Ulster ready for home clash with Leinster
It’s set to be a clash of the titans as top of the table Ulster go head-to-head with Interpro rivals, Leinster, under the Friday night lights (7 35pm, Kingspan Stadium).
With both teams looking to continue winning ways in the BKT United Rugby Championship, the Ulster men are set to face what will likely be their toughest challenge yet this season as Leo Cullen’s Leinster make the journey to Belfast.
Following a 12-try extravaganza in Parc y Scarlets last weekend, which saw the province depart Wales with the maximum five points, and a place at the top of the league table on points difference, Dan McFarland and the squad will be looking to make it a hattrick, and back-up their hard-fought home and away victories over their Irish rival last season.
After a somewhat shaky start in Italy against Zebre, Leinster left nothing to chance when it came to putting 42 points on Benetton in Round 2. While for Ulster this will be their second Interpro at home already this season, Head Coach, Dan McFarland, is in no doubt as to the contest that lies ahead:
“It’s one of the biggest games of the year, if not, the biggest game of the year in terms of interest, and the fact that it’s a home game for us. Leinster is a team that plays really good rugby, and they will test us both sides of the ball.
“We’ve been tested a fair bit in different ways over the last two rounds, but Leinster bring an all-round game that will test all aspects of our game. It will be a good barometer, and I look forward to seeing how we go.”
Tickets are still available for Friday’s game at ulster.rugby/buytickets.
Luke Marshall to hit 150 caps milestone
Ulster born and bred, Luke Marshall, is set to run-out in front of a home crowd at Kingspan Stadium for his 150thcap this Friday.
After an explosive return from injury saw him score the first try of the new season against Connacht, Academy graduate Marshall is once again set to form the centre partnership with Stuart McCloskey, who himself hit the 150-cap milestone the last time the Leinster men were in town.
In a homegrown back three unchanged from last week’s victory, and with an average age of 24, winger Jacob Stockdale will be looking to add to his impressive tally of 27 carries in the BKT URC 2 so far. He is once again joined by fast-as-lightening Aaron Sexton, who made his first start for the province last week, alongside full-back Michael Lowry who played his part in Ulster making the most metres in Round 2, with a personal tally of 143.
Last weekend’s Player of the Match, scrum-half John Cooney, who was in unstoppable form with 30 points to his name by the end of a fast-paced win over former Ulster coach Dwayne Peel’s side, is again coupled with fly-half Billy Burns, who crossed the whitewash for Ulster’s fifth try on Saturday past.
Captain, Alan O’Connor, meanwhile retains his position at lock, and is joined in the second row by Kieran Treadwell, in a starting line-up which sees only one change from last week’s win. Matty Rea will be joined in the back row by brother, Marcus, who is becoming synonymous with the turnover, and Ireland international, Nick Timoney, at Number 8.
Hooker, Rob Herring, will bring his experience gained in the green jersey once again to set-up as he is joined in the front row by props, Andy Warwick and Tom O’Toole, who are both products of Ulster’s Academy pipeline.
Forward cover will be provided by John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Marty Moore, who contributed to last week’s try tally, Sam Carter, and Greg Jones. While David Shanahan, Angus Curtis, and Ben Moxham are on the backline bench.
Ulster team to play Leinster, BKT United Rugby Championship Round 3, Friday 30 September at Kingspan Stadium (KO 7 35pm), live on BBC 2 NI from 7 15pm, Premier Sports, RTÉ & URC.tv:
(15-9): Michael Lowry, Aaron Sexton, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns, John Cooney;
(1-8): Andy Warwick, Rob Herring, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor (Captain), Kieran Treadwell, Matty Rea, Marcus Rea, Nick Timoney.
Replacements: John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Marty Moore, Sam Carter, Greg Jones, David Shanahan, Angus Curtis, Ben Moxham.
And the opposition…
Images & Content – Ulster Rugby
Squad Update | Munster Prepare For Bayonne At Thomond
The Munster squad are preparing at the HPC ahead of Saturday’s Investec Champions Cup opener against Bayonne at Thomond Park (5.30pm).
Buy match tickets here.
Jean Kleyn will be unavailable until the New Year due to an eye injury suffered in the Leinster match. He attended for a specialist review last Tuesday and Wednesday and will have further follow-up before Christmas.
Jack Daly (ankle) and Liam Coombes (shoulder) both underwent surgery last week and will begin rehabilitation under the medical department.
There is good news for Patrick Campbell (ankle) as he has returned to team training.
Jack O’Donoghue (ankle) will also return to training this week.
Simon Zebo (knee) will continue to rehabilitate early this week.
The availability of Campbell, O’Donoghue and Zebo will be determined later in the week.
Peter O’Mahony (shoulder) is improving but will remain unavailable for the Bayonne clash.
Continuing to rehab: Jack Daly (ankle), Peter O’Mahony (shoulder), Liam Coombes (shoulder), RG Snyman (chest/shoulder), Joey Carbery (wrist), Roman Salanoa (knee), Mike Haley (hip), Cian Hurley (ankle/achilles), Niall Scannell (groin).
There were 11 Munster players in AIL action for their clubs at the weekend.
In Division 1A, Fionn Gibbons, Chris Moore and Keynan Knox helped Young Munster to a win over City of Armagh with Gibbons among the tries.
Ethan Coughlan and Daniel Okeke were in action for Shannon as they were beaten away to Terenure College.
In Division 1B, Jack Oliver, George Hadden and Colm Hogan helped Garryowen beat Blackrock College with Hogan scoring a try on his debut for the club. Oliver also kicked three conversions and two penalties.
Jack O’Sullivan and Ben O’Connor featured for UCC as they were narrowly beaten by Old Wesley.
In Evan O’Connell helped UL Bohemians to a draw against MU Barnhall.
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Peter O’Mahony Steps Down After Over 10 Years As Munster Captain
Munster Rugby can confirm that Peter O’Mahony has made the decision to step down as squad captain after over 10 years leading the province.
O’Mahony first captained Munster in a competitive game on September 3, 2011 at the age of 21. It was just his 12th appearance for the province and he led the side for the opening five games of that season.
He took over the Munster captaincy on a permanent basis ahead of the 2013/14 season following the departure of Doug Howlett.
The 2022/23 season was O’Mahony’s 10th year as squad captain and ended with glory in Cape Town as he lifted the URC title with Keith Earls after a thrilling win over the Stormers.
Along with captaining Munster, he has also led Ireland and the British & Irish Lions.
Head Coach Graham Rowntree and the coaching team will select a new squad captain in due course.
Peter O’Mahony said: “Captaining Munster has been a dream come true for me.
“I grew up watching and idolising the Munster team and in particular the people who were leading the team.
“People like Mick Galwey, Jim Williams then on to the likes of ROG and Paul, who I had the privilege of playing with at the start of my career.
“I can remember the day I was asked to be captain like it was yesterday and discussing it with Paul to get his approval.
“From that day to this it’s been an utter privilege and has never been something I’ve taken for granted.
“However, having given a huge amount of thought to it, I think it is the right time to step back from the role to share my experiences and give the same guidance that I received when I took on the role.
“What an unbelievable honour it has been…and will always continue to be.”
Paying tribute to O’Mahony’s over 10 years as captain, Rowntree said: “You couldn’t pick a better leader than Pete and he has been a fantastic captain for this club.
“To lead Munster from such a young age and for so many years speaks volumes of his ability as a player on the pitch and a person off it.
“He commands huge respect and will still be a massive leader within the group. To have someone of Pete’s experience on hand to help us with the succession process is invaluable.
“We have a strong leadership group within the squad and will confirm a new squad captain in due course.”
Images & Content from Munster Rugby
Squad Update | Munster Prepare For Leinster In Dublin
The Munster squad are preparing at the HPC ahead of Saturday’s URC round 6 clash against Leinster at the Aviva Stadium (6.30pm, live on TG4).
Our next home game is against Glasgow Warriors at Musgrave Park on Friday, December 1 (7.35pm). Buy match tickets here.
Following Saturday’s win over Stormers, Peter O’Mahony (shoulder) and Jack O’Donoghue (ankle) will both go for scans on their respective injuries.
Diarmuid Barron has progressed through the return to play protocols and will be available for selection.
Continuing to rehab: Liam Coombes (shoulder), RG Snyman (chest/shoulder), Joey Carbery (wrist), Patrick Campbell (ankle), Roman Salanoa (knee), Mike Haley (hip), Cian Hurley (ankle/achilles), Niall Scannell (groin).
On the AIL front, there were nine Munster players in action for their clubs at the weekend.
In Division 1A, Keynan Knox and Fionn Gibbons helped Young Munster to a win over Terenure College at Tom Clifford Park.
Ethan Coughlan and Daniel Okeke were in action for Shannon as they were beaten by Lansdowne in Dublin.
In Division 1B, Jack Oliver and George Hadden lined out for Garryowen as they were beaten by St Mary’s College with Oliver kicking a conversion and a penalty.
Jack O’Sullivan was a try-scorer for UCC with Ben O’Connor also starting as they beat Queen’s University at the Mardyke.
In Division 1B, Evan O’Connell helped UL Bohemian to a 16-12 victory over Ballymena at Annacotty.
URC Round 7: Friday, December 1
Munster v Glasgow Warriors, Musgrave Park, 7.35pm; Buy tickets here
Champions Cup Round 1: Saturday, December 9
Munster Rugby v Bayonne, Thomond Park, 5.30pm; Buy tickets here
URC Round 8: Tuesday, December 26
Munster v Leinster, Thomond Park, 7.35pm; Buy tickets here
Champions Cup Round 4: Saturday, January 20
Munster Rugby v Northampton Saints, Thomond Park, 5.30pm; Buy tickets here
Saturday, February 3
Munster Rugby v Crusaders, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 5pm; Buy final tickets here
URC Round 11: Friday, March 1
Munster v Zebre Parma, Musgrave Park, 7.35pm; Buy tickets here
URC Round 13: Saturday, March 30
Munster v Cardiff Rugby, Thomond Park, 7.35pm; 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