Sunday 22 April 2018

CJ Stander eyes Jamie Heaslip's shirt after pledging his future to Ireland

Stander has committed himself to Ireland on a two-year deal.
Stander has committed himself to Ireland on a two-year deal.

David Kelly​

Munster's outstanding back-row CJ Stander has silenced a series of overseas transfer whispers and committed himself to Ireland on a two-year deal.

"I'm very happy to announce I will be committing my future to Munster Rugby and I am looking forward to continuing the journey," declared Stander.

"This is very much home for me and it is a huge honour to represent the red jersey every week."

That "journey" is likely to take him for the first time into a green jersey and a planned Ireland camp - slated for January 5 - when Joe Schmidt's side ramp up their preparations for a hat-trick of Six Nations titles.

Now the 25-year-old, one of Irish rugby's controversial 'project players' after leaving South Africa to join Munster in 2012, will be targeting his Leinster counterpart Jamie Heaslip's virtually uninterrupted seven-year status as a first-choice this spring.

Stander has already captained the province this season; Conor Murray, indeed, has audaciously compared Stander to retired Irish captain Paul O'Connell.

"Getting this news at this stage of the seasons is a great boost for the squad," said Munster coach Foley, a message directed to not alone Stander but also the still uncommitted trio of Keith Earls, Conor Murray and Simon Zebo.

"In securing the services of CJ, we are holding on to a key player within our group, one that gives everything to the jersey each week."

Ulster hooker Rob Herring, also 25, joined Stander in committing his future to Ireland by penning a similar two-year deal. He qualified for Ireland on residency grounds last year, debuting against Argentina in summer 2014.

"He's still relatively young for a front-row player and will develop even more, but to have 79 caps for Ulster at the age of 25 is testament to his quality," said Ulster coach Les Kiss.

Irish Independent

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