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Pro14

Confirmed. Jack McGrath to join Ulster.

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Picture from @UlsterRugby Twitter

IRFU contracted international prop Jack McGrath has decided to switch to Ulster from the start of the 2019/20 season.

Commenting on his decision, Jack said:

“This was a difficult decision but one I believe will put me in the best position to continue to perform at the top end of the game. I have enjoyed a huge amount of success at Leinster, but I feel that looking beyond the World Cup to the next phase of my career, I will benefit from the opportunity within the Ulster environment.

“I am now fully fit after a disrupted start to the season and I’m looking forward to putting all my energy into helping Leinster’s drive to defend the European and PRO14 titles and finishing this season on a high.”

The move was also welcomed by Dan McFarland, Ulster’s Head Coach:

“We are delighted to be welcoming Jack on board next season, and it is hugely encouraging to see a player of his calibre express the desire to join us.

“Jack’s quality on the field is undoubtable, and his experience of playing at the highest level will be a hugely valuable asset to the club as we continue to develop a promising group of young forwards.”

Jonny Petrie, Ulster’s CEO, commented:

“Jack choosing to further develop his rugby career at Ulster is both a testament to the quality of rugby programme that Dan and his team have put in place, and a statement of the positive direction in which this club is heading.

“We are building something very strong here and I’m extremely pleased that Jack wants to be part of that.”

David Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director, added:

“Jack has made a very tough decision which he believes will advance his case for selection for Ireland. You have to respect a player with such ambition.

“Leinster is a fantastic environment but it is testament to the work that all four provinces are doing that players are seeking opportunities within Ireland to advance their international careers.”

Jack was first capped for Ireland in 2013 against Samoa and has won 54 caps for Ireland to date and featured in all three Tests on the 2017 British and Irish Lions Tour of New Zealand. He is a Six Nations winner with Ireland in 2014, 2015 and 2018.

He made his debut for Leinster in 2010 against Glasgow Warriors and has made over 140 appearances for the Province, winning three Heineken European Cups, an Amlin Challenge Cup, a Guinness PRO14 title and two PRO12 titles.

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6 Nations

Double Injury Blow for Leinster

Leinster have been handed two big injuries to two of their key men as they head into the Christmas period

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(Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Leinster have confirmed that star fly-half Johnny Sexton has suffered a medial tear in his right knee, while Ronan Kelleher has also had an injury set-back.

Sexton, who went off injured during Leinster’s 43-16 victory over Northampton Saints last Saturday, underwent scans on his knee yesterday and saw a specialist who revealed that he will miss between 6 and 8 weeks of action. 

The 34-year-old is set to miss the opening weekend’s of the 2020 Six Nations as a result, with the first fixture at home to Scotland on February 1st, with Wales coming to town a week later. 

It will remain to be seen how quickly he recovers, but the likelihood is that he will aim to be fit for Ireland’s third game away to England on the 23rd. 

However, his injury causes a slight selection headache for new head coach Andy Farrell, who at this moment is without Sexton and Joey Carbery, but the latter is expected to return from injury later this month. 

Although Sexton’s injury is a big blow, it could open the door once again for Connacht’s Jack Carty to get a run in the Irish line-up, while Leinster teammate Ross Byrne will take the reigns at club-level and with the form he is currently in, will fancy his chances of getting a call up to the national team having missed out on the Rugby World Cup squad. 

The injury also means that Sexton will miss all three of Leinster’s remaining Champions Cup pool fixtures as well as their three inter-provincial derbies over the coming month, with Byrne expected to be backed up by younger brother Harry and Ciaran Frawley. 

Although the bad news for both Leinster and Ireland doesn’t stop there with upcoming star hooker Ronan Kelleher expected to be side-lined for a period with a possible fractured hand, which he is thought to have suffered during last weekend’s game. 

It is thought that Kelleher was in poll position to earn his first call-up to the Irish side for the Six Nations after a blistering start to the season, but this may now dampen his hopes. 

Sean Cronin is believed to be nearing full-fitness once more, which would be a boost for both club and country as he could slot in seamlessly. 

The injuries are piling-up for Leinster, who will also miss centre Joe Tomane for the same period as Sexton through a hamstring injury, while Rory O’Loughlin will miss this weekend’s game with injury. 

James Ryan is also making his way through the back to play protocols after taking a knock to the head against the Saints, but could feature this Saturday. 

Leinster will hope that their squad can cope with the set-backs as they head into this weekend’s home fixture against Northampton, with younger stars now having the chance to lay a marker as the province look to make it 11 wins from 11 at the start of the season.

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6 Nations

Sexton to Miss Northampton Return Game

Leinster fly-half Johnny Sexton is set to miss this weekend’s home game against Northampton Saints and there are further injury concerns for the Irish province

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(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Leinster have confirmed that out-half Johnny Sexton will not feature in this weekend’s return fixture against the Northampton Saints in the Champions Cup.

The Irish-star went down awkwardly in a tackle early in the second-half of Saturday’s 43-16 victory over the Saints and was replaced by Ross Byrne immediately and will now see a specialist later today for further scans on the injury. 

The 34-year-olds fitness uncertainty will come as a massive concern for new Ireland head coach Andy Farrell, with the Six Nations edging closer and with him set to take charge of his first training camp before the New Year. 

As well as his skill-set, many expect Sexton to take over the captaincy from recently retired Rory Best, with his experience being a key component to the Irish side. 

The good news for his province is that Ross Byrne has been in fine form so far this season after his Rugby World Cup omission from the Irish squad and has back-up from younger brother Harry as well as Ciaran Frawley, with Ross likely to take the starting spot this weekend. 

However, Leinster will be without backs Joe Tomane and Rory O’Loughlin this weekend, with the former set to be side-lined for up to eight weeks with a hamstring injury following a brilliant opening to the season, while the latter is suffering from a shoulder problem. 

In the forwards James Ryan is undergoing the return to play protocols after taking a knock to the head during Saturday’s win. 

Leinster and Ireland will hope that Sexton makes a speedy recovery, but for the boys in blue their eyes will be firmly set on this weekend’s fixture which could see them all but qualify for the knock-out stages of the competition and they will want to continue their perfect start to the season with an incredible 10 wins from 10.

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Pro14

Zebre Star Receives Small Ban for Biting

Zebre might have claimed a famous away win in the PRO14 last weekend, but it’s not all rosy for the Italian team after one of their players has been handed a ban for biting, although it’s shorter than most would expect

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Zebre No 8 has received a six-week ban after being found guilty of biting an opposition player during last Saturday’s PRO14 clash with the Ospreys.

The 24-year-old was expected to be handed a lengthy ban for an act of foul play that is seriously frowned upon in the sport, but after initially being given a 12-week ban it was cut in half due to his previous disciplinary record, his admission of guilt and his conduct throughout the process. 

All of which means that he will be free to play for the Italian minnows, who enjoyed a memorable away win in Wales, come the 12th of January. 

The four-time capped Italian’s ban comes only a week after the exact same ban that was handed down to La Rochelle’s Pierre Bourgarit, who was caught eye-gouging Sale’s Tom Curry in a Champions Cup fixture. 

Another one of the worst offences in the game and it was reduced from 12 to six weeks, much for the same reasons as Giammarioli. 

Some fans and ex-players will criticise the decision, as it appears a much softer result than in days gone by for offences that could have caused serious harm to opponents.

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