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Ulster announce 4 more contract extensions

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(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

John Andrew, Kieran Treadwell, Andrew Warwick and Nathan Doak all commit to Ulster until at least June 2023.

Ballymena-born, John Andrew, who scored a hat-trick of tries against Edinburgh in November to help cement the bonus-point win over the Scottish side, has put pen-to-paper on a new two year deal.

The hooker, who came through the ranks of the Ulster development system is known for the athleticism and intelligence he brings to the game. Of today’s news, Andrew, said:

“I’m very happy to have signed-on for the next couple of years having really enjoyed this season so far, despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic. I’m excited to have the chance to be playing in front of our fans again at Kingspan Stadium whenever that may be in the future.”

Of the announcement, Ulster Rugby Head Coach, Dan McFarland, said: “John has demonstrated how valuable he is to the Ulster set-up – he has had some outstanding performances this season against the likes of Glasgow, Dragons and Edinburgh. He is a very proud Ulsterman who is dedicated to both his own and the team’s development.”

25-year-old lock, Kieran Treadwell, who will hit his 100 cap milestone on his next appearance for the province, has consistently delivered for Ulster since arriving in 2016. The Ireland-qualified player is known for his exuberant running and ball-carrying, which is a skillset he is set to continue to bring to the squad over the next two years. On choosing to remain at Ulster, Treadwell, said:

“I really appreciate the opportunity to continue playing in the Ulster shirt. The province has welcomed me with open arms, and it is an honour to represent a club with such great values at the heart of it. I look forward to the seasons ahead – and to once again have the opportunity to feel the energy from the 16th Man in Kingspan Stadium as soon as that is possible.”

McFarland added: “Kieran has really bought into the team culture since joining us in 2016. He brings a lot of athleticism, to both his set-piece and loose play, and is still a young player. I’m very pleased Kieran is going to be a part of our growth over the next two years.”

Andrew Warwick, a Ballymena native, will continue to bring his combative nature and technical excellence to the squad in the years ahead. Since he made his senior Ulster debut against Cardiff Blues in 2014, Warwick has racked-up 128 appearances for the province – including most recently when he played an important role in this season’s Guinness PRO14 Inter-provincial fixtures. Of his future with the club, Warwick, said:

“I’m delighted to have extended my contract with Ulster – it’s always a privilege to represent my home province. I look forward to continuing to do my part to help the team be successful, and the coaches have created a great environment to keep improving as a player. It’s a really exciting time to be a part of this team.”

McFarland added: “Andrew is an important member of our squad as he demonstrated most recently against Connacht and Munster during the festive Inter-pros. A quality scrummager and hard worker in the loose, Andrew adds a lot of experience and technical excellence to our team.”

Completing today’s line-up is 19-year-old scrum-half, Nathan Doak, from Lisburn who made his senior debut against Munster in December – 11 years to the day since he ran out as a mascot against the same opposition.

The youngster played an important role in getting Wallace High School into the Danske Bank Schools’ Cup Final in 2020, before the onset of COVID-19 resulted in the cancellation of the match. Doak has also made his presence felt in the recent Ulster ‘A’ games, with an impressive unbeaten run for the province this season, including most recently a home victory over Leinster ‘A’.

Commenting on his deal, which will see Doak spend one year as a Development player before being upgraded to a Senior Professional contract for the following season, he said:

“I am delighted to have signed a new contract with Ulster Rugby to extend my time with the club for a further two years. I am looking forward to working with the Senior team full-time, and to develop further as a player. It is an exciting time for the province as we are building on our ambitions to win silverware, and I hope I can be a part of that moving forward.”

Commenting on the last signing to be announced today, Dan McFarland, concluded: “Although Nathan is not long out of school, he has already played for over a year with Ulster ‘A’ – a team that reached the Celtic Cup final in 2019 – and this has held him in good stead for this season’s ‘A’ Inter-pros. We are looking forward to continuing to support Nathan’s development over the next 2 years.”

Pro14

PREVIEW: Munster V Connacht

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Photo By Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Head coach Andy Friend says that Connacht will need to play a “smart” brand of Rugby in order to earn a victory at Thomond Park in Friday evening’s GuinnessPRO14 Rainbow Cup meeting with Munster

The Westerners were narrowly defeated by the Southern province, 20-17, in the side’s last meeting in March in a keenly contested interprovincial derby.

Despite the loss, Friend says there were plenty positives to take from the performance — which he described as smart — and he says applying those traits to Friday evening’s game will be crucial to any win.

“What we brought in that game at Thomond, more so in the game here(the December meeting of the team’s at the Sportsground), was that we defensively muscled up against them,” the Australian said.

“I thought our line out worked really well against them, in both attack and defence, and I thought we played a smart brand of Rugby, in terms of what we were doing with the ball, whether we were kicking it long or kicking for contestables. They were key areas that I felt worked for us and we have to make sure we replicate that and some on Friday night.”

Friend, meanwhile, paid tribute to Quinn Roux after the Irish international announced he will leave the province at the end of the season after seven years in Connacht green.

While the second row will be missed, the head coach wished him the best of luck for the future and thanked him for his service.

“He’s given an enormous amount to this province,” the former Australian sevens coach said.

“He leaves with our blessing and our respect. We would love to keep him, of course we would, but at the end of the day, people make decisions. It was a lengthy process we went through and a decision was made at the end.

“We have already begun the process of recruiting a new second row and we will obviously make an announcement about that in due course.”

Elsewhere, second row Gavin Thornbury says that Friday’s renewal of rivalries with Munster will provide players the opportunity to put their hands up for international selection with the Irish national team.

Ireland recently announced summer tests against the USA and Japan in Dublin and Thornbury says that competing against other players in the fold for national team squad berths will give him — and every other eligible player — the platform to showcase their abilities and further their international ambitions.

“They are always big,” the 27-year-old said of the interprovincial clash.

“Every time an interpro is played, It’s played fully and 100%, no matter who is playing. It’s another chance to put yourself in the shop window. All I can do is make sure I get myself as mentally and physically in as good a position as possible to put in a performance on Friday. I’m looking forward to that.”

Irish line out coach Paul O’Connell attended Connacht training last week and Thornbury said it was a great opportunity to show a member of the national team coaching staff their qualities close up.

“It was good to get him down and show him what we’re doing here,” he said.

“He would have always been someone I looked up to, so it was nice to meet him and introduce myself and just have a conversation with him. We had a good conversation and I was pretty happy with that. Hopefully, now I just back it up with performances and that’s probably the biggest thing.”

Thornbury, who joined the Westerners in 2017 from Leinster, was superb in the last game between the teams, a 20-17 home win for Munster in March, and he said he is keen to make a similar impression on Friday and help the team go one better and claim a win.

“Yeah, it was good,” the Dublin native said when asked how he would assess his performance in his last trip to Thomond Park.

“I think a lot of things probably came off for me that mightn’t have come off on another night. Obviously, I was fully gutted with the result. I thought we put ourselves in a position where we could have won the game and unfortunately it didn’t come through.

“Personally, some stuff came off that I was really happy with but there’s a lot to keep working on.”

Source – Connacht Rugby By John O’Sullivan 

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Pro14

Greencore Munster Rugby Academy Update | May 2021

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(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

It has been a busy past month for the Greencore Munster Rugby Academy.

Ian Costello was appointed to the role of Academy Manager in April and will return to the province in the summer having worked in England for the past five years with Nottingham and then Wasps. See full details here.

We can confirm that former Munster player Andi Kyriacou also rejoins the province as Elite Player Development Officer (Forwards). Andi has previously coached at Cardiff Blues, Sale Sharks, Russia Rugby and Nottingham.

Ben Healy made a further two appearances for the senior side over the past month and has now featured in 16 of Munster’s 22 games so far this season.

There have been 43 senior appearances for Academy players across the Guinness PRO14, Champions Cup and Rainbow Cup in the 2020/21 campaign.

Academy trio Jack Crowley, Alex Kendellen and Conor Phillips have been training with the Ireland 7s team and have been named in their squad for this weekend’s International Rugby 7s tournament. See full details here.

On the injury front, Eoin O’Connor (knee), John Hodnett (achilles), James French (hamstring), Jonathan Wren (hamstring), Cian Hurley (thumb), Scott Buckley (knee) and Thomas Ahern (knee) are continuing to rehab.

We spoke to the Academy’s Lead Physiotherapist, Shane Malone (above), for the latest update.

Current Academy crop…

“We all want to see the lads do well because we see on a daily basis how hard they work. They are exceptionally dedicated and just a really good group of characters.

“It’s great to see the nine guys [who are moving up to the senior squad next year] rewarded for their hard work and getting the opportunity to prove themselves at pro level.”

Jack Crowley, Alex Kendellen and Conor Phillips involved with the Ireland 7s…

“It’s a great opportunity for guys to go up and prove themselves and gain a different skillset. They also have the opportunity to experience a different high performance environment.

“For our point of view, it’s been seamless because we have a very good relationship with the IRFU physios. We speak about the players that are involved on a weekly basis.”

Helping players to recover from long-term injuries…

“If you take John Hodnett’s injury as an example, the surgery on an Achilles rupture happens within a few days. Obviously with a severe injury like that you want to get as good a start as possible to get him back playing rugby as quickly and safely as possible.

“We gave John a bit of time away from the HPC to recuperate afterwards and leave everything settle down but we’re involved from day dot where we ring him at home to make sure he’s doing all the swelling management and all the acute care correctly.

“When he came back in here, it was full throttle from then on.

“It’s another opportunity for guys when they are injured to concentrate on other areas and John is developing his upper and lower body and he’s flying with that.

“He’s a young player so all that rehab and all that strength work is going to stand to him later in his career.”

Working with the sub-Academy players…

“Myself and Lorcan Kavanagh are the Academy physios. Lorcan also works with the sub-Academy/National Talent Squad group so we look after them if they pick up injuries.

“Academy staff look after how the sub-Academy players are developing from an athletic development point of view and also an injury prevention point of view as well.

“By the time lads get into the Academy, we usually have a very good idea of where they’re at and what they need to work on. It’s a real advantage for us to have that information as opposed to starting from scratch when they join the Academy, it’s really important.”

Greencore Munster Rugby Academy

Fifteen players commenced the 2020/21 season with two additional players, Cian Hurley and Conor Phillips, joining in January 2021. See the full Academy squad here.

Nine players from the current group will advance to senior contracts ahead of the 2021/22 season – Thomas Ahern, Jack Crowley, Jack Daly, Jake Flannery, James French, Seán French, Ben Healy, John Hodnett and Josh Wycherley.

Eoghan Clarke has completed his time with the academy and linked up with Championship side Jersey Reds at the end of March.

Seven academy players made their Guinness PRO14 debuts this season – Thomas Ahern, Jack Crowley, Jack Daly, Seán French, Cian Hurley, Alex Kendellen and Josh Wycherley. Young prop Wycherley also made his Champions Cup debut this season.

Out-half Ben Healy leads the way with senior appearances on the Academy front this season having featured in 16 of Munster’s 22 games, scoring 77 points.

66% – The future continues to be bright with an expected highest representation of academy graduates in over eight years in the squad next season.

Images & Content from Munster Rugby

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Pro14

O’Brien and Doris back training ahead of Ulster test

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Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Leinster Rugby head coach Leo Cullen has issued an injury update ahead of Friday’s Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup game against Ulster Rugby at the RDS Arena (KO 8.15pm – live on eir Sport and RTÉ Radio).

Both Jimmy O’Brien (hamstring) and Caelan Doris (calf) hope to resume full training this week after recovering from their respective injuries and, provided all goes well, both hope to be available for selection for Friday’s game.

Jamison Gibson-Park will continue to be managed this week with his hamstring injury while Jack Conan, who went off for a Head Injury Assessment against Connacht Rugby, will follow the Graduated Return to Play Protocols this week.

Unfortunately, Ciarán Frawley injured his shoulder and his hamstring against Connacht Rugby and will be unavailable for selection this week with further assessment required on his injuries.

There was no new update on a number of players: Rhys Ruddock (calf), Harry Byrne (hamstring), Johnny Sexton (concussion), Will Connors (knee), Jack Dunne (ankle), Adam Byrne (quad), Dan Leavy (knee), Conor O’Brien (knee) and Max Deegan (knee)

Images & Content from Leinster Rugby

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