Connacht have received a major boost with the announcement that coach Steph Nel has signed a new three year contract.
The 35 year old South African took charge of Connacht two years ago after one of their worst seasons in history. He set about developing a young side and last season they reached the quarter-finals of the inaugural Celtic League, thanks to victories away to the likes of Cardiff and Newport and at home to Neath. In the Parker Pen Shield they also showed good form, defeating French side Narbonne on a good run which ended when they lost to eventual winners Sale Sharks.
Nel, who has worked with the Irish Universities and Ireland A sides, said he is looking forward to the new season. ?We have worked hard on and off the pitch over the past two seasons. The important thing now is that we continue to build on the level of progress.
“We have a very young side but they have displayed great maturity and with people like Eric Elwood around to lead the way, we can approach the new season with confidence. This is an exciting time for Connacht Rugby,” said Nel.
Connacht have been given an extremely tough Celtic League draw. They will open their campaign away to new Scottish side Borders, while Newport, Cardiff, Leinster, Pontypridd, Bridgend and Glasgow are also in their group. In the Parker Pen Challenge Cup, which this season is being run on a knockout basis, Connacht will face French Division Two champions Mont de Marsan. The first leg will take place in south-west France in October, with the second leg in Galway the following week.
As part of the build-up to the new campaign, Connacht will play a series of pre-season Friendlies. On August 14 they entertain Zurich Premiership finalists Bristol Shoguns; on Sunday August 18 they travel to face London Wasps at their new ground, Adams Park in High Wycombe; while on August 22 Munster travel to Galway.