Ruane: Muliaina vital to Connacht ambitions

Connacht chief executive Willie Ruane believes the arrival of All Black centurion Mils Muliaina to the province later this month will take the game in the west of Ireland to the next level.

Ruane: Muliaina vital to Connacht ambitions

Ruane, who was appointed to the post in May, defended the province from criticism that Connacht’s ability to sign Non Irish Qualified (NIQ) players without IRFU consent was bad for the game.

Former Munster coach Rob Penney claimed at the time of the signing: “Having been here for a couple of years, the frustration is around their ability to fund those new recruits.

“What’s it doing for Irish rugby? All the other provinces are obligated to have X amount or limited players at their disposal in terms of overseas or ineligible [for Ireland] players, except Connacht who have obviously got a bit of a hand-up.

“They need a bit of a hand-up, but let’s keep it real. There is a lot of work going on in the other three unions, Connacht seem to get it a little easier.”

However Ruane called for fair play and pointed out that ever other province had benefited from the input of overseas stars in the past like John Langford and Jim Williams for Munster, Brad Thorn and Rocky Elsom’s impact with Leinster and Ulster’s growth with Johann Muller and Ruan Pienaar on board. He viewed the signing as Connacht’s attempt to step up to a new level of competitiveness.

“I think it’s all about getting the balance and mix right,” he said.

“If you see what some of NIQs have brought into the other provinces in past, they were all hugely influential and all those provinces look back now and say, ‘it brought us to a different level with different standards’. We’re no different. We want that input too.”

Mils Muliaina’s signing is aimed at fulfilling that role by creating an ethos of sustaining excellence both on and off the field.

“Being able to sign someone like him says a lot about us and that we’ve come on. That was a considerable statement.

“He will bring a level of standard with him and an expectation which will permeate across the squad. Especially to the younger guys to work alongside him. It’s a huge opportunity.”

Meanwhile, Connacht stalwart John Muldoon was yesterday confirmed as the province’s captain for the 2014/15 season.

Muldoon, who has played 222 times for his province and was also captain from 2009 to 2011, made his senior debut for Connacht in 2004.

“I’m delighted to be named captain this year,” Muldoon said. “It’s been three years since I was last captain and a lot has changed since then so I’m thrilled to have been asked again.

“I’m excited about leading a great squad in what is a new and challenging season for us.”

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