Connacht Rugby

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Connacht Rugby
Connacht Rugby Logo
Nickname(s) The Devil's Own
Founded 1885; 129 years ago (1885)
Location Galway, Ireland
Ground(s) Galway Sportsgrounds (Capacity: 9,500[a])
CEO Willie Ruane
Coach(es) Pat Lam
Captain(s) John Muldoon
Most caps Michael Swift (264)
Top scorer Ian Keatley (688)
Most tries Fionn Carr (39)
League(s) Pro12
2013–14 10th
1st kit
2nd kit
Official website
www.connachtrugby.ie
Rugby current event.svg Current season
Rugby Provincial Teams Ireland.svg

Connacht Rugby (Irish: Rugbaí Connachta) is one of the four professional provincial rugby teams from the island of Ireland. Connacht competes in the Pro12 and the Rugby Challenge Cup. The team represents the IRFU Connacht Branch, which is one of four primary branches of the IRFU, and is responsible for rugby union throughout the geographical Irish province of Connacht.

Connacht plays its home games at the Galway Sportsgrounds, which normally holds 7,500 spectators, though is expandable to 9,500 for important games. Connacht play in a predominantly green and black jersey, black shorts and green and black socks. The Connacht Rugby crest is a modified version of the provincial flag of Connacht and consists of a dimidiated eagle and an arm wielding a sword.

With only 7% of the total number of Irish rugby union players, Connacht has a much smaller base of rugby union players to choose from than the other three provinces, due in part to its small population and the relative popularity of Gaelic Athletic Association sports such as hurling and Gaelic football. However, rugby union in Connacht has expanded, with increased ticket sales,[1] in particular since its first season competing in the Heineken Cup. Through the work of the Connacht Branch and the support of the IRFU, the province has experienced growth, increasing its underage and schools participation through initiatives such as the 'Grassroots to Greenshirts' campaign.[2] The Connacht Eagles, a developmental side, have featured in the semi-professional British and Irish Cup since the 2012–13 season.

History[edit]

Foundation and amateur era (1885–1995)[edit]

The Connacht Branch of the IRFU was founded on 8 December 1885, and along with it the provincial team. The team was formed to compete with Leinster, Munster and Ulster, whose teams had been formed ten years earlier in 1875. There were six teams represented at the meeting in Dublin that founded the Connacht branch. These were Ballinasloe, Castlebar, Galway Town, Galway Grammar School, Queen's College Galway and Ranelagh School Athlone. Castlebar, Queen's College (later NUIG) and Ballinasloe, who formed part of Buccaneers, are the only three of those six to have stayed active in some form since the branch was founded.[3] The province is currently made up of 4 All-Ireland League clubs, 20 'junior' clubs and 4 'mini' rugby clubs.[4] During the amateur era, the four Irish provinces played against each other in the Irish Interprovincial Championship, and also played against touring international sides.

Early professional years (1995–2003)[edit]

On 26 August 1995 the International Rugby Board declared rugby union an "open" game, removing all restrictions on payments or benefits to those connected with the game. this was done due to a committee conclusion having an open game was the only way to end the hypocrisy of shamateurism, and keep control of the sport. The threat to amateur rugby union mostly prevalent in the Southern hemisphere, particularly in Australia where Super League was threatening to entice players to rugby league with large salaries.[5] In Ireland, the four provincial teams were the only teams to go professional, while their smaller constituent clubs remained amateur.

The 1995–96 season saw the first ever Heineken Cup, a new tournament set up for European clubs. The Irish were allocated three places in the competition, with these places going to Leinster, Munster and Ulster. The following season saw the launch of a secondary European competition, the European Challenge Cup. Connacht were coached that season by former All Black Warren Gatland, who had previously coached Galwegians. The inaugural Challenge Cup (then also known as the European Shield), saw Connacht finish 4th from 6 teams in their group, which also contained Toulon and the Northampton Saints.

The 1997–98 European Challenge Cup proved far more successful for Connacht. The team, still coached by Gatland, finished top of their group, the number of teams in each group having been reduced to 4. Connacht won 5 of their 6 matches including beating Northampton both at home and away. The win in Northampton and victory over Bordeaux-Bègles in Stade André Moga made Connacht the first professional Irish team to beat an English team in England and a French team in France respectively. In the quarter-final they played SU Agen away in the Stade Armandie, but lost 40-27. Gatland left his position as Connacht coach at the end of the season, taking over as Ireland coach.

Another New Zealander, Glenn Ross, took over from Gatland. In his two seasons, Connacht failed to make it out of the pool stages of the Challenge Cup, and Ross resigned at the end of the 1999–2000 season. He was replaced by South African coach Steph Nel.[6] Nel's first two seasons also Connacht knocked out of the Challenge Cup at the group stages but domestically, 2001 saw the formation a new competition called the Celtic League, which was created to serve as a league for Irish, Scottish and Welsh clubs.

Connacht made it to the quarter-finals in the inaugural Celtic League. They were beaten by Scotland's Glasgow Warriors, with a final score of 29-34. In the 2002–03 season the team again reached the quarters. This time, however, they were beaten by a much greater margin, losing to Irish rivals Munster by a score of 33-3.[7] Meanwhile in the 2002–03 European Challenge Cup, they reached the quarter-finals, being knocked out by a margin of 8 points over two legs, against Welsh team Pontypridd.

Off the field however, the province's future was under threat. The IRFU proposed shutting down Connacht Rugby as a professional team in 2003 to cut costs, in light of the IRFU's annual deficit of €4 million. This was averted when a public protest with 2,000 fans marching on the IRFU headquarters in Dublin, coupled with the possibility of a strike by the Irish Rugby Union Players Association, forced the IRFU to reverse course and maintain the team.[8][9]

Michael Bradley era (2003–2010)[edit]

Michael Bradley took charge of Connacht in 2003, coming in from the Irish under-age set up to replace Steph Nel.[10] Connacht Rugby's average crowd was 600 supporters and the IRFU allotted a budget which was less than 50% of either of the other three Irish provinces. In Bradley's first Celtic League season, Connacht finished ninth from 12 teams, ahead of only the Scottish sides, but 2003–04 was the most successful season in European competition in the province's history to date. Connacht reached the semifinals of that year's European Challenge Cup, and came within touching distance of the decider, but a try from the Harlequins centre Will Greenwood, 12 minutes from time in the second leg of their semi-final, denied them a place in the final. Connacht also got to the semi-final of the Celtic Cup. Despite this, Connacht fell further in the Celtic League the following season. The team finished one place from the bottom in 2004–05, in what was now an 11 team competition. Still, the team continued their European form in the 2004–05 European Challenge Cup, reaching the semi-finals a second season. Once again, they were knocked out over two legs by the eventual winners of the competition, this time Sale Sharks.

2006–07 European Challenge Cup tie between Bath and Connacht

With the Union holding a tight grip on the purse strings Connacht continued to struggle in the Celtic League, finishing in tenth place from 11 in both the 2005–06 and 2006–07 seasons. In these seasons, however their European form could not make up for the domestic performances. Though they reached the quarter-finals of the 2005–06 Challenge Cup, they suffered a 23-3 defeat to Newcastle Falcons, before failing to advance through the pool stages in 2006–07. These seasons, however, saw the beginning of a new dimension to Connacht's player recruitment, whereby the province would bring Irish players back from abroad, to compete for Irish selection. Examples include the transfers of Gavin Duffy from Harlequins, Johnny O'Connor from London Wasps and Frank Murphy from Leicester Tigers.

The 2007–08 Celtic League saw the competition reduced to ten teams, following the exit of Border Reivers, and the season ended with Connacht bottom of the table, having won only five of their 18 matches. They also finished third in their Challenge Cup pool, again being knocked out early. In the 2008–09 season Connacht were able to finish second in their pool and advance to the quarter finals, but were beaten 42-13 by Northampton Saints. Without any meaningful increase in the budget, the management team struggled to improve the quality of the playing squad as a whole and they failed to improve in the Celtic League, finishing last again in 2008–09, this time 13 points from the next team up the table.

Bradley announced early in the 2009–10 season that he intended to step down at the end of the year.[11] His final season followed a similar pattern to his first two seasons as coach, with the team again finishing last in the League, though the gap was narrower than the previous year. As in Bradley's earlier seasons, however, Connacht were able to leave their poor form in the league behind when it came to playing in the Challenge Cup. They topped their pool comfortably, winning all six games with two try bonus points, and proceeded to the quarter-finals as top seeds. For the first time in the clubs history the team had achieved the highest points total at the pool stages of any team in either European competition. In the quarters, they faced French Top 14 side Bourjoin, beating them 23-20, with a late Miah Nikora drop goal. Connacht advanced to the semi-finals where, on 30 April 2010, they faced a Toulon team featuring the English fly-half Jonny Wilkinson. Toulon won 19-12 in Galway, with Wilkinson kicking 14 of the French club's points. This season also saw veteran forward Michael Swift break the record for number of Connacht appearances.[12] With crowds of more than 8,000 at both the quarter and semi-final stages of the Challenge Cup, and average gates of 2,600 in the Celtic League, Connacht's structures and support had improved drastically from 2003, when the team's survival was in question. Due to work on and off the pitch there was now a platform for a future for Connacht Rugby to continue and grow as one of Ireland's four professional rugby teams. At the end of the 2010 season Bradley was awarded the Celtic Leagues Chairman's award in recognition for his service to Connacht Rugby throughout his seven years as Director of Rugby in the province.

Eric Elwood as head coach (2010–2013)[edit]

Bradley was succeeded as Connacht boss by former Connacht and Ireland fly-half, Eric Elwood. Elwood had served as an assistant to Bradley since 2005 and had also coached the Ireland Under-20s to a grand slam in 2007's Six Nations Under 20s Championship.[13] His first season in charge saw two teams from Italy introduced to the Celtic League, Aironi and Benetton Treviso, which brought the number of teams back up to twelve. Connacht finished above both of the Italian teams as well as Glasgow Warriors, coming in ninth place. In the Challenge Cup, Connacht were knocked out in the pool stages, finishing second in their group behind the eventual winners of the tournament, Harlequins. During the course of the season, the loss of a number of key players, such as Sean Cronin and Ian Keatley, were announced, with the players signing to Connacht's provincial rivals for the start of the following season.

Heineken Cup Rugby[edit]

Lineout against Toulouse in their 2011–12 Heineken Cup group stage match at Stade Ernest-Wallon

In 2011–12 Connacht made their first-ever Heineken Cup appearance, due to Leinster winning the 2011 Heineken Cup Final. By competition rules, introduced in the 2010–11 season, the winners of both the Heineken Cup, and the European Challenge Cup, would receive an automatic berth in the following year's Heineken Cup. This place would then be passed on to another team from that country if the tournament winner was already qualified by domestic performance. As Leinster had qualified through performance in the 2010–11 Celtic League, Connacht claimed the extra berth.[14] Ahead of their first season in European Rugby's premier club competition, Gavin Duffy replaced John Muldoon as captain of the team.[15] Connacht lost their first five matches in the pool stages, claiming losing bonuses in both of their games with Gloucester. In the final game of their pool, however, they managed an upset, beating Harlequins 9-8 in the Sportsground, which prevented the Premiership club from topping the group, and knocked them down into the Challenge Cup.[16]

Domestically, meanwhile, the Celtic League had been renamed, given the previous season's introduction of Italian teams to the competition. In the first season of the new 'Pro12', Connacht built on the previous year's performance. They finished the season in eighth place, ahead of Newport Gwent Dragons, an Edinburgh team managed by former coach Mike Bradley, and both of the Italian teams.

Connacht's entry into the Heineken Cup led to a significant increase in the club's popularity. In summer 2011, the supporters club, the Connacht Clan, was formed.[17] In September 2011, Connacht season ticket sales went over the 3,000 mark for the first time in the club's history,[18][19] and average attendance for the 2011–12 season saw a 105% increase over the previous season.[20] Connacht's average attendance in home Pro12 matches climbed to 4,653 in the 2011–12 season, and increased further to 5,154 for the 2012–13 season.[21]

Ahead of the 2012–13 season, Connacht signed former Scotland fly-half Dan Parks from the Cardiff Blues. Aironi were replaced in the 2012–13 Pro12 with a new professional Italian team, called Zebre. Round 5 of the league saw Connacht beat their provincial rivals and the Heineken Cup holders, Leinster, 34-6 at the Sportsgrounds, with the team running in five tries.[22] This season saw the Connacht end in the same position as the previous year, as the team finished eighth, above Cardiff Blues, Bradley's Edinburgh, the Dragons and Zebre. On the European stage, Connacht played in the Heineken Cup again in 2012–13, because of Leinster's second Heineken Cup win in a row. The team won three of their pool matches. The victories came in the home and away ties with newly formed Zebre, along with a victory at home to 2009–10 finalists and 2011–12 Challenge Cup winners Biarritz.[23] Elwood had announced his intention to leave his post in October 2012,[24] and he departed at the end of the 2012–13 season. The end of the season also saw the retirements of two of Connacht's most experienced players, Adrian Flavin[25] and Johnny O'Connor,[26] both of whom had made over 100 appearances for the team.

Pat Lam takes over (2013–present)[edit]

2013–14[edit]

Elwood's replacement was announced in January 2013, with the New Zealand born former Samoa international Pat Lam appointed to coach the team.[27] Lam had previously served as head coach to Super Rugby side the Auckland Blues, coaching them in the 2009 and 2010 seasons. The team qualified for their third Heineken Cup in a row in 2013–14, due to Leinster winning the 2012–13 European Challenge Cup. Connacht were drawn into Pool 3 with Saracens, Toulouse, and Zebre.

Lam's first competitive game in charge was in the 2013–14 Pro12, a 25-16 home win over Zebre. After this game Connacht failed to win their next four games, before a break in league play for Heineken Cup games. In their next Pro12 match, Connacht came close to beating Leinster in Dublin for the first time since 2002, but conceded a late penalty try to lose 16-13.[28] The team's patchy form continued after the derby with Leinster, and Connacht lost three more games in the Pro12, culminating in a 43-10 defeat to Edinburgh in Murrayfield. On 21 December 2013, they overcame Newport Gwent Dragons 14-11 at home to break a league losing streak stretching back to September. Connacht continued to tussle with Zebre at the foot of the table, before going on a four match winning streak from 15 February to 23 March, earning three try bonus points. This was the team's longest run of wins in 11 years.[29] Following this run of form though, Connacht failed to win another match in the league, finishing in tenth place and level on points with Newport Gwent Dragons in ninth. Connacht were also level with Treviso for most losing bonus points won, having been beaten seven points or less in seven games.

In their first Heineken Cup game of the season, on 11 October 2013, Connacht ran Saracens close in Galway.[30] In their following game, the province overcame Zebre. This win the team's first competitive victory in over a month. On 8 December 2013, following a four game losing streak in the Pro12, Connacht defied their form and produced one of the biggest shocks in the history of the Heineken Cup, when they defeated Toulouse in the Stade Ernest-Wallon.[31][32][33] Connacht were beaten by Toulouse in the return game at the Sportsground, but beat Zebre in the following game to go into the final round of matches with a slim chance of progressing to the quarter-finals. That game however, saw them beaten comfortably by Saracens on a final score of 64-6, with the English side running in a record 11 tries.[34]

Status Within Irish Rugby[edit]

Initially the IRFU designated Connacht as a development team, meaning the team received only half the budget of the other Irish provinces. In 2003, the IRFU discussed the future of Connacht Rugby and the prospect of the team being shut down as part of a cost saving program. Thousands of supporters at the time marched to show their support of the provincial team and this idea was subsequently rejected.[35] In May 2014, the IRFU announced that it would be providing Connacht with an increase in funding of over €1 million, nominally to improve strength and conditioning coaching and facilities.[36]

Although Connacht are no longer as far behind in funding they do still have a smaller playing population compared to the other provinces, though this is growing steadily along with the supporter base. Connacht has often relied on a policy of bringing in players from other players that have failed to progress to their senior team or are seeking more game time and players from the amateur All-Ireland League to help make up. The Connacht Rugby academy under Nigel Carolan has consistently produced graduates to represent the senior Connacht Rugby team however and many of these players have also represented Ireland at under-age level. Robbie Henshaw, David Heffernan, Dennis Buckley, Eoin McKeon, Eoin Griffin, Darragh Leader, Tiernan O'Halloran, Danny Qualter and Jack Carty are examples of Connacht players native to the province to have progressed to the senior team through the academy.[37][38][39][40]

Connacht Rugby has in the past lost players it recruited and helped to develop to provincial rivals and foreign teams. For example, Connacht lost four important first team players to provincial rivals in 2011. The team's out-half, Ian Keatley moved to Munster,[41] while hooker Sean Cronin, tighthead prop Jamie Hagan and winger Fionn Carr all transferred to Leinster.[42][43][44] After the loss of another first team player to Leinster was announced in 2012, this time Irish international lock Mike McCarthy, the Connacht chief executive Tom Sears accused Leinster of trying to "poach" Connacht players, arguing it was not in the best interests of Irish rugby.[45][46]

European Qualification[edit]

In the early years of European competition, Connacht were automatically entered in the European Challenge Cup each year rather than the more prestigious Heineken Cup, with the IRFU automatically giving its three allocated Heineken Cup places to the other provinces regardless of results in the Celtic League. However, ahead of the 2006–07 season, the union agreed to use the Celtic League table as its sole criteria for determining which Irish teams would enter the next season's Heineken Cup. Since then Connacht have yet to finish in a higher league position than their provincial rivals. Despite this Connacht did achieve Heineken Cup qualification from the 2011–12 season to the 2013–14 season due to Leinster winning three consecutive European tournaments. Leinster's successes meant that they were automatically qualified for the following year, leaving an open Irish qualification berth which was filled by Connacht.

With the Heineken Cup being replaced by the 20 team Rugby Champions Cup in the 2014–15 season, the Pro12 table will have a greater impact on qualification from the 2013–14 season onward. Under the previous format, the competition provided a minimum of ten teams, with Scotland and Italy providing two teams each, and Ireland and Wales both providing three. The new system sees one place now being reserved for the highest finishing Pro12 team from each of four participating countries and three other qualifiers based solely on league position, for a total of seven teams. The other teams will be entered in the new second tier competition, the Rugby Challenge Cup. This means that Connacht are no longer required to finish ahead of another Irish province or rely on an Irish victory in a European tournament to qualify for the top tier of European rugby. Starting in the 2015–16 competition the 20th tournament spot will be decided by a playoff involving the Pro12's two highest finishing teams that have not already qualified, the seventh highest finishing club from France's Top 14 and the seventh highest finishing club from the English Premiership.[47]

Galway Sportsground[edit]

The historical home of Connacht Rugby since the late 1920s, the Galway Sportsground, often known simply as "the Sportsground", is known as a spartan and inhospitable venue for visiting teams, especially in winter. The ground is owned by "The Galway Agricultural & Sports Society Ltd." who lease it to both Connacht Rugby and the Irish Greyhound Board. Due primarily to the issue of ownership, the development of the Sportsground has lagged behind that of the other Irish provinces who, with the backing of the IRFU, have moved ahead with major developments of their home grounds, with work completed on Thomond Park in 2008 and Ravenhill in 2009, while further refurbishment is planned for the RDS.[48][49][50] These developments leave Connacht further behind the other provinces, as their rivals look to benefit financially from the increased revenue streams.

Development[edit]

Connacht against Leinster in their 2008–09 Celtic League game at the Sportsground

Connacht participated in the Heineken Cup for the first time in 2011–12, which spurred a new phase of development at the Sportsground, with the aim of increasing capacity to 7,500 supporters. The Clubhouse Terrace was knocked down to be replaced by covered terrace called the "Clan Terrace". This terrace is primarily to house season ticket holders and Supporters Club members. This is the first stage of development on the Clubhouse side of the ground, as the Clan Terrace is scheduled to be replaced itself when funds to do so are in place. There is also ancillary work being undertaken behind the terrace which will see the construction of a bar, food outlets and restroom facilities on the Clubhouse side of the ground.

The second part of the development was the erection of a covered seated area called the "West Stand", adjacent to the existing main stand. This stand can cater for an additional 300 supporters. The new West Stand, along with the developments on the Clan side, increased capacity and improved facilities within the Sportsground.[51]

Connacht Eagles[edit]

Connacht Eagles.svg

Connacht Eagles (formerly Connacht A) is the team that represents Connacht in the British & Irish Cup[52] and in the All Ireland Inter-provincial Championship.[53] Pre-professionalism and a formal Celtic league structure, the main Connacht team competed in the AIPC. Since the advent of professionalism the provinces have fielded lesser teams in order to concentrate on the Celtic League/Pro12. The team is composed of Senior Connacht squad players requiring gametime, Academy players[54] and AIL players called up from their clubs.[55]

Crest and Colours[edit]

The flag of the Province of Connacht

The dimidiated eagle and sword arm featured in the Connacht Rugby crest is taken from the flag of the Province of Connacht. These arms are said to have been granted to Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair, the reigning King of Connacht, by the Schottenkloster, or Irish monastery, that was founded in Regensburg, a city in Bavaria, in the 11th century.[56]

Connacht playing in green against Toulouse in the 2011–12 Heineken Cup

The current kit consists of a green shirt with black trimming, green shorts and green socks with black trimming. The away kit is white, green and blue. The traditional colours of the Connacht province and flag are blue, black and white, with no green present. Though it is potentially related to the use of Connacht's traditional colours of white and blue by Ulster and Leinster's teams respectively, the reasons for its presence on the Connacht Rugby kit are unknown. However the green jersey has been associated with the Connacht senior team since as early as the 1950s.

The current official Connacht team and support staff kit supplier is Australian manufacturer BLK sport, who announced a comprehensive four-year agreement to supply the full range of apparel for all of Connacht Rugby’s representative teams and support staff in 2013.[57]

Connacht's main shirt sponsors are Irish sporting retailer Lifestyle Sports, who took over from Mazda Ireland ahead of the 2014–15 season. Lifestyle Sports signed a four season deal with the province, which will see their logo feature on the jersey until the end of the 2017–18 season.[58]

Current standings[edit]

Pro12 Table watch · edit · discuss
Team Played Won Drawn Lost Points For Points Against Points Difference Tries For Tries Against Try Bonus Losing Bonus Points
1 Wales Ospreys 8 7 0 1 225 120 +105 22 10 2 0 30
2 Ireland Ulster 8 6 1 1 204 98 +106 23 7 3 1 30
3 Ireland Munster 8 6 0 2 196 113 +83 20 8 2 2 28
4 Scotland Glasgow Warriors 8 6 0 2 202 146 +56 22 11 3 0 27
5 Ireland Leinster 8 4 1 3 208 136 +72 25 16 4 2 24
6 Ireland Connacht 8 5 1 2 148 131 +17 16 12 1 0 23
7 Wales Scarlets 8 4 2 2 186 146 +40 19 15 2 0 22
8 Scotland Edinburgh 8 3 1 4 120 195 −75 11 25 0 1 15
9 Wales Cardiff Blues 8 1 1 6 161 228 −67 15 21 1 1 8
10 Wales Newport Gwent Dragons 8 1 0 7 113 192 −79 8 22 1 2 7
11 Italy Zebre 8 1 0 7 90 217 −127 8 23 0 1 5
12 Italy Benetton Treviso 8 0 1 7 100 231 −131 10 29 1 1 4

If teams are level at any stage, tiebreakers are applied in the following order:[59]

  1. number of matches won;
  2. the difference between points for and points against;
  3. the number of tries scored;
  4. the most points scored;
  5. the difference between tries for and tries against;
  6. the fewest number of red cards received;
  7. the fewest number of yellow cards received.

Green background (rows 1 to 4) are play-off places, and earn a place in the European Rugby Champions Cup.
Blue background indicates teams outside the play-off places, that earn a place in the European Rugby Champions Cup. The top team from each country will qualify.
Yellow background indicates the team that advances to a play-off semi-final against the seventh placed side from the Aviva Premiership, or the 2014–15 European Rugby Challenge Cup winners if they have not already qualified for the competition.[60]
Plain background indicates teams that earn a place in the European Rugby Challenge Cup.

Provincial Honours[edit]

Competition Championships Best Result
Irish Inter-Provincial Championship 2 Champions:
Celtic League/Pro12 0 Quarter-finalists: 2001–02, 2002–03
Heineken Cup 0 3rd in pool: 2012–13, 2013–14
European Challenge Cup 0 Semi-finalists: 2003–04, 2004–05, 2009–10

Season records[edit]

Celtic League / Pro12 History[edit]

Season Pos Played Won Drew Lost PF PA PD Bonus Points
2001–02 2nd (Pool B) 6 4 0 2 152 97 55 n/a 12
Quarter-final Connacht 29 – 34 Glasgow
2002–03 4th (Pool B) 7 5 0 2 126 176 -50 0 20
Quarter-final Munster 33 – 3 Connacht
2003–04 9th 22 8 2 12 479 550 −71 8 44
2003–04 Celtic Cup 1st Round Borders 21 – 26 Connacht
Quarter-final Scarlets 12 – 14 Connacht
Semi-final Connacht 25 – 26 Edinburgh
2004–05 10th 20 7 1 12 317 407 –90 7 37
2005–06 10th 22 6 0 14 325 466 –141 5 37[n 1]
2006–07 10th 20 4 2 14 326 474 –148 6 26
2007–08 10th 18 5 1 12 214 396 –182 2 24
2008–09 10th 18 4 0 14 224 460 –236 4 20
2009–10 10th 18 5 1 12 254 459 –205 4 26
2010–11 9th 22 7 1 14 394 459 -65 9 39
2011–12 8th 22 7 1 14 321 433 -112 7 37
2012–13 8th 22 8 1 13 358 422 –64 4 38
2013–14 10th 22 6 0 16 371 509 −138 11 35
  1. ^ 11 teams were involved in this season, so one team did not play each week and were awarded 4 points instead.
    Therefore, each team finished the season with 8 more points than the table would seem to warrant.

Heineken Cup / Rugby Champions Cup[edit]

Season Pool Pos Played Won Drew Lost Pts For Against Pts Diff Bonus Points
2011–12 4th 6 1 0 5 68 130 −62 2 6
2012–13 3rd 6 3 0 3 96 138 −42 0 12
2013–14 3rd 6 3 0 3 101 147 -46 1 13

European Challenge Cup / Rugby Challenge Cup[edit]

Season Pool Pos Played Won Drew Lost PF PA PD Bonus Points
1996–97 4th 5 2 0 3 94 131 -37 n/a 4
1997–98 1st 6 5 0 1 144 97 47 n/a 10
Quarter-final Agen France 40 – 27 Connacht
1998–99 5th 6 3 0 3 129 156 -27 n/a 6
1999–2000 3rd 6 2 0 4 131 165 -34 n/a 4
2000–01 4th 6 1 0 5 60 152 -92 n/a 2
2001–02 2nd 6 3 0 3 157 140 17 n/a 6
2002–03 Round 1 Mont de Marsan France 12 – 26 Connacht
Connacht 47 – 29 France Mont de Marsan
Round 2 Narbonne France 42 – 27 Connacht
Connacht 23 – 7 France Narbonne
Quarter-final Connacht 30 – 35 Wales Pontypridd
Pontypridd Wales 12 – 9 Connacht
2003–04 Round 1 Béziers France 10 – 18 Connacht
Connacht 11 – 13 France Béziers
Round 2 Connacht 29 – 7 France Pau
Pau France 10 – 6 Connacht
Quarter-final Narbonne France 18 – 27 Connacht
Connacht 16 – 10 France Narbonne
Semi-final Harlequins England 31 – 22 Connacht
Connacht 23 – 18 England Harlequins
2004–05 Round 1 Narbonne France 25 – 11 Connacht
Connacht 40 – 21 France Narbonne
Round 2 Connacht 56 – 3 France Montpellier
Montpellier France 19 – 14 Connacht
Quarter-final Grenoble France 21 – 26 Connacht
Connacht 19 – 3 France Grenoble
Semi-final Connacht 18 – 25 England Sale Sharks
Sale Sharks England 59 – 9 Connacht
2005–06 2nd 6 4 0 2 190 119 71 4 20
Quarter-final Newcastle Falcons England 23 – 3 Connacht
2006–07 3rd 6 1 0 5 119 150 -31 4 8
2007–08 3rd 6 3 0 3 172 97 75 3 15
2008–09 2nd 6 4 0 2 159 140 19 3 19
Quarter-final Northampton Saints England 42 – 13 Connacht
2009–10 1st 6 6 0 0 199 63 136 2 26
Quarter-final Connacht 23 – 20 France Bourgoin
Semi-final Connacht 12 – 19 France Toulon
2010–11 2nd 6 3 0 3 173 99 74 3 15
2014–15 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Coaching and Management Team[edit]

Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under IRB eligibility rules. Individuals may hold more than one non-IRB nationality.

Role Name Union
Head Coach Pat Lam[61]  Samoa [b]
Assistant Coach Dan McFarland[61]  Ireland
Backs/Kicking Coach Andre Bell[62]  New Zealand
Skills Coach Dave Ellis[61]  New Zealand
Chief Executive Willie Ruane[63]  Ireland
Team Manager Tim Allnut[61]  New Zealand
Academy Manager/
Eagles Head Coach
Nigel Carolan[61]  Ireland
Resource Coach(es) Cory Browne[61]
Jimmy Duffy[61]
 New Zealand
 Ireland
Head of Fitness Paul Bunce[64]  New Zealand
Performance Analyst Conor McPhillips[61]  Ireland
Head Physio Gavin Malouf[61]  Australia

Current Squad[edit]

For player movements leading up to the 2014–15 season, see List of 2014–15 Pro12 transfers#Connacht.

Senior Playing Squad[edit]

2014/15 [65] Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under IRB eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-IRB nationality.

Player Position Union
Jason Harris-Wright Hooker Ireland Ireland
Dave Heffernan Hooker Ireland Ireland
Seán Henry Hooker Ireland Ireland
Tom McCartney Hooker New Zealand New Zealand
Rodney Ah You Prop Ireland Ireland
Finlay Bealham Prop Ireland Ireland
Denis Buckley Prop Ireland Ireland
JP Cooney Prop Ireland Ireland
Ronan Loughney Prop Ireland Ireland
Nathan White* Prop New Zealand New Zealand
Mick Kearney Lock Ireland Ireland
Aly Muldowney* Lock Scotland Scotland
Danny Qualter Lock Ireland Ireland
Quinn Roux Lock South Africa South Africa
Michael Swift* Lock England England
Andrew Browne Flanker Ireland Ireland
Mata Fafita* Flanker Tonga Tonga
Willie Faloon Flanker Ireland Ireland
Jake Heenan Flanker New Zealand New Zealand
John Muldoon (c) Flanker Ireland Ireland
Eoin McKeon Number 8 Ireland Ireland
George Naoupu Number 8 New Zealand New Zealand
Player Position Union
John Cooney Scrum-half Ireland Ireland
Kieran Marmion Scrum-half Ireland Ireland
Ian Porter Scrum-half Ireland Ireland
Jack Carty Fly-half Ireland Ireland
Miah Nikora* Fly-half New Zealand New Zealand
Craig Ronaldson Fly-half Ireland Ireland
Bundee Aki Centre New Zealand New Zealand
Conor Finn Centre Ireland Ireland
Robbie Henshaw Centre Ireland Ireland
Dave McSharry Centre Ireland Ireland
Shane O'Leary* Centre Canada Canada
Niyi Adeolokun* Wing Nigeria Nigeria
Fionn Carr Wing Ireland Ireland
Matt Healy Wing Ireland Ireland
Tiernan O'Halloran Wing Ireland Ireland
Danie Poolman Wing South Africa South Africa
Shane Layden Fullback Ireland Ireland
Darragh Leader Fullback Ireland Ireland
Mils Muliaina Fullback New Zealand New Zealand
  • Players qualified to play for Ireland on dual nationality or residency grounds*.
  • Senior 15's internationally capped players in bold.

Academy Squad[edit]

[66] Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under IRB eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-IRB nationality.

Player Position Union
Jack Dineen Hooker Ireland Ireland year 1
Jamie Dever Prop Ireland Ireland year 3
Saba Meunargia Prop Georgia (country) Georgia year 2
Jacob Walshe Prop Ireland Ireland year 2
Ultan Dilane Lock Ireland Ireland year 3
Sean O'Brien Lock Ireland Ireland year 2
James Connolly Flanker Ireland Ireland year 2
Marc Kelly Flanker Ireland Ireland year 1
Eoghan Masterson Flanker Ireland Ireland year 2
Rory Moloney Number 8 Ireland Ireland year 2
Player Position Union
Caolin Blade Scrum-half Ireland Ireland year 2
Conor McKeon Outside-half Ireland Ireland year 1
Rory Parata Centre New Zealand New Zealand year 2
Peter Robb Centre Ireland Ireland year 1
Ciaran Gaffney Wing Ireland Ireland year 1
David Panter Fullback England England year 2

Notable players[edit]

See also Category:Connacht Rugby players

Ireland[edit]

The following Connacht players have represented Ireland at full international level.

British and Irish Lions[edit]

The following Connacht players have also represented the British and Irish Lions.[80]

(c) Tour Captain

Overseas Internationals[edit]

Captains in the Professional Era[edit]

Player Years
Kevin Devlin
1996–1997
Graham Heaslip[82]
1997–1998
Eric Elwood
1998–2000
Mark McConnell[83][84]
2000–2002
Tim Allnut[85]
2002–2004
Andrew Farley[86]
2004–2006
John Fogarty[87]
2006–2007
Andrew Farley[86]
2007–2008
John Muldoon[88]
2008–2011
Gavin Duffy[15]
2011–2013
Gavin Duffy
John Muldoon
Michael Swift[89]
2013
Craig Clarke[90]
2013–2014
John Muldoon[91]
2014–present

Head Coaches in Professional Era[edit]

Coach First Season Final Season
Warren Gatland
1996–97
1997–98
Glenn Ross[6]
1998–99
1999–2000
Steph Nel
2000–01
2003–04
Michael Bradley
2003–04
2009–10
Eric Elwood
2010–11
2012–13
Pat Lam
2013–14

Representative Clubs[edit]

Senior Clubs[edit]

Senior clubs are the top level of club within the province. Connacht is currently represented by 4 teams in the All-Ireland League (AIL),[92] which is the IRFU's primary senior club competition. No club from Connacht has won the AIL. The teams from Connacht are:

Junior Clubs[edit]

Junior clubs are the next level down in the province's development ladder. Connacht has 20 junior clubs for 2013–14:[93]

  • Ballina RFC
  • Ballinasloe RFC
  • Ballinrobe RFC
  • Ballyhaunis RFC
  • Carrick-on-Shannon RFC
  • Castlebar RFC
  • Claremorris RFC
  • Connemara RFC
  • Corrib RFC
  • Creggs RFC
  • Dunmore RFC
  • Gort RFC
  • Loughrea RFC
  • Monivea RFC
  • NUI Galway RFC
  • Our Lady's Boys Club RFC
  • Oughterard RFC
  • Portumna RFC
  • Tuam RFC
  • Westport RFC

Youth Clubs[edit]

Also known as 'mini rugby clubs' these teams are another level below the Junior Clubs, but unlike Senior and Junior Clubs they have no Adult sides. The mini rugby clubs for 2013–14 are:[94]

  • An Ghaeltacht RFC
  • Ballaghaderreen RFC
  • Erris RFC
  • Na Barineachaí RFC
  • South Sligo RFC

Club and Schools Competitions[edit]

Club

Schools

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Normal capacity is 7,500 but can be expanded to 9,500 with the addition of temporary seating.
  2. ^ New Zealand-born and qualified for Samoa, Lam has represented both countries, but last played rugby for Samoa.

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External links[edit]

Sources[edit]