Lam confirmed as Connacht coach
Rugby:Connacht have confirmed that Pat Lam will succeed Eric Elwood as coach at the Sportsground from next season onwards. As reported in The Irish Times earlier this week, the 35-times capped Samoan Lam has signed a two-year deal to assume the reins at Connacht and will arrive in April before taking up his role on June 1st.
He arrives in Galway after a four-year spell with the Auckland Blues. In 2011, he guided the Blues to a first Super rugby semi-final since 2007 but despite a late rally last year he was replaced by John Kirwan after an unhappy post-World Cup campaign which, he claims, has made him a better coach.
Since then he was co-opted onto the Samoan coaching ticket for their November tour, in which wins over Canada and Wales, and a narrow defeat to France, saw them rise from tenth to seventh in the world rankings and secure a second-tier seeding for the World Cup draw.
"My family and I are truly blessed to have another opportunity to be part of a new community and country and we are looking forward to the exciting challenge ahead at Connacht,” Lam said. "I was very impressed by the Board's vision for Connacht Rugby and the fighting spirit of the team and supporters to persevere against all the odds. I'm looking forward to working with good people to build on the great work that Eric has done."
The 35-times capped Elwood indicated his intention to step after three years at the helm, and after four and a half seasons as assistant to Michael Bradley, last October and it remains unclear what all of this will mean for his current assistants, Billy Millard and Dan McFarland. Connacht would probably prefer some element of continuity, while also allowing Lam elbow room in the choice of his back-up team, but it is understood that both assistants are out of contract at the end of the season.
Millard and McFarland were also applicants to succeed Elwood, and reached a shortlist of six along with Lam, the ex-Wasps and Sale coach Tony Hanks, former Wasps and English outhalf Alex King (who has since indicated his intention to leave Clermont Auvergne as skills coach and link up with Northampton next season) and the former Ospreys coach Sean Holley, who claims he was offered the job but turned it down.
Connacht face Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop in the Heineken Cup later this afternoon.