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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

Champions Cup Round 1 Fixtures Confirmed

The Champions Cup opening round fixtures have been announced and there are some big games to kick-off the tournament

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(Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

The first round of Champions Cup fixtures has been confirmed for the 2019/20 season with the tournament to begin on the weekend of the 15th of November.

Reigning champions Saracens will begin their title defence with a tough away trip to Racing 92 in what is the last game of the weekend on Sunday November 17th.

The other game in Pool 4 sees the Ospreys host Munster on Saturday November 16th.

Elsewhere, last season’s beaten finalists Leinster open their tournament with a home game against competition debutants Benetton on the Saturday, while Northampton Saints host Lyon in the other match in Pool 1.

The first game of what is the 25th edition of the tournament is the Pool 5 clash of Gloucester and Toulouse, as the reigning Top 14 champions look to go a step further than last season’s semi-final defeat to Leinster. Connacht play Montpellier in the groups other game on the Sunday.

In Pool 2 Glasgow Warriors take on Sale Sharks on the Saturday at 13 00, followed by La Rochelle vs Exeter Chiefs later that day.

At the same time as the Warriors vs Sharks game there is the Pool 3 match of Bath against Ulster, with Clermont hosting Harlequins in the final match of the Saturday fixtures.

The pool stages are set to finish on the second and third weekends of January, while the final itself takes place in the Stade de Marseille on May 23rd 2020.

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Champions Cup

Another Fijian Heads to Scotland

Glasgow Warriors have confirmed the signing of a Fijian star only two days after Edinburgh captured the signing of Mesulame Kunavula

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(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Glasgow Warriors have announced the signing of Fijian hooker Mesu Dolokota on a two-year deal from Fijian Drua.

The 24-year-old was named in Fiji’s World Cup training squad last month and will join up with the Warriors following the conclusion of the tournament in Japan.

Dolokoto is happy to be signing for the PRO 14 runners-up and is excited to feature in both the PRO 14 and the Champions Cup.

“I’m very happy to be joining Glasgow Warriors and I’m looking forward to playing in two of the best rugby competitions in the world. The opportunity to learn from such an experienced coaching team and play in such a successful team is very exciting for me. The club has a strong Fijian history and I hope I can be a big part of it going forward,” he said.

The hooker has nine international caps for Fiji as well as having experience in Super Rugby with the Brumbies in 2015 and Glasgow assistant coach John Dalziel is delighted to add more experience to the squad.

“Mesu is an exciting talent who will bring even more international experience to our front row. He isn’t your traditional front-row forward, he likes to bring a bit of Fijian flair to his game, but he can also do the basics very well and we’re excited to work with him when he shows up following international duty,” he said.

Dolokoto follows the footsteps of fellow Fijian Mesulame Kunavula, who joined Edinburgh only a couple of days ago and the PRO 14 can look forward to some Fijian flare next season.

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Champions Cup

Leinster Unveil New European and Alternative Jerseys

Leinster have revealed their European and alternative jerseys for the 2019/20 season

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(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Leinster have unveiled their new Adidas European and alternative jerseys for the 2019/20 season.

The European jersey is an alteration on the traditional blue home jerseys worn by the reigning two-time PRO 14 champions.

Leinster have revealed that the jersey has been inspired by meteorites that were once used to create iron spears and will be worn by the club for the next two seasons.

“The pattern of the Leinster Rugby European jersey takes inspiration from meteorites that fell from the sky and were used by the Laighin people to create their iron spear. These meteorite formations form the graphic design of the jersey paying homage to the tale of the metal of the Gods, providing bold and vibrant energy for Leinster Rugby’s European campaign,” they said on their official website.

The alternative jersey is a shade of purple with black strips horizontally across the shirt.

They have said that this jersey is inspired by the purple skyline that is seen across the east coach of Ireland.

“The Alternate jersey embodies the electric energy of Ireland’s east coast at night. The iconic purple skyline forms the colour inspiration for this season’s kit. Incorporating a twist on the traditional hoop design, the kit harnesses the vibrant energy of the province, whilst maintaining a classic look and feel,” they added.

As well as the two new jerseys Leinster will continue to wear their Adidas home jersey from the 2018/19 season for the season ahead.

You can view the full Leinster Range for the up coming season here.

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