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Pro14

PREVIEW: Munster Make Seven Changes for Scarlets

Strong Scarlets team too.

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Munster and Scarlets have both made changes for their clash at Parc y Scarlets at 17 00 tomorrow.

Munster will be looking to make it eight wins on the bounce and have welcomed back a couple of key men to the starting line-up while the Welsh side have five internationals returning.

Jeremy Loughman, Rhys Marshell and John Ryan, who is back from Ireland duty, start in the front-row for the visitors.

Jean Kleyn comes back into the pack having missed last week’s game through illness and will partner captain Billy Holland in the second-row.

Making up the pack are Fineen Wycherley, Conor Oliver and Arno Botha, at six, seven and eight respectively.

The out-half pairing has been switched up once more by the Irish province with Alby Mathewson and Bill Johnston coming in at No 9 and 10.

Rory Scannell will become the youngest player to reach 100 caps for Munster, having turned 25 in December, when he lines out beside Dan Goggin in the centre.

The back-three is made up of Darren Sweetnam, Ronan O’Mahony on the wings and full-back Mike Haley, who is in fine form at the moment.

The men in red have some experienced players to call on from the bench if needed such as Stephen Archer, Tyler Bleyendaal and Jaco Taute.

Speaking ahead of the game head coach Johann Van Graan has talked about the happiness in the club with their current form but sees room for improvement.

“We’re happy, we’ve won our last seven games in a row, and we’ve won five out of our last seven away. So, we’re pretty happy with our current form, but we’ve a lot to improve on from last weekend,” he said.

On the other side, the Scarlets have been able to recall Leigh Halfpeeny, Wyn Jones, Ryan Elias, Rhys Patchell and Steff Evans from Wales duty.

Jones and Elias are joined by Werner Kruger in the front three with Josh Helps and Lewis Rawlins slotting in behind.

While Josh Macleod, Dan Davis and Uzair Cassiem make up the back-row.

Kieran Hardy and Dan Jones are at scrum-half and fly-half respectively, with Paul Asquith and captain Kieron Fonotia outside them in the centre.

The ever-impressive Johnny McNicholl and Ioan Nicholas are on the wings with Halfpenny at full-back to finish up the XV.

Patchell and Evans are among the subs as the team will hope to continue their incredible home form which has seen them lose only one match since September 2016 in front of their fans.

Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivoc spoken about his delight at his teams win against the Cheetahs last weekend but is expecting a different challenge against the current Conference A leaders.

“We all know that Munster are going to be a very different proposition. They will bring a lot aggression and line-speed in defence, which poses a different challenge. We need to be on our game and are expecting more of an arm wrestle,” he said.

Munster are one point ahead of Glasgow at the summit of Conference A and will need a special performance in Wales as the Scarlets will be looking to close the five-point gap between them in fifth and Benetton in second in Conference B.

A win for either could be vital come the end of the regular season.

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Pro14

Leinster vs Glasgow; Pro 14 Final Preview & Key Battles

Leinster and Glasgow will face off at Celtic Park on Saturday night and here’s everything you need to know ahead of the final game of the season

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(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Johnny Sexton has made a return to the Leinster line-up for their Pro 14 final against Glasgow in Celtic Park on Saturday at 18 30. 

The captain has taken the No 10 jersey back from Ross Byrne who played who played last weekend’s semi-final against Munster in one of three changes to the side.

Another change in the back-line sees Rob Kearney come in for his brother Dave at full-back with Jordan Larmour switching to the wing. While in the second-row Scott Fardy replaces the injured Devin Toner.

Apart from that it’s as you were with Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Tadhg Furlong knuckling down in the front-row, with Fardy joining James Ryan in the engine room.

Rhys Ruddock is at blindside flanker, with Josh van der Flier retaining his spot at openside following a man of the match comeback performance last week, with Jack Conan continuing at No 8.

Luke McGrath partners Sexton in the half-backs, with Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose linking up in the centre.

The ever-impressive James Lowe begins the game on the left-wing, with Larmour on the right and Kearney at 15.

Sean O’Brien has been kept out of the side meaning he won’t get to play another game for the province before his summer departure to London Irish. While Jack McGrath has been denied his chance at a final goodbye before moving to Ulster as Ed Byrne is chosen on the bench.

The visitors have strength among their replacements with Byrne being joined by the likes of twin brother Bryan, Ross Molony, Ross Bryne and Rory O’Loughlin.

Speaking ahead of the game prop Healy admitted he watched the Warriors 50-20 win over Ulster last weekend and has warned his side to be ready.

“I watched their game on Friday – they looked pretty dangerous,” he said.

While Leinster will be hoping for back-to-back titles Glasgow will want to dethrone them in front of the Scottish crowd.

For the Warriors it’s Jamie Bhatti, Fraser Brown and Zander Fagerson are the front-three, with Scott Cummins and Jonny Gray pairing in the second-row.

In the back-row it’s Rob Harley at six, Callum Gibbins at seven and Matt Fagerson at eight to finish up the pack.

Ali Price and Adam Hastings continue their partnership in the half-backs at scrum-half and out-half respectively, while it’s Sam Johnson and Kyle Steyn in the centre.

DTH van der Merwe opens at 11, with Tommy Seymour at 14 and Stuart Hogg at 15 in what will be his final appearance for the club before his move to Exeter Chiefs.

There is plenty to call upon from the bench with the Ryan Wilson, George and Peter Horne and Huw Jones among those ready to make an impact if needed.

The element of home advantage is one that flanker Harley is hoping the fans will take advantage of when the time comes.

“Celtic Park is a great stadium. We’re really looking forward to packing it out with our fans,” he said.

Key Battles:

Fraser Brown vs Sean Cronin:

This will be an intriguing battle as both will have to be spot on with the line-out and give everything in the scrum. Experience will help both but there will be a harder task for Brown in open-play as he will need to keep an eye on his opposite number who has been a lethal try-scorer this season and would love to get another in the final.

Jonny Gray vs James Ryan:

Home advantage will mean nothing to Gray as he faces up to arguably the best lock in the world at the moment. Both put in sensational tackling figures to go along with their attacking metres they gain as well as the line-out battle, this could be the place where the game is won or lost.

Ali Price vs Luke McGrath:

These two will both be out to impress their national team coaches ahead of the World Cup later this year and a strong performance in the final could earn them a ticket to Japan. Price’s pace will be a worry for McGrath, while the Leinster man’s kicking game could cause problems for the Warriors.

Tommy Seymour vs James Lowe:

A Scottish legend coming up against one of the brightest sparks of this Leinster side. You wouldn’t bet against either getting a try and the way they defend one another could be the vital component of who wins this individual war.

Stuart Hogg vs Rob Kearney:

This is a man departing his club up against a man who could be leaving his beloved blues with both out to prove a point. Hogg is a danger in any match he plays, while Kearney will be hoping to put any fans or coaches doubts about him to bed with a solid performance which could be his last for the club.

Both teams finished top of their respective conferences and there is no doubt that the two best teams have reached the final showpiece. With only a day to go until kick-off there is still no separating the two sides as they seek the domestic crown once again.

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Pro14

Pro 14 Dream Team Announced

The Pro 14 Dream Team was announced last night, and 11 sides have been represented

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The Pro 14 Dream Team was confirmed last night and 11 of the competitions 14 teams have representatives but Benetton will be disappointed.

The much-anticipated team was narrowed down to 45 candidates, picked by more than 75 media that covered the season, on Wednesday with Benetton receiving seven nominations.

However, the Italian side have only been handed one spot on the team with wing Monty Ioane being included as Epalahame Faiva, Marco Riccioni, Federico Ruzza, Braam Steyn, Dewaldt Duvenage and Ratuva Tavuyara all being over-looked.

Three of the four Irish provinces claimed two places each along with Edinburgh as finalists Leinster and Glasgow received only a single place in the XV each.

The front-row was filled by Edinburgh’s Pierre Schoeman, Scarlets’ Ken Owens and Glawgow’s Zander Fagerson, with Munster’s Tadhg Beirne and Leinster’s Scott Fardy packing down in the engine room.

Munster captain Peter O’Mahony features at six, with Connacht’s Colby Fainga’a at seven and Edinburgh No 8 and player of the season Bill Mata finishing the pack.

Ulster’s John Cooney along with Fardy and Beirne are the only three players to make the team for the second year in succession, as Cooney takes his place at scrum-half.

Connacht out-half Jack Carty is at 10, with Ulster’s Stuart McCloskey and Cardiff’s Rey Lee-Lo outside him in the centre positions.

Rabz Maxwane of the Cheetahs was selected on the left-wing, having scored a record-equalling 14 tries this season alone, with Ioane on the right and Ospreys Dan Evens completing the XV at full-back.

It was revealed after that only a few of the positions were clear-cut choices with many being incredibly close as the likes of James Lowe, Bundee Aki and Marcel Coetzee being among the 30 players to miss out after stellar seasons.

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Pro14

Pro 14 Dream Team Nominations Announced

The end of the Pro 14 season is almost upon us and with it the seasons dream team is set to be announced with a surprise team leading the nominations

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(photo by Peter Fitzpatrick/Action Plus via Getty Images)

The Pro 14 dream team nominations have been confirmed and Benetton will have the most candidates for the final team to be announced on Thursday night. 

The Italians have been rewarded for a fantastic season which has seen them progress to the knock-out stages for the first time in their history, only for a late penalty against Munster to deny them a semi-final berth against Leinster.

Benetton have had seven players nominated in the 45-man list, which consists of three players across the league competing for each position.

Their nominations are Epalahame Faiva, Marco Riccioni, Federico Ruzza, Braam Steyn, Dewaldt Duvenge, Monty Ioane and Ratuva Tavuyara. The total of seven nominations gives them two more candidates than Glasgow Warriors and four more than Leinster, with the pair set to face off in the final at Celtic Park on Saturday.

For Glasgow Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray, Adam Hastings and Nick Grigg have been nominated in their respective positions while for Leinster Scott Fardy, Max Deegan and James Lowe will hope for selection in the XV.

Elsewhere, the other Irish provinces have all been handed five nominations. Ulster have been rewarded for a fantastic season, which saw them reach the semi-finals with Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Marcel Coetzee, John Cooney and Staurt McCloskey among the 45 players.

Munster have also received five nominations as Dave Kilcoyne, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander and Mike Haley battle for a spot on the team.

While Connacht’s Colby Fainga’a, Caolin Blade, Jack Carty, Bundee Aki and Tom Farrell were all recognised for their stellar individual season which saw the men in green claim a Champions Cup spot for next season.

The 45-man shortlist which contains players from 11 of the 14 teams in the competition is compiled by a panel of more than 75 media who have covered the season and all eyes will be on how well the Italian side get on.

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