Andy Friend has been promoted to Connacht director of rugby with Peter Wilkins taking over as head coach as part of a coaching restructure ahead of the new season.

Friend, who has served as head coach since succeeding Kieran Keane in 2018, moves up to a newly-created director of rugby position where he will shoulder 'overall responsibility for the rugby programme across our professional setup'.

Wilkins replaces Friend as head coach, having worked as defence coach and senior coach during his five seasons with the province. The Englishman, who was part of the Ireland coaching team during July’s historic series win in New Zealand, will be tasked with leading on-field preparations as well as taking primary responsibility for defence.

Colm Tucker moves to a new role of scrum and contact coach, Mossy Lawler takes over as attack and skills coach, while forwards coach Dewald Senekal will oversee the lineout and maul.

Connacht travel to France to play Castres in a pre-season friendly on Wednesday, before taking on Sale Sharks in Athlone on Friday. They open their United Rugby Championship campaign away to Ulster on 17 September, followed by a two-game tour of South Africa where they will play defending champions the Stormers and last season’s runners-up the Bulls.

Connacht coaching staff

Andy Friend – director of rugby

Peter Wilkins – head coach

Dewald Senekal – forwards (lineout and maul)

Colm Tucker – scrum & contact

Mossy Lawler – attack & skills