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Ulster ready for arrival of Bulls in Belfast

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Ulster ready for arrival of Bulls in Belfast

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Match Previews

Ulster go into Round 16 of the BKT United Rugby Championship against Vodacom Bulls hoping to make it three wins in succession, as they hunt down a top two finish in the league.

Dan McFarland’s men have fared well against South African opposition this season, becoming the only northern hemisphere team to win both away games against the Emirates Lions and the Cell C Sharks, as well as dominating DHL Stormers at Kingspan Stadium back in January.

Tickets are still available for Saturday’s big game at ulster.rugby/buytickets.

The win against Stormers was the last time the Ulster men ran out at Kingspan Stadium as the province faced a three match away block after the international break.

The stakes are high as Ulster currently sit third in the URC table on 54 points, knowing a win could see them draw level with DHL Stormers, currently in second on 59 points. A win would only increase Ulster’s hopes of securing a home advantage in the URC Play-Offs.

Meanwhile, the Bulls, who sit in sixth position, will hope to turn their form around after a tough spell of results, and with returning Springboks in their squad they will be looking to cause an upset in Belfast.

Ulster Forwards Coach Roddy Grant told reporters at the media briefing earlier this week that the province will be looking to continue their positive form:

“We feel refreshed, we’ve had a good week of training and everybody is raring to go this Saturday in front of a home crowd. Bulls are a good side, full of big physical guys, and our focus is fully on them.”

Vermeulen to captain Ulster against old side

Springbok Duane Vermeulen skippers the Ulster men against a side he knows all too well, having captained the Bulls when he played for them from 2019- 2021.

Leading the front row against the South African opposition, Ballymena man Andy Warwick starts at loosehead prop and is joined by Tom Stewart at hooker, who is back with the province after being part of Ireland’s Grand Slam winning training squad. They will be packing down with Jeff Toomaga-Allen at loosehead prop.

Kieran Treadwell, who featured for Ireland in the Grand Slam win against England, is back starting in the second row alongside experienced Wallaby lock, Sam Carter.

David McCann and Nick Timoney join Vermeulen in the back row, with both flankers hoping to continue their positive form from the last match against Cardiff.

Nathan Doak keeps the 9 shirt after a Player of the Match performance against Cardiff where he scored a try and slotted six out of six conversions. Billy Burns joins him at fly-half, hoping to build on a good try-scoring performance against Cardiff.

The midfield is kept the same as last time out, as young pair Stewart Moore and James Hume keep their places in Ulster’s centre positions.

The back three sees a welcome return for explosive winger Rob Baloucoune who hasn’t featured for Ulster since early January. He is joined by Jacob Stockdale and full back Mike Lowry.

McFarland has opted for a six-two split on the bench with John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Gareth Milasinovich, Alan O’Connor, Harry Sheridan and Marcus Rea named as forward options, and John Cooney and Jude Postlethwaite covering the backline.

Ulster team to face Vodacom Bulls, Round 16 BKT United Rugby Championship, Saturday 25 March at Kingspan Stadium (KO 7 35pm), live on BBC NI, RTÉ, Viaplay and URC.tv

(15-9) Mike Lowry, Rob Baloucoune, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns, Nathan Doak;

(1-8) Andy Warwick, Tom Stewart, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Kieran Treadwell, Sam Carter, David McCann, Nick Timoney, Duane Vermeulen (Captain).

Replacements: John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Gareth Milasinovich, Alan O’Connor, Harry Sheridan, Marcus Rea, John Cooney, Jude Postlethwaite.

Images & Content – Ulster Rugby


Champions Cup

Academy Trio Stepping Up & Contract News

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Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to announce that Academy trio Tony Butler, Ethan Coughlan and Mark Donnelly will be promoted to the senior squad in the summer.

We can also confirm that hooker Scott Buckley, who graduated from the Academy to the senior squad in 2022, has signed a contract extension.

Out-half Butler, scrum-half Coughlan (both 21) and 22-year-old prop Donnelly have all signed on for the next two seasons after impressing over their three years in the Academy.

Butler and Coughlan become the first Ennis RFC players to earn senior Munster contracts.

As previously confirmed, Academy lock Edwin Edogbo (21), who also came up through the Munster Youths system with Cobh Pirates, will graduate from the Academy to the senior squad on a two-year deal next season.

Buckley, Butler, Coughlan and Donnelly all made their Munster debuts in the famous Champions Cup win over Wasps in December 2021.

Tony Butler in action against Dragons.

Tony Butler in action against Dragons.

Ennis out-half Tony Butler has earned his first senior contract after a very productive three years in the Academy.

He has made six senior appearances to date, including two starts so far this season against Dragons and Connacht.

A Grand Slam winner with the Ireland U20s in 2022, Butler now plays his AIL rugby with Young Munster having previously lined out for Garryowen.

He captained Ennis at underage level, teaming up with Coughlan in the half-backs as they enjoyed success in the Munster U16 and U18 Clubs competitions.

Scrum-half Ethan Coughlan is enjoying an excellent campaign with three starts so far this year and eight senior appearances in total since joining the Academy.

He enjoyed great success alongside Butler with Ennis RFC at underage level before captaining the Ireland U18 Clubs team.

He also won a Grand Slam with the Ireland U20s in 2022 and plays his AIL rugby with Shannon.

Prop Mark Donnelly has already made nine senior appearances for Munster after coming up through the ranks at Midleton RFC, Midleton College and CBC.

He was a Pinergy Munster Schools Senior Cup winner with CBC in 2019 and featured for the Ireland U20s in the 2021 Six Nations.

He joined the Academy that summer before making his Munster debut along with Buckley, Butler and Coughlan against Wasps in December 2021

Along with his nine senior Munster appearances, Donnelly has also played regularly for Garryowen in the AIL over the past three years.

Mark Donnelly at Munster training.

Mark Donnelly at Munster training.

Hooker Scott Buckley (23) has signed a one-year contract having made 25 appearances for Munster to date.

A product of the Munster Rugby Academy, Buckley started out with Kinsale RFC before captaining CBC to the Pinergy Munster Schools Senior Cup in 2019.

He was Player of the Match against Wasps on his Munster debut and made nine appearances last season as Munster won the URC title.

A UCC clubman, he scored the match-winning try against Crusaders at Páirc Ui Chaoimh earlier this month.

Scott Buckley scores a try against Leinster in pre-season.

Images & Content from Munster Rugby


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URC

Squad Update Ahead Of Zebre At Virgin Media Park

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The Munster squad are preparing at the HPC ahead of Friday night’s URC Round 11 clash against Zebre at Virgin Media Park (7.35pm).

There are a limited number of tickets available here.

25 players lined out in the thrilling encounter against Harlequins on Friday night, including eight Academy players and two young club players. Scroll down for match highlights.

The squad is boosted by the return of Tom Ahern, Craig Casey and Jeremy Loughman from international duty ahead of Friday night’s clash in Cork.

On the injury front, Academy back-row forward Ruadhán Quinn has completed the return to play protocols and is available for selection.

Following the game against Harlequins on Friday night, Academy duo Shay McCarthy (ankle) and Daniel Okeke (elbow) will go for scans and are unavailable this week.

Continuing to rehab: Simon Zebo (knee), Patrick Campbell (shoulder), John Hodnett (finger), Paddy Patterson (knee), Jack O’Donoghue (knee), Dave Kilcoyne (shoulder), Diarmuid Barron (foot), Jean Kleyn (eye/knee), Liam Coombes (shoulder), Roman Salanoa (knee).

Video | Harlequins v Munster Highlights

Tickets

URC Round 11: Friday, March 1

Munster v Zebre Parma, Virgin Media Park, 7.35pm; Buy final tickets here

U20s 6 Nations Round 5: Friday, March 15

Ireland v Scotland, Virgin Media Park, 7pm; Buy final tickets here

URC Round 13: Saturday, March 30

Munster v Cardiff Rugby, Thomond Park, 7.35pm; Buy tickets here

Women’s 6 Nations Round 3: Saturday, April 13

Ireland v Wales, Virgin Media Park, 4.45pm; 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


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URC

Dan McFarland departs Ulster Rugby

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Dan McFarland departs Ulster Rugby

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News

Ulster Rugby and the IRFU can confirm that Dan McFarland will step down from his position as Head Coach.

After joining the club in 2018, McFarland has been the longest-serving Head Coach for the province in the professional era, with the club reliably securing play-off rugby in URC and EPCR competitions during his time at the helm, including reaching the PRO14 final in 2020.

Ulster Rugby CEO, Jonny Petrie, said:

“We would like to thank Dan for his determination in driving forward the professional squad over the past six seasons, and I would like to wish him and his family the best for the future on behalf of all at Ulster Rugby.”

The change to the Senior Men’s coaching set-up is with immediate effect, with Ireland U20s Head Coach, Richie Murphy, to link-up with the province as interim Head Coach until the end of this season following the Under-20s Six Nations. Bryn Cunningham, Head of Rugby Operations and Recruitment at Ulster Rugby, will also assume greater management responsibilities within the performance function during this time.

Assistant Coach, Dan Soper, will oversee operations next week ahead of Ulster facing Dragons at Kingspan Stadium in Round 11 of the BKT United Rugby Championship.

Petrie continued: “With Richie coming to Ulster in the coming weeks, ahead of the squad travelling to South Africa, our focus will be on consistently performing to the best of our abilities at this crucial time of the year.”

Images & Content – Ulster Rugby


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