Connacht Rugby have completed a number of signings this week. Contract negotiations have been ongoing for a number of weeks but today CEO Gerry Kelly announced the signings of Ulster duo Niall O’Connor and Mark McCrea along with the re-signing of former Connacht favourite George Naoupu from Japan.
Niall O’Connor will join Connacht on a 2 year contract at the end of this season. The 6’0, 90kg outhalf, who attended Limavady Grammar School, entered the Ulster Academy in 2006 and signed a professional contract with them in 2007. 23 year old O’Connor has 51 caps and scored 212 points (including 10 Heineken Cup appearances) for Ulster and represented Ireland at U19, U20 and A level, he was also a member of the 6 Nations Grand Slam winning U20 squad (coached by Connacht’s Eric Elwood and Dan McFarland) in 2007.
O’Connor’s colleague Mark McCrea, who plays on the wing, joined the Ulster Academy in 2006 and turned professional in 2008. He has 25 caps for Ulster and has represented Ireland at Schools and A level. The 23 year old, Belfast High School graduate, was a member of the 2008 Churchill Cup winning team, scoring a try against the USA and has 3 Ireland A caps. The 6’1, 92kg winger will join Connacht on a 2 year contract deal from next season
George Naoupu will return to Connacht for the 2011/2012 season. The 6’5, 115kg 27 year old backrower joined Connacht in 2009 before being lured away by the Kobe Steelers in Japan last season. He appeared 14 times in his 6 month spell at Connacht, including scoring a try in Connacht’s famous victory over Bourgoin in the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter final last season. Naoupu has represented New Zealand Schools, U19, Colts and 7’s and will rejoin Connacht on a 2 year contract.
CEO of Connacht Rugby Gerry Kelly said:
“We are delighted with the news that these players are joining Connacht, McCrea and O’Connor are both outstanding players and they will no doubt add an extra dimension to our backline. Recalling George Naoupu from Japan is a big move for us, he was exceptional for Connacht in 2009 and a big loss to the squad when he moved last year. George is a dynamic ballcarrier and inspirational player to those around him so we are looking forward to his return”