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Munster and Connacht Name Strong Sides for Provincial Derby

Munster and Connacht will send out strong teams for the final regular season game



Photo By Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Neither Munster nor Connacht have rested too many players ahead of their match at Thomond Park on Saturday at 19 35.

The game is the final regular season match for both sides, with the two having already claimed play-off spots in Conference A.

Munster have named Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and Stephen Archer in the front-three, with Jean Kleyn and Tadhg Beirne opening at four and five respectively.

Peter O’Mahony captains the team from blindside flanker once more, with Chris Cloete at openside and CJ Stander completing the pack at No 8.

Conor Murray and Tyler Bleyendaal continue their half-back partnership in the absence of Joey Carbery, as Dan Goggin and Chris Farrell line-up outside them in the centre.

Calvin Nash begins the game on the left-wing, with Andrew Conway on the right and the ever-present Mike Haley at 15.

The visitors have a large number of experienced players to call upon from the replacements with the likes of John Ryan, Billy Holland, Arno Botha and JJ Hanrahan among them

Speaking before the game Munster head coach Johann van Graan has called on his team to bounce back from their Champions Cup semi-final loss to Saracens during the inter-provincial derby on Saturday.

“We as a group, as a coaching group, as players, we all win together, and we all lose together. We want to improve, and it starts again on Saturday night against Connacht,” he said.

The hosts start with Matthew Burke, Tom McCarthy and fit again Finley Bealham in the front-row, with Joe Maksymiw and James Cannon in the second-row.

Eoin McKeon, captain Jarrar Butler and Robin Copeland conclude the pack at six, seven and eight respectively.

The experienced Kieran Marmion is at scrum-half, alongside debutant Conor Dean at fly-half. Tom Daly and Bundee Aki are paired in the centre after Aki was cleared of any wrongdoing for mistakenly “liking” Israel Falou’s anti-LGBT post that has dominated the headlines recently.

Stephen Fitzgerald and Niyi Adeolokun are on the wings with Tiernan O’Hallaron at full-back.

There is a chance to impress from the bench for the eight replacements with Caolin Blade among them, who is looking for game-time to try and sneak into Joe Schmidt’s World Cup squad.

Connacht coach Andy Friend is looking forward to facing Munster and knows his side face a tough challenge on Saturday.

“Munster are an outstanding side. We saw that when we played them at home earlier in the season and they have been even better since. There is still a huge incentive for our players. We know that these interpro fixtures always bring out the best in our boys and we know that going to Thomond Park is a massive challenge,” he said.

Munster are still in with a chance of securing top-spot in Conference A and a home semi-final with it, however, they need to beat Connacht and hope that Edinburgh defeat Glasgow. On the other hand, Connacht are guaranteed third in the conference and are looking toward a quarter-final showdown with Ulster next weekend.


Munster confirm Zebo signing



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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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Ulster Rugby agree to release Coetzee early



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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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Lowry retained at 10 for Ulster v Zebre



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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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