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Leinster Hammer Dragons to Continue Impressive Start

Leinster have maintained their 100% start to the season in the PRO14 with yet another brilliant win against the Dragons

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(Photo By Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Leinster have made it five wins from five at the start of the PRO14 season with a 50-15 Victory over the Dragons in the RDS tonight.

A brace each from Dave Kearney and James Lowe, along with tries from Michael Bent Harry Byrne, Ronan Kelleher and Hugh O’Sullivan saw Leinster ease past the Welsh outfit. 

Leinster got off to the perfect start with Bent barrelling over from close-range inside nine minutes with Peter Dooley and Ryan Baird helping over the line. The conversion was missed but it was 5-0 to the hosts. 

However, ten minutes later the Dragons got back into the game as Sam Davies knocked over a penalty to make it a two-point game. 

The men in blue hit back straight away stretching their lead with their second try of the game as they exchanged the ball with some brilliant handling skills on the right-hand touchline before Dave Kearney raced in for the five-pointer. Byrne slotted over the extras making it 12-3 with just over a quarter of the match gone. 

Once again the away side came back after conceding as Jordan Williams went over after the ball went loose in the opposition 22. Davies couldn’t cut further into the lead as he sent the conversion wide. 

With little over five minutes remaining in the half Leinster fly-half Byrne went in for their third try on his first start for the province as he burst through a gap in the Dragons defence to touch down. He converted his own try to give the hosts a 19-8 lead come the whistle. 

The hosts got off to a blistering start in the second period as a line-out maul four minutes into the half saw Kelleher go over for his side’s fourth try securing another bonus-point for the reigning champions. Bryne couldn’t add the two extra this time around but Leinster were on fire in the pelting rain. 

Two minutes on and try number five arrived as Byrne sent an inch perfect cross-field kick to Kearney, who darted forward before passing inside, but he got the ball back once again to jink inside to get over for the score. Byrne again failed from the tee but suddenly it was 29-8 to the hosts. 

As the clock ticked over the hour mark Leinster had another try as they showed some wonderful hands on the left-hand side, beating the on-rushing defence to send the ball to winger Lowe who had open-field ahead of him which he ran into to put the ball over the line. Byrne found his kicking boots to add the conversion from the left. 

Three minutes later and a bit of luck lead to replacement scrum-half O’Sullivan finding himself only needing to touch the ball down for the five-points. Byrne notched over the conversion to make it 43-8. 

Another two minutes on and Lowe and Leinster went over for another try, with the ball being knocked on by the Dragons, straight into Lowe’s arms, with the winger sprinting over from the half-way line for his side’s seventh try. Byrne had the easy task of adding the two points from in front of the posts to make it a half-century for the hosts. 

Dragons had the final say in the game with a last minute consolation try through winger Owen Jenkins who raced over in the right corner. The conversion meant that it finished 50-15 to Leinster.

The win means that Leinster have secured four bonus-point wins from their opening five matches and maintain a 100% record at the start of the 2019/20 PRO14 season as they look to win a third title on the bounce. Next up for the boys in blue is a trip to Connacht next week for their first interprovincial derby of the season, while for the Dragons they face another tough trip away to Edinburgh.

Leinster Player Ratings

Starting XV:

Jimmy O’Brien (7), Dave Kearney (8), Rory O’Loughlin (7), Conor O’Brien (7), James Lowe (8), Harry Byrne (9), Jamison Gibson-Park (8); Peter Dooley (7), Ronan Kelleher (8), Michael Bent (7), Devin Toner (7), Ryan Baird (7), Max Deegan (7), Scott Penny (8), Caelan Doris (7)

Replacements (8)

Champions Cup

Graham Rowntree Confirmed As Next Munster Head Coach

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(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm that Graham Rowntree will be promoted from Forwards Coach to the role of Head Coach from July 1, 2022.

Rowntree will commence the role of Head Coach at the start of the 2022/23 season after signing a two-year deal.

The former England prop made the move to Limerick in October 2019 on completion of his Rugby World Cup coaching duties with Georgia Rugby.

In his third season as Forwards Coach Graham and family have settled well into Limerick life, noting earlier this year, “I have made my thoughts about this club widely known throughout my time so far, and for me and my family it really has been an easy decision, a non-decision if truth be told.

“We’ve put down roots here and have no desire to move anywhere else.”

With an impressive coaching CV and vast experience, Rowntree previously held coaching roles with the British and Irish Lions, England Rugby, Harlequins and Leicester Tigers.

Working closely with the IRFU, the province will advance with next steps in securing the backroom team that will work with Graham from next season as Head Coach Johann van Graan, Senior Coach Stephen Larkham, and Defence Coach JP Ferreira depart the province at the end of June.

IRFU Performance Director, David Nucifora, commented, “I would like to thank the Munster Professional Game Committee for their work and diligence during this process.

“It is important that Munster have someone who understands the unique history and culture of the club and has the experience to maximise the talent in the squad.

“Graham was very impressive throughout this process and demonstrated he has the capabilities to spearhead the next chapter of Munster Rugby.”

On confirmation of the promotion, Graham Rowntree added, “I am hugely honoured to be taking over the role of Head Coach for a club of this calibre, one that means so much to me and my family.

“We have thoroughly enjoyed every moment here and I fortunately get to work with an incredible group of staff and players who share a common goal each day in striving for success for this club.

“I’ve talked about our fantastic supporters before and again at the weekend we stepped off the bus to a huge red welcome in Exeter. Who doesn’t want to be part of that, that’s special!

“I believe we have the established structures in place with the resources and facilities to match and that it will be a smooth transition for the coaching ticket we assemble in ensuring continued development and success for this club.

“Before then I have a role to complete this season and working closely with Johann, Steve, and JP is the immediate focus and priority for now.”

Commenting on the appointment, Munster Rugby CEO Ian Flanagan said, “Graham’s extensive coaching experience and knowledge for the game makes him the perfect candidate to lead this squad forward.

“With Graham stepping up at the start of the new season it will be a seamless and natural progression from the work that has been carried out to-date.

“For now, we will continue our focus on the remainder of this season with Graham supporting Johann and the coaching staff in achieving our goals.”

Munster Rugby Home Fixtures

Saturday, April 16

Champions Cup Round of 16: Munster v Exeter Chiefs, Thomond Park, 3pm; Buy tickets here

Friday, April 29

URC: Munster v Cardiff Rugby, Musgrave Park, 7.35pm; Buy tickets here

Images & Content from Munster Rugby

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6 Nations

Sean O’Brien to retire from rugby

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Image Credit: London Irish

London Irish can confirm Seán O’Brien is set to retire from rugby at the end of the 2021/22 season.

The back-row forward will bring a storied 14-year career to a conclusion this summer after two-and-a-half years with the Exiles.

O’Brien spent eleven seasons with his home province of Leinster, winning four Pro12/ Pro14 league titles, four Heineken Cup/ Champions Cup honours and an Amlin Challenge Cup, whilst also earning the ERC European Player of the Year accolade in 2011. 

He was capped 56 times for Ireland between 2009 and 2019 and represented the British and Irish Lions on two tours, firstly to Australia in 2013 and then to New Zealand in 2017. 

O’Brien joined London Irish in December 2019 and has played a vital part across three successful seasons in west London, becoming a fan favourite amongst the Exile Nation. 

On his decision to retire, O’Brien stated: “After much deliberation and consultation with my family and friends, I can confirm that I have decided to retire from playing professional rugby at the end of the season.

“I’ve had an incredible career and am thankful for every second of my time at Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the British & Irish Lions. 

“As a 20-year-old, I fulfilled my childhood dream by pulling on the Leinster jersey, and when I made my debut against Cardiff Blues in 2008, I never imagined what would then follow over the next 14 years. 

“A special mention must go to Colin McEntee for his ‘big brother’ approach when I joined the academy. 

“I feel lucky to have experienced so many wonderful highlights over the course of my career.

“At an international level, I feel privileged to have won 56 caps for Ireland. 

“I gave everything I could possibly give, and I will always look back with great pride at every time I pulled on the Irish jersey to represent my country, my county, my friends, and family.

“I feel very fortunate to have had the career I’ve had but none of it would have been possible without the support of so many people.

“Firstly, I would like to thank my Mam and Dad for taking me to Ballon Rathoe Community Games and then Tullow RFC when I was 8 years old. 

“They took me to every sport in my area which gave me the exposure to all types of sport. 

“They were the perfect role models who taught me to not be afraid of hard work, which certainly helped me progress my career and I can’t thank them enough.

“I was lucky to play alongside some great players and under some brilliant managers and coaches during my time at Tullow, Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the Lions and I would like to thank every one of them. 

“I would also like to thank the backroom staff at each of those clubs, they all showed me fantastic support during my time with them.

“I would like to say a special thank you to some people who believed in me early on in my career, who are sadly no longer with us. 

“Jim Kealy (Tullow RFC) and David Wilkie (Edenderry RFC) always said the right thing to me and gave me direction when needed.

“Away from rugby, I feel lucky to have had such a close group of friends that I have always been able to count and rely on throughout the course of my career. 

“Thanks to all of you, especially James Foley and Daniel Davey. 

“Finally, the most important thank you is reserved for my family. 

“I can’t thank my Mum, Dad and brothers (Stephen and William) sisters (Caroline and Alex) enough for their unconditional support over the years. 

“It has meant everything to me and to have 6 nephews watching means the world to me.

“There is still a lot of rugby to be played this season before the time comes to hang up my boots, and I am fully focused on giving my all in the London Irish jersey until then. 

“I’m going to soak up every minute I get on the pitch and look forward to helping the team wherever I can.

“I am excited about the future and feel I still have a lot to offer the game, in whatever capacity that may be. 

“I am currently taking my time to consider a number of options and will make an announcement with regards to the next stage of my career very soon.”

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URC

Ulster squad selected for Vodacom Bulls clash

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Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images

The Ulster match-day squad to face Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Saturday afternoon has been named.

Andrew Warwick will make his 150th appearance for the province as he has been named to start at loosehead prop and will be joined in the front row by Brad Roberts and Marty Moore. Iain Henderson comes into skipper the side at second row, and will partner fellow Irish international, Kieran Treadwell. Jordi Murphy and Nick Timoney come in to start at blindside and openside flanker, with Duane Vermeulen at the base of the scrum at Number Eight.

Mike Lowry is selected to start at full-back, with Ben Moxham and Ethan McIlroy named on the wings. Luke Marshall and James Hume will form the centre partnership while Ian Madigan and Nathan Doak make up the half-back pairing.

The Ulster coaching team has opted for a 6-2 split on the bench, with Tom Stewart, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Mick Kearney, Matty Rea and Marcus Rea selected as forward reinforcements. John Cooney and Stewart Moore provide the back line cover.

Ulster team to play Vodacom Bulls, United Rugby Championship Round 14, Saturday 2 April at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, 1pm kick-off (UK / IRE time), live on SuperSport, Premier Sports & URC TV:

(15-9) Mike Lowry, Ben Moxham, James Hume, Luke Marshall, Ethan McIlroy, Ian Madigan, Nathan Doak;

(1-8) Andrew Warwick, Brad Roberts, Marty Moore, Kieran Treadwell, Iain Henderson (Capt.), Jordi Murphy, Nick Timoney, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: Tom Stewart, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Mick Kearney, Matty Rea, John Cooney, Marcus Rea, Stewart Moore.  

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