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Match Preview: Montpellier Hérault (H)



Fixture: London Irish vs Montpellier Hérault

Competition: Heineken Champions Cup, Pool B Round 1

Date: 9th December 2022

Kick-off: 8pm

Stadium: Gtech Community Stadium

Capacity: 17,250


The long-awaited return to Heineken Champions Cup is almost over for London Irish, who open up the 2022/23 competition this Friday at home against Top 14 champions, Montpellier Hérault.

Montpellier had a three-match win streak end against Clermont Auvergne last week and currently sit fifth in this year of the Top 14 after six wins and six losses, new out-half Louis Carbonel aiding in their top six standing with the third-highest points in the league (130).

In the first ever competitive meeting between the Clubs, Philippe Saint-André’s side travel to west London to begin their 11th campaign in Europe’s top knockout competition, their seventh consecutive Champions Cup berth.

They achieved qualification after finishing second in the French top tier last year, going on to win their first league title with play-off victories over Union Bordeaux Bègles and Castres Olympique.

In their continental pursuit of silverware, Les Cistes emerged from their pool last term with wins over Leinster Rugby and Exeter Chiefs, then conquering Harlequins by one point on an aggregate score before falling short to eventual champions, La Rochelle, in the quarter-finals.

Crashing out of the 2020/21 pool stages led to the Hérault-based Club to their second Challenge Cup lift, dropping down to the competition to beat Premiership side Leicester Tigers in the final.

Irish reached the last eight of the EPCR Challenge Cup last year; with the two most profitable game periods between 11 and 20 minutes and the last 10 minutes of 2021/22 Challenge Cup matches, scoring a competition-high five and nine tries respectively as well as having the most try-scoring possessions from lineouts (16).

The Exiles’ last outing in the Heineken Champions Cup competition came back in the 2011/12 season, beating Racing 92 34-14 away but not qualifying from a pool that also contained Cardiff and Edinburgh Rugby.

Nemani Nadolo remains the French Club’s top try scorer in the tournament down through the years with 11, recently departed Benoit Paillaugue the highest points scorer (169) and second-most appearance maker (36).

The boss- Philippe Saint-André:

Saint-André joined the Club back in 2020 to succeed Vern Cotter as Director of Rugby at Les Cistes, having previously assumed the helm at Premiership sides Gloucester Rugby and Sale Sharks.

He won Sharks’ first league title in 2006, going on to manage French giants Toulon to an EPCR Challenge Cup final appearance in 2010.

The 55-year-old would eventually earn his place as the leader of the French national team, taking the national side to Giuseppe Garibaldi and Trophée des Bicentenaires honours in his four years in Paris.

After Coach Xavier Garbajosa left in early 2021, Saint-André took a more hands-on approach and has since guided Montpellier to their second Challenge Cup and first Top 14 trophy.

One to watch- Zach Mercer:

The Leeds-born 25-year-old moved to Scotland as a child, first getting his taste of rugby with Old Brodleians near Halifax before being integrated into the Glasgow Warriors Academy north of the border.

Joining Bath Rugby in 2015, he spent five years with the Club and earned two caps for England, after leading the under-20s side ten times in his 17 age-grade outings for his country.

The 2017 World Rugby Junior Player of the Year nominee joined Montpellier ahead of the 2021/22 season, making a sizeable impact on the team’s fortunes as the Club won their first league title.

Scoring five tries in domestic and European competition for the French side last year and two this year, the physical prowess of the Englishman will soon be on display in the Premiership after confirming that he is set to join Gloucester Rugby next year.

Pre-match patter:

Speaking at the recent EPCR Season Launch, Montpellier Hérault centre Arthur Vincent outlined his Club’s standing coming into this year’s Heineken Champions Cup.

“We arrive with a lot of humility,” Vincent said.

“We are still small in this competition, the [Heineken] Champions Cup goes faster, hits harder.

“As soon as a match is lost, qualification becomes complicated.

“It’s a very high level in all sectors, close to an international Test.”

Content & Images from – London Irish Rugby


RFU Statement on London Irish



The RFU Club Financial Viability Group has agreed to give London Irish a one-week extended deadline to meet the original conditions as set out below and pay the remaining May payroll to staff and players.

1) a takeover of the club has been completed and approved by the RFU, with the buyers undertaking to provide all required working capital to meet the club’s obligations as they fall due for at least season 2023/24; or

2) the club evidences that it will continue to be funded to operate throughout the 2023/24 season. If the club fails to meet these conditions it will be suspended from participating in the Premiership (and other competitions) in season 2023/24 to avoid a scenario where the club enters insolvency mid-season, with the corresponding and substantial impact that has on players, staff, and fans, as well as on the remainder of the league.

The extension, until Tuesday 6 June, has been given following consultation with staff and players who asked for the deadline to be extended to allow them to be paid 50% of their salaries.

Paula Carter, RFU Board Member and Chair of the Club Financial Viability Working Group said; “It is deeply frustrating for all the staff, players and fans that there have been multiple missed deadlines. 

“We are extremely disappointed that the club has so far only funded 50% of the staff and player wages, however, we have to respect the wishes of those most affected.

“The 4pm deadline on 6 June is final and we have added the stipulation that the club must also fulfil its contractual obligations to its employees by paying the May salaries in full.”

Content & Images from – London Irish Rugby

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Coenie Oosthuizen to leave Sale Sharks



Springbok Coenie swapping Sharks for Sharks

Prop Coenie Oosthuizen leaving Sale Sharks to join South African side Cell C Sharks

Sale Sharks can confirm that prop Coenie Oosthuizen will leave the club to return to South African side Cell C Sharks.

The 34-year-old Springbok, who can play on either side of the scrum, arrived in Manchester in May 2019 from the Durban-based Super Rugby side.

He’s gone on to make 94 appearances for Sale, including 16 this season as Alex Sanderson’s men reached their first Premiership final in 17 years.

Coenie made his debut for the Springboks in 2012 and has since won 30 international caps.

Sharks Director of Rugby Alex Sanderson said: “Since he arrived in Manchester, Coenie has been a massive part of this team and this club and everyone is going to miss him.

“On the field he’s a fantastic player but off it, he’s been a real leader for us in what is a young squad.”

Everyone at Sale Sharks would like to thank Coenie for his contribution to the club and the team during his time here and we wish him all the very best for the future.

Images & Content from Sale Sharks Rugby

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Leicester Tigers 23/24 Coaching Team



Leicester Tigers can confirm the club’s senior coaching team ahead of the 2023/24 season.

Dan McKellar, who was announced as the club’s new Head Coach in February, will oversee the rugby programme and lead on the line out and forwards coaching.

Brett Deacon will lead on the breakdown and contact area, while also assisting McKellar with the forwards.

Deacon made 135 first-team appearances in two spells as a player with Tigers before joining the coaching staff upon retiring in 2015. After working with the club’s academy for two seasons, he joined the senior coaching team ahead of the 2016/17 campaign.

Matt Everard, who joined the club midway the 22/23 season as Senior Academy Coach before taking on a permanent senior role in December 2022, is the Defence Coach.

After representing Tigers, Wasps and Nottingham as a player, Everard moved into coaching with The Archers before returning to Wasps as Academy Coach and moved into the senior coaching team ahead of the 2019/20 campaign.

Alan Dickens, Dan Palmer and Ollie Richardson are the additions to the club ahead of the new season.

Dickens will take charge of the Attack & Backs, Palmer is the Scrum Coach and Richardson joins as Head of Physical Performance.

Read more on the appointments of the trio here:

Matt Smith will be the Skills Coach for the senior squad and take on the newly-created Lead Academy Coach role which sees him responsible for the Senior Academy Squad and transition of players from junior to senior rugby.

Smith made 228 appearances for Tigers before coaching the club’s academy side after retiring from playing in 2019, and joined the senior coaching team ahead of the 20/21 season.

Speaking about his coaching team, incoming Leicester Tigers Head Coach Dan McKellar said: “I am excited by the group we have put together, which has a great balance of continuity and new voices who will bring fresh ideas.”

“It was important to me that there was a mix of people who not only understand the Premiership, but vital that they understand Leicester Tigers and we have got that in Brett Deacon, Matt Everard and Matt Smith, as well as the majority of our performance staff who remain with the club.

“In addition, to have Alan Dickens and Ollie Richardson’s knowledge of the English game, players and competitions we compete in is of great value, and Dan Palmer’s expertise is very exciting for the club moving forward.

“What is most pleasing for me is that this coaching team are excited by the squad we have to work with from next season at Leicester Tigers, because of where they are at currently and work they have done but, importantly, how it can evolve.”

Leicester Tigers 23/24 Coaching Team

  • Dan McKellar, Head Coach
  • Brett Deacon, Assistant Coach
  • Alan Dickens, Attack & Backs Coach
  • Matt Everard, Defence Coach
  • Dan Palmer, Scrum Coach
  • Ollie Richardson, Head of Physical Performance
  • Matt Smith, Skills Coach & Lead Academy Coach

The club can also confirm that Richard Wilks has been appointed General Manager.

Wilks joined Tigers during the 20/21 campaign as a consultant before being appointed Head of Performance Recruitment in November 2021.

Discussing the appointments, Leicester Tigers CEO Andrea Pinchen said: “I believe we have put together a world class coaching team, headed up by Dan McKellar, to lead Leicester Tigers from next season into this exciting new chapter of the club’s history”

“A lot of work has gone on behind the scenes to bring this impressive group who all offer their own unique skills, experience and knowledge from diverse backgrounds in the game.

“Most pleasing for me in this group is a shared desire to see this club continue to be successful but, even more so, strive to reach new heights together.

“After a turbulent year for all involved with Leicester Tigers, to be able to confirm our senior coaching team now is a great pleasure for me and I hope our supporters are as excited as I am about them leading this club into the future.”

The Leicester Tigers squad will commence pre-season training in July ahead of the 23/24 campaign.

Content & Images from – Leicester Tigers Rugby

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