Yesterday we released the first part of the insight into the Greencore Munster Rugby Academy. The second part of the series was released today highlighting just how successful the programme has been since its inception back in 2004. The Academy was introduced “to prepare young players for life in and beyond professional rugby”.
The initial 22 players selected for the Academy included Keith Earls, Billy Holland, Duncan Williams, Donnacha Ryan, and the inaugural winner of the Academy player of the Year award, Tomás O’Leary.
Academy players receive coaching and guidance from Munster Rugby staff and play with their clubs in the All Ireland League. The current pathway for players into the Academy sees players chosen from schools and clubs to one of the Munster regional development Squads. From there they can progress through the age-grade squads to the sub-academy before graduating to the Academy.
The current conventional pathway to the Academy sees players initially selected from clubs and schools to one of the four Munster Rugby Regional Development Squads (east, north, south and west).
Academy players are monitored on their performances in the All Ireland League rugby throughout the season, where club players also have the chance to be scouted. Neil Cronin is an example of this as he has earned a senior contract after a number of impressive seasons for Garryowen.
Darren Sweetnam is the latest Academy graduate to represent Ireland when he earned his first international cap last November with 15 of the squad’s 20 current Ireland internationals having come through the Munster pathway.
28 of this season’s 43-man Munster squad have followed the Munster Rugby pathway and, on average, three players progress from the Academy into the senior squad each year.
Fineen Wycherley, who is this season’s Academy Player of the Year, Calvin Nash, and Liam O’Connor are the latest trio to progress from the Academy having all seen game-time in the Guinness PRO14 this season.