Ulster Rugby has confirmed that nine players who started the 2018/19 season in the Abbey Insurance Ulster Rugby Academy have now signed upgraded contracts ahead of the 2019/20 season.
Angus Curtis and Tom O’Toole, who were awarded development contracts earlier in the season, have now signed senior deals, with Michael Lowry and Eric O’Sullivan also rewarded with senior contracts. Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Angus Kernohan, Zack McCall and Marcus Rea have all put pen to paper on development deals.
It has been a notable season for Ulster’s Academy players, who contributed an outstanding total of 111 appearances across the Guinness PRO14 and Heineken Champions Cup.
- 19/08/1997 (21)
- 13 Senior Apps, 30 Points
- Following a stint with the Ireland 7s programme, flying Enniskillen winger Baloucoune burst onto the scene this season, making try scoring contributions against the likes of Munster, Leicester and Racing 92.
- Flyhalf / Centre
- 26/03/1998 (21)
- 7 Senior Apps, 5 Points
- Curtis brought his form from the end of the 2017/18 season into the beginning of this year, featuring in all of the opening seven match-day squads, before being sidelined due to injury.
- 07/09/1998 (20)
- 11 Senior Apps
- A former three-time Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup winner with RBAI, Hume’s first year in the Ulster Academy was plagued by injury. However, an impressive first start in the away win over Benetton in November proved to be the springboard for a breakout year.
- 02/03/1999 (20)
- 18 Senior Apps, 10 Points
- A member of the sub-Academy last summer, Kernohan joined the full-time ranks of the Academy, then went on to become an almost constant feature in senior match-day squads. Part of the Ireland U20 Six Nations Grand Slam winning team.
- Flyhalf / Fullback
- 20/08/1998 (20)
- 17 Senior Apps, 10 Points
- Spending the majority of his time in the new surroundings of fullback, the diminutive Lowry put in some electrifying performances this season in both PRO14 and European competition. His 159 metres gained against Racing 92 was the most gained by an Ulster player in European competition since Opta began collecting the data.
- 10/02/1995 (24)
- McCall was a mainstay in the Ulster A team for the Celtic Cup campaign and captained the side during the Cara Cup tour. Part of the Ballynahinch team that won Division 1B of the All Ireland League. Joins older brother Kyle in the Ulster senior squad.
- Loosehead Prop
- 30/11/1995 (23)
- 26 Senior Apps
- O’Sullivan has been one of the finds of the season, playing no less than 26 of Ulster’s 30 games, totaling an astonishing 1,291 minutes. Shortlisted for the PRO14 team of the year.
- Tighthead Prop
- 23/09/1998 (20)
- 23 Senior Apps
- Former Irish U20 international O’Toole followed up an impressive end to the 2017/18 season by going on to make a further 18 senior appearances this year.
- Back Row
- 08/09/1997 (21)
- 1 Senior App, 5 Points
- Captained Ulster A during the Celtic Cup and made a try-scoring contribution in a Man of the Match display on his senior debut versus Leinster in April. Makes up another pair of brothers in the Ulster senior squad, along with older brother Matthew.