Veteran lock Michael Swift and flanker Mata Fifita have both signed contract extensions with Connacht Rugby and the IRFU that will see them play for another year at the Sportsground.
Michael Swift has chalked up an impressive 262 caps for the province and also holds the Celtic League record with 180 appearances.
The 2014/15 campaign will be his fifteenth season with Connacht. The westerners’ longest-serving player turns 37 next October.
At the end of last season, Swift was presented with the RaboDirect PRO12 Chairman’s award in recognition of his outstanding service to both his province and the league as a whole.
As one of three club captains for the current seeason, the 6ft 5in, 120kg second row shows no sign of slowing down, playing in 16 league and five Heineken Cup games so far this year.
Commenting on Swift’s contract extension, Connacht head coach Pat Lam said: “‘Swifty’ continues to defy the years and prove himself as a true Connacht man. His work ethic, passion and commitment to Connacht Rugby is inspirational to the management, players, sponsors and supporters.
“When myself and Dan (McFarland) sat down with him recently, it was evident how much he wants this contract.
“He is still so hungry to play and we know that he will continue to push hard in training and fight for a place while also leading the squad. Swifty is, and always will be, a fantastic ambassador for the province.”
Swift himself admitted: “I’m delighted to have another year of rugby with Connacht to look forward to. Every year there are progressive changes happening at the Sportsground.
“I think there is something special happening here at the moment so I just want to be part of it for as long as possible. I’m excited about finishing off this current season on a high and being part of another Connacht squad going forward.”
Also lining at the Sportsground next season will be back rower Mata Fifita. This will be his third year with Connacht – the 25-year-old Tongan native was selected from Ulster Bank League club Sligo in 2011.
Despite some season-disrupting injuries, Fifita has played 15 times for Connacht, including three Heineken Cup appearances, and has also had a significant involvement with the Connacht Eagles in the British & Irish Cup.
He came to Sligo at the beginning of the 2008 season when he played in the back row. He was soon tried in the centre – a transition he made with ease.
With Connacht last season, the versatile player was brought on from the bench to cover the back row and he has continued to use his strength and power to good effect in the pack this year.
Date of Birth: October 18, 1977
Birthplace: Hammersmith, England
Height: 1.96m (6ft 5in)
Weight: 120kg (18st 12lb)
– Club captain for 2012/13 and 2013/14
– 14 seasons with Connacht
– 262 Connacht caps
– 180 league appearances
– 75 European appearances
– Has played 21 games this season (out of 26)
Date of Birth: August 18, 1988
Height: 1.88m (6ft 2in)
Weight: 110kg (17st 4lb)
Position: Back row
– 2 seasons with Connacht
– 16 Connacht caps
– 12 league appearances
– 4 European appearances