MUNSTER Rugby have given contracts to four academy players, extended the contracts of two previous graduates and signed an overseas player.
On a busy day of deals for the province, former Blue Bulls forward Jason Jenkins has signed a one-year deal, moving from Toyota Verblitz in the Japanese Top League.
Jenkins’s signing is being presented as a replacement for CJ Stander, the Ireland back-rower who is set to retire at the end of this season.
The 25-year-old can play at lock or in the back row and lined out alongside last summer’s signing RG Snyman at the Bulls and was capped by the Springboks once, in 2018 against Wales.
“We’ve had to manage CJ’s recent news and look at what’s needed across our back row next season with Billy (Holland) who provides cover there also retiring at the end of June," coach Johann van Graan said.
“I’ve seen Jason’s progression through the South African ranks and while he was highly sought after, I am delighted he will be joining us this summer as I know he will make a great addition to the squad.
“Everyone is aware of the level of players we’re losing from the pack and Jason brings the required level of professionalism, physicality, and athleticism that we can draw on as he competes for his place next season.”
Academy quartet Jack Daly, Josh Wycherley, Thomas Ahern and Jack Crowley have also signed professional contracts with the province while Fineen Wycherley and Diarmuid Barron extended their deals with Johann van Graan's side.
Wycherley made 15 appearances this season before the former Bantry Bay man suffered an injury against the Scarlets in March.
Barron, a product of Cashel RFC and Rockwell College, has made seven senior appearances but has done enough to be rewarded with a new deal.
The four academy players have all featured in the PRO14 this season.
The trio of Jack Daly, Josh Wycherley and Thomas Ahern all progress from their final year while Jack Crowley will advance after one year in the programme.
Daly made his senior debut against Zebre in November and followed that up with his second appearance for the province against Benetton in March.
The Kerry native joined the Academy in 2018 after the product of Castleisland RFC worked his way up through the provincial underage ranks at U18, U19 and U20 levels.
The 22-year-old back row plays his club rugby with Garryowen and has represented Ireland at Sevens and U20s level. He has put pen to paper on a one-year contract.
Following in his brother’s footsteps, Josh Wycherley is enjoying a breakthrough season after making his senior debut against the Cardiff Blues in October.
The loosehead prop has made nine appearances for Munster this season. A product of Bantry Bay RFC, he earned his first European start against Clermont Auvergne in December, playing a starring role in the province’s comeback victory.
The 21-year-old featured for Ireland U20 during the Grand Slam-winning Six Nations campaign in 2019 and signs a two-year contract.
Waterford native Thomas Ahern, who has also signed up for two years, made his senior debut against the Dragons in November.
The product of Dungarvan RFC and Waterpark RFC played a standout role in Ireland’s U20 campaign last year. He scored his first senior try for the province in his first start against Zebre at the end of November.
Ahern has made six appearances for Munster to date and most recently the 21-year-old lock, while paired with 20-year-old Cian Hurley, became Munster’s youngest starting second row combination in the professional era.
Jack Crowley’s rise continues after making his senior debut against Ulster in Belfast in January as a first year Academy player.
The Innishannon man followed that up with his second appearance against the Scarlets in March. A product of Bandon RFC and Bandon Grammar, the out-half starred for the Ireland U20s in 2020, scoring 36 points in three games as Ireland clinched the Triple Crown before the campaign was cut short.
The 21-year-old plays his club rugby with Cork Constitution and advances to the senior ranks on a two-year deal.
“We are delighted to bring through this next crop of talented players," Van Graan said.
"Throughout this season in particular we have seen where and how they all add value when taking their opportunities at Munster ‘A’ and senior level.
"It’s exciting to oversee their continued progression as this group of ambitious young players strive for success in the red jersey and commit their futures to Munster Rugby.”