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International signings in line to feature in Blue and Blacks’ URC opener



Cardiff’s new signings and international contingent are in line to feature in next week’s BKT United Rugby Championship opener against Munster at Cardiff Arms Park (Friday, September 16, KO 7.35pm).

Rhys Carré, Willis Halaholo and Lopeti Timani are all named on the bench for the final pre-season encounter against Zebre Parma on Friday, but Dai Young is set to be boosted by the presence of Taulupe Faletau, Liam Williams, Tomos Williams and Josh Adams – amongst others – for the campaign’s curtain raiser.

While Josh Navidi is set to miss out due a recent neck injury suffered in the third Test match against South Africa over the summer, the director of rugby is pleased to be able to call on a fit and firing international contingent.

Young revealed: “I’m really pleased with how the internationals have turned up for pre-season in really good condition.

“They’ve recharged their batteries but they’ve also done the work and we’re really happy with where they’re at.

“Apart from Josh Navidi they’re all – in agreement with the WRU and Wales coach Wayne Pivac – available for the Munster game and will all be involved in the 23, maybe with the exception of James (Ratti) who has a bit of a strain and probably has an outside chance of being available.

“We want to start well. It’s important after the way we ended last season that we start as well as possible. 

“Obviously, they can’t all play every game in the first block, so we will have to manage that process. But my intention would be to go as strong as we can for the first game at home.

Halaholo and new signing Timani will feature as replacements against Zebre on Friday, having recovered from recent niggles.

Young insists they will carefully manage the duo as he gave further updates on the injuries of Ellis Jenkins and fellow back row Navidi.

The former Wales prop added: “Timani has come on board, but neither him nor Willis have done too much training. They picked up little niggles and that’s why they’re on the bench.

“I don’t see them getting too much game time but we want to get them out there. 

“They’re two quality players in their own rights. They’ve had niggles, but have been training for two weeks so they’re not a million miles away.

“Ellis has had a little bit of a problematic knee or niggle during pre-season. He’s back in modified training this week but is still probably two or three weeks away from being available for selection.

“He’s dipped his toe in a little bit this week, will do more again next week and is probably three weeks away from full training if everything goes to plan.

“Josh has had two injections in his neck to settle the injury down, so the next week or so will determine where he is, because it takes a little bit of time for it to actually work.

“Realistically, even if we get the response we would like, he’s probably still around three or four weeks away. Josh could be anything from three to six weeks.”

“Everyone is confident, and he’s seen the specialist, who felt he needed two injection which had to be a week apart. Normally that takes seven to ten days to really kick in and then he can start his rehab.

“Depending on how quickly that goes will determine how quickly he comes back. But we have no reason to suggest any different.”

Another player set for his first involvement of the season is Thomas Young, who will wear the Blue and Black jersey for the first time since his summer move from Wasps.

The openside flanker starts alongside James Botham and skipper Josh Turnbull in the Cardiff back row, which kicks off his latest chapter at the Arms Park.

“It’s well documented that Thomas has been here from boy to man. When I was here before he was a ball boy, then went into the academy,” explained the director of rugby.

“That didn’t quite work out for him, but he went away and proved himself.

“The important thing, to be fair to him, was that he went to Wasps as my son but came away having scored the most tries by any Wasps forward ever.

“He’s more than made his own mark, it’s nothing to do with me.

“We’re pleased to have him back here. He’s really proud of his roots and he’s really looking forward to running out at the Arms Park again.”

Tickets are available now for Cardiff’s BKT United Rugby Championship opener against Munster at Cardiff Arms Park. Join us under Friday Night Lights at the capital on September 16 by purchasing your ticket NOW

Content & Images from – Cardiff Rugby


Vodacom Bulls sign Premiership star



The Vodacom Bulls are happy to announce the signing of Premiership and Champions Cup winner, Jannes Kirsten. The multifaceted forward will join the Pretoria-based Vodacom Bulls from 1 July 2023 with his initial stay pencilled in till June 2026.

Kirsten – a former South African Under-20s international – is no stranger to Loftus, having made his mark playing for the Vodacom Bulls, both in Super Rugby and the Currie Cup. The 29-year-old has the Vodacom Bulls DNA, being the younger brother of one Frik Kirsten, a prop who made 81 appearances for the club between 2008 and 2014.

Since moving to England in 2019, the lock/back-rower has made a mammoth 75 appearances for his current side, the Exeter Chiefs. Forming part of the core group that would help the English club claim a historic double, winning both the Gallagher Premiership and Heineken Champions Cup during the 2019/2020 season. A season where Kirsten became an instrumental figure on the field and a proven champion off it.

Blue Bulls Company (BBCo.) Chief Executive Officer, Edgar Rathbone said the news of Kirsten joining the herd is good for South African rugby and not just the Vodacom Bulls.

“We know Jannes very well and understand the impact he can have. We appreciate that he has gone on to play in Europe, in different conditions against some of the best rugby stars in that part of the world, so the experience he returns with will be invaluable to us. He knows Pretoria very well and having him return means that he sees us as the place he can call home and so we are really glad to see him return to be united with his family,”

“The introduction of South African teams in European competition has meant that now more than the years before, we are seeing a few more locally produced quality players looking to make a return because they still have the opportunity to compete against some of the best in the Northern Hemisphere whilst adding value to the game in their own backyard,”

“We appreciate that he is a versatile player, who can slot in at lock and flank and that will add to our dynamic options, strengthening our rugby offering. We look forward to welcoming him in July and are confident that he will continue being the world-class player that we have seen become, wearing our stripes” concluded Rathbone.

Reflecting on his time at the Chiefs, Kirsten said: “The past four years have been an unbelievable experience, not just in terms of my rugby, but my own personal life. Coming to Exeter was obviously a new challenge for me, but it’s one that has brought me so much.

“The club, the city, the people, they have all been amazing and I will leave at the end of the season with only happy memories. What I have been able to achieve is something I am very proud of and the friends I have made will be life-long.

“South Africa, however, is home for me and the time is right for me to go back there and continue the next chapter of my rugby career. Heading over to Pretoria just a few weeks ago with the Chiefs was very special, particularly as I never thought I would run out at Loftus as a visiting player.

“Also, getting the opportunity to show my homeland to my teammates and the staff that travelled was something I will remember. The Chiefs will always hold a big place in my heart and between now and the end of the season I will be doing everything possible to ensure my time here finishes on a high note.”

Everybody at Loftus is excited and cannot wait to welcome Jannes home.

Content & Images from – Vodacom Bulls Rugby

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Connacht squad to face Emirates Lions named



The Connacht management team have named the matchday 23 for tomorrow’s BKT United Rugby Championship tie with the Emirates Lions at The Sportsground (k/o 7.35pm)
Having missed last week’s trip to Newcastle through injury, Jack Carty returns to captain the side. The out-half could make history in the game – he needs six points to equal Eric Elwood’s all-time points scoring record of 1152 points for the province.
Scrum-half Caolin Blade is named alongside him while Cathal Forde and Tom Farrell are named at inside and outside-centre respectively. Tiernan O’Halloran lines out at full back for his 215th Connacht appearance with John Porch and Diarmuid Kilgallen on the wings.
The pack sees the Murray brothers Darragh and Niall paired together in the second row, while props Peter Dooley and Jack Aungier come in alongside hooker Shane Delahunt. Josh Murphy moves from the second row to blindside flanker, while Conor Oliver and Jarrad Butler are retained at 7 and 8.
Commenting on the team selection, Director of Rugby Andy Friend says:
“Tomorrow marks the end of a long block of games for us and one we want to finish on a high. If we get the win we head into the next block well in the running for a playoff spot – while achieving our aim of reaching the Challenge Cup knockouts – so it’s not a bad spot to be in.
We’re fully aware however that we need a win tomorrow to put ourselves in that position. The Lions are a formidable outfit and have improved even more since their first season last year, so we know a difficult challenge awaits us.”

Saturday 28th January, 19:35 @ The Sportsground

15. Tiernan O’Halloran (214)
14. Diarmuid Kilgallen (12)
13. Tom Farrell (90)
12. Cathal Forde (7)
11. John Porch (72)
10. Jack Carty (190) (C)
9. Caolin Blade (161)
1. Peter Dooley (12)
2. Shane Delahunt (124)
3. Jack Aungier (43)
4. Darragh Murray (5)
5. Niall Murray (47)
6. Josh Murphy (11)
7. Conor Oliver (54)
8. Jarrad Butler (107)

16. Dylan Tierney-Martin (15)
17. Jordan Duggan (34)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (76)
19. Leva Fifita (22)
20. Shamus Hurley-Langton (12)
21. Kieran Marmion (222)
22. Tom Daly (71)
23. Oran McNulty (12)

Images & Content from – Connacht Rugby

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New Role for Ian Costello



Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm that Academy and Pathway Manager Ian Costello will assume the newly created role of Head of Rugby Operations at the end of this season.

Costello will take on further responsibility in an all-encompassing Head of Rugby Operations role that will oversee the long-term strategic development of the elite player pathway, succession planning, and provide recruitment support for developing, retaining, and recruiting players in conjunction with the Head Coach.

Commenting on the appointment, Munster Rugby CEO Ian Flanagan said, “We are delighted that Ian will step into this newly created role.

“This has been a work in progress in the background for some time as we look to align our resource support with the IRFU and other provinces.

“When Ian returned to the province as Academy Manager he was identified as the ideal candidate for this role when incorporating his previous coaching experience, managerial skill-set, and strategic abilities for aligning and developing our player pathway.”

Head Coach Graham Rowntree added, “I’m delighted to have someone of Cossie’s calibre (Ian Costello) taking on this role.

“We work very closely as it is through his academy role, and from my own personal point of view it has been a really positive working relationship. Ian and his academy team play a key role in everything we are trying to achieve each week.

“It’s great to have a dedicated resource to driving long-term succession planning and coordinate recruitment operations, and I believe it will be of huge benefit to not only me and our coaching team, but to Munster Rugby.”

Images & Content from Munster Rugby

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