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Pro14

Connacht confirm 9 departures and 2 contract extensions

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Hooker Shane Delahunt and centre Peter Robb have both extended their contracts with Connacht ahead of the 2019/20 season.

Delahunt joined Connacht through the academy in 2014 and made his debut for the province in September of that year. The 25 year old also featured in Connacht’s Championship winning season in 2015/16 while still an academy player. He has a total of 62 appearances for Connacht – 19 coming this season under current Head Coach Andy Friend.

Peter Robb is another player who featured in that PRO12 winning season when he made twelve appearances in total. The 24 year old has recovered from two long term injuries over the past two seasons and has featured in Connacht’s last four PRO14 games.

Announcing the latest contract extensions, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said:

“Shane Delahunt and Peter Robb are two players who are very much part of our plans as we finalise our squad for next season. Our ambition is to be regularly competing at the highest level and bring further success to Connacht Rugby. To do this we need real depth in our squad and players putting each other under pressure for places.”

Eoin Griffin has also announced that he will be retiring from rugby at the end of the current season. Griffin has made over 100 appearances for his native province, but his progress has been hampered by injury this season.

Meanwhile Craig Ronaldson, James Mitchell, James Connolly, Conan O’Donnell, Peter McCabe, Peter Claffey, James Cannon and Conor McKeon will all be leaving Connacht at the end of the current season. McKeon has been affected by injury and will be retiring from the game.

Commenting on the departures, Head Coach Andy Friend said:

“Eoin Griffin has been a fantastic servant of Connacht Rugby with over 100 appearances for his home province and we wish him the very best as he announces his retirement. The nature of professional rugby is that a player’s longevity at a club is finite. To all of those men who are leaving Connacht this season, a sincere thank you for all that you’ve given to the jersey. We wish you every success for the future.”

Connacht are not the only team having a bit of a clear-out. Edinburgh announced earlier this week that 7 players would be leaving, including 2 British & Irish Lions.

Contract update from Connacht Rugby

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Pro14

2020 PRO14 Final Destination Confirmed

Next season’s PRO14 final will take place in a stadium it has never been before but there is one notable question mark surrounding the announcement

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The Cardiff City Stadium has been announced as the destination for the 2020 Guinness PRO14 final, in what is a first for the Welsh capital.

The game will take place on the 20th of June next year and Wales international Sam Warburton is delighted it will take place in his home-place.

“Rugby has always been a sport at the heart of Wales and having another world-class rugby event in our capital city is very exciting. I have seen a couple of matches in Cardiff City Stadium and the atmosphere can be electric with the right crowd – it’s going to be a great final whichever of the teams make it. Being a Cardiff boy myself, I could be biased, but it really is a great city with a great community. As the crow flies, the Cardiff City Stadium is under a mile from the city centre, so it makes a great location for fans wanting to make a day or a weekend of the event,” he said.

Although the announcement comes as good news for the club and local fans, the wider public have noted that the stadium is smaller than previous ones to have hosted the showpiece.

In fact, there has been record-breaking attendances over consecutive years since 2016 with this season’s final in Glasgow topping the lot with 47,128 people heading to Celtic Park to watch Leinster retain their crown.

However, PRO14 CEO Martin Anayi has confirmed that the decision to head to the 33,280-capacity stadium next season is to hopefully see a sell-out crowd unlike in the past number of years.

“Choosing Cardiff City Stadium as the location for next year’s final allows us to aim for a sell-out event after four successive years of setting new attendance records. Bringing the final to Wales is another move in making the decider about supporters of rugby, not just fans of the teams involved, and we know from experience that Welsh supporters are the most vocal. Cardiff City Stadium also brings us to a football venue for the second year in a row after the tremendous success of our most recent final in Glasgow’s Celtic Park,” he said.

Whatever the thoughts are Cardiff is the place to be next June, the question is what two teams will be battling it out when the time comes?

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Pro14

Ulster Rugby Lad meets… Ross Kane

Ross Kane speaks to Peter Lockhart

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ross Kane is a card-carrying member of the beefy brethren known in rugby circles as the front row club.

He has become an important player for Ulster, deputising for Marty Moore and becoming an important part of the ‘new generation’ at Ulster.

Here, he chats to Peter Lockhart from Ulster Rugby Lad about his propping destiny, his rugby hero and puppy problems.

Who or what made you passionate about rugby?

My passion for rugby really grew when I joined Methody in 1st year, watching all the older guys and friends of mine make it through and play professionally.

Who was the player you most admired growing up?

It’s hard to look much further than Rory Best for the most admired player growing up as he was achieving what every young player coming through Ulster wanted to achieve. Finally making my debut and getting to play alongside him was a very proud moment for me.

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What made you want to play as a prop?

Many people will tell you that you don’t choose to be a prop, being a prop chooses you. Being a bit bigger in school always had me in the front row and I never managed to escape!

What would you be doing if you weren’t playing professional rugby?

If I wasn’t playing rugby, I’d hope to be working in the construction industry as I’m in the middle of finishing my engineering degree.

What advice would you give to any young aspiring front row players?

Advice I would give to young front rowers would be to soak up as much information as possible. Small details will put you ahead of other players.

How do you get into the right mindset before a game? Do you have any pre-match routines or rituals?

I don’t have any pre match rituals, as long I know I have prepared well I know I’ll be in the right mindset for the game.

What are your expectations for Ulster in the next few years?

My expectations for Ulster over the next few years are to be consistently putting ourselves in a position to compete at the top level.

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Is there a failure or apparent failure that set you up for a later success?

I think personally not getting selected for the academy after my U20 season really made me realise that I needed to change my mindset and approach to rugby and thankfully 2 years later I was selected for a summer trial for the academy.

What hobbies/obsessions do you explore in your free time?

I’ve recently just got 2 puppies with my girlfriend so most of my free time will be used trying to teach them to not go to the toilet in the house.

Thanks Ross!

Images & Content from Ulster Rugby Lad

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Pro14

Ulster Rugby announce new Club Captain.

Captain for the 2019/20 season.

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(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Ulster Rugby this morning announced who will succeed Rory Best as the Captain of Ulster Rugby for the 2019/20 season.

Iain Henderson is the chosen man for the job. The Irish & British Lion will return to captain Ulster following probable selection for Ireland’s Rugby World Cup campaign.

The 27-year-old, who is currently in Ireland’s training squad ahead of Rugby World Cup 2019, has represented his home Province on 105 occasions.

Henderson started his rugby journey at Academy RFC, before continuing his development at Belfast Royal Academy.

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The versatile forward represented Ulster and Ireland at various age-grade levels on route to making his senior provincial debut in April 2012, against Connacht.

Henderson has since become a key figure for Ulster and Ireland, winning 44 caps for the latter. He played in four of Ireland’s games during the 6 Nations Grand Slam success of 2018, while he also featured in 2014 and 2015 Championship wins.

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