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
Blair: “Collectively, we were just off it.”
The Italian side held on for a 24-17 win with Rhyno Smith’s late score the difference in a back-and-forth battle at Stadio Monigo.
“Yeah, it’s definitely disappointing,” said Blair. “We knew this was going to be a really tough game with the team that they picked.
“Benetton were excellent and managed the game really well after the red card. They were really smart. But I said to the players at half-time that the game was still in our hands.”
Benetton went down to 14 men in the 10th minute when debutant Matteo Minozzi was sent off for dangerous play after his boot – in the process of gathering a high ball – made contact with Wes Goosen’s face, leaving the winger with a nasty cut.
Edinburgh failed to capitalise on their numerical advantage however, with Benetton proving too shrewd in defence despite being a man down.
“We’ve seen it before, though, with red cards and how it can really galvanise a team. It brings emotion into it and gives them that backs-to-the-wall type of mentality,” continued Blair.
“But we’ve got to be better than that. We’ve got to see that as an opportunity. I think we waited and thought that (red card) was going to be the thing that won us game.
“But that wasn’t the case. It’s your physicality, your relentlessness nature of attack, persistence in defence, your smarts – that’s what wins you games. Collectively, we were just off it.
“I don’t think you can put it down to one thing. We always speak about what we want the perception of us to be from others.
“That perception is around the ruthless and clinical nature of our attack, as well as physicality in defence. We didn’t get that today.”
Edinburgh finish this block of fixtures without its Scotland internationalists having won two out of three road matches, with Saturday’s defeat to Benetton ending a three-match winning streak.
The capital side now turn their attention to Munster this coming Friday night (2 December, kick-off 7.35pm) in a match-up that sees Edinburgh return home to DAM Health Stadium for the first time in over a month.
“This period is an opportunity for the club. This group of players won away against Zebre and Cardiff, so there’s been some real positives.
“This was a tough game to come back to after the break for a few weeks. We were just off it in a couple of areas and that’s something we need to fix moving forward to next week.”
Timani returns to fitness as Cardiff name side to face Sharks
Lopeti Timani returns to the Cardiff line-up for the opening clash of their BKT United Rugby Championship double-header in South Africa.
With the Blue and Blacks kicking off their tour in Durban against Cell C Sharks on Sunday (KO 4.10pm), Tongan international Timani, who missed the home clash against Edinburgh last month, takes his place in the second row alongside Rory Thornton.
Captain Josh Turnbull will wear the number six jersey, with Thomas Young and James Botham completing the back row, while Rhys Carré, Liam Belcher and Dmitri Arhip form the front row.
Behind the pack Jarrod Evans and Lloyd Williams continue their partnership at half back. Rey Lee-Lo returns to the midfield for the first time since the away win over Scarlets, linking up with Max Llewellyn in the centre.
Finally, having made his URC debut in South Africa last season, Theo Cabango is again given the nod on the wing. Jason Harries occupies the opposite touchline, while Ben Thomas slots in at 15.
Cardiff director or rugby, Dai Young said: “We’re looking forward to testing ourselves against a quality team in the Sharks on Sunday.
“We were disappointed with our last game out here last season so we have plenty of motivation to put things right and we’ve shown we are heading in the right direction and we want to build upon that.
“It is important now that we keep that momentum and confidence and show we have learnt and developed from last season.
“We know what to expect from the Sharks and they are formidable at home but we are in a good place. We will need to perform at our best and if we do that then there is no reason why we cannot make a statement.”
Cardiff have named a six-two split on the bench, with youngsters Ellis Bevan and Mason Grady providing cover for the back-line.
Seb Davies is passed fit to feature, having been on the sidelines since mid-October, while there are further fire-power from the likes of Kristian Dacey, Corey Domachowski and James Ratti.
Cardiff will also take on Vodacom Bulls during their time in the Rainbow Nation, before turning their attention to Europe and the festive derbies.
Cardiff: Ben Thomas; Jason Harries, Rey Lee-Lo, Max Llewellyn, Theo Cabango; Jarrod Evans, Lloyd Williams; Rhys Carré, Liam Belcher, Dmitri Arhip, Lopeti Timani, Rory Thornton, Josh Turnbull (capt.), Thomas Young, James Botham
Replacements: Kristian Dacey, Corey Domachowski, Will Davies-King, Seb Davies, Gwilym Bradley, James Ratti, Ellis Bevan, Mason Grady
Unavailable for selection: Dillon Lewis, Josh Navidi, Taulupe Faletau, Tomos Williams, Rhys Priestland, Owen Lane, Willis Halaholo, Josh Adams, Liam Williams, Matthew Morgan, Jacob Beetham.
Internationals return for Munster interpro at Thomond Park
Six Connacht players who were with the Ireland squad in November have come into the starting lineup for tomorrow’s interpro with Munster in Limerick (k/o 7.35pm).
Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Cian Prendergast, Caolin Blade and Bundee Aki are all named in the starting lineup, as the squad aim to make it three straight wins in the BKT URC.
Denis Buckley joins Heffernan and Bealham in the front row while Josh Murphy is selected alongside Thornbury in the second row. Prendergast is named at blindside flanker, with Conor Oliver at openside and Jarrad Butler at number 8.
Captain Jack Carty continues at out-half while Tom Farrell partners Aki in the centre. The side is completed by wingers Alex Wootton and Byron Ralston, and full-back John Porch.
On the bench there’s a notable return for Shane Delahunt, who has recovered from an 8-month injury layoff for a potential first appearance of the season. The management team have opted for a 6:2 split, meaning Niall Murray, Oisin Dowling and Paul Boyle could all be called upon.
Commenting on the team selection, Director of Rugby Andy Friend says:
“Everyone had ten days off after the Ospreys game which I think was needed for coaches and players. Now that we have everyone back it’s all eyes on Munster for the start of an important ten week block for us, and we’re well positioned for these games going forward.
Munster away at Thomond Park is never an easy task but I thought we were close last year and the previous year we won there. You can’t just rock up to Thomond and think you’re going to win, you’ve got to work your backside off and bring an element of physicality along with accuracy in what you are doing”
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS MUNSTER RUGBY
Saturday 26th November, 19:35 @ Thomond Park
15. John Porch (66)
14. Byron Ralston (6)
13. Tom Farrell (83)
12. Bundee Aki (119)
11. Alex Wootton (37)
10. Jack Carty (184) (C)
9. Caolin Blade (154)
1. Denis Buckley (215)
2. Dave Heffernan (171)
3. Finlay Bealham (173)
4. Josh Murphy (5)
5. Gavin Thornbury (68)
6. Cian Prendergast (33)
7. Conor Oliver (47)
8. Jarrad Butler (100)
16. Shane Delahunt (117)
17. Peter Dooley (5)
18. Jack Aungier (38)
19. Niall Murray (40)
20. Oisín Dowling (31)
21. Kieran Marmion (215)
22. Conor Fitzgerald (57)
23. Paul Boyle (79)
Images & Content from – Connacht Rugby
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