Munster have been boosted by the news that six players in their squad have signed contract extensions. Diarmuid Barron, Jack Daly, Ben Healy, Keynan Knox, Jeremy Loughman and Simon Zebo have put pen to paper on new deals, with all of them agreeing two-year contacts save for Healy, who has signed a one-year extension.
The 22-year-old Healy, from Tipperary, has scored 144 points in 27 Munster appearances. A product of Nenagh Ormond and Glenstal Abbey, Healy has also lined out for Garryowen in the AIL and is enjoying a strong first year in the senior squad having won the province’s academy player of the year award last season.
Clearly established as the number two outhalf in light of JJ Hanrahan’s departure and with Joey Carbery currently sidelined, Healy has been starting bigger games of late this season.
Zebo has had little luck since his prodigal return from Racing 92, being restricted to just four appearances and, after a month’s inactivity while with Ireland was then obliged to spend 10 days in quarantine in South Africa before incurring the first red card of his career in Munster’s win over Ulster last Saturday.
Still, there’s no doubting his pedigree and if given a run of games he will duly add to his haul of 62 tries (in 148 games), which makes him Munster’s all-time leading try scorer.
The 23-year-old Barron, like Healy from Tipperary, is a product of Cashel RFC and Rockwell College and has also lined out for Garryowen in the AIL. He made a big impact off the bench last Saturday night in Thomond Park and made his Champions Cup debut against Castres last month.
Daly, the Castleisland RFC flanker, is another Garryowen player and is a former Ireland U20s international who has made two appearances so far this term having moved up to the senior squad from the academy last summer.
Loughman initially joined Munster from the Leinster academy on a short-term contract in December 2017 but quickly established himself as a key squad member and has made 57 Munster appearances.
Knox, the 22-year-old South Africa, moved to Munster at the end of 2017 and after three years in the academy moved up to the senior squad last season.
Munster have not shed any light on reports that they are set to sign former All Black centre Malakai Fekitoa. But the 29-year-old’s exit from Wasps, who are suffering financially, has been speculated upon for weeks and it appears his next destination, which confirms the likelihood of Damian de Allende returning to Japan, something which the Irish Times understands is a done deal.
Fekitoa scored eight international tries in 24 appearances for the All Blacks, and during his time in with the Otago Highlanders, he scored 20 tries in 65 Super Rugby appearances.