MIKE Pope has stepped down as head coach of Bournemouth RFC, after three years in the role, with Dan Connolly taking his place.

Pope has made the decision due to work commitments outside of the club.

Bournemouth currently play in Regional 1 South Central, the fifth tier of English rugby, where they have just finished their season in seventh place.

Pope is set to remain involved in the club’s senior teams, in a new role as coaching co-ordinator.

Connolly steps up to the head coach position of the Lions after many years within the Bournemouth set-up.

He was a key part of the playing side who achieved promotion to National 2 for the first time in the club’s history in 2011-12, before taking his first steps into coaching.

After a spell away due to a shoulder injury, Connolly returned in 2015 to help coach Bournemouth’s reserves.

On top of this, Connolly has been working with the under-13s, who recently won the Dorset and Wilts Cup.

Connolly’s playing career took him across the world to the likes of Australia and South Africa, as well as London Welsh in the English Championship and Wasps in the Premiership.

Bournemouth chairman Simon Carkeet told the club’s website: “We are delighted to welcome Dan Connolly as our new head coach.

“Dan has been an integral part of our coaching staff for several years, and his appointment reflects our commitment to developing talent from within the club.

“We are confident that Dan has the experience, knowledge, and passion to lead the team to new heights.”

Earlier this year, Matt Sturgess was named as Bournemouth’s new director of rugby.