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.”
Match tickets are still available via the link below. Note that all tickets must be pre-purchased online as none will be available at the turnstiles.
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).
Additional terracing confirmed for October interpros
Following huge demand for tickets, Connacht Rugby can confirm that temporary terracing will be installed for both BKT United Rugby Championship interpros against Munster and Leinster next month.
The game against Munster on Friday 7th October is set to be a momentous occasion as the club plays its first fixture on the new state-of-the-art, artificial surface.
Just seven days later neighbours Leinster visit the West of Ireland, in what will be another crucial game in the context of the overall season.
The terraces will be located at the Bohermore and College Road ends of the ground, bringing the capacity of The Sportsground up to 8,129.
Tickets for both games are on sale now at connachtrugby.ie/tickets, and supporters are urged to act quickly to avoid disappointment.
We are also now offering our fans a special October Interpros bundle. This bundle will guarantee your place in The Sportsground for these can’t-miss October games.
Images & Content from – Connacht Rugby
Academy Update | September 2022
We spoke to Greencore Munster Rugby Academy Manager Ian Costello last week for the first update of the new season from the Greencore Munster Rugby Academy.
New recruits Fionn Gibbons, Darragh McSweeney, Evan O’Connell, Jack Oliver, Ruadhan Quinn and Kieran Ryan have all hit the ground running and seen game-time at various levels over the past number of weeks.
19-year-old second year Academy member and UCC clubman Edwin Edogbo made his senior debut against Dragons on Sunday becoming the first Cobh Pirates player to line out for Munster in the professional era. Edwin missed all of last year due to an achilles injury but impressed in pre-season and was rewarded with a debut in Wales.
Hear the latest from Costello below.
Munster A v Connacht A last week…
“It was a good run-out. They had played a game the week before and our game against Ulster had been cancelled so they were a bit more clinical.
“We dominated possession and territory but they were more accurate, we were a little bit rusty at key times but it was a good exercise overall.”
“Kieran Ryan and Darragh McSweeney, the two props, are getting on really well. Ruadhan Quinn obviously hit the ground running with 78 minutes against Gloucester in pre-season, which was great for him to get a senior run-out. Evan O’Connell was released back to the Munster U19s and he played the Interpros with them and they won two out of three.
“Jack Oliver played his first game for Munster in a long time against Connacht A and he had a club run-out with Garryowen the week before. It was his first time playing in seven months so it was great to have him back as well. Fionn Gibbons had his first run-out since joining us against Connacht too.”
Academy players Tony Butler, Edwin Edogbo, Cian Hurley, Daniel Okeke, Conor Phillips getting game-time in pre-season games…
“It’s fantastic. And to have so many players away with Emerging Ireland now, it gives our lads the chance to push for a squad spot in the URC for the next three games.
“We’ll be stretched a bit at senior level with the 10 guys selected for Emerging Ireland so we’d be hopeful there will be a couple of Academy players in the mix over the next couple of weeks and anyone who isn’t in the mix will be playing with their club.
“On the injury front, Patrick Campbell (toe) was injured with the Ireland U20s over the summer and he’s a couple of weeks away.
“Daniel Okeke tweaked his hamstring in the A game last weekend so hopefully he won’t be out for too long.”
AIL season kicking off this weekend…
“The players will all go back to their clubs this week and hopefully the majority of the lads will be playing in AIL round one, if they’re not involved in the URC.
“We have been drip-feeding the lads back with their clubs so a number of guys have been training with their clubs over the last few Tuesdays so we try to keep them connected to their club as much as possible.”
Summer training camps for underage sides…
“We had a residential camp in UL over the summer. We put a lot of time, effort and resources into a three-week residential camp. We brought 15 under-20 players to train with the U19s. The U20s don’t have an Interprovincial tournament so they’re essentially the guys we’re looking at to move onto the next level. Guys like Daniel Hurley trained with them, he’s back from a cruciate injury, Shay McCarthy who had gone away with the Ireland U20s…these are the kind of guys we’re looking at long-term as well.
“We brought that group of 15 to train with 30 U19s so that was class. Off the back of those training camps, the Munster U18s won the Interpros, the U19s won two out of three so there’s a lot of good players emerging out of that and it was good to validate it with winning an Interpro as well.”
Images & Content from Munster Rugby
Leo Cullen issues injury update
Leo Cullen has issued an injury update ahead of Friday’s BKT United Rugby Championship game in the Kingspan Stadium against Ulster Rugby (KO: 7.35pm – live on BBC NI, RTÉ, Premier Sports and URC TV).
There was positive news for Joe McCarthy (ankle) and Jordan Larmour (knee) who both came through the game against Benneton Rugby with no issues after their return from injury.
McCarthy will however be unavailable for the game on Friday as he has joined up with the rest of the Emerging Ireland squad that departed yesterday for Bloemfontein ahead of their participation in the Toyota Challenge.
Jamison Gibson-Park missed the game on Friday in the RDS Arena through illness but is expected to train as normal this week.
Cullen also gave an update on Ciarán Frawley who was withdrawn from the game against Benetton Rugby early in the second half with a shoulder injury. As a result he will now miss the Emerging Ireland tour and will instead be assessed by the Leinster Rugby medical team.
Will Connors will also be further assessed this week for a back injury as he was withdrawn in the second half as a precaution.
Another player to be further assessed this week is James Ryan who was a late withdrawal from the match day squad on Friday with a minor hamstring injury sustained in the captain’s run on Thursday.
There was some positive news for Liam Turner who is nearing the completion of his rehabilitation for a toe injury and hopes to start integrating back into team training this week.
Finally, Cullen confirmed that Caelan Doris will miss the game against Ulster Rugby at the weekend. Doris was withdrawn for a Head Injury Assessment in the first half against Benetton Rugby and will now enter the Graduated Return to Play Protocols.
Cullen had no update on Hugo Keenan (abdominal & knee injury), James Lowe (calf), James Tracy (neck), Charlie Ryan (knee) and Tommy O’Brien (knee).
Images & Content from Leinster Rugby
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