Back rowers Paddy Butler and Sean Dougall are leaving Munster at the end of the season, but versatile back Denis Hurley has signed on for another season.
Hurley, 30, signed a one-year contract extension, keeping him at home until June 2016 but that good news was tempered by the confirmation that both Butler and Dougall are not renewing their deals.
Tipperary-born Butler, 24, joined Munster from Shannon in 2011 but is joining Dougall, 25, in switching to French club Pau over the summer and reuniting with former club-mate James Coughlan, who is helping the side’s bid to try and win Pro D2 and gain promotion to the Top14 for next season.
Coached by former Munster backs coach Simon Mannix, Pau lead Pro D2 by 11 points from Biarritz and with opportunities in the Munster back row limited, the pair have jumped at the chance of a fresh challenge, a decision acknowledged by Reds head coach Anthony Foley.
“It is always disappointing to see guys leave,” Foley said. “In professional sport, you have to be ambitious, and players are eager to secure game time, but with our back row being such a competitive area, it is an ongoing challenge to satisfy all parties.”
JJ Hanrahan leaves for Northampton Saints in the summer and this week midfield target Peter Horne opted to renew his ties with the New South Wales Waratahs and Australian Rugby Union. So Foley is understandably relieved by Hurley’s decision, a wing/full-back whom he has been deploying at inside-centre this season.
“In re-signing Denis we are keeping the services of a talented and experienced individual,” the Munster head coach said. “Denis has always shown leadership qualities and versatility, providing us with a number of options across the backline.”
Meanwhile, a potential future generation of Munster players will get their chance to grace the hallowed Thomond Park turf in less than two weeks after the stadium was named venue for back-to-back SEAT Munster Schools Senior Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday February 11. Castletroy College and PBC will kick off at 2pm before treble-chasing Crescent College meet Glenstal Abbey at 4pm.
The previous day, Butler and Hanrahan’s old school Rockwell face St Munchin’s in Clanwillam at 3pm while Dooradoyle is the venue for the Ardscoil Rís versus CBC clash on that same Tuesday at 3.30pm.
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