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'He's going to be a great coach for Connacht' - Chiefs laud departing Keane
The Kiwi is taking over from Pat Lam in the west of Ireland.

Murray Kinsella reports from Hamilton

IF CONNACHT ARE hoping to help Kieran Keane settle in quickly, they could do worse that sticking him on a boat and bringing him out to see the Aran Islands before the summer is over.

The New Zealander is a big fan of sailing and one of the players he currently works with at the Chiefs, Michael Allardice, reckons that “if someone over in Connacht has got a yacht out there, I’m sure he’d love to do that.”

Kieran Keane Photosport / Joe Allison/INPHO Keane has been plotting the Lions' downfall this week. Photosport / Joe Allison/INPHO / Joe Allison/INPHO

One for CEO Willie Ruane to organise as the westerners get set for a new era after the departure of Pat Lam to Bristol.

Last season was, in truth, a major backwards step for Connacht on and off the field, but the full-time arrival of Keane – nicknamed ‘KK’ – upon the completion of the Super Rugby season should help to return the province to their previous upward curve.

Keane brings a fine reputation with him, having coached Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay, the Tasman Makos and several underage New Zealand sides. His current position with the Chiefs is as an assistant to Dave Rennie, with responsibility for their attack.

The 63-year-old was unfortunately not put up for media duties this week ahead of the Chiefs’ clash with the Lions in Hamilton, but his players lauded his rugby intelligence and personable approach.

“He’s been a great coach to me, I’ve learnt a lot from him,” said wing Toni Pulu. “He’s a coach that thinks outside the box and finds solutions for you.

“You tend to do things the hard way, but he finds little things that you should be doing that are simpler than the things you normally do.

“He calls himself the wise old man around here and he is! He’s quite smart, knows a lot of stuff about rugby.

“So, he’s going to be a great coach for Connacht and I can’t wait to see how it goes for him.”

Kieran Keane Photosport / Chris Symes/INPHO Keane is a creative thinker. Photosport / Chris Symes/INPHO / Chris Symes/INPHO

It’s the creative and innovative edge that the Chiefs have enjoyed most in Keane’s coaching, with Allardice underlining that KK is fairly obsessed with rugby.

“He’s a very analytical man, he knows footy inside out,” said Allardice. “You sit down with him to have a few minute’s conversation about something and you end up sitting there for half an hour talking footy.

“He just loves footy and he’s a great man. He’s got a very good tactical brain, which is very helpful.”

Keane was formerly a teacher and the Chiefs say that’s reflected in his comfort at dealing with them, while he was a fine player back in his day too, playing for Canterbury at provincial level and for the All Blacks in a number of non-Test games.

Anyone who has watched the Chiefs play will understand that Keane’s philosophy around attack is to take risks and back his players to recover from mistakes.

They have found his positive mindset to be infectious.

“He’s very energetic, he’s very funny,” said All Blacks lock Dominic Bird. “He’s bloody entertaining actually and he’s got some very different ideas. He’s a passionate man, so you can feel that with the way he coaches. He’s got some great ideas.

“He backs you to play and take risks, and you can see that in the way that we play. He’s all for it. You’re a lot less worried about making mistakes and that’s such a positive because you don’t want to be dwelling on that. It’s one of the good things about him.”

Kieran Keane Photosport / Joe Allison/INPHO Keane's arrival will give Connacht a boost. Photosport / Joe Allison/INPHO / Joe Allison/INPHO

The Chiefs speak about the detail of his coaching too, and they are convinced that Keane is going to be a real success in Ireland.

A good rugby brain, a good bloke and a good signing for Connacht. On top of it all, Keane is not afraid to get stuck into his players when they don’t deliver the required work rate.

“I’ve been guilty of that sometimes!” said Pulu with a knowing laugh. “But you respect him because he knows his stuff.”

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