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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

Champions Cup Round 1 Fixtures Confirmed

The Champions Cup opening round fixtures have been announced and there are some big games to kick-off the tournament

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(Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

The first round of Champions Cup fixtures has been confirmed for the 2019/20 season with the tournament to begin on the weekend of the 15th of November.

Reigning champions Saracens will begin their title defence with a tough away trip to Racing 92 in what is the last game of the weekend on Sunday November 17th.

The other game in Pool 4 sees the Ospreys host Munster on Saturday November 16th.

Elsewhere, last season’s beaten finalists Leinster open their tournament with a home game against competition debutants Benetton on the Saturday, while Northampton Saints host Lyon in the other match in Pool 1.

The first game of what is the 25th edition of the tournament is the Pool 5 clash of Gloucester and Toulouse, as the reigning Top 14 champions look to go a step further than last season’s semi-final defeat to Leinster. Connacht play Montpellier in the groups other game on the Sunday.

In Pool 2 Glasgow Warriors take on Sale Sharks on the Saturday at 13 00, followed by La Rochelle vs Exeter Chiefs later that day.

At the same time as the Warriors vs Sharks game there is the Pool 3 match of Bath against Ulster, with Clermont hosting Harlequins in the final match of the Saturday fixtures.

The pool stages are set to finish on the second and third weekends of January, while the final itself takes place in the Stade de Marseille on May 23rd 2020.

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Champions Cup

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

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(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

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.

Dolokoto is happy to be signing for the PRO 14 runners-up and is excited to feature in both the PRO 14 and the Champions Cup.

“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.

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Champions Cup

Leinster Unveil New European and Alternative Jerseys

Leinster have revealed their European and alternative jerseys for the 2019/20 season

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(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Leinster have unveiled their new Adidas European and alternative jerseys for the 2019/20 season.

The European jersey is an alteration on the traditional blue home jerseys worn by the reigning two-time PRO 14 champions.

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.

You can view the full Leinster Range for the up coming season here.

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