Sean O'Brien, Steven Kitshoff, and Santiago Cordero.
Who have the Irish provinces signed ahead of next season?
Connacht have been busy, Munster have added two centres, and Ulster secured a world-class prop.

IT’S THE BUSINESS end of the 2022/23 season and the Irish provinces’ focus for now is on ending their campaigns successfully, but planning for the future never stops.

The Irish sides have done most of their contracting and recruitment work for the 2023/24 campaign already, although there’s always scope for late arrivals, especially given that the World Cup will delay the start of the club season.

For now, here’s who the provinces have signed ahead of the summer.


With eight new signings announced for next season, the western province have been the busiest so far as they look towards the new era under head coach Pete Wilkins, who takes full control with Andy Friend departing.

The headline addition is 29-year-old wing/fullback Santiago Cordero, a 45-times-capped Argentina international who will join from Bordeaux. His footwork and pace look sure to make him a fan favourite.

With current wings Alex Wootton and Adam Byrne leaving this summer, along with out-half/fullback Conor Fitzgerald, there are a couple of other signings in the back three.

Ireland 7s international Andrew Smith, a classy finisher, is joining from Leinster and the versatile Liam McNamara has signed on after joining the Irish 7s set-up from Australia this season.

26-year-old McNamara previously played for Australia 7s but qualifies for Ireland through his father and has played right across the backline in 15s, even if he has predominantly been seen as a wing or fullback. 

joe-joyce-is-tackled-by-robert-du-preez Will Cooper / INPHO Bristol lock Joe Joyce is joining Connacht. Will Cooper / INPHO / INPHO

With Kieran Marmion heading for the exit, Connacht have added scrum-half depth by signing Michael McDonald on loan from Ulster for next season. The 23-year-old Louth man was previously with the Force and Waratahs in Australia after spending much of his youth there, but returned home last year and played for Emerging Ireland.

Up front, Connacht have been bolstered by the addition of experienced 29-year-old Bristol second row Joe Joyce, who played for the Ireland U20s back in 2014 and has since become a much-loved figure for his local club. His arrival coincides with lock Leva Fifta leaving Connacht.

There’s another signing from the Premiership in Kiwi back row Sean Jansen, a 23-year-old who qualifies for Ireland through his grandparents. He was plucked from relative obscurity in Otago rugby in his native New Zealand when Leicester Tigers signed him on a short-term deal in early 2022 then earned an extension for the current season. Jansen has gone on to play in the Champions Cup three times.

There’s a second back row signing in 22-year-old Seán O’Brien, who will join from the Leinster academy after playing for the eastern province three times at senior level. O’Brien was an Ireland U20 international in 2020 and had a loan spell in Major League Rugby in 2021. He and Jansen come in as back rows Ciaran Booth and Seán Masterson leave.

The other confirmed new signing is hooker Declan Moore on loan from Ulster. The 26-year-old New Zealand native is Irish-qualified and has also previously been with Munster, but barely featured there or for Ulster. He joins to add another option at hooker as Shane Delahunt departs.


Ulster have made a world-class signing in Steven Kitshoff, the 31-year-old Springboks loosehead prop who is arguably the best in his position in the game. Having won the last World Cup, beaten the Lions in the 2021 tour, and helped the Stormers to URC success last season, Kitshoff brings a convincing CV.

He’s the current Stormers captain, highlighting his leadership credentials, and will be a massive addition after this year’s World Cup with South Africa. While Ulster will see Rory Sutherland leave at the end of the current season, they’re getting a brilliant loosehead prop in.

dave-ewers-and-bernard-van-der-linde Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Ulster have signed Dave Ewers from Exeter. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

The other confirmed signing for Ulster is Exeter Chiefs back row Dave Ewers. The  Zimbabwe native is a big, powerful man and brings teak-tough aggression in contact, something that Ulster boss Dan McFarland has been looking to add to his squad. 

Ewers is 32 and has played well over 200 games for Exeter since joining them in 2010 but that experience is something Ulster were keen on. He essentially comes in as a replacement for the departing Duane Vermeulen, even if they are different back row players.  Ewers has previously been called up to a couple of England camps but never won a cap, so Ulster will look forward to having the durable back row available as often as possible.

With Ulster having confirmed the exits of nine current senior players, as well as Moore and McDonald on loan, it remains to be seen if there are any further additions, but McFarland was understood to be keen to trim his squad size down.


With Tonga international centre Malakai Fekitoa leaving after one season and Chris Farrell having been released to join Oyonnax during this campaign, as well as Dan Goggin departing, Munster were always going to need reinforcement in midfield.

Kiwi centre Alex Nankivell is a new signing and will join from the Chiefs in Super Rugby, where he has made a name for himself as an intelligent, skillful player. The 26-year-old has played for the Maori All Blacks and featured for the All Blacks XV, the second-string New Zealand international team, last autumn.

Munster have added a second new centre in Irishman Seán O’Brien, who will come on board after two seasons with Exeter in England. The 24-year-old Westmeath man was previously with Connacht and played for the Ireland U20s in 2018.

john-ryan Photosport / Chris Symes/INPHO John Ryan is moving back to Munster. Photosport / Chris Symes/INPHO / Chris Symes/INPHO

Another current Chiefs player will be with Munster next season, with the province having confirmed the re-re-signing of experienced tighthead prop John Ryan.

The 34-year-old initially left Munster last year but re-joined on a short-term deal after Wasps’ collapse, then took up an offer from the Chiefs in New Zealand, and will return to Munster on a new one-year deal next season. He’ll hope to come back with a Super Rugby Pacific title.


At this stage, Leinster haven’t announced any new signings from outside the province for next season.

It’s not unusual for their recruitment to be sparse, even if their record in the transfer market is strong.

Instead, Leinster’s primary focus is on homegrown players and they will once again promote from within as academy hooker John McKee, wing Rob Russell, and lock/flanker Alex Soroka move up onto senior contracts.

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