Second row Craig Clarke agrees switch to Connacht
Connacht have secured the services of New Zealand-born second row Craig Clarke for their 2013-14 campaign.
The 29-year-old, who captained the Waikato Chiefs to the Super XV title last season, has signed a three-year deal with the Irish province.
The capture of Clarke will go some way to making up for the loss of Irish lock Mike McCarthy, who will join Leinster.
"We are delighted with this key signing - it's a major coup for Connacht," said their chief executive Tom Sears.
The second row was outstanding in the Chiefs' successful campaign last year and picked up the coveted trophy when he led his side in the 37-6 demolition of the Sharks in the final.
His consistent, high class performances saw him pick up a string of accolades including nominations as one of three finalists for the 'Super Rugby player of the year' at the 2012 New Zealand Rugby Awards, selection for the Super XV team of the year and the Chiefs' award for Players' Player of the Year.
Because of his form throughout the Super Rugby season last year, the Chiefs skipper was also called into the All Blacks training squad.
Clarke has turned out 57 times for the Chiefs and has also captained Taranaki during the 2011 ITM Cup.
"This is something we have been working towards for some time now and the fact that 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," said Sears.
"Our coaching staff are 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."