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Dillane confirms Connacht exit as rumours link him with Irish great

By Paul Smith
Ultan Dillane in action during a Connacht rugby squad training at The Sportsground in Galway. (Photo By Matt Browne/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Connacht’s Irish international second row Ultan Dillane has ended months of speculation by confirming he will leave the Galway Sportsground at the end of the season.

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And as-yet-unsubstantiated rumours suggest that the 28-year-old will join former Ireland no.10 Ronan O’Gara who now coaches at La Rochelle.

Connacht’s statement says only that he will join an “overseas club” with last season’s Heineken Champions Cup finalists and their Paris-based Top 14 rivals Racing both seemingly in the running to clinch Dillane’s signature.

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Ronan O’Gara
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Ronan O’Gara

Having played 19 times for his country since his 2016 debut, should the French-born lock make the move across the Channel the cap he won against Japan in the summer will be his last for a while.

The lock has made 122 appearances for Connacht to date, winning his first senior cap back in December 2014 having come through the province’s academy system.

“This has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, but ultimately I feel that the time has come for me to experience a new challenge in my career,” Dillane said, in a statement.

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“I am forever grateful to all the coaches and wider staff at Connacht I’ve worked with these past 10 years. You have all helped make my dream of becoming a professional and international rugby player a reality.”

“I’ve also been fortunate to play alongside some incredible players both for Connacht and Ireland, and I have made some friends for life,” Dillane added.

“The Connacht supporters are among the best in the world and I’d like to thank them for all the support they’ve given me too. The West of Ireland will always be a special place to me.

“I will be giving absolutely everything to finish my time in Connacht on a high, and help all of us to go on to have a really successful season. This is a team on the up and I’ll forever be a Connacht Rugby supporter.”

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The rumour connecting Dillane with La Rochelle was given added substance when the Aquitaine-based club announced the sudden retirement of French international back-five forward Kevin Gourdon who had recently signed a new two-year deal.

According to their announcement Gourdon has abruptly called time on his playing career at the age of 31 following the discovery of a heart problem.

“It’s brutal and sad news, but my health is a priority,” Gourdon told the club’s website.

“Unfortunately it’s something we can’t control, I’m not in a position to do anything to make the situation different, so I have no regrets.”

Gourdon joined La Rochelle from Clermont in 2012 and played 221 games for the club as it went from the second division to last season’s Champions Cup final. He also played 19 times for France.

 

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