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Academy Update | February 2024



14 Munster Rugby Academy and pathway players have featured for the Munster senior team so far this season as young players continue to develop on the Munster Rugby pathway.

Ireland U20 internationals Ben O’Connor and Brian Gleeson, who are both in the first year of the Academy, have even made their Champions Cup debuts and are the only members of the Ireland U20 squad who have featured in the URC this season.

We spoke to Munster Rugby Academy & Pathway Manager Gar Prendergast for the latest update on the province’s young players.

Season so far & what’s coming up…

“It’s been great. We‘re getting a lot of exposure to the different teams and representative teams. Starting with the seniors, we’ve had numerous Academy player appearances in the URC, Champions Cup and the game against Crusaders.

“We love to see all these Academy lads getting their opportunity. It’s huge for accelerating their development, getting exposed to that standard of rugby is fantastic.

“That’s the key, the exposure to game time, it can’t be replicated. The training we do with the senior team is fantastic but getting that game time as well complements that.

“I’ve said it many a time that the AIL provides that platform for these lads and it’s a real test to play adult level rugby. To get those reps in the AIL is crucial.

“More representation in the IRFU’s Combined Academies squad has been fantastic and coming up at Easter we’ll have the representative teams then – the Irish U19s and Schools etc.

“We’ve also had development games against Ulster and the Ireland U20s.”

Crusaders involvement…

“It was an incredible opportunity to play in front of 41,000 people. You had Ruadhán Quinn, Mark Donnelly, Ethan Coughlan, Shay McCarthy, Tony Butler and Daniel Okeke all involved from the Academy along with Kamil Nowak, who made his debut.

“What a golden few weeks for them to stick their hands up while lads are away on international duty.

“We had a couple of NTS (National Talent Squad) lads involved in the warm-up as travelling reserves and it was a huge experience for them. It shows the importance of the NTS programme as well – we have NTS and PTS (Provincial Talent Squad) players who are developing all the time.

Evan O’Connell captaining the Ireland U20s & Academy graduates making their mark for Ireland…

“Evan captaining the Ireland U20s at the weekend is a huge achievement for him and his family and we’re delighted for him. It’s a great reflection on Evan and it’s been brilliant to have six Munster players involved in the opening two rounds.

“At senior level, the performances from Jack [Crowley] and Calvin [Nash] so far are a great reflection on the two lads themselves and a great reflection on the coaching. It was brilliant to see two lads who came up through the Academy in recent years play so well.

“These are all really positive stories for us.”

Schools & underage club rugby…

“We’re right in the middle of the schools and underage clubs competitions now as well, which are important platforms.

“When you look across the whole spectrum, there are lads getting opportunities at all levels and it’s all leading towards one direction which is our north star, playing senior representative rugby for the province – that’s the ultimate goal.

“Getting these opportunities at different age-grades is a huge part of their development on the pathway.”

Open day for schools coaches at HPC…

“Those connections are so important. We did it with the AIL coaches at the start of the season and then the schools coaches at the start of January, which proved to be a really worthwhile day.

“We had the NTS players in for a session and the coaches were able to watch and get a sense of how we plan and preview our sessions, they also got the chance to speak with the senior coaches too. It was a really positive experience and something we really want to build on next year again with both clubs and schools.”

See more information on the day here with a video below.

Injury update…

“Fionn Gibbons (centre/wing) and Max Clein (hooker) are just back and Kieran Ryan (prop) is due back training shortly. Ronan Foxe (prop) and Edwin Edogbo (lock) are long-term absentees.”

Images & Content from Munster Rugby


Dan McFarland departs Ulster Rugby



Dan McFarland departs Ulster Rugby

3 minutes ago


Ulster Rugby and the IRFU can confirm that Dan McFarland will step down from his position as Head Coach.

After joining the club in 2018, McFarland has been the longest-serving Head Coach for the province in the professional era, with the club reliably securing play-off rugby in URC and EPCR competitions during his time at the helm, including reaching the PRO14 final in 2020.

Ulster Rugby CEO, Jonny Petrie, said:

“We would like to thank Dan for his determination in driving forward the professional squad over the past six seasons, and I would like to wish him and his family the best for the future on behalf of all at Ulster Rugby.”

The change to the Senior Men’s coaching set-up is with immediate effect, with Ireland U20s Head Coach, Richie Murphy, to link-up with the province as interim Head Coach until the end of this season following the Under-20s Six Nations. Bryn Cunningham, Head of Rugby Operations and Recruitment at Ulster Rugby, will also assume greater management responsibilities within the performance function during this time.

Assistant Coach, Dan Soper, will oversee operations next week ahead of Ulster facing Dragons at Kingspan Stadium in Round 11 of the BKT United Rugby Championship.

Petrie continued: “With Richie coming to Ulster in the coming weeks, ahead of the squad travelling to South Africa, our focus will be on consistently performing to the best of our abilities at this crucial time of the year.”

Images & Content – Ulster Rugby

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Edinburgh snap up Tigers lock



Lock Carmichael joins from Tigers

Edinburgh Rugby today secured the signing of promising 20-year-old Leicester Tigers lock Rob Carmichael on a three-year deal.

The 6ft 11in second-row arrived in the capital today on an initial loan until the end of the season, before the long-term move becomes permanent this summer.

Carmichael was born and raised in Hong Kong after his Scottish father, and English/Welsh mother, emigrated to Asia just under 30 years ago. He came through the ranks at Sandy Bay RFC before the family returned to the UK in 2019.

That year he joined the Tigers academy, making two Premiership Cup appearances alongside representing England U20, remaining eligible for Scotland by ancestry.

On joining Edinburgh Rugby, Carmichael said: “This is a massive move for me and an incredible opportunity I’ve been given. I’m delighted to join and I’m really glad I’ve been able to make the move to Edinburgh early on loan. I’ve only heard great things about the club.

“I’ve wanted to live in Scotland my whole life so I’m glad I’m able to make the move now. Edinburgh is an incredible city, while my parents and whole extended family are really excited that I’ve joined a Scottish club.”

Combining education with an academy contract at Tigers, Carmichael played BUCS Super Rugby at University of Nottingham where he studied Sports Science.

The towering lock was named in the England U20 squad for the 2023 U20 Six Nations where he featured in all five fixtures for the Red Roses.

Carmichael continued: “I’ve got a lot to learn about Edinburgh. I’ve only visited a couple of times but everything I’ve heard about the city and the club has been really positive. I couldn’t be more excited to move up.

“I think it’s going to be great for my development and I can’t wait to learn off the experienced second-rows at the club. I just want to add as much as I can to the team and see how much I can improve as a player. I know I’ve got loads to learn.”

Carmichael linked up with the club’s senior squad today as preparations continue for Edinburgh Rugby’s next BKT United Rugby Championship match against Ospreys at Hive Stadium on Friday 1 March.

Edinburgh Rugby Head Coach Sean Everitt said: “We’re delighted to welcome Rob [Carmichael] to the club. He’s a player with great raw ability who has all the physical tools to succeed at the next level.

“We’ve been looking at Rob for a while given his Scotland links and we’re thankful to Tigers who’ve released him on an initial loan. He’ll be able to get his feet in the door and hit the ground running ahead of joining on a long-term deal this summer.”

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Ulster ready for Ospreys challenge in Wales



Ulster ready for Ospreys challenge in Wales

4 minutes ago

Fixture News

Head Coach, Dan McFarland, has named his Ulster side to take on the Ospreys at Stadium in Round 10 of the BKT United Rugby Championship.

The province returns to action in the URC for the first time since defeating league leaders, Leinster Rugby, at the RDS Arena on New Year’s Day.

Ireland internationals Iain Henderson, Jacob Stockdale, Tom Stewart and Nick Timoney are back with the team, following their release from the Ireland team’s Guinness Six Nations camp.

The experienced front row sees Andrew Warwick start at loosehead, with John Andrew at hooker and Marty Moore starting at tighthead prop.

In the second row, Academy products, Harry Sheridan and skipper Iain Henderson, pair up as Ulster’s locks.

The back row sees David McCann start at blindside flanker. Marcus Rea starts at openside flanker, with Ireland international, Nick Timoney, starting at eight, as Ulster aim to win the battle at the breakdown in Swansea.

McFarland opts for the talented half-back pairing of Nathan Doak at scrum-half and Jake Flannery at ten.

Jacob Stockdale returns from international camp to start on the left wing as he hopes to continue his try-scoring form, with the winger having dotted down six tries this season in the URC so far.

The young and dynamic centre partnership sees Jude Postlethwaite join James Hume in the engine room of the backfield.

Mike Lowry starts on the right wing, with Will Addison completing the backfield at full-back.

Ulster can call on a wealth of talent and experience from the bench, with a 5:3 split that features a two time Rugby World Cup winner and a current Ireland international.

Tom Stewart is named on the bench as he returns from Ireland duty for the match.

Springbok prop, Steven Kitshoff, is named alongside Scott Wilson, Cormac Izuchukwu, Matty Rea, Dave Shanahan, Luke Marshall and Ethan McIlroy to complete Ulster’s replacement options.

Ospreys v Ulster, Round 10 of the BKT United Rugby Championship, Sunday 18 February, 3pm, Stadium (live on ViaPlay and

With the URC celebrating the people and communities behind the professional players competing in the league through its Origin Round this week, Ulster Rugby recognises the important role of clubs and schools in player development, with 11 of this weekend’s starting 15 having come through the Ulster pathway.

(15-9) Will Addison (Upper Eden RFC), Mike Lowry (Dromore RFC), James Hume (Instonians RFC), Jude Postlethwaite (Lisburn RFC), Jacob Stockdale (Ballynahinch RFC), Jake Flannery (Kilfeacle RFC), Nathan Doak (Lisburn RFC);

(1-8) Andrew Warwick (Ballymena RFC), John Andrew (Ballymena RFC), Marty Moore (Barnhall RFC), Harry Sheridan (Civil Service RFC), Iain Henderson (C) (Belfast Academy RFC), David McCann (Cooke RFC), Marcus Rea (Ballymena RFC), Nick Timoney (Blackrock RFC).

Replacements: Tom Stewart (Belfast Academy RFC), Steven Kitshoff (Maties RFC), Scott Wilson (Dromore RFC), Cormac Izuchukwu (Tullamore RFC), Matty Rea (Ballymena RFC), Dave Shanahan (Clontarf RFC), Luke Marshall (Ballymena RFC), Ethan McIlroy (Ballynahinch RFC).

For more info on #GrassrootsToGreatness, visit the URC website.

*For the URC Origin Round, details of each player’s first club are listed above.

Images & Content – Ulster Rugby

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