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Cullen Makes Changes for Zebre Trip

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has made a few changes to his starting line-up for his side’s game with Zebre this weekend

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(Photo By Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has announced his squad for his side’s PRO14 match against Zebre at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi at 18 15 tomorrow.

The biggest change to the team is the inclusion of Cian Kelleher, who makes his first start for the boys in blue since his return to the club after a spell with Connacht. Kelleher comes in on the left-wing, while Adam Byrne comes in on the right. 

While in the pack James Tracy and Ross Molony are noticeable inclusions. 

Tracy is joined in the front-row by Peter Dooley and Michael Bent, while Molony links up with captain Scott Fardy in the second-row. 

Josh Murphy starts at blindside-flanker, with Scott Penny at openside, while Max Deegan is set to win his 50th cap for the province when he lines-up at No 8. 

Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne continue their half-back partnership after an impressive start to the season, with Byrne making his 75th appearance, while Joe Tomane and Rory O’Loughlin once again line-up outside them in the centre following an equally impressive start to the campaign. 

As mentioned above Kelleher opens on the left-wing, with Adam Byrne on the right, while Hugo Keenan remains at full-back. 

On the bench Bryan Byrne and Ryan Baird are in line to make their first involvements of the season. 

Speaking ahead of the game Cullen noted that despite players coming back from the World Cup, his objective was trying to get through this game following a week off and heading into a gruelling set of fixtures. 

“For us this week it’s just trying to prepare as much as we possibly can and get back into performance mode,” he said. 

Leinster are hoping to continue their perfect start to the season when they head to Italy having claimed three bonus-point wins from three so far this season. While for some of the younger players in the squad this is another chance to stake a claim for a spot among the first team even as bigger name players make their way back. 

 Check Out the Full 23-Man Squad Below.

Starting XV:

15. Hugo Keenan (8)

14. Adam Byrne (53)

13. Rory O’Loughlin (64)

12. Joe Tomane (16)

11. Cian Kelleher (7)

10. Ross Byrne (74)

9. Jamison Gibson-Park (73)

1. Peter Dooley (64)

2. James Tracy (95)

3. Michael Bent (127)

4. Ross Molony (85)

5. Scott Fardy (46) (C)

6. Josh Murphy (24)

7. Scott Penny (7)

8. Max Deegan (49)

Replacements:

16. Bryan Byrne (42)

17. Michael Milne (3)

18. Vakh Abdaladze (10)

19. Ryan Baird (1)

20. Caelan Doris (19)

21. Hugh O’Sullivan (15)

22. Harry Byrne (3)

23. Jimmy O’Brien (9)

Pro14

Scotland Ace Signs Contract Extension

One of Scotland’s key men has decided to put pen to paper on a new deal with his current club

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(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Scotland lock Ben Toolis has signed a new contract with current club Edinburgh ahead of the Six Nations with the national side.

The 27-year-old is included in Scotland’s Six Nations squad and has 22-caps to his name at the moment. Meanwhile at club-level Toolis has made over 100 appearances for Edinburgh since his debut in 2013. 

Speaking on the new deal Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill admitted he is delighted to have the Brisbane-born lock on board for the foreseeable future. 

“Ben is one of the most athletic locks in the league, while his ability and leadership at the lineout is key to the way we play. We are delighted to see him re-sign, and I’ve got no doubt that he will continue to be a big player for this club in the years to come,” he said to the club’s website. 

The length of the deal have not been announced, but it is a boost for both club and country as his stock continues to rise. 

Toolis will be hoping that he can continue his partnership with Grant Gilchrist in the upcoming Six Nations with the squad currently preparing to face Ireland in their opening game on February 1st.

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Pro14

Former Welsh Ace to Hang Up Boots

One of Wales’ former stars has confirmed that he will retire from rugby come the end of the current season

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(Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

Former Wales back James Hook has announced that he will be calling time on his professional rugby career come the end of the current season.

Hook is contracted to the Ospreys, but with his deal set to end at the end of the campaign he has decided the time has come to pull the curtain on a professional career spanning 16 years. 

“It’s sad but something I’m really looking forward to. It comes to everyone at some point and now it’s time for me. I’ve had lots of highlights, winning Grand Slam titles and Six Nations and going on the Lions tour in 2009. Then signing my first professional contract was a big moment for me. Growing up I always aspired to be a professional rugby player. You never think it’ll actually happen so when it did it really was amazing,” he said in a post on social media. 

The 34-year old picked up a total of 81-caps for Wales to go along with his 148 appearances for the Ospreys. 

As well as his time with the Welsh region Hook had spells at both Top 14 side Perpignan and English Premiership outfit Gloucester between his stints at the Ospreys. 

Hook has admitted he hopes to continue his rugby journey off the pitch, but that he is also looking forward to having more time to spend with his family after such a long time on the playing field. 

“I want to stay involved in the game, particularly working on the skills, like I do now with the young kickers and the age-grade sides, and I’m hoping to finish my level three coaching qualification. It’ll be nice to spend time with my family, my three young boys and my wife. It’s going to be sad not playing at the end of the season, but you’ve got to be positive and look on the bright side and I’m looking forward to what’s next,” he added. 

As well as his rugby career Hook has also written a series of children’s books that are set to be released later this year and that could provide him with something else to venture into if they are successful. 

However, for now he will be hoping that he can help the Ospreys turn around their disastrous season to date before he hangs his boots up for good. 

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Champions Cup

Connacht Set to Lose Big Star

Connacht look set to without one of their key men next season according to reports as he appears set for a move

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Connacht look as though they will have to deal without flanker Colby Fainga’a next season as he appears to be set for a move to French side Lyon according to Irish outlet the42.

They are reporting that the former Rebels man is the Top 14 side’s preferred replacement for the departing Liam Gill, who will leave at the end of this season. 

Connacht were keen to keep their players’ player of the year from last season and had entered contract talks to extend his deal past the original two years, but with talks stalling Lyon have come in with a reported offer of 300,000 euro a season which would be hard to refuse. 

The 28-year-old would be a huge loss to the western province having been such a massive influence since his arrival in 2018. 

However, more positive news for fans is that the back-rower is set to return from a knee injury this weekend against Toulouse, to help Connacht during a period where injuries have severely hampered them. 

It is understood that Connacht would like to replace Fainga’a with another overseas star, but for now they will hope to get the most out of the Aussie between now and the end of the season.

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