Connacht scoop Chiefs captain Clarke

With second row Mike McCarthy moving to Leinster at the end of the season, Connacht have secured a high profile replacement in the shape of current Chiefs captain Craig Clarke who has signed a three-year deal with the western province.

The New Zealand born lock represents a coup for Connacht after he captained the Waikato Chiefs to their first the Super XV title last season.

Clarke’s career began at Canterbury where he earned twelve caps playing under the stewardship of current Munster boss Rob Penney.

His ability saw him quickly graduate to Super Rugby making three appearances for the Crusaders before moving to the Hurricanes in 2008 and eventually settling at the Chiefs in 2009.

Though uncapped, the 6ft 7in lock has featured in the New Zealand training squad as well representing the Junior All Blacks in the 1999 IRB Pacific Nations Cup.

Connacht CEO Tom Sears couldn’t conceal his disappointment when McCarthy agreed terms with Leinster but he is thrilled to have secured such an accomplished replacement and believes the three year deal shows Clarke’s faith in the future of Connacht rugby.

"We are absolutely delighted with this key signing - it is a major coup for Connacht,” Sears confirmed,

“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.

“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.”

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