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Munster introduce the 9 Academy Players Promoted To Senior Squad



(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The Munster senior squad will be boosted by the addition of nine Greencore Munster Rugby Academy players next season.

Thomas Ahern, Jack Crowley, Jack Daly, Jake Flannery, James French, Seán French, Ben Healy, John Hodnett and Josh Wycherley have all earned their first senior contracts.

Academy products are set to make up two-thirds of the 2021/22 Munster squad, the highest representation of academy graduates in over eight years.

Find out more about the nine newcomers below.

Thomas Ahern

Age: 21 (22/02/2000)

Position: Lock

Did you know? Ahern was a back three player until converting to a lock in his late-teens at the start of 2017.

Waterford native Thomas Ahern signed a two-year contract having completed three years in the Academy.

He is a product of Youghal RFC, Dungarvan RFC and Waterpark RFC and played a standout role in Ireland’s U20 campaign last year.

Having made his senior debut against the Dragons at the age of 20 in November 2020, Ahern scored his first senior try for the province in his first start against Zebre later that month.

Ahern and 20-year-old Cian Hurley became Munster’s youngest starting second row combination in the professional era against Benetton in March 2021.

Thomas Ahern in action for Munster U18s in 2017.

Jack Crowley

Age: 21 (13/01/2000)

Did you know? Crowley played much of his underage rugby at scrum-half before moving to no.10.

Jack Crowley signed a two-year contract after completing one year in the Academy.

A product of Bandon RFC and Bandon Grammar, the out-half starred for the Ireland U20s in 2020, scoring 36 points in three games as Ireland clinched the Triple Crown before the campaign was cut short.

Crowley made his senior debut against Ulster in Belfast in January and followed that up with his second appearance against the Scarlets in March.

Named the AIL’s Rising Star for his performances with Cork Constitution in the 2019/20 campaign, Crowley impressed for the Ireland 7s team at the International Rugby 7s tournament last weekend.

Jack Crowley in action for Bandon RFC U18s.

Jack Daly

Age: 23 (12/08/1998)

Did you know? Daly started out at Castleisland RFC, a club which has produced the likes of JJ Hanrahan, Ciara Griffin and Siobhán Fleming.

Kerry native Jack Daly signed a one-year contract having completed three years in the Academy.

The flanker has been a regular for Munster A and Garryowen over the past three seasons having worked his way up through the provincial underage ranks at U18, U19 and U20 levels.

Daly has represented Ireland at Sevens and U20s level and made his senior debut against Zebre in November before following that up with his second appearance against Benetton in March.

Jack Daly in action for the Munster U20 Development team in 2017.

Jake Flannery

Age: 21 (07/06/1999)

Did you know? Jake and younger brother Alan lined out together for Munster A earlier this season. Jake has also represented Tipperary in Gaelic Football at minor level.

Jake Flannery, who can operate at both out-half and full-back, signed a one-year contract after two years in the Academy.

The Tipperary native made his senior Munster debut against Zebre during the 2019/20 season and followed that up with two further appearances this campaign, including his first start against Benetton.

Flannery came through the Munster pathway at first with Kilfeacle & District RFC before playing schools rugby with Rockwell College.

He was a standout performer in the Ireland U20s Grand Slam triumph in 2019.

Jake Flannery in action for Munster A in 2018.

James French

Age: 22 (22/11/1998)

Did you know? James was an All-Ireland schoolboy shot put champion.

Prop James French signed a one-year deal after spending three years in the Academy.

A product of Bandon RFC and Bandon Grammar, French has represented Munster at U18s, U19s and U20s level.

On the international stage, he has worn the green jersey at U19s and U20s level which included five appearances during the 2018 U20s Six Nations.

French plays his AIL rugby with UCC.

James French in action for Bandon Grammar in 2017.

Seán French

Age: 21 (14/08/1999)

Did you know? French scored all 11 of PBC’s points (a try and two penalties) in their 2017 Munster Schools Senior Cup final victory over Glenstal Abbey.

Seán French signed a one-year deal after three years in the Academy.

A try-scoring Munster debut against Zebre in December saw French make his mark with the senior side having impressed for Cork Constitution in the AIL over the past number of seasons.

The UCC student was a Munster Schools Senior Cup winner in 2017 with PBC and won the Grand Slam with Ireland U20s in 2019.

Seán French playing for the Munster U18 Schools team in 2016.

Ben Healy

Age: 21 (29/06/1999)

Did you know? Ben Healy captained Glenstal Abbey to their first-ever Munster Schools Senior Cup title in 2018.

Ben Healy signed a one-year contract after three years in the Academy.

It has been a real breakthrough season for Healy with the out-half making 17 senior appearances having played three PRO14 matches the previous campaign.

The Tipperary native is a product of Nenagh Ormond and Glenstal Abbey and plays his AIL rugby with Garryowen.

Healy won the Grand Slam with the Ireland U20s in 2019.

Ben Healy kicking at goal for the Munster U18s in 2016 as Josh Wycherley looks on.

John Hodnett

Age: 22 (10/01/1999)

Did you know? Hodnett has represented Cork in Gaelic Football at underage level.

John Hodnett signed a two-year contract after two years in the Academy.

Marked his Munster debut against Southern Kings in February 2020 with a Man of the Match performance and enjoyed a good start to this campaign before suffering a season-ending Achilles injury.

The Rosscarbery native is a product of Clonakilty RFC and play his AIL rugby with UCC.

The back-row forward produced some excellent performances for the Ireland U20s during the Grand Slam title win in 2019 and subsequent World Championships in Argentina.

John Hodnett with Munster A in 2018.

Josh Wycherley

Age: 21 (22/07/1999)

Did you know? Josh’s father Florence was one of the founders of Bantry Bay RFC’s underage section that has produced two Munster players – Josh and brother Fineen.

Josh Wycherley signed a two-year contract after three years in the Academy.

This season has been a breakthrough year with the loosehead prop making nine appearances so far this season.

A product of Bantry Bay RFC and Cistercian College Roscrea, he earned his first European start against Clermont Auvergne in December, playing a starring role in the province’s comeback victory.

The 21-year-old featured for Ireland U20 during the Grand Slam-winning Six Nations campaign in 2019.

Josh Wycherley with Cistercian College Roscrea in 2018.

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Dragons confirm signature of Ulster star



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Wales international hooker Bradley Roberts will officially become a Dragon after signing a long-term deal with the Men of Gwent.

The front row ace – currently part of the Wales squad for the upcoming Six Nations – will join the region this summer from Irish province Ulster Rugby.

Roberts made his international debut for Wales against South Africa in the 2021 Autumn Nations Series.  

The 26-year-old heads back to Wales having previously spent a season with RGC in the Welsh Premiership and will look to continue his eye-catching development with Dean Ryan’s men.

“We’re really pleased that Bradley will join us and that he sees Dragons as the right environment for him to keep improving,” said Dean Ryan, Director of Dragons Rugby.

“Bradley obviously has international aspirations, as he makes the return to Wales, and we look forward to him competing for selection from next season.” 

Roberts said: “I’m really excited by the challenge ahead of me. It’s a new opportunity and, after only a few seasons at this level, I’m determined to keep moving forward.

“I spoke to Dean about the Dragons and it’s a young group that are building for the future. I’m eager to add to that and be a part of that journey.

“The move to Dragons means I can also keep pushing to be part of the Wales set-up. I’ve only just started with that, and I want to add to those experiences.

“I’m looking forward to linking up with the Dragons, but for now my focus remains on Ulster, the next few months with Wales and a strong end to this season.”

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Roberts to leave Dragons & join Aussie Super Rugby franchise



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Dragons Rugby can today announce that centre Jamie Roberts will leave the region for personal reasons at the end of this month.

Roberts joined the Men of Gwent in August 2020 and has made 23 appearances in all competitions, scoring five tries.

The Wales and British & Irish Lions ace has been granted early release from his contract to move to Australia to join his Sydney-born partner, who is expecting their second child in March.

Dean Ryan, Director of Dragons Rugby, said: “We thank Jamie for his time at Dragons and the support he has given us; helping stabilise the environment and encouraging youngsters to come through.

“We fully support what has been a difficult decision for him to make. We wish him a safe trip over to Australia and look forward to welcoming him and his family back to Rodney Parade in the years to come.”

Roberts has thanked the region for understanding his request to move overseas and paid tribute to the Rodney Parade supporters for their support during his time at Dragons.

“It is with a heavy heart that I’m leaving the Dragons at the end of the month. I’d like to personally thank Dean for understanding my personal circumstances,” he said.

“As my Sydney-born partner is expecting our second child in March, we feel the best decision for our family is to be surrounded by her support network in Sydney during this period.

“Although it’ll be difficult leaving, I do so with many fond memories,” he added. 

“As well as enjoying wearing the jersey and playing, I’ve taken great satisfaction in supporting and witnessing the growth and development of many younger players in the squad, many of whom are no doubt destined for success in the game.

“It’s been great fun playing back at Rodney Parade, where my parents took me as a young lad growing up to watch the Black and Ambers. 

“Although supporters haven’t been able to attend as much as they’d have liked, for obvious reasons, I’d like to thank them for their support. 

“The club is nothing without its supporters, and I hope that moving forwards, the playing group can give fans lots to cheer about from the terraces.

“I wish the coaching and playing group nothing but the very best moving forward.”

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Munster confirm another coaching departure



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Munster Rugby Defence Coach JP Ferreira will depart the province at the end of the current season.

Ferreira, who joined the province in December 2017, will join Johann van Graan in making the move to Premiership outfit Bath Rugby.

JP Ferreira said, “This has not been an easy decision to make as my family and I have thoroughly enjoyed our life in Limerick and are part of a very close-knit community.

“I have been in this role for five seasons and during this time I have enjoyed every minute of coaching at this incredible club.

“The experience I have gained and the friendships that I have made along the way will forever stay with me. The way Munster Rugby opened their arms to my family and I throughout my tenure has been outstanding and we are forever grateful to everyone that has made this journey memorable and possible.

“On a personal note, as a family with young children we have an opportunity to experience a different environment and new challenges and we feel this move is the right next step for us.

“I’m very proud of what this group has achieved, and I’m excited for the months ahead as we remain focused on the task at hand, committed to delivering success with this group of players and staff.”

Source – Munster Rugby

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