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Hodge at Fullback for Wallabies v Argentina

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Andrew Phan/Wallabies Media

Melbourne Rebels rising star Rob Leota has earned his first start in Wallaby gold, named at blindside flanker for the eToro Rugby Championship clash with Argentina on Saturday night at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.

The Wallabies will wear their iconic First Nations jersey at Queensland Country Bank Stadium on Saturday, in what will also be their first-ever Test match in Townsville.

Meanwhile, Leota’s Harvey Norman Super Rugby teammate Reece Hodge has been selected at fullback, after Tom Banks suffered a fractured arm in the 30-17 win over South Africa last weekend.

The duo are two of three changes to the match day squad with playmaker James O’Connor set to make his first International appearance for the year via the pine.

An unchanged front row sees Queenslander James Slipper play his 109th Test alongside club teammate Folau Fainga’a and powerhouse Taniela Tupou, who will be looking to replicate his impact from last weekend against the Springboks at Suncorp Stadium.

Izack Rodda continues his successful return to the Test arena alongside Matt Philip in the second row.

Leota will be joined in the backrow by skipper Michael Hooper at openside flanker and Rob Valetini at no.8.

Nic White will again partner Quade Cooper in the halves, with the newly re-signed Len Ikitau to build on his strong combination with Samu Kerevi in the midfield.

Hodge’s first start for the year at fullback is the only change to the back three, with last week’s two-try hero Marika Koroibete on the left wing and Rebels flyer Andrew Kellaway on the right.

The reserve front row sees Queensland-raised Feleti Kaitu’u earn his third cap as the replacement hooker alongside finishing props Tom Robertson and Angus Bell.

Babinda-born Darcy Swain will be the replacement lock with his Brumbies teammate Pete Samu enjoying a rich vein of form as the backrow cover.

Queensland number nine Tate McDermott will provide spark off the pine late in the game, alongside O’Connor as the finishing halves. Their Reds teammate Jordan Petaia rounds out the game day 23.

The Wallabies have now climbed to number three in the world following the back-to-back wins over the world champions.

Argentina’s ‘Los Pumas’ have proven a tricky match-up for Australia in recent years, with the two sides sharing the spoils in both Test matches played last year.

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said: “It’s a really proud moment for Rob and his family to earn his first start in Wallaby gold and we’re all rapt for him.”

“He’s really impressed us with his work ethic on and off the field and worked hard for this opportunity.

“It’s been fantastic to connect with the Townsville community this week ahead of the first ever Test here and we’re determined to build on the past couple of performances on Saturday night.”

Every Wallabies Test will be ad-free, live and on-demand with extended coverage on Stan Sport. Every home Wallabies Test will also be live, free-to-air on the Nine Network.

Tickets for the eToro Rugby Championship are available via wallabies.rugby.

Hospitality packages are on sale now. Private suites, corporate boxes and functions are available for fans who want to enhance their Test match experience.

Wallabies team to play Argentina at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville on Saturday 25 September, 8:05pm AEST
1. James Slipper (108 Tests)
2. Folau Fainga’a (19 Tests)
3. Taniela Tupou (33 Tests)
4. Izack Rodda (28 Tests)
5. Matt Philip (17 Tests)
6. Rob Leota (1 Test)
7. Michael Hooper (c) (113 Tests)
8. Rob Valetini (12 Tests)
9. Nic White (41 Tests)
10. Quade Cooper (72 Tests)
11. Marika Koroibete (41 Tests) 
12. Samu Kerevi (36 Tests)
13. Len Ikitau (7 Tests)
14. Andrew Kellaway (7 Tests)
15. Reece Hodge (51 Tests)
Replacements
16. Feleti Kaitu’u (2 Tests)
17. Angus Bell (10 Tests)
18. Tom Robertson (25 Tests)
19. Darcy Swain (7 Tests)
20. Pete Samu (13 Tests)
21. Tate McDermott (10 Tests)
22. James O’Connor (55 Tests)
23. Jordan Petaia (12 Tests)


6 Nations

‘It’s A Great Appointment’ – Farrell On Murphy’s Move To Ulster

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With Dan McFarland stepping down as Ulster head coach this week, it has been confirmed that Murphy will take over the role on an interim basis following the conclusion of the Under-20 Six Nations Championship.

The Ireland Under-20s are in title contention again thanks to two opening wins, with Murphy having overseen back-to-back U-20 Grand Slam successes and a World Rugby U-20 Championship final appearance in the last two seasons.

Farrell first worked alongside Murphy when they were defence coach and skills and kicking coach respectively, during Joe Schmidt’s coaching reign with Ireland.

The pair have kept up a strong connection with Murphy continuing for a short while as a specialist kicking resource for the senior squad, and the Under-20s often training with Farrell’s men during the Six Nations window.

“I think it’s a great appointment. I think Richie will do a fantastic job (at Ulster), his rugby knowledge is second to none,” commented Farrell.

“He is a very experienced guy that has been an assistant for quite some time and I know that he worked with us for a short period before we went to the Under-20s, but that was his next step to take that type of mantle on and do it his way.

He has certainly done a fantastic job. I mean, coaching the Under-20s is coaching in its purest form, it’s bloody difficult because of the swapping and changing the whole time each year.

“It shows exactly the quality that he’s got and his knowledge of the whole game. I think the players up at Ulster there will love him.

“His attitude is great but first and foremost I think they will respect his knowledge, definitely.”

McFarland was in charge of Ulster since 2018 and guided them to the PRO14 final two years later. They looked to be finding form again with a trio of wins over Racing 92, Connacht, and Leinster, coming into the New Year.

However, last Sunday’s poor 19-17 defeat at the Ospreys was their third loss in a row, leaving them eighth in the BKT United Rugby Championship, and came just a few weeks after failing to reach the last 16 of the Investec Champions Cup.

Assistant coach Dan Soper will take the reins for their next URC fixture at home to the Dragons on Saturday week, before Murphy comes on board for their two-match tour to South Africa where they will play the Hollywoodbets Sharks and the DHL Stormers.

The Bray man will have to quickly get up to the speed as the Ulstermen then travel to Montpellier in the EPCR Challenge Cup’s round of 16, just after Easter. Given the people involved, Farrell is confident they can turn things around at Kingspan Stadium.

“Look, it’s obvious that we want all the provinces playing at the top of their game. If that happens, it’s a special place to be but it doesn’t tend to happen that often, does it?

“One thing I know for sure is that Ulster have got a fantastic squad and good people up there. The lads that we have within our squad are exemplary to the province, as far as their attitudes are concerned whether they’re playing or not.”

A dislocated toe, suffered during that loss to the Ospreys, means Iain Henderson is unavailable for Ireland’s clash with Wales on Saturday. His Ulster colleague, Stuart McCloskey, is one of only two backs on the hosts’ bench as they opt to return to a six-two split.

New-look Wales, who lost their first two games to Scotland and England by a combined three points, come to Dublin with a squad that has accumulated 662 caps, compared to Ireland’s 1012.

119 of those caps are provided by George North alone, while 21-year-old Exeter Chiefs lock Dafydd Jenkins continues as captain, and Cardiff back rower Mackenzie Martin could make his debut off the bench.

Asked what he is expecting from Wales this weekend, Farrell replied: “Playing against Wales, you know it’s always going to be a scrap.

“You know that every single time Wales play against Ireland, it means probably a little bit more to them, I’ve been told (that) over the years.

“So we’re aware of that, and we also know as well that Wales historically have got better throughout the competition.

“We’re five weeks into it come the weekend, from when we first started training. We know that they’ll be better and hopefully we’ve used our time wisely as well.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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6 Nations

Wales team to face Ireland in Dublin named

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Senior men’s head coach Warren Gatland has named the Wales side to face Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin in the third round of the 2024 Guinness Six Nations on Saturday 24 February (KO 2.15pm live on ITV and S4C).

There is one change to the starting XV that played England at Twickenham on 10 February, with Sam Costelow returning for Wales at fly half.

Among the replacements back-row Mackenzie Martin is in line to win his first senior cap this weekend and would become the 1,200th Wales men’s international.

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Tight-head prop Dillon Lewis would be making his first appearance of this Championship if called on from the bench.

Gatland said: “We are excited to go out to Dublin and test ourselves against one of the leading sides in world rugby. It’s a challenge we are relishing.

“We’ve made steps in the last couple of games and now it’s about building on that, learning from those experiences and taking that into this weekend.

“It’s about continuing to work hard, looking for accuracy in our performance across 80 minutes and also keeping our discipline.”

Wales senior men’s team to play Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin in the Guinness Six Nations, Saturday 24 February KO 2.15pm GMT. Live on ITV and S4C.
15. Cameron Winnett (Cardiff Rugby – 2 caps)
14. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby – 56 caps)
13. George North (Ospreys – 119 caps)
12. Nick Tompkins (Saracens – 34 caps)
11. Rio Dyer (Dragons – 16 caps)
10. Sam Costelow (Scarlets – 9 caps)
9. Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 55 caps)
1. Gareth Thomas (Ospreys – 27 caps)
2. Elliot Dee (Dragons – 48 caps)
3. Keiron Assiratti (Cardiff Rugby – 4 caps)
4. Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs – 14 caps) Captain / Capten
5. Adam Beard (Ospreys – 53 caps)
6. Alex Mann (Cardiff Rugby – 2 caps)
7. Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers – 15 caps)
8. Aaron Wainwright (Dragons – 45 caps)

Replacements

16. Ryan Elias (Scarlets – 40 caps)
17. Corey Domachowski (Cardiff Rugby – 8 caps)
18. Dillon Lewis (Harlequins – 54 caps)
19. Will Rowlands (Racing 92 – 30 caps)
20. Mackenzie Martin (Cardiff Rugby – uncapped)
21. Kieran Hardy (Scarlets – 19 caps)
22. Ioan Lloyd (Scarlets – 4 caps)
23. Mason Grady (Cardiff Rugby – 8 caps)

Images & Content – Wales Rugby


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6 Nations

Jager and Ahern Join Ireland Squad Ahead Of Wales

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The Ireland squad re-assembled in Dublin on Sunday evening ahead of this weekend’s Guinness Men’s Six Nations Round 3 clash against Wales at Aviva Stadium (Kick-off 2.15pm).

Prop Oli Jager has joined the squad and Thomas Ahern has also linked up with Andy Farrell‘s side at the IRFU High Performance Centre this week.

Iain Henderson picked up a foot injury during Ulster’s URC game away to Ospreys on Sunday and there will be a further update later in the week.

The Ireland Match Day Squad to face Wales at Aviva Stadium will be named on Thursday at 2pm.

Ireland Squad – Wales Week: 

Backs (15):

Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht)
Harry Byrne (UCD/Leinster)
Craig Casey (Shannon/Munster)
Jack Crowley (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Ciaran Frawley (UCD/Leinster)
Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster)
Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster)
Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster)
Jordan Larmour (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
James Lowe (Leinster)
Stuart McCloskey (Bangor/Ulster)
Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster)
Calvin Nash (Young Munster/Munster)
Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster)
Jacob Stockdale (Lurgan/Ulster)

Forwards (21):

Thomas Ahern (Shannon/Munster)*
Ryan Baird (Dublin University/Leinster)
Finlay Bealham (Buccaneers/Connacht)
Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster)
Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
Caelan Doris (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster)
Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster)
Iain Henderson (Academy/Ulster)
Oli Jager (Munster)*
Ronan Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Jeremy Loughman (Garryowen/Munster)
Joe McCarthy (Dublin University/Leinster)
Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster)(captain)
Tom O’Toole (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster)
James Ryan (UCD/Leinster)
Dan Sheehan (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Tom Stewart (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
Nick Timoney (Banbridge/Ulster)
Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster)

*Denotes uncapped player

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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