, and as soon as we were given that two weeks ago, we’ve moved pretty quickly.

“So things are definitely progressing, and one of the most important things for me is that we do keep the squad together because I believe we’ve got a very good squad, we’ve got blokes who want to be here, to play for Connacht and to try and win that silverware we keep talking about.”

There is less certainty surrounding his coaching staff. Friend admits he would like to keep his backroom together, but understands if some feel it might be time for a new challenge.

“We’ve got a great backroom staff. We really do, but everyone is on their own career path as well. We’ve got some of our backroom staff who are looking at other options, others that are keen to stay on and others keen to stay on in different roles.
“So this is another part of what I believe is my remit, which is to support not only players and playing the best brand of rugby that we can, but also to support staff and to allow them to continue to grow whether it’s here at Connacht or elsewhere, if that’s what they choose to do.

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“It’s just about having those conversations. There’s certainly not an ounce of animosity around that. It’s just about talking to the staff, making sure they’re comfortable with what their options are and then sitting down with them individually and having those chats.

“Some of it has already taken place, but the whole jigsaw hasn’t been put together just yet.”

As for his own career path, Friend feels he has grown as a coach since arriving at Connacht in the summer of 2018. If he sees out his new two-year deal, it will comfortably represent his longest stint as a head coach.

I’d like to think I keep developing and growing. I think the Covid period for me was a really good reflective period where I was able to pause, which you don’t often get time to do in this profession. You don’t get time to pause, but I was able to pause and to reassess a few things, to think back on the way I had conducted myself in certain moments that I was either really proud of or that I wish I hadn’t done it that way. 

“I think I am a different coach. I think what Connacht has awarded me is the freedom and the opportunity to work with a group of staff. I don’t get any interference to be honest. I get a lot of support but I don’t get any interference, which is not always the case in other places. So again, I’ve got to thank Connacht for that, for the way they allow me to put my stamp on things. And then my style is also around giving other people opportunities to have the space to show how good they can be.

“So I think collectively we’ve worked well with that.

“I would like to hope anyway that I am a different bloke to that one that arrived. And I hope in two years time when I’m leaving, if that’s when I am leaving, that I’m a different bloke again to the one you’ve asked this question to today.”

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Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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