Connacht still to announce three new signings, including a NIQ player

The western province’s head coach, Andy Friend, confirmed that more announcements are on the way.

CONNACHT BOSS ANDY Friend says the province still have three new signings to announce for next season, including a non-Irish-qualified [NIQ] player.

The western province’s season ended on Saturday as they lost to Ulster in the Guinness Pro14 quarter-finals.

It has been a positive campaign overall for Friend’s side, however, with a return to the Champions Cup next season secured.

Andy Friend before the game Andy Friend confirmed more signings are on the way. Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

Connacht have already confirmed the signing of Irish prop Paddy McAllister from Gloucester, while scrum-half Angus Lloyd has been announced as a new addition.

Tom Daly and Stephen Fitzgerald, currently on loan from Leinster and Munster, have also been confirmed as permanent signings ahead of next season.

Friend has now confirmed that Connacht have a further three new players to announce in the coming weeks, including an NIQ addition.

“There’s probably another three names that we’ll be announcing in due course,” said Friend. “We’ve got one NIQ player coming in and two other Irish-qualified players.”

Friend will be hopeful that the new players can make an impact as Connacht look to push on next season.

The Australian boss identified his team’s ability to take their chances as a key improvement they will target in 2019/20.

“We created a lot of opportunities throughout the course of the year and today was not dissimilar,” said Friend after Connacht’s 21-13 defeat to Ulster.

“We’ve probably got to be a bit more clinical in how we finish those opportunities off and just lapses in games where, I said it through the week, we still haven’t played our best 80 minutes of football.

Caolin Blade Connacht were second best in Belfast. Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

“We see glimpses of it, but it’s how we can keep that accuracy and that clinical performance that we’re looking for, for longer periods.

“That’s going to be our biggest work-on as a group. On top of that, we’ll continue to work on our fitness areas and our strength areas, and the culture that we’re building which is a real positive, but I know we’ve got more growth in that as well.

“So, there’s still a lot to go but that’s all for pre-season next year.”  

While Friend stressed the quality of Ulster’s defensive performance at the Kingspan Stadium, he did admit that the power of the likes of Marcell Coetzee and Iain Henderson was difficult to handle.

That physicality is something Connacht will look to add to their own game moving forward.

“I thought Coetzee was outstanding today, that big powerful beast of a man, and we were probably looking for something like that,” said Friend.

“We’ve got a few players that may be able to do that but, for various reasons, we haven’t seen this year. So, yeah, that’s something that we need to try and find in the pre-season and into next year. You can just see the damage that someone like that does.

“We don’t have that physicality there at the moment.”

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