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Champions Cup

Earls and Carbery Out but Munster Name Strong Team

Munster have named their team for their Champions Cup semi-final and it’s going to take some beating

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Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Munster have made 12 changes to the side that defeated Benetton last weekend for their Champions Cup semi-final against Saracens at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday at 15 00.

Joey Carbery misses out as expected but he is joined on the side lines by quarter-final hero Keith Earls. Otherwise Munster are almost at full strength for the game.

Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and John Ryan start in the front-row for the reds with Jean Kleyn and Tadhg Beirne slotting behind in the second-row.

Peter O’Mahony captains the side on his 50th Champions Cup appearance and is joined in the back-row by Jack Donoghue and CJ Stander.

Conor Murray will look to run things from the half-backs alongside Tyler Bleyendaal. While Rory Scannell and Chris Farrell come in at 12 and 13 respectively.

Darren Sweetnam begins on the left-wing, with Andrew Conway on the right and Mike Haley continuing at full-back to finish the starting XV.

On the bench Rhys Marshell, Jeremy Loughman, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland and Arno Botha are the forward replacements. Alby Mathewson, JJ Hanrahan and Dan Goggin are cover for the backs.

Speaking ahead of the game Munster head coach Johann van Graan believes that his team will be facing the best side in this year’s tournament thus far.

“They’ve been the team of the Champions Cup thus far. They haven’t lost a game yet, they’ve played some fantastic rugby and scored the most tries and they’ve got a lot of world class players in their team, so, we’re definitely up against a massive challenge away from home on Saturday afternoon,” he said.

The opposition is formidable with Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and Titi Lamositele locking down in the front-three, with England duo Maro Itoje and George Kruis as the locks.

Michael Rhodes, Jackson Wray and Billy Vunipola make up the back-row. Vunipola will be sure to get some reaction from the fans following his recent support for Israel Folau’s comments towards the LGBT community.

Ben Spencer partners Owen Farrell in the half-backs, with Brad Barritt and Alex Lozowski in the centre.

Liam Williams and Sean Maitland open on the wings and Alex Goode slots in at 15.

With the likes of Will Skelton, Schalk Burger and Richard Wigglesworth to call on from the bench, Saracens will be a constant threat throughout the game.

Whoever wins this game will be incredibly difficult as final opponents for either Leinster or Toulouse.

Key Battles:

Mako Vunipola vs Dave Kilcoyne = This game could be won or lost at the breakdown and the set-piece. Although they won’t be on the same side of the scrum both of these will be vital to pushing their team toward the final. Kilcoyne will also be expected to put in as many big hits as possible on the English star who will look to burst holes in the Munster defence. These two could hold the key to their side’s success or failure.

Billy Vunipola vs CJ Stander = Two massive ball carriers and two massive players for their respective teams. Vunipola will be under pressure to perform following his off-field antics over the past couple of weeks, while Stander will need to lead from the front as always. The personal battle of these is reason enough to watch this game.

Owen Farrell vs Tyler Bleyendaal = Farrell has been in remarkable form this year and after missing out on a Six Nations title and the quarter-final of the Champions Cup he will wan to add the trophy to his cabinet. Bleyendaal is another who has had an amazing spell this year and will need to be at his best to keep Farrell from turning screw on Munster. Both kickers will need their accuracy to be on point as every point will count in this clash.

No matter who comes out on top on Saturday one thing is for sure it will be well deserved as we could be in for a real treat of a game if both sides get into their groove.

Champions Cup

Ulster make changes for Toulouse

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Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images

The Ulster match-day squad has been named for the Second Leg of the Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16 versus Toulouse at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday evening.

Nick Timoney will make his 100th appearance for the Ulster men, as he is named to start at openside – with Marcus Rea at blindside and Duane Vermeulen at Number Eight. Andrew Warwick comes in to start at loosehead, and will pack down with Rob Herring at hooker and Marty Moore at tighthead. Captain Iain Henderson will partner with Alan O’Connor in the engine room.

Mike Lowry and Rob Baloucoune, who signed new 3-year contract extensions this week, are named at full-back and on the right wing respectively. Ethan McIlroy returns to take the left-wing starting berth. Stuart McCloskey and James Hume will form the midfield partnership, and John Cooney and Billy Burns are retained at scrum-half and out-half.

Brad Roberts, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Kieran Treadwell and Jordi Murphy will provide forward reinforcements, while Nathan Doak, Luke Marshall and Rob Lyttle will offer back line cover.

Ulster team to play Toulouse, Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16 Second Leg, Saturday 16 April at Kingspan Stadium, 8pm kick-off, live on BT Sport, beIN Sports, and Sky Italia:

(15-9) Mike Lowry, Rob Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Ethan McIlroy, Billy Burns, John Cooney;

(1-8) Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (Capt.), Marcus Rea, Nick Timoney, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: Brad Roberts, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Kieran Treadwell, Jordi Murphy, Nathan Doak, Luke Marshall, Rob Lyttle.

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Champions Cup

Graham Rowntree Confirmed As Next Munster Head Coach

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(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm that Graham Rowntree will be promoted from Forwards Coach to the role of Head Coach from July 1, 2022.

Rowntree will commence the role of Head Coach at the start of the 2022/23 season after signing a two-year deal.

The former England prop made the move to Limerick in October 2019 on completion of his Rugby World Cup coaching duties with Georgia Rugby.

In his third season as Forwards Coach Graham and family have settled well into Limerick life, noting earlier this year, “I have made my thoughts about this club widely known throughout my time so far, and for me and my family it really has been an easy decision, a non-decision if truth be told.

“We’ve put down roots here and have no desire to move anywhere else.”

With an impressive coaching CV and vast experience, Rowntree previously held coaching roles with the British and Irish Lions, England Rugby, Harlequins and Leicester Tigers.

Working closely with the IRFU, the province will advance with next steps in securing the backroom team that will work with Graham from next season as Head Coach Johann van Graan, Senior Coach Stephen Larkham, and Defence Coach JP Ferreira depart the province at the end of June.

IRFU Performance Director, David Nucifora, commented, “I would like to thank the Munster Professional Game Committee for their work and diligence during this process.

“It is important that Munster have someone who understands the unique history and culture of the club and has the experience to maximise the talent in the squad.

“Graham was very impressive throughout this process and demonstrated he has the capabilities to spearhead the next chapter of Munster Rugby.”

On confirmation of the promotion, Graham Rowntree added, “I am hugely honoured to be taking over the role of Head Coach for a club of this calibre, one that means so much to me and my family.

“We have thoroughly enjoyed every moment here and I fortunately get to work with an incredible group of staff and players who share a common goal each day in striving for success for this club.

“I’ve talked about our fantastic supporters before and again at the weekend we stepped off the bus to a huge red welcome in Exeter. Who doesn’t want to be part of that, that’s special!

“I believe we have the established structures in place with the resources and facilities to match and that it will be a smooth transition for the coaching ticket we assemble in ensuring continued development and success for this club.

“Before then I have a role to complete this season and working closely with Johann, Steve, and JP is the immediate focus and priority for now.”

Commenting on the appointment, Munster Rugby CEO Ian Flanagan said, “Graham’s extensive coaching experience and knowledge for the game makes him the perfect candidate to lead this squad forward.

“With Graham stepping up at the start of the new season it will be a seamless and natural progression from the work that has been carried out to-date.

“For now, we will continue our focus on the remainder of this season with Graham supporting Johann and the coaching staff in achieving our goals.”

Munster Rugby Home Fixtures

Saturday, April 16

Champions Cup Round of 16: Munster v Exeter Chiefs, Thomond Park, 3pm; Buy tickets here

Friday, April 29

URC: Munster v Cardiff Rugby, Musgrave Park, 7.35pm; Buy tickets here

Images & Content from Munster Rugby

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Champions Cup

Ulster name team for Toulouse

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Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images

The Ulster match-day squad has been selected for the first leg of the Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16 versus Toulouse at Le Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Ben Moxham will make his first European start for Ulster as he is named on the left wing alongside Mike Lowry at full-back and Robert Baloucoune on the right wing. Stuart McCloskey comes in to start and will partner with James Hume in the centre. Billy Burns and John Cooney return to form the half-back pairing.

The front row sees Eric O’Sullivan and Rob Herring named at loosehead and hooker, with Marty Moore retaining his place at tighthead prop. Alan O’Connor returns to pair up with captain Iain Henderson in the second row. Marcus Rea comes in at blindside flanker, with Nick Timoney and Duane Vermeulen retained at openside and Number Eight respectively.

Brad Roberts, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, Kieran Treadwell and Jordi Murphy provide the forward reinforcements on the bench. Nathan Doak, Luke Marshall and Rob Lyttle will offer the back line options.

Ulster team to play Toulouse, Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16 First Leg, Saturday 9 April at Le Stadium, 3.15pm kick-off (UK / IRE time), live on BT Sport, beIN Sports, FR2:

(15-9) Mike Lowry, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Ben Moxham, Billy Burns, John Cooney;

(1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (Capt.), Marcus Rea, Nick Timoney, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: Brad Roberts, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, Kieran Treadwell, Jordi Murphy, Nathan Doak, Luke Marshall, Rob Lyttle.

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