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Irish-qualified ex-England U20 centre Piers O'Conor agrees URC switch

By Josh Raisey
Piers O'Conor of Bristol Bears in action during the Premiership Rugby Cup match between Bristol Bears and Cambridge at Ashton Gate on October 06, 2023 in Bristol, England. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)

Bristol Bears centre Piers O’Conor has signed for Connacht in the United Rugby Championship ahead of next season.

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The Australian-born back has spent the last six seasons at Bristol after signing from the Championship’s Ealing Trailfinders in 2018, and has gone on to make 137 appearances to date, scoring 36 tries.

The 28-year-old qualifies for Ireland through his grandfather, and represented Ireland at U19 level. He also qualifies for Australia and England, and played for England U20 in 2015. He was also selected by Eddie Jones for England in 2019 in an uncapped fixture against the Barbarians.

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This move means the versatile back is a step closer to representing Ireland, but he will no longer be eligible to be selected by England as he will not be playing in the Gallagher Premiership.

Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam, who signed O’Conor in 2018, said after his departure was announced: “Piers has been a fantastic servant to this club, with more than 100 appearances and countless important performances during his six years with us. His journey from the Championship to being a Bears centurion shows how hard he has worked and developed.”

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O’Conor added: “I’ve absolutely loved my time with Bristol Bears and have made some friends for life here. From winning the Challenge Cup to finishing top of the Premiership, I’ll take some very fond memories with me into the next chapter of my career.

“I leave the Bears programme a better player and will always be proud of the contribution I’ve made.”

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O’Conor’s future head coach Pete Wilkins said: “We’re thrilled to be welcoming Piers to Connacht Rugby from next season. He’s an outstanding player with a wealth of experience in the Premiership and European rugby, and his versatility will perfectly complement our existing options across the outside backs.

“I’m sure he’ll receive a warm welcome from the players and supporters when he joins us in time for pre-season in the summer.”

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William 4 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Correct analysis of Perofeta’s bungling of the try opportunity Ben. Never ‘fixed’ Steward as he came across in defence and passed too early. Steward didn’t have to break his stride and simply moved on to pressure Telea. Never scanned the easier option of passing to the two supporting players on the inside. Beauden Barrett showed how it is done when he put Telea in for his try. Another point from the game is that the rush defence is hard to maintain as the number of phases increases. From scrums the defensive line only contains backs who all have roughly the same pace. Once forwards are involved, the defence has players with variable speeds often leading to a jagged line. It also tends to lose pace overall giving the attack more time and space. Beauden Barrett’s break to set up Telea’s try came because Baxter went in to tackle McKenzie and Steward went out to cover Telea. Barrett has a massive hole to run through, then commits Steward by passing as late as possible and Telea scores untouched. Another comment I would make is that Ben Earl is a good player and generally an excellent defender but he made three significant misses in the series, two of which led to All Black tries. Got stepped by Perofeta in Dunedin for Savea’s try, missed McKenzie in Auckland leading to what should have been a certain try being set up by Perofeta and was one of the tacklers who couldn’t stop Savea in the leadup to Telea’s first try. Perhaps he should contact Owen Farrell to pick up a few tips from ‘tackle school’.

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