Connacht sign lock Clarke from Chiefs


Rugby:With Mike McCarthy leaving for Leinster at the end of the season, Connacht announced today that they have signed Waikato Chiefs secondrow Craig Clarke to a three-year deal at the Sportsground.

Clarke, 29, captained the Chiefs to the Super XV title last season where they beat the Sharks 37-6 in the decider.

The 6ft 7in lock had a fine season and was nominated as one of three finalists in the 'Super Rugby player of the year' and the Chiefs award for players' player of the year. Clarke was also called into the All Blacks training squad.

Born in Masterton, at the southern tip of New Zealand's north island, Clarke initially made his mark with Canterbury and the Crusaders before moving to Taranaki in 2007. He played a single season with the Hurricanes before joining the Chiefs, where his leadership credentials became apparent.

Welcoming the signing, Connacht Rugby chief executive Tom Sears said: “We are absolutely delighted with this key signing, it is a major coup for Connacht. This is something we have been working towards for some time now and the fact a player of Craig's calibre has chosen to commit to Connacht is a clear sign of the progress we have made and our intent going forward.

“Our coaching staff is delighted to have Craig on board, he has all of the qualities we are looking for on and off the field and we have no doubt that he will be a major influence for Connacht in the seasons to come.

“With a three year deal Craig has shown he really believes in what we are doing and the potential we have. After leading the Chiefs to the Super XV title last season Craig certainly wasn't short of options

he has chosen Connacht because he wants to be a part of what is happening here.”

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