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Pro14

Owens to start for Scarlets..but not at hooker ?‍ ?‍♂️

The hooker has been asked to make an interesting positional change ahead of the fixture v Dragons.

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Photo by Andrew Surma/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Scarlets captain Ken Owens has been handed a different jersey than his usual No.2 for this weekends clash v Dragons.

The Scarlets are in the middle of an injury crisis particularly in the back-row so the 60 capped Welsh hooker has been asked to stand in at No.8 this weekend.

Scarlets were already missing Blade Thomson (concussion), Uzair Cassiem (shoulder), Aaron Shingler (knee), Lewis Rawlins (shoulder) and Josh Macleod (foot), Following the loss to Cardiff Blues last weekend they have been depleted even further with James Davies (foot) and Will Boyde (ribs) both unavilable.

Former Wales U20s captain Tom Phillips only just returning from concussion issues, so Owens is selected at 8 alongside Ed Kennedy and 20-year-old Dan Davis – the first time Wales’ first-choice hooker has started a game in that position in his professional career.

This hasn’t been the first experimental positional change coach Wayne Pivac has been forced to make this season. Hadleigh Parkes has ran at 10 for the last couple of games for the Scarlets. He returns to his normal in the midfield replacing injured Kieran Fonotia with Dan Evans coming back in to play 10. Embed from Getty Images

Wayne Pivac still has no place in his team for flying winger Steff Evans. Pivac as honest as ever explained why he continues to omit the prolific try scorer from his team.

“At the moment it is about being a bit ball tough or tougher in the contact area.
“He has got the highest turnover rate and teams are targeting him with the high ball and that’s plain for everyone to see.

“He is working on those areas of his game and we would like to think he will be joining our ranks again after some more hard work behind the scenes which is ongoing.”

As for the Dan Jones selection at 10, Pivac again explained his reasoning.

“We went with Hadleigh over the last two weeks after looking at what the opposition we were playing and what was coming down that channel,” he added.

“One of our 10s is probably at the bottom of the competition for tackle completion and the other one was not far off.

“It was costing us in games and we went with Hadleigh to shore up that part of the game and it did and he plugged that gap quite nicely.

“The other aspect is game management. We have had a chat with Dan and he knows he played far from the perfect game when he came on last weekend.”

Refreshingly honest from the soon to be Welsh coach.

Pro14

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

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Photo by Andrew Surma/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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.”

Ends.

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Pro14

Ulster Rugby to trial safe return of supporters this weekend

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(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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Pro14

Rob Kearney secures move to Australia

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(Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

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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