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Ulster announce batch of new contract extensions

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Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Two of Ulster’s most exciting and dynamic wing talents have today pledged their futures to the province alongside the experienced heads of Ireland cap, Luke Marshall, and lock, Alan O’Connor.

Winger, Baloucoune, has continually impressed with his agile performances for the Ulster men which have already earned him a call-up to the Ireland development squad since his debut in October 2018 against Dragons. 

With a return from injury on the horizon, it’s not long before fans will once again be able witness the familiar sight of the Enniskillen native’s charge for the try line. Of his two-year extension, Baloucoune, said:

“I’m excited to be part of this Ulster team, and what we can strive to achieve for in the near future. I’d like to thank the coaching staff and physios who have helped me through my long-term injury this season and I can’t wait to be back playing again.”

Ulster Rugby Head Coach, Dan McFarland, said:

“Rob has been in sensational form for us and has proven himself to be a prolific try-scorer as well as a superb defender. He’s been unlucky with injury this season, but he is not far off making his return which we’re all looking forward to.”

Ballymena-born, Luke Marshall, who has made 144 appearances for Ulster to date, is also set to remain at Kingspan Stadium until at least June 2023. The centre who is known as a combative, strong-running midfielder, has consistently performed for the province since joining the Ulster Academy in 2009. On the announcement of his extension, Marshall, said:

“I am happy to be staying on with Ulster as I feel we are building towards something special – especially with such an exciting young squad. It is a privilege to continue to represent my home province – and since my wife gave birth to our son three months ago, I am hopeful that he will be able to come and watch me play at Kingspan Stadium in the next couple of years.”

McFarland added: “Luke is one of our longest-serving players and brings an excellent ability to read the game and organise defences. I’m delighted that he’s committed to Ulster for a further two seasons, and we look forward to also seeing him back from injury soon.”

Lock, Alan O’Connor, is known both on and off the pitch for his leadership abilities with the 28-year-old recently captaining the province in the landmark win over Connacht at the Sportsground in December. Speaking of his contract renewal, O’Connor, said: 

“I’m delighted to have signed on with Ulster for another two years. I’m really looking forward to continuing this journey with a great group of lads – it’s been a great experience so far. We, as a team, have grown so much over the last couple of years and we will keep growing and improving – to be part of that is very exciting.”

McFarland added: “Al has been a vital member of our squad for some time now. He is a player who epitomises the competitiveness and bite we expect at Ulster. It is because of this he has earned the honour of captaining the team on many occasions.”

Completing today’s announcements is 20-year-old Aaron Sexton who, since entering the Ulster Academy system in the summer of 2019, has already made his mark – most recently through his involvement in the win against the Leinster ‘A’ side, which saw Sexton contribute two match-defining tries. 

The young player from Bangor will spend one year as a Development player, before being upgraded to a Senior Professional contract for the following season. Of the news, Sexton, said:

“It means a lot to me reaching this next step in my career, and I can’t thank everyone enough who helped get me to where I am. I’m really looking forward to working hard in the months ahead having had my first taste of senior rugby this year.” 

On the last of the signings to be announced today, Dan McFarland, said: “Aaron has put in some really encouraging performances for Ulster in recent Inter-provincial ‘A’ games and IRFU Academy Sevens tournaments by demonstrating his next level speed and try-scoring ability. He earned himself an opportunity at senior level against Edinburgh, which we hope is the first of many senior appearances for Aaron in the future.”

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Munster Squad Update

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Munster’s Ireland internationals have all commenced their pre-season training programmes at the HPC.

Tadhg Beirne, Joey Carbery, Craig Casey, Gavin Coombes, Keith Earls, Jeremy Loughman, Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony and Niall Scannell were all part of the Ireland squad for their tour to New Zealand.

Along with the nine senior internationals, six Greencore Munster Rugby Academy players have completed their off-season after featuring for the Ireland U20s over the summer.

Year two Academy players Tony Butler, Ethan Coughlan and Patrick Campbell return to the HPC with Academy recruits Fionn Gibbons, Darragh McSweeney and Kieran Ryan joining their new team-mates.

In player news, Shannon RFC prop Luke Rigney has been taking part in the pre-season programme on a short-term training contract with the province.

Pre-Season Fixtures

Adult 2-match bundle: €25 – Click here to buy

Friday, August 26

Munster Rugby v Gloucester, Musgrave Park, 7.30pm; Click here to buy tickets

Friday, September 2

Munster Rugby v London Irish, Musgrave Park, 7.30pm; Click here to buy tickets

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Cardiff confirm captain for 2022-23 season

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Josh Turnbull has once again been named Cardiff Rugby’s captain ahead of the 2022-23 season. 

The versatile forward was named club captain last season, having led the Blue and Blacks on numerous occasions previously.

Turnbull has now made 171 first team appearances for Cardiff, including 14 last season, and is closing in on the URC appearance record of 252.

He retains the captaincy honour once again as Cardiff look to bounce back from a disappointing United Rugby Championship season last time out. 

Turnbull said: “To be captain of this rugby club is a massive honour. There’s a rich tradition of captains here and when I got the job last year, we mentioned all the names who’ve gone before me.

“I’m chuffed to get it again and to lead this group of boys but I’m under no illusions of what kind of job I’ve got to do. First and foremost, I’ve got to make sure I’m playing well and make sure i’m in the squad and playing.  

“We’ve got a real good, strong and competitive back five of the scrum and we’ve made some quality signings in that area as well, so first and foremost I have to get my own my own form right.  

“It was disappointing from my end how last season finished – thumped twice by the Scarlets, beaten well by the Ospreys, Sarries as well and then obviously going out Treviso and finishing that game off was real tough to take.  

“After everything we went through last year, (looking back) I think (subconsciously) we just wanted to get it over and done with as quickly as possible. But what I’ve really pleased about is the way the boys have come back in refreshed, everyone’s been really energised and wants to get into work and get on with the new task in front of us. 

“We have to put a bit of respect back into that jersey and this squad is ready to do that.” 

There are plenty of other players who have regularly led Cardiff in the past, including the likes of Kristian Dacey, Ellis Jenkins, Josh Navidi and Lloyd Williams, while Thomas Young has led Wasps on numerous times.

With these players and the usual leadership roles in key positions, Turnbull believes he has plenty of support in the role and will lead by example rather than being overly vocal.

He continued:  “I probably see myself more as a captain that leads by example and by my actions rather than having to say too much. 

“There’s plenty of leaders within the squad who can do that. The game drivers in terms of nines and your 10s, your defensive captains, your attack captains. So, I’ll try and lead by what I do on the field and what I do in around the environment. Melon was pretty similar to that, he leads by example.”

Cardiff kick-off the URC season against Munster on Friday, September 16 (7.35pm), and will warm up with pre-season friendlies against Gloucester on September 2, and Zebre Parma on September 9.

As pre-season preparations intensify and the focus on rugby sharpens, Turnbull expects the ante to rise continually, and he is relishing the opener against the Irish outfit at what he hopes will be a packed Arms Park.

He added: “It’s very rewarding when you start getting closer to the games because all that hard work starts to come to fruition. We’re going into week six of pre-season and we’re all eager to keep the momentum going and start building towards Gloucester game in a couple of weeks when we have that first pre-season hit out. 

“Friday night under the lights in Arms Park, it doesn’t get much better than that. Everyone wants to be involved in that first fixture, everyone is going to be working real hard now the next couple of weeks to get in there.  

“We had a real good, ding-dong battle with Munster for about 60 minutes last season over there and we’ve got a little bit of form on this pitch against the Irish teams so hopefully, we can take that into the start the season against them.” 

Match tickets for the pre-season friendly against Zebre on Friday, September 9, and the first FIVE home games of the URC season are now available. Click here to purchase match tickets of Season Memberships.

Content & Images from – Cardiff Rugby

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Cardiff Rugby Board Meeting Summary – July 2022

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Corporate | 8th August 2022


Cardiff Rugby Board Meeting Summary – July 2022

The previous minutes were approved and actions discussed.

The board were joined by Malcolm Wall, PRB Chairman, to review and discuss the latest 2022/23 funding model proposal from the WRU. 

Richard Holland’s Executive Summary:

  • WRU Premiership proposal to reduce from 12 teams to 9 was presented and discussed
  • Feedback workshops have been held with all non-rugby staff to review positives and negatives from an off-field perspective. 
  • Ongoing work to further develop a positive and effective culture throughout the organisation
  • The rugby sub-board held a 21/22 season review meeting with Dai Young. 
  • Dai has also been holding ‘think tank’ sessions with the rugby department throughout pre-season
  • Pentwyn and CAP updates were given
  • PRB funding proposal impact was discussed
  • Discussion of issues regarding supporting women’s rugby

 

Neil Bryan’s Finance Summary:

  • 2021-22 quarter 4 (for the 11 months ended 31st May 2022) profit and loss, balance sheet and cashflow 
  • Still awaiting discussions between the PRB and WRU to conclude to establish Cardiff Rugby’s cash position moving forward

 

Rhys Blumberg’s COO’s Summary:

  • Kat Czekaj has resigned from her position as Key Account Manager. Gavin Vaughan-Evans has proven to be an asset to the commercial team and has been promoted to Commercial Manager to oversee the entire department
  • Sponsorship – new agreement secured with JAR Site as Front Row Club sponsor 
  • Two Circles conference feedback and subsequent actions
  • Matchday experience feedback – report from second visit yet to be received

 

Nadine Griffiths’ Foundation Summary:

  • Summer schedule has seen the delivery of 52 events and counting
  • Staffing update and recent individual achievements
  • Commercial, grants and fundraising update, including new commercial agreement secured with BBI and £25,000 donation from the Wasps Legends golf event at La Manga (supported by the Foundation)
  • Delivery and engagement overview

 

Supporters:

  • Representatives would be sought for the Sustainability and Accessible Stadium working groups
  • Pre-board meetings now established involving all supporter groups
  • Potential changes in supporter group structure in autumn
  • Supporter groups tasked to identify KPIs for Supporter Advisor

 

For the May Board Meeting Summary click here.

Content & Images from – Cardiff Rugby

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