Jacob Stockdale has overcome a knee injury to be selected on the left wing with Rob Lyttle making a positional switch to the right wing and last week’s Player of the Match Michael Lowry continuing at full-back . The midfield duo of Stuart McCloskey and James Hume retain their starting berths, as do Ian Madigan and John Cooney at half-back.
In the front row, Andrew Warwick comes in to start at loosehead, with John Andrew at hooker and Marty Moore at tighthead. Kieran Treadwell, who made his 100th Ulster appearance last week, is once again named at second row to partner Alan O’Connor. Jordi Murphy will again skipper the side from the back row, and is joined by Greg Jones at blindside flanker and Nick Timoney at Number Eight.
Winger, Robert Baloucoune could make his first appearance for Ulster this season if called upon from the bench, after making his return from a hamstring injury. He is named alongside Alby Mathewson and Matt Faddes among the back line replacements. Sean Reidy is also making a return from injury and is named in the forward reinforcements with Ross Kane, who could make his 50th appearance for the Province, Adam McBurney, Eric O’Sullivan and last week’s debutant, Cormac Izuchukwu.
Ulster team to play Ospreys, Guinness PRO14 Round 13, Friday 26 February at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 8pm, live on Premier Sports / eir Sport):
(15-9) Michael Lowry, Rob Lyttle, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Ian Madigan, John Cooney;
(1-8) Andrew Warwick, John Andrew, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Kieran Treadwell, Greg Jones, Jordi Murphy (Capt.), Nick Timoney.
Replacements: Adam McBurney, Eric O’Sullivan, Ross Kane, Cormac Izuchukwu, Sean Reidy, Alby Mathewson, Matt Faddes, Robert Baloucoune.
Fans Player of the Decade Confirmed
World Rugby have announced the winner of their Fans Player of the Decade vote and there’s no surprise who’s won
Former All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter has been named World Rugby’s Fans Player of the Decade following their polls over the past couple of weeks.
The organisation narrowed the competition down to 16 players, as they split them into a last-16 style format, with backs on one side and forwards on the other. With two players going head-to-head in the polls to make it through to each respective round.
Last week it was brought down to the final four, with all of them being New Zealand internationals as Carter was pitted up against Beauden Barrett, with Richie McCaw facing Kieran Read.
McCaw and Carter were victorious and now Carter has come out as the overall winner as the best player over the past 10-years.
It is not hard to see why fans have gone for the 112-cap All Black, who finished up his international career in 2015, having guided his country to historic back-to-back Rugby World Cup crowns.
As well as that he holds the title for the most points scored at test-level rugby with an incredible 1598 to his name.
On the international stage he was impressive, but he has been equally so at club-level, winning domestic crowns in both France with Racing 92 and in Japan with the Kobelco Steelers.
The 37-year-old is still under contract with the Japanese outfit, but has been unable to play for them for the majority of the year, having suffered a major injury, which also prevented him from a brief return to Racing 92 for the latter-half of last season.
However, he is poised to return to the playing field shortly and will be hoping to guide his team to further success and will have the aid of another All Black great joining him in the form of Brodie Retallick, who is linking up with the side for the season during his year sabbatical.
James Haskell signs with Bellator MMA
Did anyone see this coming??
Leading mixed martial arts promotion Bellator MMA is excited to announce the signing of international rugby star James Haskell to its elite roster of athletes. Haskell will compete in the Bellator heavyweight division and is expected to make his professional MMA debut for the global promotion in 2020.
Haskell announced the end of his stellar 17-year professional rugby career, which saw him achieve major honours for both club and country, in May this year, at the age of 34. Haskell joined English Premiership club Wasps in 2002 and played a huge role in their English Premiership and European Heineken Cup winning seasons in 2007 and 2008. His club career also saw him represent Stade Francais in France, Ricoh Black Rams in Japan, Highlanders in New Zealand and Northampton Saints.
Haskell made his England debut in 2007 and went on to win 77 caps, earning inclusion in England’s 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cup squads. He played an integral part to England’s return to form under coach Eddie Jones in 2016, which saw the side win their first Six Nations Grand Slam for 13 years, before successfully defending their title the following year.
Alongside achieving his many rugby accolades, Haskell has shown a keen interest in the sport of MMA for a number of years, working as an MMA TV pundit and training alongside British MMA star Michael “Venom” Page at London Shootfighters gym.
Known as one of sports great characters, Haskell is sure to bring his livewire, quick-witted and at times no-nonsense personality to the sport of MMA – along with genuine, knockout power. Standing at 6ft 4in and weighing in during his rugby career at 260lbs, Haskell will compete in Bellator’s heavyweight division which features the likes of current champion Ryan Bader, challenger Cheik Kongo, MMA veteran Josh Barnett and Fedor Emelianenko.
Whilst a date has not been set for his professional MMA debut, Haskell is expected to continue training for the remainder of 2019, with his first fight expected to take place during the first half of 2020.
We’re pretty sure there will no shortage of opponents wanting to line up against him!
Sonny Bill Slammed for ‘Pressure’ Comments
Sonny Bill Williams took aim at the people criticising him last night, but a former Black Cap has fired shots straight back at the All Black
Former Black Cap Mark Richardson has crushed Sonny Bill Williams comments on Twitter in which he took a shot at his critics and the media.
Richardson, now a broadcaster was speaking on Three’s The AM Show discussed Williams comments where he suggested people “get their priorities right” instead of criticising his performances.
“I’d suggest that doing one’s job is the most important priority for a sports journo, so do you deny the right of a sports journo to do their job, Sonny Bill? So they can feed their families Sonny Bill? Just like you get paid to do your job Sonny Bill, which I assume is a priority of yours to care for your family Sonny Bill,” he said.
Williams claimed that people should care about things such as “starving children, the single mother raising 3 kids, the atrocities refugees are facing around the world, racism”. All of which Richardson agreed with but he believes that people can discuss the All Black’s form if they want to.
“Honestly Sonny, yes there are people struggling in the world and yes we care about them. But you are an All Black. Get over yourself and let people in this country talk what they like to talk and that is rugby,” he added.
Fellow host Duncan Garner went on to take a dig at Williams and his views.
“Sonny Bill, he’s precious,” he said.
Williams is currently set to play for Counties Manukau in the Mitre 10 Cup this Saturday along with Nepo Laulala, as Williams tries to prove his fitness to All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen.
The centre has been plagued by injury in recent times and has struggled to find a consistent run of form which has called on people to question his selection for this year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
It appears as though Williams frustration at the whispers on the street boiled over yesterday as he took to social media to put critics in their place.
“And for those that say I’m under pressure playing a game that I enjoy. Get your priorities right. Look at what’s going on in the world. Starving children, the single mother raising 3 kids, the atrocities refugees are facing around the world, racism. This is what I call pressure,” he said.
Williams’ comments are likely to only add fuel to the fire and it seems like he will have to perform on the pitch to convince people he is worthy of another World Cup journey.
He will join back up with the All Blacks squad ahead of their second Bledisloe Cup game in Auckland on August 10th and will be hoping to prove his case for selection.