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PREVIEW: Leinster Make Changes for Cheetahs

Leinster have switched up their team for the weekend with some big names coming back in

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Leinster have welcomed back some stars for the visit of the Cheetahs to the RDS on Friday at 19 35.

Leo Cullen has been able to recall the likes of Rhys Ruddock, Dave Kearney and Adam Byrne to the starting XV as his side prepare for the Cheetahs challenge.

The front-row sees a complete overhaul to last weekend’s 59-19 win over the Southern Kings with Peter Dooley, Bryan Byrne, and Michael Bent replacing Ed Byrne, Ronan Kelleher and Andrew Porter.

Byrne and Porter take up places on the bench.

Ross Molony retains his place once more following a fine run of form but is joined by Scott Fardy in the second-row who comes in for Mick Kearney.

Captain Ruddock is at six, with Josh Murphy moving to the bench, while Max Deegan and Caelin Doris continue in the back-row to complete the pack.

Jamison Gibson-Park is back to partner Ross Byrne in the half-backs, with scrum-half Hugh O’Sullivan taking the No 21 jersey for this weekend.

Conor O’Brien switches back to 12 after being at 13 last week and is partnered by Rory O’Loughlin, with Noel Reid heading to the bench.

The back three sees Fergus McFadden go to 11, with Adam Byrne coming in at 14, and Dave Kearney returning at full-back. James Lowe is out of this week’s team while Barry Daly, who was at full-back last weekend, is the 23rd man this time around.

With Leinster’s next game not for another three weeks and the conclusion of the 6 Nations before then Rory O’Loughlin has spoken of his views on the past few weeks.

“It’s a nice way to finish this block. I think there’s been a smaller group around here for the last month probably and a lot of academy lads have gotten to train with us a consistent basis and a good few have got to play with us,” he said.

He also talked about his hopes to finish this block of games on a high.

“I’m looking forward to getting a good crack in front of the home crowd and putting in a bit of a performance,” he said.

While Leinster have already secured a semi-final place thanks to their incredible lead at the top of Conference B, the Cheetahs have named a side in hope of bouncing back into the play-off places in Conference A.

They currently sit in sixth but are only six points off Cardiff in third and will take encouragement in knowing that they defeated Leinster 38-19 in their only previous meeting.

Leinster will be looking to extend their 22-point lead at the top of their conference before heading into this break and have named a strong team to do so, however the Cheetahs will be looking to make it two form two when they face the reigning champions.

Pro14

Scotland Ace Signs Contract Extension

One of Scotland’s key men has decided to put pen to paper on a new deal with his current club

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(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Scotland lock Ben Toolis has signed a new contract with current club Edinburgh ahead of the Six Nations with the national side.

The 27-year-old is included in Scotland’s Six Nations squad and has 22-caps to his name at the moment. Meanwhile at club-level Toolis has made over 100 appearances for Edinburgh since his debut in 2013. 

Speaking on the new deal Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill admitted he is delighted to have the Brisbane-born lock on board for the foreseeable future. 

“Ben is one of the most athletic locks in the league, while his ability and leadership at the lineout is key to the way we play. We are delighted to see him re-sign, and I’ve got no doubt that he will continue to be a big player for this club in the years to come,” he said to the club’s website. 

The length of the deal have not been announced, but it is a boost for both club and country as his stock continues to rise. 

Toolis will be hoping that he can continue his partnership with Grant Gilchrist in the upcoming Six Nations with the squad currently preparing to face Ireland in their opening game on February 1st.

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Pro14

Former Welsh Ace to Hang Up Boots

One of Wales’ former stars has confirmed that he will retire from rugby come the end of the current season

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(Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

Former Wales back James Hook has announced that he will be calling time on his professional rugby career come the end of the current season.

Hook is contracted to the Ospreys, but with his deal set to end at the end of the campaign he has decided the time has come to pull the curtain on a professional career spanning 16 years. 

“It’s sad but something I’m really looking forward to. It comes to everyone at some point and now it’s time for me. I’ve had lots of highlights, winning Grand Slam titles and Six Nations and going on the Lions tour in 2009. Then signing my first professional contract was a big moment for me. Growing up I always aspired to be a professional rugby player. You never think it’ll actually happen so when it did it really was amazing,” he said in a post on social media. 

The 34-year old picked up a total of 81-caps for Wales to go along with his 148 appearances for the Ospreys. 

As well as his time with the Welsh region Hook had spells at both Top 14 side Perpignan and English Premiership outfit Gloucester between his stints at the Ospreys. 

Hook has admitted he hopes to continue his rugby journey off the pitch, but that he is also looking forward to having more time to spend with his family after such a long time on the playing field. 

“I want to stay involved in the game, particularly working on the skills, like I do now with the young kickers and the age-grade sides, and I’m hoping to finish my level three coaching qualification. It’ll be nice to spend time with my family, my three young boys and my wife. It’s going to be sad not playing at the end of the season, but you’ve got to be positive and look on the bright side and I’m looking forward to what’s next,” he added. 

As well as his rugby career Hook has also written a series of children’s books that are set to be released later this year and that could provide him with something else to venture into if they are successful. 

However, for now he will be hoping that he can help the Ospreys turn around their disastrous season to date before he hangs his boots up for good. 

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Champions Cup

Connacht Set to Lose Big Star

Connacht look set to without one of their key men next season according to reports as he appears set for a move

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Connacht look as though they will have to deal without flanker Colby Fainga’a next season as he appears to be set for a move to French side Lyon according to Irish outlet the42.

They are reporting that the former Rebels man is the Top 14 side’s preferred replacement for the departing Liam Gill, who will leave at the end of this season. 

Connacht were keen to keep their players’ player of the year from last season and had entered contract talks to extend his deal past the original two years, but with talks stalling Lyon have come in with a reported offer of 300,000 euro a season which would be hard to refuse. 

The 28-year-old would be a huge loss to the western province having been such a massive influence since his arrival in 2018. 

However, more positive news for fans is that the back-rower is set to return from a knee injury this weekend against Toulouse, to help Connacht during a period where injuries have severely hampered them. 

It is understood that Connacht would like to replace Fainga’a with another overseas star, but for now they will hope to get the most out of the Aussie between now and the end of the season.

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