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Ruane: Challenges must be embraced
30 Mar 2015 15:03
New Connacht CEO Willie Ruane wants Connacht rugby to embrace the challenge of making a contribution to Irish rugby as the province enters the business end of what has already been a record breaking season.
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Connacht were threatened with extinction a decade ago but that was staved off and ambitious moves like the recruitment of Mils Muliaina and Pat Lam, and the emergence of homegrown talent, have seen them become one of the good news stories of the season, despite continuing financial headwinds.
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In an interview that will be broadcast in full on Against The Head (7pm, RTÉ 2) tonight, Ruane said: “It’s been a great year. It’s been extremely busy and there is a lot going on and that obviously helps.
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"Coming into the role I expected to meet people who were really passionate and I haven’t been disappointed in that regard. I’m happy enough with the way things are going but it is only the start."
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Connacht are in sixth place in the Pro12 with nine wins from 18 matches on the board. Ruane, himself a former Connacht full-back, is inclined to embrace the challenge rather than focus on the difficulties.
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“We have a tough run-in but have achieved firsts in terms of number of wins. That brings expectation but that is a good problem to have. We are quite happy to have that burden. It’s exciting.”
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Connacht rugby is also thriving below the professional level and, again, embracing the challenge of being a non-rugby heartland is the theme.
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“If you look at our current squad we have a hooker from Tubbercurry in Sligo in Sean Henry, a hooker from Ballina in Mayo in Dave Heffernan. We have Denis Buckley from Roscommon. We have Robbie Henshaw and Jack Carty from Athlone. That is literally all around the province.
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"I attended a development schools cup final a couple of weeks ago and there was a team from Crossmolina. That would have been unheard of before in Connacht rugby. Without doubt the message is getting out and it’s something we’re extremely proud about."
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Connacht players are now a common feature of Irish underage set-ups and that is another point of pride for Ruane. Again, that theme of making a contribution to Irish rugby as a whole is the central idea.
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"10 years ago we would have had five age-grade players on our international sides. Two years ago that was 22 players. This year it will be work out at around 15 or 16 players. That is a significant contribution and that’s the role we want to play in the story of Irish rugby and it is something we take very seriously.
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"We do have to make more from less just in terms of demographics but that is something we take on as a challenge rather than some sort of major issue."
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