Ulster promote four Academy players to senior squad for new season
Ulster have promoted four more players from their Academy to their senior squad, taking the number of Academy graduates this season to nine.
Hooker Zack McCall, flanker Marcus Rea and wingers Robert Baloucoune and Angus Kernohan have all been promoted to the senior set-up.
They join props Eric O'Sullivan and Tom O'Toole, fly-half Michael Lowry and centres Angus Curtis and James Hume in making the step up to their first senior deals this season.
This latest group of promotions is continued proof of the excellent work being done by Kieran Campbell and Willie Anderson, with no fewer than 11 Academy players named in senior squads this season.
Baloucoune in particular was hugely influential for Ulster in the second half of the season, coming into an injury-ravaged back line and playing a major role.
The winger scored a key try against Leicester Tigers to help Ulster qualify for the Champions Cup knockouts, and he also started against Leinster in the quarter-final.
A former Ireland Sevens stand-out, the Enniskillen man made 13 appearances for the province this season, showing a finisher's touch by scoring six tries.
It has been a rapid rise for Kernohan, meanwhile, who entered the season without an Academy deal and now finds himself in the senior squad for next season.
The winger was fast-tracked into the Academy after impressing during the early part of the campaign and settled into a squad role throughout the season.
The 20-year-old, who was also part of Ireland's Under-20 Grand Slam winning team, made 18 appearances throughout the season, scoring twice.
Fans will be very excited about the potential of 21-year-old Rea, who made a brilliant cameo in the final game of the season against Leinster and will join brother Matty in the senior squad.
Having captained Ulster A on multiple occasions this season, the younger of the Rea brothers was Man of the Match against Leinster, scoring a try in his only senior appearances thus far.
The final graduate, McCall, is the oldest of the quartet at 24-years-old, and has yet to make a senior appearance for his province.
However, consistent displays for Ballynahinch in their All-Ireland League Division 1B winning campaign and some strong performances for Ulster A have earned him a senior deal.
The Lisburn man joins brother Kyle in the senior squad and he will be keen to make an impact during the World Cup at the start of the season.
Belfast Telegraph Digital