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Pro14

PREVIEW: Some Big Hitters Return for Leinster’s Clash with Glasgow

Leinster have welcomed back a few star men ahead of hosting the Glasgow Warriors

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Leinster have been able to call up a few international stars for their match with Glasgow Warriors at the RDS on Saturday at 15 00.

The most noticeable names on the team sheet are Robbie Henshaw and Devin Toner who both make their first appearances since Ireland’s loss to England in the Six Nations.

It provides the duo with an opportunity to prove their fitness ahead of next week’s Champions Cup semi-final against Toulouse.

Also returning to the set-up are the likes of Rob Kearney, Jordan Larmour, Ross Byrne and Sean O’Brien, who captains the side in what could be his last ever game in the RDS.

Ed Byrne, James Tracy, and Michael Bent start in the front-row, with many believing Ed Byrne could be not only the future of Leinster but Ireland rugby as Jack McGrath is set to head to Ulster in June and Cian Healy’s career ticks over.

Toner is joined by Jack Dunne in the engine room, with Dunne making his first start in blue. Behind them are Josh Murphy, O’Brien and Caelan Doris to complete the pack.

Jamison Gibson-Park is at nine and is partnered by Ross Byrne who has recovered from the cramp that forced him off against Ulster two weeks ago.

Outside them Henshaw opens at inside-centre with Joe Tomane on the outside at 13. Dave Kearney is on the left-wing, with Jordan Larmour on the right and Rob Kearney at full-back.

There is a mixture of youth and experience on the bench as Sean Cronin, Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong are joined by Will Conors, who could play his first action of the season, Max Deegan, Hugh O’Sullivan, Ciaran Frawley and Adam Byrne.

Ahead of the game former Leinster No 10 and current backs coach Felipe Contepomi has spoken of his sides desire to win coming into the final stages of the season with places still up for grabs.

“Everyone’s hungry, it’s finals rugby now and everyone wants to be on the big dates. For you to be on the big dates you have to be performing well and the truth is that there’s a lot of competition here, so everyone is given their chance and there are a lot of hands up for places,” he said.

The home side will face a strong Glasgow team that are looking to secure top spot in Conference A.

Jamie Bhatti, Fraser Brown and Zander Fagerson take the first three places in the pack, with Scott Cummings and Jonny Gray slotting in behind them.

Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro and Matt Fagerson are at six, seven and eight respectively in what is a powerful pack.

The backs are equally as strong with Ali Price beginning the game at scrum-half alongside Adam Hastings who is at out-half. Sam Johnson and Kyle Steyn pair up outside them in the centre.

Nikola Matawalu and Tommy Seymour are on the wings, with Stuart Hogg at 15.

There is plenty to call on from the bench if needed too with players like Grant Stewart, D’Arcy Rae, Peter Horne and Huw Jones raring to go.

The game sees to the two conference leaders go head-to-head in the second-last regular season game of the competition for them. Leinster have been long guaranteed top spot in Conference B but will be looking to improve their domestic form before heading into next weekend’s Champions Cup semi-final. However, Glasgow will know that a win at Leinster coupled with a loss for Munster against Benetton would secure top spot in Conference A. So, everything is still to play for when these two titans come together on Saturday.

6 Nations

Rory Best to retire.

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ulster and Ireland captain Rory Best has confirmed that he will retire from professional rugby when his current contract expires after the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Best will bow out with a hugely impressive list of honours and will go down as a legend of the modern game, having spent 15 seasons at the top level.

Rory began his rugby development at Banbridge RFC, with whom he is still involved, while he also played at Portadown College and Belfast Harlequins RFC on route to the professional game.

He made his competitive debut for Ulster in 2004 and has amassed 219 appearances to date, scoring 23 tries. He was a key member of the squad which won the Celtic League title in 2005/06.

Best is Ulster’s most-capped international with 116 appearances (10 tries) and has helped Ireland win the Six Nations Championship on four occasions, including two Grand Slam successes (one as captain).

Best’s leadership of Ireland is record-breaking; he captained Ireland to its first ever win against New Zealand in 2016 and has steered the country to second in the world rankings.

He was a member of the British & Irish Lions squad for the 2013 and 2017 tours to Australia and New Zealand respectively.

Best was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2017 Birthday Honours for services to rugby.

“It is with mixed feelings that I announce my retirement from Ulster Rugby as of the end of this season,” said Best.

“This feels like the right time for me to go out on my terms, a luxury for which I feel very privileged.

“I am very excited for the end of the season with Ulster Rugby and for the upcoming World Cup with Ireland, both of which I hope to finish with a massive high, playing at the top of my game.

“In my 15 years at this brilliant club, I have been lucky to have met, played alongside, been coached by and supported by many great people, and I would like to thank every individual for the time they have invested in me since 2004.

“I grew up supporting Ulster Rugby, have been fortunate to play and captain Ulster Rugby, and now look forward to supporting Ulster Rugby in the future with my family.”

Paying tribute to Best, Ulster’s Operations Director, Bryn Cunningham said:

“No player representing Ulster Rugby has had a more profound impact in the professional era than Rory.

“When Rory enters the room, everyone waits for his words. On the training pitch, he demands high standards at all times. During a match, players turn to Rory for leadership and direction. He has been our all-encompassing talismanic figure for more than a decade.

“Rory’s ability to not only stay at the top, but also fight his way through adversity, shows the strength of character he possesses.

“The ever-present support of the Best family on the side-lines, in particular Jodie, Ben, Penny and Richie, encapsulates Rory as the ultimate family man. We know that they will continue to follow Ulster Rugby for many years to come.

“Rory will justifiably go down as one of the greatest legends of Ulster and Irish Rugby.”

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Pro14

Ulster Rugby issue injury update for Moore & Stockdale.

Season ender.

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Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

Their update reads:

“The Ulster Rugby medical team have issued a squad update following Friday’s Guinness PRO14 match against Edinburgh.

Marty Moore suffered a season-ending ankle ligament injury in the fixture. He will see a specialist later this week.

Jacob Stockdale sustained a hamstring injury in the same game. His recovery will be monitored on an ongoing basis.”

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Pro14

Sean Reidy: Q&A

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Photo By Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Having recently surpassed 100 caps for Ulster, Sean Reidy has achieved another career highlight – chatting to Peter Lockhart from UlsterRugbyLad about what it’s like to play for Ulster and Ireland.

URL: What gave you your passion for rugby?

SR: It’s a way of life growing up in New Zealand all my family and friend play rugby so I jumped on the bandwagon as well. Ever since I was young I knew I wanted to play for Counties Manukau – my province.

It wasn’t till I was a bit older I realised you could do it as a job!

URL: What is the story of how you came to Ulster Rugby?

SR: I got the opportunity to a preseason trial around 5 years ago. Off the back of that I got offered a 1 year contract and I’ve been here ever since!

URL: Describe what it was like to play for Ireland.

SR: It was pretty emotional! My family has strong ties here in Ireland and the opportunity to represent those people is a real privilege.

URL: Jacob Stockdale famously plays with Lego before big games. What is the most important part of your routine on match day?

SR: Getting enough sleep in and just trying to relax as much as possible. I feel if I over-think the game too much it can be pretty draining.

URL: What are the most important qualities of a back-row player?

SR: You have to be hard-working, selfless and having a good understanding of the game.

URL: How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success?

SR: Failure is a given with every sport. The key is to learn as much as you can from those failures, move on and improve.

URL: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?

SR: My wife constantly tells me to enjoy the little things in life to and not get to caught up worrying about he big picture.

URL: What goals/ambitions do you have for yourself and Ulster in the next few seasons?

SR: Just trying to help Ulster be as successful as possible. We have come along way over the past few years it’s important we keep driving forward.

URL: What was the highlight and lowlight of your career?

SR: Highlight would have to be the chance to work doing something you love everyday.

Lowlights has to be good friends you have moving on from the club you’re at.

URL: What was your favourite sports team growing up?

SR: Counties Manukau or the Chiefs.

URL: What would be the one rule in rugby you’d change?

SR: The one rule I’d change in rugby would be to introduce the 40-20 rule similar to league. I think this would give teams opportunity to attack more with the ball.

URL: Who are your best friends in the Ulster squad?

SR: I’m pretty tight with everyone!

URL: What would you be doing if you weren’t playing rugby for Ulster.

SR: Enjoying the sun in New Zealand.

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