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Pro14

Edinburgh & Cardiff each change 5.

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(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Scrum-half Charlie Shiel is handed his first home start as Edinburgh Rugby make five changes to their starting XV for tomorrow night’s Guinness PRO14 match against Cardiff Blues at BT Murrayfield (kick-off 7.35pm) – live on Premier Sports

Shiel is selected at half-back alongside a revamped centre pairing that sees George Taylor and James Johnstone named in midfield for the Conference B clash.

The capital club welcome back Scotland internationalists Grant Gilchrist and Jamie Bhatti to the forward pack in the only other alterations to the side that claimed a bonus-point win over Connacht last weekend.

Ahead of the fixture, Head Coach Richard Cockerill, said: “We need to make sure we’re on it. We should be well motivated since we’re on a good run, but we need to make sure we get all the basic things right.

“The weather will be a little bit better than last two weeks, but we need to be really functional and practical in how we play. We just need to go and win the game – do whatever it takes to win.

“I’m not fussy about our style. Substance, physicality and mentality should be 10 out of 10 for us, and we should go out with confidence to make sure we get our performance right.”

An unchanged back-three sees Hoyland continue at fullback with wingers Duhan van der Merwe – a try-scorer in his last five consecutive fixtures – and Eroni Sau once again named on the flanks.

Centres Taylor and Johnstone form all-new midfield pairing, with stand-off Simon Hickey – who contributed 12 points from his boot in last weekend’s win over Connacht – and the aforementioned Shiel combined at half-back.

Prop duo Bhatti and Simon Berghan are released from Scotland’s Guinness Six Nations squad and pack down alongside hooker Mike Willemse in a rotated front-row.

Scotland lock Gilchrist – who skippers the side – links-up with Lewis Carmichael in the second-row, as an unchanged back-row trio sees Nick Haining, Luke Crosbie and Viliame Mata complete the pack.

Cardiff have also made 5 changes to their starting team.

John Mulvihill’s side travel to the Scottish capital looking for back-to-back wins in the Championship, but face a tough prospect against the in-form Conference B leaders.

Summerhill, who has five tries to his name this season, suffered a hamstring injury in the Challenge Cup victory over Calvisano in January.

The wing, who replaces Ryan Edwards as the only change amongst the backline, joins Hallam Amos and Jason Harries in the back three, after the duo starred in Sunday’s bonus point win over Benetton Rugby.

Wing Harries returns to BT Murrayfield to face his former club, having scored two tries in this fixture last season as the Blues claimed a memorable victory at the Scottish capital.

Garyn Smith and Ben Thomas continue their partnership in midfield, as former Edinburgh outside half Jason Tovey links up with Lloyd Williams at half back.

There is a new-look front row, with Brad Thyer, Kristian Dacey and Dmitri Arhip all returning to the starting XV.

Rory Thornton is replaces James Ratti in the second row to combine with Seb Davies, who dotted down in the win over Benetton. An unchanged back row of Shane Lewis-Hughes, Olly Robinson and Josh Turnbull complete the pack.

Head coach John Mulvihill is relishing the challenge ahead and wants to finish the latest block of Guinness PRO14 games with a win before his side head into a three-week interval.

“We can take real confidence from our performance in the second half against Benetton as we travel up to Edinburgh. We were clinical in attack, solid in defence and we’ll need to maintain those standards for the full 80 minutes at Murrayfield.

“We’re fully aware of the challenges ahead against Edinburgh. They’re top of our table and have a lot of quality throughout, even with some big names missing through the Six Nations. They’re top of the table because of the depth they’ve built in that squad.

“We’ve got good form on the road this year, and that was something we spoke about before the season started. We need to pick up points on the road, and we’ve won up in Edinburgh before so we can take confidence from that.

“It’s great to have Aled back. He’s a really good player who gives us a spark and finish on the edge. He’s someone who can step up and keep some international boys out of the team because of his form.

“He’s a really good finisher, he’s quick, good on the high ball and defensively he’s one of our best.”

Another player returning from injury is Kirby Myhill who is named on the bench, and is set to feature for the first time in 2020.

Also included as a replacement is lock Ben Murphy, who could feature for the first time this season, having also impressed when featuring for Merthyr in the Indigo Group Premiership this season.

Pro14

Ospreys to help set up ‘field hospital’

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Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

The Ospreys training base at Llandarcy Academy of Sport is to be transformed into a field hospital in a bid to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Work has already started at Llandarcy (which is part of NPTC Group of Colleges) and will be completed in the next three to four weeks.

The beds would be used for COVID-19 patients and other patients who need medical care, but they will be nursed in separate areas.

“The Ospreys have always been rooted in the community and region and we were happy to help in any way to ease the pressure on the NHS and to assist in dealing with coronavirus,” said Andrew Millward, Ospreys managing director.

“Allowing our training base at Llandarcy to be used in this way is the least we could do as we all come to terms with dealing with this virus at this time.”

There are no plans to provide any intensive care beds in Llandarcy as most seriously ill patients will be treated and cared for in the main hospitals in the region.

The College which runs the Llandarcy Academy of Sport has offered its premises for use as a field hospital with 340 hospital beds available for use.

The public, health and private sector, along with further education, are working closely together in an unprecedented response aimed at safeguarding the health and wellbeing of people living in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot.

Llandarcy Academy of Sport is normally used by thousands of students as well as keep fit enthusiasts. The Ospreys also use the state-of-the-art facilities as their training ground.

Mark Dacey, CEO and Principal of NPTC Group of Colleges said the College would do everything it could to help in the current situation.

“These are difficult times for everyone,” said Dacey.

“We all need to pull together and do whatever we can to help tackle the ongoing COVID-19 emergency that we are all caught up in. The College will do whatever it can to help support our communities and its people during this very difficult time.”

Wyn Evans, Managing Director of the facility thanked everyone involved for coming together and backing the move to provide a field hospital on the site.

“Our users, which include the Ospreys, Swansea Ladies Football, members and lots more are fully supportive. It’s a challenging time for everyone, but we all realise measures have to be taken in order for this situation to be over as quickly as possible,” said Evans.

Tracy Myhill, Chief Executive of Swansea Bay University Health Board, paid tribute to the Ospreys for the willingness to allow Llandarcy to be used at this time and said she was “grateful and proud’” of how communities have come together.

Stadiums, leisure centres and a holiday park are being converted into field hospitals across Wales to help with the response to the outbreak of coronavirus.

The Welsh Rugby Union have already confirmed both Principality Stadium and the National Centre of Excellence in the Vale of Glamorgan will be used as emergency venues to help with treating coronavirus.

Parc y Scarlets in Llanelli – the home of the Scarlets – is also acting in the same way.

Courtesy of Welsh Rugby

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6 Nations

Rodney Parade to help in fight against coronavirus

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(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Rodney Parade has become the latest sporting venue to open its doors to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

The Newport stadium has been provided free of charge as a base for front-line NHS staff to check if they have the virus and are able to continue working. At this stage only NHS staff are eligible to be tested at Rodney Parade to see if they have COVID-19. Dragons managing director Mark Jones said: “The health service and care workers are doing an incredible job in such difficult circumstances so we are happy to offer our help and support in any way we can.

“Playing our part in the local community is at the heart of what we’re about at the Dragons and in times of crisis people stick together. We would urge everyone to follow the latest NHS advice on protecting themselves from the virus, particularly to stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel.”

A statement from Aneurin Bevan Health Board read: “The health and wellbeing of our staff is essential for delivering services for the people of Gwent. It is fundamental during this time when the most vulnerable people need us most.

“We have set up a drive-through facility to test staff for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and help us get our teams back in to work on the front line. The testing site is located at Rodney Parade in Newport and we ask that everyone practises the stay-at-home guidance and does not visit the site.

“Everyone at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board would like to thank the team at Rodney Parade for their community-focused approach and accommodating us during these difficult times.”

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Pro14

Ulster Star Commits Future to Province

Ulster have announced that one of their key men has signed a contract extension with the northern province

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(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Ulster have announced that Ireland prop Jack McGrath has committed his future to the club after signing a contract extension.

The 30-year-old has put pen to paper on a two-year deal that will see him remain with the province until 2022. 

Having joined Ulster from Leinster before this season McGrath is delighted to have his future sorted. 

“On arriving at Ulster, I was welcomed with open arms and I have very much settled here since joining at the start of this season. It’s a fantastic set-up in terms of the players, coaches and support staff that I get to work alongside every day – and I look forward to what the future holds for the province over the course of the next two years,” he said. 

The 56-cap Ireland international and a British and Irish Lion McGrath has a huge amount of experience behind him and head coach Dan McFarland thinks he has a big role to play in the future of the province. 

“Jack’s reliably strong performances and vast international experience make him a great asset to Ulster – so I’m delighted that he is chosen to continue his career here with us. By renewing the contracts of players such as Jack, we are continuing to strengthen our squad now, and also into the future, given the important leadership he provides for our young talent starting out in their careers. I’m confident that Jack will play an important role in Ulster’s successes in the years ahead,” he said. 

It is a huge boost for Ulster to have his services to rely upon over the coming seasons as they look to continue to build on their brilliant season to date.

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