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PREVIEW: Some Big Hitters Return for Leinster’s Clash with Glasgow

Leinster have welcomed back a few star men ahead of hosting the Glasgow Warriors

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Leinster have been able to call up a few international stars for their match with Glasgow Warriors at the RDS on Saturday at 15 00.

The most noticeable names on the team sheet are Robbie Henshaw and Devin Toner who both make their first appearances since Ireland’s loss to England in the Six Nations.

It provides the duo with an opportunity to prove their fitness ahead of next week’s Champions Cup semi-final against Toulouse.

Also returning to the set-up are the likes of Rob Kearney, Jordan Larmour, Ross Byrne and Sean O’Brien, who captains the side in what could be his last ever game in the RDS.

Ed Byrne, James Tracy, and Michael Bent start in the front-row, with many believing Ed Byrne could be not only the future of Leinster but Ireland rugby as Jack McGrath is set to head to Ulster in June and Cian Healy’s career ticks over.

Toner is joined by Jack Dunne in the engine room, with Dunne making his first start in blue. Behind them are Josh Murphy, O’Brien and Caelan Doris to complete the pack.

Jamison Gibson-Park is at nine and is partnered by Ross Byrne who has recovered from the cramp that forced him off against Ulster two weeks ago.

Outside them Henshaw opens at inside-centre with Joe Tomane on the outside at 13. Dave Kearney is on the left-wing, with Jordan Larmour on the right and Rob Kearney at full-back.

There is a mixture of youth and experience on the bench as Sean Cronin, Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong are joined by Will Conors, who could play his first action of the season, Max Deegan, Hugh O’Sullivan, Ciaran Frawley and Adam Byrne.

Ahead of the game former Leinster No 10 and current backs coach Felipe Contepomi has spoken of his sides desire to win coming into the final stages of the season with places still up for grabs.

“Everyone’s hungry, it’s finals rugby now and everyone wants to be on the big dates. For you to be on the big dates you have to be performing well and the truth is that there’s a lot of competition here, so everyone is given their chance and there are a lot of hands up for places,” he said.

The home side will face a strong Glasgow team that are looking to secure top spot in Conference A.

Jamie Bhatti, Fraser Brown and Zander Fagerson take the first three places in the pack, with Scott Cummings and Jonny Gray slotting in behind them.

Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro and Matt Fagerson are at six, seven and eight respectively in what is a powerful pack.

The backs are equally as strong with Ali Price beginning the game at scrum-half alongside Adam Hastings who is at out-half. Sam Johnson and Kyle Steyn pair up outside them in the centre.

Nikola Matawalu and Tommy Seymour are on the wings, with Stuart Hogg at 15.

There is plenty to call on from the bench if needed too with players like Grant Stewart, D’Arcy Rae, Peter Horne and Huw Jones raring to go.

The game sees to the two conference leaders go head-to-head in the second-last regular season game of the competition for them. Leinster have been long guaranteed top spot in Conference B but will be looking to improve their domestic form before heading into next weekend’s Champions Cup semi-final. However, Glasgow will know that a win at Leinster coupled with a loss for Munster against Benetton would secure top spot in Conference A. So, everything is still to play for when these two titans come together on Saturday.

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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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