Bristol Bears and USA out-half AJ MacGinty. Billy Stickland/INPHO
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Jackman: Ulster should try to lure AJ MacGinty back to Ireland if Kitshoff returns to Stormers

‘You could actually build a team around him for a while,’ Bernard Jackman said of the Bristol and USA out-half.

WITH REPORTS IN South Africa that Springbok World Cup winner Steven Kitshoff may end his three-year contract early and return to the Stormers this summer, Bernard Jackman believes Ulster should reallocate part of the loosehead’s salary and attempt to recruit an out-half.

Ulster will bid farewell to Billy Burns this summer when the seven-cap Ireland international joins Munster, and his departure will leave the northern province with only scrum-half convert Nathan Doak, the still-inexperienced Jake Flannery, and emergency option Mike Lowry as their senior out-halves next season.

And Jackman believes Ulster need a more seasoned 10 — from whom Doak and Flannery especially can learn — if they are to progress next season.

Discussing Kitshoff’s reported exit on Monday’s Rugby Weekly Extra for The 42 subscribers, analyst Jackman proposed that Ulster use some of their freed-up budget to try to sign Irish-born USA rugby great AJ MacGinty, who is currently on the books at Bristol Bears.

“I think having a ready-to-go 10 is more important to Ulster over the next two years — while Doak develops into a 10 or while Flannery develops into a top-class 10 — than having a loosehead prop who’s still playing international rugby, where you have the injury risk and the fatigue risk,” Jackman said.

“I’d love to see AJ MacGinty come back to Irish rugby. He’s a foreign player, technically, but knows the Irish system well.

“If you get a Kiwi or an Aussie, there’s the whole, ‘How long will it take them to come to terms with northern-hemisphere rugby’, et cetera, et cetera. Whereas someone like AJ MacGinty, you could actually build a team around him for a while.

“He’s very smart on the field, very smart off the field, in terms of [match preparation] during the week,” Jackman added of the 34-year-old former Blackrock College student, who has captained the USA since 2021.

“He’s just someone I thought about the other day, when I thought about who Ulster could go after, he would be someone who’d be amazing for them I think.”

The length of MacGinty’s contract upon signing with Bristol ahead of last season was never disclosed, but it’s understood that he’s currently in the second year of a three-year deal.

And when pressed by host Gavan Casey, Jackman — who has been known to break a transfer story or two on the podcast — insisted that he had no information to suggest that Ulster were currently in discussions with the Bristol out-half.

“No rumour!” Jackman laughed. “Just my wishlist.

“I’d just be trying to think what 10s are available who could do that job of helping to develop, who aren’t selfish to the point that they don’t see the big picture — which potentially is to bring through two young 10s.

“He just came to mind,” Jackman said of MacGinty. “I’ve always rated him and he’s still probably one of the most highly rated 10s in England. He’s had a few injuries to be fair but someone like him might be worth a look.”

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