On Saturday January 12th the RDS will fill to welcome two serial champions of European rugby.
Leinster face their toughest challenge yet in their quest to claim back to back Champions Cups against a blossoming Toulouse side.
The main talking point is that Leinster are without a host of stars through injury or suspension. Captain Johnny Sexton (tendon), Rob Kearney (quad), Dan Leavy (calf), Devin Toner (ankle), and Robbie Henshaw (hamstring) miss out through injury while James Lowe is suspended.
In Sexton’s absence Ross Byrne has been handed the number 10 jersey, with Rhys Ruddock captaining the side, while Jordan Larmour slots in at full-back. Dave Kearney and Adam Byrne will occupy the wings, with Scott Fardy and James Ryan at 4 and 5 respectively.
Although, Lowe will be sorely missed, his absence has allowed for Leinster to name Jamison Gibson-Park as their replacement scrum-half. Alongside him on the bench is 22-year-old Conor O’Brien, who comes into the side after his impressive showing against Ulster last weekend.
On the other hand, the French giants, currently second in the Top 14, are bursting with confidence after going 12 games unbeaten and having key players in the team that did not feature in their 28-27 win over their opponents in October.
Most noticeably, All Black Jerome Kaino starts at number 8, after missing the first clash with Leinster. Maxime Medard switches to full-back after scoring two tries in the previous clash from the wing.
Yoann Huget is named on the wing, with Thomas Ramos and Antoine Dupont coming in for Zack Holmes and Sebastien Bezy, to start at fly-half and scrum-half respectively.
Both teams have incredible power in the backs and forwards and Leinster head coach Stuart Lancaster has noted his team will have to be at the top of their game to cope with the challenge Toulouse pose.
“We pride ourselves in our ability to play unstructured rugby but they are at a different level”, Lancaster told the Irish Times earlier this week. Adding “the big thing for me is being on point defensively as well”.
Both these teams are hunting for their fifth European cup and although Leinster are missing their star names this is without a doubt the clash of the weekend. Whoever comes out on top here may well be the team lifting the trophy in Newcastle in May.
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
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.
“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.
Leinster Unveil New European and Alternative Jerseys
Leinster have revealed their European and alternative jerseys for the 2019/20 season
Leinster have unveiled their new Adidas European and alternative jerseys for the 2019/20 season.
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.
Ulster Confirm Squad for 2019/20 Season
Ulster have announced their 44-man strong squad ahead of next season
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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