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Champions Cup

Munster Set to Announce New Attack Coach

It appears as though Munster may have found their replacement for Felix Jones

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(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Munster are almost certain to confirm Stephen Larkham as their new attack coach according to several Irish outlets.

The former Wallaby would be able to begin serving the reds straight away after being sacked from his position as Australia’s attack coach earlier in the year.

Larkham took up a role with the national performance coach adviser but would be available for work straight away.

He would become Munster’s second key coach signing in the past couple of weeks after the arrival of Graham Rowntree, who will take up the post of forwards coach with the province.

The former England and British & Irish Lions forwards coach is currently under contract with Georgia and will join up with Munster after the conclusion of the Rugby World Cup.

Rowntree and Larkham are being brought in to replace Jerry Flannery and Felix Jones respectively, who both parted ways with the club unexpectedly and left head coach Johann van Graan needing new blood.

If Larkham does put pen to paper on a deal it would be a big step in the right direction for Munster and after the doom and gloom of losing two coaches the future will look pretty bright to fans.

Champions Cup

Champions Cup Pools Confirmed for 2019/20

The five Champions Cup pools have been drawn and there will be some fiercely contested games in the group stages

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(Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

The Champions Cup pools for the 2019/20 season have been drawn up and there are some interesting match-ups.

Last season’s champions Saracens will kick-off the defence of their crown in what is possibly the toughest group.

The London-based side will face Munster, Racing 92 and the Ospreys in Pool 4.

Munster fell short against the reigning champions in the semi-finals this year, while Racing lost out against Saracens in the 2016 final.

Four-time champions Leinster, who were beaten 20-10 in this year’s final in Newcastle have been placed in Pool 1 where they will face Lyon, Northampton Saints and European Cup newcomers Benetton.

Northampton know Leinster all too well having fallen short against the Irish province in the 2011 final, while Benetton will fancy their chances of an upset in the opening stages of the competition.

Pool 2 sees Stuart Hogg come face to face with Glasgow Warriors having announced his departure to Exeter Chiefs come the summer. Along with them are La Rochelle and Sale Sharks.

Ulster will have a tough time in Pool 3 as they have been pitted with Clermont Auvergne, Harlequins and Bath.

Pool 4 is as described above while Connacht’s return to Europe’s elite competition will see them battle with Gloucester and French duo Toulouse and Montpellier in what is another strong group.

The opening round of fixtures is set to take place on the weekend of November 15th with the final being held at the Stade de Marseille on Saturday the 23rd of May 2020.

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Champions Cup

Cheika Recalls Leinster Training Sessions and Signing Isa Nacewa

Michael Cheika has discussed some of his more unusual training techniques and signing a Leinster legend

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Former Leinster head coach and current Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika has talked about some of his more unusual training techniques during his time in Ireland.

Cheika was in Dublin along with all involved with the 2009 Heineken Cup victory, to mark the 10-year anniversary of the provinces first European Cup.

Speaking at a dinner to mark the occasion Cheika revealed that he used to get involved in the contact training sessions and that players had no idea what to do to him.

“I think I was mid-thirties and I would jump into training – the contact (sessions). The blokes didn’t know whether to bash me or what to do,” he said.

However, that all changed once Jamie Heaslip took it upon himself to make his presence known with the head coach.

“It wasn’t until Heaslip took me one that it turned into a free for all. Everyone wanted to belt me! It was just the idea that you had to have a bit of edge. I’m not going to say I thought it with some great strategy – it’s just who I am. Hopefully that rubbed off to one person and they liked that, and then it rubbed off onto another person. Tactics and techniques all came later,” he added.

Cheika was joined on stage by Leinster legends Brian O’Driscoll and Shane Horgan while he talked about the different methods.

He went on to discuss the recruitment side of things and focused on Isa Nacewa who would turn out to be one of the best players the province has had.

“That guy was playing fly-half one week, wing the next, playing full-back, kicking goals from the side-line, running the show one minute, and never complaining. You never saw any bad body language and always enthusiastic about the game,” he continued.

Nacewa himself went on to talk about how the squad of 2009 was nothing like the squad to today.

“I don’t like to compare squads but when you compare 10 years ago to what it is now today, we were a bunch of misfits. It was the end of the old school era, if you could say that. So many characters in the team. It’s so awesome to be back and having a beer with them, which is pretty cool,” he said.

He noted that the semi-final win over rivals Munster was a highlight of his career within a season where the team as a whole performed at an average level in his eyes.

“If you actually look back on the season as a whole we lost a crap tonne of games. I don’t know how we got through really, but we dug it out. The Croke Park game in 2009 (against Munster) is one of the highlights of my career… you look back and think how important that day was. It was a bit of a milestone really, so that stands out in my eyes,” he added.

Although Leinster won their first European Cup 10-years ago, not many would have predicted how successful the club would become going on to win a further three cups already.

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6 Nations

Ireland Legend Signs Contract Extension

One of Ireland’s most decorated players has put pen to paper on a new contract

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(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The IRFU have confirmed that full-back Rob Kearney has agreed a nine-month extension to remain with Ireland and Leinster

There had been much speculation after Leinster head coach announced a list of contract renewals last week and Kearney’s name was missing however, all has been sorted and he will stay at Leinster for at least one more season.

Kearney is delighted to have been able to re-sign and admits he sees no reason to stop playing in the near future.

“I just played in two finals. I feel as if I am still playing pretty well. The coaches obviously feel that too. I fully love what I am doing. I am living a dream since I was a kid of five years of age. Why stop? The body is still good, the mind is still good. I’m still loving what I’m doing, I’m getting picked. I don’t see any reason why I should stop,” he said.

Next season will be Kearney’s 15th as a professional and although he considered moves abroad, he believes that he would have been taking a huge risk.

“So, all of a sudden if you do go somewhere else and then you are asking your body to train-play, train-play, you are taking a risk with it. You look at some of the games that the Premiership guys play and the French – they play a lot. We do get very well looked after here,” he added.

The 33-year-old picked up a fifth PRO 14 medal with Leinster on Saturday to add to his collection and said that medals keep him going but that the comradery within the squad is a massive part of what keeps him going.

“Every time you have one, you don’t want to be anywhere else in the world. You have worked so hard for a whole year, you’ve come through thick and thin and we have lifted another trophy together. A group of 57 players contributed to that and you just feel very lucky to be part of it,” he finished.

Along with his PRO 14 medals Kearney has claimed four Champions Cups and a Challenge Cup with the province in 209 appearances, while in 90 caps for Ireland he has won two Grand Slams and two further Six Nations crowns and featuring on two British & Irish Lions tours.

With all that in mind, IRFU performance director David Nucifora is happy to have such a decorated player remain in the country.

“Rob has contributed a huge amount to Irish rugby and has performed at a high level again this year for Ireland and Leinster. We are delighted that he will continue his career in Ireland in what will be his 15th season as a senior pro,” he said.

Kearney will hope that he can play a key role in Ireland’s bid to reach a first World Cup final later this year in Japan, before looking ahead to next season and who knows this warrior could earn himself another extension but for now let’s enjoy what he brings while he remains on our shores.

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