Ireland U20 internationals, Peter Cooper, Angus Curtis, Marcus Rea, Jack Regan and Jonny Stewart are included in the Ulster Academy for the coming season. Cooper, Rea and Steward all featured in the Academy, and for Ulster A in the B&I Cup, last season, Curtis and Regan being new inclusions for 2017-18.

They are joined by Michael Lowry and James Hume (both RBAI), Alexander Clarke (Ballymena Academy), Matthew Dalton (BRA) and Tom O’Toole (Campbell) via the Schools route.

Joe Dunleavy (Letterkenny/City of Derry)  and John McCusker (Rainey OB RFC) have also been brought into the Academy, via the underutilised club route, after impressive performances in the AIL.

As we were over in Georgia for the 2017 U20 World Championship we know plenty about the age grade internationals, but unfortunately precious little on the rest. We’ll try to rectify that as the season progresses. But, for what it’s worth, here’s our take on the Under 20’s lads:

Scrum half Jonny Stewart was the only Ulster Academy player to be involved in all five matches in the World Championship with the Queen’s University student clocking up 206 minutes to add to the 366 minutes he picked up in the Six Nations, where he started all five games.

A cool, calm and collected type of scrum half, in the Pienaar mould, rather than one that is going to snipe round the edges. He has a strong pass and is an excellent reader of the game with an ability to bring strike runners into play effectively. He has another season to go in the Ireland U20’s.

Second Row Jack Regan joins the Academy from Birr, Co Offlay with the Leinster man another ever-present in all of Ireland U20’s Six Nations and World Championship matches, clocking up 268 minutes over both tournaments.

A hard working second row who likes to get his hands on the ball Regan was unlucky not to pick up more game time in a competitive second row.

Marcus Rea picked up knocks in both competitions but still clocked up 205 minutes and five caps. It looked as though he was going to break into a highly competitive back row on both occasions before injury intervened.

Very mobile, with a bit of pace, the Queen’s University player seemed more at home with the defensive role of the back row, adding a physical edge at the breakdown.

Front row Peter Cooper is very much a modern style prop, fit and athletic rather than the chunky, hard drinking legends of this writer’s era, but we won’t hold that against him! Despite an injury ravaged season the tighthead still managed to pick up five caps in the Six Nations and World Championship clocking up 152 minutes over both competitions.

Equally at home on the wing as he is in the scrum he brings an excellent technique to the front row and he was the only Ulster player to cross the whitewash during the World Championship with a score against Samoa, his ability to “extend the width of attack” coming into play.  He might want to practice his jumping when he’s leaping for those cross field kicks on the wing though! 😀

Out half Angus Curtis is the last of this seasons Ireland U20 cohort to join the Academy, though, like Stewart, he has another season of U20’s rugby ahead of him.

Curtis was a late call up to the U20’s after some sparkling performances for the U19’s and, despite only clocking up a 16 minute cameo against Scotland before leaving the competition due to concussion, the young Queen’s University player showed plenty of potential sending Ireland through for two tries. He has an interesting season ahead.

Also worthy of note in this years Ulster Academy is the conformation of the inclusion of Greg Jones which we flagged up last November when the Leinster man turned out for Ulster A against Georgia U20’s. A member of the 2015 -16 Ireland U20’s squad that finished second in the World Championships Jones brings the total of Ireland U20 graduates in the Ulster Academy to nine, Zac McCall, Nick Timoney and Adam McBurney making up the rest.

Kieran Campbell once again heads the Academy coaching team with assistance from Willie Anderson, James Topping and Bryan Young. Hugh McCaughey continues as Team Manager.

The Ulster Academy Squad 2017-18

NAME POSITION CLUB DOB YEAR Height (cm) Weight (kg)
Rory Butler Centre Ballynahinch 11/03/1997 2 197 101
Alexander Clarke Hooker Queen’s University 02/07/1998 1 188 103
Peter Cooper Prop Malone  22/01/1997 3 182 115
Angus Curtis Outhalf Queen’s University 26/03/1998 2 183 88
Matthew Dalton Second row Malone 16/11/1998 1 196 105
Joe Dunleavy Flanker Malone 22/12/1998 1 190 101
Aaron Hall Back row Ballynahinch 26/06/1998 2 192 98
James Hume Centre Banbridge 07/09/1998 1 184 98
Greg Jones Number 8 Banbridge 13/01/1996 1 196 103
Michael Lowry Outhalf Banbridge  20/08/1998 1 170 79
Adam McBurney Hooker Ballymena 05/09/1996 2 181 100
Zack McCall Hooker Ballynahinch 10/02/1995 2 180 100
John McCusker Second row Rainey OB 06/07/1998 1 198 110
Eric O’Sullivan Prop Banbridge 30/11/1995 1 188 118.5
Tom O’Toole Prop Banbridge 23/09/1998 1 187 113
Marcus Rea Back row Ballymena 08/09/1997 2 189 103
Jack Regan Second row Ballynahinch 09/05/1997 1 197 108
Jonny Stewart Scrumhalf Queen’s University 20/02/1998 2 178 78
Nick Timoney Back row Banbridge 01/08/1995 3 192 110