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BKT United Rugby Championship Launch | Iain Henderson Interview

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BKT United Rugby Championship Launch | Iain Henderson Interview

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Ahead of this season’s BKT United Rugby Championship kicking-off next weekend, Captain Iain Henderson recently chatted to media about Ulster’s ambitions for the year ahead, and when he’s planning on being back in action.

So Iain, how’s the rehab going?

It’s going really well. Shortly after coming back from New Zealand, I got my knee looked at – and I had a few fixups from last season on my hand, so the team have been looking after me really well at home. Hopefully I’ll be getting back into full rugby training soon. With the season ahead, we want to make sure I’m getting back to full fitness. With a bit more training, and a few good weeks under my belt, I’m hopeful my return will be in a couple of weeks.

Given the season ahead, it must be important that you get your return right?

That’s the thing. There are loads of URC, European and International games to be played over the next twelve months, and that includes a big summer next year. Ensuring the body is in the best position and place to deal with all that is important. I’m 100% taking the guidance of the guys looking after me, and I have full faith in them. I know they have my personal and long-term interests at heart.

After the disappointment of the United Rugby Championship Semi-Final last season, how are the team feeling?

Every year, it feels we are getting better, and making improvements – and that includes exciting new players coming through. Ensuring the guys that have been around a bit longer, like myself, are keeping driving that is important, and we want to keep getting better. The new guys are superb – the effort, skill level and professionalism – I couldn’t fault any of that. We are right behind our Support Staff, and everyone in the organisation, as we work together to hopefully ensure we can take that one extra step next year.

Speaking of the South African teams, what do you think they have brought to the BKT United Rugby Championship?

At the start of last season, they started in a way that they wouldn’t have wanted to. We had a chat our side in Kingspan that we shouldn’t be fooled by this, as it wasn’t a true representation of how they are going play and end up when they found their feet. With how strong they finished, and how difficult they were to overcome at home that was something that from the start of the season might have seemed shocking. But we know the quality of South Africa as a rugby nation, and the clubs individually are very good too. That extra dynamic has brought another level of difficulty to the league, which I think is exciting.

And in terms of touring South Africa, how do the squad find that?

It gives the chance for clubs to go on a rugby tour, which is great for team bonding, and good for us to be able to experience as a playing squad. A lot of the younger guys, or the lads that don’t play International, they don’t go away anymore. I feel that has disappeared a bit out of professional rugby, so it’s good to get that aspect of things in the URC. We’re heading back to South Africa in a few weeks, and this will be the third time this calendar year. The lads have a real appetite to get away with each other again and enjoy each other’s craic, and that’s a really healthy thing.

Connacht up first. How are you feeling with an Inter-pro to start the BKT URC?

It’s an exciting one to start – talk about hitting the ground running! In terms of pre-season, I’ve been fortunate enough to watch it from the sidelines. I’ve been doing my rehab at the side of the pitch, and the intensity at which they are training at is something that they are really going after. It’s about ensuring that we hit the ground running, and don’t look sluggish in the first game. The intensity that an Inter-pro brings is something that you can’t sit back and wait to come to you. Playing Connacht first-up especially, it’ll be about who will throw the first punch, and who’s going to come out and start the game. That’ll be something we’ll be wary of, and I look forward to seeing who does it.

Ulster Rugby will be at home for three of the opening four rounds of the new BKT United Rugby Championship season, including two inter-provincial derbies.

Round 1:
Ulster v Connacht
Sat 17 Sep, 7.35pm

Round 3:
Ulster v Leinster
Fri 30 Sep, 7.35pm

Round 4:
Ulster v Ospreys
Sat 8 Oct, 7.35pm

Match tickets for each of these fixtures are available to buy now at ulster.rugby/buytickets.

Images & Content – Ulster Rugby


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Glasgow destroy Cardiff with 8 try victory

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Eight tries and a half-century of points saw Glasgow Warriors open their BKT United Rugby Championship account in style, earning a 52-24 victory over Cardiff at Scotstoun this evening.

Player of the Match George Horne grabbed 17 points, with a brace from Fraser Brown, a try apiece from Zander and Matt Fagerson and scores from Cole Forbes, Thomas Gordon and Stafford McDowall accounting for the scoreline.

Straight from the opening kick-off, it was evident that this was a Glasgow Warriors team with one objective in mind. An industrious opening spell from Scott Cummings saw the second-rower heavily involved at the set-piece and in the loose, whilst the speed of thought and foot from Horne kept the Cardiff defence on their toes.

However, it would be the visitors who would open the scoring with a quarter of an hour on the clock, somewhat against the run of play. After a lengthy stoppage due to an ankle injury to Rory Darge that saw the flanker head to hospital for treatment, the Welshmen caught their hosts cold. Max Llewellyn’s break through the middle took Cardiff into the Glasgow 22, before a looping pass from Jarrod Evans put Josh Adams over in the corner. Evans added the conversion, and Cardiff led 7-0.

Glasgow’s response was immediate, and showcased what was to come from Franco Smith’s men. A superb offload from Tom Jordan put Cole Forbes through a gap, who in turn sent Sebastian Cancelliere racing clear. Only an illegal intervention from Thomas Young could prevent the Warriors from scoring, earning the openside a yellow card from referee Chris Busby.

It took the Warriors precisely 45 seconds to make the most of their numerical advantage, and they did it in textbook fashion. Fraser Brown’s lineout was pinpoint accurate to Cummings, before Brown himself burrowed over the line from the rolling maul. Horne converted, and the scores were tied.

Straight from the restart, Smith’s men struck for what could already be a try of the season contender. Identifying the space, Stafford McDowall sent Sione Tuipulotu through a gap, who in turn timed his pass to perfection to send Cancelliere sprinting clear. The Argentinian drew the last man before popping the ball to Forbes, with the full-back outpacing the cover defence to touch down. Horne’s conversion attempt was true, and the Warrior Nation were in full voice.

The noise continued to grow moments later, as the home side crossed for their third try in a nine-minute spell. A superbly executed 50-22 from Tuipulotu gave the Warriors field position, before Zander Fagerson was stopped just inches short of the line. It was left to younger brother Matt to apply the finishing touch, picking up and going down the blindside to barge over the whitewash. A third conversion from Horne took the score to 21-7 after half an hour, and Scotstoun was rocking.

Even a yellow card to Tom Jordan on his first home start couldn’t puncture the home side’s momentum, as Cummings and Kyle Steyn combined to drive the visitors fully 20 metres backwards in a superb defensive shift.

A penalty from Evans was all that Cardiff could muster during the sin bin period, and it would be Glasgow that would finish the half on the front foot. A half-break from Dempsey and a perfectly-timed offload to Horne sent the scrum-half scampering clear, chipping ahead to pin Cardiff on their own try-line. Cummings’ chargedown forced a five-metre scrum in his side’s favour, and after Tuipulotu and Richie Gray went close, Horne himself would snipe over for the classic scrum-half score. Converting his own try for good measure, the Warriors headed back to the changing rooms with a 28-10 lead at the interval.

Content & Images from – Glasgow Warriors Rugby


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Failure to deal with sin-binning periods cost us – Young

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Dai Young says Cardiff were made to pay for their failure to deal with sin-binning periods after suffering a 52-24 defeat to Glasgow Warriors on Friday.

The hosts scored four of their eight tries while the Blue and Blacks were reduced to 14 men, with Thomas Young and Uilisi Halaholo both spending 10 minutes each in the sin bin.

 

After a bright start in Scotstoun, where Cardiff took the lead courtesy of a Josh Adams try, the momentum of the game shifted following Young’s sin-binning, leading to a trio of quickfire scores from the hosts.

 

The Director of Rugby was disappointed with how the yellow cards allowed Glasgow to take control of the encounter, and says it’s vitally important that his side learn the lessons from the defeat.

 

Young said: “It’s disappointing obviously and the scoreboard is quite ugly when you look at it at the end.

 

“But I thought we had a really good start. We got our noses in front and we were right in the game.

 

“Then we had a pretty harsh yellow card against Thomas [Young], but that happens on occasions.

 

“We certainly didn’t control that 10 minutes the way we wanted to. They scored three tries and 21 points in that period which obviously meant we’d be chasing the game a little bit.

 

“Another yellow card in the second half, and they scored another try so that’s four tries following yellow cards.

 

“That’s a big thing that we need to get better at – controlling those periods when we’re down to 14. It will inevitably happen in this game.

 

“I thought a couple of calls went against us but as the game went on we also controlled the collisions poorly. They started again on top, winning collisions, and once that starts to happen then they’ll get speed of ball and it becomes very hard for us to control them defensively.

 

“We played good stuff on occasions and left points out there but we’re obviously disappointed to lose by that much.

 

“We’ve got to learn a lot from it, but ultimately the story of the day was the yellow cards and how we dealt with those periods because they will happen. It doesn’t matter how you play the game, there will be yellow cards.”

 

Following tries from Adams, Kristian Dacey and Liam Belcher, Cardiff’s hopes of leaving Glasgow with a bonus point were alive in the final 10 minutes, but ultimately left empty handed.

 

Young called for more composure in the final stages and insists his side must continue to work hard on the training ground as they seek improvements.

 

The former Wales prop added: “We had opportunities for the bonus point but we were rushing it. We had 10 minutes to score a try but were flapping at it a little bit.

 

“As I said, we’ve got to try and take the positives out of tonight. The scoreboard is ugly, nobody wants to see that, but there were positives, things we can improve on and things we can do better.

 

“When we get opportunities we’ve got to be more clinical and got to keep working on our physicality, which is something we knew coming into the season.

 

“It’s something we struggled with on occasions last season against the better teams, and did win it from parts of the game today, but by the second half we started to lose more and more collisions which meant they controlled the speed of ball.

 

“They’re too good of a team to be given quick ball.

 

“You’ll win rugby games and you’ll lose some. We’re not happy with tonight’s performance but what we’ve got to look at is trying to improve every week.

 

“We will come up against good teams, and tonight that was nigh-on an international team we played against. You don’t get much tougher than that.

 

“We need to take the positive, build on them and try to take the negatives out of our game.

 

“Next week is another game where we’re at home. We want to keep building.

 

“This season is going to go where we’ll win some games and lose some games but our focus can’t change.

 

“Our focus has to be to build on the things we do well and keep working on things that don’t go well. Hopefully, by doing that, we’ll win more than we lose.”

Content & Images from – Cardiff Rugby


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Roos ready to tear it up

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DHL Stormers coach John Dobson is picking his No 8 Evan Roos to make a statement in the defending champions’ Vodacom United Rugby Championship opener against Connacht in Stellenbosch on Saturday.

Kick-off is 14h30 at the Danie Craven Stadium and tickets are available from Webtickets. CLICK HERE to buy your tickets now.

“Evan is chomping to get going. He had an incredible 2021/22 season, which resulted in Springboks Test selection and I know he is amped to put in a performance to make a statement that he will be even better this season,” said Dobson.

“He got a taste of international rugby. He wants more and he knows that the Vodacom URC is his stage to make his on-field statements, individually and most pertinently to the collectiver of the DHL Stormers,” Dobson added.

Roos was the posterboy for the inaugural Vodacom URC, his rampaging carries and dynamic support play dominating the league’s weekly highlights.

A Paarl Boys High prodigy, Roos left Cape Town for the Cell C Sharks after matriculating but was back in Cape Town in 2020.

His skill-set meshed perfectly with the DHL Stormers script and he flourished in a team of gamebreakers.

Partnered with speedster Hacjivah Dayimani and breakdown specialist Deon Fourie, Roos starred in a tenacious back row that pressured rivals in attack and defence, combining skill with speed and a high work rate.

The DHL Stormers recovered from a slow start to win 12 of 18 league matches, scalping Edinburgh, Ulster and the Vodacom Bulls in the playoffs to cap an 11-match win streak with an 18-13 victory in the Cape Town Grand Final.

Roos led the charge and the 22-year-old was rewarded when it came time to dish out league accolades, named the Vodacom United Rugby Championship Player of the Season, Players’ Player of the Season, Fans’ Player of the Season, Next-Gen Player of the Season and he earned a place in the Vodacom URC Dream Team.

In winning Player of the Season, Roos beat off challenges from Vodacom Bulls captain Marcell Coetzee and his teammate Ruan Nortje, Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks), Vincent Tshituka (Emirates Lions) and Warrick Gelant, another key member of the DHL Stormers’ championship-winning side.

This was just reward for a player who topped the competition statistics for offloads, carries made and tackles broken, while finishing fourth for metres gained, the highest-placed forward.

He also made a lasting impression when he scored a remarkable try in the final, surging headlong through some of the meatiest Vodacom Bulls to score.

The explosive No.8 will be central to the defending champions’ quest to repeat. A pillar of strength up front, Roos combines traditional South African aggression with levels of athleticism more common to a pack from one of the Pacific Island nations. He is a unique talent, rapid and gruff.

While these traits elevated Roos into the national team, the ambitious No.8 will not be content with his first and only Test cap to date – a 46-minute cameo in a Springbok home loss against Wales in July.

For the DHL Stormers faithful, Roos is not only the perfect option at the back of the scrum and line-out, but also the man to power up the Bok pack at the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Roos will get his legs churning on Saturday to convert the few who may still doubt his world-class qualities.

Content & Images from – Stormers Rugby


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