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Champions Cup

Munster Fall to Seventh Straight Semi-Final Defeat

Munster have been knocked out of the Champions Cup at the semi-final stage once more with defeat to Saracens

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Hopes of an All-Irish Champions Cup final are over after Munster lost 32-16 to Saracens in the semi-final stage at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday.

The loss is Munster’s seventh semi-final defeat in a row and means the nations hopes now lie with Leinster as they face Toulouse on Sunday for a place in the final.

The huge physical battle was kicked off by Owen Farrell, who knocked over a penalty after only two minutes to put the hosts 3-0 up.

On nine minutes Munster struck level thanks to a Tyler Bleyendaal penalty.

Farrell kicked a further two penalties without reply by the 26th minute as Saracens went 9-3 ahead.

Bleyendaal slotted home his second penalty of the afternoon, before Conor Murray stepped up to score a monster long-range penalty to bring the sides level.

On the stroke of half-time Farrell finished as he started with his fourth penalty of the game to bring the home side 12-9 up at the whistle.

The visitor’s massive defensive effort in the opening half told only two minutes into the second half as Saracens kept the ball well before Michael Rhodes got in for the first try of the game. Farrell converted to stretch their lead out to 19-9.

By the 53rd minute they were further in front when Farrell kicked his fifth and sixth penalties of the day to make it 25-9.

With 20 minutes remaining Munster got themselves back into the game as they worked the ball out to Darren Sweetnam who raced over to touch-down. JJ Hanrahan converted to make it 25-16.

Billy Vunipola got the next score with 10 minutes left when he broke through for his sides second try. Farrell was on hand once more to add the extras.

Saracens were reduced to 14 men when Vincent Koch was sin-binned, but it made little difference as Saracens held on for a 32-16 win.

After the game a fan wearing a Munster jersey confronted Billy Vunipola following his support for Israel Folau’s anti-LGBT comments on social media recently. Which left a soar taste to the tie.

In the post-match press conference Munster head coach Johann van Graan admitted his side were second-best on the day.

“We weren’t good enough on the day, we got beaten by the better team so no excuses from our side,” he said.

Saracens march on to the final in Newcastle now where they will face either Leinster or Toulouse. While Munster now look towards their next game with Connacht as they look to pip Glasgow to top spot in Conference A of the Pro 14.

Player Ratings:

Saracens = Alex Goode (7), David Strettle (7), Alex Lozowski (6), Brad Barritt (6), Liam Williams (7), Owen Farrell (9), Ben Spencer (8); Mako Vunipola (7), Jamie George (7), Titi Lamositele (8), Maro Itoje (8), George Kruis (7), Michael Rhodes (8), Jackson Wray (7), Billy Vunipola (7)

Replacements (7)

Munster = Mike Haley (6), Andrew Conway (6), Chris Farrell (6), Niall Scannell (7), Darren Sweetnam (7), Tyler Bleyendaal (6), Conor Murray (7); Dave Kilcoyne (7), Niall Scannell (6), John Ryan (5), Jean Kleyn (7), Tadhg Beirne (6), Peter O’Mahony (6), Jack O’Donoghue (6), CJ Stander (8)

Replacements (6)

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6 Nations

Leinster and Ireland Star Signs New Contract

One of Ireland’s key men has signed a new two-year deal with the IRFU

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Cian Healy has signed a new two-year deal with the IRFU to remain with Leinster and Ireland until the summer of 2021.

The prop is one of the country’s most consistent performers and is delighted to have the opportunity to continue representing both province and country.

“Pulling on a Leinster or an Ireland jersey is something that I have always taken a huge amount of pride in and I am thankful for every opportunity I get. I am delighted therefore to have extended my IRFU contract and to continue to line out for Leinster. I believe that we have built something special at Leinster and with the national team and I want to contribute as best I can to both teams in what will be a hugely exciting few months and years ahead,” he said.

Healy has faced a number of serious injuries over the years but has thanked everyone at club and national level for their support and looks forward to the future with both.

“There has been some difficult times over the last few years for me personally with injury but the support within the Leinster and the Irish rugby family was very humbling from fellow players, coaches and supporters and it’s something that I won’t forget. It made this decision all the easier knowing that I was part of something bigger than just a rugby team. I hope to play my part in helping Leinster and Ireland achieve further success over the next few years and I’m looking forward to the next chapter in that journey,” he added.

Having been capped by Ireland 88 times since his debut in 2009 and holding 207 Leinster caps to his name already Healy is almost ever-present and IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora paid tribute to his consistency.

“Cian is performing at a very high level week in and week out. He works incredibly hard in ensuring that he is physically in the best condition to perform and has bounced back from adversity to return to the top of the international and club game. He will continue to be a leading performer for Ireland and Leinster over the coming years,” he said.

Healy has represented Ireland at two World Cups (2011 and 2015) and will be hoping to be heading to a third in Japan later this year, he also represented the British and Irish Lions in 2013.

As well as that Healy has a host of winner’s medals to his name with three Six Nations Championships in the bag for Ireland, while with Leinster he has won four European Cups, three Guinness Pro titles and a Challenge Cup.

Healy will be hoping to end the week on a high when he has the chance to add a fourth league title to his name as Leinster head to Celtic Park to face Glasgow Warriors in the Pro 14 final.

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Champions Cup

Connacht Receive Planning Permission for Stadium Redevelopment

Connacht have announced that the Sportsground’s redevelopment has been given the all-clear and will have a couple of new features

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Connacht Rugby have been granted planning permission for the €30 million redevelopment of the Sportsground and it will some new features. 

The land is owned by the Irish Greyhound Board and will include a new greyhound racing track once complete along with a new high-performance centre.

Speaking on the redevelopment Connacht’s chief executive Willie Ruane admitted he is delighted that everything had been passed.

“There has been huge momentum behind the project since we announced last October, and we now have the final granting of planning permission. With 130 people employed throughout the province by Connacht Rugby we are extremely proud of the annual contribution of €34.4 million we are making to the regional economy,” he said

The new stadium will also have a 12,000-seat capacity, with two stands on either touchline and terrace areas behind the try-lines.

The club secured €10 million in private funding between its own funds and an approved bank credit facility. Ruane confirmed that without the State providing the other €20 million the project cannot continue.

“We have €10m in private funding to bring to the table through a mixture of Connacht Rugby funds and an approved bank credit facility. The project is now shovel ready and the remaining €20m state investment is critical to its delivery,” he added.

The redevelopment would be a massive boost to the club who are progressing season by season and have secured Champions Cup rugby for next season. It is also positive news for the Galway area as a whole as it continues to grow in popularity among tourists and this will only add to the attraction.

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Champions Cup

Saracens’ Star Duo to Miss End of Season

Two Saracens players are set to miss the remainder of the season and there is no set date for their return

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Saracens props Mako Vunipola and Titi Lamositele will miss the end of the season due to injury.

Both picked up injuries during Sarries 20-10 Champions Cup clinching win over Leinster and the club have confirmed that neither will be available as they attempt to retain their Premiership title.

Vunipola, who has been plagued by injury this year, has picked up a significant hamstring injury but Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall is certain he will be available for England’s World Cup campaign.

“Mako has a torn hamstring. We’re waiting to see exactly what happens with that, but I very much doubt he’ll play again this season. Nether will Titi. Mako won’t be out of the World Cup, but he’ll be out for a while. It’s quite a significant injury. It’s disappointing to lose two players of that quality and it makes us a little bit vulnerable,” he said.

Many of the 23 that took part in the final are expected to be rested in the final regular season game of the campaign against Worcester this Saturday. However, Saracens face a semi-final a week later and a potential final to retain their crown a week after that and this is a huge blow.

Despite the losses McCall is confident that his side have the firepower to get the job done.

“Juan Figallo is just coming back from injury, which is good timing. We were really impressed with Richard Barrington and Vincent Koch did when they came on, and Christian Judge has had a really good season. So we’ve got some guys who are ready to step up,” he added.

Although McCall has said that Vunipola will be ready for the World Cup, England head coach Eddie Jones will be sweating on the match-fitness of one of his star men, who has only played twice in the past three months.

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