Pat Lam says Connacht have got the perfect man to replace him in Chiefs’ attack coach Kieran Keane.
Lam said he was delighted with the appointment of the former Tasman head coach and current Chiefs’ assistant coach, and he promised he would do his best to ensure a smooth transfer of power.
It was also confirmed by Connacht that Keane will not be joining the province until the end of July at the earliest, but Lam insists that Connacht have secured the right man to carry on the development despite this delay.
“It’s a great fit. Our paths crossed many times back in New Zealand,” said Lam. “He has gotten results in rugby and there is a lot of people that have worked closely with him that speak very highly of him, whether it’s his peers or the players themselves.
“KK is the perfect guy, I’m really, really pleased. The boys will really enjoy him, he’ll drive them hard. He loves playing the game with an attacking style. It’s fantastic, I’m really happy.
“When they told me they were looking at Kieran Keane I said: ‘perfect choice, he’d be ideal’.
“But the biggest thing is he has a lot of experience, he is very comfortable in his skin. He’s not going to come over here and try and prove ‘look, I’m a head coach’. He’ll come here and continue to drive the plan and fit in nicely.”
While there will be no official overlap in Lam’s and Keane’s time in Connacht, the incumbent says he will do his best to ensure his successor is well informed and ready to take the reins.
“We had a good chat, but not the depth that we will later. We had a good hour of a chat, he talked about my time here and we’ll continue that when the time is appropriate,” said Lam.
“(My door) will be open but my situation is different because I was available to come in immediately. As I said to Kieran, even when I’m over the other side of the water we’ll stay in touch. This place does and will remain a special place to me. I’ll be very much in contact and available to him.
“I know what I’m leaving and what he’s coming into to, and I wanted to make sure all the systems and structures are in place that these guys can continue to grow and develop as rugby players and men. He has the same philosophy, which is great.”
Connacht CEO, Willie Ruane, confirmed Keane will not be joining the province before his contract expires at the Chiefs. The final regular season game in the Super 15s takes place on July 15, but should the Chiefs reach the knockout stages, as they have done in the last five seasons, Keane might not arrive until early August.
According to Ruane, there will be no disruption to pre-season as Keane’s assistants will be in place, although he was not in a position to confirm who those assistants will be.
The future of current forwards’ coach Jimmy Duffy and backs’ coach Conor McPhillips — both former Connacht players — has yet to be confirmed, but Ruane would not clarify their positions.
“You can expect some change,” said Ruane. “We’ll be confirming those over the next few days. We are pretty advanced in terms of where we are at. I’m genuinely very happy, actually excited with what we had there, but I can’t confirm it just yet because we are just working through the finer details.
“What I would say is you will see some change because we obviously have Dave Ellis’ slot, so we’ll be filling another role there, so you can expect some change. I think we will be able to announce more on that in the next few days.”
“I’d love to say he (Keane) is going to be here right from the very start, he’s not. But really good planning should address that.”
And Ruane insisted he would not get too hung up on a leak surrounding the identity of the coach, which resulted in most of the squad finding out in the media, rather than from the province itself.
“I think the players have been very understanding of the process we have gone through. It’s not something I’m mad about, but that’s just the way it is. I’m not going to get too hung up on it.”
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