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Premiership

Exeter sign highly rated Irish centre

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(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Exeter Chiefs have added their second new recruit ahead of the 2021/22 season with the signing of Sean O’Brien from Connacht.

The highly-rated centre arrived in the city earlier this week and is already settling into life with the reigning Gallagher Premiership champions.

The 23-year-old’s arrival comes hot on the heels of Kiwi prop Josh Iosefa-Scott also joining the Chiefs ahead of next season – and both will use the remainder of this season to get up-to-speed and acquainted with their new team-mates.

“It’s a great new challenge for me,” said O’Brien, who has spent the past three years with the Pro14 League side. “I’ve had a great spell there, but now is the time for me to go and test myself in the Premiership.

“Exeter are a club who have been winning trophies, they play a great brand of rugby and the culture here looks great, who wouldn’t want to join them?”

Already O’Brien is settling in to his new surroundings and says the chance to get valuable input into the workings of the club ahead of pre-season will be invaluable to him.

“It’s good to get to know the place, the people, the calls, that way I can hit the ground running in pre-season,” added O’Brien, who has played for Ireland at U18s and U20s level. “Coming over here is obviously going to be a different challenge, the league looks a lot more physical and faster, plus there are more international players playing each week, but I’m looking forward to it.”

O’Brien also cites the impact new team-mate Ian Whitten has had in the growth of the Chiefs since he moved to Sandy Park in 2012.

“He’s a legend over in these parts,” he said. “He took a chance coming over here and Exeter took a chance on him, but he’s been part of this side for a long time and won trophies with the club. Hopefully, I can do the same.”

One man delighted to see the arrival of O’Brien is Chiefs’ Director of Rugby, Rob Baxter, who is relishing working with the player.

“Obviously, we are always on the look out for talented, young players and recruitment is an ongoing process. Looking at our squad going forward – and the positions where you could potentially need cover – you could see potential around that midfield area for us to get a bit light.

“That said, I think Sean is one of those players who can push for a place straight away. We’ve seen quite a lot of him when he broke into the Connacht first team and he looks to me – when I code out the games – a player who has a lot of the characteristics that we look for in our players

“He’s a very good defender, deceptively quick, strong on the ball and when you break his game down, it’s actually very pleasing. He’s also in that right age range, early 20s, so he is one of those recruitment positions that kind of work all ways round for us.

“The last guy we brought from Ireland similarly was Ian Whitten and you look at how good he has been for us, the amount of games he’s played, and what an important figure he has been at the club, so there were a lot of reasons we went for a guy like Sean. He ticks a lot of boxes and I’m just really glad we can get him here early, bedded in, and starting that process of becoming an Exeter Chief.”

Source – Exeter Chiefs Rugby By Mark Stevens
3/6/21

Premiership

Newcastle Falcons sign former Ulster forward

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Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Former Ulster back-five forward Matthew Dalton has joined Newcastle Falcons on a two-year deal.

Standing at 6 foot 6 and weighing 115kg, the ex-Ireland Under-20s international is already on Tyneside, aiming to hit the ground running for the start of pre-season.

“I wasn’t supposed to start until July 1 but I had a bit of a chat with the coaches, and we thought it would be best if I came over early,” said Dalton, the 22-year-old who has played ten times for Ulster.

“I arrived a few weeks back and have been working hard with the strength and conditioning coaches. It’s a chance to meet everyone, see the lay of the land and put in some graft ahead of the start of pre-season. It’s been great so far, and I’ve made some big gains.”

A former international pentathlete for Ireland Schools, with high jump and hurdles as his stronger events, Dalton believes the Falcons’ high-tempo game will suit his own personal attributes as he strives to make his Gallagher Premiership breakthrough.

“I like to bring some speed to the game with the way that I play,” said the former Malone RFC man who has played mainly in the second row, with a handful of appearances on the blind-side flank.

“Looking at the pitch here and the way the Falcons go about their game, I think that could be a good fit.

“Coming into a Premiership team from the Pro 14 – there are definitely a lot of differences, but also a few similarities. Newcastle have got a very fit and dynamic pack, and with the style of rugby I play I think it will marry well.

“I’ve had a bit of time off to do some growing up and self-reflecting, and this is definitely a good move for me. I couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity presented to me over these next two years, and I’m just incredibly glad how it’s worked out.”

Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards said: “Matty is a real talent who is blessed with great athleticism.

“He has shown his work ethic by coming over early and laying the foundations for pre-season, and I’m excited about what he can bring to our squad during his time here with us.”

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Premiership

London Irish centurion to retire

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(Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)

London Irish full-back Tom Homer is retiring from the sport with immediate effect following the conclusion of the 2020/21 season.

Homer, who made 126 appearances and scored 785 points for the Exiles across two stints with the Club, has decided that it’s the right time for him to hang up his boots.

Tom had agreed a move to French side US Montalbanaise but has since decided his future is away from the rugby field.

“I suppose my love for life is now beyond the rugby field,” explained Homer.

“I’ve played rugby for 13 years now and have some brilliant memories, but it just feels like the right time to retire.

“There is something poetic about finishing at the Club where it all started. I’m looking forward to the next adventure.”

Looking back at his career, Homer chose not to reflect a particular match, try or conversion, but more so on those fellow players he has shared the pitch with.

“My first year at London Irish and getting to play in the Premiership Final was a massive highlight, but more than anything, I will remember the people that I got to share those types of experiences with,” he said.

“Thank you to all the people that have supported me during my career, you stuck with me through thick and thin. I really appreciate it.”

Declan Kidney, when commenting on Tom’s decision said: “We wish nothing but the best to Tom and his family in the future.

“He has had a fantastic career and should be very proud of everything that he has achieved. I know he will be successful in whatever path he chooses to do next, and I would like to thank him for his generosity, work ethic and friendship during his time at London Irish.”

Thank you for everything Tom. Good luck in your future – you will always be welcome at Hazelwood.

Source – London Irish Rugby

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Premiership

Wasps team to face Leicester Tigers as fans return to Ricoh Arena on Saturday

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Lee Blackett has named his Wasps side to host Leicester Tigers, in front of fans at Ricoh Arena, in the final round of the Gallagher Premiership on Saturday.

There are five changes to the starting line-up that won against London Irish last time out.

Malakai Fekitoa returns from injury to partner Michael Le Bourgeois in the centres.  

Josh Bassett will make his 150th Wasps appearance on Saturday, as he forms the back three with Marcus Watson and Rob Miller, who comes in for the injured Charlie Atkinson at full-back.

Jacob Umaga will also make his 50th Wasps appearance on Saturday, as he once again forms the half-back partnership with Dan Robson.  

The front row trio of Simon McIntyre, Tommy Taylor and Kieran Brookes line up for their final appearances in Wasps colours.

Will Rowlands also makes his final outing in Black and Gold in the second row with James Gaskell.

The only other change to the pack sees Sione Vailanu come in for the injured Thomas Young. Vailanu starts at number eight in his final Wasps game, meaning man-of-the-match from last week Tom Willis moves to blindside flanker and captain Brad Shields shifts to seven.

Amongst the replacements there is a welcome return to action for Alfie Barbeary. He is joined on the bench by Gabriel Oghre, Ben Harris, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Tim Cardall, Jimmy Gopperth, Juan de Jongh and Ben Vellacott, with de Jongh and Vellacott in line to play their last games for the Club.

Wasps team to face Leicester Tigers at Ricoh Arena on Saturday in Gallagher Premiership Round 22 (kick-off 3:00pm)

Wasps (First-team appearances)

15 Rob Miller (125)

14 Marcus Watson (51)

13 Malakai Fekitoa (36)

12 Michael Le Bourgeois (58)

11 Josh Bassett (149)

10 Jacob Umaga (49)

9 Dan Robson (136)

1 Simon McIntyre (183)

2 Tommy Taylor (90)

3 Kieran Brookes (58)

4 Will Rowlands (112)

5 James Gaskell (140)

6 Tom Willis (40)

7 Brad Shields (52) (c)

8 Sione Vailanu (31)

Replacements

16 Gabriel Oghre (45)

17 Ben Harris (79)

18 Jeff Toomaga-Allen (44)

19 Tim Cardall (29)

20 Alfie Barbeary (14)

21 Ben Vellacott (19)

22 Jimmy Gopperth (127)

23 Juan de Jongh (66)

Unavailable due to injury: Charlie Atkinson (Concussion), Lasha Jaiani (Pectoral), Zach Kibirige (Ankle), Joe Launchbury (ACL), Ryan Mills (Foot), Matteo Minozzi (Eye), Paolo Odogwu (ACL), Will Simonds (Groin), Sam Spink (Groin), Theo Vukasinovic (Achilles), Tom West (LCL/Hamstring), Jack Willis (PCL/MCL), Thomas Young (Hamstring).

Source – Wasps Rugby

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