Three to watch: Munster

Charlie Talbot-Smith
26 July 2018

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Three-time Guinness PRO14 champions Munster came agonisingly close to reaching a second consecutive domestic final last season.

Gerbrandt Grobler’s late try set up a nerve-jangling final few minutes as Munster were narrowly edged out the last four in a tight 16-15 loss to Leinster.

But, exciting times lay in wait with head coach Johann van Graan completing five major signings already ahead of the new 2018/19 Guinness PRO14 season.

Joey Carbery

Since Joey Carbery’s spectacular breakout season two seasons ago at Leinster, the 22-year-old fly-half has continued to defy expectations.

Playing a bit part role in Leinster’s 2017/18 Guinness PRO14 & European Rugby Champions Cup double success, Carbery went on to start in Ireland’s first test against Australia in June – scoring all of Ireland’s nine points from the tee.

With Jonathan Sexton ruling the roost at Leinster, Carbery opted to join beaten semi-finalists Munster where he will rival fellow Irish international Ian Keatley and J.J. Hanrahan for a starting spot.

Arriving with big ambitions to challenge Sexton for a more consistent run in the Ireland side – Carbery is expected to thrive at Munster after scoring two tries, five conversions and four penalties in nine appearances for Leinster last term.

Tadhg Beirne

After almost hanging his boots up two years ago to pursue a master’s degree in real estate, Tadhg Beirne has rapidly risen to international level since arriving at Scarlets in 2016.

In his debut season, the versatile lock played a starring role as the Welsh side clinched their first domestic title since the 2003/04 season.

Never shying from a challenge, Beirne made the second-most tackles in the Scarlets squad (163) and won more turnovers (37) than anyone else in last year’s Guinness PRO14 competition.

Rewarded with two appearances off the bench against Australia in June’s summer tests – Beirne helped Ireland secure a memorable 2-1 series win and now the 26-year-old eyes a starting place after completing his move to Munster.

If Beirne can show the same form exhibited at 2017/18 Guinness PRO14 runners-up Scarlets, Munster will have certainly made a shrewd acquisition.

Alex Wootton

24-year-old winger Alex Wootton was a revelation for Munster last term as the Macclesfield-born pro racked up an impressive eight tries in only his second season at the club.

Scoring four tries in Munster’s 2017/18 Guinness Pro14 fixture against Toyota Cheetahs last September – Wootton equalled the league’s record in a single game.

The Ireland U20 international made the most metres (960), the most carries (138) and the most clean breaks (16) for Munster last campaign as the Thomond Park side reached the Guinness PRO14 semi-finals.

With ambitions to better his seven appearances for Irelands youth ranks – Wootton will be hoping to excel again and gain the attention of Ireland boss Joe Schmidt.

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