Connacht have announced two-year contract extensions for scrum half Frank Murphy, out-half Miah Nikora and prop Ronan Loughney.
The new deals for the three players come hot on the heels of the news that prop Jamie Hagan has re-signed with Connacht, and back rower George Naoupu is returning to the Sportsground for next season.
Frank Murphy, who has captained Connacht on a number of occasions, is a former UCC skipper who made 15 appearances for Munster before moving to the Leicester Tigers in 2006 where he was part of the Premiership winning side of 2006/07.
He made 27 appearances for the English side, eight in the Heineken Cup (including the final in 2007). He joined Connacht for the start of the 2008/09 season and to date has made 60 appearances, scoring 20 points.
The 29-year-old scrum half from Crosshaven, County Cork has penned a contract that will see him playing at the Sportsground until 2013.
“It’s great being part of such a dedicated and hard working squad and management, and being part of Connacht for the next two years means a lot to me,” he said.
Miah Nikora, a former New Zealand Schools, Under-19 and Under-21 international, joined Connacht at the start of last season from ITM Cup side Tasman.
He quickly established himself as a fans’ favourite at the Sportsground with match-winning kicks against both Bourgoin in the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final and Edinburgh in the Magners League.
To date, Nikora has played 33 times for Connacht, scoring 78 points, and will add to his tally with this two-year contract extension.
“I’m delighted to be able to commit to Connacht for the next two years. I’ve really settled in here, and so have my family,” he said.
“There’s a great work ethic in the squad and the coaching staff provide a dynamic environment in which to work in.”
Ronan Loughney is a homegrown graduate of the Connacht Academy, making the jump to the senior squad in 2005.
The 6ft 1in, 112kg prop has been a regular member of the Connacht matchday squad in recent seasons, making 69 appearances to date and scoring a try against Ulster in the final game of last season.
Loughney is a fluent Irish speaker and regularly features on Radio na Ghaeltacht and TG4.
“Working under Eric (Elwood) and Dan (McFarland) has been very exciting and I am honoured to be a part of this squad for the next two years,” he said.
“The attitude amongst the squad is fantastic and we all believe that the team is going places. Growing up in Galway, it was always my ambition to play rugby for Connacht.
“The last five years here have been superb, so to be involved for at least another two is a huge bonus and I look forward to developing my abilities even further.”
Connacht head coach Eric Elwood, who enjoyed a famous win away to Bayonne last weekend, described the contract extensions as a ‘significant’ piece of business for the province.
“Re-signing Loughs, Murphy and Miah is a big step in building our squad for next season,” he explained.
“They play in crucial positions and knowing that we have that stability and maturity in these crucial roles gives us a huge amount of confidence going forward.”