Hanks, King and Lam head contenders


The Kiwi and former Wasps and Sale coach Tony Hanks, current Clermont Auvergne backs coach Alex King, and former Auckland Blues coach Pat Lam have emerged as the front-runners to succeed Eric Elwood as Connacht head coach at the end of the season, with the province expected to confirm their choice this month.

A report yesterday citing the former Ospreys coach Seán Holley as favourite for the job appears wide of the mark, although the Connacht chief executive Tom Sears merely said: “All I can say is what I’ve said all along, and that is that we are going through a process; we are coming to the end of that process hopefully and we hope to make an announcement before the end of January.”

Sears is part of a four-man panel empowered to find a replacement for Elwood, who last October confirmed his intention to step down at the end of this, his third season in the job following three seasons as assistant coach.

The others are Steve Cunningham, former Connacht scrumhalf Conor McGuinness, both of whom are members of the Connacht Professional Game Board, and an IRFU representative, Eddie Wigglesworth.

The quartet will make a recommendation to the IRFU, but given Wigglesworth’s involvement, the Union’s approval should be a formality. Sears did admit: “The process is fairly advanced, although the only name we’ll ever comment on is the guy that we award the job to. We have to keep it confidential.”

The others believed to have completed a six-man shortlist included Elwood’s current assistant coaches Billy Millard and Dan McFarland, along with Holley, but it appears none of this trio are in line to succeed Elwood.

Rumours had been circulating in Galway this week that Holley had been the preferred candidate, so much so there were reports of sizeable bets being placed on the Welshman. Also contrary to some reports, Les Kiss was not interviewed.

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