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Champions Cup

Edinburgh v Munster: The 5 key match-ups and match preview.

Munster have welcomed back a number of stars for their trip to Edinburgh

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Munster have made 11 changes to the side that faced Zebre a week ago as they head to Edinburgh for their Champions Cup Quarter-Final at BT Murrayfield on Saturday at 12 45.

Among the returning players are a host of Irish internationals, however the hosts have also named a strong team as they look to continue their fine form.

While the men in red have also been handed a huge boost with fly-half Joey Carbery being passed fit to start the game.

Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and John Ryan lock down in the front-three, with Jean Kleyn and Tadhg Beirne in the second-row.

Peter O’Mahony will captain the team from blindside flanker, with Jack O’Donoghue being rewarded for his recent form to start on the openside, and CJ Stander makes up the front-eight from No8.

Conor Murray comes back into the team after a poor Six Nations and will be hoping to find some form. He is joined in the half-backs by the returning Carbery who has recovered from a hamstring injury that has left him out for over a month.

Rory Scannell and Chris Farrell are the centre pairing, with Keith Earls and Andrew Conway at 11 and 14 respectively, and Mike Haley continuing at full-back.

There is strength on the bench too as players such as Rhys Marshell, Billy Holland, Arno Botha and Tyler Bleyendaal will look to make an impact if needed.

Munster head coach Johann van Graan has spoken of his sides excitement in reaching the last eight but is expecting a tough game in Scotland.

“It will be a massive challenge on Saturday and one that we are very much looking forward to. To get to a semi-final you have to get to a quarter-final, hopefully we can prepare well. Saturday will be a big battle,” he said.

The Scottish side start with Pierre Schoeman, captain Stuart McInally and WP Nel in the front-row, as Ben Toolis and Grant Gilchrist slotting in behind.

Last weekend’s man of the match in their win over Leinster, John Barclay, is at six, with Hamish Watson at seven and Viliame Mata at eight.

Henry Pyros begins at scrum-half alongside Jaco Van Der Walt, as Chris Dean and James Johnstone line-up in the centre.

Duhan Van Der Merwe starts on the left-wing, with Damien Hoyland on the right and youngster Darcy Graham at full-back.

The men on the bench include Ross Ford, Allan Dell, Jamie Ritchie and Mark Bennett, who are big players to be able to call upon.

Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill is confident that his side can make it to the final-four if they show up on Saturday.

“We’re going to go full blown into the battle and take them on. We’re going to enjoy the contest and see if we’re good enough to do it. We’ll try and out-Munster Munster, as we’re two sides that play quite similar rugby. If we get it right, we’ll beat them – we’ve got to front up in these big games. We’ll be well prepared, have a lot of belief in what we do and we’re coming here to win,” he said.

The opening quarter-final sees some massive match-ups across the pitch, and here’s some to look out for.

Niall Scannell vs Stuart McInally:

Scannell is still uncertain of a place on the Irish plane to the World Cup in Japan and knows a big performance in Scotland will catch Joe Schmidt’s eye. While McInally is capable of being up there with the best on his day and will be hoping to cement his Scottish place. The line-out will be key in this game, as will any chance of a rolling-maul for either side and if these men can be on their game, they could be the difference.

Tadhg Beirne vs Grant Gilchrist:

Beirne did little to impress during the Six Nations, but we all know what he is capable of. On the other hand, Gilchrist was one of the shining lights in the Scottish team. Both are huge players in the air and at the breakdown so this will be an individual clash to look forward to.

Peter O’Mahony vs John Barclay:

O’Mahony has been at the top for a long time but was off-form in Ireland’s game against Wales, whereas Barclay is just back from injury and won man of the match versus Leinster last weekend. Both are crucial leaders on their respective teams, this could be a real arm-wrestle at the breakdown with these two around.

Andrew Conway vs Duhan Van Der Merwe:

Conway is always up for a game, but he is coming up against an in-form Van Der Merwe, who looks as though he could score at any moment. Conway will need to not only be on his game from an attacking point of view but also in defence with the big man around. While Van Der Merwe will need to be defensively ready for the quick-minded and ever alert Conway.

Mike Haley vs Darcy Graham:

Haley has been in remarkable form over the past while and Darcy Graham showed what he is all about when called upon during Scotland’s Six Nations. Graham has been used mostly on the wing so it will be interesting to see him at full-back, as Haley will surely test him with a kicking-game. However, kicking to the young man could be a dangerous tactic as we have become aware of his deadly speed and finishing ability. It will be mind-games all the way between these two as they will look to lead from the back.

With a place in the final-four of the competition at steak, these two in form teams will go head-to-head in what could be an absolute cracker. Whoever can overcome the opposition will be a tough team to face in the semis as they are both gaining confidence with every game they play.

Champions Cup

Big names miss out for Ulster

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(Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The Ulster match-day squad to face Gloucester tomorrow afternoon in Round 2 of the Heineken Champions Cup has been named (Kingsholm Stadium, kick-off 3.15pm).  

The back line sees just one change from the side that played Toulouse last Friday. Michael Lowry, Jacob Stockdale and Matt Faddes all retain their positions in the back three. Stuart McCloskey and James Hume are the starting midfield duo. Billy Burns returns at fly-half and will captain the side; he will partner John Cooney at scrum-half.  

The front row remains unchanged for this game. Rob Herring is named at hooker, with Eric O’Sullivan and Marty Moore packing down at loosehead and tighthead prop. Alan O’Connor will partner with his brother David – who will make his first Heineken Champions Cup start with Sam Carter missing out through concussion. Sean Reidy has been selected at blindside, with Jordi Murphy returning at openside. Nick Timoney comes in to start at Number Eight to replace the injured Marcel Coetzee.

John Andrew, Kyle McCall, Tom O’Toole, Matty Rea, and Greg Jones are the forward bench options. Academy player, Ethan McIlroy could make his European debut if called upon from the bench, and is named alongside Alby Mathewson and Ian Madigan in the back line replacements.    

Ulster team to play Gloucester, Heineken Champions Cup Round 2, Saturday 19 December 2020 at Kingsholm Stadium, kick-off 3.15pm, live on BT Sport / beIN Sport:  

(15-9) Michael Lowry, Matt Faddes, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns (Capt.), John Cooney; 

(1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, David O’Connor, Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy, Nick Timoney. 

Replacements: John Andrew, Kyle McCall, Tom O’Toole, Matty Rea, Greg Jones, Alby Mathewson, Ian Madigan, Ethan McIlroy.  

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Champions Cup

Ulster name strong side to face Toulouse

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(Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The Ulster coaching team has named the match-day squad for the province’s opening Pool game of the 2020-21 Heineken Champions Cup against Toulouse on Friday (kick-off 8pm, Kingspan Stadium). 

In the back three, Jacob Stockdale returns from international duty to the left wing, joining Michael Lowry at full-back and Matt Faddes on the right wing. In midfield, Stuart McCloskey also returns from the Ireland squad to partner with James Hume. Ian Madigan has been named at fly-half alongside John Cooney at scrum-half. 

Having made his international debut against Scotland last week, Eric O’Sullivan, comes in to take the starting berth at loosehead prop. Rob Herring also returns from Ireland duties and is named at hooker, with Marty Moore retaining his position at tighthead. Alan O’Connor will partner with Sam Carter, who will lead the side from the second row. Sean Reidy and Jordi Murphy are named at blindside and openside, with Marcell Coetzee completing the pack at Number Eight. 

John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, David O’Connor, and Matty Rea provide the forward options, with Alby Mathewson, Stewart Moore and Craig Gilroy offering back line cover from the bench. 

Ulster team to play Toulouse, Heineken Champions Cup Round 1, Friday 11 December 2020 at Kingspan Stadium, kick-off 8pm, live on BT Sport / beIN Sport:

(15-9) Michael Lowry, Matt Faddes, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Ian Madigan, John Cooney; 

(1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Sam Carter (Capt.), Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy, Marcell Coetzee. 

Replacements: John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, David O’Connor, Matty Rea, Alby Mathewson, Stewart Moore, Craig Gilroy.

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Champions Cup

Heineken Champions Cup Pool Draw for 2020/21

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The holders, Exeter Chiefs, will play against Toulouse and Glasgow Warriors in the pool stage of the 2020/21 Heineken Champions Cup following the tournament Pool Draw which was held on Wednesday 28 October at the Maison du Sport International in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Exeter, who lifted the trophy for the first time after a dramatic 25th anniversary final earlier this month, were drawn into Pool B and will meet the four-time tournament winners and Glasgow over four pool stage rounds on a home and away basis.

Under the new format for the 2020/21 season featuring two pools of 12 clubs, reigning Guinness PRO14 champions, Leinster Rugby, will have Montpellier and Northampton Saints as their opponents in Pool A when the tournament kicks off again in December, while last season’s runners-up, Racing 92, are in Pool B where they will be up against Connacht Rugby and Harlequins.

Wasps, who were edged out by the Chiefs in the Gallagher Premiership final, will meet Dragons and Montpellier in Pool A, and PRO14 finalists, Ulster Rugby, will take on Gloucester Rugby and Toulouse in Pool B.

Munster Rugby will renew their European rivalry with ASM Clermont Auvergne and Harlequins in Pool B, while Bristol Bears’ Director of Rugby, Pat Lam, will make a return to Galway when the Challenge Cup winners go up against Connacht and Clermont also in Pool B.

For the purposes of the draw, the 24 clubs which qualified from the Premiership, the PRO14 and the TOP 14 were classified into four tiers based on their performances in the knockout phases of their respective leagues, and/or on their qualifying positions in their respective league tables.

Each tier contained six clubs with Tier 1 made up of the number one and number two ranked clubs from each league, and Tier 2, the number three and number four ranked clubs from each league, and so on.

Starting with Tier 1, the clubs were either drawn or allocated into either Pool A or Pool B so that each pool contained 12 clubs with no clubs in the same tier from the same league in the same pool.

The key principles regarding the pool stage fixtures are that clubs will only play against opponents in the same pool, and clubs from the same league cannot play against one another.

The Tier 1 and Tier 4 clubs which were drawn in the same pool, but which are not from the same league, will play one another home and away over four rounds. The same principle applies to the Tier 2 and Tier 3 clubs which were drawn in the same pool, but which are not from the same league.

The exact dates of the Heineken Champions Cup pool stage fixtures and the Challenge Cup preliminary stage fixtures, including venues, kick-off times and TV coverage, will be announced as soon as possible following consultation with clubs and EPCR’s partner broadcasters.

The four highest-ranked clubs from each Heineken Champions Cup pool will qualify for the quarter-finals which will be played over two legs, and the clubs ranked from number five to number eight in each pool will qualify for the Round of 16 of the Challenge Cup.

Today’s draw, which mapped out the first steps on the journey to the 2021 Marseille finals weekend, was conducted by EPCR Chief Executive, Vincent Gaillard, and by EPCR Commercial and Brand Manager, Anya Alderslade.

The event scrutineer was Lausanne-based solicitor, Jean-Guillaume Amiguet.

2020/21 HEINEKEN CHAMPIONS CUP

POOL A (with opponents in brackets)
Bordeaux-Bègles (Dragons, Northampton Saints)
Leinster Rugby (Montpellier, Northampton Saints)
Wasps (Dragons, Montpellier)
Bath Rugby (La Rochelle, Scarlets)
Edinburgh Rugby (La Rochelle, Sale Sharks)
RC Toulon (Sale Sharks, Scarlets)
La Rochelle (Bath Rugby, Edinburgh Rugby)
Sale Sharks (Edinburgh Rugby, RC Toulon)
Scarlets (Bath Rugby, RC Toulon)
Dragons (Bordeaux-Bègles, Wasps)
Montpellier (Leinster Rugby, Wasps)
Northampton Saints (Bordeaux-Bègles, Leinster Rugby)

POOL B (with opponents in brackets)
Exeter Chiefs (Glasgow Warriors, Toulouse)
Lyon (Glasgow Warriors, Gloucester Rugby)
Ulster Rugby (Gloucester Rugby, Toulouse)
Bristol Bears (ASM Clermont Auvergne, Connacht Rugby)
Munster Rugby (ASM Clermont Auvergne, Harlequins)
Racing 92 (Connacht Rugby, Harlequins)
ASM Clermont Auvergne (Bristol Bears, Munster Rugby)
Connacht Rugby (Bristol Bears, Racing 92)
Harlequins (Munster Rugby, Racing 92)
Glasgow Warriors (Exeter Chiefs, Lyon)
Gloucester Rugby (Lyon, Ulster)
Toulouse (Exeter Chiefs, Ulster Rugby)

2020/21 season weekends
Round 1 – 11/12/13 December 2020
Round 2 – 18/19/20 December 2020
Round 3 – 15/16/17 January 2021
Round 4 – 22/23/24 January 2021

Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals, 1st leg – 2/3/4 April 2021
Challenge Cup Round of 16 – 2/3/4 April 2021
Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals, 2nd leg – 9/10/11 April 2021
Challenge Cup quarter-finals – 9/10/11 April 2021
Semi-finals – 30 April – 1/2 May 2021
2021 finals – Stade Vélodrome, Marseille
Challenge Cup final – Friday 21 May
Heineken Champions Cup final – Saturday 22 May

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