Connacht Rugby and the IRFU are delighted to announce the appointment of Pete Wilkins as Head Coach of Connacht Rugby, assuming overall responsibility for the Professional team from next season.
Following a thorough recruitment process, Wilkins has signed a three-year deal and will lead a new coaching team which will be confirmed in the coming weeks.
Pete Wilkins first joined Connacht in 2017, arriving as Defence Coach in a role which he would fulfil for four seasons. In the summer of 2021 he was promoted to the role of Senior Coach with primary responsibility for attack. Following Andy Friend’s move to Director of Rugby in 2022, Wilkins became Head Coach, assuming greater responsibility for more of the on-pitch elements of the rugby programme.
He was also invited to join the Irish coaching team for the tour of New Zealand last summer, culminating in the historic series win.
Prior to joining Connacht, Wilkins gained a wide variety of experience in both northern and southern hemisphere rugby. He served as Defence Coach with Edinburgh Rugby from 2015 to 2017, and held a number of roles at the Queensland Reds from 2011 to 2015, including Defence Coach, Skills Coach and Head of Performance Analysis. He was also Head Coach of the Reds’ A squad during this time.
Willie Ruane, CEO of Connacht Rugby said:
“Following a thorough process run in conjunction with the IRFU, Pete emerged as the successful candidate to lead our Professional rugby setup over the next three years. He is an excellent coach with extensive knowledge of the club and wider province and understands the needs of our squad and our system to help drive the success we are all striving for. He has demonstrated considerable growth as a coach and as a leader throughout his time here at Connacht and we believe he is the right person to now take the group forward.
After a difficult start to this season, we currently sit in the Top 8 of an extremely competitive URC and in the last 16 of the Challenge Cup, so we still have a lot to play for on both fronts. In that regard, I look forward to us delivering a strong performance for the rest of this season and to Pete taking the group forward for next season and beyond.”
David Nucifora, Performance Director of the IRFU said: “Pete has invested five years getting to know the strengths of Connacht Rugby and the opportunities that exist within the Irish system. The investment of Pete spending time with the national coaching team on the New Zealand tour last summer was invaluable as part of his development and progression into the Head Coach role. He now has the opportunity to shape the next evolution of pro rugby at Connacht.”
Pete Wilkins, Head Coach of Connacht Rugby says:
“I am thrilled and honoured to be appointed Head Coach of Connacht Rugby for the next three seasons, and to lead this talented group of players and backroom staff. In my six years here I’ve come to appreciate what a special province this is – not just the people within the organisation but the wider supporter base and volunteers in the clubs and schools who help make rugby in Connacht what it is today.
“In that regard I’m thankful to Connacht Rugby and the IRFU for entrusting me with the task of leading the professional setup during what will be a very exciting time on and off the field.
For now, however my focus is solely on this season and making sure we have a strong finish in the URC and Challenge Cup. I know we can count on our incredible supporters for some vital games in the coming weeks and months. I can assure everyone that we will be doing everything in our power to cap off the great work of Andy during his time here, and to then further build on that, during my tenure at the helm of Connacht Rugby.”
An announcement on the make-up of next season’s coaching team will be made over the coming weeks.