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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.


Ulster reveal large injury list with Irish star out for ‘months’



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Ulster Rugby released their latest squad update this afternoon.

Press Release begins:

The Ulster Rugby Medical Performance Team has issued a squad update ahead of Friday’s Guinness PRO14 Round 1 fixture against Benetton at Kingspan Stadium. 

Kyle McCall sustained a concussion in the recent Ulster ‘A’ Inter-pro fixture against Leinster and will follow Return to Play protocols. Ethan McIlroy (ankle) was also injured during this match and, as a result, is unavailable for selection this week.

Tom Stewart (hamstring) was injured in training on Monday and is currently unavailable for selection.

Stuart McCloskey (elbow) and Billy Burns (calf) sustained injuries in the Heineken Champions Cup Quarter-Final game against Toulouse. Both will be unavailable for selection this week. 

Tom O’Toole, who suffered an ankle injury in the PRO14 Final, will be unavailable for a period of several weeks.

Will Addison has suffered a setback whilst rehabilitating his back injury, and he has recently undergone surgery. He will be unavailable for selection for several months. 

The above players join Andrew Warwick (hip), Luke Marshall (hip), Angus Curtis (knee), and Robert Baloucoune (hamstring) on the current injured list.

Squad updates in association with The Ulster Independent Clinic.”


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Ulster Rugby to trial safe return of supporters this weekend



(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Press Release from Ulster Rugby:

Ulster Rugby will welcome 600 supporters to the 18,211-seater Kingspan Stadium on Friday night for the first game of the 2020/21 Guinness PRO14 season.

The trial to reintroduce supporters and other valued members of the Ulster Rugby family follows a comprehensive consultation process with local government, Belfast City Council and the IRFU. In total, around 850 people will attend the season opener against Benetton Rugby.

The event provides the club with the opportunity to work with supporters, to test a safe and manageable return to operations at Kingspan Stadium. Fans will be asked to provide feedback on their experience, to ensure the club continues to provide a safe and enjoyable experience in the weeks and months ahead.

All 600 tickets will be made available to #TogetherUlster Members only via an online ballot process. 300 Members will be randomly selected and granted the opportunity to purchase two tickets each.

Commenting on the announcement, Ulster Rugby CEO, Jonny Petrie, said:

“Following a number of very challenging months for us all, I’m encouraged that this weekend will mark the measured return of a limited number of spectators to Kingspan Stadium.

“It seems only fitting that the fans who chose to support us by buying a membership, during what is likely to be one of the most difficult times we will face as a club, will be able to join us in the stands as we kick-off the new Guinness PRO14 season at home.

“This event is the culmination of a considerable amount of planning and preparation from across Ulster Rugby – together with the IRFU, Belfast City Council and local government – to ensure this is a safe and managed return to the Friday night lights.

“We hope the upcoming match will be the solid foundation on which we can continue to build towards once again being able to all stand up together.”

Friday night’s match will be fully seated, in groups of two, with physically distanced seating available for supporters in the Grandstand, Memorial Stand and AbbeyAutoline Family Stand. All tickets are priced at £20 each – seats will be randomly allocated in one of the three stands.

The online ballot will be open for 24 hours from 2pm on Tuesday 29 September on the Ulster Rugby Ticket Account Manager, and account holders can apply for one pair of tickets per every Adult #TogetherUlster Membership held. All successful applicants will be notified via email by 4pm on Wednesday 30 September. They will then have until 10am on Thursday 1 October to process payment and confirm their ticket purchase.

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Rob Kearney secures move to Australia



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Press Release from Western Force:

Ireland’s most decorated player, Rob Kearney, has signed with the Western Force on a one-year deal.

The fullback, who scored 82 points in 95 appearances for Ireland, joins from current PRO14 champions Leinster Rugby.

Kearney’s illustrious international career has included two Grand Slams (2009 and 2018), four Six Nations triumphs (2009, 2014, 2015 and 2018) and three World Cup campaigns (2011, 2015 and 2019).

At club level, Kearney has earned 219 caps for Leinster, playing a crucial role in establishing the provincial side as Ireland’s most successful club team, where he lifted six PRO14 titles, four European Champions Cups and a European Challenge Cup since debuting against Welsh side Ospreys back in 2005.

Kearney’s aerial prowess, strength and reliability throughout his career has seen the Dundalk-born player also earn three caps for the British and Irish Lions, which included Tours to South Africa in 2009 and a series victory against Australia in 2013.

Having conquered the European club and international landscape for over a decade, Kearney is delighted for the opportunity to ply his trade in Western Australia.

“I am delighted to be joining the Western Force for their upcoming season and excited to play with such an ambitious club who are looking to improve on this year’s campaign,” Kearney explained.

“I hope to add value both on and off the field that complements the high ambition of the club.

“I’m particularly excited to immerse myself in a new performance environment and to play both with and against some of the best players and teams in the southern hemisphere.

“I look forward to moving to Western Australia to begin building relationships with my new teammates and coaches alike and to meet the ever-growing Western Force fan base which also includes a strong Irish contingent.”

Head of rugby Matt Hodgson is excited to see the Force attract world class talent, saying it shows the potential and positive development of the club.

“Rob is a fantastic signing, but more than that he is a great person who will be able to bring a lot to WA rugby,” Hodgson stated.

“He is a player of the highest calibre that brings a wealth of experience and quality to the side.

“He also brings a winning mentality, having experienced so much success for his country and Leinster. We can’t wait for the Sea of Blue and the sizeable Irish community within WA to see him pull on the Force jersey next season.”

Kearney will join the club for pre-season later this year.

More player announcements can be expected in the coming weeks.

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