Dave Ryan couldn't turn down call from Ulster
Former Munster prop Dave Ryan will be joining Ulster when the current season ends.
The province's latest recruit – a native of Cork and a graduate of Munster's Academy – is a tight-head who has been signed with a view to plugging the sizeable gap vacated by John Afoa when he moves on to join Aviva Premiership club Gloucester.
With loose-head Tom Court also enlisting for an Aviva Premiership club – in his case London Irish – Ulster had already secured the services of another exiled Irish prop, namely ex-Leinster Academy player Ruaidhri Murphy, who is on his way to Ravenhill from Australian side Brumbies on a two-year deal.
Murphy, now 26, was a member of the Ireland under-20 team that won the Grand Slam in 2007.
Ryan, who turns 28 in a few weeks, is joining from PRO12 Italian franchise Zebre. Like Ryan, he has been given a two-year contract.
Munster pride themselves on the quality of the tight-heads they have produced over the years, with men like Gerry 'Ginger' McLoughlin, Peter 'The Claw' Clohessy – albeit that he could play one as well as three – and John 'Bull' Hayes having earned themselves the status of legends as a result of their strength and reliability on the right-hand side of the scrum's front row.
While Ryan has not reached those heights, he did clock up 10 appearances as a Munster senior between 2009 and 2011 before venturing forth to try his luck in Italy in the spring of 2011, by which stage the then-25-year-old knew that with BJ Botha on his way from Ravenhill, his prospects of match-day appearances were not great.
Having first joined Lazio Roma, Ryan switched to the then-new Zebre franchise which entered the PRO12 in 2012-13. In almost two seasons with the Parma-based outfit, he has played in half-a-dozen Heineken Cup matches as well as making 20 PRO12 appearances.
Standing 6ft 1in (1.86m) and weighing 17st 13lb (114kg), he is an inch taller but almost two stones (12kg) lighter than Afoa.
Explaining his decision to move on, Ryan said: "While a part of me is sad to leave, the opportunity to join a team with the quality and character of Ulster was too great to pass up.
"I'm excited to start a new chapter in my career with a team I have always admired for their work ethic, style of play and physicality.
"I look forward to working hard and being part of a team and organisation who compete at the highest level of European rugby."
Humphreys, Ulster's Director of Rugby, said: "Dave is an experienced Irish prop with solid experience in both the PRO12 and Europe.
"He adds further squad strength to the key position of tighthead prop and I have no doubt that he will be a huge success at Ravenhill."