Earlier this week five Connacht players were included in Joe Schmidt’s 37-man Ireland squad for the upcoming GUINNESS Series games against South Africa, Georgia and Australia.
Connacht head coach Pat Lam believes the inclusion of Darragh Leader, Robbie Henshaw, Kieran Marmion, Nathan White and Rodney Ah You is a huge boost to his players and the province as a whole.
Speaking from the Sportsground in Galway, he said: “It’s fantastic to have five of our Connacht men named in the squad for November. Their inclusion is thoroughly deserved and we’re all very proud of them.
“When you consider this time last year we only had one player in the camp with Robbie (Henshaw) and now we have five, it is a huge testament to the players themselves, their team-mates, the backroom staff and what we’re all trying to do here at Connacht Rugby.
“Credit has to go to the Ireland coaches who have continued to make a big effort in coming out to the Sportsground and to the other provinces to meet the players and highlight to them what they are looking for in terms of the international team. This has been very beneficial in terms of building relationships and giving clarity to the players.”
He added: “One of the really pleasing aspects for everyone at Connacht is the inclusion of young Darragh Leader (pictured above) who is following in the footsteps of local guys like Eric Elwood. From Galway, he has played all his rugby at grassroots level here, gone on to play for his province and now could play for Ireland.
“This is part of the vision of Connacht Rugby. We are all very passionate about young players in our community having a pathway in Connacht to play for Ireland and this is driven massively by our CEO Willie Ruane – a local from Mayo and former Connacht player himself.
“When we go out to the schools and clubs in Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo and Galway, we do it to grow and promote the game. Everyone at Connacht Rugby from our domestic to professional team is working very hard to ensure our systems and structures are world class.
“We want to to bring these young players through the Connacht system and develop them so that they can go on and play for Ireland.
“To see homegrown talent like Darragh and Robbie come through is special and I know from what I have seen so far in my time here that there is a lot of talent in this province.
“We’ve always said that there is nothing better than game-time when it comes to players’ development. These guys have had the chance at Connacht to test themselves at the top level week in, week out and it’s proved invaluable in terms of getting their opportunity at a young age.
“I truly believe that there is more international recognition to come for Connacht players and that is part of our own vision.”