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Who is Bill Johnston? All you need to know about Ulster Rugby's newest signing from injury history to musical interests

Munster's Bill Johnston will join Ulster Rugby this summer.
Munster's Bill Johnston will join Ulster Rugby this summer.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Ulster Rugby have rubber-stamped the signing of highly-rated Munster fly-half Bill Johnston.

So just who is he?

Here's the low-down on the fifth player to put pen to paper at Kingspan Stadium for next season (after Jack McGrath, Sam Carter, Gareth Milasinovich and Matt Faddes):

All you need to know about Ulster's newest signing Bill Johnston

Age: 22

Height: 1.80m (or 5'9" if you prefer)

Weight: 85.91 kg (or 13 stone 7 if you prefer)

Born: Clonmel, County Tipperary (whether or not he likes Clonmel beer is unconfirmed). Bonus point: It's also the home town of former Ireland lock Dave Foley.

Playing history: It was in Clonmel that his love of the sport began, joining Clonmel RFC minis aged six. School rugby followed at Rockwell College, where he won the Munster Senior Cup title in 2015. He scored 11 points in the final as his side beat Ardscoil Ris 23-13. And then it was on to Munster RFC...

What has his Munster career been like? He was originally named in the sub-Academy for the 15/16 season but, after playing in all three pre-season games for the senior team and helping the U20s to interprovincial succes, he was added to the full Academy in November. It proved a good month as he also made his Munster A debut. He then had to wait 16 months for his first competitive senior outing, which arrived at Zebre in March 2017. Since then, he has played 12 senior games, scoring 29 points. 

International experience: He captained Ireland U18 Schools during the Rugby Europe U18 Championship and went on to become an Under-20s team-mate of current Ulster quad Jacob Stockdale, Adam McBurney, Greg Jones and Johnny McPhillips. The latter replaced the injured Johnston during the famous win over New Zealand at the 2016 Junior World Championships and held onto the ten jersey through the rest of the side's run to that year's final.

Has he had many injury worries? A few, but he's hoping they're a thing of the past. First came a shoulder issue in December 2015 and he went on to dislocate his shoulder during that 2016 victory over New Zealand, costing him his place in the remainder of those Junior World Championships. The following season also had its issues, a fractured fibula sustained in the British and Irish Cup semi-final win costing Johnston a place in the final and that year's Junior World Championships. "I had a few injuries early on but I've had a clean bill of health for nearly two seasons now," he told the Cork-based Irish Examiner earlier this season.

Is that why he hasn't had more than 12 games for Munster? Well, that and the signing of Joey Carbery last summer certainly didn't help. JJ Hanrahan had returned from Northampton a year earlier and then there's the fit-again Tyler Blyendaal. Combine those three and it doesn't leave much room for manoevre.

What has he said about the move to Ulster? “I’m an ambitious player and this is a great opportunity for me to test myself in an exciting new environment and develop my game under Dan (McFarland) and the other coaches. Ulster has a talented young squad that is hungry for success and it’s an organisation that’s clearly moving in the right direction. That’s something I really want to be part of and I can’t wait to make the move to Belfast and get stuck into pre-season training.”

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Fun fact: Bill Johnston has a well manicured beard.

And I presume Dan is optimistic it's going to work out? Yep. He said: “Bill is a very exciting young prospect who, for a number of reasons, has had limited playing opportunities over the past couple of years. He obviously feels now is the right time for a new challenge in his career and he will bring enthusiasm and unquestionable talent to our squad. We’re confident that he’ll be a really good addition.”

Did he go to university? Johnston studied International Business at the University of Limerick.

What other sports does he like? He plays golf and is a big fan of American sports, following the NBA and NFL (that's basketball and American football for those of you not au fait with the strange games across the pond).

He played with his brother at Munster? Yes, he did. Dave is three years Bill's senior and departed Munster last season to join English Championship side Ealing Trailfinders.

And finally, why might he become the new dressing room DJ? "I have a keyboard that has pads on it, basically for producing music electronically. I played a lot when I was younger, and I like messing around with it at home making beats and different songs." We demand to hear some of these creations.

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