Muliaina signing a bold statement of intent

It is a marquee signing at a time when when the privately-backed big French and English clubs are moving into a different financial sphere

 The signing of Mils Muliaina from the Waikato Chiefs is a clear statement of intent, not only by Connacht  themselves, but by the IRFU. Photograph:  Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

The signing of Mils Muliaina from the Waikato Chiefs is a clear statement of intent, not only by Connacht themselves, but by the IRFU. Photograph: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

Tue, May 6, 2014, 12:01

Ever since the IRFU proposed shutting them down as a professional entity 11 years ago, Connacht have been a tad paranoid about the governing body’s intentions and, as with referees, have had good reason to be. Yet the signing of Mils Muliaina from the Waikato Chiefs is a clear statement of intent, not only by the province themselves, but by the IRFU.

The capture of Muliaina would have reverberated around the rugby world yesterday. It is a marquee signing at a time in the professional game when the privately-backed French and English clubs are moving into a different financial sphere.

As with the signing of the Chiefs’ two-time Super 15 winning captain Craig Clarke a year ago, and indeed a third Chiefs player in centre, Bundee Aki, not only are Connacht making a statement about their ambitions to break into the top six of the Pro12 and qualify for the European Rugby Champions Cup under their own steam, but clearly they are being backed financially by the Union more handsomely than ever before.

Good contacts
Clearly Pat Lam also has some good contacts around Waikato but in any event, according to well-placed sources, Aki (who scored a sharply taken try off the bench in the Chiefs’ 38-8 win over the Lions on Saturday) was wanted by Leinster and Munster as well, but Connacht outbid them for the 24-year-old’s services.

At 33, Muliaina may not be the force of old, but his knowledge and winning mentality will be invaluable amid so much talent and young backs.

As Lam has identified a lack of experience as a key factor in them losing seven league matches by a score, and with the retirement of Gavin Duffy (a true legend of Connacht rugby) as well as Frank Murphy and Dan Parks being released, the ex-All Black fullback will clearly be a mentor for Robbie Henshaw and Darragh Leader, and perhaps even move into a coaching role.

In allowing Henshaw to concentrate on his development as an outside centre, it is also the clearest signal yet Connacht have no intention of releasing their academy product from the legally binding two-year contract he has signed with the province, despite what the IRFU president may have said recently.

The next step for the Union must be appointing a new CEO for the province.

Meanwhile, over in France, for the fifth season since the Top 14 play-offs were expanded from the leading four to the top six clubs, Racing Metro are in the play-offs, but for the fourth time they have finished fifth or sixth, thus directing them to an away tie in the barrage.

A clearly frustrated Johnny Sexton scored all their points in a 44-10 defeat away to Montpellier on Saturday which, coupled with Toulouse’s bonus point win at home to the Grenoble of Bernard Jackman and Jack Hearty (who survived relegation regardless), means Toulouse (seeking a 21st semi-final in a row) edge above Racing on their head-to-head and thus have home advantage next Friday night.

Sign In

Forgot Password?

Sign Up

The name that will appear beside your comments.

Have an account? Sign In

Forgot Password?

Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In or Sign Up

Thank you

You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.

Hello, .

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

Thank you for registering. Please check your email to verify your account.

We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.
From Monday 20th October 2014 we're changing how readers sign-in to comment, click here for more information.