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.
Age: 21 (22/02/2000)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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How to watch Ulster in the United Rugby Championship
Ulster Rugby will begin its exciting journey into the new United Rugby Championship this Friday night, hosting Glasgow Warriors under the lights at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 7.35pm).
We are delighted to be able to welcome up to 15,000 supporters at Friday’s fixture, and tickets are still available. For more information on Friday’s event, or to buy tickets, please click here.
The introduction of South Africa’s four elite teams to the URC has created a challenge unlike any other, with two hemispheres colliding as the best of Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales take on the best of South Africa.
If you’re planning on following Ulster’s URC campaign from home, we have pulled together this handy guide on how to watch all the action for supporters in the UK and Ireland…
Premier Sports is the only place for supporters in the UK to watch every single United Rugby Championship game live this season. You can follow Ulster home and away as Premier Sports will broadcast all 151 games, including eight games per round plus coverage of all the knock-out drama and Grand Final.
Ulster legends Stephen Ferris, Andrew Trimble and Paul Marshall, along with presenters Graham Little and Mark Robson, are among the talent returning to the screens this season.
Fans can tune in on Sky, Virgin TV, or online using the Premier Sports Player from start to finish – you can subscribe now at premiersports.com to watch all 151 games live for less than £1 a game.
Ulster Rugby returns to BBC Northern Ireland this season with live free-to-air coverage of six of the province’s home matches in the inaugural United Rugby Championship.
In addition to televising live the home fixtures against Benetton, Emirates Lions, Connacht, Cardiff, Munster and the Cell C Sharks, every Ulster URC fixture will be available on BBC iPlayer 24 hours after each round.
A new weekly TV programme – ‘The Ulster Rugby Show’ – featuring a line-up of special guests and pundits will take a light-hearted look at the latest news and talking points from the province and across the new tournament. The first episode will air this Thursday 23 September at 10.00pm on BBC2 NI.
RTE / TG4
RTE and TG4 have also picked up broadcast rights to show ten games on free-to-air TV this season.
Among the fixtures being covered live by the Ireland-based broadcasters are the three away interprovincial derbies against Connacht, Leinster and Munster.
New for the 2021/22 season, URC TV is an online streaming service giving fans the opportunity to watch every game live and on demand.
A free service showing a range of highlights, archive matches and snackable videos, will be available in all countries including the UK and South Africa (fans in these countries can watch all games live on Premier Sports and Super Sport respectively).
Fans watching in Ireland, Europe (excluding UK), US and a number of other territories, URC TV will also offer a range of subscription packages including a Season Pass (all games), Ireland Pass (all games featuring Irish Clubs), Weekend Passes (all games within a round) and individual games passes.
For more information, or to sign up, visit www.urc.tv.
Source – Ulster Rugby
Sharks name squad of 34 for URC trip to Europe, Pienaar included.
Sean Everitt has picked two, and sometimes three, players in each position given the COVID-19 protocols around international travel and proper isolation and quarantine practices, as well as accounting for any injuries that may be picked up within this four match period.
Ruan Pienaar and Tian Meyer have both been included in the squad, having signed loan agreements with the Cell C Sharks from the Toyota Cheetahs, while there are welcome returns from injury for the lock pairing of Ruben van Heerden and Hyron Andrews.
Phepsi Buthelezi continues to lead a settled and experienced squad of players in the absence of Lukhanyo Am, who will take over the captaincy on his return from Springbok duty.
“The boys are up for the challenge, we have some experienced players who have played in the Pro16 before and have had a taste of European conditions, and we have coaching staff who have coached at the highest level; we’re all confident that we can do well overseas,” said Everitt.
“We’ve taken a young squad mixed with some older heads with experience and it will be exciting to see what these guys can deliver against opposition that we don’t see too often, nor play against.”
The Cell C Sharks kick off their campaign against Munster next Saturday, and in round two (Saturday 2 October) travel to Scotland to take on Glasgow Warriors before heading to Wales for rounds three and four, against the Ospreys (Friday 8 October) before rounding off the month-long tour against Cardiff (Saturday 16 October).
“The boys are excited about experiencing a new competition, the URC is a tough tournament that brings in new challenges and different opposition but the guys are up for the challenge after a very good Currie Cup and a good year,” added Everitt.
The Cell C Sharks touring squad:
Forwards: Dan Jooste, Dylan Richardson, Fez Mbatha, Gebrandt Grobler, Henco Venter, Hyron Andrews, James Venter, Kerron van Vuuren, Khutha Mchunu, Khwezi Mona, Le Roux Roets, Lourens Adriaanse, Mpilo Gumede, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Phepsi Buthelezi (captain), Reniel Hugo, Ruben van Heerden, Thembelani Bholi, Thomas du Toit, Wiehahn Herbst.
Backs: Anthony Volmink, Boeta Chamberlain, Curwin Bosch, Jeremy Ward, Marius Louw, Marnus Potgieter, Murray Koster, Ruan Pienaar, Rynhardt Jonker, Sanele Nohamba, Thaakir Abrahams, Tian Meyer, Werner Kok, Yaw Penxe.
Ulster sign World Cup winner Vermeulen
Ulster Rugby have today signed one of the biggest names in world rugby, Duane Vermeulen, who will join the club following the Autumn Tests in November.
Nicknamed the Thor of rugby, the 6ft 4in 18 stone Springbok will pull on the famous white jersey at Kingspan Stadium until 2023.
In 2019, Vermeulen was crowned Player of the Match as South Africa stormed their way to World Cup victory, lifting the Webb Ellis trophy.
The 35-year-old brings with him experience gained in both Super Rugby and the Top 14 and will join the United Rugby Championship in November once he has completed international duties during the Autumn Tests.
Head Coach, Dan McFarland, said:
“Duane is clearly a world class player who, as the current World Champions’ starting 8 and MVP from the last RWC Final, is set to bring depth and experience to our really talented group of back rowers.
“As well as being an undeniable talent on the pitch, I know Duane will play an important role going forward in strengthening the winning mindset we are building as a squad.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to recognise Bryn Cunningham’s brilliant work in orchestrating this deal from start to finish. It was always going to be a difficult ask to find a difference-making 8 but Bryn has definitely achieved that.”
Duane Vermeulen added:
“Ulster and myself had detailed discussions about the club’s values, expectations and the potential role I can play going forward. It appealed and resonated with me to a point where I got very excited and decided to commit myself to this Ulster journey. I cannot wait to become part of the Ulster family and to serve as best I can.”
Ulster Rugby has been actively seeking a world class addition to the squad following the planned deal with Leone Nakarawa falling through in June.
Source – Ulster Rugby
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