With the end of another World Cup cycle and the changing of Ireland's coaching ticket, there's been the familiar uncertainty about the future of Irish players. Can the provincial system continue to hold on to Ireland's best players in an ever more competitive market?
In Connacht especially, it has been a tense few weeks, with rumours that Bundee Aki might be heading abroad at the end of the season following on from equally strong rumours that Kieran Marmion was leading him out of the province and out of Ireland. The scrum half, who was surprisingly left out of Joe Schmidt's 31 man squad for the World Cup, was said to be ready for a return to England where he played schools and underage rugby, with Saracens said to be most likely destination.
Ultimately, suggestions of his impending departure were off the mark and today Connacht Rugby announced that the 27 year old has signed a new three year deal to stay at the Sportsground.
Connacht coach Andy Friend hailed the signing of the scrum half who has 23 Ireland caps.
Kieran has been an outstanding player for Connacht and for Ireland.
He is a diligent professional and, through his hard work, he has progressed through the Connacht Academy and on to play for Ireland.
His progress demonstrates the support that is available to players through our academy pathway.
Kieran's commitment to Connacht for a further three seasons demonstrates his ambition to contribute at provincial and international level in the coming years.
His signing also ensures that we continue to retain a squad equipped to compete at the highest level of European club rugby.
It will be interesting to see if Connacht can secure Aki's signing on top of this in the coming weeks. They go to Toulouse on Saturday for a massive game after their impressive and dramatic win over Montpellier in Galway last weekend.
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