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Pro14

Glasgow vs Ulster Preview; Injured Players Return for Both

A number of key players have returned to line-out for the two sides in their Pro 14 semi-final

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(Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Glasgow Warriors and Ulster have been boosted by the return of some key men ahead of their Pro 14 semi-final at Scotstoun on Friday at 19 35.

For the hosts co-captain Callum Gibbins returns from a head injury sustained against Saracens in the Champions Cup quarterfinals, while also being able to name DTH van der Merwe on the wing.

On the other hand, the visitors have been massively lifted by the timely returns of both Jacob Stockdale and Louis Ludik, who slot straight into the back three as their side look to reach the final for the first time in six years.

Glasgow start the game with a front-three of Jamie Bhatti, Fraser Brown and Zander Fagerson, with Scott Cummings and Jonny Gray behind them on in the second-row.

The pack is finished with the strong trio of Rob Harly, Gibbins and Matt Fagerson

Scotland international Ali Price opens at scrum-half with Adam Hastings partnering him from fly-half. Sam Johnson and Kyle Steyn are just outside the pair in the 12 and 13 jerseys respectively.

It is a formidable back-three as van der Merwe and Tommy Seymour open on the wings with Stuart Hogg at full-back. This will be Hogg’s final home game for the Warriors before his summer switch to Exeter Chiefs.

There is plenty of strength on the bench as well with the likes of Ryan Wilson, George Horne, Peter Horne and Huw Jones to call upon.

For Ulster it’s a front-row of Eric O’Sullivan, captain Rory Best and Ross Kane with Ian Henderson and Kieran Treadwell in the engine room.

At the back of the pack there is a serious amount of power with Nick Timoney, Jordi Murphy and Marcel Coetzee on the flanks and at No 8 respectively.

John Cooney continues alongside Billy Burns in the half-backs, while Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshell are in the centre.

Louis Ludik begins the game on the left-wing with Robert Baloucoune on the right and Jacob Stockdale moves to full-back for the clash.

Just like the home side Ulster have depth on the bench with Rob Herring, Sean Reidy, David Shanahan and Darren Cave among those ready to play their part.

Speaking ahead of the final-four clash Ulster head coach Dan McFarland, whose side have gone further this season than most expected, is looking forward to testing his team against one of the best teams in the league.

“We’re treating it as an opportunity to play against a quality side and are confident in the work we’ve done this week, but understanding it’s a difficult task. It’s what you want to be doing. We could be on our sun loungers now, but we’re playing play-off rugby which is brilliant,” he said.

The prize for the victor will be a place in the final against either Leinster or Munster who face off in the other semi-final on Saturday and from there who knows what could happen with all hoping to claim the Pro 14 title after another incredible season.

Pro14

Ulster reveal large injury list with Irish star out for ‘months’

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Photo by Andrew Surma/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Ulster Rugby released their latest squad update this afternoon.

Press Release begins:

The Ulster Rugby Medical Performance Team has issued a squad update ahead of Friday’s Guinness PRO14 Round 1 fixture against Benetton at Kingspan Stadium. 

Kyle McCall sustained a concussion in the recent Ulster ‘A’ Inter-pro fixture against Leinster and will follow Return to Play protocols. Ethan McIlroy (ankle) was also injured during this match and, as a result, is unavailable for selection this week.

Tom Stewart (hamstring) was injured in training on Monday and is currently unavailable for selection.

Stuart McCloskey (elbow) and Billy Burns (calf) sustained injuries in the Heineken Champions Cup Quarter-Final game against Toulouse. Both will be unavailable for selection this week. 

Tom O’Toole, who suffered an ankle injury in the PRO14 Final, will be unavailable for a period of several weeks.

Will Addison has suffered a setback whilst rehabilitating his back injury, and he has recently undergone surgery. He will be unavailable for selection for several months. 

The above players join Andrew Warwick (hip), Luke Marshall (hip), Angus Curtis (knee), and Robert Baloucoune (hamstring) on the current injured list.

Squad updates in association with The Ulster Independent Clinic.”

Ends.

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Pro14

Ulster Rugby to trial safe return of supporters this weekend

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(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Press Release from Ulster Rugby:

Ulster Rugby will welcome 600 supporters to the 18,211-seater Kingspan Stadium on Friday night for the first game of the 2020/21 Guinness PRO14 season.

The trial to reintroduce supporters and other valued members of the Ulster Rugby family follows a comprehensive consultation process with local government, Belfast City Council and the IRFU. In total, around 850 people will attend the season opener against Benetton Rugby.

The event provides the club with the opportunity to work with supporters, to test a safe and manageable return to operations at Kingspan Stadium. Fans will be asked to provide feedback on their experience, to ensure the club continues to provide a safe and enjoyable experience in the weeks and months ahead.

All 600 tickets will be made available to #TogetherUlster Members only via an online ballot process. 300 Members will be randomly selected and granted the opportunity to purchase two tickets each.

Commenting on the announcement, Ulster Rugby CEO, Jonny Petrie, said:

“Following a number of very challenging months for us all, I’m encouraged that this weekend will mark the measured return of a limited number of spectators to Kingspan Stadium.

“It seems only fitting that the fans who chose to support us by buying a membership, during what is likely to be one of the most difficult times we will face as a club, will be able to join us in the stands as we kick-off the new Guinness PRO14 season at home.

“This event is the culmination of a considerable amount of planning and preparation from across Ulster Rugby – together with the IRFU, Belfast City Council and local government – to ensure this is a safe and managed return to the Friday night lights.

“We hope the upcoming match will be the solid foundation on which we can continue to build towards once again being able to all stand up together.”

Friday night’s match will be fully seated, in groups of two, with physically distanced seating available for supporters in the Grandstand, Memorial Stand and AbbeyAutoline Family Stand. All tickets are priced at £20 each – seats will be randomly allocated in one of the three stands.

The online ballot will be open for 24 hours from 2pm on Tuesday 29 September on the Ulster Rugby Ticket Account Manager, and account holders can apply for one pair of tickets per every Adult #TogetherUlster Membership held. All successful applicants will be notified via email by 4pm on Wednesday 30 September. They will then have until 10am on Thursday 1 October to process payment and confirm their ticket purchase.

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Pro14

Rob Kearney secures move to Australia

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(Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Press Release from Western Force:

Ireland’s most decorated player, Rob Kearney, has signed with the Western Force on a one-year deal.

The fullback, who scored 82 points in 95 appearances for Ireland, joins from current PRO14 champions Leinster Rugby.

Kearney’s illustrious international career has included two Grand Slams (2009 and 2018), four Six Nations triumphs (2009, 2014, 2015 and 2018) and three World Cup campaigns (2011, 2015 and 2019).

At club level, Kearney has earned 219 caps for Leinster, playing a crucial role in establishing the provincial side as Ireland’s most successful club team, where he lifted six PRO14 titles, four European Champions Cups and a European Challenge Cup since debuting against Welsh side Ospreys back in 2005.

Kearney’s aerial prowess, strength and reliability throughout his career has seen the Dundalk-born player also earn three caps for the British and Irish Lions, which included Tours to South Africa in 2009 and a series victory against Australia in 2013.

Having conquered the European club and international landscape for over a decade, Kearney is delighted for the opportunity to ply his trade in Western Australia.

“I am delighted to be joining the Western Force for their upcoming season and excited to play with such an ambitious club who are looking to improve on this year’s campaign,” Kearney explained.

“I hope to add value both on and off the field that complements the high ambition of the club.

“I’m particularly excited to immerse myself in a new performance environment and to play both with and against some of the best players and teams in the southern hemisphere.

“I look forward to moving to Western Australia to begin building relationships with my new teammates and coaches alike and to meet the ever-growing Western Force fan base which also includes a strong Irish contingent.”

Head of rugby Matt Hodgson is excited to see the Force attract world class talent, saying it shows the potential and positive development of the club.

“Rob is a fantastic signing, but more than that he is a great person who will be able to bring a lot to WA rugby,” Hodgson stated.

“He is a player of the highest calibre that brings a wealth of experience and quality to the side.

“He also brings a winning mentality, having experienced so much success for his country and Leinster. We can’t wait for the Sea of Blue and the sizeable Irish community within WA to see him pull on the Force jersey next season.”

Kearney will join the club for pre-season later this year.

More player announcements can be expected in the coming weeks.

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