‘It was a pretty easy decision’ - Jack Murphy explains move from Leinster to Ulster

Ireland U20s outhalf will move to the northern province after this summer’s U20 World Championship

Jack Murphy will move from Leinster to Ulster after this summer's U20 World Championship. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

Ulster’s interest in Ireland under-20s outhalf Jack Murphy predates his father Richie’s appointment to the head coaching role at the province, therefore scotching any notion that he was bundled into a car and driven to Belfast against his will.

The talented teenager – he’s 20 next month – laughed at the tongue-in-cheek assertion before elaborating on the switch of provincial allegiance. He was offered a place in the Ulster academy last season but “just thought it was best if I had one more year in the sub academy in Leinster and focus on 20s. Then this year it came up again.

“At the minute there are a lot of top quality outhalves Leinster have and I struggle to see where I am going to fit in. I just thought that there was a good opportunity in Ulster to try and push for the outhalf [role] over the next few years. I kind of had the decision made in my head before Richie ended up in Ulster; it was a pretty easy decision for me.”

Murphy’s parents are house hunting in Belfast but there is potentially a counter attraction in being able to share accommodation with two friends and long-time teammates in Wilhelm de Klerk and Sam Berman, both of whom have been co-opted to the Ulster academy and with whom the Bray native will travel to Cape Town for the World Rugby Under-20 Championship.


The trio play in proximity on the pitch and the friendship should make it easier all round to settle in Belfast. Berman missed the Under-20 Six Nations through injury but returned to play for Terenure in the AIL and was a member of the Irish 20s that got to the World Cup final last season.

Provincial demise ends domestic season

Listen | 24:07

Murphy said: “Bermo is very driven, very focused, a great 12, he can play 13 as well. He gives us another great option at centre. It’s great for the squad that we have three really good centres and then we have Hugo [McLaughlin] and Finn [Treacy] who play on the wing, [but] they can play at centre as well.”

Another player who missed the Six Nations through injury is talented fullback Reuben Moloney, uncapped at this level. The UCD student was a standout player at schools level with Blackrock. Murphy admitted: “He is very quick and an evasive runner. He’s also got a good kicking game, is very talented and he’s trained really well with us the last few weeks.”

Ireland are in a pool with Italy, Georgia – they hammered Six Nations Grand Slam champions England recently – and Australia in a tournament in which they will play five matches in total. With Richie Murphy now ensconced in the head coaching role at Ulster, Willie Faloon takes over in the same capacity with the Irish 20s having previously been defence coach. Neil Doak has also joined the coaching team.

Richie Murphy previously coached Ireland U20s prior to taking the Ulster job. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

Jack is diplomatic when addressing how it feels now that his dad is no longer in charge of the 20s. “Willie’s been here for a long time with the 20s so he knows it inside out, he has worked really closely with us as our defence coach. He’s been really, really good. We have quality coaches, so I don’t think we miss anything.

“Everyone does things in little different ways but the majority of the stuff we have been doing is staying the same. We are just trying to make it better like we always are, trying to improve every day. It’s gone pretty well so far.”

Murphy explained that the quintet of Brian Gleeson, Hugh Gavin, Danny Sheahan, Sam Berman and Evan O’Connell have been passing on their experiences from last season when Ireland reached the World Cup final.

The young outhalf described it as “refreshing” to watch the progress that Jack Crowley has made in a relatively short time from the 20s number 10 jersey to the senior one, acknowledging that it is an inspiration for not just him but the whole of the squad.

He’ll contest the outhalf role with Jake Flannery and New Zealander Aidan Morgan at Ulster next season, hoping for some game time. But for now it is all about the Irish 20s and trying to go one better than their runner-up finish both in this tournament last season and the recent Six Nations.

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer