Connacht Rugby have unveiled a major international signing for the 2013/14 season, with the news that New Zealand born lock Craig Clarke is to join the province.
Clarke, 29, who captained the Waikato Chiefs to the Super XV title last season, has signed a three year deal with the westerners. The 6 ft 7 in second row was the leading player in the Chiefs success last year and led his side in the 37-6 demolition of the Sharks in the final. He was nominated for ‘Super Rugby player of the year’ at the 2012 New Zealand Rugby Awards, selectioned for the Super XV team of the year and named Chiefs Players’ Player of the Year.
His performances also called earned him a call up into the All Blacks training squad. Born in Masterton, at the southern tip of New Zealand’s north island, Clarke started his career with Canterbury and the Crusaders, before moving to Taranaki in 2007. He played a single season with the Hurricanes before joining the Chiefs, and leading them to success. He also played with the Junior All Blacks in their 2009 IRB Pacific.
Connacht Rugby CEO Tom Sears said: “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.
“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.”