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Leinster vs Glasgow; Pro 14 Final Preview & Key Battles

Leinster and Glasgow will face off at Celtic Park on Saturday night and here’s everything you need to know ahead of the final game of the season

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(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Johnny Sexton has made a return to the Leinster line-up for their Pro 14 final against Glasgow in Celtic Park on Saturday at 18 30. 

The captain has taken the No 10 jersey back from Ross Byrne who played who played last weekend’s semi-final against Munster in one of three changes to the side.

Another change in the back-line sees Rob Kearney come in for his brother Dave at full-back with Jordan Larmour switching to the wing. While in the second-row Scott Fardy replaces the injured Devin Toner.

Apart from that it’s as you were with Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Tadhg Furlong knuckling down in the front-row, with Fardy joining James Ryan in the engine room.

Rhys Ruddock is at blindside flanker, with Josh van der Flier retaining his spot at openside following a man of the match comeback performance last week, with Jack Conan continuing at No 8.

Luke McGrath partners Sexton in the half-backs, with Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose linking up in the centre.

The ever-impressive James Lowe begins the game on the left-wing, with Larmour on the right and Kearney at 15.

Sean O’Brien has been kept out of the side meaning he won’t get to play another game for the province before his summer departure to London Irish. While Jack McGrath has been denied his chance at a final goodbye before moving to Ulster as Ed Byrne is chosen on the bench.

The visitors have strength among their replacements with Byrne being joined by the likes of twin brother Bryan, Ross Molony, Ross Bryne and Rory O’Loughlin.

Speaking ahead of the game prop Healy admitted he watched the Warriors 50-20 win over Ulster last weekend and has warned his side to be ready.

“I watched their game on Friday – they looked pretty dangerous,” he said.

While Leinster will be hoping for back-to-back titles Glasgow will want to dethrone them in front of the Scottish crowd.

For the Warriors it’s Jamie Bhatti, Fraser Brown and Zander Fagerson are the front-three, with Scott Cummins and Jonny Gray pairing in the second-row.

In the back-row it’s Rob Harley at six, Callum Gibbins at seven and Matt Fagerson at eight to finish up the pack.

Ali Price and Adam Hastings continue their partnership in the half-backs at scrum-half and out-half respectively, while it’s Sam Johnson and Kyle Steyn in the centre.

DTH van der Merwe opens at 11, with Tommy Seymour at 14 and Stuart Hogg at 15 in what will be his final appearance for the club before his move to Exeter Chiefs.

There is plenty to call upon from the bench with the Ryan Wilson, George and Peter Horne and Huw Jones among those ready to make an impact if needed.

The element of home advantage is one that flanker Harley is hoping the fans will take advantage of when the time comes.

“Celtic Park is a great stadium. We’re really looking forward to packing it out with our fans,” he said.

Key Battles:

Fraser Brown vs Sean Cronin:

This will be an intriguing battle as both will have to be spot on with the line-out and give everything in the scrum. Experience will help both but there will be a harder task for Brown in open-play as he will need to keep an eye on his opposite number who has been a lethal try-scorer this season and would love to get another in the final.

Jonny Gray vs James Ryan:

Home advantage will mean nothing to Gray as he faces up to arguably the best lock in the world at the moment. Both put in sensational tackling figures to go along with their attacking metres they gain as well as the line-out battle, this could be the place where the game is won or lost.

Ali Price vs Luke McGrath:

These two will both be out to impress their national team coaches ahead of the World Cup later this year and a strong performance in the final could earn them a ticket to Japan. Price’s pace will be a worry for McGrath, while the Leinster man’s kicking game could cause problems for the Warriors.

Tommy Seymour vs James Lowe:

A Scottish legend coming up against one of the brightest sparks of this Leinster side. You wouldn’t bet against either getting a try and the way they defend one another could be the vital component of who wins this individual war.

Stuart Hogg vs Rob Kearney:

This is a man departing his club up against a man who could be leaving his beloved blues with both out to prove a point. Hogg is a danger in any match he plays, while Kearney will be hoping to put any fans or coaches doubts about him to bed with a solid performance which could be his last for the club.

Both teams finished top of their respective conferences and there is no doubt that the two best teams have reached the final showpiece. With only a day to go until kick-off there is still no separating the two sides as they seek the domestic crown once again.

Pro14

Munster confirm Zebo signing

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(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to announce that Simon Zebo has signed a one-year contract to return to play with the province for the 2021/22 season.

This co-funded contract will see Munster’s all-time record try-scorer return from Racing 92 and line out for his home club where he made 144 appearances and scored 60 tries between 2010 and 2018.

In his third season with the Top 14 side, the 31-year-old has played 55 times and scored 21 tries to date.

Head Coach Johann van Graan said, “The opportunity to bring Simon back to Munster came about in early April following a final review of our squad’s budgetary position for season-end and with assistance from the IRFU to support what we believe is a really good deal for Munster and Irish Rugby.

“Simon’s desire to return to Ireland and play with his home club is illustrated by his willingness to sign at a level below his market value elsewhere. This has made bringing the province’s all-time leading try-scorer back home, possible.”

Simon Zebo said, “I am thrilled and honoured to be coming back home to play for Munster. My family and I have been so lucky to have enjoyed three incredible years with Racing 92 in Paris and I cannot thank the team there enough, I really have made friends for life and take with me some brilliant memories.

“However, as everyone knows, Munster holds a very special place in my heart and I’ve always said that I wanted to play for them and potentially Ireland again, so when this opportunity arose the lure of being close to home, family and friends and Munster fans, it outweighed all other options. I cannot wait to get back to the HPC with the team and hopefully a packed Thomond Park.”

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Pro14

Ulster Rugby agree to release Coetzee early

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Marcell Coetzee has played his last game for Ulster Rugby.

With back-row, Marcell Coetzee, currently side-lined with a hamstring injury, Ulster Rugby has agreed terms which will see the player released from the club at the end of this month, ahead of his planned departure at the conclusion of the 2020/21 season.

Given the need for several weeks of rehabilitation following the injury sustained by Coetzee in last month’s Guinness PRO14 fixture against Leinster, Ulster Rugby and the player have reached a mutual agreement to part ways on Friday 30 April.

Head of Rugby Operations and Recruitment, Bryn Cunningham, said: “We have come to an agreement that will allow Marcell the time and space required to continue his rehab.

“I’d like to thank Marcell for his contribution to the province over the past five years and we wish him and wife, Chanelle the very best for their upcoming return home to South Africa.”

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Pro14

Lowry retained at 10 for Ulster v Zebre

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Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images

The Ulster coaching team has named the match-day squad to host Zebre in tomorrow night’s final Guinness PRO14 regular season game (Kingspan Stadium, 8.15pm).

21-year-old, Cormac Izuchukwu will make his first start for the Ulster men as he is named in the second row alongside Kieran Treadwell. Marty Moore comes back into the starting front row at tighthead, with Eric O’Sullivan and John Andrew retaining their starting berths at loosehead and hooker. Jordi Murphy will captain the side at openside flanker, with Sean Reidy and David McCann being retained at blindside and Number Eight.

A youthful back line sees Ethan McIlroy coming into the  back three at full-back, with Rob Lyttle on the left wing and Robert Baloucoune returning on the right. Stewart Moore and James Hume will make up the midfield pairing, while John Cooney and Michael Lowry are named at half-back.

Brad Roberts, Callum Reid, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor and Matty Rea are the forward reinforcements, with David Shanahan, Ian Madigan and Ben Moxham providing the back line options on the bench.

Ulster team to play Zebre Rugby, Guinness PRO14 Round 16, Friday 19 March at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 8.15pm, live on Premier Sports / eir Sport):

(15-9) Ethan McIlroy, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Rob Lyttle, Michael Lowry, John Cooney;

(1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, John Andrew, Marty Moore, Cormac Izuchukwu, Kieran Treadwell, Sean Reidy, Jordy Murphy (Capt.), David McCann.

Replacements: Brad Roberts, Callum Reid, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Matty Rea, David Shanahan, Ian Madigan, Ben Moxham.

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