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Champions Cup

Munster Scrape Past Benetton to Reach Pro 14 Semis

Munster just about got over the line against Benetton to reach the last four of the Pro 14

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(Photo By Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Munster survived a scare from Benetton to reach the semi-finals of the Pro 14 as they defeated the Italians 15-13 at Thomond Park on Saturday afternoon.

The win means Munster will now face a trip to rivals Leinster in the semi-finals with a place the showpiece up for grabs.

Munster dominated the majority of the match and started brightly. However, malfunctioning line-outs, knock-ons and just simple unforced errors meant they could not make the most of their early chances.

It took until the 23rd minute for them to register their first points when Tyler Bleyendaal converted a penalty, having turned down the three-point opportunity earlier in the game.

That score kicked Benetton into action as they went up the other end of the pitch straight after the kick-off and went through the phases. Munster captain Peter O’Mahony conceded a penalty at the breakdown and Tomasso Allan made no mistake with his kick to tie things up at 3-3.

Munster’s lack of attacking efficiency was punished by the visitors a minute before time when Bleyendaal sent a kicked towards touch but Monty Ioane’s quick line-out allowed full-back Jayden Hayward to run at the defence.

Following a couple of phases Marco Zanon sent Ratuva Tavunyara over in the corner for a try. Allan converted and that sent Benetton in with a 10-3 half-time lead.

Munster again started well in the second-half, with Bleyendaal knocking over a penalty early on to make it 10-6.

Benetton almost sprung another surprise on 48 minutes only for Braam Steyn to knock-on an offload that would have sent them over for a second try.

With 20 minutes remaining Benetton pushed themselves further ahead as JJ Hanrahan was caught offside. Again, Allan was perfect from the tee to make it 13-6 and an upset looked on the cards.

Hanrahan made up for his error two minutes later when he kicked a penalty to cut the lead to four.

Hanrahan made up for his error two minutes later when he kicked a penalty to cut the lead to four.

Benetton defended well right up until the 77th minute when they conceded a penalty on half-way which Hanrahan kept his nerve to kick straight through the uprights.

Benetton pushed late on and missed a couple of drop-kicks before the full-time whistle was blown and Munster’s blushes were saved.

Munster will now head to the RDS in two weeks’ time to face Leinster and will need a much-improved performance if they are to topple the reigning champions. Although Benetton couldn’t go any further, they are still the first Italian side to reach the play-off phase of the competition and have Champions Cup rugby to look forward to next season.

6 Nations

Leinster Star Considering Options as IRFU Talks Continue

Leinster could be set to lose another club legend with the IRFU playing hardball on a new contract

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(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Rob Kearney is looking into all options with his current IRFU contract due to expire after this year’s World Cup

The Ireland and Leinster full-back was missing from Leo Cullen’s list of blues players that have signed new contracts ahead of next season.

Kearney’s manager Dave McHugh has confirmed that discussions are continuing with the IRFU and that the player would like to remain with Leinster.

“Discussions are ongoing with Leinster and the IRFU. We had hoped to have reached a conclusion by now. The discussion is live and open. But it has led us to check other options. We are still hopeful of reaching an agreement with the IRFU and Leinster,” he said.

It is believed that at least two French teams are weighing up the signature of Kearney, where he would earn a massive salary compared to his current contract with McHugh admitting that the money has a part to play.

“The IRFU has made Rob an offer. But if I am honest, it is well below where it needs to be – well below. It has been a little protracted. We are struggling to get it to a point where it makes sense for him,” he added.

At 33, Kearney is nearing the twilight of his glittering career but both he and McHugh want him to continue playing while he is still well able.

“It is Rob’s goal to continue playing rugby while he is fit and healthy and well. He is a starter both for his country and for his province. We need it to make sense for him. We appreciate there is an end point to his rugby playing career. But it isn’t yet,” he said.

With 21 contracts being announced yesterday McHugh explained that Kearney was absent as there isn’t the same urgency in his talks as there has been with other players.

“Rob is contracted to the end of the World Cup, so I guess we’re not in the same rush that Leinster were to announce their 21 new contracts for the start of next season. He wouldn’t return to the province until after the World Cup, so there isn’t the same urgency from our perspective,” he concluded.

Kearney’s future has been under much speculation for some time now and there was fuel added to the fire when teammate Sean O’Brien posted a possible farewell message on his Instagram.

O’Brien himself leaves for London Irish come the end of the season and unless the IRFU budge in Kearney’s discussions it appears as though Leinster could lose yet another one of their most decorated players.

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6 Nations

Leinster and Ireland Star Signs New Contract

One of Ireland’s key men has signed a new two-year deal with the IRFU

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Cian Healy has signed a new two-year deal with the IRFU to remain with Leinster and Ireland until the summer of 2021.

The prop is one of the country’s most consistent performers and is delighted to have the opportunity to continue representing both province and country.

“Pulling on a Leinster or an Ireland jersey is something that I have always taken a huge amount of pride in and I am thankful for every opportunity I get. I am delighted therefore to have extended my IRFU contract and to continue to line out for Leinster. I believe that we have built something special at Leinster and with the national team and I want to contribute as best I can to both teams in what will be a hugely exciting few months and years ahead,” he said.

Healy has faced a number of serious injuries over the years but has thanked everyone at club and national level for their support and looks forward to the future with both.

“There has been some difficult times over the last few years for me personally with injury but the support within the Leinster and the Irish rugby family was very humbling from fellow players, coaches and supporters and it’s something that I won’t forget. It made this decision all the easier knowing that I was part of something bigger than just a rugby team. I hope to play my part in helping Leinster and Ireland achieve further success over the next few years and I’m looking forward to the next chapter in that journey,” he added.

Having been capped by Ireland 88 times since his debut in 2009 and holding 207 Leinster caps to his name already Healy is almost ever-present and IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora paid tribute to his consistency.

“Cian is performing at a very high level week in and week out. He works incredibly hard in ensuring that he is physically in the best condition to perform and has bounced back from adversity to return to the top of the international and club game. He will continue to be a leading performer for Ireland and Leinster over the coming years,” he said.

Healy has represented Ireland at two World Cups (2011 and 2015) and will be hoping to be heading to a third in Japan later this year, he also represented the British and Irish Lions in 2013.

As well as that Healy has a host of winner’s medals to his name with three Six Nations Championships in the bag for Ireland, while with Leinster he has won four European Cups, three Guinness Pro titles and a Challenge Cup.

Healy will be hoping to end the week on a high when he has the chance to add a fourth league title to his name as Leinster head to Celtic Park to face Glasgow Warriors in the Pro 14 final.

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Champions Cup

Connacht Receive Planning Permission for Stadium Redevelopment

Connacht have announced that the Sportsground’s redevelopment has been given the all-clear and will have a couple of new features

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Connacht Rugby have been granted planning permission for the €30 million redevelopment of the Sportsground and it will some new features. 

The land is owned by the Irish Greyhound Board and will include a new greyhound racing track once complete along with a new high-performance centre.

Speaking on the redevelopment Connacht’s chief executive Willie Ruane admitted he is delighted that everything had been passed.

“There has been huge momentum behind the project since we announced last October, and we now have the final granting of planning permission. With 130 people employed throughout the province by Connacht Rugby we are extremely proud of the annual contribution of €34.4 million we are making to the regional economy,” he said

The new stadium will also have a 12,000-seat capacity, with two stands on either touchline and terrace areas behind the try-lines.

The club secured €10 million in private funding between its own funds and an approved bank credit facility. Ruane confirmed that without the State providing the other €20 million the project cannot continue.

“We have €10m in private funding to bring to the table through a mixture of Connacht Rugby funds and an approved bank credit facility. The project is now shovel ready and the remaining €20m state investment is critical to its delivery,” he added.

The redevelopment would be a massive boost to the club who are progressing season by season and have secured Champions Cup rugby for next season. It is also positive news for the Galway area as a whole as it continues to grow in popularity among tourists and this will only add to the attraction.

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