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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

Pro14

Marcus Rea to start for Ulster v Ospreys

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Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Marcus Rea will make his first start for Ulster on Saturday evening, in the Guinness PRO14 Round 2 trip to play Ospreys at Liberty Stadium (kick-off 5.15pm). 

The 23-year-old – who was Player of the Match in his sole previous Ulster appearance as a replacement against Leinster in April 2019 – has been named at openside flanker. Marcus’s older brother Matty – Player of the Match in last weekend’s bonus point win over Benetton – is named alongside him at blindside, with Marcell Coetzee once again packing down at number eight. 

Jack McGrath, Rob Herring and Marty Moore have been given the front row starting berths, and Alan O’Connor has been selected along with captain Iain Henderson in the second row. 

Matt Faddes returns to the starting side on the right wing and will join Jacob Stockdale at full-back and Rob Lyttle on the left wing. Last week’s midfield duo of Stewart Moore and James Hume has been retained. Ian Madigan comes in to start at fly-half, pairing with John Cooney at scrum-half. 

The coaching team has opted for a 6-2 bench split. Adam McBurney, Eric O’Sullivan, Gareth Milasinovich, Kieran Treadwell, Greg Jones and Sean Reidy provide the forward options, with David Shanahan and Louis Ludik offering back line cover.  

Ulster team to play Ospreys Rugby, Guinness PRO14 Round 2, Saturday 10 October 2020, at Liberty Stadium (kick-off 5.15pm, live on Premier Sports):   

(15-9) Jacob Stockdale, Matt Faddes, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Rob Lyttle, Ian Madigan, John Cooney.  (1-8) Jack McGrath, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (Capt.) , Matthew Rea, Marcus Rea, Marcell Coetzee.  Replacements: Adam McBurney, Eric O’Sullivan, Gareth Milasinovich, Kieran Treadwell, Greg Jones, David Shanahan, Louis Ludik, Sean Reidy. 

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Pro14

Munster confirm COVID-19 case. Training suspended.

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(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Munster Rugby have been assisting a senior player who has tested positive for Covid-19.

The latest PCR testing carried out on Monday at the HPC has returned a positive result for a player who is asymptomatic. To remove any doubt of a potential false positive the player will be retested tomorrow.
The individual, who was not part of the travelling group at the weekend, and six other players identified by Munster Rugby as potential close contacts, are currently self-isolating.

This approach of identifying possible close contacts is in line with the caution we have taken to this issue, these players may not be deemed close contacts by the HSE.

As a precautionary measure, the squad and academy will not train at the HPC today.
The HSE have been notified for contract tracing purposes.

Further PCR testing will take place tomorrow at the HPC with a return to scheduled training planned for Thursday ahead of Saturday’s Guinness PRO14 encounter against Edinburgh at Thomond Park.

Munster Rugby Head of Medical, Dr Jamie Kearns, said: “As an immediacy we are taking every precaution by standing down training today.

“We are going to complete another round of PCR testing tomorrow so that we can return to training on Thursday.

“Our priority is to ensure the health and safety of our players and staff, and we will continue to work closely with both the IRFU and HSE in this regard.”

Statement from Munster Rugby

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Pro14

Halaholo returns for Cardiff Blues season opener

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(Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

Willis Halaholo returns to the Cardiff Blues starting line-up for the Guinness PRO14 curtain raiser against Zebre at Stadio Lanfranchi on Friday (KO 6.00pm GMT).

The centre has been sidelined since suffering a significant knee injury in a Challenge Cup clash against Leicester Tigers last November.

Halaholo is reunited in midfield with Rey Lee-Lo, in a backline that includes six internationals.

Homegrown duo Jarrod Evans and Lloyd Williams combine at half back, while Matthew Morgan and Hallam Amos line-up in the back three alongside Josh Adams, who has been in scintillating form since joining the region, with seven tries in eight outings.

Lock Cory Hill captains the side for the first time since returning to his home region from Dragons over the summer.

He partners Seb Davies in the second row, while academy graduates Corey Domachowski and Liam Belcher are included in the front row with Dmitri Arhip.

Shane Lewis-Hughes and James Botham, who both impressed in the victory over Ospreys on the final day of the 2019/20 campaign, are rewarded with starting spots, as the experienced Josh Turnbull is handed the number eight jersey.
John Mulvihill insists he’s picked the side based on form and merit but is expecting a tough task in Parma.

“I’m hopeful that we can take the form that we had against Ospreys into game one and certainly the selection of the team rewards the boys that played well that day,” said the head coach.

““We need to pick on form if we want to be consistent as a group. The coaches need to show consistency in picking players that put their hands up for selection.

“We’re all excited to get out there and to kick off the new season. We gained a lot from the two derbies we played in August, and the boys have been working hard on the training ground, so we want to see that come into fruition on Friday.

“We all know how tough it can be to visit Italy, and you need to travel there with the correct game-plan and mindset.

“Zebre are a team that can cause teams problems on their day, but we’re fully confident in our group. Preparations have been good, the boys have been sharp and focused and we’re relishing the challenge ahead. We want to build early momentum and we have an opportunity to do that in Parma.

“There will be a small home crowd out there, which is fantastic and we’re really looking forward to playing in front of some spectators after everything that’s happened over the last few months. It should be lively and entertaining affair.”

Five academy products are included on the bench, including lock Ben Murphy and Welsh internationals Rhys Carré and Dillon Lewis.

Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan; Josh Adams, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Hallam Amos; Jarrod Evans, Lloyd Williams; Corey Domachowski, Liam Belcher, Dmitri Arhip, Seb Davies, Cory Hill (capt.), Shane Lewis-Hughes, James Botham, Josh Turnbull
Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Rhys Carré, Dillon Lewis, Ben Murphy, Olly Robinson, Lewis Jones, Jason Tovey, Garyn Smith

The following players were not considered for selection due to injury:
Ellis Jenkins (Knee)
Tomos Williams (Shoulder)
Rhys Gill (Bicep)
Jason Harries (Knee)
Owen Lane (Shoulder)
Mason Grady (Ankle)
Keiron Assiratti (Ankle)
Will Boyde (Calf)
Josh Navidi (Concussion)

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