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.
Marcus Rea to start for Ulster v Ospreys
The 23-year-old – who was Player of the Match in his sole previous Ulster appearance as a replacement against Leinster in April 2019 – has been named at openside flanker. Marcus’s older brother Matty – Player of the Match in last weekend’s bonus point win over Benetton – is named alongside him at blindside, with Marcell Coetzee once again packing down at number eight.
Jack McGrath, Rob Herring and Marty Moore have been given the front row starting berths, and Alan O’Connor has been selected along with captain Iain Henderson in the second row.
Matt Faddes returns to the starting side on the right wing and will join Jacob Stockdale at full-back and Rob Lyttle on the left wing. Last week’s midfield duo of Stewart Moore and James Hume has been retained. Ian Madigan comes in to start at fly-half, pairing with John Cooney at scrum-half.
The coaching team has opted for a 6-2 bench split. Adam McBurney, Eric O’Sullivan, Gareth Milasinovich, Kieran Treadwell, Greg Jones and Sean Reidy provide the forward options, with David Shanahan and Louis Ludik offering back line cover.
Ulster team to play Ospreys Rugby, Guinness PRO14 Round 2, Saturday 10 October 2020, at Liberty Stadium (kick-off 5.15pm, live on Premier Sports):
(15-9) Jacob Stockdale, Matt Faddes, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Rob Lyttle, Ian Madigan, John Cooney. (1-8) Jack McGrath, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (Capt.) , Matthew Rea, Marcus Rea, Marcell Coetzee. Replacements: Adam McBurney, Eric O’Sullivan, Gareth Milasinovich, Kieran Treadwell, Greg Jones, David Shanahan, Louis Ludik, Sean Reidy.
Munster confirm COVID-19 case. Training suspended.
Munster Rugby have been assisting a senior player who has tested positive for Covid-19.
The latest PCR testing carried out on Monday at the HPC has returned a positive result for a player who is asymptomatic. To remove any doubt of a potential false positive the player will be retested tomorrow.
The individual, who was not part of the travelling group at the weekend, and six other players identified by Munster Rugby as potential close contacts, are currently self-isolating.
This approach of identifying possible close contacts is in line with the caution we have taken to this issue, these players may not be deemed close contacts by the HSE.
As a precautionary measure, the squad and academy will not train at the HPC today.
The HSE have been notified for contract tracing purposes.
Munster Rugby Head of Medical, Dr Jamie Kearns, said: “As an immediacy we are taking every precaution by standing down training today.
“We are going to complete another round of PCR testing tomorrow so that we can return to training on Thursday.
“Our priority is to ensure the health and safety of our players and staff, and we will continue to work closely with both the IRFU and HSE in this regard.”
Statement from Munster Rugby
Halaholo returns for Cardiff Blues season opener
Halaholo is reunited in midfield with Rey Lee-Lo, in a backline that includes six internationals.
Homegrown duo Jarrod Evans and Lloyd Williams combine at half back, while Matthew Morgan and Hallam Amos line-up in the back three alongside Josh Adams, who has been in scintillating form since joining the region, with seven tries in eight outings.
He partners Seb Davies in the second row, while academy graduates Corey Domachowski and Liam Belcher are included in the front row with Dmitri Arhip.
Shane Lewis-Hughes and James Botham, who both impressed in the victory over Ospreys on the final day of the 2019/20 campaign, are rewarded with starting spots, as the experienced Josh Turnbull is handed the number eight jersey.
John Mulvihill insists he’s picked the side based on form and merit but is expecting a tough task in Parma.
“I’m hopeful that we can take the form that we had against Ospreys into game one and certainly the selection of the team rewards the boys that played well that day,” said the head coach.
““We need to pick on form if we want to be consistent as a group. The coaches need to show consistency in picking players that put their hands up for selection.
“We’re all excited to get out there and to kick off the new season. We gained a lot from the two derbies we played in August, and the boys have been working hard on the training ground, so we want to see that come into fruition on Friday.
“We all know how tough it can be to visit Italy, and you need to travel there with the correct game-plan and mindset.
“Zebre are a team that can cause teams problems on their day, but we’re fully confident in our group. Preparations have been good, the boys have been sharp and focused and we’re relishing the challenge ahead. We want to build early momentum and we have an opportunity to do that in Parma.
“There will be a small home crowd out there, which is fantastic and we’re really looking forward to playing in front of some spectators after everything that’s happened over the last few months. It should be lively and entertaining affair.”
Five academy products are included on the bench, including lock Ben Murphy and Welsh internationals Rhys Carré and Dillon Lewis.
Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan; Josh Adams, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Hallam Amos; Jarrod Evans, Lloyd Williams; Corey Domachowski, Liam Belcher, Dmitri Arhip, Seb Davies, Cory Hill (capt.), Shane Lewis-Hughes, James Botham, Josh Turnbull
Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Rhys Carré, Dillon Lewis, Ben Murphy, Olly Robinson, Lewis Jones, Jason Tovey, Garyn Smith
The following players were not considered for selection due to injury:
Ellis Jenkins (Knee)
Tomos Williams (Shoulder)
Rhys Gill (Bicep)
Jason Harries (Knee)
Owen Lane (Shoulder)
Mason Grady (Ankle)
Keiron Assiratti (Ankle)
Will Boyde (Calf)
Josh Navidi (Concussion)