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.
Saracens Face EPCR Misconduct Hearing
Saracens are set to face yet another hearing but this time it’s on the European front
Saracens are set to face a misconduct hearing with the EPCR today at 18 00 the European Rugby body have confirmed.
The reigning Champions Cup holders are in trouble after they informed officials earlier in the week that they may have fielded an ineligible player during their Champions Cup win over Racing 92 last month which sealed them a quarter-final place.
The player in question is Titi Lamositele, who came off the bench in the 60th minute of the clash against the Top 14 side. It is understood that when the squad was announced for the game that the player was eligible.
However, his work permit did in fact expire on January 18th, with the game taking place on the 19th, which could have caused a breach in the disciplinary rules.
It is the latest blow in what has been a dramatic season to date for the Premiership outfit, who were found to have breached salary cap regulations in the competition and being fined and docked points before being relegated outright last month.
They were docked further points recently to ensure that they will finish the season in last place in the Premiership.
While on the European front they have already caused problems for the EPCR by failing to show up to the competition’s opening event.
Despite all the drama they have managed to progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup and will face last season’s beaten finalists Leinster away from home, but it remains to be seen what their latest punishment could be if found guilty.
Ireland Tie Star Down with New Contract
Ireland have confirmed that one of their key men has committed his future to both the national side and his province
Ireland lock James Ryan has signed a new three-year deal with the IRFU which expires at the end of the 2022/23 season.
The 23-year-old has starred for both Ireland and Leinster since his debut for both in 2017, becoming a key player and leader on the pitch and he is excited to continue on both fronts.
“I’m delighted to sign an IRFU contract. A lot has been packed into the start of my professional career with both Ireland and Leinster and there has been some great success and a few disappointments, but I’m involved in two very exciting squads that want to be challenging for trophies,” he said.
Having made the step into test rugby at only 20, Ryan adapted quickly and has gone on to add 24-caps to his name, including playing a main role in Ireland’s Six Nations Grand Slam success in 2018, as well as standing out in their Rugby World Cup campaign last year.
IRFU high performance director David Nucifora believes that despite already being a key figure for both his teams Ryan will only continue to get better.
“James is still a young man but he has delivered consistent high level performances for both Ireland and Leinster. He is growing into a leadership role with the national team and has a big future for both Ireland and Leinster,” he said.
For his province Ryan has made a total of 37 appearances and has tasted success since his first game in 2017, while before his professional career kicked-off he captained Ireland U20’s to the World Rugby Championship final in 2016.
His new contract also sees him move from a provincial deal to centrally funded one, much like Connacht ace Bundee Aki, who agreed similar terms to Ryan back in November.
It is a massive boost for both club and country as they look to triumph on several fronts in the coming years.
However, up first for Ryan is a clash with current Grand Slam holders Wales on Saturday in the second round of this year’s Six Nations championship, where he will be hoping to help the boys in green to a second win in a row following their opening round victory over Scotland.
Munster Complete Trio of Signings
Munster have confirmed the arrival of three new players for the 2020/21 season, in what is a major boost for the Irish province
Munster have announced the signing of three players in the form of Matt Gallagher, Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.
The trio have all signed two-year deals with the southern Irish province keeping them at the club until June 2022 at least.
Both players starred in that World Cup win, playing throughout the tournament, and both are currently playing in the Japanese Top League.
Meanwhile Gallagher joins from Saracens following their recent relegation from the English Premiership after their breaches of the salary cap relegations. He joined the club at 14 and after nine years will add some fresh blood to the Munster ranks.
Speaking on the signings Munster head coach Johann van Graan is delighted to have bolstered the options in the squad as they look to improve next season after already being knocked-out of the Champions Cup this season.
“From a business point of view, I’m really pleased that Munster has secured the calibre of these players. In terms of Damian and RG, it’s testament to the worldwide standing of this club that two World Cup-winning Springboks will arrive here next summer. On a personal level, I know them both very well and in addition to being world-class athletes they are great men. They will add value to everything we are striving to achieve at Munster and I know our supporters will be eagerly looking forward to their arrival. Equally, getting Matt on board is fantastic for our backline options. He is an exciting young talent that can play in a number of positions and is from a great rugby pedigree,” he said.
Munster fans will be delighted with the incomings and it should help them progress further on the European stage from next season as well as bringing them closer to competing for domestic honours too.
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