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Glasgow vs Ulster Preview; Injured Players Return for Both

A number of key players have returned to line-out for the two sides in their Pro 14 semi-final

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(Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Glasgow Warriors and Ulster have been boosted by the return of some key men ahead of their Pro 14 semi-final at Scotstoun on Friday at 19 35.

For the hosts co-captain Callum Gibbins returns from a head injury sustained against Saracens in the Champions Cup quarterfinals, while also being able to name DTH van der Merwe on the wing.

On the other hand, the visitors have been massively lifted by the timely returns of both Jacob Stockdale and Louis Ludik, who slot straight into the back three as their side look to reach the final for the first time in six years.

Glasgow start the game with a front-three of Jamie Bhatti, Fraser Brown and Zander Fagerson, with Scott Cummings and Jonny Gray behind them on in the second-row.

The pack is finished with the strong trio of Rob Harly, Gibbins and Matt Fagerson

Scotland international Ali Price opens at scrum-half with Adam Hastings partnering him from fly-half. Sam Johnson and Kyle Steyn are just outside the pair in the 12 and 13 jerseys respectively.

It is a formidable back-three as van der Merwe and Tommy Seymour open on the wings with Stuart Hogg at full-back. This will be Hogg’s final home game for the Warriors before his summer switch to Exeter Chiefs.

There is plenty of strength on the bench as well with the likes of Ryan Wilson, George Horne, Peter Horne and Huw Jones to call upon.

For Ulster it’s a front-row of Eric O’Sullivan, captain Rory Best and Ross Kane with Ian Henderson and Kieran Treadwell in the engine room.

At the back of the pack there is a serious amount of power with Nick Timoney, Jordi Murphy and Marcel Coetzee on the flanks and at No 8 respectively.

John Cooney continues alongside Billy Burns in the half-backs, while Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshell are in the centre.

Louis Ludik begins the game on the left-wing with Robert Baloucoune on the right and Jacob Stockdale moves to full-back for the clash.

Just like the home side Ulster have depth on the bench with Rob Herring, Sean Reidy, David Shanahan and Darren Cave among those ready to play their part.

Speaking ahead of the final-four clash Ulster head coach Dan McFarland, whose side have gone further this season than most expected, is looking forward to testing his team against one of the best teams in the league.

“We’re treating it as an opportunity to play against a quality side and are confident in the work we’ve done this week, but understanding it’s a difficult task. It’s what you want to be doing. We could be on our sun loungers now, but we’re playing play-off rugby which is brilliant,” he said.

The prize for the victor will be a place in the final against either Leinster or Munster who face off in the other semi-final on Saturday and from there who knows what could happen with all hoping to claim the Pro 14 title after another incredible season.

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Ulster announce departure of key coach

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(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Ulster Rugby Defence Coach, and former Ulster player, Jared Payne will leave the club at the end of the season.

New Zealand-born Payne represented Ulster on 78 occasions and earned 20 caps for Ireland, before forming part of the Ulster coaching team for the past four seasons.

He will depart the club in the summer, after a decade of service to the province, to pursue coaching opportunities overseas.

On his time with Ulster, Payne, said:

“A big thank-you to the Ulster community, the fans, players and staff that have made my time here special.

“I will forever be grateful for the opportunities and experiences that we have shared, and I look forward to hopefully adding to those over these final few months.”

Head Coach, Dan McFarland, said:

“We all know how much Jared has given to Ulster, as a player, and as an important part of our coaching set-up since 2018.

“Jared has helped to shape who we are as a club over the past decade, and what we want to achieve, and his influence will continue to be felt in the years ahead. Jared’s desire to learn and improve himself as a coach has been impressive and it has been this spirit, in particular, that has made him a core part of our culture.

“On behalf of myself, the support staff, and the wider club, I would like to thank Jared for his significant contribution to Ulster, and he leaves with our best wishes for this next chapter.”

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Wales Women announce first full time contracts

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 The first full-time Wales Women players have been contracted by the Welsh Rugby Union including five Ospreys Women.

The 12-month contracts came into force this week with players and management based at the National Centre of Excellence.

The Ospreys in the mix include Wales Captain Siwan Lillicrap, hooker Carys Phillips, second-row Natalia John, scrum-half Keira Bevan and outside half Elinor Snowsill.

Group Chief Executive Steve Phillips said, “This is a very proud day for us as a governing body. I am very pleased to be able to say we have our first full-time female players who will represent Wales on the international stage. This is set to be a very demanding but unforgettable year for women’s rugby and these players – along with the players on retainer contracts and other squad members – will benefit from the full range of our expert on and off-field support to help them reach their potential. This is the start of an exciting journey for women and girls in Wales.

WRU Performance Director Nigel Walker said, “The historic awarding of 12 full-time contracts will enable all these players to be full-time professionals and have regular, weekly contact with head coach Ioan Cunningham, the rest of the coaches and our expert science and medical team. All of this will make a significant difference to the players’ preparation, fitness and skill sets in order to enable us to challenge the best teams in the world.

“We were so pleased with the quality of the players’ autumn performances that an increase to 12 full-time contracts was agreed, and the coaching team felt that working with 12 players who form the spine of the team would make a big impact. These players will be joined by 15 players on retainer contracts in the coming weeks.”

Wales Women head coach Ioan Cunningham said, “It’s been a tough but enjoyable process. Credit to all the players who have given us selection headaches. We are all now super excited to get the programme started.

“Talent and ability was the first element in our selection process and then the potential growth of the individual player along with their attitude.

“The conversations offering contracts were nice ones to have if often quite emotional. Some of the players had logistic issues to work through from a personal and professional perspective but it’s great to have them at the National Centre of Excellence now as we start to put the foundations in place for improvement. We have developed close working relationships with the players’ Allianz Premier 15s clubs and I’m confident our programme will prove beneficial for all parties.

On player selection: “We had to be fairly clinical and even ruthless. We clearly have short and medium term goals in terms of the Six Nations and the Rugby World Cup but we also have an eye on developing the best players for the future of Welsh rugby. Overall, we have gone for the players we feel could make the biggest gains at this time, not forgetting the contribution the players who receive retainer contracts will also make to the programme.

“Props Gwenllian Pyrs and Donna Rose are both dynamic ball-carriers, Carys Phillips is an exceptional talent as a throwing hooker, Natalia John has a huge workrate and was one of our stand-out performers of the autumn. All these front five players have huge potential and getting them into a full-time, professional programme will make a huge difference from a strength and conditioning perspective, along with the technical side of their game.

“In the back row, Siwan Lillicrap and Alisha Butchers are both excellent rugby players and great leaders on the pitch. Alisha has a fantastic skill-set, Siwan is our captain and has an amazing understanding of the game. Both deserve this opportunity to improve further physically and technically.

“We wanted to include two full-time scrum halves in the group and we feel Keira Bevan and Ffion Lewis will complement and challenge each other within the environment. Keira is very sharp, Ffion identifies running opportunities and we want to develop them both to be two of the best scrum halves in the world.

“Elinor Snowsill is an experienced player, understands the game brilliantly, and being part of a full-time environment will help her make a bigger impact in the game physically and provide the opportunity to hone key skills at outside half.

“Hannah Jones loves the physical side of rugby and leads defensively from the centre, Lisa Neumann is a powerful, attacking runner and Jaz’s talents are clearly already world-class with one of the best strike rates in world rugby, but having these players in full-time will give them a chance to develop all aspects of their game and become even better athletes and rugby players.”

The first full-time players:
Forwards:
Alisha Butchers, Natalia John, Siwan Lillicrap, Carys Phillips, Gwenllian Pyrs, Donna Rose,
Backs:
Keira Bevan, Hannah Jones, Jasmine Joyce, Ffion Lewis, Lisa Neumann, Elinor Snowsill 

Source – Ospreys Rugby

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Ulster squad named for trip to Munster

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Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

The Ulster coaching team has named their match-day squad to travel to Munster for their first game of 2022 on Saturday (Thomond Park, 7.35pm kick-off).

James Hume will make his 50th appearance for the Ulster men, as he has been named to start in the centre alongside Ben Moxham, who makes his first start this season. Mike Lowry is selected at full-back with Ethan McIlroy and Craig Gilroy on the wings. John Cooney and Billy Burns are the starting half-backs to complete the back line.

Jack McGrath will make his first start of the season at loosehead prop, with Rob Herring and Tom O’Toole completing the front row at hooker and tighthead respectively. Alan O’Connor will captain the side and starts in the second row alongside Sam Carter. Greg Jones is named at blindside flanker, with Nick Timoney and Duane Vermeulen selected at openside and Number Eight.

John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Ross Kane, Kieran Treadwell and Marcus Rea provide the forward options on the bench, while Nathan Doak, Angus Curtis and Rob Lyttle are selected as the back line replacements.

Ulster team to play Munster Rugby, United Rugby Championship Round 10, Saturday 8 January at Thomond Park, 7.35pm kick-off, live on RTÉ and Premier Sports:

(15-9) Mike Lowry, Craig Gilroy, Ben Moxham, James Hume, Ethan McIlroy, Billy Burns, John Cooney;

(1-8) Jack McGrath, Rob Herring, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor (Capt.), Sam Carter, Greg Jones, Nick Timoney, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Ross Kane, Kieran Treadwell, Marcus Rea, Nathan Doak, Angus Curtis, Rob Lyttle.

Unavailable for selection

Brad Roberts, Tom Stewart, Marty Moore, Iain Henderson, Cormac Izuchukwu, Jordi Murphy, Matty Rea, Ian Madigan, Stewart Moore, Stuart McCloskey, Luke Marshall, Robert Baloucoune, Jacob Stockdale, Will Addison.

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