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Ulster name team for Connacht clash

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The Ulster men will kickstart their 22/23 BKT United Rugby Championship campaign against Interpro rivals, Connacht Rugby, at home this Saturday (7 35pm, Kingspan Stadium).

Following a pre-season victory over Exeter Chiefs, secured in front of a home crowd, Ulster will be looking to start the season with a strong performance against familiar rival, Connacht Rugby.

The last time the two Irish provinces faced each other was back in February when Dan McFarland’s side put in a winning performance, which saw Greg Jones, Declan Moore and Rob Baloucoune cross the whitewash in a 32-12 bonus point win.

But there have been trials, as well as tribulations, when it comes to facing the West of Ireland collective, as Head Coach Dan McFarland, who has a long-standing connection to the club as both a player and coach, recognises:

“It’s interesting to have an Interpro up first in the new season. The players are looking forward to playing full-stop, but the Interpro element adds something a little bit extra. From my point of view, it’s always a big one against Connacht.

“We have the attitude that it’s a great opportunity for us to test what we’ve been doing in pre-season, given what they offer around their line speed, relentless defence, and endless attack. Those are areas that are going to test us.”

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O’Connor named as Captain against Connacht

Alan O’Connor, who is no stranger to leading the charge, will captain the side against Connacht, and is joined in the second row by Sam Carter. Meanwhile, the back row sees brothers, Matty Rea and Marcus Rea, joined by David McCann, who was due to lead out the team that travelled for the cancelled pre-season Glasgow Warriors friendly. The front row sees Eric O’Sullivan and Marty Moore pair up alongside 21-year-old, Tom Stewart, who was crowned Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Player of the Year back in 2019, for his first Senior start.  

Nathan Doak, who had a 100% kicking record off the tee in a Player of the Match performance last time out against Connacht, is paired at scrum-half with fly-half, Billy Burns. The midfield make-up sees Luke Marshall, who speaks on the 10-year anniversary of the passing of his friend and teammate Nevin Spence in this week’s match programme, alongside Stuart McCloskey who returns from his involvement with Ireland in the New Zealand Test-winning tour.

Jacob Stockdale, who announced his return from injury with a try against Exeter Chiefs, Rob Baloucoune and Stewart Moore complete the starting XV as the back three.

Summer signing Jeff Toomaga-Allen is set to earn his first Ulster cap off the bench. He is joined by fellow forwards John Andrew, Callum Reid, Cormac Izuchukwu and Jordi Murphy. David Shanahan, Angus Curtis and Aaron Sexton provide the backline cover.

The Ulster team, many of whom have personal memories of Nevin Spence, will be wearing black armbands embroidered with ‘Nevin, Graham and Noel’ to mark ten years since gifted young rugby player Nevin tragically passed away in an accident together with his father, Noel, and brother, Graham, on 15 September 2012.

Ulster team to play Connacht, BKT United Rugby Championship Round 1, Saturday 17 September at Kingspan Stadium (KO 7 35pm), live on BBC 2 NI from 7 15pm, TG4, Premier Sports & URC.tv:

(15-9): Stewart Moore, Rob Baloucoune, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns, Nathan Doak;

(1-8): Eric O’Sullivan, Tom Stewart, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor (Capt.), Sam Carter, Matty Rea, Marcus Rea, David McCann.

Replacements: John Andrew, Callum Reid, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Cormac Izuchukwu, Jordi Murphy, David Shanahan, Angus Curtis, and Aaron Sexton.

The following players were not considered for selection due to being in the Graduated Return to Play process, on the IRFU Player Management Process, or on international duty:

Andrew Warwick; Rob Herring (IRFU PMP); Tom O’Toole (IRFU PMP), Iain Henderson; Nick Timoney (IRFU PMP); Duane Vermeulen (SA Rugby); John Cooney; James Hume; Ben Moxham; Jude Postlethwaite; Will Addison; Ethan McIlroy; and Mike Lowry (IRFU PMP).

Content & Images from – Ulster Rugby


URC

Vodacom Bulls sign Premiership star

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The Vodacom Bulls are happy to announce the signing of Premiership and Champions Cup winner, Jannes Kirsten. The multifaceted forward will join the Pretoria-based Vodacom Bulls from 1 July 2023 with his initial stay pencilled in till June 2026.

Kirsten – a former South African Under-20s international – is no stranger to Loftus, having made his mark playing for the Vodacom Bulls, both in Super Rugby and the Currie Cup. The 29-year-old has the Vodacom Bulls DNA, being the younger brother of one Frik Kirsten, a prop who made 81 appearances for the club between 2008 and 2014.

Since moving to England in 2019, the lock/back-rower has made a mammoth 75 appearances for his current side, the Exeter Chiefs. Forming part of the core group that would help the English club claim a historic double, winning both the Gallagher Premiership and Heineken Champions Cup during the 2019/2020 season. A season where Kirsten became an instrumental figure on the field and a proven champion off it.

Blue Bulls Company (BBCo.) Chief Executive Officer, Edgar Rathbone said the news of Kirsten joining the herd is good for South African rugby and not just the Vodacom Bulls.

“We know Jannes very well and understand the impact he can have. We appreciate that he has gone on to play in Europe, in different conditions against some of the best rugby stars in that part of the world, so the experience he returns with will be invaluable to us. He knows Pretoria very well and having him return means that he sees us as the place he can call home and so we are really glad to see him return to be united with his family,”

“The introduction of South African teams in European competition has meant that now more than the years before, we are seeing a few more locally produced quality players looking to make a return because they still have the opportunity to compete against some of the best in the Northern Hemisphere whilst adding value to the game in their own backyard,”

“We appreciate that he is a versatile player, who can slot in at lock and flank and that will add to our dynamic options, strengthening our rugby offering. We look forward to welcoming him in July and are confident that he will continue being the world-class player that we have seen become, wearing our stripes” concluded Rathbone.

Reflecting on his time at the Chiefs, Kirsten said: “The past four years have been an unbelievable experience, not just in terms of my rugby, but my own personal life. Coming to Exeter was obviously a new challenge for me, but it’s one that has brought me so much.

“The club, the city, the people, they have all been amazing and I will leave at the end of the season with only happy memories. What I have been able to achieve is something I am very proud of and the friends I have made will be life-long.

“South Africa, however, is home for me and the time is right for me to go back there and continue the next chapter of my rugby career. Heading over to Pretoria just a few weeks ago with the Chiefs was very special, particularly as I never thought I would run out at Loftus as a visiting player.

“Also, getting the opportunity to show my homeland to my teammates and the staff that travelled was something I will remember. The Chiefs will always hold a big place in my heart and between now and the end of the season I will be doing everything possible to ensure my time here finishes on a high note.”

Everybody at Loftus is excited and cannot wait to welcome Jannes home.

Content & Images from – Vodacom Bulls Rugby


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Connacht squad to face Emirates Lions named

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The Connacht management team have named the matchday 23 for tomorrow’s BKT United Rugby Championship tie with the Emirates Lions at The Sportsground (k/o 7.35pm)
 
Having missed last week’s trip to Newcastle through injury, Jack Carty returns to captain the side. The out-half could make history in the game – he needs six points to equal Eric Elwood’s all-time points scoring record of 1152 points for the province.
 
Scrum-half Caolin Blade is named alongside him while Cathal Forde and Tom Farrell are named at inside and outside-centre respectively. Tiernan O’Halloran lines out at full back for his 215th Connacht appearance with John Porch and Diarmuid Kilgallen on the wings.
 
The pack sees the Murray brothers Darragh and Niall paired together in the second row, while props Peter Dooley and Jack Aungier come in alongside hooker Shane Delahunt. Josh Murphy moves from the second row to blindside flanker, while Conor Oliver and Jarrad Butler are retained at 7 and 8.
 
Commenting on the team selection, Director of Rugby Andy Friend says:
 
“Tomorrow marks the end of a long block of games for us and one we want to finish on a high. If we get the win we head into the next block well in the running for a playoff spot – while achieving our aim of reaching the Challenge Cup knockouts – so it’s not a bad spot to be in.
 
We’re fully aware however that we need a win tomorrow to put ourselves in that position. The Lions are a formidable outfit and have improved even more since their first season last year, so we know a difficult challenge awaits us.”

 
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS EMIRATES LIONS
Saturday 28th January, 19:35 @ The Sportsground

Number/Name/Caps
15. Tiernan O’Halloran (214)
14. Diarmuid Kilgallen (12)
13. Tom Farrell (90)
12. Cathal Forde (7)
11. John Porch (72)
10. Jack Carty (190) (C)
9. Caolin Blade (161)
1. Peter Dooley (12)
2. Shane Delahunt (124)
3. Jack Aungier (43)
4. Darragh Murray (5)
5. Niall Murray (47)
6. Josh Murphy (11)
7. Conor Oliver (54)
8. Jarrad Butler (107)

16. Dylan Tierney-Martin (15)
17. Jordan Duggan (34)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (76)
19. Leva Fifita (22)
20. Shamus Hurley-Langton (12)
21. Kieran Marmion (222)
22. Tom Daly (71)
23. Oran McNulty (12)

Images & Content from – Connacht Rugby


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New Role for Ian Costello

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Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm that Academy and Pathway Manager Ian Costello will assume the newly created role of Head of Rugby Operations at the end of this season.

Costello will take on further responsibility in an all-encompassing Head of Rugby Operations role that will oversee the long-term strategic development of the elite player pathway, succession planning, and provide recruitment support for developing, retaining, and recruiting players in conjunction with the Head Coach.

Commenting on the appointment, Munster Rugby CEO Ian Flanagan said, “We are delighted that Ian will step into this newly created role.

“This has been a work in progress in the background for some time as we look to align our resource support with the IRFU and other provinces.

“When Ian returned to the province as Academy Manager he was identified as the ideal candidate for this role when incorporating his previous coaching experience, managerial skill-set, and strategic abilities for aligning and developing our player pathway.”

Head Coach Graham Rowntree added, “I’m delighted to have someone of Cossie’s calibre (Ian Costello) taking on this role.

“We work very closely as it is through his academy role, and from my own personal point of view it has been a really positive working relationship. Ian and his academy team play a key role in everything we are trying to achieve each week.

“It’s great to have a dedicated resource to driving long-term succession planning and coordinate recruitment operations, and I believe it will be of huge benefit to not only me and our coaching team, but to Munster Rugby.”

Images & Content from Munster Rugby


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