As Heineken Cup champions Leinster go in search of a second row and centre to bolster their challenge for another European title next season, Munster have even more pressing demands following another retirement yesterday, the second one of the week, in the guise of prop Darragh Hurley.
The 26-year-old has been on the treatment table for a lower back injury since October but finally had to bow to medical advice.
Prior to Denis Leamy’s retirement announcement on Tuesday, outgoing coach Tony McGahan had already intimated Munster’s only option was to seek out a project player — someone eligible to play for Ireland down the line — as all allowable overseas positions had been filled. While Hurley’s retirement is another blow, it seems certain the project player will be sought to fill up the back row quota, where injuries reached epidemic proportions this season.
It is bound to be one of the first tasks on the agenda for incoming coach Rob Penney. It is known that a search for suitably qualified candidates has already begun but, apparently, with little success.
Meanwhile, underage rugby in Ireland received a huge boost yesterday with the announcement that PwC, Ireland’s largest professional services firm, has renewed its sponsorship of the U18, 19, 20 and schools teams for a further four years.
PwC and the IRFU are also developing a mentoring programme for the U20 players to cover areas such as learning and development, interview processes and general advice on professional workforce entry.
“It is a very positive development to have such a strong name associated with our up-and-coming players,” Pat Fitzgerald, commercial and marketing chairman of the IRFU.
“It is especially pleasing to be announcing details of the new mentoring programme that is aimed at providing sound advice for young players in their progression into the professional workforce during and after their rugby careers.”
Ireland participate in the IRB Junior World Championship in South Africa next month: Pool B (all times Irish) June 4, England v Italy, 3.45pm (University of Western Cape Stadium, Cape Town); South Africa v Ireland, 5.45pm (Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch).
June 8: South Africa v Italy, 5.45pm (University of Western Cape Stadium, Cape Town); England v Ireland, 5.45pm (Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch).
June 12: Ireland v Italy, 1.45pm (Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch); South Africa v England, 5.45pm (Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch).
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