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Connacht chief denies province is in crisis despite losing Lam and two other coaches

CEO Willie Ruane is confident they can overcome the loss of such skilled personnel.

Connacht CEO Willie Ruane.
Connacht CEO Willie Ruane.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

CONNACHT CHIEF EXECUTIVE Willie Ruane has denied that losing Pat Lam and two other coaches, in addition to three players who started the Pro12 final win over Leinster, is a crisis.

Backs coach Andre Bell returned to New Zealand shortly after the historic Pro12 win, with skills coach Dave Ellis also set to cut short his stay at the Sportsground in January.

But while Robbie Henshaw left during the summer and was followed by lock Aly Muldowney and out-half AJ MacGinty, Ruane said the unrest was being managed.

“It’s not a crisis at all. We lost two key players but we retained the likes of Ultan Dillane and Bundee Aki, two of arguably the biggest players in the squad. It’s not a crisis at all.

“It’s part of professional sport and that is the harsh reality of it. People come and people go. The main thing is are the structures in place to allow you to continue to grow and achieve your objectives?

“And we are comfortable with that. Any of our conversations are about what structures are needed so when you lose a person it doesn’t impact you. If you don’t have the structure where you can replace someone, that is a crisis.”

Lam confirmed that his announcement this week was sparked by a clause in his contract which required him to give six months’ notice if he was to leave before June 2018, but Ruane said none of the players in the squad had such a release clause.

Pro12 player of the season Bundee Aki, who signed a three-year contract extension recently, vented his feelings when he tweeted ‘Feeling p*ssed’ after being informed on Monday morning that the coach who brought him to the Sportsground was now departing.

Lam said that he had a good chat with Aki and there was ‘a big bear hug’. Ruane said neither Aki nor any other player had an option in their contract to leave early.

“The six-month clause is not in players’ contracts but I would be reluctant to talk about those.”

Ruane said that when he was asked at a media event in the Aviva Stadium last May about clauses in Lam’s contract which would allow him to leave, the question from the reporter referred to ‘bigger clubs’ coming in for the coach.

“In fairness back in the Aviva I was asked ‘were there specific clauses with regards to so-called bigger clubs’.

“There were no specific clauses with regard to so-called bigger clubs. There was a clause which allowed Pat to leave with six months’ notice.

“That had nothing to do with so-called bigger clubs, there was nothing specific about it. I was asked a very direct question and that was the honest answer,” added Ruane.

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