Leicester Tigers have swooped to secure the services of Ben Betts after the Ireland Under-20 prop was discarded by Munster.
The West Limerick man, who spent nine years in the Munster set up, made his debut for Ireland Under-20s in this year’s Six Nations and played a key role in their run to the final of the Junior World Championship against England.
But the teenage tighthead was surprisingly still deemed surplus to requirements by his province, allowing Leicester the opportunity to lure him to Welford Road.
“It’s an unbelievable opportunity to go to a club like Leicester,” he said.
“Obviously it’s very disappointing not to be staying with Munster because I’d have dreamed of that for a long time.
“But if I was told a couple of years ago that I’d be going to play with Leicester by the time I was 18, I’d have taken it.
“It’s a great opportunity and I’ll get the chance to train with their seniors and learn from Dan Cole, who has played with England and the Lions.”
The Tigers, who finished fourth in the Aviva Premiership last season, have a wealth of other big-name props in their first-team squad in addition to Cole, notably Argentinean legend Marcos Ayerza, Springbok Pat Cilliers and Italian veteran Michele Rizzo.
Leicester’s Director of Rugby, Richard Cockerill, was of course also a world-class front-rower in his playing days and is delighted that Betts has opted to link up with the East Midlands club which has proved a popular destination for Irish players over the years.
“Ben came through a strong system at Munster and played in the World Under-20s this year,” he said.
“We think he is a player with big development opportunities in him and we welcome him into the Tigers Family.
“Traditionally we have seen Irish players come here and do very well, including the likes of Geordan Murphy, Johne Murphy, Leo Cullen, Shane Jennings, Frank Murphy and Niall Morris who all served the club very well.”
Cockerill’s men are widely expected to be among the front runners in the Premiership again next term and given the high attrition rate that afflicts forwards in the modern game, Betts may well be handed the opportunity to prove himself at senior level in the coming months.
The 18-year-old could also feature in the club’s upcoming pre-season friendlies which will see them take on the Ospreys, Benetton Treviso and Nottingham.