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Champions Cup

Brian O’Driscoll Confirms Main Man Behind Leinster’s Success

Leinster legend Brian O’Driscoll has had his say on how Leinster have become a European powerhouse and puts it down to one man in particular

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Leinster and Ireland legend Brian O’Driscoll has revealed that former Leinster head coach Michael Cheika was the game-changer for the province and made them the team they are today.

Cheika, who arrived from Randwick in 2005, lead the team to their first European Cup in 2009 and changed the team from underachievers to winners.

“We undoubtedly had the talent in the early 2000s and just didn’t understand the work-ethic side of things, the sacrifice part. And then it was the flip of that in 2006. We weren’t as talented, but we worked hard and Michael Cheika was absolutely enormous to the shaping of the province. He was the one who brought in the change in mentality and cut out the cancer,” he said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

O’Driscoll continued to say that the ‘cancer’ at the club were the players who failed to live up to expectation and were happy to just be at the province.

“There were individuals that just were on easy-street and just happy to be professional rugby players, rather than professional players who wanted to win. The senior players rule the roost and I don’t want to talk negatively about them because there were some great players, but I don’t think we had the mentality of that team that came through from 2006 through to now,” he said.

Earlier in the interview O’Driscoll admitted that Leinster’s 30-6 home Champions Cup semi-final loss to Munster in 2006 pushed them on further.

“The semi-final in 2006 was big for us. We weren’t as nearly as talented a Leinster team as previous years, but yet we managed to get there and it gave us hope,” he said.

Although Cheika was the catalyst for their transformation, Joe Schmidt brought a new philosophy to the club when he arrived that lead to Leinster winning two more Champions Cups. However, O’Driscoll believes that current head coach and former team-mate Leo Cullen has developed the side even further and discussed Cullen’s vision from the start.

“I met Leo before the start of his second year and he had a very clear vision of how he wanted to play and we are seeing that now. I thought to myself, ‘This is a ballsy call’, considering the year he had and because Leinster had gone back a step or two in the two previous years,” he added.

O’Driscoll confirmed that the style of play Cullen wanted to implement was that of the All Blacks, whereby the number on your shirt is irrelevant and that you are willing to do everything for your team.

“It was three years ago and just the start of the ’15-man game’. The All Blacks were playing it, but no one else really was. Leo wanted to do it. It was about everyone being a ball-player and no numbers on backs after first phase. It was about everyone being comfortable in their role and a possession-based game and only kicking on their own terms,” he said.

He finished by looking ahead to this weekend’s clash of the titans between Leinster and Saracens and believes that his old side have no limitations to where the current side can go.

“I hope the final lives up to its potential because they are far and away the two best teams in Europe, consistently for the last five years. Who knows where this group of Leinster players can go? There are no limitations. You feel as though this group will be in the mix for the next couple of years. The same as Saracens,” he finished.

Leinster face Saracens on Saturday and are looking to become the first side to win the tournament five times, a fantasy thought for many when they won their first European Cup 10 years ago, but it is now very close to becoming a reality and it all started with Cheika.

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Champions Cup

Another Fijian Heads to Scotland

Glasgow Warriors have confirmed the signing of a Fijian star only two days after Edinburgh captured the signing of Mesulame Kunavula

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Glasgow Warriors have announced the signing of Fijian hooker Mesu Dolokota on a two-year deal from Fijian Drua.

The 24-year-old was named in Fiji’s World Cup training squad last month and will join up with the Warriors following the conclusion of the tournament in Japan.

Dolokoto is happy to be signing for the PRO 14 runners-up and is excited to feature in both the PRO 14 and the Champions Cup.

“I’m very happy to be joining Glasgow Warriors and I’m looking forward to playing in two of the best rugby competitions in the world. The opportunity to learn from such an experienced coaching team and play in such a successful team is very exciting for me. The club has a strong Fijian history and I hope I can be a big part of it going forward,” he said.

The hooker has nine international caps for Fiji as well as having experience in Super Rugby with the Brumbies in 2015 and Glasgow assistant coach John Dalziel is delighted to add more experience to the squad.

“Mesu is an exciting talent who will bring even more international experience to our front row. He isn’t your traditional front-row forward, he likes to bring a bit of Fijian flair to his game, but he can also do the basics very well and we’re excited to work with him when he shows up following international duty,” he said.

Dolokoto follows the footsteps of fellow Fijian Mesulame Kunavula, who joined Edinburgh only a couple of days ago and the PRO 14 can look forward to some Fijian flare next season.

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Champions Cup

Leinster Unveil New European and Alternative Jerseys

Leinster have revealed their European and alternative jerseys for the 2019/20 season

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Leinster have unveiled their new Adidas European and alternative jerseys for the 2019/20 season.

The European jersey is an alteration on the traditional blue home jerseys worn by the reigning two-time PRO 14 champions.

Leinster have revealed that the jersey has been inspired by meteorites that were once used to create iron spears and will be worn by the club for the next two seasons.

“The pattern of the Leinster Rugby European jersey takes inspiration from meteorites that fell from the sky and were used by the Laighin people to create their iron spear. These meteorite formations form the graphic design of the jersey paying homage to the tale of the metal of the Gods, providing bold and vibrant energy for Leinster Rugby’s European campaign,” they said on their official website.

The alternative jersey is a shade of purple with black strips horizontally across the shirt.

They have said that this jersey is inspired by the purple skyline that is seen across the east coach of Ireland.

“The Alternate jersey embodies the electric energy of Ireland’s east coast at night. The iconic purple skyline forms the colour inspiration for this season’s kit. Incorporating a twist on the traditional hoop design, the kit harnesses the vibrant energy of the province, whilst maintaining a classic look and feel,” they added.

As well as the two new jerseys Leinster will continue to wear their Adidas home jersey from the 2018/19 season for the season ahead.

You can view the full Leinster Range for the up coming season here.

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Ulster Confirm Squad for 2019/20 Season

Ulster have announced their 44-man strong squad ahead of next season

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Ulster have confirmed their 44-man panel for the 2019/20 season with a total of 41 Irish-qualified players among the squad.

As well as having 41 Irish-qualified players the northern province have 27 players that have progressed from their academy.

The club have handed nine players that started last season in the Abbey Insurance Ulster Academy new contracts and have six new players joining them

Leinster’s Jack McGrath makes his move up north along with Munster’s Bill Johnson. While former Leinster academy player David O’Connor, whose brother Alan is already a second row at the club, also comes in.

Matt Faddes joins from the Highlanders, with Gareth Milasinovich and Sam Carter as joining.

Head coach Dan McFarland is delighted to have kept such a large number of home-grown players in the squad ahead of the new season.

“It is important that we retain the best of our home-grown talent, many of whom receive attractive offers from other clubs, and we have managed to do that once again with some key re-signings. Combined with this core group of Ulster men is the vital input of our overseas players. Having players like Marcell Coetzee in the group has delivered tangible benefits both on and off the field, and I’m confident that Sam Carter and Matt Faddes will also have big impact,” he said.

McFarland is also happy to have the likes of McGrath come in and is confident of the direction in which the club is heading.

“We will also welcome the experience and quality of Jack McGrath, and the potential of Gareth Milasinovich, Bill Johnston and David O’Connor into the squad, and I’m looking forward to working with them all. The squad is developing nicely. We need to have quality throughout the squad; sometimes that’s down to recruitment, a lot of the time it’s down to bringing the young guys through. Getting a healthy mixture of the two is really important,” he added.

Ulster begin their pre-season training on the 1st of July with everyone bar the players involved with the Rugby World Cup expected to start preparing for the new season.

Check out the Full Squad Below.

Will Addison, John Andrew, Robert Baloucoune, Billy Burns, Sam Carter, Marcell Coetzee, John Cooney, Angus Curtis, Matt Faddes, Craig Gilroy, Iain Henderson, Rob Herring, James Hume, Bill Johnston, Greg Jones, Ross Kane, Angus Kernohan, Michael Lowry, Louis Ludik, Rob Lyttle, Luke Marshall, Adam McBurney, Kyle McCall, Zack McCall, Stuart McCloskey, Jack McGrath, Gareth Milasinovic, Marty Moore, Jordi Murphy, Alan O’Connor, David O’Connor, Tommy O’Hagan, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Marcus Rea, Matty Rea, Sean Reidy, Clive Ross, David Shanahan, Jonny Stewart, Jacob Stockdale, Nick Timoney, Kieran Treadwell, Andrew Warwick

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