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
All You Need To Know | Toulouse v Munster
Munster face Toulouse at Stade Ernest-Wallon for just the second time at the weekend in the fourth and final Pool game of this year’s Champions Cup.
Both sides will be named before 12pm on Friday.
It will be a huge weekend of Champions Cup rugby, see the state of play in the competition here with all 12 teams in Munster’s Pool in with a shout of qualifying for the knock-out stages.
Find out all you need to know ahead of the game below.
Sunday, 3.15pm Irish time/4.15pm local
Live on BT Sport, France TV, beIN Sports, SuperSport & FloRugby.
Did you know?
The sides have met nine times previously in the competition with Munster and Toulouse winning four times apiece. There was one draw in last year’s quarter-final with Toulouse winning the place-kicking competition to progress.
Gavin Coombes has scored four tries in three Champions Cup matches and is the joint leading try-scorer in the competition.
Munster have played at the Stade Ernest-Wallon twice previously. The first game was a 60-19 defeat to Toulouse in November 1996 and the second was a 27-24 victory over Castres Olympique in November 2011. Coincidentally, Munster’s win over Castres came a week after a win over Northampton at Thomond Park. Both victories were secured with last-minute Ronan O’Gara drop-goals.
Champions Cup Pool Stage: Toulouse 60-19 Munster, Stade Ernest-Wallon;
Champions Cup Semi-Final: Toulouse 25-31 Munster, Stade Chaban Delmas, Bordeaux;
Champions Cup Semi-Final: Toulouse 13-12 Munster, Stade Toulouse;
Champions Cup Final: Munster 16-13 Toulouse, Millennium Stadium;
Champions Cup Quarter-Final: Munster 47-23 Toulouse, Thomond Park;
Champions Cup Quarter-Final: Munster 41-16 Toulouse, Thomond Park;
Champions Cup Round of 16: Munster 33-40 Toulouse, Thomond Park (behind closed doors);
Champions Cup Quarter-Final: Munster 24-24 Toulouse (Toulouse win place-kicking competition), Aviva Stadium;
Champions Cup Pool Stage: Munster 13-18 Toulouse, Thomond Park;
Referee: Karl Dickson
AR1: Dan Jones
AR2: Phil Watters
TMO: Rowan Kitt
URC Round 14
Friday, February 17, 2023
Munster Rugby v Ospreys, Thomond Park, 7.35pm; Buy tickets here
URC Round 15
Friday, March 3, 2023
Munster Rugby v Scarlets, Musgrave Park, 7.35pm; Buy tickets here
URC Round 16
Saturday, March 25, 2023
Munster Rugby v Glasgow Warriors, Thomond Park, 5.15pm; Buy tickets here
Images & Content from Munster Rugby
Cobus Wiese suspended for two weeks
The Sale Sharks second row, Cobus Wiese, has been suspended for two weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing arising from his club’s Heineken Champions Cup, Round 3 match against Stade Toulousain at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Wiese was sent off by the referee, Mike Adamson (Scotland), in the 18th minute of the match for a dangerous clear out on the Stade Toulousain prop, Dorian Aldegheri, in contravention of Law 9.20.
Law 9.20 Dangerous play in a ruck or maul
Under World Rugby’s Sanctions for Foul Play, Law 9.20 relating to dangerous play in a ruck or maul carries the following sanction entry points – Low End: 2 weeks; Mid-range: 6 weeks; Top end: 10 to 52 weeks
An independent Disciplinary Committee comprising Rhian Williams (Wales), Chair, Mike Ross (Ireland) and Lawrence Sephaka (South Africa) considered video imagery of the incident and heard submissions from Wiese, who accepted the red card decision, from the Sale Sharks Director of Rugby, Alex Sanderson, from the Sale Sharks Team Manager, Scott Needham, and from the EPCR Disciplinary Officer, Liam McTiernan.
Following submissions, the committee upheld the red card decision, but decided that the incident should be considered as being in contravention of Law 9.20 (b) which refers to dangerous play at a ruck or maul when a player makes contact with an opponent above the line of the shoulders.
Law 9.20 (b) A player must not make contact with an opponent above the line of the shoulders
Under World Rugby’s Sanctions for Foul Play, Law 9.20 (b) carries the following sanction entry points – Low End: 2 weeks; Mid-range: 4 weeks; Top end: 8 to 52 weeks
It determined that Wiese entered the ruck dangerously making contact with Aldegheri above the line of the shoulders, that the offending was at the mid-range of World Rugby’s sanctions, and four weeks was selected as the appropriate entry point.
Due to the player’s good disciplinary record and his guilty plea, it was decided to grant him the full 50% mitigation and the committee therefore reduced the sanction by two weeks before imposing a two-week suspension.
Wiese is free to play on Monday, 30 January 2023, however, if he applies for and successfully completes a World Rugby Coaching Intervention, he will be free to play on Monday, 23 January 2023.
Both he and EPCR have the right to appeal the decision.
Henry Slade red card dismissed
The Exeter Chiefs centre, Henry Slade, has had the red card which was issued to him during his club’s Heineken Champions Cup, Round 3 match against the Vodacom Bulls, dismissed following an independent Disciplinary Hearing.
Slade was sent off by the replacement referee, Thomas Charabas (France), in the 54th minute of the match at Loftus Versfeld for tackling the Vodacom Bulls full back, Kurt-Lee Arendse, in a dangerous manner in contravention of Law 9.13.
Law 9.13 A player must not tackle an opponent dangerously
Under World Rugby’s Sanctions for Foul Play, Law 9.13 relating to dangerous tackling carries the following sanction entry points – Low End: 2 weeks; Mid-range: 6 weeks; Top end: 10 to 52 weeks
An independent Disciplinary Committee comprising Jennifer Donovan (Ireland), Chair, Frank Hadden (Scotland) and Yannick Jauzion (France) considered video imagery of the incident and heard evidence from Slade, who did not accept the red card decision, and heard submissions from the player’s legal representative, Richard Smith KC, from the Exeter Chiefs Director of Rugby, Rob Baxter, and from the EPCR Disciplinary Officer, Liam McTiernan.
The committee decided that while Slade had committed an act of foul play, it did not warrant a sending off. The red card decision was therefore dismissed and he is free to play.
EPCR have the right to appeal the decision.
EPCR CHALLENGE CUP
Geoffrey Lanne-Petit suspended for five weeks and Section Paloise fined €25,000 (suspended)
The Section Paloise Attack Coach, Geoffrey Lanne-Petit, has been suspended for five weeks and Section Paloise have been handed a suspended €25,000 fine following an independent Disciplinary Hearing arising from the club’s EPCR Challenge Cup, Round 1 match against the Toyota Cheetahs at Stade du Hameau.
EPCR brought a misconduct complaint against Lanne-Petit, who was alleged to have committed an act of misconduct in contravention of EPCR’s Disciplinary Rules by verbally abusing the Assistant Referee, Hollie Davidson (Scotland), following the conclusion of the match.
Also, EPCR brought a second misconduct complaint against Section Paloise who were alleged to have failed to control staff members, and/or persons connected to the club, following the conclusion of the match.
An independent Disciplinary Committee comprising Gareth Graham (England), Chair, David Humphreys (Ireland) and Donal Courtney (Ireland) heard evidence and submissions from Lanne-Petit, who accepted the misconduct charge, from the
Section Paloise President, Bernard Pontneau, from the Section Paloise legal representative, Benjamin Peyrelevade, from the Section Paloise Chief Executive, Pierre Lahore and from the Section Paloise Legal Manager, Marie Anglade.
The committee also heard evidence and submissions from the match Assistant Referee, Hollie Davidson, and from the EPCR Disciplinary Officer, Liam McTiernan.
The committee found that Lanne-Petit had committed an act of misconduct in that he verbally abused Hollie Davidson following the match and it was decided to suspend him for five weeks.
Lanne-Petit is therefore suspended from any match day contact with the Section Paloise playing squad, including, but not limited to, access to the Technical Zone, pitchside, dressing rooms, any team areas and team communications systems until midnight on Sunday, 26 February.
In addition, the committee found that Section Paloise were guilty of failing to control members of their coaching staff and persons connected to the club who disrespected the authority of the match officials following the conclusion of the match.
Section Paloise were fined €25,000 with the amount suspended until the end of the 2023/24 season which would only become payable if Section Paloise are found to have committed a further breach of EPCR’s Disciplinary Rules during that period.
Lanne-Petit, Section Paloise and EPCR have the right to appeal the decisions
Squad Update | Munster Prepare For Toulouse Trip
The Munster squad have started preparations ahead of Sunday’s Champions Cup clash against Toulouse at a sold-out Stade Ernest-Wallon (3.15pm Irish time, live on BT Sport).
Due to the weather conditions, training has been moved to the main pitch at Thomond Park for this week.
Along with the squad members who were in Champions Cup action against Northampton on Saturday, there were 12 Munster players playing in the AIL for their clubs at the weekend.
Liam O’Connor helped Cork Constitution to a 32-27 victory over Dublin University.
Neil Cronin, Oli Morris, Tony Butler and Mark Donnelly featured for Garryowen in their 19-13 defeat to Clontarf with Morris scoring a try and Butler kicking a penalty.
Darragh McSweeney and Kieran Ryan were in action for Shannon as they were beaten 34-24 by Lansdowne.
Dan Goggin, Eoin O’Connor, Chris Moore, Patrick Campbell and Conor Phillips lined out for Young Munster as they fell to a 21-11 loss to Terenure College.
On the injury front, there is good news for Diarmuid Barron (shoulder) as he has returned to full team training.
Roman Salanoa was removed with an arm injury during the win over Northampton and will be managed by the medical department. His availability for Toulouse will be determined later in the week.
Jack Crowley is being managed following an ankle injury sustained against Northampton and his availability will also be determined later in the week.
Simon Zebo suffered a low-grade knee injury in training last week and is not available this week as he rehabilitates with the medical department. His injury is not expected to be long term.
Continuing to rehab: Jeremy Loughman (thigh), Tom Ahern (shoulder), RG Snyman (knee), Fineen Wycherley (shoulder), Paddy Kelly (head), Jack Daly (knee), Andrew Conway (knee), Keynan Knox (knee), Kiran McDonald (arm).
Images & Content from Munster Rugby
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