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Pro14

Ulster Rugby makes a return to BBC Coverage

‘Great news for Ulster Fans’

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BBC Northern Ireland has revealed it will broadcast a new one-hour Pro14 highlights programme on BBC iPlayer and BBC Two NI on Monday evenings.

Rugby fans will be able to watch the highlights from the weekend’s seven games on the programme which will be shown first on BBC iPlayer from 19:00 GMT and then on BBC Two at 23:15 GMT.

The agreement starts with coverage of all round six matches which includes Ulster’s key trip to Munster, Connacht against champions Leinster and Edinburgh against the Dragons.

The programme, which is part of a two-year deal signed by BBC Northern Ireland, BBC Scotland and BBC Wales with Pro14, will see action from the competition back on BBC Northern Ireland television.

The deal will cover the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons and includes the play-offs as well as highlights of the finals.

The final next year takes place in Cardiff on 20 June.

‘Great news for rugby fans’
BBC Northern Ireland’s Executive Editor for Sport, Neil Brittain said:

“This is great news for rugby fans. The Pro14 is a fantastic tournament. We have a long history of broadcasting the competition, so I’m delighted that it’s back on BBC Northern Ireland television.

“The new programme will of course include Ulster games but there will be highlights of all the matches from each round so viewers will get to see some of the world’s best players and best teams every week in the competition.

And it really reinforces our commitment to our audiences to bring them the best sporting action – complementing our coverage of football, GAA and bikes.”

Dermot Rigley, Commercial Director of Pro14 Rugby said: “BBC’s return to the Guinness Pro14 is terrific news for our fans and adds yet another committed broadcast partner to our Championship.

“As a tournament we have set a new standard by ensuring every single game is available live to our viewers in the UK and now with our highlights available to free-to-air audiences via the BBC, rugby fans will have unprecedented access to the matches.

“The BBC was on hand at our very first Celtic League final in 2001 and played a part in our journey over the subsequent years, so it is fantastic that they return at a time when the Championship has never been so strong.”

As well as the highlights package, BBC Radio Ulster will continue with its coverage and live commentary of all Ulster matches.

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Pro14

Scotland Ace Signs Contract Extension

One of Scotland’s key men has decided to put pen to paper on a new deal with his current club

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Scotland lock Ben Toolis has signed a new contract with current club Edinburgh ahead of the Six Nations with the national side.

The 27-year-old is included in Scotland’s Six Nations squad and has 22-caps to his name at the moment. Meanwhile at club-level Toolis has made over 100 appearances for Edinburgh since his debut in 2013. 

Speaking on the new deal Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill admitted he is delighted to have the Brisbane-born lock on board for the foreseeable future. 

“Ben is one of the most athletic locks in the league, while his ability and leadership at the lineout is key to the way we play. We are delighted to see him re-sign, and I’ve got no doubt that he will continue to be a big player for this club in the years to come,” he said to the club’s website. 

The length of the deal have not been announced, but it is a boost for both club and country as his stock continues to rise. 

Toolis will be hoping that he can continue his partnership with Grant Gilchrist in the upcoming Six Nations with the squad currently preparing to face Ireland in their opening game on February 1st.

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Pro14

Former Welsh Ace to Hang Up Boots

One of Wales’ former stars has confirmed that he will retire from rugby come the end of the current season

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Former Wales back James Hook has announced that he will be calling time on his professional rugby career come the end of the current season.

Hook is contracted to the Ospreys, but with his deal set to end at the end of the campaign he has decided the time has come to pull the curtain on a professional career spanning 16 years. 

“It’s sad but something I’m really looking forward to. It comes to everyone at some point and now it’s time for me. I’ve had lots of highlights, winning Grand Slam titles and Six Nations and going on the Lions tour in 2009. Then signing my first professional contract was a big moment for me. Growing up I always aspired to be a professional rugby player. You never think it’ll actually happen so when it did it really was amazing,” he said in a post on social media. 

The 34-year old picked up a total of 81-caps for Wales to go along with his 148 appearances for the Ospreys. 

As well as his time with the Welsh region Hook had spells at both Top 14 side Perpignan and English Premiership outfit Gloucester between his stints at the Ospreys. 

Hook has admitted he hopes to continue his rugby journey off the pitch, but that he is also looking forward to having more time to spend with his family after such a long time on the playing field. 

“I want to stay involved in the game, particularly working on the skills, like I do now with the young kickers and the age-grade sides, and I’m hoping to finish my level three coaching qualification. It’ll be nice to spend time with my family, my three young boys and my wife. It’s going to be sad not playing at the end of the season, but you’ve got to be positive and look on the bright side and I’m looking forward to what’s next,” he added. 

As well as his rugby career Hook has also written a series of children’s books that are set to be released later this year and that could provide him with something else to venture into if they are successful. 

However, for now he will be hoping that he can help the Ospreys turn around their disastrous season to date before he hangs his boots up for good. 

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Champions Cup

Connacht Set to Lose Big Star

Connacht look set to without one of their key men next season according to reports as he appears set for a move

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Connacht look as though they will have to deal without flanker Colby Fainga’a next season as he appears to be set for a move to French side Lyon according to Irish outlet the42.

They are reporting that the former Rebels man is the Top 14 side’s preferred replacement for the departing Liam Gill, who will leave at the end of this season. 

Connacht were keen to keep their players’ player of the year from last season and had entered contract talks to extend his deal past the original two years, but with talks stalling Lyon have come in with a reported offer of 300,000 euro a season which would be hard to refuse. 

The 28-year-old would be a huge loss to the western province having been such a massive influence since his arrival in 2018. 

However, more positive news for fans is that the back-rower is set to return from a knee injury this weekend against Toulouse, to help Connacht during a period where injuries have severely hampered them. 

It is understood that Connacht would like to replace Fainga’a with another overseas star, but for now they will hope to get the most out of the Aussie between now and the end of the season.

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