Friday 19 January 2018

Naoupu deal to lift Connacht

John Fallon

influential No 8 George Naoupu is set to pledge his future to Connacht, giving the club a timely boost ahead of their Heineken Cup clash with English Premiership leaders Harlequins.

The 29-year-old, who is in his second spell at the Sportsground, is poised to sign a two-year contract extension with the option of a third year.

And Connacht, who have already nailed down exciting breakthrough talents such as Kieran Marmion and Robbie Henshaw, are also expected to announce new contracts for a host of young players.

Naoupu, who can play at second-row as well as flanker and No 8, made a huge impression when he arrived in Connacht over three years ago, playing a big part in their march to the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup where they bowed out at the Sportsground to a star-studded Toulon side.

Naoupu had only been given a short-term contract when he arrived in Galway in October 2009 from the Highlanders in New Zealand, and he decided to take up an offer to move to Kobe Steelers in Japan the following season.

However, the Kiwi, who came up through Canterbury's academy system, had no hesitation when Connacht coach Eric Elwood came looking for him to come back and he is now in his second season at the Sportsground.

Naoupu is doubtful for Saturday's clash after picking up a heavy knock to the head in Saturday's win over the Dragons, but Elwood is hopeful that he and scrum-half Marmion will be fit. Neither trained yesterday and Elwood is likely to make a call on them today.

The new deal could see Naoupu, who played for the New Zealand U-21s in 2004 and for the All Blacks Sevens the following season, remain in Galway until the summer of 2016.

Meanwhile, Connacht CEO Tom Sears says they are on course to name Eric Elwood's replacement before the end of the month.

Pat Lam remains the favourite to take the position, but Sears has refused to say who is in the running, stressing that Connacht regard it as a confidential process.

Irish Independent

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