Josh Murphy, the 26-year-old Leinster back five forward who has started the recent Champions Cup romps over Montpellier and Bath, has been lined up as a new signing by Connacht and is set to join the western province in a two-year deal next summer.
Although qualified as a doctor after completing his medical studies last summer, Murphy has stated his desire to focus on rugby for the time being and this move is a signal of that intent.
A number of Premiership clubs had expressed a keen interest in Murphy, but this move could provide an opportunity for him to achieve more game time while maintaining his international ambitions before concentrating on his career in medicine.
Yet another product of St. Michael’s, the strong and athletic 6’ 4” backrower cum lock throws his body around and is good over the ball. He is also a good carrier, as evidenced by his line for Leinster’s first try in the Champions Cup win at home to Northampton last season when he was called in as a late replacement for his first European start.
With James Ryan a late withdrawal for the Montpellier game, Murphy acquitted himself well when deputising at late notice again and he retained his place against Bath.
Having come through the Leinster academy after taking part in two Under-20 World Cups, in the last four seasons Murphy has played 51 games to date for the province. Of his 43 starts the majority (36) have been at blindside but Murphy has also played at number ‘8’ and in the second-row, ably demonstrating the kind of versatility which will strengthen Andy Friend’s options.
Quinn Roux departed for Toulon at the end of last season and another second-row bulwark for Connacht over recent years, Ultan Dillane, is also set to move to France (he has been strongly linked with La Rochelle) at the end of this season. Brive have also confirmed that they have signed Abraham Papali’i from next season.
Injuries have restricted the appearances of Leva Fifita and Gavin Thornbury so far in this campaign, and this has placed a heavy load on the young locks Oisin Dowling and Niall Murray. Hence, Murphy’s arrival looks like a canny piece of business by Connacht.
For their part, Leinster have already agreed to sign the once-capped Springboks lock cum backrower Jason Jenkins, injuries having restricted him to just one 18 minute appearance since his arrival at Munster from Japan.
Meanwhile, the Munster trio of Dan Goggin, John Hodnett and James French, along with the Ulster quartet of Marcus Rea, Craig Gilroy, Greg Jones and Jack McGrath, have all signed new contracts.
The promising Hodnett, already under contract until June 2023, has signed a one-year extension after returning from an Achilles injury which sidelined him for 13 months to become a regular in Munster’s Champions Cup match day squad, while Goggin and French have signed two-year deals to also take them up to June 2024.
Rea, Gilroy, Jones and McGrath have signed new one-year contract extensions.