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Welsh rugby enveloped in its latest existential crisis

As Wayne Pivac teeters on the edge of finding new gainful employment after a series of disappointing results, the wider-lens story tells of dysfunction and frustration

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'Huge admirer' Lam reunited with MacGinty as Bristol sign Sale 10

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Bristol boss Pat Lam has finally been reunited with AJ MacGinty, the Sale player he had unsuccessfully tried to sign previously in the Gallagher Premiership. It was Lam who accelerated the Dubliner’s career, signing the American international to play for Connacht in their PRO12 title-winning season in 2015/16. Tight restrictions governing the number of non-Ireland eligible players playing for the Irish provinces meant that Lam couldn’t keep MacGinty on at Connacht following their magical win over Leinster in the final played at Murrayfield. 

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That resulted in Lam striking a deal that saw MacGinty move to Sale for the 2016/17 season. The ex-Samoan international subsequently left Connacht himself in 2017 and he openly said last May how he had attempted on a number of occasions to recruit MacGinty for the Bears. 

He was unsuccessful with those attempts but he has now finally landed the 31-year-old out-half for the 2022/23 season. MacGinty has so far made 93 appearances for Sale, racking up 801 points since his arrival there from Ireland. 

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In May, Lam had told RugbyPass: “I had him in Connacht and we had to let him go and I rang a few Premiership clubs about finding AJ a spot. I spoke to about four or five of them and Dimes [Steve Diamond] was the first one to take him up. At different times I have tried to get him back but he has settled nicely and Sale are doing a great job. They have got a really good spine and Faf (de Klerk) and AJ certainly run the show.”

Six months later, Lam was singing a very different tune having finally signed the player he last worked with more than five years ago. “With our ambition of being one of the top clubs in Europe, I have always said depth and quality in each position is vital. Our expectation is that Callum (Sheedy) will continue to develop into an established international and be away with Wales for periods of each season, so it’s important to have world-class experience in the fly-half position.

“While we have some very good youngsters coming through, as everyone knows, this is a critical position for the team, so we are pleased to bring in somebody of AJ’s experience and calibre. It’s no secret having worked closely with AJ before, that I’m a huge admirer of the qualities that he brings to a team on and off the field.

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“I have kept an eye on his progress since helping him move to Sale from Connacht in 2016 and there has always been an ambition to work with him again if the opportunity arose. His game management, defensive qualities, kicking ability and all-round understanding of the way I like our teams to play is excellent.”

MacGinty added: “It was a difficult decision for me to leave Sale but Bristol are a hugely ambitious club and their progression under Pat has been very impressive. He gave me my first opportunity in professional rugby (at Connacht) and I am excited to work with him again. 

“Sale will always hold a special place in my heart. I have made some great friendships here that will outlast my rugby career. I would like to thank the owners, coaches, players, staff and fans for their support throughout my time to date. I am fully focussed on finishing the season as strongly as possible.”

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RUGBYPASS+ Welsh rugby enveloped in its latest existential crisis Welsh rugby enveloped in its latest existential crisis
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