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Bristol friendly provides perfect preparation opportunity – Thomas



While mid-season friendlies have been something of a rarity in recent seasons, Cardiff coach T Rhys Thomas believes Friday’s clash with Bristol Bears provides perfect preparation time ahead of the second block of competitive fixtures.

The Blue and Blacks claimed four wins from their opening seven matches in the BKT United Rugby Championship this season. But with the international window in full swing, a total of four weeks separate the last encounter, against Edinburgh, and the next clash – a trip to Durban to take on Cell C Sharks.

Bridging the two competitive blocks is Friday’s trip to Ashton Gate, and Thomas insists there’s no better way of maintaining sharpness than a full 80-minute encounter, particularly with a tough trip to South Africa on the horizon.

The former Wales and Cardiff hooker said: “It’s really good the way it’s turned out for us. We’re going to South Africa in a few weeks and this game is a really good warm up, or build up, for that block.

“Last time round we had a bit of a break before we went out there, but Friday will be a huge challenge for us.

“Obviously they’re a quality team and a quality outfit. There’s quality throughout and we know they like to play an exciting brand of rugby, mixed with a huge physical challenge up front, which I’m sure they’ll bring.

“It’s a really good fixture for us to see where we are with a few boys who are getting their opportunity. It’s also a really good challenge for the boys who have been playing a little bit as well. 

“They’re excited by the challenge on a Friday night in Bristol before we go to South Africa.

“It’s a bit of a local derby, really. All my family will be going up there as it’s not that far and I’m also sure that the eve of Wales against England in February is going to be a huge occasion at the Arms Park.

“The team they’ve picked adds to the excitement, because they go in with quality and will want to get as many fans in there as they can.

“For us, it’s an opportunity to go up against that league. Obviously the URC is a quality league, but we do look at the English league a lot as well – well I certainly do, I can’t speak for everyone else.

“The product is quality and we’d like to see where we are against the big boys of that division/

“What people don’t usually see is that we have internal games within these blocks anyway. If not that then certainly training against the likes of Dragons and we’ve done Bath before too.

“The units are opposed and we’ve even had Zebre come over in pre-season and Cardiff Met have been brilliant for us too.

“So we wouldn’t exactly go three, four, five weeks without any contact.

“But there’s no better preparation for a game than a game. It will be a long day after a proper training week and you obviously can’t replicate the 80 minutes on the weekend in training, so it’s good.

“It’s everything – from preparations to previews and reviews and it’s great for us to have.

“All we’re able to do now is concentrate on Friday. We want to put a good performance in and then we can worry about South Africa and building on the momentum we had in the middle of the first block.

“If we can train properly, that’s the biggest thing, and by doing that hopefully the performances will follow and the result will take care of itself. We want to get some big performances out in South Africa.”

While Cardiff will remain upbeat about their early season form, with plenty of positives on show, Thomas admits the defeat to Edinburgh last time out was frustrating, particularly after an encouraging first half display.

Reflecting on the clash, the assistant coach added: “The Edinburgh game was a little bit frustrating, but obviously we’re really happy with the first block as a whole.

“To lie where we are in the league, as an organisation we’re pretty positive. We know there’s still loads to work on.

“It was about picking up, not so much the result, but the performance we wanted.

“Probably in the first half – in my area, which is the scrum and line-outs – we were happy with the way it was going. But obviously we started to concede a few penalties in a row and they scored the try. 

“As frustrating as it was to have a disappointing end to the block, on a whole if you’d said at the beginning of the season that we’d be in the position we are, going into the break, then we would’ve been happy.”

Tickets for Cardiff’s home clash against Bristol Bears, as well as upcoming European and Welsh derbies encounters, are available NOW! Click HERE to purchase

To purchase tickets for Friday’s away clash against Bristol Bears at Ashton Gate – please click HERE

Content & Images from – Cardiff Rugby


Dan McFarland departs Ulster Rugby



Dan McFarland departs Ulster Rugby

3 minutes ago


Ulster Rugby and the IRFU can confirm that Dan McFarland will step down from his position as Head Coach.

After joining the club in 2018, McFarland has been the longest-serving Head Coach for the province in the professional era, with the club reliably securing play-off rugby in URC and EPCR competitions during his time at the helm, including reaching the PRO14 final in 2020.

Ulster Rugby CEO, Jonny Petrie, said:

“We would like to thank Dan for his determination in driving forward the professional squad over the past six seasons, and I would like to wish him and his family the best for the future on behalf of all at Ulster Rugby.”

The change to the Senior Men’s coaching set-up is with immediate effect, with Ireland U20s Head Coach, Richie Murphy, to link-up with the province as interim Head Coach until the end of this season following the Under-20s Six Nations. Bryn Cunningham, Head of Rugby Operations and Recruitment at Ulster Rugby, will also assume greater management responsibilities within the performance function during this time.

Assistant Coach, Dan Soper, will oversee operations next week ahead of Ulster facing Dragons at Kingspan Stadium in Round 11 of the BKT United Rugby Championship.

Petrie continued: “With Richie coming to Ulster in the coming weeks, ahead of the squad travelling to South Africa, our focus will be on consistently performing to the best of our abilities at this crucial time of the year.”

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Edinburgh snap up Tigers lock



Lock Carmichael joins from Tigers

Edinburgh Rugby today secured the signing of promising 20-year-old Leicester Tigers lock Rob Carmichael on a three-year deal.

The 6ft 11in second-row arrived in the capital today on an initial loan until the end of the season, before the long-term move becomes permanent this summer.

Carmichael was born and raised in Hong Kong after his Scottish father, and English/Welsh mother, emigrated to Asia just under 30 years ago. He came through the ranks at Sandy Bay RFC before the family returned to the UK in 2019.

That year he joined the Tigers academy, making two Premiership Cup appearances alongside representing England U20, remaining eligible for Scotland by ancestry.

On joining Edinburgh Rugby, Carmichael said: “This is a massive move for me and an incredible opportunity I’ve been given. I’m delighted to join and I’m really glad I’ve been able to make the move to Edinburgh early on loan. I’ve only heard great things about the club.

“I’ve wanted to live in Scotland my whole life so I’m glad I’m able to make the move now. Edinburgh is an incredible city, while my parents and whole extended family are really excited that I’ve joined a Scottish club.”

Combining education with an academy contract at Tigers, Carmichael played BUCS Super Rugby at University of Nottingham where he studied Sports Science.

The towering lock was named in the England U20 squad for the 2023 U20 Six Nations where he featured in all five fixtures for the Red Roses.

Carmichael continued: “I’ve got a lot to learn about Edinburgh. I’ve only visited a couple of times but everything I’ve heard about the city and the club has been really positive. I couldn’t be more excited to move up.

“I think it’s going to be great for my development and I can’t wait to learn off the experienced second-rows at the club. I just want to add as much as I can to the team and see how much I can improve as a player. I know I’ve got loads to learn.”

Carmichael linked up with the club’s senior squad today as preparations continue for Edinburgh Rugby’s next BKT United Rugby Championship match against Ospreys at Hive Stadium on Friday 1 March.

Edinburgh Rugby Head Coach Sean Everitt said: “We’re delighted to welcome Rob [Carmichael] to the club. He’s a player with great raw ability who has all the physical tools to succeed at the next level.

“We’ve been looking at Rob for a while given his Scotland links and we’re thankful to Tigers who’ve released him on an initial loan. He’ll be able to get his feet in the door and hit the ground running ahead of joining on a long-term deal this summer.”

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Ulster ready for Ospreys challenge in Wales



Ulster ready for Ospreys challenge in Wales

4 minutes ago

Fixture News

Head Coach, Dan McFarland, has named his Ulster side to take on the Ospreys at Stadium in Round 10 of the BKT United Rugby Championship.

The province returns to action in the URC for the first time since defeating league leaders, Leinster Rugby, at the RDS Arena on New Year’s Day.

Ireland internationals Iain Henderson, Jacob Stockdale, Tom Stewart and Nick Timoney are back with the team, following their release from the Ireland team’s Guinness Six Nations camp.

The experienced front row sees Andrew Warwick start at loosehead, with John Andrew at hooker and Marty Moore starting at tighthead prop.

In the second row, Academy products, Harry Sheridan and skipper Iain Henderson, pair up as Ulster’s locks.

The back row sees David McCann start at blindside flanker. Marcus Rea starts at openside flanker, with Ireland international, Nick Timoney, starting at eight, as Ulster aim to win the battle at the breakdown in Swansea.

McFarland opts for the talented half-back pairing of Nathan Doak at scrum-half and Jake Flannery at ten.

Jacob Stockdale returns from international camp to start on the left wing as he hopes to continue his try-scoring form, with the winger having dotted down six tries this season in the URC so far.

The young and dynamic centre partnership sees Jude Postlethwaite join James Hume in the engine room of the backfield.

Mike Lowry starts on the right wing, with Will Addison completing the backfield at full-back.

Ulster can call on a wealth of talent and experience from the bench, with a 5:3 split that features a two time Rugby World Cup winner and a current Ireland international.

Tom Stewart is named on the bench as he returns from Ireland duty for the match.

Springbok prop, Steven Kitshoff, is named alongside Scott Wilson, Cormac Izuchukwu, Matty Rea, Dave Shanahan, Luke Marshall and Ethan McIlroy to complete Ulster’s replacement options.

Ospreys v Ulster, Round 10 of the BKT United Rugby Championship, Sunday 18 February, 3pm, Stadium (live on ViaPlay and

With the URC celebrating the people and communities behind the professional players competing in the league through its Origin Round this week, Ulster Rugby recognises the important role of clubs and schools in player development, with 11 of this weekend’s starting 15 having come through the Ulster pathway.

(15-9) Will Addison (Upper Eden RFC), Mike Lowry (Dromore RFC), James Hume (Instonians RFC), Jude Postlethwaite (Lisburn RFC), Jacob Stockdale (Ballynahinch RFC), Jake Flannery (Kilfeacle RFC), Nathan Doak (Lisburn RFC);

(1-8) Andrew Warwick (Ballymena RFC), John Andrew (Ballymena RFC), Marty Moore (Barnhall RFC), Harry Sheridan (Civil Service RFC), Iain Henderson (C) (Belfast Academy RFC), David McCann (Cooke RFC), Marcus Rea (Ballymena RFC), Nick Timoney (Blackrock RFC).

Replacements: Tom Stewart (Belfast Academy RFC), Steven Kitshoff (Maties RFC), Scott Wilson (Dromore RFC), Cormac Izuchukwu (Tullamore RFC), Matty Rea (Ballymena RFC), Dave Shanahan (Clontarf RFC), Luke Marshall (Ballymena RFC), Ethan McIlroy (Ballynahinch RFC).

For more info on #GrassrootsToGreatness, visit the URC website.

*For the URC Origin Round, details of each player’s first club are listed above.

Images & Content – Ulster Rugby

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