Pat Lam to leave Connacht and take up coaching role with Bristol
Pat Lam has announced he is leaving Connacht at the end of the season to take up a coaching role with Bristol.
He had another year to run on the contract he signed in 2015, but has come to an agreement with Connacht to leave and has described the decision as "one of the most difficult I've had to make in my life".
The head coach's success has attracted global attention and he has been linked with a number of jobs in recent months while he also spoke with Northampton Saints.
His departure has come as a big shock to the province, however, as it was confirmed he will join big-spending Bristol who face the threat of being relegated from the Aviva Premiership.
"We're delighted to confirm Pat Lam will join #BristolRugby as Head Coach in June ahead of the 2017/18 campaign," tweeted the official Bristol rugby account.
"This has been one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make in my life as Connacht and Galway is such a special place for myself and my family," Lam said.
"The friendships, support and memories we all have experienced throughout our time in the West of Ireland is truly heartfelt and will never be forgotten.
“I feel extremely blessed to have been given an opportunity four years ago to build on the excellent work of Eric Elwood.
"I’m very proud that I can now pass on the baton with the knowledge that Connacht Rugby is truly seen as one of four strong provinces of Irish rugby.
“Rugby should never be about the individual as players and coaches will always come and go. We have worked hard to have the structures and systems in place to ensure the future success of the province for our community. I truly believe that through our strategic plan and the vision of Grassroots to Green Shirts, Connacht Rugby is in an extremely strong place going forward.
“There is a lot of rugby to be played between now and the end of the season and myself, our management team and the players are fully committed to our goals on and off the pitch.
"We are heading in to Champions Cup rugby this week on the back of so much hard work over the last number of years. We want to continue to inspire our community and we have many more opportunities on and off the field to do that this season.”
On his new role with Bristol, Lam said: "I’m excited about the opportunity to coach and lead Bristol – a proud club with history, tradition and a bright future ahead.
"I’m committed to Bristol irrespective as to what happens in the short-term – everything is in place for the club to be a force."
Connacht chief executive Willie Ruane said the process of replacing Lam is already underway.
“Firstly I’d like to thank Pat for everything he has done for Connacht Rugby," he said.
"He led the province to a first ever trophy and that will be something that will live long in the memory. While there is a lot of rugby yet to be played this season, we wish Pat, Steph and their family the very best in the next chapter of their lives.
“Connacht Rugby has made a huge amount of progress over the last number of years, with Pat building on the great work of those who went before him and we remain extremely confident and excited about the future.
“As a club, we will immediately engage with our Professional Games Board and the IRFU with respect to starting the process of recruiting our next head coach.”