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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.

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Pro14

Ulster Rugby Lad meets… Ross Kane

Ross Kane speaks to Peter Lockhart

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ross Kane is a card-carrying member of the beefy brethren known in rugby circles as the front row club.

He has become an important player for Ulster, deputising for Marty Moore and becoming an important part of the ‘new generation’ at Ulster.

Here, he chats to Peter Lockhart from Ulster Rugby Lad about his propping destiny, his rugby hero and puppy problems.

Who or what made you passionate about rugby?

My passion for rugby really grew when I joined Methody in 1st year, watching all the older guys and friends of mine make it through and play professionally.

Who was the player you most admired growing up?

It’s hard to look much further than Rory Best for the most admired player growing up as he was achieving what every young player coming through Ulster wanted to achieve. Finally making my debut and getting to play alongside him was a very proud moment for me.

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What made you want to play as a prop?

Many people will tell you that you don’t choose to be a prop, being a prop chooses you. Being a bit bigger in school always had me in the front row and I never managed to escape!

What would you be doing if you weren’t playing professional rugby?

If I wasn’t playing rugby, I’d hope to be working in the construction industry as I’m in the middle of finishing my engineering degree.

What advice would you give to any young aspiring front row players?

Advice I would give to young front rowers would be to soak up as much information as possible. Small details will put you ahead of other players.

How do you get into the right mindset before a game? Do you have any pre-match routines or rituals?

I don’t have any pre match rituals, as long I know I have prepared well I know I’ll be in the right mindset for the game.

What are your expectations for Ulster in the next few years?

My expectations for Ulster over the next few years are to be consistently putting ourselves in a position to compete at the top level.

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Is there a failure or apparent failure that set you up for a later success?

I think personally not getting selected for the academy after my U20 season really made me realise that I needed to change my mindset and approach to rugby and thankfully 2 years later I was selected for a summer trial for the academy.

What hobbies/obsessions do you explore in your free time?

I’ve recently just got 2 puppies with my girlfriend so most of my free time will be used trying to teach them to not go to the toilet in the house.

Thanks Ross!

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Pro14

Ulster Rugby announce new Club Captain.

Captain for the 2019/20 season.

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(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Ulster Rugby this morning announced who will succeed Rory Best as the Captain of Ulster Rugby for the 2019/20 season.

Iain Henderson is the chosen man for the job. The Irish & British Lion will return to captain Ulster following probable selection for Ireland’s Rugby World Cup campaign.

The 27-year-old, who is currently in Ireland’s training squad ahead of Rugby World Cup 2019, has represented his home Province on 105 occasions.

Henderson started his rugby journey at Academy RFC, before continuing his development at Belfast Royal Academy.

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The versatile forward represented Ulster and Ireland at various age-grade levels on route to making his senior provincial debut in April 2012, against Connacht.

Henderson has since become a key figure for Ulster and Ireland, winning 44 caps for the latter. He played in four of Ireland’s games during the 6 Nations Grand Slam success of 2018, while he also featured in 2014 and 2015 Championship wins.

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Premiership

New ‘British League’ to Begin Within Two Years

A club chairman has claimed that a ‘British League’ will be made within the next two years merging two major leagues together according to reports

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

An anonymous leading club chairman has told The Rugby Paper that a British League could be created in the next two years.

It is believed that the CVC group, whom are looking to secure a 27 percent share in the PRO14 following a similar deal with the English Premiership earlier this year, are looking to make a major change to the leagues.

The former owners of Formula One and Moto GP are apparently looking to merge the two competitions if they claim a stake in the PRO14.

With a deal sealed to buy into the Premiership during last season, the 13 clubs that own Premier Rugby Ltd will be receiving around £13.5m a piece following the completion of a deal worth around £275m.

It is thought that a similar deal would be on the cards for the PRO14 side’s if they claim their stake in the competition.

The merging of the competitions is of the best interest of the CVC group according to the source and they believe that the Welsh clubs would be very encouraged by the idea.

“A British League will happen in two years’ time. It will happen because it is the best outcome for the game in the four home countries and for CVC. It will appeal to the Welsh regions in particular and the Premiership clubs. Not one is profitable with the exception of Exeter and a British League will go along way towards providing stability,” they said.

The source went on to further discuss how the move could be a real boost for the Welsh regions especially.

“In Wales, it will be seen as the only opportunity to be sustainable Their regions lost between £5m-£6m last year. They have been kept going by the generosity of a few backers and the danger is they will get even fewer unless something radical is done. Fixtures like Cardiff Blues against Bristol, Dragons versus Gloucester, Ospreys against Bath and Scarlets against Saracens will stop the downward spiral of attendances in Wales,” they continued.

Although the Welsh regions appear to be the biggest beneficiaries of the potential merger, it seems as though the Irish provinces are not guaranteed to be involved and the league could go ahead without them.

“Commercially, they could be as much as 50 per cent better off. It will be important to have all four Irish provinces on board but, if necessary, we will go ahead and do it without them,” they finished.

The league is an interesting possibility, but it could cause potential problems by undermining the Champions and Challenge Cups, as well as they question of what happens to the Irish teams if they don’t sign up? All is up in the air at the moment and we will have to wait and see if this project becomes a reality.

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