Hooker Shane Delahunt and centre Peter Robb have both extended their contracts with Connacht ahead of the 2019/20 season.
Delahunt joined Connacht through the academy in 2014 and made his debut for the province in September of that year. The 25 year old also featured in Connacht’s Championship winning season in 2015/16 while still an academy player. He has a total of 62 appearances for Connacht – 19 coming this season under current Head Coach Andy Friend.
Peter Robb is another player who featured in that PRO12 winning season when he made twelve appearances in total. The 24 year old has recovered from two long term injuries over the past two seasons and has featured in Connacht’s last four PRO14 games.
Announcing the latest contract extensions, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said:
“Shane Delahunt and Peter Robb are two players who are very much part of our plans as we finalise our squad for next season. Our ambition is to be regularly competing at the highest level and bring further success to Connacht Rugby. To do this we need real depth in our squad and players putting each other under pressure for places.”
Eoin Griffin has also announced that he will be retiring from rugby at the end of the current season. Griffin has made over 100 appearances for his native province, but his progress has been hampered by injury this season.
Meanwhile Craig Ronaldson, James Mitchell, James Connolly, Conan O’Donnell, Peter McCabe, Peter Claffey, James Cannon and Conor McKeon will all be leaving Connacht at the end of the current season. McKeon has been affected by injury and will be retiring from the game.
Commenting on the departures, Head Coach Andy Friend said:
“Eoin Griffin has been a fantastic servant of Connacht Rugby with over 100 appearances for his home province and we wish him the very best as he announces his retirement. The nature of professional rugby is that a player’s longevity at a club is finite. To all of those men who are leaving Connacht this season, a sincere thank you for all that you’ve given to the jersey. We wish you every success for the future.”
Contract update from Connacht Rugby
Rory Best to retire.
Best will bow out with a hugely impressive list of honours and will go down as a legend of the modern game, having spent 15 seasons at the top level.
Rory began his rugby development at Banbridge RFC, with whom he is still involved, while he also played at Portadown College and Belfast Harlequins RFC on route to the professional game.
He made his competitive debut for Ulster in 2004 and has amassed 219 appearances to date, scoring 23 tries. He was a key member of the squad which won the Celtic League title in 2005/06.
Best is Ulster’s most-capped international with 116 appearances (10 tries) and has helped Ireland win the Six Nations Championship on four occasions, including two Grand Slam successes (one as captain).
Best’s leadership of Ireland is record-breaking; he captained Ireland to its first ever win against New Zealand in 2016 and has steered the country to second in the world rankings.
He was a member of the British & Irish Lions squad for the 2013 and 2017 tours to Australia and New Zealand respectively.
Best was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2017 Birthday Honours for services to rugby.
“It is with mixed feelings that I announce my retirement from Ulster Rugby as of the end of this season,” said Best.
“This feels like the right time for me to go out on my terms, a luxury for which I feel very privileged.
“I am very excited for the end of the season with Ulster Rugby and for the upcoming World Cup with Ireland, both of which I hope to finish with a massive high, playing at the top of my game.
“In my 15 years at this brilliant club, I have been lucky to have met, played alongside, been coached by and supported by many great people, and I would like to thank every individual for the time they have invested in me since 2004.
“I grew up supporting Ulster Rugby, have been fortunate to play and captain Ulster Rugby, and now look forward to supporting Ulster Rugby in the future with my family.”
Paying tribute to Best, Ulster’s Operations Director, Bryn Cunningham said:
“No player representing Ulster Rugby has had a more profound impact in the professional era than Rory.
“When Rory enters the room, everyone waits for his words. On the training pitch, he demands high standards at all times. During a match, players turn to Rory for leadership and direction. He has been our all-encompassing talismanic figure for more than a decade.
“Rory’s ability to not only stay at the top, but also fight his way through adversity, shows the strength of character he possesses.
“The ever-present support of the Best family on the side-lines, in particular Jodie, Ben, Penny and Richie, encapsulates Rory as the ultimate family man. We know that they will continue to follow Ulster Rugby for many years to come.
“Rory will justifiably go down as one of the greatest legends of Ulster and Irish Rugby.”
Ulster Rugby issue injury update for Moore & Stockdale.
Their update reads:
Marty Moore suffered a season-ending ankle ligament injury in the fixture. He will see a specialist later this week.
Jacob Stockdale sustained a hamstring injury in the same game. His recovery will be monitored on an ongoing basis.”
Sean Reidy: Q&A
URL: What gave you your passion for rugby?
SR: It’s a way of life growing up in New Zealand all my family and friend play rugby so I jumped on the bandwagon as well. Ever since I was young I knew I wanted to play for Counties Manukau – my province.
It wasn’t till I was a bit older I realised you could do it as a job!
URL: What is the story of how you came to Ulster Rugby?
SR: I got the opportunity to a preseason trial around 5 years ago. Off the back of that I got offered a 1 year contract and I’ve been here ever since!
URL: Describe what it was like to play for Ireland.
SR: It was pretty emotional! My family has strong ties here in Ireland and the opportunity to represent those people is a real privilege.
URL: Jacob Stockdale famously plays with Lego before big games. What is the most important part of your routine on match day?
SR: Getting enough sleep in and just trying to relax as much as possible. I feel if I over-think the game too much it can be pretty draining.
URL: What are the most important qualities of a back-row player?
SR: You have to be hard-working, selfless and having a good understanding of the game.
URL: How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success?
SR: Failure is a given with every sport. The key is to learn as much as you can from those failures, move on and improve.
URL: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?
SR: My wife constantly tells me to enjoy the little things in life to and not get to caught up worrying about he big picture.
URL: What goals/ambitions do you have for yourself and Ulster in the next few seasons?
SR: Just trying to help Ulster be as successful as possible. We have come along way over the past few years it’s important we keep driving forward.
URL: What was the highlight and lowlight of your career?
SR: Highlight would have to be the chance to work doing something you love everyday.
Lowlights has to be good friends you have moving on from the club you’re at.
URL: What was your favourite sports team growing up?
SR: Counties Manukau or the Chiefs.
URL: What would be the one rule in rugby you’d change?
SR: The one rule I’d change in rugby would be to introduce the 40-20 rule similar to league. I think this would give teams opportunity to attack more with the ball.
URL: Who are your best friends in the Ulster squad?
SR: I’m pretty tight with everyone!
URL: What would you be doing if you weren’t playing rugby for Ulster.
SR: Enjoying the sun in New Zealand.Embed from Getty Images
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