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Rising stars are handed their chance in Academy

 

By Adam McKendry

Ulster have announced their Abbey Insurance Academy squad for the 2018-19 season, with 19 players included.

Six new players enter the Academy system, including highly rated back rowers Matthew Agnew and Azur Allison.

Agnew was part of the Ireland squad that went to France over the summer for the Under-20s World Cup, while Allison captained the Ireland Under-19s earlier this year against France and Japan.

Allison is one of three Ballymena Academy recruits, with fly-half Bruce Houston and centre Stewart Moore also earning places for next season.

Two-time Schools' Cup winner David McCann is also handed an Academy contract after impressing for RBAI, as is Wales-born back three man Iwan Hughes, who was picked up by the Irish Exiles program and joins from Bristol.

Two players who joined the Academy midway through last season have also been retained, with Graham Curtis and Ireland Sevens star Robert Baloucoune awarded second-year deals.

Curtis will be a recognisable name as the younger brother of fly-half Angus, who is in his third year in the Academy and made his senior debut at the back end of last season, with the younger sibling a highly-rated scrum-half from his time in South Africa.

Ulster have also announced that Rory Butler, Peter Cooper, Alexander Clarke and John McCusker have all left the Academy to pursue other options.

Meanwhile, three Academy players have been promoted to the senior squad after impressing last season.

Back row Greg Jones, hooker Adam McBurney and scrum-half Jonny Stewart have all been awarded senior deals, along with No.8 Nick Timoney whose promotion to a senior contract was announced in February.

"It's always an exciting time of the year when we welcome in the new crop of young Academy players and, once again, we are delighted with the level of quality coming in," said Kieran Campbell, the head of Ulster's Academy.

2018-19 ULSTER RUGBY ACADEMY

Year Three: Angus Curtis (fly-half/Malone), Aaron Hall (back row/Ballynahinch), Zack McCall (hooker/Ballynahinch), Marcus Rea (back row/Ballymena)

Year Two: Robert Baloucoune (back three/Ballymena), Graham Curtis (scrum-half/Malone), Matthew Dalton (lock/Malone), Joe Dunleavy (back row/Malone), James Hume (centre/Banbridge), Michael Lowry (fly-half/Banbridge), Eric O'Sullivan (prop/Banbridge), Tom O'Toole (prop/Ballynahinch), Jack Regan (lock/Ballynahinch)

Year One: Matthew Agnew (back row/Malone), Azur Allison (back row/Ballymena), Bruce Houston (fly-half/Ballymena), Iwan Hughes (back three/Ballynahinch), David McCann (back row/Banbridge), Stewart Moore (centre/Malone)

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