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Champions Cup

Henderson Returns for Bath Game

Ulster have announced their squad for tomorrow’s Champions Cup opener against Bath

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(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland has announced his 23-man squad ahead of his team’s trip to Bath for their Champions Cup opening round fixture tomorrow at 13 00.

There is a massive boost for the club with captain Iain Henderson and winger Jacob Stockdale returning to the fold. 

In the front-row it’s Jack McGrath and Marty Moore at either side of Rob Herring who is at hooker, while Henderson and Sam Carter slot in behind them in the second-row. 

The back-row sees Matthew Rea at blindside-flanker, with Jordi Murphy on the openside and Marcell Coetzee finishes the forward pack from No 8. 

In the half-backs John Cooney starts at scrum-half, linking up with Billy Burns at fly-half, with Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshell just outside them in the midfield pairing. 

Stockdale returns to take up a place on the left-wing, with Rob Lyttle on the right and Will Addison completes the starting XV from full-back. 

On the bench there are the likes Eric O’Sullivan, David Shananhan and Louis Ludik to call upon if needed. 

Speaking ahead of the clash star-winger Stockdale is excited to test himself against some of the best teams in Europe as he looks to put a disappointing World Cup campaign with Ireland behind him. 

“The buzz of the Champions Cup never really leaves you. It’s always exciting to challenge yourself at a different level than you normally would in the league,” he said. 

Ulster head into the game having never lost to Bath in the competition and will hope to continue that trend as they hope to kick-start their campaign on the front-foot. 

Check Out the 23-Man Squad Below:

Starting XV:

Will Addison, Rob Lyttle, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns, John Cooney; Jack McGrath, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Iain Henderson (Capt.), Sam Carter, Matthew Rea, Jordi Murphy, Marcell Coetzee.

Replacements:

Adam McBurney, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Sean Reidy, David Shanahan, Angus Curtis, Louis Ludik

Challenge Cup

European Player of the Year Nominees Announced

Following the conclusion of the pool stages of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup a 15-man strong shortlist for 2020’s Player of the Year has been confirmed

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(Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The EPCR European Player of the Year nominations for 2020 have been announced, with 15 players being shortlisted from the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup.

Among the 15 players three teams have three nominations each with last season’s Champions Cup runners-up Leinster seeing Garry Ringrose, Jordan Larmour and Tadhg Furlong nominated. While Exeter Chiefs have Luke Cowan-Dickie, Sam Simmonds and Stuart Hogg among the shortlist. 

Racing 92 are the only other team to have three nominees being represented by Finn Russell, Virimi Vakatawa and Teddy Thomas. 

Ulster and Toulouse have picked up two nominations each with the Irish province having John Cooney and Marcell Coetzee on list, while Jerome Kaino and Romain Ntamack are included from the French giants. 

Clermont Auvergne centre George Moala is the final player on the list from the Champions Cup, while the only player from the Challenge Cup to be considered is Bordeaux-Begles Flying-Fijian Semi Radradra. 

Last season’s Champions Cup winners Saracens have had no players nominated, however, there is still a chance that players could be drafted into the nominations should they make a significant impact during the knockout-stages of the competition. 

The initial list of 15-players will be reduced to just five come the conclusion of the semi-final stage of the tournaments, with public voting and a judges vote combining to determine the results. 

Among the panel of judges this year are former Ireland stars Brian O’Driscoll and Alan Quinlan, along with the likes of Dimitri Yachvili, Bryan Habana and Erik Bonneval. 

The overall winner of the Anthony Foley Memorial Trophy will be announced following the conclusion of this year’s Champions Cup final at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille on Saturday the 23rd of May. 

Check Out the Full 15-Man Shortlist Below. 

Marcell COETZEE (Ulster Rugby)

John COONEY (Ulster Rugby)

Luke COWAN-DICKIE (Exeter Chiefs)

Tadhg FURLONG (Leinster Rugby)

Stuart HOGG (Exeter Chiefs)

Jerome KAINO (Toulouse)

Jordan LARMOUR (Leinster Rugby)

George MOALA (ASM Clermont Auvergne)

Romain NTAMACK (Toulouse)

Semi RADRADRA (Bordeaux-Bègles)

Garry RINGROSE (Leinster Rugby)

Finn RUSSELL (Racing 92)

Sam SIMMONDS (Exeter Chiefs)

Teddy THOMAS (Racing 92)

Virimi VAKATAWA (Racing 92)

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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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(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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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