Just two points separate the four teams positioned 2nd-5th in Conference B, with Edinburgh, Benetton, Scarlets and Ulster all chasing a top three finish to secure a place in the end-of-season play-offs.
There are two personnel changes to Ulster backline that played in last Saturday’s 13-14 comeback win against Leicester Tigers in the Heineken Champions Cup, as Abbey insurance Academy players Michael Lowry and James Hume are installed at fullback and outside centre respectively.
Another Academy player, Robert Baloucoune, who scored the match-winning try at Welford Road, is again selected on the right wing.
Dave Shanahan and Billy Burns are retained in the half back positions, with Stuart McCloskey lining out at inside centre and Louis Ludik named on the left wing.
Up front, Alan O’Connor takes over the captaincy from Rory Best and he will partner Kieran Treadwell in the second row.
Andy Warwick and Rob Herring join Marty Moore in the front row, while there are three new faces in the back row as Ian Nagle, Nick Timoney and Greg Jones have earned call ups.
Hooker John Andrew will win his 50th provincial cap if he’s called upon from the bench, with Wiehahn Herbst, Tom O’Toole, Matthew Dalton, Clive Ross, Jonny Stewart, Darren Cave and Rob Lyttle also included in the match day 23.
Ulster team to play Benetton Rugby, Guinness PRO14, Friday 25th January, Kingspan Stadium (7.35pm):
(15-9): M Lowry; R Baloucoune, J Hume, S McCloskey, L Ludik; B Burns, D Shanahan;
(1-8): A Warwick, R Herring, M Moore, A O’Connor (captain), K Treadwell, I Nagle, N Timoney, G Jones;
Replacements (16-23): J Andrew, W Herbst, T O’Toole, M Dalton, C Ross, J Stewart, D Cave, R Lyttle.
*Winner will be chosen at random and must be able to collect tickets – Announced 25/1/2019 – Midday
Another Fijian Heads to Scotland
Glasgow Warriors have confirmed the signing of a Fijian star only two days after Edinburgh captured the signing of Mesulame Kunavula
Glasgow Warriors have announced the signing of Fijian hooker Mesu Dolokota on a two-year deal from Fijian Drua.
The 24-year-old was named in Fiji’s World Cup training squad last month and will join up with the Warriors following the conclusion of the tournament in Japan.
“I’m very happy to be joining Glasgow Warriors and I’m looking forward to playing in two of the best rugby competitions in the world. The opportunity to learn from such an experienced coaching team and play in such a successful team is very exciting for me. The club has a strong Fijian history and I hope I can be a big part of it going forward,” he said.
The hooker has nine international caps for Fiji as well as having experience in Super Rugby with the Brumbies in 2015 and Glasgow assistant coach John Dalziel is delighted to add more experience to the squad.
“Mesu is an exciting talent who will bring even more international experience to our front row. He isn’t your traditional front-row forward, he likes to bring a bit of Fijian flair to his game, but he can also do the basics very well and we’re excited to work with him when he shows up following international duty,” he said.
Dolokoto follows the footsteps of fellow Fijian Mesulame Kunavula, who joined Edinburgh only a couple of days ago and the PRO 14 can look forward to some Fijian flare next season.
Leinster Unveil New European and Alternative Jerseys
Leinster have revealed their European and alternative jerseys for the 2019/20 season
Leinster have unveiled their new Adidas European and alternative jerseys for the 2019/20 season.
Leinster have revealed that the jersey has been inspired by meteorites that were once used to create iron spears and will be worn by the club for the next two seasons.
“The pattern of the Leinster Rugby European jersey takes inspiration from meteorites that fell from the sky and were used by the Laighin people to create their iron spear. These meteorite formations form the graphic design of the jersey paying homage to the tale of the metal of the Gods, providing bold and vibrant energy for Leinster Rugby’s European campaign,” they said on their official website.
The alternative jersey is a shade of purple with black strips horizontally across the shirt.
They have said that this jersey is inspired by the purple skyline that is seen across the east coach of Ireland.
“The Alternate jersey embodies the electric energy of Ireland’s east coast at night. The iconic purple skyline forms the colour inspiration for this season’s kit. Incorporating a twist on the traditional hoop design, the kit harnesses the vibrant energy of the province, whilst maintaining a classic look and feel,” they added.
As well as the two new jerseys Leinster will continue to wear their Adidas home jersey from the 2018/19 season for the season ahead.
Cardiff Blues Cut Ties with Key Coach
Cardiff Blues are on the look out for a new attack coach according to reports
Cardiff Blues have let go of attack coach Jason Strange just a year after signing him up according to WalesOnline.
Head coach John Mulvihill appointed the U20’s Grand Slam winning coach in what was his first move last year as he took over, however, he is said to be unimpressed by the team’s attacking showings last season and is in the market for a new coach.
The Cardiff Blues finished fifth in their PRO 14 conference, scoring 60 tries and missed out on qualification to the Champions Cup as a result, failing to live up to expectations having claimed Challenge Cup glory the previous season.
Former Welsh scrum-half Richie Rees, who has spent time working with the club’s academy is looking like the most likely replacement at this stage.
However, it is possible that Mulvihill will seek to bring in a more experience figure ahead of the new season.
Strange is considered to be a talented coaching prospect having worked with the Wales U20’s and bringing through 10 first team players from Cardiff’s academy into the first team and should have no problem finding a new project to work on.
Newcastle Sign Tongan Winger
All Black Star to Turn Out for Grassroots Side
Another Fijian Heads to Scotland
“Awful, actually terrible” – Fitzgerald blasts one Ireland star.
The Low-down on Ulster’s New Signings
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