Rugby: Munster Bolster Squad with New Centre Duo

Peter CollinsContributor IFebruary 21, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 06:  Casey Laulala of Cardiff Blues is tackled by Gonzalo Camacho of Harlequins during the LV Anglo Welsh Cup match between Harlequins and Cardiff Blues at The Stoop on February 6, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

With in the course of two weeks, Munster have secured the signings of Northampton Saints centre James Downey, on a two-year deal, and Cardiff Blues centre and New Zealand international Casey Laulala on a two-and-a-half year contract. Both players will begin the duties for their new team at the beginning of next season.

This will be Downey's second spell at the Irish province, as he spent a year with them in the 2006-2007 season before leaving to join the ranks of Calvisano in the Italian Super 10. He only managed a year in Italy before English giant Northampton Saints secured his services at the start of the 2007/08 season. He then went on to play 130-plus games for the Saints, scoring a total of 12 tries.

After Munster announced they had signed Downey, head coach Tony Mcgahan released a statement saying: "James is a quality player and he has been on our radar for some time now."

Downey has also had short stints at both Connacht and the club where his career kick started, Leinster. Ultster is the only Irish province the Dubliner has yet to play for.

Mcgahan further added: "We've seen at first hand exactly what he has to offer and believe that his style and attitude can only enhance our squad."

Casey Laulala joined the Blues in 2009 from the Super 14 side Canterbury Crusaders and has racked up 14 tries in 58 games for the Welsh side. The Samoan-born centre has also played international rugby for the All Blacks on two separate occasions against Ireland and Wales. His Southern hemisphere style of rugby will make the Munster back line much more diverse, faster and definitely more potent in attack.

On the day he signed for the Irish side, he stated: "Munster are a successful team and I am looking forward to joining them and experiencing life in Ireland."

He then showed loyalty to his current employers, Cardiff, by saying: "However, there is still a lot of rugby to be played this season and I am fully focused on doing well for the blues."

These new signings will enhance Munster's strength in depth in the centre next season, as they join the ranks of Danny Barnes, Keith Earls, Lifeimi Mafi, Johne Murphy and Felix Jones.