Manager Shaun Payne yesterday revealed 10 from the academy and development panels had been awarded full senior contracts while a deal has also been struck with Doug Howlett that keeps the legendary All Black in Ireland for at least another season.
Ian Keatley, the Leinster man who has impressed with Connacht, is travelling south to take over from the Stade Francais-bound Paul Warwick.
Academy players Conor Murray and Mike Sherry have been handed full senior contracts, a status that Paddy Butler, Scott Deasy, Dave Foley, Darragh Hurley, Felix Jones, Ian Nagle, Peter O’Mahony and Tommy O’Donnell from the development squad will now also enjoy. Payne declined to disclose how much this will cost Munster — or more accurately, the IRFU — but admitted it was “substantial and would make a big difference especially to the younger boys coming up from the academy.”
He confirmed several had attracted interest from overseas teams with Ian Nagle actively sought by Northampton.
Payne said: “This is a good news story. There’s been a lot of talk about changing the squad and we felt it was important that we had all these young guys signed up. They have all performed very well and there are some exceptional players who can go on to even higher honours. We are delighted to have them staying with us.
“They are players we believe are capable of playing with Munster and maybe going on to represent Ireland.
“This hasn’t been a case of signing these fellows so that they don’t go somewhere else. They have developed exceptionally well over the last two years and we want them in Munster. There has been a lot of interest in a lot of those players from outside of the province that’s indicative of where those boys are.”
The departure of Paul Warwick to Stade Francais will reduce the outlay on players’ wages and Payne also indicated that “there will be some other changes in the squad.”
He added: “Negotiations are ongoing in a few positions and interest in players coming here is higher than ever.
“There’s always talk at this time of year about what players are going to be doing post World Cup. The market tends to hot up. But our first port of call is to develop our own players.”
The manager explained the extension of Howlett’s contract as a reflection of his “exceptional season”.
Payne said: “He seems to have come out with renewed vigour this season, has been one of our outstanding players and we’re delighted that he’s staying with us.”