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Press Pass: Blair on recruitment and rising to challenges



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On recruitment at the club

“The recruitment in Scottish rugby is more intricate than English rugby because we are owned by a common owner. We have a number of different people involved in the recruitment process.

“The bit I probably found a little bit harder was that period between Matt Cornwell leaving and Dave Bassett coming in [as Head of rugby Operations].

“That meant myself and Douglas Struth were more involved in the numbers side of things. The beauty of having Dave Bassett now is that he came up from Wasps and is a really experienced technician of recruitment.

“He understands the big picture, budgets, and it kind of means that we can say ‘these are the kind of guys we’re looking at – can you get them’.

“We obviously have input from upstairs as well. There is no ruling on how many overseas players you can have, but if you have three overseas nines then that is not going to work.

“Or they might suggest players through the data collection they do. For me it is something new but the support network around me helps to take the pressure off.”


On the challenges of the role

I was interested in the comments after the Glasgow game where I said I was finding the job a challenge – interested that that’s been taken as a negative.

“I don’t see a challenge as being a negative, I see it as being an opportunity to show what you can do. Me saying the job is a challenge is not a cry for help or anything.

This job is a challenge and we’ve got to do some work to get better. A challenge is a positive thing – it focuses the mind.

“I had a couple of messages from people to ask if I was okay. I told them that of course things are a challenge and had they tried being a Head coach. It’s not a negative thing, it’s a positive driver.”


On being reflective in the role

“The advice I’ve been given by people I respect is mainly around being true to myself. My authenticity is around energy and enthusiasm, having a smile on my face.

“At times it is difficult to do that because I get caught up in the detail of what I’m doing or the result.

“I’m becoming more and more conscious that I need to keep being authentic to how I am. That was aa big driver to our success last season – the confidence and belief.

“I still have that 100 percent but I need to keep projecting it so the players see it and everyone else sees it as well.

“I did manage to switch off at New Year. It’s a work-on. On Saturday I managed to not open my laptop at all. I wanted to enjoy time with the family. On Sunday I was right back in it.”


On players returning from injury

“We’re hopeful that Dave Cherry will be back. He did a full week of training last week and got through today OK, so he’s back in available for selection. Adam McBurney won’t be far off – he’s cut a bit of time off his original rehab.

“This has been a tough block and a really testing and challenging block – challenging in a positive way. We’re getting to see our players against quality opposition and we’re having to deal with some adversity as well.

“This is good for the group. Things have come out this week that, had we scraped a win, we might not have addressed them. And I believe that for the long-term growth of the group, things that have come out this week have been really important.”


On reflecting as a playing group

“I’d say we’re a pretty honest group anyway. It certainly wasn’t a crisis meeting, it was looking at our game and saying ‘What are we comfortable with?’ And we’re comfortable with a huge amount of our game.

“But there are little, two-, three-percenters that are preventing us from winning the game. We said every game since the autumn we could and should have won.

“That’s been against really strong opposition, so we’re doing a lot of stuff right, and we’re just looking at a little bit of the detail of what we can get better. A lot of that is around ourselves, and individual prep and expectations.”

Content & Images from – Edinburgh 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.”

Images & Content – Ulster Rugby

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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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