Tierney staying with Connacht


CONNACHT: Scrumhalves Tom Tierney and Conor O'Loughlin have extended their contracts with Connacht.

Tierney, who played for Ireland in the 1999 World Cup on his way to winning eight caps, and former underage international O'Loughlin will stay at the Sportsground until the summer of 2008 at least.

Tierney, who joined Connacht from Leicester Tigers in 2004, has also taken up coaching duties this season as assistant to Paul Young at Galwegians.

"Coaching is something I would like to do more of and it is great to get an opportunity with Galwegians this season," said the 30-year-old, who spent five seasons with Munster before moving to Leicester.

"But my primary focus is on playing and I'm delighted to extend my stay with Connacht . . . We have made progress year on year and (are) heading in the right direction."

O'Loughlin (24) is in his fourth season with Connacht, having played under Michael Bradley for the Ireland under-21s.

The Athlone native has shown great resilience to bounce back from a couple of serious injuries.

WALES: Flanker Martyn Williams will be available for the start of the Six Nations Championship after avoiding a lengthy ban.

The Cardiff Blues man was sent off for butting Ospreys scrumhalf Jason Spice during a Magners Celtic League clash last Saturday. But the Welsh Rugby Union have imposed only a three-week suspension, which means Williams, who has won more than 60 caps, can play again from mid-January.

Wales start their Six Nations campaign against Ireland in Cardiff on February 4th.

LEICESTER: Leicester's head coach, Pat Howard, is set to leave his post and return Down Under at the end of this season.

The Australian succeeded John Wells in charge at Leicester in 2005 - having enjoyed a three-season stint as a player, which included helping Leicester lift the 2001 European Cup.