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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

Leinster name team to face Montpellier

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(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The Leinster Rugby squad, proudly sponsored by Bank of Ireland, has been named by Leo Cullen ahead of Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup game against Montpellier at the RDS Arena (KO 1pm – live on BT Sport and Newstalk).

The side will be captained by James Ryan and it will be the first time that the team has played since the fixture against Bath in Aviva Stadium on 11 December.

Hugo Keenan will wear the number 15 jersey, with Jordan Larmour and Jimmy O’Brien on the wings. O’Brien made his European debut against Montpellier last season.

In the centre, Ciarán Frawley and Garry Ringrose are selected, while Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne are the half-backs selected by Cullen.

In the pack, Andrew Porter, Rónan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong start in the front row with Ross Molony and James Ryan an all-St. Michael’s College second row.

Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan complete Cullen’s starting XV.

On the bench, Rhys Ruddock is in line to win his 50th Champions Cup cap for Leinster Rugby should he be introduced.

Leinster Rugby team v Montpellier (caps in brackets):

15. Hugo Keenan (36)
14. Jordan Larmour (67)
13. Garry Ringrose (92)
12. Ciarán Frawley (42)
11. Jimmy O’Brien (38)
10. Ross Byrne (111)
9. Jamison Gibson-Park (106)

1. Andrew Porter (82)
2. Rónan Kelleher (30)
3. Tadhg Furlong (118)
4. Ross Molony (123)
5. James Ryan (53) CAPTAIN
6. Caelan Doris (45)
7. Josh van der Flier (104)
8. Jack Conan (107)

Replacements:

16. Dan Sheehan (19)
17. Cian Healy (238)
18. Michael Ala’alatoa (7)
19. Rhys Ruddock (196)
20. Max Deegan (71)
21. Luke McGrath (158)
22. Johnny Sexton (176)
23. James Lowe (57)

Referee – Wayne Barnes (RFU)

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Champions Cup

Ulster team named for away clash against Northampton Saints

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Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ireland international, Robert Baloucoune, will make a welcome return from injury to join Ulster’s match-day squad travelling to cinch Stadium on Sunday to face Northampton Saints (Sunday, 3.15pm kick-off).

The winger has been named on the right wing with Mike Lowry and Ethan McIlroy taking up the full-back and left wing starting positions. Stewart Moore comes in to partner James Hume in the centre. Billy Burns has been selected at out-half with Nathan Doak, who is set to make his first European start, joining him at scrum-half.

Andrew Warwick and Marty Moore will pack down either side of Rob Herring in the front row. Alan O’Connor will once again captain the side, and joining him in the second row is Kieran Treadwell. Marcus Rea will start at blindside flanker, with Nick Timoney named at openside and Duane Vermeulen at Number Eight.

John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Sam Carter and Greg Jones are named as forward replacements, with David Shanahan, Ian Madigan and Ben Moxham providing back line cover.

Ulster team to play Northampton Saints, Heineken Champions Cup Round 3, Sunday 16 January at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens, kick-off 3.15pm, live on BT Sport:

(15-9) Mike Lowry, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Ethan McIlroy, Billy Burns, Nathan Doak;

(1-8) Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor (Capt.), Kieran Treadwell, Marcus Rea, Nick Timoney, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Sam Carter, Greg Jones, David Shanahan, Ian Madigan, Ben Moxham.

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Champions Cup

Scarlets forfeit Champions Cup opener v Bristol

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Picture Credit: Getty Images

Scarlets are disappointed to announce that we have forfeited our round one Heineken Champions Cup match against Bristol Bears, due to be played on Saturday, December 11.

Following discussions between Scarlets management, coaches, players and medical and conditioning staff, the overwhelming feeling was that it would be a physical risk to select any of the 32 front-line squad members who are currently in quarantine in a hotel outside of Belfast.

Since returning from South Africa, the travelling party have been in a strict 10-day quarantine, confined to their rooms with limited outdoor time a day without having been able to train as a group. That isolation period is due to end on Friday, December 10 – just a day before the Bristol fixture.

At present, we have 14 fit Scarlets players training at Parc y Scarlets – seven senior players and seven development players. 

We would like to thank the Ospreys and Dragons for their offer of assistance, but, unfortunately, we have been unable to put together a match-day squad that can safely take the field against the Bears.

“It is a decision we haven’t taken lightly,” said Scarlets Executive Chairman Simon Muderack.

“This is a great fixture between two great clubs, which supporters, players and staff on both sides were all looking forward to.

“Ultimately, though, the welfare of our players has to be our priority and following discussions with our staff it was felt that there was too much risk to ask the players currently in quarantine to play a game of this magnitude and intensity just a day after coming out of quarantine. You have to remember, the squad have been in isolation since the news of this Omicron variant first emerged when they were still in Durban so it will be something like 15 days in all. Also, a lot of the players haven’t played since the Benetton game on October 22. As a club we have a duty of care to our players.

“With only 14 squad members training at the Parc, half of them young development players, we did look into the possibility of registering players from other regions and we have been grateful for the positive response from Ospreys and Dragons. But, any players we did loan would effectively be ‘cup-tied’ which has made that option a challenge as well.

“With the integrity of the competition in mind, we felt we were unable to put together a match-day 23 that would safely be able to take the field against the Bears.

“We are all disappointed. I know a lot of fans had booked accommodation in Bristol and have been looking forward to this game for some time. But I am sure everyone will understand the situation we have found ourselves in through no fault of our own. 

“I would also like to stress that we have returned no positive Covid-19 cases in all the rounds of PCR testing prior to leaving and since arriving in South Africa and Northern Ireland.

“We would like to thank everyone at Bristol Bears and EPCR for their understanding of our predicament and look forward to welcoming Pat Lam and his side to Parc y Scarlets for the return fixture in January.”

For those supporters who have purchased tickets and official coach travel for the game, further details will be published shortly.

Source – Scarlets Rugby

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