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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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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

Ulster Change One for Bath Decider

Ulster have made only one change to their starting line-up for their Champions Cup pool decider against Bath tomorrow

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Ulster head coach Dan McFarland has confirmed that he has made a single change to his starting XV for tomorrow’s crucial Champions Cup game against Bath at the Kingspan Stadium at 15 15.

That change comes in the form of Tom O’Toole, who was selected in Andy Farrell’s 35-man strong Ireland squad this week, but the team is otherwise unchanged from last weekend’s loss to Clermont. 

That means Jack McGrath and Rob Herring join O’Toole in the front-row, with Alan O’Connor joining-up once more with captain Iain Henderson in the engine-room. 

Sean Reidy continues at blindside-flanker, with Jordi Murphy looking to put his Ireland snub behind him when he takes his spot on the openside, while Marcell Coetzee finishes up the pack from No 8. 

Possible Ireland starter John Cooney has another chance to impress from scrum-half, with Billy Burns his half-back partner, while Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall link-up in the midfield, with the former in a similar boat to Murphy following a snub from Ireland despite being in a rich vein of form. 

Jacob Stockdale remains on the left-wing, with youngster Robert Baloucoune on the right and Will Addison completes the XV from full-back. 

There is plenty for McFarland to call on from the bench too with the likes of Eric O’Sullivan, Nick Timoney, Bill Johnston and Craig Gilroy among the replacements. 

Speaking ahead of the game Herring is aware of the task at hand is expecting a tough challenge from Bath despite the English side being out of the competition already. 

“Bath are going to come fully-loaded and full of players who can attack, so we need to keep it tight and capitalise on any opportunities,” he said. 

Ulster know a win coupled with a slip up from Clermont would see them seal top spot in the pool, but either way they will want to finish on a high as they prepare for the knock-out stages. 

Check Out the Full 23-Man Squad Below. 

Starting XV:

Will Addison, Robert Baloucoune, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns, John Cooney; Jack McGrath, Rob Herring, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (c), Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy, Marcell Coetzee

Replacements: 

Adam McBurney, Eric O’Sullivan, Ross Kane, Kieran Treadwell, Nick Timoney, David Shanahan, Bill Johnston, Craig Gilroy

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Champions Cup

Leinster Go Strong for Benetton Trip

Leinster have decided not to rest their stars for their final Champions Cup pool game as they seek the top seed spot

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Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has announced his 23-man squad for tomorrow’s Champions Cup game against Benetton at the Stadio Monigo at 13 00.

Despite already being assured of top spot in the pool Cullen has named an experienced side full of stars in order to try and claim a win which will see them go into the knock-out stages as the top seeded side. 

The only surprises in the team are that both Max Deegan and Caelan Doris have been handed a chance to start the game, while in the backs Luke McGrath has been handed the role of captain. 

Elsewhere, Cian Healy and Andrew Porter are either side of hooker Sean Cronin in the front-row. Cronin will hope to put in a good shift after being snubbed in Ireland’s Six Nations squad announcement this week, while Devin Toner and James Ryan slot in behind them in second-row.

Deegan shifts from No 8 to take up a place as blindside-flanker, with Josh van der Flier remaining on the openside and Doris comes in as the No 8 this time around in what is an exciting back-row. 

McGrath is joined in the half-backs by Ross Byrne, and they have Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose outside them in the centre. 

James Lowe continues on the left-wing, with Dave Kearney hoping to continue his fine form on the right, while Jordan Larmour is once again at full-back to complete the XV. 

There is a huge amount of experience on the bench too for Cullen to call upon if needed with the likes of Tadhg Furlong, Rhys Ruddock, Jamison Gibson-Park and Rob Kearney among the replacements. 

Speaking ahead of the game Lowe is wary of the threat that the Italian outfit have and believes that the results aren’t a fair showing for their performances so far this season. 

“Their results probably don’t reflect the season they’ve had. They’ve been so, so close on so many occasions in the PRO14 and the Champions Cup. We’re under no illusion the threats that they do pose. It’s, for a lot of them the last chance to put their hand up before the Six Nations as well. So there’s a lot of individuals in that environment who will want to prove a point,” he said. 

Leinster head into the game as clear favourites to make it 16 wins on the bounce and know that a win will seal them the top seeding heading into the quarter-finals. However, they will need to overcome a Benetton side that will be hoping to end their European campaign on a high. 

Check Out the Full 23-Man Squad Below.

Starting XV: 

15. Jordan Larmour (45)

14. Dave Kearney (145)

13. Garry Ringrose (71)

12. Robbie Henshaw (43)

11. James Lowe (40)

10. Ross Byrne (83)

9. Luke McGrath (120) (c)

1. Cian Healy (215)

2. Seán Cronin (177)

3. Andrew Porter (61)

4. Devin Toner (243) 

5. James Ryan (36)

6. Max Deegan (59)

7. Josh van der Flier (79)

8. Caelan Doris (28)

Replacements:

16. James Tracy (105)

17. Peter Dooley (72)

18. Tadhg Furlong (107)

19. Ross Molony (92)

20. Rhys Ruddock (168)

21. Jamison Gibson-Park (84)

22. Ciarán Frawley (21)

23. Rob Kearney (216)

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Champions Cup

Leinster Batter Lyon at the RDS

Leinster have made it 15 wins from 15 so far this season with yet another big win

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(Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Leinster have made it five wins from five in Champions Cup Pool 1 with a comprehensive 42-14 victory over Lyon in the RDS this afternoon.

A brace of tries from Dave Kearney, along with further five-pointers from Josh van der Flier, Max Deegan, Sean Cronin and Andrew Porter saw the boys in blue ease to victory despite not being at their best throughout the game. 

Leinster thought they had got off to the perfect start as Luke McGrath went over for a try after just 40 seconds, but it was chalked off with the scrum-half being offside. 

They went over again moments later but again it again cancelled out as James Lowe knocked on in the build-up. 

However, it was third time lucky with 10 minutes on the clock as Ross Byrne took a quick cross-field kick from a penalty, which Lowe took in before sending it inside to Kearney for the try. Byrne split the posts with the conversion to make it 7-0. 

Four minutes on and they were over again through van der Flier who was fed by McGrath close to the line and he charged over. Byrne made it two kicks from two to push the hosts 14-0 ahead. 

Lyon hit back just after the 20 minute mark as Virgile Bruni intercepted a pass and raced forward to touch down under the posts. Jonathan Pelissie knocked over the extras to cut into the hosts lead. 

Leinster captain Scott Fardy thought he had scored his side’s third try only to have it ruled out for another knock-on. 

However, on 31 minutes Leinster did have their third try and it was Kearney who finished off a period of pressure in the opposition 22 as Lowe unselfishly passed to him when he could have tried to score himself. Byrne hit the post with the conversion, but it still managed to go over to make it 21-7. 

The away side hit back again after some pressure of their own in the Leinster 22 and with a penalty advantage they went over for their second try of the game through second-row Hendrik Roodt. Pelissie converted once again to make it 21-14 come half-time. 

Leinster dominated the opening exchanges of the second-half and thought they had scored their fourth try of the afternoon on 45 minutes through van der Flier, but it was again ruled out, this time due to a forward pass. 

The home side continued to put the pressure on inside the Lyon 22 and after a number of penalties the away side lost Felix Lambey to a yellow-card. 

Leinster made the most of their man advantage and secured the bonus-point try on 50 minutes as Deegan finished off a number of phases in the Lyon 22 by barging under the posts. Byrne chipped over the conversion to give Leinster a 28-14 lead. 

Things only got worse for Lyon on 63 minutes as Xavier Mignot was sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes and again Leinster made their numerical advantage count as substitute Cronin went over off the back of a line-out from the resulting penalty. Byrne made it five from five from the tee to make it 35-14. 

They had their sixth try of the game with nine minutes left on the clock as they made the most of some more time in the Lyon 22 and after a few phases Porter barrelled over for a five-pointer. Replacement fly-half Ciaran Frawley slotted the conversion between the posts. 

The final 10 minutes came to nothing for either side as Leinster ran out 42-14 winners.

The win means that Leinster have claimed 24 points from a possible 25 in the pool stages and have continued their winning streak this season, extending the run to 15 on the bounce. Leinster will hope to finish the pool with a perfect record when they head to Benetton next weekend, while Lyon will hope to end their run in this season’s competition with a positive result against Northampton.

Player Ratings

Starting XV:

Jordan Larmour (7), Dave Kearney (8), Garry Ringrose (7), Robbie Henshaw (7), James Lowe (8), Ross Byrne (8), Luke McGrath (8); Cian Healy (7), James Tracy (7), Tadhg Furlong (8), Devin Toner (7), Scott Fardy (8), Rhys Ruddock (7), Josh van der Flier (8), Max Deegan (9)

Replacements (8)

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