Schmidt crucial in Bell recruitment

Connacht coach Pat Lam completes backroom team with backs coach Andre Bell

Former Wellington coach Andre Bell will be joining Connacht as backs coach with responsibility for the backline and kicking. Photograph: Teaukura Moetaua/Getty Images

Former Wellington coach Andre Bell will be joining Connacht as backs coach with responsibility for the backline and kicking. Photograph: Teaukura Moetaua/Getty Images

Fri, May 30, 2014, 08:58

Connacht coach Pat Lam has personally thanked Joe Schmidt for ensuring the province recruited what the the provincial coach believes is the best possible backs coach ahead of next season.

Lam yesterday completed his backroom team with the appointment of another New Zealander, Andre Bell, who will be responsible for the backline and kicking.

“On the back of the support from the IRFU, we are now in a position to strengthen our coaching team from two personnel at the start of last season to four going into the next,” said Lam, who has clearly been assisted by greater financial support from the union.

“This was a major priority for me and I’m thrilled to now have a full complement of quality, experienced coaches for next season.

“I’d like to thank the IRFU for all their work and also Joe (Schmidt), who sat on the interview panel with us.

“As the national coach and particularly as a quality backs coach, Joe’s input was crucial in ensuring we got the right person for the job”.

Lam has also enticed high profile New Zealand players Mils Muliaina and Bundee Aki, from the Chiefs Super Rugby franchise.

Dan McFarland remains as forwards coach and also takes charge of the Emerging Ireland squad for a three-match tournament in Romania next month, while Dave Ellis, who only arrived midway through last season, will continue to oversee player skills.

Bell has signed a two-year deal following previous head coaching roles with Bay of Plenty and the Wellington Lions, first as assistant to Jamie Joseph.

Released

He led Wellington to the national play-offs in 2010 but was released from the position after a disappointing 2011 campaign.

The 44 year old is coaching the Fiji backs ahead of June Tests against Italy, Tonga, Samoa and a World Cup qualifier against the Cook Islands but is expected in Ireland for Connacht’s pre-season.

“Our backline for next season is remarkably young with 12 of the 16 backs coming in under the age of 25,” Lam continued. “But the addition of Andre as well as Mils Muliaina as “player-mentor” will really drive the development of the young Irish qualified players. It’s an exciting time for Connacht Rugby and we’re already looking forward to next season.”

Bell said: “It’s a very exciting time for myself and my family and we’re all really looking forward to the move to Galway.

“While I haven’t yet worked with Pat – but played and coached against him – I have a lot of admiration for his coaching. I’m excited by the vision for Connacht that has been shared with me and by the personal challenge as a coach.”

Lam added: “We had several candidates put their names forward for this position. The standard and calibre of applicants was really impressive which is a very positive sign for Connacht and it’s attraction as a club.”

The IRFU recently appointed Willie Ruane as the province’s chief executive officer, having gone most of the season with the role vacant.

Unresolved

The future of club captain Craig Clarke, however, remains unresolved. Clarke was stood down last season following a number of concussions.

Lock Bradley Davies has become the latest player to be ruled out of Wales’ South Africa tour next month. The Cardiff Blues player, who will join Wasps this summer, had surgery on Wednesday, the Welsh Rugby Union announced.

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