Munster snap up top Welsh prospect James McCarthy
What is it with James McCarthys and Ireland?
There was quite a furore about James McCarthy sticking to his guns and making his senior Ireland debut back in 2010. Then a member of the Wigan squad, the Glasgow-born midfielder had played underage football for Ireland from Under 17 up but many Scottish fans had hoped he would have a last-minute change of heart.
The newest James McCarthy on the scene was born and raised in Newport but he already looks to be lost to Welsh rugby.
The pacy winger got his rugby education at Caerleon Comprehensive and Newport High School Old Boys before getting capped by Newport Gwent Dragons U18s and Wales U18s.
McCarthy, who can also play fullback, scored a try for Wales against England earlier this year and had been included in Geraint Lewis' squad to tour South Africa but he withdrew before they flew out. The reason, according to Wales Online, is because Munster had come calling.
Former Wales prop Rhys Thomas, who coaches at Newport HSOB, told them:
"James came through the age-grade system in Wales and was approached by the Irish following their game with Wales.
"They asked him about linking up with a province in Ireland. He’s a clever kid and wanted to go to university. Munster met up with him and thrashed out a deal for him to join them and attend university in Ireland."
Munster have reportedly offered to sort the teenager's accommodation too. Given that Munster's Greencore Academy is based at the province's University of Limerick headquarters, McCarthy will most likely take up a course there.
McCarthy has already enjoyed trophy-winning success with Ireland. At the weekend, he played with the U18 Sevens squad that won the European Championship, beating Wales along the way.
Thomas has tipped McCarthy - 'extremely fast and very good feet' - to make the senior level and Test breakthrough in the coming years and says Dragons could not compete with the package Munster put on the table.
Munster are currently seeing the fruits of their wide-spread recruitment drive, with English-born Alex Wootton in flying form for the province in the Guinness PRO14. He was snapped up from Northampton Saints in 2013.
Kieran Marmion could have represented England or Wales but was snapped up by Connacht after playing for the Ireland Exiles team at underage level.
It will be a couple of years yet before McCarthy's name should come back on the radar but he is definitely one to keep track of.
Episode 29 of The Hard Yards rugby podcast features Ronan O'Gara, Mike McCarthy, James Downey and Ulster winger Jacob Stockdale.
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