Connacht have secured the services of New Zealand-born front-row Tom McCartney from Super Rugby franchise, the Blues on a three year deal.
McCartney has been a consistent performer for the Blues since he made his Super Rugby debut in 2008 against the Chiefs. He has since accumulated 64 appearances in the Southern Hemisphere competition.
Highly rated for his impressive strength and work ethic as well as the core skills of throwing, tackling and carrying, the 28-year-old, who weighs in at 110kg, has the ability to play both hooker and prop.
Last season, he played in the number one jersey in the absence of All Black Tony Woodcock, but has transitioned back to hooker with the Blues this year.
McCartney first debuted for provincial side Auckland in 2007 when he was given his first start by then Head Coach Pat Lam, the same year the team went on to win the National Provincial Championship. He is currently the most capped player in the Auckland team with 84 appearances.
"We're delighted to be in a position to announce Tom for next season,"," said Connacht boss Pat Lam.
"Hooker was a key area that we had to target for recruitment. There is clearly a shortage for all Irish clubs in this specialised position but especially at Connacht where this year Sean Henry endured a season-ending injury and where young Dave Heffernan and sub Academy player Jack Dinneen have only been converted from back row to hooker in the last year.
"I have worked with Tom at both Auckland and the Blues in New Zealand and he is an excellent team man who was a key member of our leadership group.
"He is extremely hard working and respected by all the players and coaches around him.
"There are a lot of similarities in character with Tom and young Jake (Heenan) who made the move from Auckland to Ireland last year and who has fit in so well both with the squad and in terms of his rugby.
"I have no doubt that Tom will make the same impression here, both with the team and with the wonderful Connacht supporters.
"Securing Tom was high on our priority list and the coaching staff are excited about bringing in such an experienced hooker who has also proven skillful at loosehead prop where he played for the Blues and Auckland Rugby.
"With the unfortunate loss of Brett Wilkinson due to injury, this type of versatility is invaluable for the squad going forward."
"After talking with Pat Lam, I'm really excited about the move up to Connacht to help achieve their vision," said McCartney, speaking from New Zealand.
"I've obviously worked under Pat before and I really enjoy his coaching philosophy.
"He gave me my first start for Auckland back in 2007 and really, I owe a lot of my career achievements to him from those early days.
"I believe Galway is a fantastic city and both myself and my fiancÃ©e Taryn, whose grandfather is from County Cork, are really looking forward to settling in over there.
"I've been with the Blues and Auckland Rugby for over seven years now and enjoyed every minute. But this move is a fantastic opportunity and the challenge I've been looking for."
McCartney will move to Connacht at the conclusion of the New Zealand ITM Cup season.