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Timani set for first start as Cardiff host Emirates Lions



Lopeti Timani will make his first start in Cardiff colours as Emirates Lions visit the capital on Friday evening.

Following his summer arrival from RC Toulon, the Tongan international has made two appearances from the bench in the opening weeks of the BKT United Rugby Championship. 

However, with Dai Young’s side looking to bounce back from last week’s defeat to Glasgow, Timani comes into the line-up to form a lock partnership with Seb Davies.

A reshuffle in the back row sees Taulupe Faletau returning to the number eight jersey after a Player of the Match display in the win over Munster, with James Botham and captain Josh Turnbull occupying the flanks.

Elsewhere, Theo Cabango recovers from a shoulder injury to take his place on the wing, replacing the injured Josh Adams. The academy product enjoyed a breakthrough campaign last season and will make his first appearance of 22/23 in a back three that includes Aled Summerhill and full back Rhys Priestland – who slots into the number 15 jersey following injuries to Liam Williams, Jacob Beetham and Matthew Morgan.

Rey Lee-Lo is reunited with Max Llewellyn in midfield while Jarrod Evans and Tomos Williams continue their half back partnership.

A double change in the front row sees Brad Thyer and Liam Belcher joining Dillon Lewis in the starting XV.

Young said: “We’re looking forward to getting back to the Arms Park. We didn’t build on the Munster game last week so hopefully we can bounce back at home against a very good Lions team.

“It’s going to be a real good game with lots of rugby to be played by both teams. It should be a lot of entertainment for the people that come to watch. We love playing at the Arms Park and want to give our home crowd the kind of performance they deserve.

“We have made a few changes due to injury but we have still have a strong squad and if we can get back to the kind of performance we saw against Munster and build on that, there is no reason why we can’t get the result we want.”

Having missed out on the opening two rounds with a hamstring injury, Corey Domachowski returns to the fold, lining up on the bench alongside Dmitri Arhip – who was ruled out of last week’s trip to Scotland. 

Following Friday’s clash, Cardiff face back-to-back derbies against Scarlets and Dragons.

Cardiff Rugby: Rhys Priestland; Aled Summerhill, Rey Lee-Lo, Max Llewellyn, Theo Cabango; Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams; Brad Thyer, Liam Belcher, Dillon Lewis, Lopeti Timani, Seb Davies, Josh Turnbull (capt.), James Botham, Taulupe Faletau

Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Corey Domachowski, Dmitri Arhip, Rory Thornton, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Lloyd Williams, Mason Grady, Uilisi Halaholo

Unavailable for selection:

Ben Thomas (shoulder) – November

Josh Navidi (Neck) – October/November

Owen Lane (Ankle) – December

Liam Williams (Shoulder) – December/January

Josh Adams (Groin) – October

Rhys Carré (Leg) – October

Matthew Morgan (Knee)

Jacob Beetham (ACL)

Thomas Young (Neck)

Content & Images from – Cardiff Rugby

Champions Cup

Academy Trio Stepping Up & Contract News



Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to announce that Academy trio Tony Butler, Ethan Coughlan and Mark Donnelly will be promoted to the senior squad in the summer.

We can also confirm that hooker Scott Buckley, who graduated from the Academy to the senior squad in 2022, has signed a contract extension.

Out-half Butler, scrum-half Coughlan (both 21) and 22-year-old prop Donnelly have all signed on for the next two seasons after impressing over their three years in the Academy.

Butler and Coughlan become the first Ennis RFC players to earn senior Munster contracts.

As previously confirmed, Academy lock Edwin Edogbo (21), who also came up through the Munster Youths system with Cobh Pirates, will graduate from the Academy to the senior squad on a two-year deal next season.

Buckley, Butler, Coughlan and Donnelly all made their Munster debuts in the famous Champions Cup win over Wasps in December 2021.

Tony Butler in action against Dragons.

Tony Butler in action against Dragons.

Ennis out-half Tony Butler has earned his first senior contract after a very productive three years in the Academy.

He has made six senior appearances to date, including two starts so far this season against Dragons and Connacht.

A Grand Slam winner with the Ireland U20s in 2022, Butler now plays his AIL rugby with Young Munster having previously lined out for Garryowen.

He captained Ennis at underage level, teaming up with Coughlan in the half-backs as they enjoyed success in the Munster U16 and U18 Clubs competitions.

Scrum-half Ethan Coughlan is enjoying an excellent campaign with three starts so far this year and eight senior appearances in total since joining the Academy.

He enjoyed great success alongside Butler with Ennis RFC at underage level before captaining the Ireland U18 Clubs team.

He also won a Grand Slam with the Ireland U20s in 2022 and plays his AIL rugby with Shannon.

Prop Mark Donnelly has already made nine senior appearances for Munster after coming up through the ranks at Midleton RFC, Midleton College and CBC.

He was a Pinergy Munster Schools Senior Cup winner with CBC in 2019 and featured for the Ireland U20s in the 2021 Six Nations.

He joined the Academy that summer before making his Munster debut along with Buckley, Butler and Coughlan against Wasps in December 2021

Along with his nine senior Munster appearances, Donnelly has also played regularly for Garryowen in the AIL over the past three years.

Mark Donnelly at Munster training.

Mark Donnelly at Munster training.

Hooker Scott Buckley (23) has signed a one-year contract having made 25 appearances for Munster to date.

A product of the Munster Rugby Academy, Buckley started out with Kinsale RFC before captaining CBC to the Pinergy Munster Schools Senior Cup in 2019.

He was Player of the Match against Wasps on his Munster debut and made nine appearances last season as Munster won the URC title.

A UCC clubman, he scored the match-winning try against Crusaders at Páirc Ui Chaoimh earlier this month.

Scott Buckley scores a try against Leinster in pre-season.

Images & Content from Munster Rugby

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Squad Update Ahead Of Zebre At Virgin Media Park



The Munster squad are preparing at the HPC ahead of Friday night’s URC Round 11 clash against Zebre at Virgin Media Park (7.35pm).

There are a limited number of tickets available here.

25 players lined out in the thrilling encounter against Harlequins on Friday night, including eight Academy players and two young club players. Scroll down for match highlights.

The squad is boosted by the return of Tom Ahern, Craig Casey and Jeremy Loughman from international duty ahead of Friday night’s clash in Cork.

On the injury front, Academy back-row forward Ruadhán Quinn has completed the return to play protocols and is available for selection.

Following the game against Harlequins on Friday night, Academy duo Shay McCarthy (ankle) and Daniel Okeke (elbow) will go for scans and are unavailable this week.

Continuing to rehab: Simon Zebo (knee), Patrick Campbell (shoulder), John Hodnett (finger), Paddy Patterson (knee), Jack O’Donoghue (knee), Dave Kilcoyne (shoulder), Diarmuid Barron (foot), Jean Kleyn (eye/knee), Liam Coombes (shoulder), Roman Salanoa (knee).

Video | Harlequins v Munster Highlights


URC Round 11: Friday, March 1

Munster v Zebre Parma, Virgin Media Park, 7.35pm; Buy final tickets here

U20s 6 Nations Round 5: Friday, March 15

Ireland v Scotland, Virgin Media Park, 7pm; Buy final tickets here

URC Round 13: Saturday, March 30

Munster v Cardiff Rugby, Thomond Park, 7.35pm; Buy tickets here

Women’s 6 Nations Round 3: Saturday, April 13

Ireland v Wales, Virgin Media Park, 4.45pm; Buy tickets here

URC Round 16: Saturday, May 11

Munster v Connacht, Thomond Park, 5.15pm; Buy tickets here

URC Round 18: Saturday, June 1

Munster v Ulster, Thomond Park, 5.15pm; Buy tickets here

Images & Content from Munster Rugby

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Dan McFarland departs Ulster Rugby



Dan McFarland departs Ulster Rugby

3 minutes ago


Ulster Rugby and the IRFU can confirm that Dan McFarland will step down from his position as Head Coach.

After joining the club in 2018, McFarland has been the longest-serving Head Coach for the province in the professional era, with the club reliably securing play-off rugby in URC and EPCR competitions during his time at the helm, including reaching the PRO14 final in 2020.

Ulster Rugby CEO, Jonny Petrie, said:

“We would like to thank Dan for his determination in driving forward the professional squad over the past six seasons, and I would like to wish him and his family the best for the future on behalf of all at Ulster Rugby.”

The change to the Senior Men’s coaching set-up is with immediate effect, with Ireland U20s Head Coach, Richie Murphy, to link-up with the province as interim Head Coach until the end of this season following the Under-20s Six Nations. Bryn Cunningham, Head of Rugby Operations and Recruitment at Ulster Rugby, will also assume greater management responsibilities within the performance function during this time.

Assistant Coach, Dan Soper, will oversee operations next week ahead of Ulster facing Dragons at Kingspan Stadium in Round 11 of the BKT United Rugby Championship.

Petrie continued: “With Richie coming to Ulster in the coming weeks, ahead of the squad travelling to South Africa, our focus will be on consistently performing to the best of our abilities at this crucial time of the year.”

Images & Content – Ulster Rugby

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