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Ireland Internationals Provide Big Boost for Ulster

Ulster have mixed fortunes ahead of their first inter-provincial clash of the season against Munster this weekend but could receive a massive boost for the game

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(Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Ulster have confirmed that they have picked up three injuries ahead of their trip to Munster this Saturday but could be boosted by the return of some international stars.

The province have confirmed that Louis Ludik, Will Addison and James Hume have all picked up injuries over the last week or so. 

Ludik looks likely to miss the game after sustaining a concussion during last weekend’s 22-7 win over Zebre and will follow return to play protocols, while Addison also injured his shoulder in that game and will be monitored throughout the week to see if he may be in selection contention. 

However, Hume will miss around four months of action after undergoing surgery on a torn hamstring last week. 

Although there is a huge positive for the northern men who are expected to welcome back some of their Irish international contingent this weekend with skills coach Dan Soper hopeful that they will come through the week unscathed. 

“They have integrated into parts, so they haven’t been a part of full training yet those guys. We didn’t want to throw them in at the deep-end, but they’ve done parts of training and look like they’re tracking pretty good. If they get through the rest of the week then hopefully we might see some part of them involved,” he said on the internationals returning. 

The likes of Jacob Stockdale, Jordi Murphy and captain Iain Henderson are among those who have come back from the Irish camp and would be welcome returns to the Ulster set-up. 

However, having been thumped 64-7 on their last trip to Thomond Park last season Soper’s is aware that his side will have a tough challenge to beat their rivals especially as some of their respective internationals return to the fold. 

“I think they’re 17 on the bounce at home. It’s a hell of a challenge, a pretty exciting one to get stuck in to,” he added. 

Meanwhile the game will see former Munster starlet Bill Johnston return to his former side but he is insistent that his past with the club has nothing to do with this game. 

“It’s just a game, there’s four or five points up for grabs,” he said when questioned about the subject. 

Ulster head into the game in second-spot in Conference A with four wins from their opening five games, and are five-points behind leaders Leinster and will hope that they can cut into that lead with a win against Conference B toppers Munster this weekend.

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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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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