Back row forwards Eoin McKeon, George Naoupu and Eoghan Masterson have become the latest players to sign new contract extensions with Connacht Rugby and the IRFU.

McKeon and Masterson have put pen to paper on new two-year deals that will see them play at the Sportsground until at least the summer of 2017 while Connacht Rugby and New Zealander Naoupu have both opted to activate the third year on the player’s current contract that will bring him up to the summer of 2016.

Galway-born Eoin McKeon is a graduate of the Connacht Academy and has represented Ireland at U18, U19 and U20 level. In the summer of 2013, he travelled with the Emerging Ireland squad to Georgia to play in the Tsbili Cup.

The 23 year old who made his professional debut away to Scarlets in April 2010 has since played 62 times for Connacht. He is comfortable playing across the back row, as evidenced this season, and his agility and athletic ball carrying ability comes to the fore game after game.

Sportsground favourite George Naoupu’s contract extension is another huge boost to the club and the forward pack. New Zealand born Naoupu arrived at Connacht at the start of the 2009/10 season, having come from Super 14 side The Highlanders. The 6ft 5inch, 120kg versatile forward then moved to the Kobe Steelers in Japan where he spent one season before returning to Connacht where he has played for the past four.

With 87 Connacht caps overall, the 31-year-old has played in an impressive 18 games this season. An exceptional ball carrier with a huge work rate, Naoupu was voted the October Player of the Month by Connacht supporters.

21-year-old Eoghan Masterson becomes the latest player to graduate from the Connacht Academy by signing a new professional deal. The Portlaoise man was recruited by Nigel Carolan in 2013 and spent the last two seasons with the current Ireland Under-20’s head coach. The former CBS school boy represented Ireland U20s in the 2013 6 Nations game v Scotland and his Scottish father enabled him to go on to represent Scotland U20s in the Junior World Championship that same year.

Masterson was fast tracked to the senior team last season when an injury crisis hit the back row. He played six times for Pat Lam in the PRO12 and impressed coaches and supporters alike with his ability to compete at number seven – a position in which he had little playing experience. This season, he has continued with his progress and proven to be a quality leader as captain of the Connacht Eagles.

Commenting on the latest deals, Connacht CEO Willie Ruane said:

“The retention of key players such as Eoin, George and Eoghan Masterson is another clear signal that we intend to retain our best players and continue to build for a successful future. The fact that these players are happily committing their futures to Connacht in the face of interest from elsewhere is a demonstration of both the progress they have made as players and the culture we have built at Connacht Rugby.”

Head Coach Pat Lam added:

“We’re delighted to have secured these three back rowers for the future. All three are quality No. 8’s but have the versatility to play right across the back row while George can also move up into the 2nd row. Both George and Eoin are key, senior members of our squad and their involvement and contribution this season has highlighted that. 

“I am very pleased to welcome young Eoghan Masterson into the full squad from our Academy for next season. We have someone who is hard working, coachable and determined to succeed.  I am very confident his growth under Nigel and Jimmy will continue as he aims to learn from both George and Eoin and ultimately push and challenge them going forward. When he had to step up for us last year, he showed that he was well capable of a challenge and the entire squad and management were impressed with his maturity and ambition. He is a very exciting prospect and along with Eoin have the potential for higher honours.”

 

 

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