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PREVIEW: Munster V Connacht

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Photo By Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Head coach Andy Friend says that Connacht will need to play a “smart” brand of Rugby in order to earn a victory at Thomond Park in Friday evening’s GuinnessPRO14 Rainbow Cup meeting with Munster. 

The Westerners were narrowly defeated by the Southern province, 20-17, in the side’s last meeting in March in a keenly contested interprovincial derby.

Despite the loss, Friend says there were plenty positives to take from the performance — which he described as smart — and he says applying those traits to Friday evening’s game will be crucial to any win.

“What we brought in that game at Thomond, more so in the game here(the December meeting of the team’s at the Sportsground), was that we defensively muscled up against them,” the Australian said.

“I thought our line out worked really well against them, in both attack and defence, and I thought we played a smart brand of Rugby, in terms of what we were doing with the ball, whether we were kicking it long or kicking for contestables. They were key areas that I felt worked for us and we have to make sure we replicate that and some on Friday night.”

Friend, meanwhile, paid tribute to Quinn Roux after the Irish international announced he will leave the province at the end of the season after seven years in Connacht green.

While the second row will be missed, the head coach wished him the best of luck for the future and thanked him for his service.

“He’s given an enormous amount to this province,” the former Australian sevens coach said.

“He leaves with our blessing and our respect. We would love to keep him, of course we would, but at the end of the day, people make decisions. It was a lengthy process we went through and a decision was made at the end.

“We have already begun the process of recruiting a new second row and we will obviously make an announcement about that in due course.”

Elsewhere, second row Gavin Thornbury says that Friday’s renewal of rivalries with Munster will provide players the opportunity to put their hands up for international selection with the Irish national team.

Ireland recently announced summer tests against the USA and Japan in Dublin and Thornbury says that competing against other players in the fold for national team squad berths will give him — and every other eligible player — the platform to showcase their abilities and further their international ambitions.

“They are always big,” the 27-year-old said of the interprovincial clash.

“Every time an interpro is played, It’s played fully and 100%, no matter who is playing. It’s another chance to put yourself in the shop window. All I can do is make sure I get myself as mentally and physically in as good a position as possible to put in a performance on Friday. I’m looking forward to that.”

Irish line out coach Paul O’Connell attended Connacht training last week and Thornbury said it was a great opportunity to show a member of the national team coaching staff their qualities close up.

“It was good to get him down and show him what we’re doing here,” he said.

“He would have always been someone I looked up to, so it was nice to meet him and introduce myself and just have a conversation with him. We had a good conversation and I was pretty happy with that. Hopefully, now I just back it up with performances and that’s probably the biggest thing.”

Thornbury, who joined the Westerners in 2017 from Leinster, was superb in the last game between the teams, a 20-17 home win for Munster in March, and he said he is keen to make a similar impression on Friday and help the team go one better and claim a win.

“Yeah, it was good,” the Dublin native said when asked how he would assess his performance in his last trip to Thomond Park.

“I think a lot of things probably came off for me that mightn’t have come off on another night. Obviously, I was fully gutted with the result. I thought we put ourselves in a position where we could have won the game and unfortunately it didn’t come through.

“Personally, some stuff came off that I was really happy with but there’s a lot to keep working on.”

Source – Connacht Rugby By John O’Sullivan 

6 Nations

Aviva Stadium To Host Connacht-Ulster Clash Next Month

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Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Connacht Rugby and the URC can confirm the round 5 fixture between Connacht and Ulster will take place at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, October 23 (kick-off 5.15pm).

In what will be a day of celebration at the home of Irish Rugby, the derby game is due to be one of the first professional sporting events in Ireland following the planned relaxing of most remaining restrictions the previous day.

Andy Friend’s men previously played two matches at the ground in August 2020, including a win over Ulster in their first game back since the suspension of the 2019/20 Guinness PRO14.

Connacht can also confirm the following ticket info:

  • All Season Tickets will be valid, with holders provided a complimentary upgrade to Premium Level seats. Emails will be sent to all ST holders tomorrow where they can choose their location in the ground and purchase additional tickets
  • Remaining 1885 Club members will have exclusive access to purchase tickets from Friday for the weekend. As a thank you, these members can also purchase tickets in the Premium Level for the same price as a Category 1 ticket
  • Remaining tickets for the Lower Level and Premium Level will go on General Sale this Monday from 9am

Willie Ruane, CEO of Connacht Rugby, says the day promises to be a memorable occasion.

“Connacht Rugby are really pleased to confirm our fixture against Ulster is to be held at the Aviva Stadium next month,” he announced.

“This will be the first time that our supporters will have the opportunity to watch our professional squad at the Aviva Stadium, and I’m confident that as usual they will turn out in force and make it a memorable occasion.

“With all of the uncertainty surrounding capacities over recent months the opportunity provided to us by the IRFU to play at the Aviva Stadium is one that we felt we could not pass up.

“As we all know there are tens of thousands of people living in Dublin who are originally from the west of Ireland, and we hope to use this game to not only provide our supporters living in the west with the opportunity to make this a memorable day but also for our supporters living outside the province to come along and cheer on their home team.

“We’d like to thank our official supporters club, the Connacht Clan, for their support of this fixture since we first engaged with them last month, as well as the IRFU for their support in helping us to bring this game to the home of Irish Rugby.”

Connacht head coach Friend says the whole squad cannot wait to return to the Aviva, acknowledging: “Our fixture against Ulster at the Aviva last year was a really special occasion.

“At the time it was our first game in six months and for most of the players it was their first experience playing at the stadium.

“You could see straight away that the venue was ideal for the type of rugby we want to play, and that helped give us the win we deserved.

“The prospect of returning there – but this time with thousands of Connacht supporters behind us – is something the staff and players have been fully behind since the start, and we can’t wait until that day arrives.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

** EXCLUSIVE DAVID LLOYD OFFER FOR ULSTER RUGBY FANS **

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How to watch Ulster in the United Rugby Championship

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Ulster Rugby

Ulster Rugby will begin its exciting journey into the new United Rugby Championship this Friday night, hosting Glasgow Warriors under the lights at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 7.35pm).

We are delighted to be able to welcome up to 15,000 supporters at Friday’s fixture, and tickets are still available. For more information on Friday’s event, or to buy tickets, please click here.

The introduction of South Africa’s four elite teams to the URC has created a challenge unlike any other, with two hemispheres colliding as the best of Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales take on the best of South Africa.

If you’re planning on following Ulster’s URC campaign from home, we have pulled together this handy guide on how to watch all the action for supporters in the UK and Ireland…

Premier Sports

Premier Sports is the only place for supporters in the UK to watch every single United Rugby Championship game live this season. You can follow Ulster home and away as Premier Sports will broadcast all 151 games, including eight games per round plus coverage of all the knock-out drama and Grand Final.

Ulster legends Stephen Ferris, Andrew Trimble and Paul Marshall, along with presenters Graham Little and Mark Robson, are among the talent returning to the screens this season.

Fans can tune in on Sky, Virgin TV, or online using the Premier Sports Player from start to finish – you can subscribe now at premiersports.com to watch all 151 games live for less than £1 a game.

BBC NI

Ulster Rugby returns to BBC Northern Ireland this season with live free-to-air coverage of six of the province’s home matches in the inaugural United Rugby Championship.

In addition to televising live the home fixtures against Benetton, Emirates Lions, Connacht, Cardiff, Munster and the Cell C Sharks, every Ulster URC fixture will be available on BBC iPlayer 24 hours after each round.

A new weekly TV programme – ‘The Ulster Rugby Show’ – featuring a line-up of special guests and pundits will take a light-hearted look at the latest news and talking points from the province and across the new tournament. The first episode will air this Thursday 23 September at 10.00pm on BBC2 NI.

RTE / TG4

RTE and TG4 have also picked up broadcast rights to show ten games on free-to-air TV this season.

Among the fixtures being covered live by the Ireland-based broadcasters are the three away interprovincial derbies against Connacht, Leinster and Munster.

URC TV

New for the 2021/22 season, URC TV is an online streaming service giving fans the opportunity to watch every game live and on demand.

A free service showing a range of highlights, archive matches and snackable videos, will be available in all countries including the UK and South Africa (fans in these countries can watch all games live on Premier Sports and Super Sport respectively).

Fans watching in Ireland, Europe (excluding UK), US and a number of other territories, URC TV will also offer a range of subscription packages including a Season Pass (all games), Ireland Pass (all games featuring Irish Clubs), Weekend Passes (all games within a round) and individual games passes.

For more information, or to sign up, visit www.urc.tv.

Source – Ulster Rugby

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Sharks name squad of 34 for URC trip to Europe, Pienaar included.

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Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Sean Everitt has picked two, and sometimes three, players in each position given the COVID-19 protocols around international travel and proper isolation and quarantine practices, as well as accounting for any injuries that may be picked up within this four match period.

Ruan Pienaar and Tian Meyer have both been included in the squad, having signed loan agreements with the Cell C Sharks from the Toyota Cheetahs, while there are welcome returns from injury for the lock pairing of Ruben van Heerden and Hyron Andrews.

Phepsi Buthelezi continues to lead a settled and experienced squad of players in the absence of Lukhanyo Am, who will take over the captaincy on his return from Springbok duty.

“The boys are up for the challenge, we have some experienced players who have played in the Pro16 before and have had a taste of European conditions, and we have coaching staff who have coached at the highest level; we’re all confident that we can do well overseas,” said Everitt.

“We’ve taken a young squad mixed with some older heads with experience and it will be exciting to see what these guys can deliver against opposition that we don’t see too often, nor play against.”

The Cell C Sharks kick off their campaign against Munster next Saturday, and in round two (Saturday 2 October) travel to Scotland to take on Glasgow Warriors before heading to Wales for rounds three and four, against the Ospreys (Friday 8 October) before rounding off the month-long tour against Cardiff (Saturday 16 October).

“The boys are excited about experiencing a new competition, the URC is a tough tournament that brings in new challenges and different opposition but the guys are up for the challenge after a very good Currie Cup and a good year,” added Everitt.

The Cell C Sharks touring squad:

Forwards: Dan Jooste, Dylan Richardson, Fez Mbatha, Gebrandt Grobler, Henco Venter, Hyron Andrews, James Venter, Kerron van Vuuren, Khutha Mchunu, Khwezi Mona, Le Roux Roets, Lourens Adriaanse, Mpilo Gumede, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Phepsi Buthelezi (captain), Reniel Hugo, Ruben van Heerden, Thembelani Bholi, Thomas du Toit, Wiehahn Herbst.

Backs: Anthony Volmink, Boeta Chamberlain, Curwin Bosch, Jeremy Ward, Marius Louw, Marnus Potgieter, Murray Koster, Ruan Pienaar, Rynhardt Jonker, Sanele Nohamba, Thaakir Abrahams, Tian Meyer, Werner Kok, Yaw Penxe.

Source – South Africa Rugby

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