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Academy Update | February 2024

13th February 2024 By The Editor

Academy back-row forward Ruadhán Quinn in action against Crusaders.

Academy back-row forward Ruadhán Quinn in action against Crusaders. Inpho

14 Munster Rugby Academy and pathway players have featured for the Munster senior team so far this season as young players continue to develop on the Munster Rugby pathway.

Ireland U20 internationals Ben O’Connor and Brian Gleeson, who are both in the first year of the Academy, have even made their Champions Cup debuts and are the only members of the Ireland U20 squad who have featured in the URC this season.

We spoke to Munster Rugby Academy & Pathway Manager Gar Prendergast for the latest update on the province’s young players.

Season so far & what’s coming up…

“It’s been great. We‘re getting a lot of exposure to the different teams and representative teams. Starting with the seniors, we’ve had numerous Academy player appearances in the URC, Champions Cup and the game against Crusaders.

“We love to see all these Academy lads getting their opportunity. It’s huge for accelerating their development, getting exposed to that standard of rugby is fantastic.

“That’s the key, the exposure to game time, it can’t be replicated. The training we do with the senior team is fantastic but getting that game time as well complements that.

“I’ve said it many a time that the AIL provides that platform for these lads and it’s a real test to play adult level rugby. To get those reps in the AIL is crucial.

“More representation in the IRFU’s Combined Academies squad has been fantastic and coming up at Easter we’ll have the representative teams then – the Irish U19s and Schools etc.

“We’ve also had development games against Ulster and the Ireland U20s.”

Crusaders involvement…

“It was an incredible opportunity to play in front of 41,000 people. You had Ruadhán Quinn, Mark Donnelly, Ethan Coughlan, Shay McCarthy, Tony Butler and Daniel Okeke all involved from the Academy along with Kamil Nowak, who made his debut.

“What a golden few weeks for them to stick their hands up while lads are away on international duty.

“We had a couple of NTS (National Talent Squad) lads involved in the warm-up as travelling reserves and it was a huge experience for them. It shows the importance of the NTS programme as well – we have NTS and PTS (Provincial Talent Squad) players who are developing all the time.

Evan O’Connell captaining the Ireland U20s & Academy graduates making their mark for Ireland…

“Evan captaining the Ireland U20s at the weekend is a huge achievement for him and his family and we’re delighted for him. It’s a great reflection on Evan and it’s been brilliant to have six Munster players involved in the opening two rounds.

“At senior level, the performances from Jack [Crowley] and Calvin [Nash] so far are a great reflection on the two lads themselves and a great reflection on the coaching. It was brilliant to see two lads who came up through the Academy in recent years play so well.

“These are all really positive stories for us.”

Schools & underage club rugby…

“We’re right in the middle of the schools and underage clubs competitions now as well, which are important platforms.

“When you look across the whole spectrum, there are lads getting opportunities at all levels and it’s all leading towards one direction which is our north star, playing senior representative rugby for the province – that’s the ultimate goal.

“Getting these opportunities at different age-grades is a huge part of their development on the pathway.”

Open day for schools coaches at HPC…

“Those connections are so important. We did it with the AIL coaches at the start of the season and then the schools coaches at the start of January, which proved to be a really worthwhile day.

“We had the NTS players in for a session and the coaches were able to watch and get a sense of how we plan and preview our sessions, they also got the chance to speak with the senior coaches too. It was a really positive experience and something we really want to build on next year again with both clubs and schools.”

See more information on the day here with a video below.

Injury update…

“Fionn Gibbons (centre/wing) and Max Clein (hooker) are just back and Kieran Ryan (prop) is due back training shortly. Ronan Foxe (prop) and Edwin Edogbo (lock) are long-term absentees.”

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