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Pro14

Ulster Much-Changed for Visit to Leinster

Ulster have rung the changes for their top of the table clash with Leinster tomorrow

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(Photo By John Dickson/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland has made a number changes to his squad for his side’s crunch game with Leinster at the RDS tomorrow at 19 35.

After a brilliant win over Harlequins in the Champions Cup last weekend the northern province have decided to rest a host of big name players for this game. 

Second-row Alan O’Connor will captain the team and make his 100th appearance for them in the process, while Rob Lyttle also returns to the team following some time out. 

Elsewhere, in the front-row Andrew Warwick and Tom O’Toole line-up either side of Adam McBurney, with David O’Connor joining Alan O’Connor in the engine-room. 

Matthew Rea starts as the blindside-flanker, with Nick Timoney at openside, and Greg Jones wraps up the forward pack from No 8. 

David Shanahan and Bill Johnston get a chance to shine in the half-backs, with John Conney and Billy Burns being rested after an incredible few weeks, while Angus Curtis joins Matt Faddes in the midfield, with the latter shifting to outside-centre. 

Angus Kernohan begins on the left-wing, with Craig Gilroy on the right and Lyttle starts at full-back. 

There isn’t too much experience on the bench with the likes of Azur Allison and Ethan McIlroy among the replacements. 

Speaking ahead of the game prop O’Toole is looking forward to the challenge they will face on Friday night. 

“We will have to front up to the challenge against Leinster but this group of players have come a long way and we’re excited to go down to them,” he said. 

Ulster will look to end Leinster’s winning streak so far this season and cut into the lead the hosts currently have at the top of Conference A, but they know that it will be a tough task to beat a Leinster side that are so consistent on home soil. 

Check Out the Full 23-Man Squad Below.

Starting XV:

Rob Lyttle, Craig Gilroy, Matt Faddes, Angus Curtis, Angus Kernohan, Bill Johnston, David Shanahan; Andrew Warwick, Adam McBurney, Tom O’Toole, David O’Connor, Alan O’Connor (C), Matthew Rea, Nick Timoney, Greg Jones

Replacements: 

John Andrew, Kyle McCall, Ross Kane, Jack Regan, Azur Allison, Jonny Stewart, Stewart Moore, Ethan McIlroy

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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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6 Nations

World Rugby applies 50/22 law trial globally, bolster concussion protocol

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World Rugby announced on Wednesday five law trials which will start next month, including a so-called “50/22” kicking adaptation.

The 50/22 change allows a team to gain a throw-in inside the opposition’s 22-metre area by kicking the ball to touch with at least one bounce from their own half.

The rule was used in recent Super Rugby tournaments and its primary intention is to “encourage the defensive team to put more players in the backfield, thereby creating more attacking space and reducing defensive line speed”, according to the sport’s governing body.

The other laws to come into force on a temporary basis from August 1 include a goal-line drop-out if the ball is held up in the in-goal area, if there is a knock-on from an attacking player in the same area or an attacking kick is grounded by the defenders in their own in-goal.

There are also restrictions on attacking players latching onto team-mates from a ruck and clean-outs which target or drop weight onto the lower limbs at the breakdown.

Michael Hooper with a textbook tackle close out a certain try

The final trial allows for a one-player latch before contact, but the individual must “observe all of the requirements for a first arriving player, particularly the need to stay on their feet”.

World Rugby has also moved to strengthen concussion protocols, with independent specialists set to review cases when Test players return to action after a head injury.

They will launch a panel of Independent Concussion Consultants (ICCs) to provide expert opinion on whether players are ready to return to action after head knocks.

The global governing body will fully fund the process for Test-level competitions, with ICCs asked to rule when players look to return to action 10 days or fewer after a concussion or on players deemed higher risk due to previous head-injury history.

Source – Australia Rugby

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Pro14

Sean O’Brien to retire from rugby

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Connacht Rugby regret to announce that flanker Sean O’Brien has been advised to retire from rugby on medical grounds following a concussion injury.

A Galway native, O’Brien came through the Connacht Academy having represented Ireland at U18, U19 and U20 level. He was also named captain of the Ireland U20s for the 2014 Junior World Championships.

He made his pro Connacht debut away to Enisey-STM during the 2015/16 Challenge Cup, and came off the bench in the Guinness PRO12 Grand Final that same year. A first senior contract soon followed and in total he has made 60 appearances for his home province.

Sean O’Brien has released the following statement:

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Connacht Rugby for making a young boy’s dream come true. The memories and friendships made will last a lifetime.

I’d also like to thank all those in Wegians, Roscrea and Calasanctius who played their part in making it possible, and in particular my Dad Iain who coached me throughout my youth.

Not everyone gets a fairytale ending but I will never forget just how lucky I was to be a part of this club.

I am looking forward to cheering in the stands.

Sean”

Source – Connacht Rugby

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