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PREVIEW: Munster v Benetton

Munster have made a host of changes to the side that faced Cardiff last weekend for their trip to Italy

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Photo by Andrew Surma/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Munster have made 11 changes to their team that defeated Cardiff last weekend as they head to Italy to face Benetton on Friday at 7pm.

Munster know that they need a win to keep the pressure on Glasgow at the top of the table and stay in the hunt for a home semi-final.

Mike Haley, Darren Sweetnam, Billy Holland and Chris Cloete are the only players to keep their places in the starting team from last week.

Jeremy Loughman, Rhys Marshall and Stephen Archer make up the front-row as Archer is set to make his 150th Pro 14 appearance.

Fineen Wycherley partners captain Holland in the second-row, with Jack O’Donoghue, Chris Cloete and Gavin Coombes behind in the back-row. Coombes is set for his debut.

Alby Mathewson starts at scrum-half, alongside JJ Hanrahan in the half-backs, who is set to play his 100th match for the reds.

Outside them are Dan Goggin and Sam Arnold in the centre pairing. Shane Daly is on the left-wing, another ready to make his first start, with Darren Sweetnam on the right and Hike Haley at full-back.

Their bench is largely inexperienced with academy player Alex Henry, yet another ready to make his debut for the club among them.

Speaking ahead of the game Munster head coach Johann van Graan, who signed a new contract extension during the week, has complimented the opposition and their style.

“They’ve been excellent. The conference system sets up knock-out rugby pretty well and they play knock-out rugby,” he said.

On other side Benetton have made one change to the team that secured a dramatic away draw at Leinster last weekend, with Tommaso Benvenuti coming in for Luca Morisi. Otherwise it’s as you were.

A win for Munster is crucial in the race to stay in touch with Glasgow at the top of Conference A, but Benetton are in the play-off positions in Conference B and will want to stay there, so this could be a battle worth watching.

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Dragons confirm signature of Ulster star

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(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Wales international hooker Bradley Roberts will officially become a Dragon after signing a long-term deal with the Men of Gwent.

The front row ace – currently part of the Wales squad for the upcoming Six Nations – will join the region this summer from Irish province Ulster Rugby.

Roberts made his international debut for Wales against South Africa in the 2021 Autumn Nations Series.  

The 26-year-old heads back to Wales having previously spent a season with RGC in the Welsh Premiership and will look to continue his eye-catching development with Dean Ryan’s men.

“We’re really pleased that Bradley will join us and that he sees Dragons as the right environment for him to keep improving,” said Dean Ryan, Director of Dragons Rugby.

“Bradley obviously has international aspirations, as he makes the return to Wales, and we look forward to him competing for selection from next season.” 

Roberts said: “I’m really excited by the challenge ahead of me. It’s a new opportunity and, after only a few seasons at this level, I’m determined to keep moving forward.

“I spoke to Dean about the Dragons and it’s a young group that are building for the future. I’m eager to add to that and be a part of that journey.

“The move to Dragons means I can also keep pushing to be part of the Wales set-up. I’ve only just started with that, and I want to add to those experiences.

“I’m looking forward to linking up with the Dragons, but for now my focus remains on Ulster, the next few months with Wales and a strong end to this season.”

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Roberts to leave Dragons & join Aussie Super Rugby franchise

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(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Dragons Rugby can today announce that centre Jamie Roberts will leave the region for personal reasons at the end of this month.

Roberts joined the Men of Gwent in August 2020 and has made 23 appearances in all competitions, scoring five tries.

The Wales and British & Irish Lions ace has been granted early release from his contract to move to Australia to join his Sydney-born partner, who is expecting their second child in March.

Dean Ryan, Director of Dragons Rugby, said: “We thank Jamie for his time at Dragons and the support he has given us; helping stabilise the environment and encouraging youngsters to come through.

“We fully support what has been a difficult decision for him to make. We wish him a safe trip over to Australia and look forward to welcoming him and his family back to Rodney Parade in the years to come.”

Roberts has thanked the region for understanding his request to move overseas and paid tribute to the Rodney Parade supporters for their support during his time at Dragons.

“It is with a heavy heart that I’m leaving the Dragons at the end of the month. I’d like to personally thank Dean for understanding my personal circumstances,” he said.

“As my Sydney-born partner is expecting our second child in March, we feel the best decision for our family is to be surrounded by her support network in Sydney during this period.

“Although it’ll be difficult leaving, I do so with many fond memories,” he added. 

“As well as enjoying wearing the jersey and playing, I’ve taken great satisfaction in supporting and witnessing the growth and development of many younger players in the squad, many of whom are no doubt destined for success in the game.

“It’s been great fun playing back at Rodney Parade, where my parents took me as a young lad growing up to watch the Black and Ambers. 

“Although supporters haven’t been able to attend as much as they’d have liked, for obvious reasons, I’d like to thank them for their support. 

“The club is nothing without its supporters, and I hope that moving forwards, the playing group can give fans lots to cheer about from the terraces.

“I wish the coaching and playing group nothing but the very best moving forward.”

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Munster confirm another coaching departure

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Munster - Pixabay

Munster Rugby Defence Coach JP Ferreira will depart the province at the end of the current season.

Ferreira, who joined the province in December 2017, will join Johann van Graan in making the move to Premiership outfit Bath Rugby.

JP Ferreira said, “This has not been an easy decision to make as my family and I have thoroughly enjoyed our life in Limerick and are part of a very close-knit community.

“I have been in this role for five seasons and during this time I have enjoyed every minute of coaching at this incredible club.

“The experience I have gained and the friendships that I have made along the way will forever stay with me. The way Munster Rugby opened their arms to my family and I throughout my tenure has been outstanding and we are forever grateful to everyone that has made this journey memorable and possible.

“On a personal note, as a family with young children we have an opportunity to experience a different environment and new challenges and we feel this move is the right next step for us.

“I’m very proud of what this group has achieved, and I’m excited for the months ahead as we remain focused on the task at hand, committed to delivering success with this group of players and staff.”

Source – Munster Rugby

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