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Former Ireland U20 out-half McPhillips signs deal to stay with Leicester

The 23-year-old playmaker joined the Premiership club from Ulster last year.

FORMER IRELAND U20 out-half Johnny McPhillips has signed a new contract to stay with Leicester.

The 23-year-old moved to the Premiership club last summer from Ulster and made five appearances over the course of the 2019/20 campaign, while also spending time on loan to Nottingham and Doncaster in the second-tier Championship.

johnny-mcphillips-kicks-a-conversion McPhillips moved to Leicester last year. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

McPhillips has done enough to earn a new deal to remain with Leicester into next season, continuing to work under former Ireland fullback Geordan Murphy, who will move from head coach to director of rugby this summer.

Newcastle native McPhillips played for England at U18 level but remained Ireland-qualified thanks to his Irish-born parents and joined the Ulster academy in 2016.

The out-half shone for the Ireland U20s that year, helping Nigel Carolan’s side to the final of the World Rugby U20 Championship. 

The Newcastle native returned to the Ireland U20s set-up in 2017 but had his campaign cut short through injury.

McPhillips showed his promise at senior level with Ulster in the 2018/19 campaign, making 11 appearances, including four starts, before opting for a move back to England with Leicester last summer.

The former Queen’s University and Ballynahinch man, who can also play at fullback, has now secured a new deal with the Tigers ahead of next season.

“Johnny hit the ground running last summer and has been a great addition to our environment, on and off the pitch,” said director of rugby Murphy.

“He has had limited opportunities in the senior side, but each time he has been called upon he has been impressive.

johnny-mcphillips McPhillips helped the U20s to a World Cup final in 2016. Source: Camerasport/Dave Howarth/INPHO

“His appearances in the Shield and on loan in the Championship have helped him to develop his game alongside his eagerness to progress and willingness to learn and improve.”

England out-half George Ford is the first-choice 10 at Leicester, while promising youngster Tom Hardwick is also part of the squad, but McPhillips will hope to push for more exposure when rugby returns.

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“It might not have gone the way I might have planned, but it was really rewarding getting those opportunities before the break,” said McPhillips of his first season in Leicester.

“It’s spurred me on to put down a marker when we get back and develop my game further under Geordie, Steve Borthwick and the coaching staff.

“There is talent coming in and already there in my position, which provides a competitive pool and environment to better myself as a player and is better for the club.

“It’s a really exciting time to be here at Tigers. The foundations are getting put in place this season and, with the young guys coming through to blend with the older lads, it’s an exciting time and the club is heading in the right direction.

“Those additions in the playing squad and with Steve coming in, it’s exciting to see what we are capable of with the quality at the club.”

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Murray Kinsella

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