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PREVIEW: Some Big Hitters Return for Leinster’s Trip to Edinburgh

Leinster will welcome back some key men as they head to Edinburgh

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After a three-week break the Guinness Pro14 is back and with it so are a host of Leinster players as they prepare for battle against Edinburgh at BT Murrayfield on Friday at 19 35.

The big names to be included are Joe Tomane, Luke McGrath and Dan Leavy, who all return from long spells out and are all included in the starting XV.

The game will provide them with a chance to build their fitness and put themselves in contention for a place in the 23 for next week’s Champions Cup quarter-final against Ulster.

In the front-row sees Ed Byrne, Sean Cronin and Michael Bent knuckle-down. Cronin will be hoping to prove between now and the end of the season that he should take a seat on the plane to Japan for this year’s World Cup after being dropped during the Six Nations.

Josh Murphy and Mick Kearney are in the second-row. While captain Rhys Ruddock is at blindside flanker, fit-again Leavy at openside and Max Deegan at No 8 in a formidable looking back-row.

McGrath makes a welcome return at scrum-half and was due to join Ross Byrne, who is at fly-half. He has been a late withdrawal which sees Ciaran Frawley move from 15 to 10. Tomane starts at 12, with Noel Reid standing at outside centre.

The back-three is made up of Barry Daly on the left-wing, Fergus McFadden on the right and Jimmy O’Brien starts at full-back.

With the likes of Bryan Byrne, Jack McGrath, Andrew Porter and Conor O’Brien among the subs Leinster will be hoping to continue their impressive run at the top of Conference B.

Speaking ahead of the game Leinster veteran McFadden has talked about how impressed he’s been with the younger players that have come through the ranks this season.

“To be fair to a lot of the young guys that have come in, with the academy system the way it’s set up they seem to be ready made to just play at a high-level, which is great,” he said.

The away side will be wary of an Edinburgh team that welcomes back the likes of Darcy Graham, Hamish Watson, Ben Toolis and WP Nel from the Scottish camp and John Barclay who will make his debut for the side.

Leinster start the game in first place in Conference B, 22-points above second-place Benetton, and will be looking to continue their impressive form. However, Edinburgh currently sit in fifth in the conference, seven points adrift of the play-off spots and will be eager to cut the gap when the host the reigning champions.

Pro14

Zebre Star Receives Small Ban for Biting

Zebre might have claimed a famous away win in the PRO14 last weekend, but it’s not all rosy for the Italian team after one of their players has been handed a ban for biting, although it’s shorter than most would expect

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Zebre No 8 has received a six-week ban after being found guilty of biting an opposition player during last Saturday’s PRO14 clash with the Ospreys.

The 24-year-old was expected to be handed a lengthy ban for an act of foul play that is seriously frowned upon in the sport, but after initially being given a 12-week ban it was cut in half due to his previous disciplinary record, his admission of guilt and his conduct throughout the process. 

All of which means that he will be free to play for the Italian minnows, who enjoyed a memorable away win in Wales, come the 12th of January. 

The four-time capped Italian’s ban comes only a week after the exact same ban that was handed down to La Rochelle’s Pierre Bourgarit, who was caught eye-gouging Sale’s Tom Curry in a Champions Cup fixture. 

Another one of the worst offences in the game and it was reduced from 12 to six weeks, much for the same reasons as Giammarioli. 

Some fans and ex-players will criticise the decision, as it appears a much softer result than in days gone by for offences that could have caused serious harm to opponents.

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Pro14

Dragons Prop Forced to Retire Early

The Dragons have confirmed that one of their players has been forced to retire due to a freak training ground injury

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Dragons prop Jack Cosgrove has decided to retire from rugby due to injury the club have confirmed.

At only 25-years of age Cosgrove has been forced to retire early due to an eye injury that he sustained during a training session back in October. 

Having only joined the Welsh outfit in the summer it is a big blow to Cosgrove and the club wished him all the best in a statement.  

“Everyone at the Dragons wishes Jack every success in his future and he will continue to receive professional help and support from the region as he makes the transition from playing,” the statement read. 

The player had been through specialist treatment and had medical advice which helped him come to his decision.

Cosgrove came through the Worcester Warriors academy in England before he moved on to Edinburgh in 2015. A move to Bristol in 2017 followed, where he won the Championship on his return to England, before a return to Worcester ahead of his final switch to Dragons. 

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Pro14

Ospreys Turn to Ruddock for Morale Boost

The Ospreys have suffered a terrible start to the season but they have turned to a former Grand Slam winner to help change their fortunes

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Former Six Nations Grand Slam winner Mike Ruddock has been brought in by the Ospreys on a short-term contract to try and get their season off the ground.

The former Wales international, who won the Grand Slam in 2005, has joined the Welsh outfit on a temporary basis, for now, with a contract until the end of December. 

Ospreys managing director Andrew Millward is delighted to have him on board. 

“We are delighted to have Mike join us for a month. The coaches and players have all welcomed the decision to draft him in to offer his support and having him play a key role in our review of our rugby operations,” he said. 

Ospreys are currently looking to part ways with head coach Allen Clarke in a legally correct manner. Clarke joined on a three-year contract in April 2018, but the results have been below par since and coaches Matt Sherratt and Carl Hogg will come in to take charge on an interim basis which Ruddock will oversee. 

However, despite the Ospreys claim that Ruddock will come in on a short-term deal, the feeling is that he will take full control once Clarke’s situation is sorted out, with his club Lansdowne adding to that feeling by tweeting that he could stay on after the initial deal. 

“With regret but with our full support, we announce that with immediate effect Mike Ruddock has taken a position with Ospreys to become initially a consultant for a month but may turn into a longer commitment. Mike and Ospreys have kept us fully informed at all times,” the tweet read. 

Ospreys say they are reviewing their whole rugby operation and figuring out what coaches will stay on for the future to try and improve the club. 

The club currently sit joint-bottom of Conference A with Zebre, only being separated by points difference, but Ruddock’s first task will be in the Champions Cup, when the Welsh side face the daunting visit of Racing 92 to Swansea, before the reverse fixture the following week.

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