Connacht Rugby and the IRFU have announced that Academy players Sean O’Brien and Peter Robb have both been rewarded with senior contracts with the province for next season.
Both players made their senior debuts in the European Challenge Cup clash in Siberia in November and were subsequently given game-time in the GUINNESS PRO12.
Commenting on the new contracts, Connacht Rugby CEO Willie Ruane said: “It is really exciting for us to have two more young players coming through from the Academy into the senior squad. Sean and Peter join Rory Parata, Shane Delahunt and James Connolly who have already been announced as graduates for next season, and so we are very pleased with the talent stream coming through.
“So many people have been impressed with the performances of our young Academy players in the senior team this season and we believe that players like Sean and Peter have the potential to push hard for both Connacht and Ireland recognition in the future.”
Connacht head coach Pat Lam added: “So far this season, 45 players have played for us and a good few of them have been young Academy players like Sean and Peter who have made their step up to the senior team for the first time.
“They have trained well with us and grabbed the opportunity with both hands when it came. Playing your first game for Connacht in -27 degrees in Siberia was always going to be testing but like all the Academy players training with us they were well integrated in the team and felt comfortable in the systems.
“They both have a lot of potential as young Irish players and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to continue working with them again next season.”
After three years in the Connacht Academy under Nigel Carolan, Galway-born Sean O’Brien will make the official step up to the senior squad next season. The 21-year-old, who can play across the second row and back row, has been recognised for his leadership skills from a young age.
Having captained Cistercian College Roscrea who were narrowly beaten by eventual winners Blackrock College in the semi-final of the 2013 Leinster Schools Senior Cup, O’Brien went on to captain the Ireland Under-19s as well as the Under-20 side in the 2014 Six Nations before he was unfortunately ruled out of the Under-20 World Championship due to an ankle injury.
The Galwegians clubman has also captained the Connacht Eagles this season. He made his senior debut in November, coming on from the bench in the Challenge Cup win over Enisei-STM in Siberia. That same month, he made an appearance in the PRO12 victory over Munster at Thomond Park.
He has played in a total of seven games this season, including two starts at blindside flanker in the back-to-back European games with Newcastle Falcons.
21-year-old centre Peter Robb is in his second year of the Connacht Academy and made his debut in the Challenge Cup clash away to Enisei-STM when he started in midfield with Bundee Aki. The former Blackrock College schoolboy went on to earn his first PRO12 cap away to Cardiff Blues in December before starting both games against Newcastle Falcons that same month.
Robb started all five games for the Ireland Under-20s in the 2014 Six Nations campaign and was set to continue his form in the Junior World Championship in New Zealand but had his season cut short when he sustained an injury in a JWC warm-up game against Scotland U-20s.