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Pro14

Leinster ring the changes for Ulster clash

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(Photo By Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The Leinster Rugby team, as sponsored by Bank of Ireland, to face Ulster Rugby tomorrow in the Aviva Stadium in Round 15 of the Guinness PRO14 has been announced by Head Coach Leo Cullen (KO 7.35pm – live on eir Sport & RTÉ Radio).

Ed Byrne will captain the side for the first time in a competitive fixture, starting in the front row with Irish internationals Seán Cronin and Michael Bent.

Carlow native Byrne made his debut in February 2014 against Zebre and will win his 54th Leinster cap tomorrow when he leads out his province for the first time.

Devin Toner starts in the second row with Ross Molony, while Josh Murphy, Will Connors, and Max Deegan complete the starting pack.

In the backs, Cullen has selected a back three of Rob Kearney, Hugo Keenan, and Cian Kelleher.

Ciarán Frawley and Rory O’Loughlin is the centre partnership, while in the half backs Jamison Gibson-Park wins his 90th cap for Leinster Rugby and is joined by Ross Byrne.

Leinster Rugby Academy player Tom Clarkson is in line to make his senior debut from the bench.

Leinster Rugby (caps in brackets)

15. Rob Kearney (218)
14. Hugo Keenan (14)
13. Rory O’Loughlin (67)
12. Ciarán Frawley (25)
11. Cian Kelleher (14)
10. Ross Byrne (85)
9. Jamison Gibson-Park (89)
1. Ed Byrne (53) CAPTAIN
2. Seán Cronin (182)
3. Michael Bent (136)
4. Devin Toner (245)
5. Ross Molony (95)
6. Josh Murphy (32)
7. Will Connors (16)
8. Max Deegan (63)

16. James Tracy (108)
17. Michael Milne (8)
18. Tom Clarkson (0)
19. Rhys Ruddock (172)
20. Scott Penny (13)
21. Rowan Osborne (4)
22. Harry Byrne (9)
23. Jimmy O’Brien (17)

Referee: George Clancy (IRFU)

6 Nations

Sexton extends contract

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(Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Ireland and Leinster out-half Johnny Sexton has signed a 1 year extension to his IRFU contract up to the end of the 2021/22 season.

The 2018 World Player of the Year took on the Ireland captaincy in January 2020 and is one of Irish rugby’s most decorated players.

He has been central to both Ireland and Leinster’s success for over a decade following his international debut against Fiji in November 2009.

A two time Lions tourist in 2013 and 2017, Johnny has won three Six Nations titles with Ireland and four European Cups with Leinster.  He has represented his provinces on 171 occasions scoring 1505 points.

David Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director, commented,

“Johnny continues to show he has the quality and appetite to compete at the highest levels.  He is playing an important leadership role with the Ireland squad and his insight and experience continues to be of great value to the group.”

Johnny Sexton, commented,

“I am really enjoying my rugby and I want to keep learning and adding value to both the Ireland and Leinster environments.   I am enjoying the challenge of captaincy and the added responsibility that it brings.  My appetite for success is the same as it ever was and the ambitions of both the Ireland and Leinster squads match my own.”

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Pro14

Munster legend to retire at end of the current season

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(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Billy Holland has announced today that he will retire from professional rugby at the end of the season.

The 35-year-old will call it a day on a marvellous career spanning 14 seasons that saw him become Munster’s second most capped player when coming on for his 241st appearance against Cardiff Blues in the Guinness PRO14 on Friday night.

Confirming the news, Holland said, “I have always been determined to finish my career whilst still playing well and adding value to the jersey each time I get to put it on.

“To be in a position to call time on such a fantastic experience, on my own terms, is one I am extremely grateful for.

“I believe the time is right for me, my family and for Munster Rugby to hang up my boots.

“I don’t want to reflect too much on the incredible journey just yet, as right now my focus is on performing to the best of my ability every time I’m handed that cherished red shirt. I am excited to help Munster continue to move forward and achieve our potential for the rest of the season.”

A player who has come up through the provincial pathway, playing with clubs Cork Constitution and UCC, and school Christian Brothers College, Billy joined the Munster Rugby Academy in 2005 and made his competitive debut against Scarlets in September 2007.

He went on to win Academy Player of the Year in 2008 for his breakthrough season and was promoted to the senior squad.

Holland played in the province’s narrow defeat to New Zealand in Thomond Park in November 2008, while in October 2010 he played a central role in the defeat of the touring Australia side.

In representing the next generation of players coming through the province he captained the Munster ‘A’ side to British and Irish Cup success in Musgrave Park in 2012.

Known for his leadership qualities on and off the field, Billy’s peers twice nominated him for Munster Rugby Men’s Player of the Year off the back of his performances during the 2014/15 and 2015/16 seasons.

On the international front he secured an Ireland cap playing against Canada at the Aviva Stadium in October 2016, while he enjoyed Nations Cup and Tblisi Cup success with Emerging Ireland in 2014 and 2015.

Commenting on Billy’s announcement, Head Coach Johann van Graan said, “I only just said it recently, Billy will go down as a Munster legend in the history of the club, and rightly so.

“We all know the incredible character he is and how hard he works behind the scenes, always getting the job done.

“He has given his all to the jersey and all I can do is thank him for his service and commitment to Munster Rugby.

“We won’t dwell on it too much now, as ever the professional, Billy still has a job to do, helping to lead an ambitious group at this time.”

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6 Nations

Ireland release big names back for Provincial derby

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Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Ulster and Leinster will welcome back a few of their big names for this weekend’s key PRO14 game at the Kingspan Stadium.

The Ireland coaching group will retain a 23 man panel for the two day mini-camp on Thursday and Friday this week at the IRFU High Performance Centre at the Sports Ireland Campus.

The squad dispersed upon return to Ireland on Saturday evening following the win over Italy in Round 3 of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championship.    The provinces are involved in Guinness PRO14 interprovincial action this weekend so 13 players have been released to access game time.

Players who picked up knocks over the weekend – Jordan Larmour (hip), Tadgh Furlong (ankle), Dave Kilcoyne (HIA) and Ronan Kelleher (ankle) have continued their recovery under the supervision of the national medical team and will be further assessed later in the week.

The 13 players returning to their provincial bubbles to avail of game time in the Guinness PRO14 this weekend are – Bundee Aki, Ultan Dillane, Dave Heffernan (Connacht),  Ed Byrne, Ross ByrneRhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier (Leinster), Craig CaseyAndrew ConwayShane DalyChris Farrell (Munster) and Stuart McCloskeyTom O’Toole (Ulster).

Ireland Squad (Two Day Camp, March 4/5, IRFU High Performance Centre

Backs
Billy Burns (Ulster) 6 caps
Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 91 caps
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 8 caps
Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 50 caps
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 9 caps
Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 27 caps
James Lowe (Leinster) 5 caps
Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 88 caps
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 33 caps
Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 97 caps

Forwards
Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 1 cap
Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 20 caps
Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 18 caps
Will Connors (Leinster/UCD) 8 caps
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 47 caps
Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 107 caps
Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 61 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 19 caps
Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 9 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 41 caps
Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 35 caps
James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 34 caps
CJ Stander (Munster/Shannon) 49 caps

Returning to Provinces

Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 30 caps
Ed Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 4 caps
Ross Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 12 caps
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 1 cap
Andrew Conway (Munster/Garryowen) 24 caps
Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Con) 1 cap
Ultan Dillane (Connacht/Corinthians) 18 caps
Chris Farrell (Munster/Young Munster) 14 caps
Dave Heffernan (Connacht/Buccaneers) 5 caps
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor) 4 caps
Tom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) uncapped
Rhys Ruddock (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 27 caps
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 30 caps

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