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Champions Cup

Ulster reach Champions Cup quarter finals

Featuring James Nesbitt.

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

A strong second half showing saw Ulster reach their first European quarter final since 2014, beating Leicester 14-13 this afternoon

It was a scrappy opening half at Welford Road, both sides getting turned over multiple times, and handling errors and misplaced passes the order of the day. Both sides had 5 handling errors after half an hour. Ulster struggles out of touch, several lineout throws going amiss for Rory Best.

Leicester came close to the Ulster line after around 25 minutes, after a rare break from Dan Cole, but a dropped ball saw to that chance. First points of the game went to Leicester, George Ford slotted a penalty kick after 31 minutes.

Ulster had their first sniff of the Leicester 22 shortly before half time. Stuart McCloskey smashed through the Leicester defensive line, but nobody was there to support Dave Shanahan after he took the offload, and the chance was lost, much to the dismay of some of the famous faces in the crowd.

The games first try came with the clock in the red. Quick ball from the Leicester forwards fed George Ford, who stuck a nicely weighted grubber kick through the Ulster defence, for Matt Toomua to touch down. There was a hint of Toomua being in front of the kicker but the ref awarded the try without consulting the TMO. Ford converted from the right hand touch line to make it 10-0 at half time.

The second half started with more of the same. Ulster again letting themselves down with the basics, leaving the ball unprotected at the breakdown a number of times. Leicester went 13-0 ahead after 50 mins, another kick from George Ford.

Ulster squandered a great chance not long later. A penalty well in kicking distance was put in the corner, and Ulster lost the ball in the resulting maul. Nothing was going the way of the men from the North. A pinpoint Billy Burns crosskick landed in the arms of Nick Timoney, who offloaded to Sean Reidy, but some brilliant defensive work from George Ford forced the knock on.

The introduction of John Cooney made a huge difference, his direction finally allowed Ulster to string a few phases together in attack, and look threatening. A strong lineout maul saw Marty Moore finally get some points on the board for Ulster, after 58 minutes. Cooney nailed the kick to make it 13-7.

The try put the wind in Ulster’s sails, and they began playing with real confidence. A beautiful chip from Billy Burns bounced into the hands of Robert Baloucoune who touched down under the sticks to put Ulster in front.

While Ulster got the job done today, there is cause for concern. No points until the 55th minute, and 4 lineouts lost on their own throw, they will have much to work on between now and the end of March, when they will have an away quarter final against Pool toppers Racing 92, Leinster, Saracens or Edinburgh.

Champions Cup

Leinster v Saracens: Lineups announced.

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(Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Jackson Wray makes his 250th appearance for Saracens this weekend v Leinster. He is joined the back row by Mike Rhodes, who is closing in on 100 outings for the Men in Black, and Billy Vunipola – a try scorer in last season’s European final.

His brother Mako returns to the front row alongside England teammate Jamie George and South Africa international Vincent Koch, while Maro Itoje is partnered by Tim Swinson in the second row.

Scotland international Swinson will run out for his 50th European match in Dublin.

In the back division, Owen Farrell’s suspension sees Alex Goode switch to fly-half to play outside scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth.

Elliot Daly fills in at full-back with Sean Maitland and Alex Lewington taking spot on the wings. Captain Brad Barritt and Duncan Taylor make up the midfield.

Replacements Alec Clarey and Dom Morris will earn their Champions Cup stripes should they enter the fray.

Saracens team to face Leinster:

15 Elliot Daly (10)
14 Alex Lewington (51)
13 Duncan Taylor (130)
12 Brad Barritt (260)
11 Sean Maitland (77)
10 Alex Goode (300)
9 Richard Wigglesworth (247)
1 Mako Vunipola (169)
2 Jamie George (230)
3 Vincent Koch (85)
4 Maro Itoje (123)
5 Tim Swinson (3)
6 Mike Rhodes (97)
7 Jackson Wray (249)
8 Billy Vunipola (114)

Replacements

16 Tom Woolstencroft (40)
17 Richard Barrington (192)
18 Alec Clarey (5)
19 Callum Hunter-Hill (21)
20 Calum Clark (54)
21 Aled Davies (4)
22 Manu Vunipola (26)
23 Dom Morris (24)

The Leinster Rugby team, as sponsored by Bank of Ireland, to face Saracens in the Quarter-Final of the Heineken Champions Cup tomorrow at Aviva Stadium has been named by Head Coach Leo Cullen (KO 3.00pm, live on BT Sport and RTÉ Radio).

In team news, Johnny Sexton will captain the side with two players, Hugo Keenan and Will Connors, making European debuts from the start and a third, Ryan Baird, from the bench.

Jordan Larmour is selected at full-back and the former St. Andrew’s College man will win his 50th cap for Leinster in the number 15 jersey.

Keenan will make his European debut on the right wing with James Lowe selected on the left.

In the centre once again Cullen has selected Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose as his partnership.

In the half-backs, Luke McGrath starts at scrumhalf alongside captain Sexton.

Cian Healy will become the fourth most-capped Leinster player of all time when he pulls on the number one jersey tomorrow. The Clontarf native is closing in on Jamie Heaslip who is in third place on 229 caps.

Seán Cronin is selected alongside Healy in the front row as is Andrew Porter.

Devin Toner and James Ryan will again form the second-row partnership for Leinster Rugby this week.

Finally, in the back row, Caelan Doris will start at blindside flanker, with Will Connors selected at openside and Jack Conan at number eight.

On the bench, Ryan Baird is another player in line to make his European debut should he be introduced.

Leinster Rugby (caps in brackets)

15. Jordan Larmour (49)
14. Hugo Keenan (17)
13. Garry Ringrose (75)
12. Robbie Henshaw (47)
11. James Lowe (46)
10. Johnny Sexton (166) CAPTAIN
9. Luke McGrath (126)
1. Cian Healy (219)
2. Seán Cronin (184)
3. Andrew Porter (65)
4. Devin Toner (248)
5. James Ryan (38)
6. Caelan Doris (32)
7. Will Connors (19)
8. Jack Conan (92)

16. Rónan Kelleher (14)
17. Ed Byrne (56)
18. Michael Bent (139)
19. Ryan Baird (9)
20. Josh van der Flier (83)
21. Jamison Gibson-Park (92)
22. Ross Byrne (88)
23. Rory O’Loughlin (70)

Referee: Pascal Gaüzère (FFR)

Press Releases from Saracens and Leinster Rugby

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Champions Cup

Big names missing for Ulster v Toulouse

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(Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The Ulster coaching group has named the match-day squad for Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup Quarter-Final versus Toulouse (Stade Ernest-Wallon, kick-off 12:30pm UK/Irish time).

Scrum-half, John Cooney returns to the starting line-up, and is one of four changes to the side that played in the Guinness PRO14 Final versus Leinster last week.

Cooney will be paired with Billy Burns at fly-half, while the rest of the starting backline remains unchanged. Michael Lowry is named at full-back, with Jacob Stockdale and Rob Lyttle on the wings. Midfield duo, Stuart McCloskey and James Hume, will once again start.

In the front row, Jack McGrath comes in at loosehead to join Rob Herring at hooker and Tom O’Toole at tighthead prop. Iain Henderson will lead the side and is joined by Alan O’Connor in the second row. Sean Reidy makes a positional switch to blindside, while Jordi Murphy and Nick Timoney come in to the starting XV at openside and number eight.

Dan McFarland has again gone for a 6-2 split on the bench. John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Marty Moore, Sam Carter, Kieran Treadwell and Matthew Rea will provide forward options, while Alby Mathewson and Matt Faddes offer cover for the backs.

Ulster team to play Toulouse, Heineken Champions Cup Quarter-Final, Sunday 20 September at Stade Ernest-Wallon, kick-off 12.30pm UK/Irish time, live on BT Sport, Channel 4 & Virgin Media:

(15-9) Michael Lowry, Rob Lyttle, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns, John Cooney.

(1-8) Jack McGrath, Rob Herring, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (Capt.), Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy, Nick Timoney.

Replacements (16-23): John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Marty Moore, Sam Carter, Kieran Treadwell, Alby Mathewson, Matt Faddes, Matthew Rea.

Press Release from Ulster Rugby

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Challenge Cup

Champions Cup And Challenge Cup Finals Moved From Marseille

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(Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Due to the many uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been decided that the 2020 Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals will not now be held in Marseille as planned and the matches will be played at a new venue or venues.

With tens of thousands of fans scheduled to travel to the south of France, the Board of EPCR and the local organising committee have agreed that insufficient safeguards are currently in place during the public health crisis to stage two high-profile matches at the 67,000-capacity Stade Vélodrome.

As a consequence, EPCR is currently working with its shareholder leagues and unions to secure an alternative venue or venues for the two finals which will be played on the weekend of 16/17/18 October, and details will be announced as soon as practicable.

As part of this adjustment to its future planning, EPCR is pleased to announce that Marseille will now host the 2021 Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals at the Stade Vélodrome on the weekend of 21/22 May, and that the matches at the 62,000-capacity Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London will be rescheduled for 2022.

Tickets for this season’s finals will be valid for the 2021 weekend with no change to category or seating, and all ticket holders will be contacted by email within the next 48 hours with details of how to avail of a full refund if required.

As previously communicated, the quarter-finals of both tournaments will be played on the weekend of 18/19/20 September with the semi-finals scheduled for the weekend of 25/26/27 September. Exact dates, venues, kick-off times and TV coverage will be announced as soon as possible.

As is now customary during the pandemic, the matches will be subject to government guidelines with the health and welfare of players, club staff, match officials, supporters and the wider rugby community to the fore.

2020 EPCR dates:

  • Quarter-finals: weekend of 18/19/20 September
  • Semi-finals: weekend of 25/26/27 September
  • Heineken Champions Cup final: weekend of 16/17/18 October (venue TBC)
  • Challenge Cup final: weekend of 16/17/18 October (venue TBC)
  • Start of 2020/21 season: weekend of 11/12/13 December.

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