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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.

Challenge Cup

Ulster name team for Northampton Quarter-Final trip

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Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images

The Ulster coaching team has named the match-day squad for the trip to face Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday (kick-off 8pm).

Michael Lowry is named to start at full-back, and is joined in the back three by Jacob Stockdale and Robert Baloucoune. Stuart McCloskey and James Hume will form the midfield duo, and Billy Burns and John Cooney are the starting half-backs.

In the front row, Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring and Marty Moore retain their starting berths. Alan O’Connor will partner Kieran Treadwell in the second row. Last week’s Player of the Match, Sean Reidy, will start at blindside flanker, with Jordi Murphy skippering the team at openside and Nick Timoney at Number Eight.

John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, Matty Rea and Greg Jones will provide the forward reinforcements from the bench, with Alby Mathewson, Ian Madigan and Ethan McIlroy named as the back line options.

Ulster team to play Northampton Saints, Challenge Cup Quarter-Final, Saturday 10 April at Franklin’s Gardens (kick-off 8pm, live on BT Sport):

(15-9) Michael Lowry, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns, John Cooney;

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

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

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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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