Munster Rugby have confirmed that Duncan Casey has signed a two-year contract extension, Greencore Academy player Sean McCarthy has secured a one-year development contract and Ulster talent Sam Arnold will join the province on a two-year deal.
Ulster centre Sam Arnold has lined out on 11 occasions for the northern province, with the 19-year-old most recently making his Champions Cup debut on the wing against Oyonnax last month..
Arnold, who hails from England, made his GUINNESS PRO12 debut as an 18-year-old against the Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade last March and completed the season as Ulster Rugby’s Academy Player of the Year.
A product of the Exiles and an Ireland underage international, the Ballynahinch clubman impressed throughout the 2014/15 campaign, starting in nine out of ten games for Ireland in the U-20 Six Nations and World Rugby U-20 Championship. He will join Munster at the start of the 2016/17 season.
Ulster’s director of rugby Les Kiss commented: “We are disappointed to lose a player of Sammy’s talent but we fully understand his position. He is an ambitious young man who wants to gain as much game-time as possible, but with our current stocks at centre, we are unable to guarantee him a regular starting position.
“The age profile of some of our other young centres such as Stuart Olding (22), Stuart McCloskey (23) and Luke Marshall (24), along with the presence of experienced international players like Darren Cave and Jared Payne, has contributed to his decision.
“Everyone at Ulster wishes Sammy well with Munster over the next couple of seasons but in the mean time we’re sure that he will continue to contribute positively to the squad during the current campaign.”
On the retention front, Duncan Casey is the latest in a line of home-grown talent to secure their future with Munster. The 25-year-old hooker has made 40 appearances for the province, scoring five tries.
In securing a senior contract at the start of the 2013/14 season, the Munster Academy graduate went on to make his senior debut against Perpignan in the European Cup at Thomond Park in December 2013.
A fortnight later, Casey made his first PRO12 appearance, starting against the Scarlets in Irish Independent Park, and his breakthrough season also included game-time in both knockout games of the European Cup, playing against Toulouse and Toulon.
The Corkman went on to make the number 2 jersey his own during the 2014/15 campaign. In making 20 appearances he scored four tries and started in Munster’s six European Cup games, and was duly awarded Munster Rugby’s Young Player of the Year honour.
The Shannon clubman is currently rehabbing a pectoral muscle injury and is on course for a return to action in April.
Meanwhile, Academy lock Sean McCarthy is the third up-and-coming player to advance to the Munster senior squad next season, joining Academy colleagues Rory Scannell and David Johnston in gaining promotion to the senior ranks.
The 22-year-old will commence a one-year development contract at the start of the 2016/17 season.
A native of Currow in Co. Kerry, McCarthy has made 12 appearances for Munster ‘A’ in the British & Irish Cup and has started every game of this season’s campaign. The Shannon clubman represented the Ireland U-20s on seven occasions during the 2012/13 season.
Commenting on today’s contract news, Munster head coach Anthony Foley said: “Once again, today’s news speaks volumes about this group of players – they are committed to the province and are ambitious to achieve something together.
“Although still young, Duncan is an experienced player and we look forward to seeing him make a full return from injury while with Sean it’s great to see another Academy player make the step up. We also look forward to welcoming Sam to the squad as he has shown to be an exciting prospect for the future.”