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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.

** EXCLUSIVE DAVID LLOYD OFFER FOR ULSTER RUGBY FANS **

Premiership

Ulster to play Saracens in Pre-Season doubleheader.

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Photo By John Dickson/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ulster Rugby will get the 2021/22 season underway with home and away pre-season friendlies against Saracens in September. 

The Ulster men will face the five-time Premiership and three-times Champions Cup winners at Kingspan Stadium on Friday 3 September (kick-off 7pm).

The squad will then make the journey to central London for the away clash on Thursday 9 September (kick-off 5pm) at the Honorary Artillery Company. 

This will be the first time the two sides have faced each other since the pool stages of the 2015/2016 Heineken Champions Cup.

Both matches against Sarries, who return to the Gallagher Premiership this season, will act as preparation for Ulster ahead of the newly launched United Rugby Championship, and the challenges they will face in this year’s Heineken Champions Cup.

Admission to the home pre-season friendly on 3 September is included in 2021/22 Season Tickets, as well as access to all home regular season fixtures in the United Rugby Championship and Heineken Champions Cup.

Existing Season Ticket holders have until 5pm this Friday (30 July) to renew their packages, and can do so online at ulsterrugby.com/seasontickets.

New purchasers can ensure they are notified first about new Season Tickets as they become available by registering their interest here.

The availability of match tickets sold individually will be dependent upon available capacity, in-line with government regulations. Further details will be released in due course.

Source – Ulster Rugby

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Pro14

Sharks sign former Wallaby & Munster 2nd Row.

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The Cell C Sharks are delighted to welcome three new players to the Shark tank as we continue to build our squad ahead of the United Rugby Championship (URC), commencing in September.

Due to the longevity of the URC Tournament, in is important to bolster squad depth and have the talent to be a success in this grueling northern hemisphere competition, while balancing player welfare.

To this end, the Cell C Sharks will be welcoming both local and international flavour to Durban and are proud to announce the signings of centre Ben Tapuai, utility back Eduan Keyter and lock Gerbrandt Grobler.

Tapuai is a former Reds Super Rugby star who spent six years in Brisbane where he accumulated 64 appearances, before adding a further 12 with the Western Force. During that time, he made seven test appearances for the Wallabies between 2011 and 2012.

He has spent the last five years playing in the UK and will bring huge amounts of intellectual capital given his experiences of northern hemisphere rugby for Bath and Harlequins where he is approaching a combined 100 appearances for the English teams.

So highly rated was he as a youngster that he he was selected for the 2007 Australian Schoolboys team ahead of James O’Connor. No stranger to success, he played in the 2011 Super Rugby final won by the Reds and more recently in Harlequins’ Premiership final victory last month.

25-year-old Eduan Keyter recently impressed against the Cell C Sharks in the opening round of their Carling Currie Cup clash and is currently the top try-scorer in the competition with six touchdowns.

He made his senior debut against the Cell C Sharks two years ago in Griquas’ 37-13 victory over the Cell C Sharks and in the most recent match, won by the Cell C Sharks (30-16) in Kimberley, Keyter scored one of his team’s two tries.

The third signing, Gerbrandt Grobler, currently hails from Stade Francais. He is a local talent who started his junior career with the Bulls but moved to Western Province as a senior, representing the province at Currie Cup level and the Stormers in Super Rugby between 2012 and 2014 before making the move north.

He has played high profile rugby in both the UK and France, moving from Cape Town in South Africa to Racing 92 for two years before moving to Ireland where he turned out for Munster, then to England where he enjoyed two seasons with Gloucester, playing under former Sharks lock and Lions coach Johan Ackermann before returning to the Top 14 with Stade Francais last year.

We welcome the three new signings to a Cell C Sharks side committed to playing an awesome exciting and winning brand of rugby, with the aim of becoming an internationally acclaimed team that tastes success and wins silverware on a regular basis.

Source Cell C Sharks

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Pro14

Edinburgh Rugby appoint new Head Coach

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(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Edinburgh Rugby have appointed Scotland Assistant Coach Mike Blair as the club’s new Head Coach.

The former Edinburgh and Scotland captain made over 150 appearances for the club (2001-2012) and returns from a five-year term with the national team, where he was recruited by Head Coach Gregor Townsend to occupy a dual role with Glasgow Warriors in 2017.

He joined Glasgow as Assistant Coach in 2016 and operated in that capacity for club and country until 2019 – helping the club reach the PRO14 semi-final and Grand Final (2018 and 2019) and two Champions Cup quarter-finals (2017 and 2019) – before focussing fully on national team matters for the past two years.

Blair’s contribution was recognised recently with his appointment as Interim Scotland Head Coach, only for the matches to be abandoned as coronavirus affected the camp and that of their opponents.

The recent departure of Richard Cockerill then presented a timely opportunity for Blair to take on the reins of the club he represented over a decade, having been born and bred in the capital city and schooled at Edinburgh Academy.

Mike Blair, said: “The first emotion is one of pride. I’ve lived in Edinburgh most of my life, played 11 seasons at the club and still live in the city, so having that attachment combine with the opportunity to lead the squad is really special for me.

“I’ve learned a lot from working with quality coaches like Dave Rennie, Jason O’Halloran and Gregor Townsend, in particular and over the years, and have been able to develop and adapt a philosophy that I feel should benefit the talent we have at the club.

“It’s a really exciting squad. There’s a good balance of experience and backgrounds and I’m looking forward to getting to know the players and their strengths better so we can mould that into making Edinburgh both good to watch and successful.

“It’s also a really good time to come in with all the excitement around the launch of the new stadium this summer. It’s a massive, watershed moment for the club. We all want to get that packed out with supporters from the outset and build an atmosphere the players deserve and the fans can be proud of.”

Edinburgh Rugby Managing Director, Douglas Struth, added: “We’re delighted to welcome Mike back to the club as our Head Coach, having watched his development into a first-rate coach over the past six years.

“Not only does he bring that expertise, but Mike is also a local man, a club centurion, and somebody who became a home-grown legend in an Edinburgh Rugby jersey.

“That’s really important to us and is a fantastic illustration of our ambition to promote and develop local stars of the future.

“It’s a new era for the club, with a new stadium and new tournament formats, and we believe Mike is the right man to continue the development of our tactical approach and winning mentality on the field, and our culture and connection to the wider rugby community off it.”

Prior to coaching, Blair was a player of worldwide repute.

He earned 85 caps for his country and toured with the British & Irish Lions in 2009 – the same year Edinburgh Rugby finished as runners-up in the then Magners League – and played a major role in the club’s storied run to the Heineken Cup semi-final in 2012.

He also played professional club rugby in England for Newcastle Falcons and in France with Brive, all experiences which contribute significantly to his depth of knowledge and understanding of the sport.

Scottish Rugby Chief Executive, Mark Dodson, said: “We’re really pleased to see Mike take this next step on his coaching journey with Edinburgh Rugby, recognising the excellent contribution he’s made at both Glasgow and Scotland over the past six years.

“He’s an exceptional Scottish coach who is hungry to deliver success for a club he cares a great deal about.

“He’s done a fantastic job of developing players in all of his roles, many of whom have shone on the biggest stage for Scotland and, more recently, the British & Irish Lions.

“We’re looking forward to watching him and the club develop further, together, as the beginning of this new era for Edinburgh Rugby, targeting a regular return to the knockout rounds of domestic and European Cup competitions and competing for silverware in the seasons ahead.

“His existing knowledge of the player group and lasting affinity with the club’s fanbase make this an excellent and exciting appointment.”

Source – Scotland Rugby

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