Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce a new coaching team for next season.
 
Beginning in 2021-22 Peter Wilkins will move to a new role of Senior Coach where he will have primary responsibility for attack. He will be supported by Mossy Lawler who has been appointed Assistant Attack & Skills Coach, in addition to Colm Tucker who comes on board as Defence & Forwards Technical Skills Coach.
 
A process to recruit a new Forwards Coach is also now currently underway following the announcement of the departure of Jimmy Duffy at the end of this season.
 
These changes will take the total number on the Professional coaching team from 4 to 5 providing Head Coach Andy Friend with greater coverage across each of the respective areas of the game.
 
All three coaches have signed two-year contracts running in tandem with Andy Friend’s recently announced extension as Head Coach.
 
Peter Wilkins first joined Connacht as Defence Coach as 2017, having previously held the same role at Edinburgh Rugby for two seasons. He arrived at Edinburgh having spent 8 years in Australia, where he first began work at Queensland Reds as Performance Analyst, moving through the ranks to become Skills Coach and then Defence Coach at the club, as well as Head Coach of the ‘A’ side.
 
Mossy Lawler joined Connacht as a coach in 2014 after a successful playing career with Munster and Wasps. Lawler made 65 appearances for the province between 2001 and 2008, winning two Heineken Cups in the process. He has spent the last six years as Elite Player Development Officer in the Connacht Academy and four years as Head Coach for the Connacht Eagles.
 
At international level he has served as Attack Coach of the Ireland U18 Schools and Head Coach of the Ireland U19s.
 
Colm Tucker joined Connacht in 2015 as Coach Development Officer before moving to the role of Provincial Talent Coach 12 months later and subsequently as Elite Player Development Officer, working primarily with the forwards in the Connacht Academy and as Forwards and Defence Coach for the Connacht Eagles.
 
During that time he was Head Coach of the Connacht U18s that won the 2018 Interprovincial Championship – a first in 10 years for the province. He was also Coach of the Ireland Clubs & Schools team for three years, Assistant Coach to the Ireland U19s, and Assistant Coach to the Ireland U20s 2019-21.
 
Between them Tucker and Lawler have been instrumental in the development of the many Connacht Academy players who have moved up to the Professional squad in recent years.
 
Commenting on today’s announcement, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“This is really exciting development for Connacht Rugby. Firstly with Peter as our new Senior Coach we have someone who has been a crucial part of the coaching team since my arrival. Pete has an incredible knowledge of the game and has built up a wealth of experience across the PRO14 and Super Rugby. I know he will thrive in his new role of implementing strategies across a number of areas of our programme.
 
I’m equally pleased to welcome Colm and Mossy into our coaching setup from next season. I’ve always believed in strong integration between the Pro and Academy environments, so we’ve been working closely together the past few years. Like Nigel and Jimmy before them when they first became Pro coaches, they have worked their way through the coaching ranks here and have played a major part in the development of the many young players we have in our squad. Their appointments will allow for even greater continuity as we continue to develop our homegrown talent.
 
We’ve also started the process of recruiting a new Forwards Coach so I’m very excited by what we as a coaching team can achieve in the years ahead.”

 
CONNACHT RUGBY COACHING TEAM 2021-2023
Andy Friend – Head Coach
Peter Wilkins – Senior Coach
Mossy Lawler – Assistant Attack & Skills Coach
Colm Tucker – Defence & Forwards Technical Skills Coach
TBC – Forwards Coach

By John O’Sullivan 

 

Defence coach Pete Wilkins says that Connacht are keen to end their domestic season with a win away to Scarlets on Monday night. 

 

The Westerners head into the clash in Wales knowing that, regardless of the result, they are guaranteed to finish in second place in Conference B of the PRO14. 

 

However, Wilkins says that it is important for Connacht to win the game, for morale purposes and to build momentum ahead of the European Challenge Cup last 16 game away to Leicester Tigers on April 3rd. 

 

“In terms of the context of going into the European encounter, in terms of rebounding from that Edinburgh performance, in terms of finishing our domestic season, a win ticks all of those boxes,” the Englishman said of the importance of playing for a win at Parc y Scarlets. 

 

‘So I think there are a lot of moving parts, and selection is another one of those. But actually, it’s what we control in terms of how we play and getting the result, it satisfies all of those. From a player’s point of view, it’s really important that they go into this game, this Scarlets encounter, not worrying about all those different elements but actually realising it’s our performances that ticks all of those boxes. 

 

“That sort of external noise will be looked after if we get our bit right. It’s a reflection on Edinburgh, making sure we get that right, but it’s also then previewing what we think we can do to Scarlets to cause them some damage. But you get the win and everyone and everything is happy.”

 

Wilkins, meanwhile, praised the professionalism and focus of his squad. With the current season taking place during a global pandemic, there has been lots of uncertainty — especially around whether fixtures would take place — and doubt. 

 

The players, though, haven’t let that hamper their preparations or ambitions and they have taken everything in their stride. 

 

“I think this whole year has been one week at a time,” the former Queensland Reds coach said. 

 

“I know that’s a cliche but when we’ve had uncertainty around the draw in both competitions, around the schedule — in terms of games being rescheduled or dates being moved — what this group has done really well is just charge into the week ahead and make sure we try to get that bit right with all the commitment and enthusiasm you would want out of them, in terms of preparation. 

 

“In that sense, it sets us up really well for this(European games) because, again, we’ve just found out what that European last 16 draw looks like. Then you finally get wind of what it’s being played on, in terms of that weekend. The fact that we’ve been really good at focusing week by week and on the opposition in hand, I think that sets us up and if we are going to be successful it’s going to be an important part.”

 

Elsewhere, lock Niall Murray — who started last weekend’s defeat by Edinburgh — says that the more experienced members of the Connacht squad have helped himself establish himself after breaking into the senior squad from the academy. 

 

The former Ireland U20 international has made five league appearances this season and has impressed with his line-out efficiency and physicality. 

 

Murray credits Quinn Roux, Gavin Thornbury, and Ultane Dillane — the team’s most experienced second rows — with helping him develop his game by dispensing advice and offering encouragement. 

 

The Roscommon native also praised the coaching of forwards coach Jimmy Duffy and said the former Connacht lock has played his part in improving his game. 

 

“When I was in the academy, I did a mentorship with Gavin Thornbury and we’ve had a great relationship since,” Murray said. 

 

“I could chat to him about anything, on or off the pitch. Quinn(Roux) and Ulty(Dillane) as well have been great to me. I remember my first game and first cap, I was 20. I was about 98KG and Ulty came up to me before the match, in the warm-up, and said ‘just go out there and enjoy yourself, we’ll take care of you’. It just reassured me and made me feel so at ease. The boys are great like that.”

 

The 21 year-old is keen to improve further and take the feedback of his coaches on board and then, when playing chances arise, apply them into games. 

 

“I wouldn’t be playing week in week out, because the boys that are playing ahead of me are obviously internationals. I work hard and Friendy and the coaching staff are always telling me that ‘you’re going well here’ and ‘you’re doing well there and you can improve here just a little bit’. But we all work hard and when we get our opportunities we try to do our best and nail down a starting position.’’

 

By John O’Sullivan 

 

Defence coach Pete Wilkins insists Connacht will need to be defensively robust in order to win Friday’s 5:30 PM Guinness PRO14 game away to Benetton Rugby. 

 

The Westerners go into the game in good form, with consecutive league wins under their belt after last weekend’s 32-17 victory over the Cardiff Blues.

 

The Italians, meanwhile, are winless in eleven conference B games so far this season, but Wilkins believes that Connacht needs to be wary of their kicking game and their ability to quickly transition from defence to attack. 

 

“For me, I think Benetton’s biggest threat is coming out of their own half,” the former Queensland Reds’ defensive coach said of the Treviso-based team’s best tactical attribute. 

 

‘They kick long and effectively, in terms of the distances they get when they are exiting. But they are also very dangerous running out from that bit of the field. They are not afraid to take risks and offload out of tackles when they are coming out of their what we call C zone, coming out of that area between the 22-metre line and halfway.

 

“They will take risks and they will play to width. How we control them getting access to the ball will be really important in that regard. The quality of our kicking game, not conceding attacking turnovers in their half of the field, that will be important in terms of denying them access to the game. 

 

‘I think if we can squeeze them around that then, you’d hope that our quality would shine through. But if the game gets loose with them getting a lot of chaotic turnover ball doesn’t suit us, it suits them. So we will have to work our backsides off to make sure that if that does happen we control it really well and get back to controlling where they get the ball and in what part of the field.”

 

Connacht go into a block of four games in consecutive weeks, starting with Friday’s trip to Italy, and Wilkins says there is no set target other than trying to win every game and attempt to qualify for this season’s final.

 

“Similar to what Andy said, we’ve not put a hard goal on it, in terms of points or expected points. But we have been really open with each other in saying every game is a must-win and every game is a cup final. I know that’s easy to say, but it’s pretty literal in this sense. 

 

“If it does go down as the competition is expected to at the moment, there is only the one conference winner from each side that goes through to a final and we’re trying to hunt Munster down. Every game is a must-win and the bonus points play an important part in that,” the Englishman said. 

 

Meanwhile, lock Oisin Dowling said the positive environment created by the staff and players at Connacht has quickly helped him settle in at the club. 

 

Alex Wootton, who joined the Sportsground team at the beginning of the current season, recently hailed the culture within the Westerners squad’ and playing staff as a big factor in helping him acclimate after joining the province from Munster.

 

Dowling, 23, who recently joined Andy Friend’s team from Leinster, agrees with Wootton and said that the entire squad and backroom staff get on well and this has made his adaptation easier. 

 

“Yeah, 100%,” the forward said when asked whether he has settled in well on and off the pitch with Connacht. 

 

“Obviously there’s a difference between coaches and players, but everyone gets on really well, like friends. There’s always good craic between each other and I think that helps the team and the bond with the players and the coaches.”

 

Dowling was sidelined with a back injury when he joined the province, but the lock says that the time gave him the opportunity to get up to speed with the demands of the Westerners’ tactical systems. 

 

The 6’5” former Lansdowne club man is now looking forward to applying what he has learned during his injury on the pitch for the remainder for the season.

 

“When I came in, I was injured so I had time to get to grips with it more and kinda just watch how it works a bit more. So then, once I started playing again, it was kind of easier when I knew all the systems. 

 

“I had taken everything in and learned all the plays and it’s a bit easier when you’re able to watch a lot of training sessions and games, you

By John O’Sullivan 

 

Connacht defence coach Pete Wilkins says that the Westerners will need to show a high level of game management to win their Saturday 5:15 PM kick off away to the Dragons in the Guinness PRO14.

 

In Connacht’s last game, they left the Scottish capital with a bonus point 37-26 victory over Edinburgh. The win was underpinned by the Sportsground teams excellent exit strategy and efficiency in attack, with scrum-half Caolin Blade and out halves Conor Fitzgerald and Tom Daly expertly pulling the strings. 

 

Against a mobile and skilful Dragons pack, marshalled by their quality half-back pairing of Rhodri Williams and Sam Davies, Wilkins believes that Connacht will need to show the same qualities that saw them take all five points at Murrayfield on their trip to Rodney Parade.

 

“I thought in that Edinburgh game, it was one of the best examples of game management that this team has produced, certainly in my time here,” the former Queensland Reds coach said. 

 

“The way our 9’s(Caolin Blade) and 10’s(Conor Fitzgerald and Tom Daly) controlled the game, with their kicking from our half of the field and their kick selection — of when to go long, when to go for touch, when to go for contestable kicks in the attacking half of the pitch — I thought they managed it really effectively. 

 

“I think their 9 and 10 are really important for them,” Wilkins said of the Dragons’ game plan. 

 

“Rhodri Williams at 9 and Sam Davies at 10, I think both of them have effective kicking games, whether that’s contestable kicks or clearing kicks. It’s not often you see 9’s consistently hitting the half-way line when they’re kicking for touch from rucks or from mauls and Rhodri Williams brings that ability for them to clear their lines really effectively. 

 

“How we can pressure those kicking games will be important. Under their new coaching staff, they’ve got, there’s an organisation about them, an intent to play and if you give them front foot ball they will offload. 

 

“You’ll get show and goes from Sam Davies, you’ll get quick throws and you’ll get offloads from the forwards and little tip ons. Things that will really test our ability to be cohesive in our defence, in terms of being really well spaced and watching the ball really well to make sure that we’re applying pressure. 

 

“The kicking game, the tempo and the improvement in their organisation are the things we will be wary of going into this game,” The Englishman said. 

 

Abraham Papalii’i made his first start of the season in Edinburgh. The New Zealander number 8 made a big impact, carrying for 24 metres from five carries and beating two defenders. Wilkins is excited by the former Rugby League player’s potential and has backed him to continue improving. 

 

“He’s been a great addition to the squad,” the defence coach said. 

 

“The power and physicality — especially around the ball carries — is clear for all to see, even in those few minutes he had in the unfortunate Munster game. With that comes an ability to offload and to get others involved in the game. Certainly that’s something I think we’ll see more and more of as he gets more game time. 

 

“Defensively, very similar to his carrying, he loves to hit hard. He loves to be in the game, to be around the ball and to be contributing. That physicality and that power of the tackle technique is something that, if we can continue to work on the accuracy and consistency of that,  allied with his natural power we can get someone who is a really effective defender. The more he plays the better, from all aspects.”

 

Meanwhile, back-row forward Paul Boyle says that seven of his Connacht teammates being called into the Irish squad for the Six Nations gives him an extra motivation to eventually follow them to international selection. 

 

Bundee Aki, Dave Heffernan, Quinn Roux, Kieran Marmion, Jack Carty, Ultane Dillane and Finlay Bealham were all part of Andy Farrell’s squad for the recently finished Six Nations.

 

The 23-year-old has been an integral part of the Westerners squad since his debut in January 2018 and the Gorey native is confident that — provided he continues to play to a high standard — he can win a place in future Ireland squads. 

 

“If you play well enough, you’re going to be picked,” Boyle said of the path to winning Irish caps. 

 

“I know that if I play well enough here and put in outstanding performances week in and week out that I’m going to get picked. As you can see with the seven guys that we got selected for Ireland, if you’re playing well enough you’re going to get picked.

 

“I just use that as motivation to try and get better every day. It sounds simple, but I try to improve every day and improve every game and hopefully try to force my way into selection.”

Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce that Connacht Attack Coach Nigel Carolan, Forwards Coach Jimmy Duffy and Defence Coach Peter Wilkins have all signed two year contract extensions to take them up to the end of the 2020-21 season.
 
Making the announcement Friend said: “One of the first things that struck me when I took up the position of Head Coach of Connacht Rugby was the strength of the coaching team that was already in place. They are an exceptional team and one of the best collective groups I have worked with in my coaching career. Obviously a major priority for us has been to retain the services of these guys into the future and I am delighted that we are now in a position to announce this great news. We can now continue to focus on producing an exciting, attacking and ultimately winning brand of rugby for the seasons ahead.
 
Attack Coach Nigel Carolan was Connacht Academy Manager from 2004 to his appointment with the professional team in 2017. He is also former Head Coach of the Ireland Under 20 squad. Commenting on his contract extension, Carolan said: “We have a very clear focus on where we are going as a team and a province, and we are determined to deliver further success in the seasons ahead. We pride ourselves on our attacking style and I am excited about the contribution I can make to that in the coming years.
 
Forwards Coach Jimmy Duffy has held his current role since 2015 and was part of the coaching team that won the PRO12 Championship in 2016. He previously worked as Elite Player Development Officer in the Connacht Academy for a four year period. He has also worked with numerous age grade sides within Connacht as Head and Assistant Coach, along with seven seasons with the Ireland Under 18 side. Following his contract signing, Duffy added: “Connacht Rugby is an exciting place to be, both on and off the field. We have made progress this season on all aspects of our game and are continuing to improve. There is even more potential in the squad and I believe that we can maximise that potential in the coming seasons.
 
Also extending his contract is Defence Coach Peter Wilkins who joined Connacht from Edinburgh ahead of the 2017/18 season. He previously worked in Australia with the Queensland Reds Super Rugby side and as Head Coach of Queensland A. Commenting on his contract extension, Wilkins added: “I am extremely honoured to be part of Connacht Rugby and I am delighted to have extended my contract for another 2 years. I am proud of the progression we have made defensively this season and I look forward to working with all of the coaches and the squad to continue that progression in the seasons ahead.

Ahead of this weekend’s vital Guinness PRO14 interpro with Munster, defence coach Pete Wilkins spoke to the media at the pre-match press conference at the Sportsground.
 
Pete reflected on a positive Christmas block of games so far for the squad, and the role of the Connacht supporters with the game already a complete sellout.
 

 
If you didn’t manage to pick up a ticket for this weekend, you can still join us one week later when we welcome Sale Sharks for a crucial European Challenge Cup pool game.
 
You can purchase tickets HERE.

Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce the signing of hooker Jonny Murphy from Rotherham Titans. The 26-year-old has previously represented Ireland at Under 18, 19 and 20 levels.

 

Murphy is a former student of Banbridge High School and came through the Ulster Academy before making his debut for the province in the 2016/17 season.

 

Commenting on the signing, Connacht Defence Coach Peter Wilkins said: “We are delighted that Jonny Murphy has signed for Connacht ahead of the 2018/19 season. He is a powerful and robust forward who will provide increased options to our game.”

 

Following his signing, Jonny Murphy added: “I am relishing the challenge of joining Connacht and looking forward to joining the squad for pre-season training. There is huge competition at the moment for that number 2 jersey and I hope to add to that further. Connacht have a loyal community of fans and I look forward to representing them when I arrive in the Sportsground.”

 

 

With a tough fixture away to Ulster coming up on Friday night, Connacht Defence Coach Peter Wilkins looks ahead to our first Interpro of the season and the challenge posed by the Ulstermen.

We have three huge home games against Worcester, Munster and Cheetahs in the coming weeks and we are offering one lucky supporter two Clan tickets to each game.

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Connacht Rugby and the IRFU are delighted to confirm the appointment of Peter Wilkins as Defence Coach.

Wilkins, who has spent the past two seasons at Edinburgh Rugby will join Kieran Keane’s new look coaching ticket for next season along with Jimmy Duffy and Nigel Carolan.

Wilkins, from England, began his coaching journey with the RFU before moving to Australia where he progressed within the Queensland Reds from Regional Rugby Manager to Defence Coach.

During his time in Brisbane he was also Head Coach of Queensland A and Defence Coach of Queensland Country. In the summer of 2015, he returned with his family to the UK to take up the Defence Coach role at Edinburgh.

Wilkins will join up with the province for the beginning of pre-season in June.

Commenting on the news, Peter said:

“I’m really pleased to be joining Connacht Rugby and excited about the opportunity to become a part of an organisation I have enormous respect for.

“I have visited the Sportsground as an opposition coach and have always been struck, not just by the skill set and commitment of the Connacht players on the field, but also by the passion and rugby values of the Connacht supporters and wider community.

“I’m well aware of Kieran’s qualities from my time in the southern hemisphere, and am really looking forward to working closely with him, as well as Jimmy, Nigel and the other members of the organisation. 

“I look forward to contributing to further success for Connacht Rugby and the province as a whole.”

Connacht Rugby CEO Willie Ruane added:

“We’re delighted to be welcoming Peter to Connacht Rugby ahead of the new season. In identifying the right candidate for this role, we were taken by the consistent, positive feedback on the work that Peter has done in his previous roles. We are excited about what he will be able to bring to a new coaching team and look forward to his arrival at the start of pre-season.”

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