Connacht are to part company with their head coach Kieran Keane after the New Zealander's first season at the helm. Although Keane signed a three-year deal to succeed Pat Lam, it is understood that the province will confirm his departure from the end of the week.
This comes in the immediate aftermath of Connacht's best result under his watch, namely the 47-10 win over Leinster in John Muldoon's final game last Saturday at the Sportsground which completed the province's first ever hat-trick of home wins over their three Irish provincial rivals.
However, it was only their seventh win in 21 Guinness Pro14 matches in Keane’s first season in charge, which left them only three points above bottom-placed Zebre in Conference A after an inconsistent campaign which also featured defeats at home and away to the Zebre.
They qualified from their pool to reach the knockout stages of the Challenge Cup but were beaten in the quarter-finals at the Sportsground by Gloucester. Aside from misgivings over the inconsistency of their results and performances, Keane’s man management style was in sharp contrast to Lam’s, and appears to have contributed to this parting of the ways.
There appeared to be little inkling of Keane departing in the aftermath of Saturday’s win, when he spoke of the need for “a robust review” of the season by coaches and players alike, both collectively and one-on-one. But pending an exit strategy to be agreed by both sides, it is understood that Connacht will make a statement confirming his departure before the end of the week.
The high point of Keane’s lengthy coaching career was his seven year spell coaching the newly merged Tasman Makos, when he led them to the championship and promotion in 2013. They reached the premiership final the following year, the first newly-promoted side to do so, before finishing third in 2015.
Having previously been an assistant coach at the Highlanders, Keane was assistant coach to Dave Rennie at the Chiefs before agreeing to join Connacht. It was due to that commitment that Keane turned down an offer from Warren Gatland to be part of the Lions' coaching ticket last summer.
It is also understood that Connacht have already begun looking for a replacement.