Connacht have started their rebuilding process for next season with the signing of Irish second row Gavin Thornbury on a two-year deal.

The 23-year-old is a product of the Leinster academy, having been part of their set-up from 2012 until 2016.

Thornbury most recently spent six months in New Zealand where he initially joined club side Border on the North Island.

Having helped Border to title glory in the Wanganui premier club competition, the former Ireland under-20’s player earned a place in the Wanganui provincial representative team, who play in the Heartland Championship - the tier below New Zealand’s Mitre 10 Cup.

The 6-foot 7-inch lock was part of the Wanganui team that won the Meads Cup in October 2016.

Speaking about his move to the Sportsground, Thornbury said: "I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to play with Connacht Rugby. The exciting brand of rugby is hugely attractive and I very much hope to build on my experience to date - particularly from New Zealand.

"I look forward to making a positive contribution to the club’s continued success over the next few years."

Connacht forwards coach Jimmy Duffy is expecting big things from Thornbury and said: "We are delighted to be adding Gavin to our squad for next season. He is someone we have been monitoring over the past number of seasons.

"Gavin is a strong set piece operator, has a huge appetite for work and has shown an eye for scoring opportunities. We are looking forward to seeing what he can bring to the club."