Ex-Munster hooker Denis Fogarty has been named in the French Pro D2 team of the season after an excellent first year with Aurillac.
The Auvergne-based side, coached by former Ireland international Jeremy Davidson, enjoyed a run to the promotion semi-finals before losing to Pau. Fogarty, with 20 starts, played a key role.
The Limerick native’s contribution has been recognised by being named amongst the best players in the division. Fogarty’s powerful ball carrying and solidity at the set piece have been crucial components in a much-improved season for Davidson’s outfit.
Fogarty’s outstanding form led to contact from Top 14 side Agen during the season. He subsequently penned a two-year contract with the eight-time French champions.
Unfortunately, Fogarty’s new club have been relegated down to the Pro D2. Still, it will be an upward step for the 29-year-old, as Agen expect to earn immediate promotion.
Aurillac have moved to replace Fogarty with another Irishman in Ulster hooker Nigel Brady. After 119 appearances for his home province, Brady has decided to take up the chance of an Indian summer in France. The 33-year-old has been a great servant to Ulster, but should enjoy the opportunity to play more regularly.
Joining Brady in Aurillac next season are two Irish players at the opposite point of their careers. Munster academy lock Brian Hayes heads to France with the aim of earning extended of game time. The Pro D2 is an extremely physical league, as anyone who saw the recent brawls between Pau and La Rochelle can attest to.
At 6ft 6ins and around 107kg, Hayes has the bulk to excel in Aurillac. For the 22-year-old Corkman, it could be the ideal school of hard knocks.
Ex-Ulster wing Conor Gaston (22) joins Davidson’s growing group of exiles, in the hope of making an impact on the try scoring charts. After a season at London Irish, where chances were limited, Gaston’s pace and evasive running ability could be a big hit in a league where teams still rely on individual magic for many of their tries.
French D2 team of the year: F Denos (Oyonnax), D Cler (La Rochelle), J Fumat (Pau), J Yobo (Aurillac), J Caminati (Brive); B Urdapilleta (Oyonnax), J Audy (Oyonnax); A Tichit (Oyonnax), D Fogarty (Aurillac), U Atonio (La Rochelle); I Domolaïlaï (Tarbes), V Ursache (Oyonnax); J El Abd (Oyonnax), P Luafutu (Brive), L Goujon (La Rochelle).
Replacements: Da Ros (Brive), Biaocco (Oyonnax), Jacquot (Pau), Nallet (Lyon), Hauman (Brive), Fortassin (Tarbes), Grosso (Lyon), Cestaro (La Rochelle).
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