Munster have confirmed three new players to be added to their ranks next season, as well as tying six current players down for a longer period of time.
Rassie Erasmus’ rejuvenated side have been in flying form recently, securing a home Champions Cup quarter-final against Toulouse as well as sitting in second place in the Pro12 table.
While tentative speculation surrounding Erasmus’ own future beginning to stir, Munster have moved that to one side and secured (and bolstered) their squad for the next few years.
The long-mooted return of JJ Hanrahan has been confirmed. Hanrahan departed for Premiership side Northampton in 2014, but returns to Ireland having made 30 appearances in two seasons at centre and out-half for the English side.
He will be joined by James Hart and Chris Farrell. Having played at youth level for Clontarf, 25-year-old scrum half Hart has spent the entirety of his senior career in France, first at Grenoble and most recently at Racing 92 where he actually came on as a substitute against Munster in the Champions Cup last weekend.
Farrell, meanwhile, is also coming from the Top 14, with the 23-year-old centre arriving from Grenoble. A former Ireland under-20 international, Farrell’s signing had been long-rumoured and has now also been confirmed.
Speaking to the Munster website, Erasmus expressed his delight at the signing of the young Irish trio for next season:
“I’ve always indicated our intention to recruit Irish qualified players where and when possible so to secure the young trio of Farrell, Hanrahan and Hart is great for the province and Irish rugby in general.
“In addition to being hugely talented they bring a wealth of knowledge with their combined experiences from playing abroad and this will help with our overall squad development.”
In terms of the players who have signed new contract extensions, Munster have confirmed that Tyler Bleyendaal, Darren Sweetnam, Dave Kilcoyne and Duncan Williams have all signed new deals, as have Niall and Rory Scannell to cap off a solid week for the brothers following their call-up to the Ireland Six Nations squad.
All have signed two-year deals with the exception of Kilcoyne, who has signed until 2020.
Erasmus went on to praise the commitment of the home-grown stars, insisting that it was vital to maintain that ethos going forward:
“Retaining players such as Killer (Dave Kilcoyne), Niall, Rory, Tyler, Duncan and Sweets (Darren Sweetnam) is key to our long-term plans and they have all played an integral role in our success so far this season.
“Developing home-grown players is at the core of everything we do and it’s rewarding to see five players who have advanced from the Munster pathway commit their future to the club, while also recognising the efforts of Tyler who has overcome long-term injury to make his mark in the squad this season.”
Munster have also confirmed that Tomas O’Leary will not be returning to the province once his short-term deal with Montpellier has expired.
In this week’s edition of The Oval Office Podcast, we speak to the Pro12 Communications Director Adam Redmond, who outlines how the league will evolve in the coming seasons.