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Champions Cup

Preview: Leinster v Toulouse. Key Battles.

Leinster have named their side to face Toulouse in the Champions Cup semi-finals and there are a host of Irish internationals back in it

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Leinster have named as strong a side as possible for their Champions Cup semi-final with Toulouse at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday at 15 15.

Johnny Sexton has returned following time out with an injury and captains the team from fly-half.

Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Tadhg Furlong begin the game in the front-row, while Devin Toner and James Ryan pair up in the second-row in what is an outstanding front five.

Rhys Ruddock is at six, Sean O’Brien at seven and Jack Conan is at No 8 to make up the remainder of the pack.

Luke McGrath is back at scrum-half to partner Sexton, while Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose team up in the centre.

James Lowe starts on the left-wing, Jordan Larmour on the right, and Rob Kearney will open the game at full-back in what is a star-studded XV.

The bench is full of talent to call upon too if needed. James Tracy, Ed Byrne and Michael Bent are the front-row replacements, with Scott Fardy and Max Deegan covering the rest of the pack. Fardy’s inclusion coupled with Lowe starting means that Jamison Gibson-Park misses out. In his place is Hugh O’Sullivan, who is joined by Ross Byrne and Rory O’Loughlin among the replacements.

Scrum-half McGrath is expecting a huge game and has been impressed by Toulouse since their second of two previous meetings this season, he admitted while speaking to the Irish Times.

“Toulouse have improved as well. That quarter-final in Racing was incredibly impressive, the way they handled the red card, bringing [Sébastien] Bézy on [at scrumhalf], moving [Antoine] Dupont to ‘10’. They’re a class outfit so, it’s going to be a great challenge,” he said.

Toulouse will head into the game in a confident mood as they hope to dethrone the reigning champions in their own backyard.

Clement Castres, Peato Mauvaka and Charlie Faumuina are the front-three, with Richie Arnold and Richie Gray at four and five respectively.

Rynhard Elstadt is at blindside flanker, with Joe Tekori at openside and Jerome Kaino taking the No 8 shirt.

It’s an exciting back-line too as Sebastien Bezy and Antoine Dupont pair up in the half-backs, with Pita Ahki and Sofiane Guitoune outside them in the centre pairing.

The electric Cheslin Kolbe is at 11, with Yoann Huget at 14 and Thomas Ramos occupying the 15 jersey.

The visitors have plenty of talent on the bench with the likes of Cyril Baille, Romain Ntamack and Maxime Medard among the replacements ready to put in a shift when called upon.

Both sides are at their strongest possible and that has led to some interesting individual fights across the pitch.

Key Battles:

James Ryan vs Richie Gray = This is one of the most exciting aspects of the game, two of the best locks around going head-to-head. Both are immense at the break-down, and leaders for their respective sides. Whoever comes out on top here will put their team on the front foot and could send their side through to the final.

Jack Conan vs Jerome Kaino = Here is a chance for Jack Conan to continue his rise to the top as he faces one of the best in the business. Conan put in a man of the match performance in the quarter-finals against Ulster and will need a similar performance to keep Kaino at bay. On the other hand, Kaino will need to keep an eye out for Conan’s ability to pick and go. This will be a seriously physical clash and these two will be key to it.

James Lowe vs Cheslin Kolbe = Yes they may be on opposite wings but they are the two sides biggest threats going forward. Lowe will face veteran Huget on his wing while Kolbe comes up against the dancing feet of Larmour. Not only will these two need to be at their best going forward but will need to be solid defensively. You can’t take your eye off either one for a second or they will tear your team apart and if the pair get going we could witness greatness on the flanks.

As both these sides look to add a record fifth European title to their name the stakes couldn’t be higher and with all the cards laid we seem set for a cracker on Sunday.


Champions Cup

New Signing & Contract News

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Munster Rugby are pleased to confirm the signing of 23-year-old winger Diarmuid Kilgallen on a two-year deal ahead of the 2024/25 season.

In further contract news, hooker Eoghan Clarke has signed a one-year deal for next season after rejoining Munster in November.

Prop Keynan Knox has completed his time at the province after scoring three tries in 33 appearances and we wish him all the best for the future.

Diarmuid Kilgallen in action against Ulster in November.

Kilgallen hails from Eadestown in Kildare and has scored 12 tries in 22 appearances for Connacht to date.

He started out at Naas RFC before playing schools rugby for Cistercian College Roscrea on the Tipperary-Offaly border.

He joined the Connacht Academy in 2019 and made his debut against Munster in 2020.

A tall, athletic winger, he scored five tries in eight appearances last season and has five tries in six appearances so far this year.

Eoghan Clarke made his first start for Munster against Crusaders earlier this month.

25-year-old hooker Clarke has signed on for next year after impressing since returning to the province in November.

Clarke spent three years in the Munster Academy before departing for Jersey Reds in 2021. He won the English Championship with Jersey last season but the club went into liquidation in October.

He has made five appearances for Munster since returning, including a debut against Bayonne in December and a first start against Crusaders at Páirc Uí Chaoimh earlier this month.

24-year-old tighthead prop Knox departs after over seven years at Munster Rugby.

He joined the Academy midway through the 2017/18 season after completing his second level education with Michaelhouse in South Africa.

The Young Munster clubman made his senior debut against Dragons in September 2019 and moved up to the senior squad in 2020.

Knox featured in eight games last season as Munster clinched the URC title. In total, he scored three tries in 33 Munster appearances.

We wish Keynan all the best with his next move.

Keynan Knox at training last month.

Images & Content from Munster Rugby


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Champions Cup

Squad Update | Munster Prepare For Northampton

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The Munster squad started preparations on Monday ahead of Saturday’s vital Investec Champions Cup clash against Northampton at Thomond Park (5.30pm).

There are a limited number of tickets remaining here.

Find out all you need to know ahead of the match here.

There were no new injuries to report after the win over Toulon on Saturday.

Following a consultation last week, Jack O’Donoghue will not require surgery on his knee injury and will be managed conservatively by the medical department. He is unavailable for three to four months.

Oli Jager is continuing to follow the return to play protocols and his availability for the Northampton game will be determined later this week.

There is good news for Jack Daly (ankle) as he returns to training this week.

Cian Hurley (ankle/achilles) and Mike Haley (hip) are increasing their training demands and will target a return to play in the coming weeks.

Continuing to rehab: Jack O’Donoghue (knee), Dave Kilcoyne (shoulder), Diarmuid Barron (foot), Jean Kleyn (eye/knee), Liam Coombes (shoulder), RG Snyman (chest/shoulder), Roman Salanoa (knee), Mike Haley (hip), Cian Hurley (ankle/achilles).

There were eight Munster players in AIL action at the weekend.

Academy out-half Tony Butler kicked two penalties and a conversion for Young Munster as they were beaten 23-13 by Cork Constitution at Temple Hill. Chris Moore started at hooker for the Cookies.

Academy scrum-half Jack Oliver kicked two penalties and a conversion for Garryowen in their 23-10 win over UCC at the Mardyke. Colm Hogan scored a try for Garryowen with Academy prop George Hadden also featuring.

Jack O’Sullivan started at no.8 for College.

Evan O’Connell was in action for UL Bohs as they were beaten 34-7 by Old Crescent.

Video | Graham Rowntree Interview

Tickets

Champions Cup Round 4: Saturday, January 20

Munster Rugby v Northampton Saints, Thomond Park, 5.30pm; Buy tickets here

Saturday, February 3

Munster Rugby v Crusaders, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 5pm; SOLD OUT

URC Round 11: Friday, March 1

Munster v Zebre Parma, Musgrave Park, 7.35pm; Buy tickets here

URC Round 13: Saturday, March 30

Munster v Cardiff Rugby, Thomond Park, 7.35pm; Buy tickets here

URC Round 16: Saturday, May 11

Munster v Connacht, Thomond Park, 5.15pm; Buy tickets here

URC Round 18: Saturday, June 1

Munster v Ulster, Thomond Park, 5.15pm; Buy tickets here

Images & Content from Munster Rugby


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Champions Cup

All You Need To Know | RC Toulon v Munster

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Munster are away to RC Toulon this weekend in a huge Investec Champions Cup clash.

Find out all you need to know about the game below.

Our final Pool game is against the Northampton Saints at Thomond Park on Saturday, January 20, with tickets available here.

Where?

Stade Felix Mayol, Toulon

When?

3.15pm Irish time, Saturday, January 13

Munster News

Squad Update 

Gallery | This Week’s Best Training Pics

Did You Know?

This will be the first meeting of Munster and Toulon since the 2018 Champions Cup quarter-final at Thomond Park.

Munster’s last visit to Stade Felix Mayol was back in January 2011 with the French side securing a 32-16 victory to end Munster’s hopes of qualifying for the knock-out stages.

A draw at home to Bayonne and a defeat in Exeter leaves Munster fifth in Pool 3 with Toulon sixth after a home loss to Exeter and away defeat to Northampton.

The top four qualify for the next round and there are two rounds of games still to play.

Remaining Pool 3 Fixtures

Kick-offs in Irish time

Round 3

Friday, Jan 12: Northampton v Bayonne, Franklin’s Gardens, 8pm;

Saturday, Jan 13: Exeter Chiefs v Glasgow Warriors, Sandy Park, 1pm;

Toulon v Munster, Stade Felix Mayol, 3.15pm;

Round 4

Friday, Jan 19: Glasgow v Toulon, Scotstoun, 8pm;

Saturday, Jan 20: Munster v Northampton, Thomond Park, 5.30pm; Buy tickets here

Sunday, Jan 21: Bayonne v Exeter Chiefs, Stade Jean Dauger, 5.30pm;

Teams

Both sides will be named at 12pm on Friday.

Match Officials

Referee: Nika Amashukeli

AR1: Saba Abulashvili

AR2: Shota Tevzadze

TMO: Ben Whitehouse

Broadcast

Live on TNT Sports, beIN Sports, France TV, FloRugby & SuperSport.

Tickets

Champions Cup Round 4: Saturday, January 20

Munster Rugby v Northampton Saints, Thomond Park, 5.30pm; Buy tickets here

Saturday, February 3

Munster Rugby v Crusaders, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 5pm; SOLD OUT

URC Round 11: Friday, March 1

Munster v Zebre Parma, Musgrave Park, 7.35pm; Buy tickets here

URC Round 13: Saturday, March 30

Munster v Cardiff Rugby, Thomond Park, 7.35pm; Buy tickets here

URC Round 16: Saturday, May 11

Munster v Connacht, Thomond Park, 5.15pm; Buy tickets here

URC Round 18: Saturday, June 1

Munster v Ulster, Thomond Park, 5.15pm; Buy tickets here

Images & Content from Munster Rugby


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