DAVE RENNIE, THE Glasgow Warriors head coach, has potentially stoked the early-season rivalry between his side and Connacht after heavily criticising the province’s decision to sack Kieran Keane after just one season.
Keane had his three-year contract terminated at the end of last season following a difficult first year at the helm in Galway, with Connacht winning just seven Pro14 matches to finish second from bottom in Conference A.
Aside from the inconsistency of the results and performances, Keane’s man management and communication style appeared to have contributed to a complete breakdown in the relationship with his players and ultimately his premature departure.
Connacht have since appointed Australian Andy Friend as Keane’s successor ahead of the new season, which they kick-off with the visit of Glasgow to the Sportsground on Saturday 1 September.
Rennie, who worked with Keane at the Chiefs, was left disappointed with the news his former colleague had been dismissed by the Connacht hierarchy, arguing that the 64-year-old didn’t have a proper chance to shape the squad he would have wanted.
“I was surprised he got tipped out and disappointed for him,” Rennie said.
“I feel for him because I was lucky, I made a commitment a year out [with Glasgow] so I could influence contracting. We made 16 changes that year  and basically I got to make all the decisions along with our support staff as to who was coming in.
“When you sign a little bit later, like what KK did, your team is picked for you and you can bring the odd addition in but you’re pretty much going to be stuck with that group throughout the year. He was heavily involved in all the contracting for this season and so on and so on.
“They’ll have a bit of grit this year no doubt and so I just think, someone to move across from the other side of the world, and you make a commitment to them, and then a few months later you tip them out and send them home.
“It’s fair to say I wasn’t impressed.”
Keane endured a difficult season in charge of Connacht. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Rennie’s comments are sure to raise the stakes ahead of the meeting of Connacht and Glasgow in Galway on Saturday week, with the sides clashing on the opening weekend for the third successive season.
The Scottish outfit have an impressive recent record over Connacht, winning in Galway on their last two visits, with their hard-fought 18-12 win 12 months ago setting them on their way to a top-place finish in Conference A.
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However, Rennie’s side came unstuck in the semi-final against Scarlets as their season unravelled in the space of 40 minutes at Scotstoun, a crushing result and performance which gave the players and their Kiwi coach plenty to think about over the summer months.
“It was hugely disappointing,” the former Chiefs boss continued. “They are long seasons over here and we worked so hard to get ourselves into a good spot but we just lacked the sort of intensity required to win those sort of games.
While losing the services of out-half Finn Russell to Racing 92, Glasgow moved to strengthen their resources during the off-season with the addition of Scottish hooker George Turner from Edinburgh, winger DTH van der Merwe from the Newcastle Falcons and Wallaby scrum-half Nick Frisby from the Queensland Reds.
“Yeah, it was a disappointing finish but we know there are areas of our game where we need to be better and we’ve worked hard on them over the last couple of months,” Rennie added.
“They’re on our side of the draw so winning those sorts of games are important. What we’ve found is that we don’t need to be 10 out of 10, the key is that we’re building and developing. We want to get away to a good start and I think they’re [Connacht] probably a better side than they were last year.
“You need to win your away games in the Pro14 if you want to be involved in the business end, so it’s a big game for us.”
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