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Ulster trio sign extensions



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Matty Rea, James Hume and Tom O’Toole have committed their futures to Ulster by signing for a further two years with the province. 

28-year-old back-rower Rea has become a regular in Ulster match-day squads since making his debut against the Cheetahs in 2017. The athletic flanker is also an astute line-out operator, which makes him equally comfortable playing in the second row. 

The Ballymena native has signed a two-year contract extension, which will see him remain at Kingspan Stadium until at least the summer of 2024. 

Centre, and product of the Ulster Rugby Academy, James Hume has amassed nearly 50 appearances for the province since making his senior debut versus Munster in September 2018. The 23-year-old is set to hit the milestone this weekend if he plays in the upcoming United Rugby Championship interpro fixture versus Connacht at Kingspan Stadium. 

A superb reader of the game, Belfast-born Hume has been recognised for his defensive abilities and eye for the try line through his involvement in the Ireland set-up, including earning his first international cap in the most recent Summer Series. 

On a similar trajectory to Hume, tighthead prop and fellow Ulster Academy graduate, Tom O’Toole, made his senior debut in April 2018 versus Edinburgh, following outstanding performances for Ulster ‘A’ in the then British & Irish Cup. 

Known for his astounding tackle success rate, and mobility around the park, O’Toole was also rewarded for his performances in an Ulster jersey by being called up for Ireland and making his international debut versus USA in July of this year. 

On the two-year extensions, Head Coach Dan McFarland, said: 

“It is great that Matty, James and Tom have bought into what we are trying to achieve as a club and, because of this, are prepared to further commit themselves to the province.

“All three add a huge amount to the squad, with Matty demonstrating his value as a lineout operating and ball carrying 6. Tom is still a young tighthead but has already earned international recognition for his relentless workrate and physicality. James has made a big breakthrough this year, adding consistency in his fundamentals to a top-class ability to beat defenders. 

“I look forward to seeing what the next two years hold for this group of young players.”


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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