Connacht shocked much of Europe with their run to the Pro12 title last season, and yesterday morning they left Irish rugby reeling once again, albeit for a very different reason. Less that two years after signing a three-year contract extension, Pat Lam announced that he would leave Connacht at the end of the season. He will take up the coaching reins at Bristol.
The timing of the announcement surprised many, given that Connacht are facing into a busy run of games over the next few weeks, including a European date with Wasps this weekend.
There was a reason, however, that Lam made the announcement with half the season yet to run. Per Darren Frehill on Morning Ireland, Lam had a clause in his contract stating that he had to give six months' notice of any move away from the Sportsgrounds, presumably to better facilitate the appointment of a successor.
The identity of that successor remains unclear, with CEO Willie Ruane telling Off The Ball
You'd like to have a quality Irish coach come through. But first and foremost, they need to be quality. If now is the time, great. If it's not now, then so be it.
We have a responsibility to the player group that's here. We have a responsibility to our fans. They're very ambitious. Everyone in Connacht rugby is ambitious to achieve right now.
It would be great. It would be great if we could get a coach who plays a very attractive style of rugby, winning rugby, and is Irish.
But you may not be able to tick all them boxes in one go.
Frehill also reports that Lam is in line to at least double his salary, and could earn between £500,000 and £700,000 per year.
Lam will leave a legacy unlike any other at the Sportsgrounds, and his successor has quite the boots to fill, aided as that process may be by the structures Lam leaves behind.