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IRFU confirm Jack McGrath will join Ulster from Leinster next season

The 29-year-old has struggled for form and fitness this season with his native province.

THE IRFU HAS confirmed that Ireland and Lions loosehead prop Jack McGrath will join Ulster from Leinster from the start of next season.

Jack McGrath with Aaron Smith McGrath in action against the All Blacks in November. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The 29-year-old has struggled for form and fitness with his native province this season and was left out of the matchday squad for last weekend’s Champions Cup quarter-final win over Ulster, with Ed Byrne preferred as back-up to Cian Healy.

However, the signing of McGrath is a major coup for Ulster, who will welcome an experienced front row with 54 Ireland caps and three Lions Test caps to Belfast next season.

McGrath has featured prominently for Ireland under Joe Schmidt for most of the head coach’s time in charge, although Munster’s Dave Kilcoyne moved ahead of him in the pecking order during the recent Six Nations campaign.

McGrath is on a central IRFU contract and, when the loosehead expressed his interest in shifting to Ulster, the union helped to engineer his deal to move north this summer.

Three-times Six Nations champion McGrath will be hopeful that his switch to Ulster can reignite his career and help him return to his best form.

Before that, McGrath will strive to finish out his final season with his native Leinster strongly, convincing Schmidt of his qualities ahead of Ireland’s World Cup squad selection.

“This was a difficult decision but one I believe will put me in the best position to continue to perform at the top end of the game,” said McGrath.

“I have enjoyed a huge amount of success at Leinster but I feel that looking beyond the World Cup to the next phase of my career I will benefit from the opportunity within the Ulster environment.

“I am now fully fit after a disrupted start to the season and am looking forward to putting all my energy into helping Leinster’s drive to defend the European and Pro14 titles and finishing this season on a high.”  

IRFU performance director David Nucifora added:

“Jack has made a very tough decision which he believes will advance his case for selection for Ireland.  You have to respect a player with such ambition.

“Leinster is a fantastic environment but it is testament to the work that all four provinces are doing that players are seeking opportunities within Ireland to advance their international careers.”

Meanwhile, Ulster head coach Dan McFarland welcomed the new signing.

“We are delighted to be welcoming Jack on board next season, and it is hugely encouraging to see a player of his calibre express the desire to join us,” said McFarland.

“Jack’s quality on the field is undoubtable, and his experience of playing at the highest level will be a hugely valuable asset to the club as we continue to develop a promising group of young forwards.”

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Murray Kinsella

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