Connacht to name chief executive soon

England fullback  Mike Brown has been chosen as the top performer in this year’s Six Nations championship. Photograph: Clive Rose/Getty Images

England fullback Mike Brown has been chosen as the top performer in this year’s Six Nations championship. Photograph: Clive Rose/Getty Images

Sat, Mar 22, 2014, 01:00


The appointment of a new chief executive for Connacht is imminent. The second round of interviews took place last Thursday week, with one of the two remaining candidates expected to be chosen before the season ends.

The IRFU’s Kevin Potts has filled the role on an interim basis since Tom Sears’ departure last September but considering the ongoing need to complete player recruitment a CEO would be of enormous benefit.

Connacht are in the market for at least two midfield backs following the premature departure of Samoan international James So’oialo, Kyle Tonetti’s enforced retirement and Eoin Griffin signing a contract with London Irish.

Concussions
This comes on top of ongoing concerns about captain Craig Clarke’s future after multiple concussions. However, any move to replace the highly regarded Kiwi lock cannot begin until the results of further tests are revealed next month.

“That has been tough,” said Connacht manager Tim Allnutt. “We can’t go into the market, and hope we don’t need to.

“All our recruitment needs to be signed off, like the other provinces, but the IRFU have been helpful with our work in the market.

“There is certainly space for a midfield back in the squad, although Robbie Henshaw gives us additional cover there.”

Although Joe Schmidt has involved Henshaw in the Ireland camp as centre cover, a permanent switch from fullback has yet to happen for the 20-year-old.

Henshaw starts at 15 against the Dragons in Rodney Parade tomorrow afternoon, with Griffin at 13.

“That’s up to Joe,” Allnutt continued. “If he wants him at 13 we will play him there. It was hard when he comes back in from Ireland camp late in the week as so many moves revolve around centre. It is easier to slot a player in at fullback.

“Either way, Joe and Pat (Lam) have a good working relationship.”

It has also been confirmed that another New Zealander, openside flanker Jake Heenan, will miss the rest of the season following shoulder surgery.

“Jake had been on fire for us, which was so impressive considering it was his first season playing at this level.”

Willie Faloon, Connacht’s other specialist number seven, absent with a foot injury for most of the campaign, will be back playing club rugby soon, but Conor Gilsenan’s loan from Leinster has also been hindered by injury.

Gilsenan is unavailable tomorrow having picked up a knock playing for the Connacht Eagles so Eoghan Masterson starts at openside.

Residency
Some good news sees Nathan White return to the bench after injury but the New Zealander, who qualifies for Ireland via residency next season, has been unable to shift Rodney Ah You.

Ah You’s form and size saw him included in Ireland’s training camp during the Six Nations.

Another foreign recruit, Danie Poolman, has ongoing hamstring problems so he stays with Brett Wilkinson, Seán Henry, Paul O’Donohoe, Craig Ronaldson, George Naoupu, James Rael and Clarke on the wounded list.

Meanwhile, England fullback Mike Brown has been voted player of the Six Nations. Second, third, fourth and fifth places are filled by four Irish players.

A 16-man list, selected using statistics, was put to the public, over a 48-hour period, with Brown receiving 23,408 of the 68,000 votes.

Brian O’Driscoll, the winner in 2009, came second with 19,496 (28.57 per cent), followed by Andrew Trimble on 7,035, and then Jonathan Sexton and Rob Kearney.

Cian Healy and Jamie Heaslip were also on the list.

“I’m extremely grateful and proud to win this award, particularly as it’s decided by the supporters,” said Brown.

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