...Mark McHugh feels the crunch of a tackle from Felipe Contepomi and Rob Kearney when in action against his former province Leinster recently...
Connacht full-back-cum-centre Mark McHugh has agreed terms on a new contract that will keep him out west until at least the end of the 2006/07 season.
The 27-year-old, who has only played three games this season owing to a serious knee injury, is in his fifth season with the westerners. He signed for Connacht back in 2001 when current Ballymena boss Steph Nel was coach.
McHugh, who scored a try against Tonga in June 2003 in his one and only appearance for Ireland, has battled back to fitness after severing his lateral knee ligaments against Leicester Tigers in a friendly last August.
He came off the bench to mark his return in Connacht's 33-19 win over Llanelli in the Celtic League last month, and also started against Leinster and Border Reivers in recent weeks.
Ahead of Friday's European Challenge Cup quarter-final clash with Newcastle, McHugh said: "It is great to be back in action. I knew when it happened to me that it would take a huge effort to get back playing, but thankfully it has worked out and there have been no problems."
McHugh is to follow captain Andrew Farley and former Irish international Matt Mostyn in signing a new contract with Connacht.
...Ireland "A" prop Ray Hogan...
Meanwhile, hooker John Fogarty and loosehead prop Ray Hogan have also renewed their Connacht contracts this week. The 28-year-old Fogarty, a brother of Munster's Denis, has been Connacht's first choice number 2 this season and has signed a new two-year deal.
The powerfully-built Hogan, 24, is a younger brother of Munster lock Trevor, who was capped for Ireland in Japan last summer and looks set to link up with Leinster for next season.
Both Fogarty and Hogan, who has signed a one-year contract extension, started in the Ireland "A" team's recent internationals against France "A" and England "A" - both were particularly impressive in the 33-18 defeat of the English earlier this month.
Fogarty and Hogan should be included in the "A" squad to travel to the United States in late May for the 2006 Churchill Cup.
Connacht CEO Gerry Kelly said: "We are delighted that John and Ray have committed to Connacht. Both have been very impressive for Ireland "A" and for us this season. It is great to see players like John and Ray committing to the side for the future."