Buckley ready for leadership role
Connacht prop Denis Buckley knows he will need to play an even bigger leadership role this season in the growth of the province.
The 25-year-old loosehead has notched up 77 appearances and scored three tries since making his debut in the 2011-12 season.
Last season was a real turning point for Buckley, who nailed down the No 1 jersey and capped off a stunning campaign by being named in the Pro12 team of the year.
A summer tour with Emerging Ireland crowned a memorable season.
And now, with Connacht packed full of academy graduates, the Roscommon native who himself worked his way up through the ranks, knows he needs to step up.
"I always strive to be as good a leader as I can around the squad but it can be difficult some times," Buckley said.
"I am maybe pushing on as one of the senior lads, in the squad. So I have to start trying to be more of a leader around the place, and helping out some of the younger lads that are coming through."
Connacht just missed out on qualification for this season's Champions Cup when they finished outside the top six in the Pro12, and lost their qualification play-off to Gloucester.
The team came close to their goals last season, but former Creggs clubman Buckley says that experience will be invaluable this time around.
"We had a quite a young squad last year and it still is quite a young squad this year. But at least we have had that one extra year together to mature.
"And seeing how close we went last year, absolutely everyone is believing we can go one step further this year, and finish top six," he said.