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Gallagher Returns At Full-Back For In-Form Munster

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(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The Munster team selected to host Connacht at Thomond Park on Friday (kick-off 6pm) shows nine changes to the side that defeated Ulster last week.

As they look to make it three derby wins on the trot in the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup, the Reds make nine changes to the starting XV.

The fit-again Matt Gallagher, Damian de Allende, Ben Healy, Craig Casey, James Cronin, Rhys Marshall, Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland and CJ Stander all come into the side.

Gallagher makes his first start since injuring his shoulder against Zebre in November. The 21-year-old is named at full-back having made his return to action off the bench in March.

Wingers Andrew Conway, who ran in the sixth and final try against Ulster, and Shane Daly are retained. De Allende joins Dan Goggin in the centre.

Academy out-half Ben Healy, who turns 22 next month, starts on his 17th appearance of the season with Casey also resuming at scrum half.

Cronin, Marshall and John Ryan form the front row trio this week, with the retiring Billy Holland making his 246th Munster appearance at lock alongside Jean Kleyn.

Captain Peter O’Mahony has Stander and Gavin Coombes for company in the back row, while Conor Murray is in line to make his 150th Munster appearance off the bench.

Jack O’Donoghue, Joey Carbery, who kicked 10 points in the recent victory over Leinster, and Keith Earls provide additional firepower among the replacements.

Speaking about Munster’s progress in the new competition, head coach Johann van Graan said: “It’s nice to get a complete performance (with reference to last week’s win over Ulster). We converted our opportunities.

“I thought our breakdown work was excellent on both sides of the ball. That’s a big part of our DNA and something that we will keep going back to. I thought some of our phase attacks and options were very, very good.

“The one thing that we shouldn’t miss (singling out) if you look at our last two games is our defence. We conceded three points against Leinster and 10 versus Ulster.

“Against two sides that won 14 out of 16 matches in the league phase the same as ourselves, so we conceded 13 points in the last 160 minutes. There is a lot to be positive about.”

MUNSTER (v Connacht): Matt Gallagher; Andrew Conway, Dan Goggin, Damian de Allende, Shane Daly; Ben Healy, Craig Casey; James Cronin, Rhys Marshall, John Ryan, Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland, Gavin Coombes, Peter O’Mahony (capt), CJ Stander.

Replacements: Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, Tadhg Beirne, Jack O’Donoghue, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery, Keith Earls.

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

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Pro14

Sean O’Brien to retire from rugby

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Connacht Rugby regret to announce that flanker Sean O’Brien has been advised to retire from rugby on medical grounds following a concussion injury.

A Galway native, O’Brien came through the Connacht Academy having represented Ireland at U18, U19 and U20 level. He was also named captain of the Ireland U20s for the 2014 Junior World Championships.

He made his pro Connacht debut away to Enisey-STM during the 2015/16 Challenge Cup, and came off the bench in the Guinness PRO12 Grand Final that same year. A first senior contract soon followed and in total he has made 60 appearances for his home province.

Sean O’Brien has released the following statement:

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Connacht Rugby for making a young boy’s dream come true. The memories and friendships made will last a lifetime.

I’d also like to thank all those in Wegians, Roscrea and Calasanctius who played their part in making it possible, and in particular my Dad Iain who coached me throughout my youth.

Not everyone gets a fairytale ending but I will never forget just how lucky I was to be a part of this club.

I am looking forward to cheering in the stands.

Sean”

Source – Connacht Rugby

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Pro14

TG4 and RTÉ will bring the United Rugby Championship to Free-to-Air audiences in Republic of Ireland

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The United Rugby Championship will be available on Free-to-Air broadcasters in Ireland for the next four years with RTÉ and TG4 agreeing to share rights to 52 of the 60 Irish fixtures every season.

The United Rugby Championship kicks off in September where four of South Africa’s elite teams will join the 12 existing Guinness PRO14 teams to form a world-class league. This agreement with RTÉ and TG4 (subject to contract) will open the door to greater audiences in the Republic of Ireland for Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster.

RTÉ has secured the rights for live TV, radio and online coverage of 26 games featuring the Irish provinces in the league, plus additional knockout matches. TG4’s Rugbaí Beo will continue to be the station’s flagship rugby programme and will broadcast 26 URC games live. The URC Grand Final will also be delivered free to air with RTÉ and TG4 broadcasting it live on alternate years.

TG4 will also have live rights to a further 16 non-Irish fixtures in addition to the 26 Irish games.

Additionally, the United Rugby Championship and RTÉ will team up to offer a domestic and international OTT (Over The Top) service called URC TV, details of which will be announced later in the summer.

The collaboration between the two national broadcasters in the Republic of Ireland presents great news for sports fans and the provinces. TG4 continue to build on their 20-year association with the league with RTÉ returning to the competition for the first time since 2014.

Martin Anayi, CEO of United Rugby Championship: “Free-to-Air coverage is hugely attractive to all sports in terms of reaching the widest possible audience and in TG4 and RTÉ we have two partners who are really excited about launching the United Rugby Championship.

“Both TG4 and RTÉ have proven track records of delivering marquee international sporting events and they are both innovators in their own spaces. TG4 have added a new dimension to our games with their referee briefings from the dressing rooms and their mic’d up coaching interviews during warm-ups which bring fans behind the scenes.

“RTÉ have experienced big sporting occasions for decades and our decision to partner with them on our OTT player – URC TV – is evidence of a broadcaster that can adapt to market demands and provide a very creative offering for rights holders. We also cement the legacy of TG4’s association with us since the first days of the Celtic League and welcome back old friends at RTÉ to provide a very powerful offering to the widest audience in Ireland ahead of the first URC games in September.”

Director General of TG4 Alan Esslemont said: “TG4 is delighted to have agreed the broadcasting rights to this new and exciting rugby competition. We look forward to delivering world class rugby to Irish audiences over the next four seasons. Rugbaí Beo has become part of the essential fabric of the station’s sports offering, and as an independent public service broadcaster, we’re proud to continue our commitment to bringing all this action to the sports fans of Ireland, free-to-air on TG4.”

Dee Forbes, RTÉ Director General said: “We are really excited to be part of the new United Rugby Championship. RTÉ is delighted to partner with URC and TG4 to ensure that the new Championship and our provinces get maximum exposure and Irish audiences enjoy the action free-to-air. It’s a team effort from URC, RTÉ and TG4 and a great result for Irish rugby fans. We’re also delighted to collaborate with URC on the launch of an innovative new global OTT service to ensure fans enjoy the best URC action across the world.”

Please note: These agreements are subject to contract with long-form negotiations nearing completion.

Source – Ulster Rugby

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United Rugby Championship Heralds a New Era for Club Rugby

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Ulster Rugby will compete alongside 15 teams from South Africa, Scotland, Wales, Italy and Ireland in a new ‘United Rugby Championship’ competition from next season.

The United Rugby Championship will kick off in September 2021 as the top clubs from South Africa (Cell C Sharks, DHL Stormers, Emirates Lions and Vodacom Bulls) combine with the Guinness PRO14 to create a world-class 16-team league.

The United Rugby Championship will be bigger, bolder and stronger than its predecessors. Teams from five of rugby’s elite nations – Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Wales and South Africa will transform the competition into a league of super clubs, which will embrace difference and champion its athletes on their journey with the URC proudly representing all of those involved with the game.

Off the field the United Rugby Championship will strive to provide a platform for our players to tell their stories so that their achievements in sport and society can inspire the next-generation of rugby talent and the sport’s supporters to prove that rugby is a game for all.

This game-changing agreement between SA Rugby and PRO14 Rugby will strengthen their existing partnership and will drive greater growth of the game for the benefit of all 16 teams in the league.

Martin Anayi, CEO of United Rugby Championship, said: “Fans have always asked more of our league and now we are taking it to new heights. The United Rugby Championship will see World Cup winners, icons of the Guinness Six Nations, the Rugby Championship and stars of the British & Irish Lions tour turning up the intensity in an exciting new league format. Since the origins of the Celtic League in 2001, the vision has been to innovate and evolve in order to create a compelling competition which would challenge our players and teams to be at their very best every single week. Their potential has never been in doubt and now we can provide them with the arena to be the very best.

“Forming the United Rugby Championship will begin to reshape the world of club rugby. We are creating a league that embraces and celebrates difference and where the only way to succeed will be to match the skill and intensity of the international game.

“The arrival of South Africa’s elite teams and the removal of fixtures from international match weekends will make our league stronger across the board. We will see heroes taking on heroes every week in iconic locations to create an appeal that will be unmatched in in the world of club rugby.

“We now have a clear purpose and identity that everyone associated with our league can stand behind. We have listened and we have answered the challenge set by our clubs to take this competition to the next level both on and off the field. North and south will now collide on a regular basis and we cannot wait to see who will rise up as the first champions of the United Rugby Championship.”

Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby, said: “South African rugby has for many years imagined a future aligned with northern-hemisphere rugby and this announcement marks the arrival of that vision.

“Our teams will be pitting themselves against the leading clubs from four nations, steeped in rugby tradition and folklore. They’ll do it without having to cross time zones or acclimatise while 100 per cent of matches will kick off in South African prime time.

“This is a watershed moment in South African rugby history, opening new doors and heralding a new and exciting era for our sport.”

Crossing New Horizons in Rugby

This agreement will create a pathway for SA Rugby to become a full shareholder in Pro Rugby Championship (PRC DAC) alongside the Celtic and Italian unions. In a sporting landscape looking towards the post-pandemic future this unification of north and south provides everyone involved in the United Rugby Championship with optimism for prosperous days ahead.

Subject to contract, all teams in the United Rugby Championship will be eligible to qualify for EPCR competitions in time for the 2022/23 season.

In comparison to the Guinness PRO14 structure, the 18-round regular season in the United Rugby Championship will see the return of a single-standing table that will prevent clashes with international weekends and leave little margin for error for those chasing the title. Every game will count in the league which will be further strengthened by an expanded knock-out series that aims to deliver more jeopardy with a full schedule of quarter-finals and semi-finals capped off by a Grand Final played in a destination venue.

The United Rugby Championship will set the stage where the diversity of playing styles, languages and fan cultures will clash across iconic locations in rugby heartlands week after week. The new league will also allow South Africa’s former Super Rugby sides to operate in a common time zone which will help open up greater audiences across the league and increase commercial appeal.

United Rugby Championship League Format

The URC will use one league table to rank the teams who will reach the knock-out stages and compete to reach the title and become the champions.

Fixtures: The regular season of the United Rugby Championship will take place across 18 rounds with each team’s fixtures comprising of six (6) Home AND away fixtures against their regional pool opponents and12 Home OR away fixtures against the remaining teams in the league

Regional pools

Irish Pool: Connacht, Leinster, Munster, Ulster

Welsh Pool: Dragons, Cardiff Rugby, Ospreys, Scarlets

South African Pool: Cell C Sharks, DHL Stormers, Emirates Lions and Vodacom Bulls

Italian & Scottish Pool: Benetton Rugby, Edinburgh, Glasgow Warriors, Zebre Rugby Club

Final Series/Play-Offs: One league table will be used to rank teams and after 18 rounds the top eight sides will qualify for the Play-Offs. Teams will be seeded from 1 to 8 and will receive home advantage according to their seeding.

A full round of Quarter-Finals and Semi-Finals will take place to produce two teams who will qualify for the Grand Final.

United Rugby Championship – Champions Cup and Challenge Cup Participation

A total of eight teams from the United Rugby Championship will qualify each season for the following season’s Heineken Champions Cup. The balance of teams will participate in the Challenge Cup.

Subject to the finalisation of contract terms with EPCR, South African teams will be eligible to qualify for the Heineken Champions Cup from the 2022/23 season if they have finished in the United Rugby Championship qualification places from the prior season.

All points won during the URC season will contribute to rankings in the regional pools and the highest-ranking team in each of the four pools will earn a place in the Champions Cup for the following season. This addition to the format is expected to add even greater intensity to these age-old local rivalries.

The remaining four places in the Champions Cup will be awarded to the four highest-ranked teams from the single-standing league table who have not already qualified through the four regional pools.

Source – Ulster Rugby

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