Munster sign 'exciting young playmaker' Mike Haley to replace Simon Zebo

Munster have announced the signing of full-back Mike Haley from Sale Sharks, writes Stephen Barry.

Haley, who has been signed to replace the departing Simon Zebo, joins on a three-year contract, beginning next season.

The Preston-native is Irish-qualified through his maternal grandmother, who hails from Tralee, Co Kerry.

“We are delighted to recruit an exciting young playmaker such as Mike," said head coach Johann van Graan.

"Although only 23, he has over six years of professional rugby under his belt and will be a great addition to our squad.”

He has played twice for the England Saxons against South Africa A in June 2016 but remains eligible for Ireland through a loophole. That's because the Springbok U20s were registered as the nation's designated second team in a change made two months earlier, meaning those games didn't tie Haley to England's RFU.

Last year, he also played for an England XV against the Barbarians in a non-cap international.

"Obviously it was a very, very difficult decision," Haley said. "I've spent many happy years at Sale but after lots of careful thought I just felt that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity I had to take.

"I have a strong family connections with Munster and used to go there all the time when I was younger and being eligible to play for Ireland was another big factor.

"But I will be giving absolutely everything for Sale between now and the end of the season."

Haley has scored 15 tries in 105 appearances for the Sharks across six seasons, including a European debut against Munster in October 2014.

He follows in the footsteps of Ireland flanker Ciaran Parker, who joined Munster from Sale last year.

Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond said: "It has been a really difficult decision to let Mike go with us having brought him through from being a teenager and with Mike having a year left on his contract with the club.

"However, he has aspirations to play international rugby with Ireland and we really didn't want to stand in his way."

By Stephen Barry

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