Leinster Academy flanker Conor Gilsenan will come to Connacht Rugby ‘on loan’ for the remainder of the 2013/14 season. The 21-year-old from Mullingar has been instrumental in Leinster’s British & Irish Cup success of the last two seasons. In October, the abrasive openside was appointed captain of the ‘A’ side who started their cup defence. The team went on to record six wins from six in the competition and secure a place in the April quarter finals against Munster ‘A’.

Gilsenan has represented Ireland at U18, U19 and U20 level, playing in both the 2012 U20s 6 Nations and World Cup Championship.

His leadership skills were recognised at an early age and Gilsenan captained Clongowes Wood College to Junior Cup success in 2008 and three years later lifted the cup for the senior team in 2011.

Currently one of the most promising young forwards in Ireland, Gilsenan can play at both openside and blindside.

Speaking about the new deal with Leinster and Gilsenan, Connacht Head Coach Pat Lam said:

“We’re absolutely delighted to get this loan deal over the line and we have to thank Leinster Rugby and the IRFU for their support. Loaning of players is very common in New Zealand as the focus there is to ensure that there’s an opportunity for young talent to come through for the All Blacks. And it’s great to see it happening for the Irish team as well. With us having a shortage of openside flankers, we appreciate the help from Leinster in giving us an Irish-qualified replacement.

“Conor is a promising player who has been identified at an early age by the Irish system. He has shown a great deal of ambition by coming to Connacht where hopefully he can earn some valuable game time and a first start in the PRO12. This move is as much in his interest and for his own player development as it is beneficial for us.

“It is a long season with some very physical games taking their toll on many of our players. We don’t have as much strength in depth as other teams but with this deal, it alleviates some of the pressure at flanker. Willie Faloon, our starting openside, went down injured at the very start of the season and Jake (Heenan), new to the setup, did a fantastic job of stepping into that starting berth week after week. Jake has played in all but two games this season and has no hesitations when it comes to putting his body on the line for his team. He’s a young player with a big future, but he will be unavailable for the remainder of the season with essential shoulder surgery planned for this week.

“Conor offers us more options in the back row, and with Willie returning to training this week, we can now plan for the remaining fixtures.

“Conor is here and joined training at the Sportsground on Monday. He’s almost fully recovered post knee surgery and we’re hopeful he’ll be ready to play in the coming weeks. With our team environment I have no doubt that he will enjoy both getting to know the lads and playing some rugby. I have no doubt that he will enjoy both getting to know the lads and playing some rugby.”

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