Thursday 30 March 2017

New Connacht coach Elwood says players must 'raise the bar' to progress

John Fallon

Eric Elwood, who was yesterday confirmed to take over from Michael Bradley as Connacht head coach at the end of the season, believes the players need to show ambition and raise the bar if they are to progress.

And the former Ireland international, who was unveiled as the new coach at the Sportsground yesterday, said that he would be challenging them to bring Connacht up to a new level.

"It is a big challenge but I'm looking forward to it. I never stood back from a challenge before," said Elwood, who has been only appointed for one season because of an ongoing review of Connacht by the IRFU. "We have got to change the mindset, but we will only change it with results. To achieve that we need to have everything right, both on and off the field."

The CEO of Connacht Rugby, Gerry Kelly, said that the review of Connacht was primarily to find a sustainable model for the province and that the process should be viewed as a positive step.

"The timing of the review and the renewing of contracts dictated that contract extensions are just for a year, but what is being worked at here is a sustainable plan into the future," he said.

Discussions

Elwood (41) who brought the curtain down on a 17-year playing career in 2005 and has been assistant coach to Bradley since then, said that he was aware of the ongoing discussions between Connacht and the IRFU.

"The Branch went to the Union and they are working hard together. We need to make sure Connacht is one of four provinces and not a situation where it is three plus one," he said. "Professional sport comes down to money and we need to make sure we are in a position to challenge."

Elwood said he would bring plenty of passion to the job, "but that'll only get you so far. You need the back-up staff, the support off the field and a good rapport with the players," he said.

"We will continue to bring young players through from the province and from all over Ireland and if they are good enough, they will get their chance.

"I saw it when I was playing that we were often treated as second- class citizens. We need to show ambition, take it forward and challenge each other. We will get results if we raise the bar."

He said that the people of Galway and Connacht needed to come out and support the side in greater numbers if the professional side was to progress.

"There are about 2,000 diehards, who are as good as supporters as any team has, but we need to get more people behind the team," he said. "There is a lot to be done on and off the pitch, but I am really looking forward to it."

Irish Independent

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