Thursday 22 March 2018

Connacht on IRFU collision course

John Fallon

Connacht could be set for a showdown with IRFU bosses, just weeks after a new way forward for the province was agreed, after it emerged that four first-team players have been targeted by Leinster and Munster.

The big surprise will be the linking of out-half Ian Keatley with a move to Munster, while Irish hooker Sean Cronin and top try scorer Fionn Carr could be poised for a move to Leinster.

A fourth first-team player is being linked with a possible move to Leinster.

Part of the new agreement was supposed to be the movement to Connacht of players from Munster, Leinster and Ulster, but now Eric Elwood and his management team look like they could be stripped of four key players. All four are in their third season with Connacht and arrived because they were unable to make the breakthrough in their native provinces, with Cronin going on to win seven Irish caps since moving to the Sportsground.

The 24-year-old has made 52 appearances for Connacht in the Magners League and Amlin Challenge Cup. Keatley has scored 512 points for Connacht in his 61 appearances and could follow in the footsteps of Paul Warwick, who left the Sportsground for Munster.

Carr is the second-top try scorer in Connacht history, with 29 tries in his 58 appearances.

The loss of the quartet would be a huge blow to the western province, not least after the optimism which was raised just two weeks ago.

At the time the CEO of the IRFU, Phillip Browne, praised the other three provinces for their support for the new plan aimed at improving Connacht.

"The commitment received from the other three provinces in the movement of players to Connacht is to be commended," said Browne. "It is a central element of the initiative."

Irish Independent

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