Ulster appear to be in poll position to sign Munster fly-half Bill Johnston during the summer as he looks for more game-time.
The 22-year-old, former Ireland Under-20 international, who is highly regarded in the south has started just four games this season and it seems as though he will be heading north for further opportunities.
The Clonmel native hit the headlines during the 2016 World Rugby Under-20 Championship as he helped Ireland to a comeback victory against Wales before being part of a historic win over New Zealand.
Since then he has been unfortunate with injuries as he dislocated his shoulder against that New Zealand team and suffered an ankle injury during the 2016/17 season. Those injuries have meant that over the past three seasons he has only made a dozen or so competitive appearances.
As well as injuries preventing his development, the arrival of Joey Carbery last summer coupled with Tyler Bleyendaal’s consistency have meant that he has also fallen down the Munster pecking order.
At such a young age the out-half still has time to improve and it seems that he believes Ulster is the best destination for his development.
The northern province has become a popular destination for players who seek more game-time and want to develop. If he joins, he will follow similar footsteps to Marty Moore, Jordi Murphy, John Cooney and Nick Timoney who left their provinces for Ulster as well as Jack McGrath who is joining this summer.
All of which have become key players in Ulster’s climb to the Pro 14 semi-finals this season, where they face Glasgow on the 17th of May in a bid to make it to the final showpiece.
Eddie Jones updates squad for Italy preperation
England head coach Eddie Jones has named his squad for this week’s Guinness Six Nations match against Italy.
Jones’ side will travel to Rome later this week, where they will face Italy at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday 13 February (3pm GMT KO).
Wasps’ Joe Launchbury returns to the squad following injury for the first time since December 2020. There is also a first call up for London Irish’s Tom Pearson.
Lewis Ludlam suffered a rib injury in the game against Scotland and is unavailable for selection this week. Luke Northmore reported with a hamstring injury and is unable to train.
Courtney Lawes is progressing through return to play protocols and Jonny Hill will be with the squad in camp to continue his rehab.
Italy v England is live on ITV and BBC Radio 5 Live.
Alfie Barbeary (Wasps, uncapped)
Jamie Blamire (Newcastle Falcons, 5 caps)
Ollie Chessum, Leicester Tigers, uncapped)
Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 32 caps)
Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 37 caps)
Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins, 5 caps)
Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 27 caps)
Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 32 caps)
Jamie George (Saracens, 62 caps)
Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers, 2 caps)
Maro Itoje (Saracens, 52 caps)
Nick Isiekwe (Saracens, 4 caps)
Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 69 caps)
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 90 caps)
Joe Marler (Harlequins, 75 caps)
Tom Pearson (London Irish, uncapped)
Bevan Rodd (Sale Sharks, 2 caps)
Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, 10 caps)
Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 48 caps)
Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 16 caps)
Mark Atkinson (Gloucester Rugby, 1 cap)
Elliot Daly (Saracens, 53 caps)
George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 78 caps)
George Furbank (Northampton Saints, 5 caps)
Ollie Hassell-Collins (London Irish, uncapped)
Louis Lynagh (Harlequins, uncapped)
Max Malins (Saracens, 11 caps)
Joe Marchant (Harlequins, 8 caps)
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs, 34 caps)
Raffi Quirke (Sale Sharks, 2 caps)
Adam Radwan (Newcastle Falcons, 2 caps)
Harry Randall (Bristol Bears, 2 caps)
Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 44 caps)
Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 6 caps)
Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 6 caps)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 113 caps)
World Rugby approves birth right amendment for players to transfer unions
- New process can benefit players and the global competitiveness of rugby
- Fairness and integrity key principles that underpin the framework
- Approval follows extensive discussion and collaboration across the game
- Revised Regulation will apply from 1 January 2022
The World Rugby Council has approved an amendment to the sport’s regulations governing national team representation that will now permit an international player to transfer once from one union to another subject to demonstrating a close and credible link to that union via birth right.
From 1 January, 2022, in order to transfer from one union to another under the revised Regulation 8 (eligibility), a player will need to achieve the below criteria:
- The player must stand-down from international rugby for 36 months
- The player must either be born in the country to which they wish to transfer or have a parent or grandparent born in that country
- Under the revised Regulation 8 criteria, a player may only change union once and each case will be subject to approval by the World Rugby Regulations Committee to preserve integrity
After 1 January 2022, any player who meets the above criteria can apply immediately for a transfer.
The Regulation 8 revisions will also align the “age of majority” across 15s and sevens. All players will now be ‘captured’ at 18 years of age to simplify the Regulation and improve union understanding and compliance.
Approval of the amended regulation follows requests by emerging nations and a subsequent wide-ranging consultation process with member unions, regions and International Rugby Players examining the possibility of amending the principle within Regulation that stipulates that a player may only represent one union at international level, save for specific circumstances relating to participation in the Olympic Games.
The benefits of the amendment include:
- Simplicity and alignment: transfers are currently permitted in the context of participation in the Olympics in the sevens game. This amendment will create one aligned, simplified process across the game
- Development of emerging nations: the player depth of emerging nations may be improved by permitting players, who have close and credible links to the “emerging union” through birth or ancestry, to “return” to those unions having previously represented another union
- Player-focused approach: the process recognised the modern rugby environment, including global player movement, the current ability to capture players by selecting them on the bench, and the desire of some players to transfer having been selected a limited number of times for one union. It also examined the impact of any change on the integrity of the international competition landscape.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “Approval of this landmark regulatory change is the culmination of detailed and widespread modelling and consultation across the game. We have listened to our membership and players and sought to update the regulation recognising the modern professional rugby environment without compromising the integrity of the international game.
“Any player who wishes to transfer will need to have a close and credible link to their new union, namely birth right or parent or grandparent birth right while meeting strong criteria, including a 36-month stand down period. We believe that this is the fairest way to implement progressive change that puts players first while also having the potential to support a growing, increasingly competitive international men’s and women’s game.”
World Rugby Vice-Chairman Bernard Laporte added: “We have listened to our membership and honoured our pledge to undertake wide-ranging review of this important regulation. We have consulted, sought feedback from our unions, regions and most importantly to players’ representatives, before making a recommendation to the Council. This change to how international rugby operates will provide transformational opportunities to players with dual backgrounds, providing they meet the key criteria sets out in the Regulation 8.”
International Rugby Players CEO, Omar Hassanein said:“The proposal to change the rules around player eligibility is something that we have worked on over many years with our member associations. Many players across the world will now benefit from the chance to represent the country of their or their ancestors’ birth, serving as a real boost to the competitiveness of emerging nations, which in turn, will benefit the game as a whole.”
England name interesting squad to face Wallabies
The England line-up for this weekend’s Test match against Australia has been named.
Maro Itoje will make his 50th appearance for England, following his debut against Italy in 2016.
Captain Owen Farrell returns to the side at inside centre, Henry Slade stays at outside centre and Marcus Smith will start at fly half.
Jonny May (left) and Manu Tuilagi (right) will be on the wings, Freddie Steward is at full back and Ben Youngs is at scrum half.
In an unchanged forward pack from England’s 69-3 win over Tonga last weekend, Itoje is joined by lock Jonny Hill, hooker Jamie George and props Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler.
Courtney Lawes stays at blind-side flanker, Sam Underhill is open-side flanker and Tom Curry is at No. 8.
Bevan Rodd and Raffi Quirke could make their England debuts after being named as finishers – alongside Jamie Blamire, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, Alex Dombrandt, Sam Simmonds and Max Malins.
Jones said: “We know this will be a tough test for us, we’re playing against a team who have been together a while and who have beat the world champions twice. As an Australian I know how much this game means.
“We’ve had a really good week of preparation, we’re looking to improve our performance this week and I think this side is building well.”
England v Australia is live on Amazon Prime Sport and TalkSPORT [Saturday 13 November, 5.30pm KO].
15. Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 3 caps)
14. Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks, 44 caps)
13. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 41 caps)
12. Owen Farrell (Saracens, 93 caps)
11. Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 67 caps)
10. Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 3 caps)
9. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 110 caps)
1. Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 31 caps)
2. Jamie George (Saracens, 60 caps)
3. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 45 caps)
4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, 49 caps)
5. Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, 10 caps)
6. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 88 caps)
7. Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 25 caps)
8. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 34 caps)
16. Jamie Blamire (Newcastle Falcons, 3 caps)
17. Bevan Rodd (Sale Sharks, uncapped)
18. Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 13 caps)
19. Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 24 caps)
20. Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins, 2 caps)
21. Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, 7 caps)
22. Raffi Quirke (Sale Sharks, uncapped)
23. Max Malins (Saracens, 8 caps)