A host of players are set to leave Connacht Rugby, following Robin Copeland's announced departure to France this week.
The No 8 had been expected to retire at the end of the season, but was offered a chance to move to French ProD2 side Angouleme.
However, along with openside Colby Fainga'a's move to France and the expected departure of fellow backrow player Eoin McKeon, Connacht will be looking to add some strength, particularly at No 8, when the new season begins.
The four new young players from Munster and Leinster who are moving west to the Galway Sportsground will fill some of the void.
Munster's Sammy Arnold (centre ), Conor Oliver (backrow ), and Leinster's Jack Aungier (prop ), and Oisin Dowling (lock ) have all featured for Ireland at U20 level.
While Arnold, Aungier and Dowling have agreed two year deals, Oliver, a backrow player who has featured for Munster 28 times, is on a one-year contract.
All four talented players are expected to get game time in Connacht, particularly with the departure of some players in key positions. In addition to those already announced, two overseas players Kyle Godwin and David Horwitz are expected to be leaving.
Horwitz struggled to make a mark in the west, having been signed as a outhalf rather than a centre, while many will miss the versatile Godwin, who has delivered in every position and occasion in which he has played.
No doubt his departure, like that of McKeon, would be a tough call for Connacht, but given the current economic climate, and with five midfielders already on the books - in addition to newcomer Arnold, who made his international debut against USA in 2018 - Godwin appears to be the player who could lose out.
It is believed some 11 players could be departing the Sportsground when the new squad is revealed, including lock Joe Maksymiw and possibly crowd favourite Niyi Adeolokun.
Investing in Ireland's youth is a policy heightened by Covid-19 and the lack of revenue available to the sport. Thus the young quartet of Arnold, Dowling, Aungier and Oliver will be able to get game time in the west, a policy advocated by coach Andy Friend.
Arnold (24 ) made 44 appearances for Munster since joining the province from Ulster in 2016, while also having been named both Ulster Academy Player of the Year and Munster Young Player of the Year.
Back row Conor Oliver has played 28 times for Munster since making his debut in February 2016, was Munster Academy Player of the Year the following season, and can play on either flanks or as a number 8.
Jack Aungier has made five appearances for Leinster since making his senior debut last November, while Oisin Dowling, another Leinster Academy player, is a 6’5’’ lock who has also been capped at Irish U20 level.
Coach Andy Friend says: "In Sammy, Conor, Oisin and Jack we have secured the signings of four very talented and promising young Irish rugby players. They each have unique skillsets which will enhance our squad for next season and beyond."
Kyle Godwin, the versatile backline player, who could be leaving Connacht, on his way to scoring his side's fourth try during match against Cardiff Blues. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile