RaboDirect Pro12: Connacht sign All Blacks star Mils Muliaina

RaboDirect Pro12: Connacht sign New Zealand international Mils Muliaina

New Zealand star Mils Muliaina Photo: Stefano Delfrate

Connacht have confirmed the capture of former All Blacks star Mils Muliaina on a one-year deal for the 2014/15 season.

The 2011 Rugby World Cup winner and All Blacks’ centurion is expected to arrive at the Sportsground to help develop Connacht’s young backline after the conclusion of the current Super Rugby season in August.

I’ve obviously had a good chat with some of the boys at the club—Nathan [White] and Clarkey – and they’ve told me a good bit about the place

Mils Muliaina

The Samoa-born versatile back, who is in his second spell with the reigning Super Rugby champions Chiefs after two years in Japan with NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes, will take up a role as “player-mentor” in Galway.

“I don’t think I need to point out how huge it is to have Mils Muliaina as our first All Black coming to represent Connacht,” said Connacht head coach Pat Lam.

“The second ever All Black, and the first ever back, to reach 100 test matches is some achievement, but what’s incredible about Mils is the passion and professionalism he brings whenever he plays, and I know he will bring that in the Connacht jersey.

“At the age of 33, he still has that hunger to play competitive rugby and before his surgery last month, he showed his quality and ability to keep playing at the top level in Super Rugby. It’s exciting to announce that we’ll have him on our team next season.

“One of our main priorities as we began recruitment for next season was to bring in a quality, experienced back to help nurture and mentor our young Irish qualified backs on and off the field.

“With the Rugby World Cup only a year away we also wanted someone who could help prepare and guide Connacht’s current international Robbie Henshaw.

Mils’ playing experience and knowledge as a full-back, centre and wing who has played in three Rugby World Cups, including winning one, will be massive for Robbie and all our backs.”

Muliaina made his 100th and final appearance for the All Blacks against Argentina in the 2011 Rugby World Cup quarter-finals, but fractured his
shoulder and announced his retirement the following day before joining his team-mates to pick up a winners’ medal as the hosts defeated France 8-7 in the final in Auckland.

Having played six games for the defending Super XV champions this year, the veteran back has opted to undergo surgery on a niggling elbow injury and is in line to return to match fitness prior to his arrival in Galway.

“This is an exciting time for me, making the move to Connacht Rugby,” said Muliaina.

“I’ve obviously had a good chat with some of the boys at the club—Nathan [White] and Clarkey – and they’ve told me a good bit about the place. But I’ve learnt a lot about what to expect from my discussions with Pat.

“Being able to play some competitive football while also sharing my knowledge and helping Connacht to achieve their vision played a big part in my decision to move. I expect to learn a good bit from these young guys too and that’s exciting.

“Moving to the other side of the world is a challenge but one that I’m really looking forward to. My experiences of playing in Ireland have been memorable and the one thing that stands out to me is the people.

“They are passionate people who really love their rugby. I’ve been to Dublin and Limerick with the All Blacks and from what I hear about Galway, it’s one of the best cities in Ireland. I can’t wait to get over there.

“Right now I’m fully focused on my recovery and getting myself ready to hit the ground running when I arrive in Ireland.”

Muliaina will be the third New Zealander to arrive in Galway this summer after Connacht had earlier announced the signings of Chiefs centre Bundee Aki and Auckland/Blues hooker Tom McCartney, both on three-year deals.

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