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PREVIEW: Munster Switch Things Up for Blues Clash

Munster have made six changes to their team from last weekend’s win over Edinburgh



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Munster have named six changes of personnel to their team that defeated Edinburgh in the Champions Cup as they prepare to host the Cardiff Blues in Independent Park on Friday at 19 35 in the Pro14.

Mike Haley, Tyler Bleyendaal, Kevin O’Byrne, Billy Holland, Chris Cloete and Arno Botha all take a place in the starting XV while the rest of the team stays the same.

That means that Dave Kilcoyne, O’Byrne and John Ryan start in the front-row, with Jean Kleyn and Holland slotting into the second-row.

Peter O’Mahony captains the side from the left of the scrum, with Cloete on the right and Botha finishing the pack at eight.

Conor Murray and Bleyendaal continue their half-back partnership following Joey Carbery’s injury last weekend. While Rory Scannell and Chris Farrell remain in the centre.

Last weekend’s hero, Keith Earls continues on the left-wing, with Andrew Conway shifting from full-back to the right-wing as Haley returns to 15.

There is plenty of experience to call on from the bench if needed with the likes of Niall Scannell, Tadhg Beirne, CJ Stander and JJ Hanrahan to call upon.

Speaking before the game reds head coach Johann van Graan has talked up his team’s opponents as he hopes his side can push on for a home semi-final spot.

“They’ve got some fantastic players up front and in the backs. Give them the respect they deserve, they won the Challenge Cup last year, that people forget, and they’ve had some very good performances over the year,” he said.

For the visitors, Rhys Gill, Kristian Dacey and Dillon Lewis start in the front-three, while Seb Davies and Rory Thorn are in the engine room.

Shane Lewis-Hughes, Olly Robinson and Josh Turnbull are in the back-row and make up the pack.

Tomos Williams starts at scrum-half alongside Jarrod Evans at fly-half, with Willis Halaholo and Rey Lee-Lo outside them in the centre.

Aled Summerhill and Owen Lee are at 11 and 14 respectively, with Wales Six Nations star Gareth Anscombe at full-back.

Munster need a win to keep up the pressure on Glasgow Warriors at the top of Conference A with three-points separating the sides. While Cardiff are sitting in forth place, level on points with Connacht and a win away to in Ireland could be crucial if they are to make the play-offs.


Munster confirm Zebo signing



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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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Ulster Rugby agree to release Coetzee early



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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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Lowry retained at 10 for Ulster v Zebre



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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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