With the 2019/20 rugby season postponed indefinitely, we’re already casting our eyes to next season and what it might have in store.
Of course, the current campaign may still be fulfilled but due to the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 and what is an already congested rugby calendar, it’s looking increasingly unlikely.
So that brings us to what will hopefully be an undisrupted 2020/21 campaign and here we take a look at the new players who will be playing for the Irish provinces next season.
At this moment, there are only five confirmed incomings (Academy promotions excluded) with Munster having confirmed three signings while Ulster have confirmed two new additions.
Leinster and Connacht likely have players already lined up for next season but due to the current global pandemic, clarity and official announcements will be delayed.
Nevertheless, here is a ranking of the players who will join Munster and Ulster next season. The ranking is based on the potential impact they will have on their respective sides.
5. Matt Gallagher – Munster
Munster have signed the English born full-back from crisis club Saracens on a two-year contract. The 23-year-old has been on the books of the English club for five years and Munster supporters will be familiar with him as he started against the southern province at Thomond Park last year in the Heineken Champions Cup.
Gallagher has represented England at U20 level, winning the world championship in 2016 against Ireland in the final. He is qualified to play for Ireland through his paternal grandfather and grandmother who are from Derry and Limerick, respectively.
He can play in a variety of positions in the backline and he should offer head coach Johann van Graan plenty of options for the season ahead. His versatility will no doubt be a boost to Munster and it will be interesting to see where he fits in as the southern province are well-stocked in the back-three positions at the moment.
4. Ian Madigan – Ulster
Ian Madigan will make his return to Irish soil next season when he joins up with Dan McFarland at Ulster. The former Leinster out-half has spent the last few years playing abroad with both Bordeaux Begles and Bristol Bears.
His game time at Bristol this season has been curtailed due to Pat Lam’s preference for Callum Sheedy at out-half and it looks like the 31-year-old wants to kickstart his career with an ever-improving Ulster side.
Madigan will have a battle on his hands as Billy Burns currently holds the starting 10 shirt but the Dubliner can also play at inside centre which will come as a big boost for McFarland.
Madigan still possesses so much talent so it’s a really exciting proposition for Ulster supporters if he can get back to his best and push the northern province to another level.
3. Alby Mathewson – Ulster
Another shrewd piece of business by McFarland in bringing on board the former All Black. Mathewson was one of Munster’s most consistent performers in his 15-month stint with Johann van Graan’s side.
Despite being 34, Mathewson is a bundle of energy and is in incredible shape. He still has all the attributes of a top scrum-half and he will be an excellent deputy to John Cooney, especially when he is away on Ireland duty.
The Kiwi has signed a one-year contract with Ulster but don’t be surprised if McFarland tries to keep him on if he has anywhere near the same impact that he had with Munster.
2. Damian de Allende – Munster
The World Cup-winning Springbok joins Munster on a two-year deal and this is certainly a signing to be excited about.
De Allende is a powerful ball carrier but also possesses excellent distribution skills which should bring Munster’s midfield on to another level.
As an inside centre, it will be Rory Scannell who will most likely feel the impact of De Allende’s arrival but the Cork man will no doubt play a huge role with Munster next season as his wide-ranging skills will be too difficult to ignore.
Scannell’s ability to play at out-half and in midfield means that he will be an excellent option from the bench if De Allende gets ahead of him.
1. RG Snyman – Munster
Although Rudolph Gerhardus ‘RG’ Snyman was used mostly from the bench by Rassie Erasmus during the Boks’ World Cup-winning campaign, his potential impact on this Munster side is the greatest due to his sheer ability.
Standing at whopping 6’8″, the second-row is brilliant in the air but what is most exciting is what he can do with ball in hand.
Despite his tall frame, Snyman has superb acceleration and strength in contact while his handling ability is up there with a back. The 25-year-old can offload at will and do so accurately. His strength in this regard should bring Munster’s attack onto another level due in part, at least, to the fact that opposing defences will need to double up on him.
A hugely exciting signing which Munster supporters will no doubt eagerly anticipate seeing don the famous red jersey.