Munster's Keatley ponders Italian switch as Leicester close in on Taute

Johann van Graan’s squad is likely to see some change ahead of next season.

MUNSTER OUT-HALF Ian Keatley is weighing up a move to Italy next season after receiving a contract offer from Benetton Rugby.

The 31-year-old has been with Munster since 2011 and has made 180 appearances for the province but has found himself out of the selection picture under Johann van Graan this season.

Ian Keatley Keatley has made 180 appearances for Munster. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

With Joey Carbery having joined from Leinster this season and Tyler Bleyendaal, JJ Hanrahan and Bill Johnston also offering out-half options, Keatley has made just four appearances off the bench for Munster in the Guinness Pro14.

The seven-times capped Ireland international’s current contract expires this summer and he has been attracting interesting from clubs outside Ireland.

While Keatley was initially linked with London Irish, The42 understands he is now close to agreeing on a deal to join Benetton, who have made great progress under head coach Kieran Crowley and currently sit third in Conference B of the Pro14.

With Italy internationals Tommaso Allan and Ian McKinley likely to be missing at the start of next season due to the World Cup, Keatley would have an opportunity to establish himself in Benetton’s 10 shirt.

Van Graan and Munster have been working to finalise their senior squad ahead of next season, with scrum-half James Hart another player set to depart in the summer and will likely join a French club.

Meanwhile, South African centre Jaco Taute is set to join Premiership club Leicester Tigers on a two-year contract. 

The three-times capped Springbok initially joined Munster on a short-term deal in 2016 before impressing enough to earn an extension until the end of the 2016/17 season.

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Having been named in the Pro14 Dream Team for that campaign, Taute secured another two-year contract but has struggled to re-establish himself after being sidelined for seven months with a knee injury last season.

With the powerful midfielder’s deal also expiring at the end of the current campaign, he looks likely to be with Leicester next season.

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Murray Kinsella

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