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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

2023 EPCR Player of the Year award – nominees announced

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Following another series of impressive performances during the Heineken Champions Cup pool stage, the current EPCR Player of the Year, Leinster Rugby’s Josh van der Flier, is again a contender for one of the game’s most prestigious individual accolades after today’s announcement of the longlist of nominees for the 2023 award.

Voted for by a panel of distinguished judges (see below), this season’s longlist of 15 players includes proven Heineken Champions Cup and World Cup winners as well as in-form rising stars such as Jaden Hendrikse of the Cell C Sharks, Munster Rugby’s Gavin Coombes, Emmanuel Meafou of Stade Toulousain and Leinster’s Jamie Osborne.

The Durban-based Sharks have four nominees with Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth, Makazole Mapimpi and Hendrikse all receiving the judges’ seal of approval, while Leinster also have four representatives in Garry Ringrose, Caelan Doris, Van der Flier and Osborne.

In addition, Antoine Dupont, winner in 2021, and Julien Marchand of Stade Toulousain, have made the elite list along with Grégory Alldritt of Stade Rochelais, Saracens’ Elliot Daly and one of the world’s most gifted back rows, Justin Tipuric of the Ospreys.

The winner of the award, which is now in its 13th year, will receive the Anthony Foley Memorial Trophy in memory of the former Munster Rugby Head Coach and captain. Voting is now open HERE and fans will be in the running to win two VIP tickets with one night’s accommodation for the 2024 Heineken Champions Cup Final in May 2024.

At the conclusion of the semi-final matches in April, the list will be reduced to five players by a combination of the public vote and the verdict of the judges, and players who have not been included in the initial longlist, but who make a significant impact during the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup, may be considered for the shortlist.

The voting will then re-open and the winner of the 2023 award will be announced following the Heineken Champions Cup final at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday 20 May.

2023 EPCR PLAYER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES

Grégory ALLDRITT (Stade Rochelais)
Gavin COOMBES (Munster Rugby)
Caelan DORIS (Leinster Rugby)
Elliot DALY (Saracens)
Antoine DUPONT (Stade Toulousain)
Eben ETZEBETH (Cell C Sharks)
Jaden HENDRIKSE (Cell C Sharks)
Siya KOLISI (Cell C Sharks)
Makazole MAPIMPI (Cell C Sharks)
Julien MARCHAND (Stade Toulousain)
Emmanuel MEAFOU (Stade Toulousain)
Jamie OSBORNE (Leinster Rugby)
Garry RINGROSE (Leinster Rugby)
Justin TIPURIC (Ospreys)
Josh VAN DER FLIER (Leinster Rugby)

Judging Panel – Bryan Habana (two-time Heineken Champions Cup winner), Sarah Hunter (former England captain), Elma Smit (sports presenter and producer), Andy Goode (two-time Heineken Cup winner), Dimitri Yachvili (France Télévisions and Challenge Cup winner)

Roll of Honour – 2022: Josh van der Flier (Leinster Rugby) ; 2021: Antoine Dupont (Stade Toulousain) ; 2020: Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs); 2019: Alex Goode (Saracens); 2018: Leone Nakarawa (Racing 92); 2017: Owen Farrell (Saracens); 2016: Maro Itoje (Saracens); 2015: Nick Abendanon (ASM Clermont Auvergne); 2014: Steffon Armitage (RC Toulon); 2013: Jonny Wilkinson (RC Toulon); 2012: Rob Kearney (Leinster Rugby); 2011: Sean O’Brien (Leinster Rugby); 2010: Ronan O’Gara (Munster Rugby – best player of first 15 years of European professional club competitions)

Content & Images from – EPC Rugby


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Champions Cup

Leinster quartet nominated for 2023 EPCR Player of the Year Award

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Caelan Doris, Jamie Osborne, Garry Ringrose and Josh van der Flier have this morning been named in a 15-man shortlist for the 2023 EPCR Player of the Year Award.

After winning the Anthony Foley Memorial Trophy last year, van der Flier  has the opportunity to become the first player to successdully retain the title.

Doris had an excellent start ot the Heineken Champions Cup this season, winning Start of the Match honours, away to Racing 92 and at home to Gloucester.

Jamie Osborne had a standout performance in Kingsholm, where he was named Star of the Match in his first European start, as he also scored his first try in European competiton.

Ringrose earned Star of the Match honours against Racing 92 in Aviva Stadium, and has scored two tries in the pool stages.

Van der Flier scored a try in each of the four Pool matches, including a double in Le Havre against Racing, as he continues to impress in European competition.

Voting is now open HERE and fans will be in the running to win two VIP tickets with one night’s accommodation for the 2024 Heineken Champions Cup Final in May 2024.

At the conclusion of the semi-final matches in April, the list will be reduced to five players by a combination of the public vote and the verdict of the judges, and players who have not been included in the initial longlist, but who make a significant impact during the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup, may be considered for the shortlist.

The voting will then re-open and the winner of the 2023 award will be announced following the Heineken Champions Cup final at Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday, 20 May.

2023 EPCR PLAYER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES
Grégory ALLDRITT (Stade Rochelais)
Gavin COOMBES (Munster Rugby)
Caelan DORIS (Leinster Rugby)
Elliot DALY (Saracens)
Antoine DUPONT (Stade Toulousain)
Eben ETZEBETH (Cell C Sharks)
Jaden HENDRIKSE (Cell C Sharks)
Siya KOLISI (Cell C Sharks)
Makazole MAPIMPI (Cell C Sharks)
Julien MARCHAND (Stade Toulousain)
Emmanuel MEAFOU (Stade Toulousain)
Jamie OSBORNE (Leinster Rugby)
Garry RINGROSE (Leinster Rugby)
Justin TIPURIC (Ospreys)
Josh VAN DER FLIER (Leinster Rugby)

Images & Content from Leinster Rugby


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Champions Cup

Contract Update & Addition For 2023/24

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Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm contract extensions for Niall Scannell and Rory Scannell with Edwin Edogbo signing his first senior contract and John Ryan returning to Munster next season.

Niall and Rory have both signed two-year contract extensions with Edwin set to continue as an Academy player next season before moving up to the senior squad ahead of the 2024/25 campaign on a two-year contract.

John will return to Munster for the 2023/24 season. The tighthead prop has joined the Chiefs in New Zealand for the upcoming Super Rugby Pacific season and will return to Munster on a one-year contract.

Niall Scannell

Niall Scannell captained Munster for the second time in last weekend’s win over Benetton and has made 155 appearances for the province since his debut in 2013, scoring 21 tries.

The 30-year-old hooker has earned 20 Ireland caps and appeared at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Rory Scannell.

Rory Scannell.

Centre Rory Scannell has made 171 appearances for Munster and became the youngest player to reach 100 Munster appearances at the age of just 25 in 2019.

He has earned three Ireland caps and is the only player to have won the Munster Academy and Young Player of the Year awards in the same year after winning both accolades in 2016.

Edwin Edogbo.

Edwin Edogbo.

Academy lock Edwin Edogbo has earned his first senior contract having made a big impression in his seven Munster appearances so far this season.

Edwin came up through the ranks at Cobh Pirates and is the first player from the club to play for Munster in the professional era.

The 20-year-old plays his AIL rugby with UCC and is currently sidelined with an ankle injury.

John Ryan.

John Ryan is one of only 13 players to have made over 200 appearances for Munster with the tighthead prop playing 205 games for the province to date.

The 34-year-old made his 50th Champions Cup appearance for the province in December and has also earned 24 Ireland caps, featuring at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Images & Content from Munster Rugby


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