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Aaron Sexton one of five new names as Ulster confirm Academy panel for next season

Special talent: Aaron Sexton in action for Ireland U18s
Special talent: Aaron Sexton in action for Ireland U18s

Ulster's speedy back Aaron Sexton will make the switch to full-time rugby next season as his move from athletics has been confirmed.

The former Bangor Grammar player has been named as one of five new recruits into the Ulster Academy for the 19/20 season in an announcement that also confirmed the province's capture of Harlequins centre Hayden Hyde.

Sexton broke Ulster and Irish Schools records in both the 100m and 200m sprint races this summer but now he will put his full focus on forging out a full-time rugby career. He is no stranger to fans, who got a first view in Ulster's friendly against Gloucester last summer and have been eagerly anticipating his break into the senior set-up.

Sexton is not about pace as he was Ulster A’s top try scorer in last year’s Celtic Cup, touching down seven times in six games. He was also crowned 2017 Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Player of the Year.

Another exciting back three prospect, Conor Rankin, will join the Academy from Campbell College, where he was a pivotal figure in the side that won the 2018 Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup.

Recently awarded Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Player of the Year, Tom Stewart is another player joining the Academy following a stellar schools career where the Belfast Royal Academy hooker captained Ulster at U18 level.

Highly rated Irish qualified centre Hayden Hyde will make the move from English Premiership side Harlequins to Ulster, following in the footsteps of Kieran Treadwell and Sam Arnold. Hyde has already represented Ireland at U18 and U19 level. England had looked to mount a challenge when Hyde was called into an U18 training panel in February but Ulster's announcement confirms that he has instead opted to remain with Ireland.

Following a year in the sub-Academy and a season’s experience in the All Ireland League with Banbridge RFC, prop Callum Reid has been awarded a full time place in the Academy.

Reid represented Ulster A in the Celtic Cup last year and was part of the Ireland U20 Six Nations Grand Slam winning team.

After an outstanding season last year which saw Ulster Academy players contribute no less than 111 appearances across the Guinness PRO14 and Heineken Champions Cup, nine players who started the year in the Academy have gone on to earn upgraded contracts; Robert Baloucoune, Angus Curtis, James Hume, Angus Kernohan, Michael Lowry, Zack McCall, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole and Marcus Rea.

“Last year was a really successful season in terms of the contribution Academy players made at senior level, which is ultimately what we are here to do – develop players of the requisite quality to represent Ulster and Ireland," said Academy Manager Kieran Campbell.

“We still believe there is significant opportunity to grow again this year and we are excited about the new batch of players joining our programme. Each year we are driving increased standards so I congratulate those who have been awarded a place in the Academy and look forward to seeing how they develop into the future.”

ABBEY INSURANCE ULSTER RUGBY ACADEMY 2019/20

Year 4

Aaron Hall

Position: Back Row

DOB: 26/06/1998

Height: 193cm

Weight: 98kg

Year 3

Graham Curtis

Position: Scrum Half

DOB: 12/09/1999

Height: 176cm

Weight: 84kg

Matthew Dalton

Position: 2nd Row

DOB: 16/11/1998

Height: 197cm

Weight: 105kg

Joe Dunleavy

Position: Flanker

DOB: 22/12/1998

Height: 190cm

Weight: 101kg

Jack Regan

Position: 2nd Row

DOB: 09/05/1997

Height: 197cm

Weight: 108kg

Year 2

Matthew Agnew

Position: Back Row

DOB: 20/11/1998

Height: 180cm

Weight: 89kg

Azur Allison

Position: Back Row

DOB: 19/04/1999

Height: 192cm

Weight: 95kg

Bruce Houston

Position: Fly Half

DOB: 16/08/1999

Height: 192cm

Weight: 84kg

Iwan Hughes

Position: Back Three

DOB: 06/04/1999

Height: 174cm

Weight: 79kg

David McCann

Position: Back Row

DOB: 13/06/2000

Height: 191cm

Weight: 103kg

Stewart Moore

Position: Centre

DOB: 08/08/1999

Height: 183cm

Weight: 91kg

Year 1

Hayden Hyde

Position: Centre

DOB: 15/09/2000

Conor Rankin

Position: Back Three

DOB: 27/05/2001

Height: 186cm

Weight: 83kg

Callum Reid

Position: Prop

DOB: 06/01/1999

Height: 183cm

Weight: 111kg

Aaron Sexton

Position: Back Three

DOB: 24/08/2000

Height: 188cm

Weight: 88kg

Tom Stewart

Position: Hooker

DOB: 11/01/2001

Height: 182cm

Weight: 97kg

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