Q Radio Sport
Ulster Rugby has formally announced it has completed its recruitment drive ahead of the 2020/21 Guinness PRO14 and Heineken Champions Cup campaign, having secured a number of key signings prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The province has named a squad of 41 fully contracted players and 2 development players - 39 of which are Irish qualified.
Tuesday’s announcement included confirmation both Jordi Murphy and Will Addison have committed to Ulster for a further two years.
Others who have already chosen to remain at Kingspan Stadium include Jacob Stockdale, Sean Reidy and Matty Rea, with Stewart Moore committing to a new three-year deal which will see him graduate from the Abbey Insurance Ulster Rugby Academy to spend one year as a development player, before being upgraded to a senior professional contract for the following two seasons.
The confirmed squad also includes two new faces - both on one-year contracts. Ireland fly-half, Ian Madigan, joins following a three-year stint with Bristol Bears whilst All Blacks scrum-half, Alby Mathewson, returns to Irish shores following a successful stint with Munster Rugby.
Commenting on the confirmed squad, Head Coach, Dan McFarland, said:
“Our desire to build on the successes of this season to-date is evidenced in our strong investment in talent from the current squad. Although it’s an uncertain time for rugby, and all sport, I am confident our selection will stand us in good stead for when we are able to safely start the new season.
“Once again, the chosen line-up of players shines a light on the indigenous talent nurtured through the Academy by Kieran Campbell and his staff – and the role which it, along with the province’s clubs and schools, continues to play in securing the future of Ulster Rugby.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the players who are moving on from the squad. This includes Clive Ross, who earned 73 caps since joining the province on a development contract in 2014, along with 21-capped Angus Kernohan, and Zack McCall.
“Looking to the future, we look forward to welcoming the new additions to the squad, who are set to bring their own unique skills and talent, as we move towards a time when the 2020/21 season can kick-off.”
Ulster Rugby confirm squad for 20/21 with key signings secured before #COVID19. Jordi Murphy & Will Addison here for a further two years, Jacob Stockdale staying - also @IrishRugby fly-half Ian Madigan & @AllBlacks scrum-half Alby Mathewson (in pics) now on board. More:👇 pic.twitter.com/WVX321YfBh— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) May 12, 2020
2020/21 Abbey Insurance Ulster Rugby Academy
The Abbey Insurance Ulster Rugby Academy squad for 2020/21 includes six new entrants: Reuben Crothers, Ben Carson, Nathan Doak, Lewis Finlay, Cormac Izuchukwu and James McCormick.
Wallace High School captain and back-row forward, Reuben Crothers, joins the Abbey Insurance Ulster Rugby Academy with the experience of having led the Ulster U19 team. He was also involved in the Ireland U18 Schools set-up again this season having first played within it in the 2018/19 season.
Meanwhile, Crothers’ school and team mate, centre Ben Carson, adds to the line-up after being involved with the 2019/20 Ulster U18 School squad, and again with the Ireland U18 Schools’ team following his debut with the squad the season before. He also holds the title of the leading try scorer in the Wallace High School team this season.
Another signing for next season from Wallace High School is Nathan Doak, a player who is at home in either of the half-back positions, and one who made an impression with the Ulster A team in reaching the Celtic Cup final this season. Doak has also played for Ireland U18 Schools, and he was involved with the Iatest Ireland U19 set-up.
Down High School scrum-half, Lewis Finlay, marks his transition from the sub-Academy to a full place in the Abbey Insurance Ulster Rugby Academy following his involvement in the Ireland U20s Six Nations campaign this season, starting all three games before the tournament was impacted by the current COVID-19 pandemic.
With 20-year-old second row, Cormac ‘Izzy’ Izuchukwu from Tullamore in County Offaly also set to join the Academy squad, the player will bring with him experience of having competed in the 2019 Paris Sevens Series. He was also Ireland’s top scorer in the London RugbyX tournament in October, with a brace of five tries.
Completing the new additions to the Academy squad is Dalriada pupil, James McCormick, whose all-round ability is showcased by his experience in both the front and back-row for his school, with a notable accuracy for kicking off the tee. This season, McCormick captained the Ulster Schools’ squad and was selected for the Irish U18 School’s panel.
19-year-old winger, Ethan McIlroy, who joined the Abbey Insurance Ulster Rugby 2019/20 squad in January 2020 from the Ulster sub-Academy has also secured his place in the 2020/21 set-up having played for the Ireland U20s and achieved his first senior cap for Ulster against Leinster.
Commenting on the announcement of the squad, Abbey Insurance Ulster Rugby Academy Manager, Kieran Campbell said:
“With six dynamic and talented young players set to join the Academy at a time when we are able to get up-and-running again, it is exciting to be able to look to the future with these young prospects - each of whom has earned his place through hard work and commitment over the past years to the game at both school and club level.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for these young men with Dan McFarland and his team fully-supportive of the Academy, as they continue to do an excellent job in transitioning local talent into the professional squad.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to recognise the significant contribution of the various school and club coaches involved in the development of the selected players. The Ulster Academy is also grateful for the continued support of these coaches in releasing their players to the IRFU’s National Training Squad programme, which played a central role in the players attaining their Academy places.
“With each of the players already demonstrating the skills we look to cultivate in players – whether that be Reuben’s leadership, Ben’s combative defence, Lewis’ tenacious mindset, Nathan’s all-round skill set, Cormac as a powerful runner with a keen eye for the try line, or James’dynamic play – I look forward to welcoming them into our Academy set-up with each poised to have a bright future with us in the months and years ahead.”
Ulster Rugby 2020/21 Squad:
Players developed through the Abbey Insurance Academy or Ulster club system marked with *
Abbey Insurance Ulster Rugby Academy 2020/21 Squad: