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Elwood delight as crucial trio commit to Connacht

CONNACHT have secured the services of Frank Murphy, Miah Nikora and Ronan Loughney until the end of the 2012/13 season.

In the build-up to this weekend's final Challenge Cup pool game against I Cavalieri Prato, head coach Eric Elwood re-signed first-choice scrum-half Murphy, and Nikora, who will battle it out with the incoming Niall O'Connor for the No 10 shirt if, as is expected, Ian Keatley moves on.

Nikora, a former New Zealand Schools, U-19 and U-21 inter-national, has played 33 times for Connacht, after joining the westerners at the start of last season from ITM Cup side Tasman.

"I'm delighted to be able to commit to Connacht for the next two years," he said. "I've really settled in here, and so have my family. There's a great work ethic in the squad and the coaching staff provide a dynamic environment in which to work."

Though Fionn Carr and Sean Cronin are also leaving, home-grown prop Loughney has committed himself to the cause, following in the footsteps of fellow front-rower Jamie Hagan.

Wing Mark McCrea is joining from Ulster, while George Naoupu will also return. Thus, Elwood's preparations for the 2011/12 season are well under way.

"Re-signing Loughs, Murphy and Miah is a big step in building our squad for next season," he said.

"They play in crucial positions and knowing that we have that stability and maturity in these roles gives us a huge amount of confidence."

Italian side Prato visit on Saturday with Connacht having ended their nine-game losing streak against Bayonne in France last weekend.

With back-row injuries to John Muldoon and Ray Ofisa, Elwood is likely to hand Academy star Shane Conneely his first competitive start -- he replaced Johnny O'Connor last weekend.

Irish Independent