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Debut URC Season Sets New Broadcast Records

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Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Over 34 million fans tuned into the inaugural United Rugby Championship season as the league set a number of major broadcast records in its first campaign.

In its first season, the United Rugby Championship was supported by Free-to-Air (FTA) broadcasters in the UK, Ireland and Italy – BBC Wales, BBC Northern Ireland, Mediaset, RTÉ, S4C and TG4 and by leading Pay TV companies SuperSport (South Africa) and Premier Sports (UK and Ireland).

This mix of broadcast platforms allowed fans to enjoy rising standards of production while the crossover and collaboration across different territories gave the league a truly global feel.

The numbers behind the headlines are truly stellar and set a high benchmark for the URC, its teams, players, broadcasters and partners to aim for ahead of the new 2022/23 season.

Thanks to the consolidated reports from Nielsen Sports, one of the world’s leading agencies in broadcast reporting, the United Rugby Championship can confirm that the audience for the entire 2021/22 season reached a high mark of 34.6million across 7,000-plus hours of coverage.

That figure of 34.6m was an increase of 169% compared to the 2020/21 PRO14 and Rainbow Cup campaigns combined.

  • The cumulative average audience per game during the season was 230k which represented a 109% increase on 20/21.
  • A cumulative audience of almost 3 million people tuned into Round 3 with the figure of 2,892,000 setting a new record for the highest audience for a single round in the league’s history.
  • In total, four rounds eclipsed an audience of 2 million, seven rounds drew more than 1.5 million and 6 of the remaining 7 rounds all attracted a minimum viewership of 1 million.
  • The average audience per round in the regular season was 1.7 million.
  • The cumulative audience from Italy was 1.6 million.

URC Grand Final and Play-Offs

The first-ever United Rugby Championship Grand Final took place in Cape Town, South Africa between the DHL Stormers and Vodacom Bulls and set a new TV milestone for the league.

A total of 1.25 million watched the DHL Stormers win their first URC title and set a new record for the league decider. Although the Grand Final was an all-South African affair 41% of the audience came from outside of the territory with RTÉ’s live coverage in the Republic of Ireland accounting for 15%.

This trend of interest was a hallmark of the entire URC Play-Offs which also set a record for viewership with 3.8 million across seven games. The largest viewership for the Play-Offs came in the DHL Stormers v Ulster Final Four game where the audience hit 754k while the other Semi-Final encounter between Leinster and the Vodacom Bulls drew 472k.

Including the URC Grand Final, the average audience per game in the Play-Offs was 537k

Top 10 most watched regular season games in 2021/22

In the Top 10 most watched games of the regular season, Munster featured five times, the Cell C Sharks were involved in three with Ospreys, Ulster and the DHL Stormers appeared twice.

The most watched game in the regular season was Ospreys’ Round 3 game with Cell C Sharks which was viewed by a combined audience of 581k on BBC Wales, SuperSport and Premier Sports.

  1. R3 Ospreys v Cell C Sharks 580,026
  2. R3 Cardiff v Vodacom Bulls 560,886
  3. R2 Munster v DHL Stormers 538,909
  4. R6 Cell C Sharks v Scarlets 531,421
  5. R10 Munster v Ulster 523,707
  6. R4 Munster v Connacht 521,110
  7. R1 Munster v Cell C Sharks 484,267
  8. R5 Ospreys v Munster 480,652
  9. R4 Ulster v Emirates Lions 468,993
  10. R4 Dragons v DHL Stormers 445,471

Most Watched Clubs

Helped by their appearance in the URC Grand Final, the DHL Stormers were the most viewed team in the league with their total audience coming in at over 7.2million. The URC champions are followed by the Vodacom Bulls, Munster, Cell C Sharks and Leinster for audiences across the entire season.

The DHL Stormers and Munster were the most watched teams in South Africa and Ireland, respectively with Ospreys leading the interest in Wales, Benetton were No 1 in Italy and Edinburgh topped the pile in Scotland.

Derby matches which are at the heart of the tribal rivalries in the URC also performed well with only one South African fixture breaking the dominance of the all-Irish clashes.

Top 5 Derby Audiences

The most watched derby games of the season all took place in Ireland, with Munster’s R10 clash with Ulster drawing in 523k in a game that was also No 5 in the list of Top 10 most watched in the regular season. Munster also feature in four of the Top 5 derby audiences.

  • R10 Munster v Ulster 523,707
  • R4 Munster v Connacht 521,110
  • R16 Ulster v Munster 428,709
  • R15 Munster v Leinster 402,534
  • R6 Leinster v Ulster 401,603

Top 5 Games from Ireland

  • R2 Munster v DHL Stormers 538,909
  • R10 Munster v Ulster 523,707
  • R4 Munster v Connacht 521,110
  • R1 Munster v Cell C Sharks 484,267
  • R4 Ulster v Emirates Lions 468,993

Top 5 Games from South Africa

  • R6 Cell C Sharks v Scarlets 531,421
  • R17 DHL Stormers v Leinster 417,323
  • R7 Emirates Lions v Munster 394,416
  • R16 Cell C Sharks v Leinster 361,290
  • R17 Vodacom Bulls v Glasgow Warriors 323,386

Top 5 Games from Italy

  • R11 Zebre v Munster 439,701
  • R1 Zebre v Emirates Lions 295,647
  • R1 Benetton v DHL Stormers 213,754
  • R10 Benetton v Cell C Sharks 202,283
  • R4 Benetton v Ospreys 196,817

Top 5 Games from Scotland

  • R3 Edinburgh v DHL Stormers 382,185
  • R3 Glasgow Warriors v Emirates Lions 363,674
  • R4 Edinburgh v Vodacom Bulls 260,448
  • R5 Glasgow Warriors v Leinster 224,494
  • R2 Glasgow Warriors v Cell C Sharks 209,027

Top 5 Games from Wales

  • R3 Ospreys v Cell C Sharks 580,026
  • R3 Cardiff v Vodacom Bulls 560,886
  • R5 Ospreys v Munster 480,652
  • R4 Dragons v DHL Stormers 445,471
  • R3 Scarlets v Munster 330,313

Images & Content from Munster Rugby


Champions Cup

Academy Trio Stepping Up & Contract News

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Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to announce that Academy trio Tony Butler, Ethan Coughlan and Mark Donnelly will be promoted to the senior squad in the summer.

We can also confirm that hooker Scott Buckley, who graduated from the Academy to the senior squad in 2022, has signed a contract extension.

Out-half Butler, scrum-half Coughlan (both 21) and 22-year-old prop Donnelly have all signed on for the next two seasons after impressing over their three years in the Academy.

Butler and Coughlan become the first Ennis RFC players to earn senior Munster contracts.

As previously confirmed, Academy lock Edwin Edogbo (21), who also came up through the Munster Youths system with Cobh Pirates, will graduate from the Academy to the senior squad on a two-year deal next season.

Buckley, Butler, Coughlan and Donnelly all made their Munster debuts in the famous Champions Cup win over Wasps in December 2021.

Tony Butler in action against Dragons.

Tony Butler in action against Dragons.

Ennis out-half Tony Butler has earned his first senior contract after a very productive three years in the Academy.

He has made six senior appearances to date, including two starts so far this season against Dragons and Connacht.

A Grand Slam winner with the Ireland U20s in 2022, Butler now plays his AIL rugby with Young Munster having previously lined out for Garryowen.

He captained Ennis at underage level, teaming up with Coughlan in the half-backs as they enjoyed success in the Munster U16 and U18 Clubs competitions.

Scrum-half Ethan Coughlan is enjoying an excellent campaign with three starts so far this year and eight senior appearances in total since joining the Academy.

He enjoyed great success alongside Butler with Ennis RFC at underage level before captaining the Ireland U18 Clubs team.

He also won a Grand Slam with the Ireland U20s in 2022 and plays his AIL rugby with Shannon.

Prop Mark Donnelly has already made nine senior appearances for Munster after coming up through the ranks at Midleton RFC, Midleton College and CBC.

He was a Pinergy Munster Schools Senior Cup winner with CBC in 2019 and featured for the Ireland U20s in the 2021 Six Nations.

He joined the Academy that summer before making his Munster debut along with Buckley, Butler and Coughlan against Wasps in December 2021

Along with his nine senior Munster appearances, Donnelly has also played regularly for Garryowen in the AIL over the past three years.

Mark Donnelly at Munster training.

Mark Donnelly at Munster training.

Hooker Scott Buckley (23) has signed a one-year contract having made 25 appearances for Munster to date.

A product of the Munster Rugby Academy, Buckley started out with Kinsale RFC before captaining CBC to the Pinergy Munster Schools Senior Cup in 2019.

He was Player of the Match against Wasps on his Munster debut and made nine appearances last season as Munster won the URC title.

A UCC clubman, he scored the match-winning try against Crusaders at Páirc Ui Chaoimh earlier this month.

Scott Buckley scores a try against Leinster in pre-season.

Images & Content from Munster Rugby


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URC

Squad Update Ahead Of Zebre At Virgin Media Park

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The Munster squad are preparing at the HPC ahead of Friday night’s URC Round 11 clash against Zebre at Virgin Media Park (7.35pm).

There are a limited number of tickets available here.

25 players lined out in the thrilling encounter against Harlequins on Friday night, including eight Academy players and two young club players. Scroll down for match highlights.

The squad is boosted by the return of Tom Ahern, Craig Casey and Jeremy Loughman from international duty ahead of Friday night’s clash in Cork.

On the injury front, Academy back-row forward Ruadhán Quinn has completed the return to play protocols and is available for selection.

Following the game against Harlequins on Friday night, Academy duo Shay McCarthy (ankle) and Daniel Okeke (elbow) will go for scans and are unavailable this week.

Continuing to rehab: Simon Zebo (knee), Patrick Campbell (shoulder), John Hodnett (finger), Paddy Patterson (knee), Jack O’Donoghue (knee), Dave Kilcoyne (shoulder), Diarmuid Barron (foot), Jean Kleyn (eye/knee), Liam Coombes (shoulder), Roman Salanoa (knee).

Video | Harlequins v Munster Highlights

Tickets

URC Round 11: Friday, March 1

Munster v Zebre Parma, Virgin Media Park, 7.35pm; Buy final tickets here

U20s 6 Nations Round 5: Friday, March 15

Ireland v Scotland, Virgin Media Park, 7pm; Buy final tickets here

URC Round 13: Saturday, March 30

Munster v Cardiff Rugby, Thomond Park, 7.35pm; Buy tickets here

Women’s 6 Nations Round 3: Saturday, April 13

Ireland v Wales, Virgin Media Park, 4.45pm; Buy tickets here

URC Round 16: Saturday, May 11

Munster v Connacht, Thomond Park, 5.15pm; Buy tickets here

URC Round 18: Saturday, June 1

Munster v Ulster, Thomond Park, 5.15pm; Buy tickets here

Images & Content from Munster Rugby


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Dan McFarland departs Ulster Rugby

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Dan McFarland departs Ulster Rugby

3 minutes ago

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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.”

Images & Content – Ulster Rugby


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