Boost for Connacht as key players sign new contracts

Connacht's hooker Tom McCartney who has signed a new contract with the province

A great week for Connacht, following their smash and grab dramatic European Champions Cup win over Wasps, has just got better with a plethora of influential players re-signing for the province in the past few days.

These include forwards Tom McCartney, Denis Buckley and Quinn Roux, along with out-half Jack Carty. With a host of others such as Bundee Aki and Ultan Dillane having already pledged their futures to Connacht, the latest announcement is a major boost to the squad as they travel to take on Irish rivals Ulster in Friday’s Pro12 tie at Kingspan Stadium (7:35pm).

Buckley, Carty and Roux have all signed two-year contract extensions while New Zealand hooker McCartney, who can also play at loose-head prop, has agreed a deal to keep him at the Sportsground for the next three seasons.

Indeed, McCartney, whose form in the green of Connacht would not have been lost on clubs in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, said, when all the pros and cons were weighed up, it was an easy decision to commit his future to the West of Ireland outfit.

“It (time so far in Connacht) has lived up to all my expectations from when I first signed. It has been a great journey. It has been really special being involved. I am enjoying it; my family is enjoying it; and I am enjoying the rugby,” he said.

“Now, I have an opportunity to carry it on. We have a core group here of a very good, young team. Aside from myself and John Muldoon, everyone here is really young and we have some really awesome players. So, we have a good squad to build on. It is just exciting to be sure of your future for the next three years and hopefully we can get some more success.”

With their Champions Cup destiny still in their own hands after what was arguably one of the most exceptional sporting moments ever at the Sportsground, Connacht can now turn their focus on chasing down a top six finish, or better, in the Pro12 to secure Champions Cup rugby next season.

This Friday, Connacht face Ulster, who will be smarting from their 38-19 defeat to Clermont Auvergne last Sunday, and the contrast in fortunes between the teams in the last week could not be different. Connacht will enter this game high on confidence after their late 20-18 ambush of Wasps. Ulster’s perspective will be different. McCartney agreed.

“We have talked about that upstairs just there. For us, it is great to get the win against Wasps but it is done now and it is not going to help us win next weekend,” acknowledged the 31-year-old.

Full coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune