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Pro14

McFarland’s Men Produce Inspired Performance to Secure Home Play-Off

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A committed display by Ulster on Friday saw them overwhelm the hosts, Edinburgh, to secure a bonus point win and book a home play-off game in the knock-out stages of the Guinness Pro14.

McFarland acknowledged that his side’s disappointment following last weekend’s away defeat to Glasgow served as motivation ahead of Friday night’s important clash with Edinburgh.

“We had a big debrief on Monday, there was a bit of misery and a lot of humble pie, which was deserved. We came out, took what we could learn from it and moved on.”

Indeed, Ulster’s coach attributes his side’s focused and fierce performance as the product of hard work and mental preparation in the week preceding Friday’s must-win game.

“We knew we had a massive task this week, to come to our fellow Champions Cup quarter-finalists and win. In the end, the bonus point was a testament to the hard work and the mentality of the guys during the week and what they put on the pitch against a really good Edinburgh team.”

McFarland also highlighted the improvement made in Ulster’s set-piece which provided his side with a solid platform from which to attack.

“We were a bit messy last week around our set-piece but there was a big improvement. We did a lot of work on the scrum in the week. We knew that was going to be titanic — it was not going to win the game for us but could certainly lose the game if we let Edinburgh get on top of us.”

“We also needed possession. Last week, it did not look good, but we did play some really good rugby. The bottom line is that when you lose a lot of lineouts, as we did then, you cannot get a foothold in the game. In this game, we were consistently able to get a foothold.”

Ulster’s pack was bolstered by the return of man-of-the-match Iain Henderson, who put in a typically powerful and aggressive performance, helping the Ulster pack to dominate.

Ulster’s power up-front was matched by the ruthless finishing of Ulster’s young wingers, Rob Lyttle and Robert Baloucoune who both took their tries well.

McFarland praised his team’s performance, noting that the pride and purpose Ulster played with on Friday night signals a growing confidence in the squad.

“It is really important for the club, we are a team that wants consistently to compete for championships and to do that, you have to be in play-offs.

“There is the dual aspect of also getting Champions Cup qualification, which is done now. That is very important as well.”

Ulster’s big-game nous saw them in control and dominant in every department for most of the game. McFarland will hope his side are able to recreate this formidable form in their remaining important games this season – a challenge the squad will relish.

“We enjoyed the preparation for our Champions Cup quarter-final and we’ll enjoy preparing for a PRO14 quarter-final.”

Ulster will now focus their preparations on a huge game against Connacht in the quarter final of the Guinness Pro14 at the Kingspan stadium on 3-4 May.

Match Highlights:

Pro14

Zebre Star Receives Small Ban for Biting

Zebre might have claimed a famous away win in the PRO14 last weekend, but it’s not all rosy for the Italian team after one of their players has been handed a ban for biting, although it’s shorter than most would expect

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Zebre No 8 has received a six-week ban after being found guilty of biting an opposition player during last Saturday’s PRO14 clash with the Ospreys.

The 24-year-old was expected to be handed a lengthy ban for an act of foul play that is seriously frowned upon in the sport, but after initially being given a 12-week ban it was cut in half due to his previous disciplinary record, his admission of guilt and his conduct throughout the process. 

All of which means that he will be free to play for the Italian minnows, who enjoyed a memorable away win in Wales, come the 12th of January. 

The four-time capped Italian’s ban comes only a week after the exact same ban that was handed down to La Rochelle’s Pierre Bourgarit, who was caught eye-gouging Sale’s Tom Curry in a Champions Cup fixture. 

Another one of the worst offences in the game and it was reduced from 12 to six weeks, much for the same reasons as Giammarioli. 

Some fans and ex-players will criticise the decision, as it appears a much softer result than in days gone by for offences that could have caused serious harm to opponents.

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Pro14

Dragons Prop Forced to Retire Early

The Dragons have confirmed that one of their players has been forced to retire due to a freak training ground injury

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Dragons prop Jack Cosgrove has decided to retire from rugby due to injury the club have confirmed.

At only 25-years of age Cosgrove has been forced to retire early due to an eye injury that he sustained during a training session back in October. 

Having only joined the Welsh outfit in the summer it is a big blow to Cosgrove and the club wished him all the best in a statement.  

“Everyone at the Dragons wishes Jack every success in his future and he will continue to receive professional help and support from the region as he makes the transition from playing,” the statement read. 

The player had been through specialist treatment and had medical advice which helped him come to his decision.

Cosgrove came through the Worcester Warriors academy in England before he moved on to Edinburgh in 2015. A move to Bristol in 2017 followed, where he won the Championship on his return to England, before a return to Worcester ahead of his final switch to Dragons. 

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Pro14

Ospreys Turn to Ruddock for Morale Boost

The Ospreys have suffered a terrible start to the season but they have turned to a former Grand Slam winner to help change their fortunes

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Former Six Nations Grand Slam winner Mike Ruddock has been brought in by the Ospreys on a short-term contract to try and get their season off the ground.

The former Wales international, who won the Grand Slam in 2005, has joined the Welsh outfit on a temporary basis, for now, with a contract until the end of December. 

Ospreys managing director Andrew Millward is delighted to have him on board. 

“We are delighted to have Mike join us for a month. The coaches and players have all welcomed the decision to draft him in to offer his support and having him play a key role in our review of our rugby operations,” he said. 

Ospreys are currently looking to part ways with head coach Allen Clarke in a legally correct manner. Clarke joined on a three-year contract in April 2018, but the results have been below par since and coaches Matt Sherratt and Carl Hogg will come in to take charge on an interim basis which Ruddock will oversee. 

However, despite the Ospreys claim that Ruddock will come in on a short-term deal, the feeling is that he will take full control once Clarke’s situation is sorted out, with his club Lansdowne adding to that feeling by tweeting that he could stay on after the initial deal. 

“With regret but with our full support, we announce that with immediate effect Mike Ruddock has taken a position with Ospreys to become initially a consultant for a month but may turn into a longer commitment. Mike and Ospreys have kept us fully informed at all times,” the tweet read. 

Ospreys say they are reviewing their whole rugby operation and figuring out what coaches will stay on for the future to try and improve the club. 

The club currently sit joint-bottom of Conference A with Zebre, only being separated by points difference, but Ruddock’s first task will be in the Champions Cup, when the Welsh side face the daunting visit of Racing 92 to Swansea, before the reverse fixture the following week.

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