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Connacht appoint Andy Friend as new head coach

By Stephen Barry

Connacht have appointed Australian coach Andy Friend as the province's new head coach.

He has signed a three-year contract to replace Kieran Keane, who was sacked one year into his three-year term.

Friend, who was most recently coach of the Australian Sevens team, will arrive at the Sportsground in late June to oversee pre-season training.

Friend coached Harlequins for three years (2005-8), before returning to the Brumbies in Australia. He was sensationally sacked two games into his third season in 2011 amid rumours of player discontent.

He coached the Canon Eagles and Suntory Sungoliath in Japan for two season each, before taking up the Sevens role in 2016.

Previously, Friend had worked with current England and former Australian head coach Eddie Jones during the 2003 World Cup and at the Australian Institute of Sport rugby programme.

"I am extremely excited and honoured to be appointed as Head Coach of Connacht Rugby," said Friend.

"Connacht is a proud province with huge potential to build on the success of recent seasons.

"I look forward to meeting the players, staff, supporters and wider community when I arrive in the Sportsground ahead of the new season."

IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora commented: "Andy is an experienced Head Coach with insight into both northern and southern hemisphere club rugby through working in both the English Premiership and Super Rugby.

"He has experience in driving and developing organisation structures and has spent time working at the top end of the international game."

Connacht Rugby CEO Willie Ruane added: "Andy has a wealth of experience at international and club level and shares our ambition for Connacht Rugby over the coming seasons."