Every day we're shining a light on one of our newest arrivals over the summer, and help you get to know each of them before we return to the field later in the month.
Yesterday we kicked it off with Sammy Arnold, and now you can hear from another Munster arrival, Alex Wootton.
How have the first few weeks in Connacht Rugby been for you?
Everybody has welcomed me with open arms, from coming through the gates meeting Kenny and Dave the groundsmen through the squad up to Andy and the coaches. Everyone is easy to get on with even through these tricky times, they have all made it work and made the whole experience seamless. I think on my first day I was added to 100 Whatsapp groups which was great because it is where I got a lot of the information.
Are you slowly getting to know everyone despite the restrictions?
The first weeks we were in smaller groups so we were drip-fed into it, it would have been harder to have been pushed into the deep end and try to get to know everyone at the same time. It was easier for me to learn names in the smaller groups, it gets harder as the group gets bigger. It was a blessing as I wouldn’t be naturally gifted at remembering names. The academy players returned this week so I have been trying to learn off their names too. It is convenient having the Connacht website to flick through the names, I will get there in the end.
Was it tough waiting for pre-season to start knowing you’re joining a new club but at the same time going through lock-down and everything?
Talks started for me back in January and then COVID came. Everything was so uncertain, I tried to put it at the back of my mind, it was tricky trying to do that when you are boxed in a house. My partner returned to work around 2 months ago which was hard because I had a lot of time by myself where I thought “What am I going to be doing? Am I going to be staying at Munster or joining Connacht?” Luckily, it all worked out in the end.
How have you found working with the coaches and S&C teams?
I have to say that they are very diligent in what they do and the emphasis they put on people's roles and skills while also letting the players to suss things out themselves which I find is always the best way to do things. It is very player lead and very much an open forum when it comes to opinions and things like that. I think the coaches have a great balance there. Even though there are no physical meetings, we still have them over Zoom. Even with the Zoom calls, everything is still clear, cut, and precise and I think the messages are easily understood. There is going to be a quick turn around with the two games in the Aviva in August, hopefully, by then we will be hitting the ground running.
There’s a lot of competition for places in your position so I presume you’re all eager to impress ahead of the Interpros?
It’s been so long since we all played rugby and we are all dying to get out there and play. There is a lot of competition especially in the back three and throughout the backline. The games are one thing, you obviously want to play well in a game that’s why we train but if we all put our best feet forward on a day to day basis we can all grow together. I can bring what I know to the table along with the younger and older lads, we can grow together and become better to make Connacht a better place and a better team. Whoever is in form or playing well at that time will get the nod but it is very much a team focus and not necessarily the individual.
Have you got to experience much of Connacht and the West of Ireland since you moved here?
I am living part-time in Galway with Conor Oliver and Sammie Arnold, the rest of the week is spent in my house in Limerick. I have not seen much of Galway before, my fiancée came up to visit me last weekend and we squashed into the box room in the house in Barna with the two dogs. We got to explore a few places and went out to see part of Connemara. I want to see a lot more of it as I am always hearing great things about the different places to see. It is great to be able to explore places that are right on our doorstep.
What do you think you would like to achieve with Connacht Rugby?
I have signed a one-year deal so come June/July next year, hopefully, I can contribute to putting the club in a position where we are in knockout rugby. I would also look to help players in Connacht whether it’s on-field or off-field and bring what I can to the table and vice versa. If I am speaking to you this time next year, I would like to look back and to say I helped a lot of people and the club is in a better place. That would be one of my goals and something I would feel happy about. I want to play rugby, enjoy it and see what the future holds. But at the end of the day, it is a team sport, you put the team first, work towards that goal and normally good things happen.
Lastly, what is an interesting fact about you that the Connacht supporters would not know?
This is where I tell people that I am quite a boring person! Up until the age of 13, I had to decide between football and rugby. Now I wouldn’t say I was as promising as Jack Caty getting trials but I guess I will never know where it could have gone.