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Champions Cup

Leicester v Ulster Preview: Henderson to make 100th appearance for Ulster

Hendy hits the Ton

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Iain Henderson will make an earlier than expected return to action, as he makes his 100th appearance for Ulster against Leicester at Welford Road. The second row is the sole change to the starting team that beat Racing 92 last weekend

One of the finds of the season, Eric O’Sullivan, and former Leinster prop Marty Moore pack down either side of captain Rory Best in the front row. Kieran Treadwell partners Iain Henderson in the engine room, with Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy, and Marcel Coetzee rounding out the pack.

Dave Shanahan is rewarded for his good form by keeping hold of his spot at scrum-half, even with the return to fitness of John Cooney. Billy Burns starts at out-half once again. In the midfield the ‘Bangor Bulldozer’ Stuart McCloskey starts, with Will Addison outside him. The back three sees the ‘Lisburn Yeti’ Jacob Stockdale who will be hoping to add to his tally of 6 tries and former Sevens star Robert Baloucoune on the wings, and Louis Ludik at full-back.

Leicester have named a backline full of internationals. England halfbacks Ben Youngs and George Ford start, with an all-star midfield pairing of Manu Tuilagi and Matt To’omua. In the back three, recent Wales call-up Jonah Holmes starts at 15, with England regular Jonny May, and exciting youngster Jordan Olowofela on the wings. Hooker Jake Kerr starts, after being named in the Scotland squad for the Six Nations this week, with the veteran prop Dan Cole also celebrating a return to the international fold having been recalled by Eddie Jones this week.

Ulster are still in contention for their first quarter final spot since 2014. If they beat Leicester, they have to wait and see how the other results go. They will be hoping that Edinburgh beat Montpellier, Saracens get a win against Glasgow, and that Munster get the job done against Exeter.

Leicester v Ulster kicks off at 15:15 on Saturday live on BT Sports. 

You can check out our ‘Predictions’ for this game and the rest of the games in Round 6 here.

Champions Cup

Exeter Ace Signs Contract Extension

Following the news that England star Harry Williams has agreed a new deal with Exeter Chiefs another star player has committed his future to the Premiership giants

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(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

England prop Ben Moon has put pen to paper on a new deal with Premiership side the Exeter Chiefs.

The eight-cap England international has agreed a new “long-term” deal that will see him remain at Sandy Park for the foreseeable future and he is delighted to be staying at his hometown club. 

“Obviously, I’m delighted. To be at one club your whole career is pretty rare these days. The fact it’s my hometown club as well, it’s brilliant, and I feel very privileged to be part of the Chiefs. Luckily for me, I’ve been part of a brilliant journey – one which I know has plenty of miles still to go. What we have achieved as a club, as a team, and as individuals, it’s taken a huge amount of work and effort, but everyone has seen the result,” he said to the club’s website. 

Moon has been with the Chiefs since his time in the academy and has managed to pick up an incredible 259 appearances for the club, notching 11 tries in that time. 

He has been part of the team since their time in the English second-tier and has helped them rise up the ranks, culminating in a Premiership crown in 2017. 

It is further good news for the current Premiership league leaders after fellow England international Harry Williams signed a contract extension with the club over the weekend as the Chiefs build toward the future.

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Challenge Cup

EPCR Confirm European Competition Postponements

European Rugby have announced that the latter stages of the Champions and Challenge Cups will be pushed back due to coronavirus

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(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

EPCR have released a statement to confirm that the semi-final and final stages of this year’s Champions and Challenge Cup will be postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Last week it was announced that the quarter-final stage set to take place across the first weekend of April would be suspended and now the final stages have followed suit as expected the ECPR have confirmed. 

“Following a conference call on Monday, the EPCR board can reconfirm the suspension of this season’s Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup tournaments and has furthermore decided to postpone the semi-final matches, as well as the 2020 Marseille finals, which were due to be played on the weekends of 1/2/3 May and 22/23 May respectively. In making the decision, the board is abiding by the official directives and recommendations of the relevant authorities in its territories to restrict the Covid-19 pandemic. In light of the earlier postponement of its quarter-final matches and with fixtures in Europe’s professional league competitions currently suspended due to the public health crisis, EPCR believes it necessary to provide as much clarity as possible to all stakeholders regarding the knockout stages of its tournaments. To that end, EPCR is working with the leagues and unions to restructure a conclusion to its season as part of a wider rescheduling of the remainder of the season in Europe, with all contingencies underpinned by the requirement to protect the health and welfare of players, club staff, match officials, supporters and the wider rugby community.  EPCR remains committed to completing the 2019/20 Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup season, and it is planned to reschedule the quarter-final and semi-final matches, as well as the Marseille finals, in line with fixtures in the professional league competitions, subject to advice from government and local authorities,” the statement read. 

The final weekend was set to take place in Marseille and reports last weekend had claimed that officials were still hopeful of finishing there on the chosen date. 

However, even with this announcement it is hard to see when they will conclude the European season as all domestic leagues have been suspended until further notice and the clock is ticking toward the start of next season as it appears unlikely that any rugby will be played in the foreseeable future.

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Champions Cup

Saracens Face EPCR Misconduct Hearing

Saracens are set to face yet another hearing but this time it’s on the European front

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Saracens are set to face a misconduct hearing with the EPCR today at 18 00 the European Rugby body have confirmed.

The reigning Champions Cup holders are in trouble after they informed officials earlier in the week that they may have fielded an ineligible player during their Champions Cup win over Racing 92 last month which sealed them a quarter-final place. 

The player in question is Titi Lamositele, who came off the bench in the 60th minute of the clash against the Top 14 side. It is understood that when the squad was announced for the game that the player was eligible. 

However, his work permit did in fact expire on January 18th, with the game taking place on the 19th, which could have caused a breach in the disciplinary rules.

An independent Disciplinary Committee will hear the complaint later today, with it being chaired by Roger Morris (Wales), Pamela Woodman (Scotland) and Jean-Noel Couraud (France). 

It is the latest blow in what has been a dramatic season to date for the Premiership outfit, who were found to have breached salary cap regulations in the competition and being fined and docked points before being relegated outright last month. 

They were docked further points recently to ensure that they will finish the season in last place in the Premiership. 

While on the European front they have already caused problems for the EPCR by failing to show up to the competition’s opening event. 

Despite all the drama they have managed to progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup and will face last season’s beaten finalists Leinster away from home, but it remains to be seen what their latest punishment could be if found guilty.

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