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Pro14

Peel Praises Hundred-Cap Hero McCloskey

Ton.

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Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images

Stuart McCloskey put in a man of the match performance as Ulster edged out Ospreys 8-0 at Brewery field in Bridgend.

After 47 minutes, it was McCloskey who broke the deadlock with a crucial try, beating two defenders before finding full-back Pete Nelson with a clever off-load out of the back door. Nelson was stopped just short of the line but the ball was spread wide and McCloskey was in the right place to touch down in the corner.

Speaking after the game, Ulster backs coach, Dwayne Peel, heaped praise on McCloskey’s performance – his 100th cap for the province.

“He’s huge – a great leader for us. Anyone who watches us knows how big he is for us. He never takes a step backwards and he carries a lot of ball for us. He’s probably battered after every game but fair play to him. He’s key for us.”

Peel was quick to emphasise it is not only McCloskey’s physical presence, but his skill with ball-in-hand that makes him so dangerous in attack.

“If you watch him in training, his catch-pass stuff is excellent. He can pass a ball as well as anyone. Showing that in games, people are surprised but they shouldn’t be. He’s one of the best ball-players in our squad, definitely.”

Michael Lowry also earned plaudits from Peel, starting his first game at out-half for Ulster, having previously been primarily deployed at full-back.

“I actually thought he was excellent in his first start at 10. He’s played a lot at 15 but I thought he controlled the game really well. I’m really pleased with him. He’s brave. I thought defensively he was excellent.”

Following his impressive display pulling the strings for Ulster, unfortunately, Lowry was forced to leave the field early following a head injury.

Overall, Peel was happy with his team’s defensive performance but acknowledges his side could have been more clinical.

“It wasn’t a classic but held onto the ball well in that first half especially. We were disappointed not to finish in the corner but we created enough. We held onto the ball and we put a good Ospreys defence under pressure. They play a difficult style to break down.”

“We’re a bit disappointed not to score a few more tries but in terms of making chance, we’re pretty happy.”

“We were disappointed after the Treviso draw at home because we felt we didn’t fire any shots. Tonight we fired shots and that’s the biggest thing for me.”

Ulster now find themselves in 4th place in the Pool B table of the PRO 14. With an important block of games against Zebre, Dragons and Southern Kings to come during the Six Nations window, McFarland’s men will be hoping to pick up more crucial points as they look to secure an all-important top-three spot.

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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