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Champions Cup

Best and Cave in Ulster Squad for Quarter-Final Clash

Rory Best and Darren Cave will play their last home game for Ulster tomorrow in the Pro 14 quarter-finals

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(Photo By Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Rory Best will captain Ulster for the final time at home when his side face Connacht in the Pro 14 quarter-finals at the Kingspan Stadium on Saturday at 17 35. 

Best leads the team out but it will also be Darren Cave’s final home appearance too if he is used from the bench.

In what will be an emotional day in Belfast, Eric O’Sullivan and Ross Kane partner Best in the front-row with Iain Henderson and Kieran Treadwell packing down in the engine room.

Nick Timoney, Jordi Murphy and Marcell Coetzee are selected at six, seven and eight respectively to finish off the pack.

John Cooney and Billy Burns line-out in the half-backs after being rested last weekend against Leinster. Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall are just outside them in the centre.

Rob Lyttle and Robert Baloucoune start on either side of Michael Lowry in the back-three.

There is plenty of experience on the bench with the likes of Rob Herring, Andy Warwick, Sean Reidy and Darren Cave to call upon.

Speaking ahead of the game Best has admitted he couldn’t imagine a better way to sign off in front of the home crowd.

“If I could pick a way to go out, it would be knockout rugby at the stadium that I have played at for such a long time. I supported the team, I played for the team and I hope it will be a great atmosphere. It will be nice to get out there and thank the fans more than anything and all the people who have supported me for 15 years now,” he said.

Connacht are the team looking to rain on the Ulster parade and defeated Ulster on their home soil for the first time in 58 years earlier in the season.

Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham open the game as the front-three, with Ultan Dillane and Gavin Thornbury starting as the locks.

Eoin McKeon is the blindside flanker, with Colby Fainga’a on openside and captain Jarrad Butler at No 8.

Kieran Marmion has been chosen ahead of Caolin Blade at scrum-half, and Jack Carty at fly-half.

Bundee Aki and Tom Farrell are at 12 and 13 respectively, as Matt Healy, Stephen Fitzgerald and Tiernan O’Halloran make up the starting XV.

There is power on the bench too, especially in the backs as Caolin Blade, Tom Daly and Darragh Leader are all available to the men from the West.

Connacht head coach Andy Friend is delighted that his side have reached their goal of clinching a knock-out spot but believes there is more to come from his men.

“This is a massive game for us. Knock-out rugby with the added incentive of an interpro. We said all season that we wanted to be playing at the business end of the season but now we want to go and win and get to a semi-final. I genuinely feel that we haven’t played our best rugby yet and we are constantly improving,” he said.

The winner of this game will go on to face Glasgow Warriors in Scotstoun for a place in the final and whoever wins this weekend could go all the way.

Check Out the Highlights From When the Two Last Met Below


Champions Cup

Munster Rugby New Coaches Intro | 2022/23

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A new-look coaching team will lead Munster Rugby this season with Head Coach Graham Rowntree joined by Mike Prendergast, Andi Kyriacou and Denis Leamy.

New Attack Coach Prendergast joined from Racing 92, Forwards Coach Kyriacou was promoted from his role as Elite Player Development Officer and Defence Coach Leamy has returned from Leinster.

See profiles for the three new members of the coaching team below. Scroll down to watch Graham Rowntree’s first interview as Munster Head Coach.

Mike Prendergast – Attack Coach

Mike Prendergast has joined Munster from Top 14 side Racing 92, where he held the role of  Attack and Backs Coach since 2019.

Prendergast has a wealth of experience of coaching at the top level and in addition to Racing 92 he has held assistant coaching roles with Stade Francais, Oyannax Rugby and Grenoble FCG since making the move to France in 2013.

On completing his professional playing career in 2009 the scrum-half continued playing with his club Young Munster RFC while also progressing on the coaching front as he held Head Coach and Director of Rugby roles with the Limerick side.

On the provincial coaching front, he previously worked closely with Academy Manager Ian Costello and Team Manager Niall O’Donovan when overseeing the backline for the Munster A’s that enjoyed British and Irish Cup success in 2012.

Andi Kyriacou – Forwards Coach

Andi Kyriacou has been promoted from his role as an Elite Player Development Officer with the Greencore Munster Rugby Academy, a position he held since April 2021.

From England, the former hooker lined out for the province during the 2006/07 season when on loan from Saracens and went on to represent Ulster and Cardiff Rugby before retiring from the professional game in 2013.

Over the last decade he has held numerous coaching roles in the areas of the scrum, defence, skills, and forwards working with Cardiff Rugby, Sale Sharks, Russia Rugby and Nottingham.

Andi Kyriacou prior to Munster's Champions Cup clash against Wasps in Coventry earlier this season.

Andi Kyriacou prior to Munster’s Champions Cup clash against Wasps in Coventry.

Denis Leamy – Defence Coach

Denis Leamy returned to Munster after a three-year spell at Leinster, where he first held a role as an Elite Player Development Officer before moving up to the role of Contact Skills Coach in October 2021.

Following a hugely successful playing career with Munster and Ireland Leamy’s coaching career saw him work with several sides across the province over seven years including Young Munster RFC, Rockwell College, Clonmel RFC, Cashel RFC and Garryowen FC.

On the provincial front the Tipperary native also worked at various stages with Munster’s age-grade players and the ‘A’ team before making the move to Leinster.

He joined the Ireland U20s team as Assistant Coach for the 2021 Six Nations campaign.

New Defence Coach Denis Leamy.

New Defence Coach Denis Leamy.

Video | Graham Rowntree Interview

Images & Content from Munster Rugby


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Champions Cup

Video | Graham Rowntree’s 1st Interview As Head Coach

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We spoke to Graham Rowntree about his new role as Munster Head Coach ahead of the pre-season training programme.

Graham spent three years as Munster Forwards Coach before stepping up to become Head Coach.

He leads a new-look coaching team including Attack Coach Mike Prendergast, Defence Coach Denis Leamy and Forwards Coach Andi Kyriacou.

The new campaign kicks off in one month with Munster taking on Gloucester and London Irish in two pre-season games at Musgrave Park. Click here for fixture details and ticket news.

Watch Graham Rowntree’s first interview as Munster Head Coach below.

Pre-Season Fixtures

Buy a discount two-match pack here.

Friday, August 26

Munster Rugby v Gloucester, Musgrave Park, 7.30pm; Buy tickets here

Friday, September 2

Munster Rugby v London Irish, Musgrave Park, 7.30pm; Buy tickets here

Images & Content from Munster Rugby


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Champions Cup

2022/23 Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup pool stage fixture schedules announced

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Stade Rochelais, who won a first Heineken Champions Cup in such dramatic fashion in May, will launch the defence of their title at Stade Marcel Deflandre against another former tournament winner, Northampton Saints, when the 2022/23 EPCR season kicks off on the weekend of 9/10/11 December.

The Anglo-French clash in Pool B will be one of a host of mouthwatering match-ups, which include the landmark participation of South African clubs, following today’s (Thursday, 21 July) announcement of the Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup fixture schedules.

URC winners, the Stormers, will have a first competitive outing on French soil when they take on ASM Clermont Auvergne in the Stade Marcel-Michelin cauldron, while the Pretoria-based Bulls and the Sharks from Durban will be at home against Lyon and Harlequins respectively in Round 1 on the weekend of 9/10/11 December.

Click HERE for the 2022/23 Heineken Champions Cup pool stage fixtures

Reigning Gallagher Premiership champions, Leicester Tigers, will open their campaign against the Ospreys at the Swansea.com Stadium, and last season’s TOP 14 winners, Montpellier Hérault Rugby, will also be on the road when they face London Irish, who are making a return to the top flight for the first time since 2012, at Brentford Community Stadium.

Two of the tournament’s heavyweights, Munster Rugby and Stade Toulousain, who met in a memorable quarter-final last season, will renew rivalries in Round 1 in early December at what is certain to be a packed-out Thomond Park.

At this stage, EPCR are only announcing the fixtures by round for the pool stages, with exact dates, kick-off times and TV coverage in both the Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup to be announced as soon as possible following the conclusion of negotiations with broadcasters for the new cycle across each market.

The 2020 winners, Bristol Bears, will be hoping for a repeat performance when they start their EPCR Challenge Cup Pool A campaign against USAP at Stade Aimé Giral on the weekend of 9/10/11 December, while last season’s defeated finalists, RC Toulon, travel to Zebre Parma in Round 1.

Click HERE for the 2022/23 EPCR Challenge Cup pool stage fixtures

The Lions from Johannesburg will make their debut in the tournament against Worcester Warriors at Sixways, while the Cheetahs, who will play their two ‘home’ matches in Pool B at Stadio Lanfranchi in Parma, go head-to-head with Section Paloise at Stade du Hameau in the south-west of France in Round 1.

HEINEKEN CHAMPIONS CUP

24 elite clubs (nine tournament winners with 36 EPCR titles between them)
Two pools of 12
Four pool stage rounds
Eight highest-ranked clubs from each pool qualify for the knockout stage
Knockout stage: Round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final
Ninth and 10th ranked clubs from each pool qualify for the EPCR Challenge Cup

Click HERE for the Heineken Champions Cup pools

EPCR CHALLENGE CUP

20 clubs (seven tournament winners with 14 EPCR titles between them)
Two pools of 10
Four pool stage rounds
Six highest-ranked clubs from each pool qualify for the knockout stage
Knockout stage: Round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final

Click HERE for the EPCR Challenge Cup pools

2022/23 key dates
Round 1 – 9/10/11 December 2022
Round 2 – 16/17/18 December 2022
Round 3 – 13/14/15 January 2023
Round 4 – 20/21/22 January 2023
Round of 16 – 31 March – 1/2 April 2023
Quarter-finals – 7/8/9 April 2023
Semi-finals – 28/29/30 April 2023
EPCR Challenge Cup final – Friday 19 May 2023; Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Heineken Champions Cup final – Saturday 20 May 2023; Aviva Stadium, Dublin

Content & Images from – EPC Rugby


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