Chief heads for Ireland
Connacht have announced the signing of Chiefs co-captain and second-row forward Craig Clarke on a three-year deal from RaboDirect PRO12 2013/14.
New Zealand-born lock Clarke, 29, captained the Chiefs to the Super Rugby title in 2012, leading the side in the 37-6 demolition of the Sharks.
Clarke represented the Junior All Blacks in their 2009 IRB Pacific Nations Cup campaign, his debut coming against Samoa. He then started against Japan where he scored a try for the side and Connacht Rugby CEO Tom Sears admitted he was delighted with the high-profile coup.
"We are absolutely delighted with this key signing - it is a major coup for Connacht. This is something we have been working towards for some time now and the fact a player of Craig's calibre has chosen to commit to Connacht is a clear sign of the progress we have made and our intent going forward," he told <i>Connacht</i>'s website.
"Our coaching staff is delighted to have Craig on board, he has all of the qualities we are looking for on and off the field and we have no doubt that he will be a major influence for Connacht in the seasons to come. With a three year deal Craig has shown he really believes in what we are doing and the potential we have. After leading the Chiefs to the Super XV title last season Craig certainly wasn't short of options - he has chosen Connacht because he wants to be a part of what is happening here.
"Our squad recruitment and retention programme for next season has gone very well. We still have a number of areas we are working on but this is a key part of the plan that has fallen into place."