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PREVIEW: Munster Make Seven Changes for Scarlets

Strong Scarlets team too.

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Munster and Scarlets have both made changes for their clash at Parc y Scarlets at 17 00 tomorrow.

Munster will be looking to make it eight wins on the bounce and have welcomed back a couple of key men to the starting line-up while the Welsh side have five internationals returning.

Jeremy Loughman, Rhys Marshell and John Ryan, who is back from Ireland duty, start in the front-row for the visitors.

Jean Kleyn comes back into the pack having missed last week’s game through illness and will partner captain Billy Holland in the second-row.

Making up the pack are Fineen Wycherley, Conor Oliver and Arno Botha, at six, seven and eight respectively.

The out-half pairing has been switched up once more by the Irish province with Alby Mathewson and Bill Johnston coming in at No 9 and 10.

Rory Scannell will become the youngest player to reach 100 caps for Munster, having turned 25 in December, when he lines out beside Dan Goggin in the centre.

The back-three is made up of Darren Sweetnam, Ronan O’Mahony on the wings and full-back Mike Haley, who is in fine form at the moment.

The men in red have some experienced players to call on from the bench if needed such as Stephen Archer, Tyler Bleyendaal and Jaco Taute.

Speaking ahead of the game head coach Johann Van Graan has talked about the happiness in the club with their current form but sees room for improvement.

“We’re happy, we’ve won our last seven games in a row, and we’ve won five out of our last seven away. So, we’re pretty happy with our current form, but we’ve a lot to improve on from last weekend,” he said.

On the other side, the Scarlets have been able to recall Leigh Halfpeeny, Wyn Jones, Ryan Elias, Rhys Patchell and Steff Evans from Wales duty.

Jones and Elias are joined by Werner Kruger in the front three with Josh Helps and Lewis Rawlins slotting in behind.

While Josh Macleod, Dan Davis and Uzair Cassiem make up the back-row.

Kieran Hardy and Dan Jones are at scrum-half and fly-half respectively, with Paul Asquith and captain Kieron Fonotia outside them in the centre.

The ever-impressive Johnny McNicholl and Ioan Nicholas are on the wings with Halfpenny at full-back to finish up the XV.

Patchell and Evans are among the subs as the team will hope to continue their incredible home form which has seen them lose only one match since September 2016 in front of their fans.

Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivoc spoken about his delight at his teams win against the Cheetahs last weekend but is expecting a different challenge against the current Conference A leaders.

“We all know that Munster are going to be a very different proposition. They will bring a lot aggression and line-speed in defence, which poses a different challenge. We need to be on our game and are expecting more of an arm wrestle,” he said.

Munster are one point ahead of Glasgow at the summit of Conference A and will need a special performance in Wales as the Scarlets will be looking to close the five-point gap between them in fifth and Benetton in second in Conference B.

A win for either could be vital come the end of the regular 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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