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Pro14

Ulster count cost of bonus point win over Southern Kings

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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

Ludik Returns for Ulster’s Ospreys Trip

Ulster have named their squad to play Ospreys in the PRO14 tomorrow and star back Louis Ludik makes a return to action

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Ulster head coach Dan McFarland has announced his 23-man squad for tomorrow’s PRO14 clash with the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium at 17 15.

Star back-liner Louis Ludik makes a welcome return from injury to slot straight back into the starting line-up along with the likes of Robert Baloucoune, Stuart McCloskey and Billy Burns coming back in after being released from the Ireland squad by head coach Andy Farrell. 

In the front-row Eric O’Sullivan starts alongside Adam McBurney and Marty Moore, with Alan O’Connor captaining the side in Iain Henderson’s absence from the second-row beside Kieran Treadwell. 

In the back-row Matthew Rea is at blindside-flanker, with Sean Reidy at openside and Marcell Coetzee completes the forward pack from No 8. 

David Shanahan comes in at scrum-half, with Burns linking-up with him in the half-backs, and they have McCloskey and Luke Marshall outside them in the midfield duo. 

Ludik opens the game on the left-wing, with Baloucoune on the right and Matt Faddes finishes the starting XV from full-back. 

There is a huge amount of experience on the bench to call upon if needed with the likes of Jack McGrath, Jordi Murphy, Bill Johnston and Craig Gilroy among the replacements. 

Ulster will be hoping to continue their fine start to the season and maintain their push for a top two finish in Conference A, while the Ospreys will be desperate for a positive result in what has been a terrible season to date as they sit bottom of the conference after 10 games. 

Check Out the Full 23-Man Squad Below. 

Starting XV: 

Matt Faddes, Robert Baloucoune, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Louis Ludik, Billy Burns, David Shanahan; Eric O’Sullivan, Adam McBurney, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor (C), Kieran Treadwell, Matthew Rea, Sean Reidy, Marcell Coetzee

Replacements: 

John Andrew, Jack McGrath, Tom O’Toole, David O’Connor, Jordi Murphy, Jonny Stewart, Bill Johnston, Craig Gilroy

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Pro14

Leinster Go Strong for Cheetahs Clash

Leinster have named a strong squad to face the Cheetahs tomorrow despite many players being on Irish duty

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Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has announced a strong squad to take on the Cheetahs in the PRO14 at the RDS tomorrow at 14 30.

Despite many of his players being away on Irish duty Cullen has been able to name a vastly experienced side with some youth mixed in. 

Among those included are players released by Ireland head coach Andy Farrell for this weekend with Ronan Kelleher, Will Connors, Max Deegan, Luke McGrath and Dave Kearney all being handed starting positions. 

Either side of Kelleher in the front-row are Peter Dooley and Michael Bent, with Ross Molony partnering captain Scott Fardy in the second-row. 

Rhys Ruddock will hope to keep himself in the frame of an Irish call-up with a good performance at blindside-flanker, with Connors at openside and Deegan completes the starting pack from No 8. 

McGrath comes in at scrum-half and links up with Ciaran Frawley in the half-backs, with Joe Tomane and Jimmy O’Brien outside them in the midfield. 

Dave Kearney takes up a spot on the left-wing, with Fergus McFadden on the right and Rob Kearney seals an experienced back three from full-back where he will hope to impress in the absence of Jordan Larmour. 

On the bench there is a mix of youth and experience too with the likes of Scott Penny and Harry Byrne joining Sean Cronin and Jamison Gibson-Park on the bench. 

Speaking ahead of the game lock Molony believes that even without the international stars the team can get a positive result. 

“The group is in a really good place, everyone can step up,” he said. 

Leinster will be hoping to continue their perfect start to the season with a 17th win in a row, but they know that it won’t be easy with the Cheetahs looking to remain in the play-off places in what has been a good opening to the season for them to date. 

Check Out the Full 23-Man Squad Below. 

Starting XV: 

15. Rob Kearney (217)

14. Fergus McFadden (182)

13. Jimmy O’Brien (14)

12. Joe Tomane (19)

11. Dave Kearney (146)

10. Ciarán Frawley (22)

9. Luke McGrath (121)

1. Peter Dooley (73)

2. Rónan Kelleher (10)

3. Michael Bent (132)

4. Ross Molony (93)

5. Scott Fardy (55) (c)

6. Rhys Ruddock (169)

7. Will Connors (13)

8. Max Deegan (60)

Replacements: 

16. Seán Cronin (178)

17. Michael Milne (5)

18. Roman Salanoa (2)

19. Ryan Baird (4)

20. Scott Penny (11)

21. Jamison Gibson-Park (85)

22. Harry Byrne (6)

23. Cian Kelleher (12)

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Premiership

Young Eying Up New Job

Wasps director of rugby Dai Young could already have his next job lined up according to reports

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Wasps director of rugby Dai Young could be in line for a return to the Ospreys according to RugbyPass.

Young was relieved of his duties as the Premiership side’s director of rugby earlier in the week with Lee Blackett taking up the role on an interim basis the club confirmed. 

“Director of rugby Dai Young will be stepping back from first-team duties for an interim period. Lee Blackett will step up to interim head coach. Further announcements will be made in due course,” a statement read on Tuesday. 

However, it now appears as though the 51-year-old could make his absence permanent with a shock move to take over as Ospreys head coach. 

The PRO14 outfit have struggled so far this season and have already got rid of one manager in Allen Clarke, who was replaced at the end of 2019, with Mike Ruddock coming in on an interim basis. 

It is unknown how long his contract runs for, but if Young became available and was interested it would seem likely that the former Osprey’s player would be a prime candidate to take control on a full-term basis. 

There are other reports from Wales Online claiming that the Welsh side are checking out Springboks attack coach Swys de Bruin as well. 

Although it would appear as though Young’s experience in bringing clubs to the top would be exactly what Ospreys need and after nine years at the Ricoh Arena hw might like a new challenge.

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