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Pro14

Ulster count cost of bonus point win over Southern Kings

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

There were mixed emotions for Head Coach Dan McFarland as Ulster secured five points against the Southern Kings on Saturday night at the Kingspan Stadium.

The win puts Ulster into second place behind Leinster in Conference B, however the loss of Louis Ludik, Marty Moore and Darren Cave adds to the growing list of injury woes ahead of Saturday’s huge European Champions Cup quarter-final clash with Leinster.

Saturday’s fresh injuries leave Ulster depleted in midfield, with Luke Marshall still not fully fit following an ACL injury and James Hume ruled out after breaking his ankle in training last week.

“I have got to wait and see but you saw the same as me and it did not look good,” said McFarland of fullback Louis Ludik’s injury after he was helped off the pitch by the medical team just nine minutes into the game.

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“It’s still too early to tell but we will have to assess the injuries and see how Louis is and how Darren is. Obviously James (Hume) is out. We’ll have a look at Lukey and see how he’s going on.”

McFarland joked he may have to call upon former Ireland centre and Ulster’s defence coach, Jared Payne, to fill the gap in midfield.

“Jared Payne’s wondering whether he should play, but we’re saying definitely not – you’ve had your chance,” laughed McFarland.

On a more positive note, McFarland praised Ulster number eight, Marcell Coetzee on his return to action from a hamstring injury sustained in the last European outing against the Leicester Tigers.

“It was good to have him back and he went well tonight. Marcell’s been a strong performer for us this year and it was disappointing for him and us that he hasn’t been able to play this last while but it was great to see him back out there and at his bullish self.”

Despite some superb individual performances, McFarland reflected on his sides rustiness and tendency to turn the ball over or cough it up at crucial moments. Indeed, although the win was somewhat spluttering, Ulster ran in 5 tries tuart McCloskey, Rob Lyttle, Robert Baloucoune, Marcell Coetzee and John Andrew.

The front row did well – Herring was dynamic in his ball carrying and was solid at the set-piece. Andy Warwick put in a serious shift, tackling well can carrying over the hard yards. It was reassuring too, to see Herbst come on at loose-head and create issues for the King’s scrum.

Rob Lyttle looked dangerous in attack, squeezing his way through the King’s defence on a number of occasions – enough to earn him the man of the match award. Michael Lowry and Bobby Baloucoune are improving with every game they play and hardly put a foot wrong. Stuart McCloskey will have divided opinion – his size and power were a definite asset to Ulster however, his once frustrating habit of forcing offloads has now seemingly turned into an inability to pass. He took his try remarkably well however, and remains an important focal point of Ulster’s attack, often drawing in several defenders.

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Saturday’s win completes an impressive run in the PRO14 for Ulster, taking 21 points from a possible 25. Ulster now have three games remaining in the PRO14 with away games against Glasgow and Edinburgh, and a home fixture with Leinster.

“In the forefront of our minds is that we have to go to Glasgow and Edinburgh with their Scottish internationals back and we have the best team in Europe in the last game of the season, so we’re under no illusions to the size of the task ahead of us,” said McFarland.

“But we’ve put ourselves into the position that we said we wanted to be in.”

Of course, Ulster’s focus will now change swiftly to Saturday’s Champion’s Cup quarter-final clash with Leinster at the Aviva stadium against defending champions Leinster. Although it is hoped Ulster’s fourth consecutive PRO14 win will give Ulster significant momentum ahead of this weekend, McFarland notes that, while Leinster rested a number of key players in their game against Edinburgh this weekend, that was a luxury Ulster could not afford.

“I think it is a question of the context,” he said. “Leinster are top, so in the context of the conference itself it does not matter even if it obviously matters to them that they lost in Edinburgh and they’ll be disappointed in that. They were able to rest a lot of their players.”

“We are in a different position, we are in a ridiculously difficult conference where there is a fight going on and we needed to make sure that we got the maximum points. We do not have as big a squad, guys step up and they play.”

Despite some excellent performances this season, particularly in the Champions Cup competition, McFarland is confident Ulster have a lot more to offer. Indeed, Ulster will now focus their preparation on producing a memorable performance on Saturday against Leinster, who are considered by many to be strong favourites.

“We have put in some good performances in Europe already, but recently we have not strung together a really good 80 minutes yet. In order to win next week we will. There is literally no doubt about that.”

“We will have to be at our best,” added McFarland.

Indeed, Ulster will require an exceptional performance to challenge this great Leinster side.  It is worth bearing in mind Leinster have injury problems of their own – Robbie Henshaw, Devin Toner and Josh van der Flier are all expected absent and several players will still be reeling from Ireland’s six nations capitulation.

For Ulster, finding a centre partner for Stuart McCloskey will be crucial as will proving the fitness of Marty Moore ahead of Saturday – the pack’s cornerstone. Given the sizeable Leinster contingent in this squad, Ulster’s ‘blue streak’ will have a point to prove in Dublin this Saturday.

In the words of Sportscaster Al Michaels, ‘Do you believe in miracles? YES!’

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS:

Pro14

Joey Carbery set for return this weekend for Munster

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(Photo by Andrew Surma/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The Munster team has been named for Friday night’s Guinness PRO14 clash against Cardiff Blues at the Cardiff Arms Park (8pm).

There are six changes to the starting XV that defeated Edinburgh last time out, while in the replacements there is the welcome return of Joey Carbery who is named in his first match-day squad since January 2020.

The opening try scorer in Murrayfield last weekend, Jack O’Donoghue captains the side for Friday night’s encounter as he and Chris Cloete are joined by Jack O’Sullivan in the back row.

Fineen Wycherley scrums down next to Jean Kleyn in the engine room with Kevin O’Byrne stepping into the front row in between James Cronin and John Ryan.

Shane Daly returns from Ireland camp to retain his position on the left wing with Calvin Nash named on the opposite flank as Mike Haley completes the back three at full-back.

The centre partnership sees Rory Scannell lining up next to Damian de Allende and Nick McCarthy joins JJ Hanrahan in the half-back pairing.

If sprung from the bench Billy Holland will move ahead of Ronan O’Gara for all-time Munster appearances and become the second most capped player for the province for his 241st appearance in red.

Paddy Patterson is in line to make his Munster debut as he provides the scrum-half cover.

Find out you need to know ahead of the game here.

Munster: Mike Haley; Calvin Nash, Rory Scannell, Damian de Allende, Shane Daly; JJ Hanrahan, Nick McCarthy; James Cronin, Kevin O’Byrne, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Fineen Wycherley; Jack O’Donoghue (C), Chris Cloete, Jack O’Sullivan.

Replacements: Niall Scannell, Liam O’Connor, Roman Salanoa, Billy Holland, Gavin Coombes, Paddy Patterson, Joey Carbery, Darren Sweetnam.

Player News: Academy lock Thomas Ahern was unavailable for selection after picking up a knock in training this week.

Video | Press Pass

Hear from Defence Coach JP Ferreira and Liam O’Connor ahead of the game.

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6 Nations

Huge boost for Ulster & Ireland as Henderson signs new deal

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Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ulster captain, Iain Henderson, who has represented the province on 116 occasions, has secured his future with the club for the next two years.

Craigavon-born Henderson, who took up the role of Ulster captain in 2019, has progressed through the Ulster development system. Starting with mini rugby at Academy RFC, his early playing career saw him reach the final of the Danske Bank Schools Cup in 2010 with Belfast Royal Academy, represent Queen’s University Belfast as well as Ireland at Age-Grade level, before quickly rising through the ranks of senior professional rugby in the province.

Iain, who captained Ireland for the first time against France in this year’s Guinness Six Nations, made his international debut against South Africa in November 2012 and has won 60 caps to date for his country. 

A Lions tourist in 2017, Iain succeeded Rory Best as Ulster captain in 2019.  

David Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director, commented,

“Over the past few seasons Iain has really developed into a leader within both the Ireland and Ulster squads. He is part of the national leadership group, captaining Ireland recently for the first time and we are delighted to have ensured that he continues his career in Ireland.”

Iain Henderson, commented,

“It has been a great honour to captain both Ulster and Ireland in recent times. Irish rugby is in a good place despite the disruption the sport has experienced during the pandemic. As professionals, we have been in a privileged position to be able to continue playing and I know we all hope to see supporters back in the Aviva and Kingspan in the near future.”

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Pro14

Ulster issue positive update on Coetzee injury

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Many Ulster fans feared they may have seen the last appearance of Springbok Marcell Coetzee in an Ulster shirt after he was helped from the field on Friday night but a medical update has been issued which appears to be more positive than what was initially feared.

Update below:

The Ulster Rugby Medical Performance Team has issued a squad update ahead of Friday’s Guinness PRO14 Round 13 fixture against Ospreys at Kingspan Stadium.

Marcell Coetzee suffered a thigh muscle contusion in Ulster Rugby’s Guinness PRO14 Round 12 match against Glasgow Warriors. His availability for selection for the upcoming game against Ospreys will be assessed through the coming week.

There are no other new injury concerns arising from Friday night’s game at Scotstoun Stadium.

Squad updates in association with The Ulster Independent Clinic.

Update ends.

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