# Moving On
Pat Lam to leave Connacht and take over as head coach at Bristol
The Connacht head coach will depart for England following the conclusion of the 2016/17 campaign.

Pat Lam Ryan Byrne / INPHO Connacht head coach Pat Lam. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

CONNACHT ARE TO begin the search for a new head coach for next season after announcing that Pat Lam will step down at the end of the current campaign.

In a statement released this morning, the reigning Guinness Pro12 holders confirmed that the New Zealand-born coach “will finish up next summer to take up a new coaching role” after four seasons in charge.

In a separate statement, Bristol — who are currently bottom of the English Premiership — have announced that Lam will succeed Mark Tainton as their head coach for the 2017/18 season.

Lam took over from Eric Elwood for the 2013/14 season and oversaw a period of unprecedented success for Connacht. The 48-year-old former Samoa captain guided the province to the Guinness Pro12 title with a win over Leinster in the final at Murrayfield in May.

“This has been one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make in my life as Connacht and Galway is such a special place for myself and my family,” said Lam.

“The friendships, support and memories we all have experienced throughout our time in the west of Ireland is truly heartfelt and will never be forgotten.

“I feel extremely blessed to have been given an opportunity four years ago to build on the excellent work of Eric Elwood. I’m very proud that I can now pass on the baton with the knowledge that Connacht Rugby is truly seen as one of four strong provinces of Irish rugby.

Pat Lam celebrates James Crombie / INPHO Lam celebrates at Murrayfield following Connacht's Guinness Pro12 triumph. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“Rugby should never be about the individual as players and coaches will always come and go. We have worked hard to have the structures and systems in place to ensure the future success of the province for our community.

“I truly believe that through our strategic plan and the vision of ‘Grassroots to Green Shirts’, Connacht Rugby is in an extremely strong place going forward.

“There is a lot of rugby to be played between now and the end of the season and myself, our management team and the players are fully committed to our goals on and off the pitch.

“We are heading in to Champions Cup rugby this week on the back of so much hard work over the last number of years. We want to continue to inspire our community and we have many more opportunities on and off the field to do that this season.”

Lam, who has been earmarked as a potential future Ireland head coach, signed a new three-year contract in January 2015 to remain at the Connacht helm until the summer of 2018. However, he’ll now depart a year ahead of schedule.

Connacht CEO Willie Ruane said: “Firstly I’d like to thank Pat for everything he has done for Connacht Rugby. He led the province to a first ever trophy and that will be something that will live long in the memory. While there is a lot of rugby yet to be played this season, we wish Pat, Steph and their family the very best in the next chapter of their lives.

“Connacht Rugby has made a huge amount of progress over the last number of years, with Pat building on the great work of those who went before him and we remain extremely confident and excited about the future. As a club, we will immediately engage with our Professional Games Board and the IRFU with respect to starting the process of recruiting our next head coach.”

Pat Lam James Crombie / INPHO Lam: "We want to continue to inspire our community." James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Having been promoted to the Premiership this season, Bristol are currently on course for relegation back to the Championship after losing all 10 of their games so far in this campaign.

“Pat was the outstanding candidate in our search for a new head coach and impressed the board with his coaching ability, experience and enthusiasm for the task ahead. We’re very pleased to appoint an individual of his quality,” said Bristol chairman Chris Booy.

“The board has been patient in our approach to ensure we have the right man to take this club forward in the long term. Pat has transformed a Connacht team into Pro12 champions and we believe he can build a squad, a culture and an environment that can be successful in the Aviva Premiership.

“Mark Tainton and the existing coaching set-up will continue in their roles with the target of securing our Aviva Premiership survival. They have done an excellent job so far in instilling some real fight and positivity into the players and we are confident that Mark has the ability to keep Bristol in the top flight.”

Commenting on his future role as Bristol head coach, Lam said: “I’m excited about the opportunity to coach and lead Bristol Rugby – a proud club with history, tradition and a bright future ahead.

“What appeals to me most after speaking to Steve Lansdown and Chris Booy is their passion, vision and long-term commitment to inspire fellow Bristolians worldwide through rugby success on and off the field.

“As with my decision to help Connacht Rugby four years ago, my coaching philosophy is very much aligned to assisting them in making Bristol Rugby a club where the Bristol community can be inspired and Bristol players have a genuine pathway to represent England by the quality of our rugby programme.

“I’m committed to Bristol irrespective as to what happens in the short-term – everything is in place for the club to be a force in the future and I’m honoured to be invited to join the journey.”

Updated at 10.45am

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