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Champions Cup

The 5 Main Match Ups: Leinster v Ulster Match Preview.

Leinster have not held back in omitting some players from their squad to face Ulster but have been forced to be without one key man

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Leinster will be without captain Johnny Sexton when they host Ulster in the Champions Cup Quarter-Finals at Aviva Stadium on Saturday at 17 45.

It was confirmed that Sexton would miss out earlier on Friday morning with Ross Byrne taking his place at No 10. However, some returning Irish stars have been left out of the starting team and 23 too.

On the other side Iain Henderson has been passed fit for the visitors, in what is a huge boost for the northern side

Leinster’s team is made up by Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, and Tadhg Furlong in the front-row, with James Ryan and Scott Fardy in the lock positions.

In the back-row, Rhys Ruddock captains the side in Sexton’s absence from the left-flank, with Sean O’Brien on the opposite side and Jack Conan slotting in at No 8 to complete the pack.

Luke McGrath is picked to start at scrum-half after making a return to action last weekend, and is joined in the half-backs by Byrne, who has a massive opportunity to shine now.

In the centre, Rory O’Loughlin partners Garry Ringrose, while Dave Kearney is at 11, Adam Byrne at 14 and Jordan Larmour comes in to play at 15.

The bench is full of experience with the likes of Dan Leavy, Andrew Porter, Jamison Gibson-Park and Rob Kearney ready to provide fire-power when called upon.

Gibson-Park’s inclusion on the bench also ruled out James Lowe from taking part in the game, while Kearney finds himself on the bench due to Larmour’s starting role, however Jack McGrath is a noticeable absentee from the squad.

Speaking ahead of the game Leinster head coach Leo Cullen explained that some players will have to get used to being left out due to the younger talent that is coming through at the club.

“We’ve guys coming through the system and they can all contribute. It’s unfair to talk about guys missing out. It’s about a squad of players. This is the group we are and the way we want it to be. It’s the nature of the business, investing in the young players. Older guys know they need to facilitate that, it can be hard at times but we have to tell them this is the way it is this week. And when they deliver things in training there can be a next time,” he said.

On the Ulster side, as mentioned above Henderson is available and he is joined by returning captain Rory Best to bolster their hopes of an upset.

Best is partnered in the front-row by Eric O’Sullivan and Marty Moore, with Henderson joined by Kieran Treadwell in the second-row.

Nick Timoney is at six, while Jordi Murphy comes in at seven to make his first start against his former side. Marcell Coetzee completes the pack at No 8.

John Cooney and Billy Burns continue to be given time together in the half-backs, with Stuart McCloskey and Darren Cave outside them in the centre.

Jacob Stockdale starts on the left-wing, with Robert Baloucoune on the right and Michael Lowry at full-back.

The likes of Rob Herring, Sean Reidy and Dave Shanahan are joined in the replacements by the returning Luke Marshall.

Ulster’s danger-man Stockdale is spoken of his excitement at playing against Leinster this weekend.

“It’s a big game ahead and it’s fun playing against guys that you play with quite a lot, it’s going to be a good game,” he said.

The game will see a lot of Irish internationals that are looking for a seat on the plane to Japan go up against one another, here are some key match-ups to look out for.

Sean Cronin vs Rory Best:

Cronin was dropped from the Ireland set-up during the Six Nations, while Ireland captain Best played out his final games in the competition. Cronin has had a brilliant season with Leinster so far, especially scoring tries and will need to put up a huge fight on Saturday to stake a claim to be Best’s under-study come the World Cup.

James Ryan vs Iain Henderson:

Although one is at four and the other at five this weekend, it will be interesting to see how they cope against one another as they are such influential players in the lock position. Whoever comes out on top in the line-out department during the match will go a long way to winning the game and these men are key to the set-piece.

Sean O’Brien vs Jordi Murphy:

A departing Leinster man versus a departed Leinster man. This will be an all-out battle as neither are certain to head to Japan in one of the most hotly contested positions in the Ireland team. O’Brien is being questioned after his performances in the Six Nations, while Murphy hasn’t set the world alight since going North. If either can hit top form here it could be crucial for themselves and their team, especially as Dan Leavy will be raring to make his stamp on the game from the bench.

Luke McGrath vs John Cooney:

Again, another former blue in Cooney faces his old side. He was in and out of the Irish team while McGrath was unavailable through injury. McGrath will be wanting a perfect performance to make up for lost time because of his injury, while Cooney will want to continue his fine form that has seen him in the Irish set-up. These could be the two men battling for a place in the squad for Japan so a starring role here could seal the deal for either one.

Ross Byrne vs Billy Burns:

This is a real test for the Leinster man, who is starting due to Sexton’s injury and he won’t have an easy afternoon with Burns around. If he can control the game, it could see him step up his own plans for Japan. Burns will be doing everything he can to stop the Leinster man. Remember it was in the semi-finals 10 years ago that Sexton got his real break-through, could this be Byrne’s?

This could be the game of the weekend if it all gets going and although Leinster are strong favourites to progress this one could go down to the wire as Ulster are certainly up for the fight. Make sure you tune into this one.


Champions Cup

2023 EPCR Player of the Year award – nominees announced

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Following another series of impressive performances during the Heineken Champions Cup pool stage, the current EPCR Player of the Year, Leinster Rugby’s Josh van der Flier, is again a contender for one of the game’s most prestigious individual accolades after today’s announcement of the longlist of nominees for the 2023 award.

Voted for by a panel of distinguished judges (see below), this season’s longlist of 15 players includes proven Heineken Champions Cup and World Cup winners as well as in-form rising stars such as Jaden Hendrikse of the Cell C Sharks, Munster Rugby’s Gavin Coombes, Emmanuel Meafou of Stade Toulousain and Leinster’s Jamie Osborne.

The Durban-based Sharks have four nominees with Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth, Makazole Mapimpi and Hendrikse all receiving the judges’ seal of approval, while Leinster also have four representatives in Garry Ringrose, Caelan Doris, Van der Flier and Osborne.

In addition, Antoine Dupont, winner in 2021, and Julien Marchand of Stade Toulousain, have made the elite list along with Grégory Alldritt of Stade Rochelais, Saracens’ Elliot Daly and one of the world’s most gifted back rows, Justin Tipuric of the Ospreys.

The winner of the award, which is now in its 13th year, will receive the Anthony Foley Memorial Trophy in memory of the former Munster Rugby Head Coach and captain. Voting is now open HERE and fans will be in the running to win two VIP tickets with one night’s accommodation for the 2024 Heineken Champions Cup Final in May 2024.

At the conclusion of the semi-final matches in April, the list will be reduced to five players by a combination of the public vote and the verdict of the judges, and players who have not been included in the initial longlist, but who make a significant impact during the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup, may be considered for the shortlist.

The voting will then re-open and the winner of the 2023 award will be announced following the Heineken Champions Cup final at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday 20 May.

2023 EPCR PLAYER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES

Grégory ALLDRITT (Stade Rochelais)
Gavin COOMBES (Munster Rugby)
Caelan DORIS (Leinster Rugby)
Elliot DALY (Saracens)
Antoine DUPONT (Stade Toulousain)
Eben ETZEBETH (Cell C Sharks)
Jaden HENDRIKSE (Cell C Sharks)
Siya KOLISI (Cell C Sharks)
Makazole MAPIMPI (Cell C Sharks)
Julien MARCHAND (Stade Toulousain)
Emmanuel MEAFOU (Stade Toulousain)
Jamie OSBORNE (Leinster Rugby)
Garry RINGROSE (Leinster Rugby)
Justin TIPURIC (Ospreys)
Josh VAN DER FLIER (Leinster Rugby)

Judging Panel – Bryan Habana (two-time Heineken Champions Cup winner), Sarah Hunter (former England captain), Elma Smit (sports presenter and producer), Andy Goode (two-time Heineken Cup winner), Dimitri Yachvili (France Télévisions and Challenge Cup winner)

Roll of Honour – 2022: Josh van der Flier (Leinster Rugby) ; 2021: Antoine Dupont (Stade Toulousain) ; 2020: Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs); 2019: Alex Goode (Saracens); 2018: Leone Nakarawa (Racing 92); 2017: Owen Farrell (Saracens); 2016: Maro Itoje (Saracens); 2015: Nick Abendanon (ASM Clermont Auvergne); 2014: Steffon Armitage (RC Toulon); 2013: Jonny Wilkinson (RC Toulon); 2012: Rob Kearney (Leinster Rugby); 2011: Sean O’Brien (Leinster Rugby); 2010: Ronan O’Gara (Munster Rugby – best player of first 15 years of European professional club competitions)

Content & Images from – EPC Rugby


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Champions Cup

Leinster quartet nominated for 2023 EPCR Player of the Year Award

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Caelan Doris, Jamie Osborne, Garry Ringrose and Josh van der Flier have this morning been named in a 15-man shortlist for the 2023 EPCR Player of the Year Award.

After winning the Anthony Foley Memorial Trophy last year, van der Flier  has the opportunity to become the first player to successdully retain the title.

Doris had an excellent start ot the Heineken Champions Cup this season, winning Start of the Match honours, away to Racing 92 and at home to Gloucester.

Jamie Osborne had a standout performance in Kingsholm, where he was named Star of the Match in his first European start, as he also scored his first try in European competiton.

Ringrose earned Star of the Match honours against Racing 92 in Aviva Stadium, and has scored two tries in the pool stages.

Van der Flier scored a try in each of the four Pool matches, including a double in Le Havre against Racing, as he continues to impress in European competition.

Voting is now open HERE and fans will be in the running to win two VIP tickets with one night’s accommodation for the 2024 Heineken Champions Cup Final in May 2024.

At the conclusion of the semi-final matches in April, the list will be reduced to five players by a combination of the public vote and the verdict of the judges, and players who have not been included in the initial longlist, but who make a significant impact during the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup, may be considered for the shortlist.

The voting will then re-open and the winner of the 2023 award will be announced following the Heineken Champions Cup final at Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday, 20 May.

2023 EPCR PLAYER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES
Grégory ALLDRITT (Stade Rochelais)
Gavin COOMBES (Munster Rugby)
Caelan DORIS (Leinster Rugby)
Elliot DALY (Saracens)
Antoine DUPONT (Stade Toulousain)
Eben ETZEBETH (Cell C Sharks)
Jaden HENDRIKSE (Cell C Sharks)
Siya KOLISI (Cell C Sharks)
Makazole MAPIMPI (Cell C Sharks)
Julien MARCHAND (Stade Toulousain)
Emmanuel MEAFOU (Stade Toulousain)
Jamie OSBORNE (Leinster Rugby)
Garry RINGROSE (Leinster Rugby)
Justin TIPURIC (Ospreys)
Josh VAN DER FLIER (Leinster Rugby)

Images & Content from Leinster Rugby


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Champions Cup

Contract Update & Addition For 2023/24

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Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm contract extensions for Niall Scannell and Rory Scannell with Edwin Edogbo signing his first senior contract and John Ryan returning to Munster next season.

Niall and Rory have both signed two-year contract extensions with Edwin set to continue as an Academy player next season before moving up to the senior squad ahead of the 2024/25 campaign on a two-year contract.

John will return to Munster for the 2023/24 season. The tighthead prop has joined the Chiefs in New Zealand for the upcoming Super Rugby Pacific season and will return to Munster on a one-year contract.

Niall Scannell

Niall Scannell captained Munster for the second time in last weekend’s win over Benetton and has made 155 appearances for the province since his debut in 2013, scoring 21 tries.

The 30-year-old hooker has earned 20 Ireland caps and appeared at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Rory Scannell.

Rory Scannell.

Centre Rory Scannell has made 171 appearances for Munster and became the youngest player to reach 100 Munster appearances at the age of just 25 in 2019.

He has earned three Ireland caps and is the only player to have won the Munster Academy and Young Player of the Year awards in the same year after winning both accolades in 2016.

Edwin Edogbo.

Edwin Edogbo.

Academy lock Edwin Edogbo has earned his first senior contract having made a big impression in his seven Munster appearances so far this season.

Edwin came up through the ranks at Cobh Pirates and is the first player from the club to play for Munster in the professional era.

The 20-year-old plays his AIL rugby with UCC and is currently sidelined with an ankle injury.

John Ryan.

John Ryan is one of only 13 players to have made over 200 appearances for Munster with the tighthead prop playing 205 games for the province to date.

The 34-year-old made his 50th Champions Cup appearance for the province in December and has also earned 24 Ireland caps, featuring at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Images & Content from Munster Rugby


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