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The Low-down on Ulster’s New Signings

Quick look at the confirmed and (almost confirmed) signings for next season.

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Sam Carter and Gareth Milasinovich both have been confirmed as new arrivals at the Kingspan Stadium next season while it is believed Matt Faddes will be announced soon. Here’s a look at who they are.

Sam Carter

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Position: Second Row

Age:29

Club: Brumbies

Nationality: Australian

The low-down: An important signing as Ulster could definitely do with another leader in the pack – someone who brings experience and, equally as important, a bit of edge to the young squad.

Carter is a totemic figure for the Brumbies and a born leader, being named co-captain along with Christian Leali’ifano. Following in the footsteps of his famous father, David Carter, he has won 16 caps for the Wallabies.

He is what you might call an ‘old-school’ second-row. He carries aggressively over the ‘hard-yards’ and has had one of the top tackle-counts for each of the past number of seasons. He has a relentless work ethic and is extremely useful at the set-piece.

Carter’s playing style bears more resemblance to Johann Muller than Iain Henderson. He puts in the important, unglamorous work in the engine room, tirelessly hammering away at the breakdown coalface. He is Mr Consistency and hasn’t had many major injury problems over the past few years. All signs point to this being a brilliant signing for Ulster.

Matt Faddes

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Position: Utility Back

Age: 27

Club: Highlanders

Nationality: New Zealand

The low-down: Given the nature of modern rugby, it pays to have versatile players. Addison has been a revelation for Ulster since his arrival as a utility back. Let’s hope Faddes can replicate his success in an Ulster jersey (particularly as Ulster will be without Stockdale and Addison for the start of the season).

Like Addison, Faddes is a quick and agile back who has an eye for a gap in the opposition defence. He has played international Sevens rugby for New Zealand and has become a cult hero at Otago for his skilful and creative playing style. However, like so many cult heroes, Faddes’ career has been plagued by inconsistency – capable of great bits of skill but most definitely a ‘confidence player’, prone to go through the occasional patch of poor form.

Reassuringly, there are highlights packages of him on YouTube showing that he is capable of being a potent attacking threat. Granted, anyone can look good in a montage of their ‘best bits’ but, if nothing else, he looks like a player who will be fun to watch and bring a few moments of excitement to the Kingspan. This will be a case of ‘In Bryn We Trust’ and Ulster fans should be hopeful considering Cunningham’s ability to identify and recruit good quality backs ‘Moneyball’ style.

Gareth Milasinovich

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Position: Prop (both sides)

Age: 26

Club: Worcester

Nationality: South African (Irish Qualified)

The low-down: Props who claim to be able to play on both sides of the scrum should be treated with suspicion. Remember Tom Court? Sometimes it’s better to stick to what you’re good at.

Ulster have needed to bolster their front row options for some time now and their track record of recruitment in this area hasn’t exactly been great. At 6’3” and 21 stone, Milanisovic certainly looks the part (although so did Rodney Ah You and Van der Merwe).

Due to injury and competition, he hasn’t played a huge amount of rugby which has limited his development. By all accounts, he is both ‘big’ and ‘strong’ – words often used to describe props who have yet to develop technique. However, under the expert tutelage of McFarland – who specialises in getting the best from the ‘tight five’ – it’s possible that Milanisovic, who has all the requisite physical attributes, could be moulded into a force to be reckoned with.

In the few times I’ve seen him, he has been solid if unspectacular – not a bad thing for a prop who’s only 26 (props, as we all know, are born in their late 20s). He will add some depth and much needed competition to the front row department.

In other news, Ulster fans should join together and pray that the rumours about Jack McGrath’s move up North are true. If they are, it looks like Ulster will finally have the formidable front row club they have been lacking and it is hoped Milanisovic will play a key role in this.

International

SA matches postponed due to COVID variant risk

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Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

In a statement, organisers said that due to the sudden developments that had placed South Africa on the UK and EU travel red list the matches would be rescheduled for later this season.

“The safety and well-being of our participating clubs’ players, coaches, support staff and match officials is the foremost priority and the URC is currently working with the four visiting clubs – Cardiff Rugby, Munster Rugby, Scarlets and Zebre Parma – to facilitate their return as soon as possible,” the statement advised.

“This decision is based upon the latest guidance against non-essential travel to and from South Africa, the ban on direct flights to the UK and other home destinations and the potential hotel quarantines enforced upon those returning from South Africa.

“As has been the operating practice throughout the pandemic, the URC will continue engaging with our Medical Advisory Group, our union shareholders and respective governments to plan according to the latest health guidelines.

“A period of assessment will now be required to better understand the impact of these new travel restrictions and how to reschedule these games within the current season. Given the nature and speed of these developments URC will provide further updates at the appropriate time through official channels only.”

Source – South Africa Rugby

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Champions Cup

Stephen Larkham Set For Return Home To Australia

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Stephen Larkham will depart Munster Rugby at the end of the 2021/22 season.

Larkham, who joined Munster as senior coach two years ago, is contracted to the province until the end of the season and was offered the opportunity to extend his time in Limerick.

After careful consideration Larkham eventually declined the extended contract offer citing personal reasons in seeking a return to Australia with his family and the additional incentive of a coaching opportunity closer to home.

Stephen Larkham said, “I only recently spoke about my desire to remain with Munster and continue working with my fellow coaches and playing group.

“That hopefully gives some indication as to how difficult a decision this has been for me. The staff, players, fans, and facilities are world class here and I am grateful to have had this opportunity.

“My family made a number of sacrifices in joining me on this move to Ireland and my girls’ adjustment over here, particularly with covid, has been difficult. I have to put them first now, and with a coaching opportunity closer to home this is the right thing for my family at this time.

“For now, my focus is very much with Munster Rugby and with a long season ahead I will savour every moment of working within this great environment as we continue to build in the right direction.”

Images & Content from Munster Rugby

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URC

Munster Squad Named For South Africa Tour

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(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The Munster squad that will be based in South Africa for our upcoming double-header of United Rugby Championship fixtures against the Vodacom Bulls and the Emirates Lions has been named.

A 33-man squad travelled in the end on Saturday with Simon Zebo, Gavin Coombes, Jason Jenkins and Cian Hurley adding to the initially named 29-man squad.

Jack O’Donoghue captains the squad on the tour with a Greencore Munster Rugby Academy trio of Alex Kendellen, Paddy Patterson and Hurley included.

The province have been preparing to play in the high temperatures of South Africa’s summer over the past two weeks.

Munster face the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday, November 27 (5.45pm Irish time), and the Lions at 3.30pm Irish time on Saturday, December 4, in Johannesburg.

The squad will return to Ireland ahead of the Champions Cup opener away to Wasps in Coventry on Sunday, December 12.

Scroll down to watch how the squad have been preparing for the conditions.

Jason Jenkins (thigh) completed his rehabilitation last week, successfully coming through training on Thursday.

Munster Squad For South Africa Tour

Backs

Neil Cronin, Paddy Patterson, Jack Crowley, Jake Flannery, Ben Healy, Liam Coombes, Dan Goggin, Rory Scannell, Shane Daly, Seán French, Simon Zebo, Matt Gallagher, Mike Haley.

Forwards

Jeremy Loughman, Liam O’Connor, Josh Wycherley, Diarmuid Barron, Kevin O’Byrne, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer, Keynan Knox, John Ryan, Thomas Ahern, Jean Kleyn, Fineen Wycherley, Cian Hurley, Jason Jenkins, Chris Cloete, Jack Daly, Alex Kendellen, Jack O’Donoghue (C), Jack O’Sullivan, Gavin Coombes.

Video | Munster Prepare For South Africa Tour

Upcoming Home Games

Saturday, December 18

Champions Cup: Munster v Castres Olympique, Thomond Park, 8pm; Buy tickets here

Sunday, December 26

URC: Munster v Leinster, Thomond Park, 7.35pm; Buy tickets here – Limited Availability

Saturday, January 8

URC: Munster v Ulster, Thomond Park, 7.35pm; Buy tickets here – Family packs available for just €40

Sunday, January 23

Champions Cup: Munster v Wasps, Thomond Park, 3.15pm; Buy tickets here

Video | Thomond Park Lights

Source – Munster Rugby

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