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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.

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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

Munster confirm Zebo signing

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(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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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Pro14

Ulster Rugby agree to release Coetzee early

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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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Pro14

Lowry retained at 10 for Ulster v Zebre

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Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images

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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