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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

RTÉ To Broadcast Munster Home Champions Cup Fixtures

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RTÉ have today confirmed fixture details for both of Munster’s home Heineken Champions Cup Pool fixtures against Toulouse and Northampton Saints.

See home fixture details below with details yet to be confirmed for our away games.

Ticket details will be released shortly.

Heineken Champions Cup Fixtures

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Round 1: Munster Rugby v Stade Toulousain, Thomond Park, 3.15pm;

December 16/17/18, 2023

Round 2: Northampton Saints v Munster Rugby, TBC;

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Round 3: Munster Rugby v Northampton Saints, Thomond Park, 3.15pm;

January 20/21/22, 2023

Round 4: Stade Toulousain v Munster Rugby, TBC;

Images & Content from Munster Rugby


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Champions Cup

Player Contract Extensions Confirmed

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Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm the first player contract extensions of the season with five members of the senior squad putting pen to paper.

Craig Casey has signed a three-year contract while Mike Haley, Shane Daly and Josh Wycherley have signed two-year contract extensions.

Additionally, Alex Kendellen, who advanced to the senior ranks at the beginning of the season on a new two-year deal, has extended his contract further to remain with the province until at least July 2025.

Scrum-half Craig Casey has made 49 appearances for the province since his debut against Connacht in 2019.

The 23-year-old Shannon man and former Ardscoil Rís pupil won Academy Player of the Year in 2019 and was also vice-captain of the Grand Slam-winning Ireland U20s that year.

He was named Young Player of the Year in 2021 and has made 38 appearances over the past two seasons along with earning five Ireland caps.

Mike Haley.

Mike Haley joined Munster from Sale Sharks in 2018 and has already amassed 80 appearances for the province, starting at full-back on each occasion and scoring 16 tries.

The Preston native played more minutes than any other Munster player in the 2018/19 and 2020/21 campaigns and made his Ireland debut against Italy in August 2019.

28-year-old Haley made his Munster debut against Cheetahs in 2018 and has been a near ever-present at full-back since.

Shane Daly.

A product of the Greencore Munster Rugby Academy, versatile back Shane Daly joined the senior squad in 2019 and has established himself as a key member of the squad.

He was named Young Player of the Year in 2020 with the Cork Constitution clubman and former PBC student earning two Ireland caps over the past two years.

To date, the 25-year-old has scored eight tries in 49 Munster appearances and starts at full-back for Emerging Ireland against the Griquas in Bloemfontein later today.

Josh Wycherley

Josh Wycherley enjoyed a standout season last year making 19 appearances with an overall 29 appearances in red to date.

The 23-year-old prop made his debut against Cardiff Blues in Thomond Park in October 2020 with his first Champions Cup start singled out for high praise when Munster secured victory against Clermont Auvergne in December 2020.

His grassroots stem from Bantry Bay RFC and he is a former pupil of Cistercian College, Roscrea and linked up with Young Munster RFC on his move to Limerick.

Alex Kendellen.

A former Ireland U20s Six Nations Grand Slam winner, Wycherley starts for Emerging Ireland against the Griquas in Bloemfontein later today.

21-year-old Alex Kendellen was initially named in the Emerging Ireland squad for the South Africa tour but did not travel as he continues to follow return to play protocols.

A product of PBC and UCC the back-row forward was deservedly named the Academy Player of the Year in June after a fantastic season that saw him line out in 20 of Munster’s 26 games.

Kendellen made his debut against Scarlets in March 2021 and has made 22 appearances for the province.

He captained the Ireland U20s for the 2021 Six Nations and was a standout performer as they finished third, scoring six tries in five appearances.

Watch Live | Griquas v Emerging Ireland – 12.45pm

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Champions Cup

Munster Rugby New Coaches Intro | 2022/23

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A new-look coaching team will lead Munster Rugby this season with Head Coach Graham Rowntree joined by Mike Prendergast, Andi Kyriacou and Denis Leamy.

New Attack Coach Prendergast joined from Racing 92, Forwards Coach Kyriacou was promoted from his role as Elite Player Development Officer and Defence Coach Leamy has returned from Leinster.

See profiles for the three new members of the coaching team below. Scroll down to watch Graham Rowntree’s first interview as Munster Head Coach.

Mike Prendergast – Attack Coach

Mike Prendergast has joined Munster from Top 14 side Racing 92, where he held the role of  Attack and Backs Coach since 2019.

Prendergast has a wealth of experience of coaching at the top level and in addition to Racing 92 he has held assistant coaching roles with Stade Francais, Oyannax Rugby and Grenoble FCG since making the move to France in 2013.

On completing his professional playing career in 2009 the scrum-half continued playing with his club Young Munster RFC while also progressing on the coaching front as he held Head Coach and Director of Rugby roles with the Limerick side.

On the provincial coaching front, he previously worked closely with Academy Manager Ian Costello and Team Manager Niall O’Donovan when overseeing the backline for the Munster A’s that enjoyed British and Irish Cup success in 2012.

Andi Kyriacou – Forwards Coach

Andi Kyriacou has been promoted from his role as an Elite Player Development Officer with the Greencore Munster Rugby Academy, a position he held since April 2021.

From England, the former hooker lined out for the province during the 2006/07 season when on loan from Saracens and went on to represent Ulster and Cardiff Rugby before retiring from the professional game in 2013.

Over the last decade he has held numerous coaching roles in the areas of the scrum, defence, skills, and forwards working with Cardiff Rugby, Sale Sharks, Russia Rugby and Nottingham.

Andi Kyriacou prior to Munster's Champions Cup clash against Wasps in Coventry earlier this season.

Andi Kyriacou prior to Munster’s Champions Cup clash against Wasps in Coventry.

Denis Leamy – Defence Coach

Denis Leamy returned to Munster after a three-year spell at Leinster, where he first held a role as an Elite Player Development Officer before moving up to the role of Contact Skills Coach in October 2021.

Following a hugely successful playing career with Munster and Ireland Leamy’s coaching career saw him work with several sides across the province over seven years including Young Munster RFC, Rockwell College, Clonmel RFC, Cashel RFC and Garryowen FC.

On the provincial front the Tipperary native also worked at various stages with Munster’s age-grade players and the ‘A’ team before making the move to Leinster.

He joined the Ireland U20s team as Assistant Coach for the 2021 Six Nations campaign.

New Defence Coach Denis Leamy.

New Defence Coach Denis Leamy.

Video | Graham Rowntree Interview

Images & Content from Munster Rugby


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