Connacht Rugby have announced that the province have reached an agreement to sign Bristol Bears second row Joe Joyce for the start of the 2023/24 season.
The 28-year-old will make the move to Connacht after completing his 11th season at Bristol where he already made more than 150 appearances, including helping them to win the EPCR Challenge Cup title in 2020.
Joyce was named Bristol Bears’ Player of the Season in 2017/18, when he played a leading role in his hometown club’s promotion back to the Gallagher Premiership.
While he has consistently been one of the Bears’ best performers over the last number of years, the 2021/22 season has arguably been his best yet.
Acting as captain for parts of the campaign, Joyce’s huge contribution both on and off the pitch was recognised when he was named the club’s Forward of the Season, Team Man of the Season and Supporters’ Player of the Season.
In addition to his outstanding personal achievements with Bristol, he was also shortlisted for the Gallagher Community Player of the Season award, in recognition of his community engagement efforts with local charities and programmes.
Joyce is extremely proud of his Irish and Connacht heritage – his grandparents were born in Clonbur, Co. Galway – and he has already represented Ireland, featuring in the 2014 Under-20 Six Nations campaign.
Looking forward to the new challenge with Connacht, he said: “After many years representing my hometown club, I’m very excited about the opportunity to represent my Irish roots and my family name.
I’ve been to the west of Ireland and the Sportsground on many occasions to visit family and as a supporter, and I can’t wait to make an impact on and off the field in the province as a Connacht player and make my family proud.
“After speaking to the coaches, Tim (Allnutt) and Willie (Ruane), I’m very excited about the future of Connacht Rugby and can’t wait to be a part of it.”
Head coach Andy Friend commented: “We are thrilled Joe has chosen to join Connacht for the start of the 2023/24 season.
“Whilst we know his arrival is still 12 months away, we are already excited by the prospect of what he will bring to Connacht Rugby and his signing represents a key addition to the squad we are looking to build.
“Joe is a big physical lock, with excellent athletic and footballing ability and so he is a great fit for how we want play.
“Off the pitch he is also the type of player who understands the importance of community and I have no doubt he will make a positive impact in that area, something we, as a squad, place a significant value on.”