Flying back three sensation Aaron Sexton will make the full-time switch from athletics to rugby, having recently broken the Irish Schools records for both the 100 and 200 metres.
Sexton is already a familiar name in rugby circles, as he was Ulster A’s top try scorer in last year’s Celtic Cup, touching down seven times in six games.
The Bangor Grammar School pupil also featured in Ulster’s pre-season friendly versus Gloucester and was the 2017 Ulster Schools’ player of the year. Six-foot one-inch Sexton, who turns 19 in August, checks in at 88kgs.
Another exciting back three prospect, Conor Rankin, will join the academy from Campbell College, where he was a pivotal figure in the side that won the 2018 Ulster Schools’ Cup.
Tom Stewart, recently honoured as Ulster Schools’ player of the year, is another player joining the academy following a stellar schools career where the Belfast Royal Academy hooker captained Ulster at under-18 level.
Aaron Sexton is 1 of 5 players to be joining the Academy ahead of the 19/20 season ???
— Ulster Rugby (@UlsterRugby) June 20, 2019
Highly rated Irish-qualified centre Hayden Hyde will make the move from English Premiership side Harlequins to Ulster, following in the footsteps of Kieran Treadwell and Sam Arnold. Hyde has already represented Ireland at under-18 and under-19 level.
Following a year in the sub-academy and a season’s experience in the All-Ireland League with Banbridge, prop Callum Reid has been awarded a full time place in the academy. Reid represented Ulster A in the Celtic Cup last year and was part of the Ireland under-20 Six Nations Grand Slam winning team.
After an outstanding season last year which saw Ulster academy players contribute no less than 111 appearances across the Guinness PRO14 and Heineken Champions Cup, nine players who started the year in the academy have gone on to earn upgraded contracts – Robert Baloucoune, Angus Curtis, James Hume, Angus Kernohan, Michael Lowry, Zack McCall, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole and Marcus Rea.
Ulster academy manager Kieran Campbell said: “Last year was a really successful season in terms of the contribution academy players made at senior level, which is ultimately what we are here to do – develop players of the requisite quality to represent Ulster and Ireland.
“We still believe there is significant opportunity to grow again this year and we are excited about the new batch of players joining our programme.
“Each year we are driving increased standards so I congratulate those who have been awarded a place in the academy and look forward to seeing how they develop into the future.”
WATCH: Episode one of The Academy, the six-part RugbyPass documentary series on how Leicester Tigers develop their young players
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