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The Low-down on Ulster’s New Signings

Quick look at the confirmed and (almost confirmed) signings for next season.

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Sam Carter and Gareth Milasinovich both have been confirmed as new arrivals at the Kingspan Stadium next season while it is believed Matt Faddes will be announced soon. Here’s a look at who they are.

Sam Carter

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Position: Second Row

Age:29

Club: Brumbies

Nationality: Australian

The low-down: An important signing as Ulster could definitely do with another leader in the pack – someone who brings experience and, equally as important, a bit of edge to the young squad.

Carter is a totemic figure for the Brumbies and a born leader, being named co-captain along with Christian Leali’ifano. Following in the footsteps of his famous father, David Carter, he has won 16 caps for the Wallabies.

He is what you might call an ‘old-school’ second-row. He carries aggressively over the ‘hard-yards’ and has had one of the top tackle-counts for each of the past number of seasons. He has a relentless work ethic and is extremely useful at the set-piece.

Carter’s playing style bears more resemblance to Johann Muller than Iain Henderson. He puts in the important, unglamorous work in the engine room, tirelessly hammering away at the breakdown coalface. He is Mr Consistency and hasn’t had many major injury problems over the past few years. All signs point to this being a brilliant signing for Ulster.

Matt Faddes

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Position: Utility Back

Age: 27

Club: Highlanders

Nationality: New Zealand

The low-down: Given the nature of modern rugby, it pays to have versatile players. Addison has been a revelation for Ulster since his arrival as a utility back. Let’s hope Faddes can replicate his success in an Ulster jersey (particularly as Ulster will be without Stockdale and Addison for the start of the season).

Like Addison, Faddes is a quick and agile back who has an eye for a gap in the opposition defence. He has played international Sevens rugby for New Zealand and has become a cult hero at Otago for his skilful and creative playing style. However, like so many cult heroes, Faddes’ career has been plagued by inconsistency – capable of great bits of skill but most definitely a ‘confidence player’, prone to go through the occasional patch of poor form.

Reassuringly, there are highlights packages of him on YouTube showing that he is capable of being a potent attacking threat. Granted, anyone can look good in a montage of their ‘best bits’ but, if nothing else, he looks like a player who will be fun to watch and bring a few moments of excitement to the Kingspan. This will be a case of ‘In Bryn We Trust’ and Ulster fans should be hopeful considering Cunningham’s ability to identify and recruit good quality backs ‘Moneyball’ style.

Gareth Milasinovich

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Position: Prop (both sides)

Age: 26

Club: Worcester

Nationality: South African (Irish Qualified)

The low-down: Props who claim to be able to play on both sides of the scrum should be treated with suspicion. Remember Tom Court? Sometimes it’s better to stick to what you’re good at.

Ulster have needed to bolster their front row options for some time now and their track record of recruitment in this area hasn’t exactly been great. At 6’3” and 21 stone, Milanisovic certainly looks the part (although so did Rodney Ah You and Van der Merwe).

Due to injury and competition, he hasn’t played a huge amount of rugby which has limited his development. By all accounts, he is both ‘big’ and ‘strong’ – words often used to describe props who have yet to develop technique. However, under the expert tutelage of McFarland – who specialises in getting the best from the ‘tight five’ – it’s possible that Milanisovic, who has all the requisite physical attributes, could be moulded into a force to be reckoned with.

In the few times I’ve seen him, he has been solid if unspectacular – not a bad thing for a prop who’s only 26 (props, as we all know, are born in their late 20s). He will add some depth and much needed competition to the front row department.

In other news, Ulster fans should join together and pray that the rumours about Jack McGrath’s move up North are true. If they are, it looks like Ulster will finally have the formidable front row club they have been lacking and it is hoped Milanisovic will play a key role in this.

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Pro14

Leinster Duo to Miss Start of Season

Leinster have confirmed that two players will miss the start of the upcoming season in what is a big blow for the province

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Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has confirmed that both Ciaran Frawley and Barry Daly have suffered injuries in pre-season and will miss the start of the season.

Young fly-half Frawley impressed last season when given his chances, and with Johnny Sexton at the World Cup it was an opportunity for him and Ross Byrne to share the No 10 jersey. 

However, Cullen has confirmed that Frawley has suffered an ankle ligament injury during their win over the Northampton Saints last week and has undergone a procedure to fix the problem. The bad news is that he will be out of action for six to eight weeks. 

Along with Frawley, back Daly has picked up a knee ligament and cartilage injury during a training session. 

Like his teammate he has undergone a procedure to mend the issue, however, he is expected to be unavailable for selection for up to five months. 

With a number of key men on international duty with Ireland at the Rugby World Cup in Japan for the next two months the squad is already stretched and these will come as massive set-backs for Cullen and co. 

Leinster begin their PRO14 campaign on Sunday the 28th of September away to last season’s surprise package Benetton and they will hope to get off to a winning start as they attempt to claim their third league title on the bounce. 

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Pro14

Glasgow Warriors Sign Highlanders Prop

Glasgow Warriors have confirmed the arrival of an experienced Super Rugby loosehead

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Glasgow Warriors have announced the signing of Highlanders prop on a two-year contract ahead of the 2019/20 season.

The loosehead’s move is subject to visa and a medical with the club, which he is expected to pass, and he is excited to make the move to Scotstoun.

“I’m really looking forward to moving to Glasgow. It’s going to be a new challenge for me and I’m excited about the opportunity to play in Europe. The coaching team’s reputation speaks for itself – Dave is highly regarded and I can’t wait to work with him. I also know Siua from our time at the Highlanders, so I’m sure he’ll help me settle in. Glasgow Warriors have a very strong squad and made it to the Guinness PRO14 final last season, so I know I’ll have to get my head down and work hard to compete for my place in the team,” he said while speaking to glasgowwarriors.org.

Seiuli will bring a huge amount of experience to the Glasgow set-up having notched up 38 appearances for the Highlanders and featuring in the side that defeated the 2017 British & Irish Lions.

His shear power and size is something that head coach Dave Rennie is looking forward to having in his side and believes he will fit in well.

“Aki is a hell of an athlete. We identified him as someone with that point of difference around his ball carrying and physicality. He’s a good man and someone who we believe will fit in really well into our environment. He knows he’ll need to come over and work hard because we’re going to have a lot of competition in that loosehead spot this season,” he said.

The 26-year-old will be helped to settle in by former teammate Siua Halanukonuka whom he spent time with previously. If he does settle in quickly it will be a massive prospect for the Warriors fans ahead of the new season as they look to go one step further and win the PRO14 title as well as competing in the Champions Cup.

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Pro14

Owens retains Scarlets captaincy for new season

2019/2020 Season.

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With Owens set to play an integral part in WalesWorld Cup campaign outside centre Steffan Hughes and former Springboks prop Werner Kruger have been named as vice captains along with Wales squad members James Davies and his brother Jonathan.

The six consecutive seasons at the helm is a record for the Scarlets in the regional era and brings Owens alongside the great Phil Bennett, the Scarlets president, who captained Llanelli RFC between 1973 and 1979. “Ken is an outstanding leader,” said new Scarlets head coach Brad Mooar.

“I heard the other night Alun Wyn Jones refer to him as the heart of any team he is in, such high praise from a legend of the game and something that has been really clear to me from the time I have been involved in this Scarets journey. Ken’s heart beats Scarlets.

“I first met Ken about a year ago. He is held in such high regard, is such a genuine Scarlets person and an outstanding rugby player. Without exception, everybody I have spoken to – players, management, staff, the board – everyone speaks highly of Ken and his leadership abilities.

“He has played for and captained the British and Irish Lions, has been part of the leadership group for Wales. It is an absolute no-brainer that he is the right man to lead this team, club and its people.

“It is a World Cup year so we have got four vice-captains who are superb leaders in their own right, players who lead in different ways and contribute greatly to the group. That allows us to have a leadership group that is seamless throughout the year.

“With Cubby, Werner, Steff and Fox it is an awesome group to help Ken lead us. We had a launch here at Parc y Scarlets and their involvement and engagement has been outstanding.

“It is not just about the boys who are physically here now; Ken, Fox and Cubby’s connection and involvement with me, with the group and with the players, player to player, you can see that is there, as it has been with all the guys who have been involved with Wales.

“They are Scarlets at heart, they live and breathe it, and there is a huge amount of IP that will lead us throughout the season.”

Owens, who won his 67th cap for his country against Ireland last weekend, said: “It is a huge honour to be again named captain of my home region and, as I said when I was first appointed captain, a privilege to follow in the footsteps of some legends of the game who have led the Scarlets in the past.

“It is an exciting season ahead for the Scarlets and we have a strong leadership group to take us forward.”

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