FORMER IRELAND U20 tighthead prop Ben Betts will spend the summer on loan with Sydney University in Australia, but will return to Leicester Tigers next season.
The 20-year-old front row from Ballyhahill in Co. Limerick impressed for Ireland at last year’s Junior World Championship, helping Nigel Carolan’s side into the final as they beat New Zealand for the first time ever along the way.
While Betts was part of Munster’s sub-academy at the time, having come through the ranks at Estuary RFC and then Young Munster RFC, he did not graduate into the province’s full academy.
Instead, Betts took up an offer to join English Premiership side Leicester Tigers, for whom he has made two replacement appearances in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, while also featuring in the Aviva ‘A’ League with the club’s development side.
With Betts keen to continue his rugby development over the coming summer months, he has jetted down to Australia to link up with Sydney University.
Sydney Uni’s first grade team play in the Shute Shield – Sydney’s premier rugby competition – against the likes of Randwick, Manly, Warringah, Parramatta and Gordon. The regular season runs until 5 August and the grand final is set for 26 August.
Betts made his first grade debut earlier this month in a clash against Manly, while he will start at tighthead for Sydney Uni’s second grade team in tomorrow’s meeting with Gordon.
Betts will move back to Leicester ahead of next season, however, with a Tigers spokesperson confirming that the tighthead will return after his summer in Australia.
It’s understood that Munster made contact with Betts about a possible shift home to his native province next season, but a concrete offer was not extended his way in the end.
Former Leinster head coach Matt O’Connor has recently taken over as Leicester boss and Betts will be hopeful that he can push into first-team reckoning under the Australian, who was co-interim head coach of the Reds in Super Rugby last season.
The promise shown by Betts at last year’s Junior World Championship, when he started wins over New Zealand and Argentina, as well as the final defeat to England, mean his progress will be keenly followed by many Irish rugby supporters.
– This article was updated at 11.50pm on 28 April to note that Ben Betts is from Ballyhahill, and not Shanagolden, as originally stated.