Johann van Graan welcomed more good news for Munster on Thursday after the province announced a raft of contract extensions and the promotion of four academy stars to the senior squad for next season.
Ben Healy, John Hodnett, Jake Flannery, James French and Seán French have all signed their first senior deals while Munster have also secured the services for an extended spell of Mike Haley, Gavin Coombes and Neil Cronin. The announcement came hours after the IRFU announced it had extended Munster captain Peter O’Mahony’s central contract for a further two years to 2023.
"Off the back of the great news about Peter’s IRFU contract this morning, it’s a further boost for the province that we can add these latest names to the squad roster for next season,” head coach van Graan said.
"Securing the continued services of quality players such as Mike, Gavin and Neil allows us to focus on our future planning and objectives for this group. They are an exciting dynamic trio who add huge value to the squad.
"In terms of the younger lads it’s always great seeing the next generation of players stepping up and reaching their potential, and it’s credit to the work that’s carried out in clubs and schools that helped them to get to this point."
Full-back Haley and back-rower Coombes, both of whom will start for Munster in the Guinness PRO14 derby with Connacht at Thomond Park on Friday night, as well as injured scrum-half Cronin all signed two-year contract extensions.
Flanker Hodnett, also currently rehabilitating a long-term injury, has signed a two-year senior deal to mark his promotion from the academy while fellow graduates Flannery, James French, Seán French, and Healy will all advance to the senior squad ahead with one-year deals.
The signing of Healy will come as particularly good news for Munster supporters given pre-Christmas reports that Glasgow Warriors were interested in signing the fly-half, who is Scottish as well as Irish-qualified.
Four of the five academy graduates have already made their senior debuts while loosehead prop James French, from Bandon, Co Cork, is currently rehabbing a hamstring injury sustained against Ulster A in December.