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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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Images from Getty Images

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 Embed from Getty Images

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 Embed from Getty Images

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 Embed from Getty Images

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.

Pro14

Connacht Rugby announce signings of Ben O’Donnell and Abraham Papali’i

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Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce the signings of Australian 7s player Ben O’Donnell and Bay of Plenty Number 8 Abraham Papali’i.
 
The pair will link up with the squad before the start of the 2020/21 Guinness PRO14 season.
 
Ben O’Donnell joins from the Australian Sevens programme, having played 95 matches for his country since he was handed his debut in 2017 under Andy Friend. The 24-year old went on to score 47 tries in that time and has been a key figure in their progression through the World Rugby Seven Series over the past three seasons.
 
O’Donnell was voted Australian Sevens Player of the year in 2018 and subsequently went on to be the first Australian player ever nominated for the World Sevens Player of the Year.
 
New Zealander Abraham Papali’i arrives from Bay of Plenty where he was a key member of the squad that won the Mitre 10 Cup Championship last year. The Auckland-born duel code player started his Rugby Union career with North Harbour before being recruited into the New Zealand Warriors (Rugby League) pathway. In 2015 Papali’i signed a two year contract with the Sydney Roosters of the Australian National Rugby League (NRL).
 
Following his time with the Roosters, Papali’i joined Lézignan Sangliers in the premier French Rugby League competition before the 6’4” number 8 returned to New Zealand and successfully restarted his Rugby Union career with Bay of Plenty.
 
Head Coach Andy Friend says today’s announcement is a significant boost ahead of the return to rugby.
 
“I am delighted to welcome Ben and Abraham to Connacht Rugby.
 
I got to know Ben very well on the Australian Sevens scene. It did not surprise me that he went on to become such an important player for them and I am thrilled that he has chosen to join Connacht.
 
Abraham is a powerful number 8 who has all the attributes to become a really valuable player for us while furthering our options in the back row. I know every Connacht supporter will be excited to see what he can offer.”

 
Friend expressed his excitement about the announcement and what the squad can achieve in the upcoming season.
 
“Today’s announcement comes on the back of discussions that started a number of months ago and we are delighted to eventually be able to share this exciting news with all of our supporters today.
 
These signings bring our squad up to 43 players for next season. We have freshened up and added depth to our squad in a number of key areas, having signed a healthy blend of young exciting players who have come through our Academy system as well as bringing in some additional quality and experience from further afield.
 
We are an ambitious group and I firmly believe we have all the tools we need to kick on to the next level and achieve success in what is going to be a really exciting season.”

Press Release from Connacht Rugby

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Pro14

Connacht raid Provincial rivals. 4 new signings confirmed.

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Connacht Rugby have today confirmed the signings of Munster duo Sammy Arnold and Conor Oliver, and Leinster pair Jack Aungier and Oisin Dowling.

The quartet will become Connacht Rugby players from July 1st with Arnold, Dowling and Aungier penning two-year deals.

Irish international Sammy Arnold has made 44 appearances for Munster since joining the province from Ulster in 2016, scoring 8 tries in the process. The 24-year-old centre has been named both Ulster Academy Player of the Year and Munster Young Player of the Year, and made his International debut against USA in the 2018 Autumn Internationals.

Back row Conor Oliver has featured 28 times for Munster since making his debut in February 2016 and was named Munster Academy Player of the Year the following season. The 24-year-old can play on either flanks or as a number 8, expanding the coaching team’s options heading into the new season.

Oliver and Arnold both featured for Ireland in the 2015 World Rugby U20 Championship, who were then coached by current Connacht Attack Coach Nigel Carolan.

Jack Aungier made his Leinster senior debut last November and has gone on to make 5 appearances for the side in the current Guinness PRO14 season. The prop has also impressed at underage level, featuring for the Ireland U20s and U18 Clubs squad.

Oisin Dowling arrives from the Leinster Rugby Academy having played 6 times for the senior squad in the past two seasons. The 6’5’’ lock has also been capped at Irish U20 level.

Commenting on today’s announcement, Head Coach Andy Friend says all four players can make significant contributions to the squad ahead of the new season.

In Sammy, Conor, Oisin and Jack we have secured the signings of four very talented and promising young Irish rugby players. They each have unique skillsets which will enhance our squad for next season and beyond, and will allow us to continue to grow as a program. We’re all looking forward to welcoming them to The Sportsground and integrating them into our playing squad.

Press Release from Irish Rugby

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Pro14

Glasgow Warriors & Scottish Star to retire

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(Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Glasgow Warriors centurion Ruaridh Jackson has announced that he will retire from rugby union at the end of the 2019/20 season.

The 32-year-old has made 163 appearances over two spells with the club, having made his Glasgow Warriors debut against GRAN Parma back in 2006.

He returned to the club in the summer of 2017 following stints at English Premiership sides Wasps and Harlequins, becoming a key component of Dave Rennie’s squad during his first season at the helm.

Equally comfortable at fly-half and full-back, Jackson’s experience and versatility made an instant impression upon his return as his form saw him voted as the club’s Players Player of the Season at the end of his first season back with the Warriors.

His tally of 499 points makes him one of the sharpest shooters in club history, with the former Robert Gordon’s College pupil sitting fifth in the club’s all-time points charts.

A confident operator both with the boot and with ball in hand, Jackson enjoyed a dream international debut back in 2010; the replacement fly-half held his nerve to kick a last-gasp penalty against Samoa in his hometown of Aberdeen, handing Scotland a narrow victory over the Pacific Islanders.

32 further caps for his country followed, a tally that included an appearance at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

Jackson also had the distinction of representing Scotland at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, helping Scotland 7s to a sixth-place finish on Australia’s Gold Coast.

The centurion has made 12 appearances to date for the Warriors this season, scoring a brace of tries Leinster at Scotstoun back in November.

“It has been one hell of a ride,” Jackson told glasgowwarriors.org.

“From school and mini rugby coaches, Sean Lineen giving me the opportunity to sign my first pro contract, all the other coaches, medical teams, back room staff that I have worked with throughout the years, I want to say thank you – you have all played a huge part in my career.

“I’ve been so fortunate to live out my childhood dream of playing rugby, not just professionally but for my country. It’s been a journey that has allowed me to travel the world, make some incredible friends and without doubt has given me some of the happiest days of my life.

“It is not the fairytale ending I may have dreamt about, but I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been part of my 14-year journey as it has truly been an incredible one. I have achieved more than I could ever have dreamed of, but it is now time to embrace a new challenge.”

Speaking following the announcement, Glasgow Warriors head coach Dave Rennie said: “Ruaridh is a top man whose contribution to our club has been immense.

“While most of his footy had been played at 10 historically, his impact at fullback for us over the past three seasons was impressive. He led our Creck, a group dedicated to driving our counter-attack, turnover and exit policies, where his composure and innovation created opportunities to attack from deep, whilst his ability to kick well off either foot was a real strength.

“An environmentally and community minded individual, Jacko has been a great role model for our squad regarding planning for life beyond rugby.

“We wish Ruaridh, Kirsten and their expected arrival all the best for the next stage in their lives.”

Glasgow Warriors Managing Director Nathan Bombrys said: “Ruaridh is one of our all-time great Warriors and has had an outstanding career with the club.

“In his two stints over his nine years with the Warriors he has played in some of our biggest games, finals and Semi-Finals at both fly-half and at full-back, and hangs up his boots with his name fifth in our all-time points scoring chart.

“He has always been an exciting player who gives everything he has to the club, and it was so impressive when he returned to the club in 2017 and had an outstanding season that saw him recognised as Player’s Player of the 2017/18 Season.

“Ruaridh has been such a tremendous servant to our club, on and off the field, and we hope he will stay connected to the club in the years to come.We wish Ruaridh and his wife Kirsten all the best for the next chapter in their lives.”

Press Release from Glasgow Warriors

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