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Marmion 'is very aware that we would like him to stay,' says Friend

The Connacht 9 was reportedly a target of Saracens last week, but their salary cap sanction will force a re-think of all their recruitment.

Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

RETAINING PLAYERS is foremost on the mind of Andy Friend this week, with captain Jarrad Butler among a quartet of re-signed contracts.

News of Saracens’ salary-cap sanction has given cause to doubt their reported recruitment drive. Even if they successfully appeal their hefty fine and points deduction then they will be under increased pressure to stay below the cap in the years ahead.

Kieran Marmion was a reported target of the reigning English and European champions last week, but if Friend was expecting the state of play to change after the tremors of rugby’s financial fair play, he wasn’t fully revealing his hand.

“Kieran is very aware that we would like him to stay. At the end of the day he’ll make a decision on that,” said the Australian, whose side have won four out of five in the opening portion of the season and host Leinster at the Sportsground tomorrow.

“That sort of performance that (Marmion) puts out there week after week would attract many clubs. So I wouldn’t be surprised if there is four or five other clubs, whether it’s Saracens or whoever else want to talk to him good luck to them.

“But ideally he’d stay with us. My message to him is: ‘Kieran, whatever you decided to do we will back you and respect your decision. We’d love you to stay at Connacht’.”

Friend adds: “It is hard to know what he is still trying to process at the moment. He shared with us that he was frustrated, he shared with us that he loves living in Galway.  He shared that he has had many a fun night at the Sportsground playing for Connacht. So, from our point of view, hopefully that’s the thing that he holds on to the most when he makes the decision.”

After Tiernan O’Halloran, Sean O’Brien and Tom Farrell committed their future to the western province another man with a decision to make will be Bundee Aki, whose contract runs to next summer.

“That would be nice too,” Friend said when asked if the Ireland centre was set for renewal.

“We’re in talks about talk recruitment, but for me it’s a lot about retention, making sure you are keeping the right people.

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“We have got a really healthy group of players there. it’s really important we lock down the main ones who have got us to where we currently are and we view them of being a very important part of where we want to build to.

The quicker you can get clarity around the for the club and probably more importantly for the player. They are big decision that weigh on a player’s mind. You often see it that a player announces a signing and all of a sudden they start playing good rugby again because that weight’s taken off their shoulders.

“For us it would be really important to try and continue to lock down some of those players and hopefully there is better announcements to come.”

As Aki was suspended for Ireland’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final, he and Jack Carty are set to make their return to the Connacht jersey for tomorrow’s inter-pro clash with Leinster.

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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