Ulster relishing visit to home of European champions
This Saturday will see Dan McFarland and his men travel to La Rochelle to face the current title-holders of the Heineken Champions Cup, as they face Stade Rochelais at the Stade Marcel Deflandre at 5 30pm (UK/Ire time).
In this weekend’s Round 3 return fixture, Ulster will be looking to put in a performance akin to the one they produced in the second half of the last time the two sides met, when they scored four tries against Ronan O’Gara’s side, before ultimately conceding the game 29 points to 36.
But, not daunted by the threat the opposition pose and in spite of a challenging couple of weeks for the province, Head Coach Dan McFarland is confident in the side that will line out in France:
“We were a whisker away from winning our last three games. If we work hard, we will turn a corner and start playing better, and ultimately, we will win games.
“Stade Rochelais are a big team, both in terms of size and how many talented players they have. The players selected for Saturday will relish it, and it’s a great opportunity for us to go up against the best.”
Ulster’s next home fixture is the crucial final Heineken Champions Cup pool stage game against Sale Sharks on Saturday 21 January (KO 8pm). Tickets are available now at ulster.rugby/buytickets.
Ian Madigan makes his return in starting line-up
Following several months out with injury, Ian Madigan is back and will line-out at fly half alongside 21-year-old scrum half Nathan Doak, who made his Heineken Champions Cup debut this time last year in an away win over another French heavyweight, ASM Clermont Auvergne.
In an Ulster born and bred back three, with an average age of 25, winger Jacob Stockdale retains his starting position from last week, together with full back, Mike Lowry, who secured his first try of the season last Saturday against Benetton. Rob Lyttle comes in on the right wing, as one of eight changes to the side that started most recently in Round 12 of the BKT United Rugby Championship.
Luke Marshall comes into the team at inside centre and is paired in midfield with fellow Ulster Rugby Academy graduate Stewart Moore, who crossed the whitewash in Treviso.
Club captain, Iain Henderson, will lead the side from the back row as he is named at blindside flanker. He is joined by Ireland teammate, Nick Timoney, and Springbok, Duane Vermeulen, who lines out at number eight.
Ulster stalwart, Alan O’Connor, is back in the starting line-up this week at lock, and pairs up with Kieran Treadwell, who has amassed over 1,800 minutes of European rugby since his debut back in the 2015/16 season.
Scottish international, Rory Sutherland comes in as loosehead prop, with Jeff Toomaga-Allen and Rob Herring, who was responsible for one of Ulster’s four tries last time out, both retaining their starting positions at tighthead prop and hooker respectively.
Current Ulster Academy forward Harry Sheridan is primed to make his first senior appearance off the bench, with John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Andy Warwick, and David McCann, who made his European debut the last time the two sides met, completing the backup options for the pack.
Michael McDonald, also set to make his debut on the European stage, together with Billy Burns and Ethan McIlroy are included on the bench for the backs.
Ulster team to play Stade Rochelais, Heineken Champions Cup Round 3, Saturday 14 January at Stade Marcel Deflandre (KO 5 30pm UK/Ire time; 6 30pm local time), live on BT Sport:
(15-9): Michael Lowry, Rob Lyttle, Stewart Moore, Luke Marshall, Jacob Stockdale, Ian Madigan, Nathan Doak;
(1-8): Rory Sutherland, Rob Herring, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Alan O’Connor, Kieran Treadwell, Iain Henderson (Captain), Nick Timoney, Duane Vermeulen.
Replacements: John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Andy Warwick, Harry Sheridan, David McCann, Michael McDonald, Billy Burns, Ethan McIlroy.
The following players were not considered for selection due to injury or the IRFU Player Management Programme: Marty Moore; Tom O’Toole; Matty Rea; Sean Reffell; David Shanahan; Jake Flannery; Aaron Sexton; Jude Postlethwaite; Stuart McCloskey; Angus Curtis; James Hume; Rob Baloucoune; and Will Addison.
Images & Content – Ulster Rugby
Leinster quartet nominated for 2023 EPCR Player of the Year Award
Caelan Doris, Jamie Osborne, Garry Ringrose and Josh van der Flier have this morning been named in a 15-man shortlist for the 2023 EPCR Player of the Year Award.
After winning the Anthony Foley Memorial Trophy last year, van der Flier has the opportunity to become the first player to successdully retain the title.
Doris had an excellent start ot the Heineken Champions Cup this season, winning Start of the Match honours, away to Racing 92 and at home to Gloucester.
Jamie Osborne had a standout performance in Kingsholm, where he was named Star of the Match in his first European start, as he also scored his first try in European competiton.
Ringrose earned Star of the Match honours against Racing 92 in Aviva Stadium, and has scored two tries in the pool stages.
Van der Flier scored a try in each of the four Pool matches, including a double in Le Havre against Racing, as he continues to impress in European competition.
Voting is now open HERE and fans will be in the running to win two VIP tickets with one night’s accommodation for the 2024 Heineken Champions Cup Final in May 2024.
At the conclusion of the semi-final matches in April, the list will be reduced to five players by a combination of the public vote and the verdict of the judges, and players who have not been included in the initial longlist, but who make a significant impact during the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup, may be considered for the shortlist.
The voting will then re-open and the winner of the 2023 award will be announced following the Heineken Champions Cup final at Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday, 20 May.
2023 EPCR PLAYER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES
Grégory ALLDRITT (Stade Rochelais)
Gavin COOMBES (Munster Rugby)
Caelan DORIS (Leinster Rugby)
Elliot DALY (Saracens)
Antoine DUPONT (Stade Toulousain)
Eben ETZEBETH (Cell C Sharks)
Jaden HENDRIKSE (Cell C Sharks)
Siya KOLISI (Cell C Sharks)
Makazole MAPIMPI (Cell C Sharks)
Julien MARCHAND (Stade Toulousain)
Emmanuel MEAFOU (Stade Toulousain)
Jamie OSBORNE (Leinster Rugby)
Garry RINGROSE (Leinster Rugby)
Justin TIPURIC (Ospreys)
Josh VAN DER FLIER (Leinster Rugby)
Images & Content from Leinster Rugby
Contract Update & Addition For 2023/24
Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm contract extensions for Niall Scannell and Rory Scannell with Edwin Edogbo signing his first senior contract and John Ryan returning to Munster next season.
Niall and Rory have both signed two-year contract extensions with Edwin set to continue as an Academy player next season before moving up to the senior squad ahead of the 2024/25 campaign on a two-year contract.
John will return to Munster for the 2023/24 season. The tighthead prop has joined the Chiefs in New Zealand for the upcoming Super Rugby Pacific season and will return to Munster on a one-year contract.
Niall Scannell captained Munster for the second time in last weekend’s win over Benetton and has made 155 appearances for the province since his debut in 2013, scoring 21 tries.
The 30-year-old hooker has earned 20 Ireland caps and appeared at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Centre Rory Scannell has made 171 appearances for Munster and became the youngest player to reach 100 Munster appearances at the age of just 25 in 2019.
He has earned three Ireland caps and is the only player to have won the Munster Academy and Young Player of the Year awards in the same year after winning both accolades in 2016.
Academy lock Edwin Edogbo has earned his first senior contract having made a big impression in his seven Munster appearances so far this season.
Edwin came up through the ranks at Cobh Pirates and is the first player from the club to play for Munster in the professional era.
The 20-year-old plays his AIL rugby with UCC and is currently sidelined with an ankle injury.
John Ryan is one of only 13 players to have made over 200 appearances for Munster with the tighthead prop playing 205 games for the province to date.
The 34-year-old made his 50th Champions Cup appearance for the province in December and has also earned 24 Ireland caps, featuring at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Images & Content from Munster Rugby
DHL Stormers named Team of the Year
The DHL Stormers were named Team of the Year and Head Coach John Dobson the Coach of the Year in SA Rugby’s annual awards.
The DHL Stormers, who won the inaugural Vodacom United Rugby Championship and went unbeaten at DHL Stadium in 2022, were voted as the Team of the Year, with John Dobson duly taking the award for Coach of the Year (Evan Roos was named Vodacom URC Player of the Season last year June).
Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, who led the SA Under-20s to a clean sweep of four wins in the Six Nations U20 Summer Series in Italy, was named Junior Springbok Player of the Year, edging out team-mates Suleiman Hartzenberg and Ruan Venter.
Springbok centurion Eben Etzebeth was named the SA Rugby Player of the Year for the first time after narrowly losing out to Springbok captain Siya Kolisi in 2021, but last season the towering lock was a constant star in the green and gold, along with fellow nominees for the top award in Kolisi, Lukhanyo Am, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Frans Malherbe.
Canaan Moodie, who celebrated his Springbok debut last year with a superb try against Australia in Sydney while still an Under-20, was voted as the Young Player of the Year. He was nominated ahead of Feinberg-Mngomezulu, Jaden Hendrikse, Evan Roos and Henco van Wyk, underlining the rich vein of talent coming through in South Africa.
Nadine Roos highlighted her versatility in 2022 as she shone for both the national XVs and sevens teams in two Rugby World Cup tournaments, and she was rewarded for her brilliant form by being included in the World Rugby Dream Team after the RWC Sevens in Cape Town in September.
The other nominees were 2021 winner, Lusanda Dumke (flank), as well as No 8 Aseza Hele, who won the award in 2019, as well as midfield stars Zintle Mpupha and Aphiwe Ngwevu.
Hard-working forward JC Pretorius won the award for Springbok Sevens Player of the Year during a season in which the Blitzboks won four tournaments and just missed out on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series title. The other nominees were Selvyn Davids and Zain Davids.
The Airlink Pumas’ triumph in the Carling Currie Cup was reflected in the award for Premier Division Player of the Year, which was won by Sebastian de Klerk, who scored eight tries from outside centre during the season as the Lowvelders won the title from fourth spot on the log. He edged out provincial team-mates Willie Engelbrecht and Devon Williams for the title.
The award for Carling Currie Cup First Division Player of the Year was won by Down Touch Griffons scrumhalf Jaywinn Juries, who contributed a massive 169 points to the Northern Free Staters’ cause during the season which saw them not only win the competition, but also earn promotion to the Premier Division at the end of the season.
Dumke, who led the Border Ladies to a second successive Women’s Premier Division title, won the award for Provincial Women’s Player of the Year.
The OUTsurance Referee of the Year, for a second successive season, is Aimee Barrett-Theron, who represented South Africa at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. Barrett-Theron also made her debut in the Vodacom URC, establishing her as one of the foremost women’s referees in the world.
Mr Mark Alexander, President of SA Rugby, congratulated the winners and applauded their achievements during a busy 2022 season.
“Eben has been a Springbok stalwart for more than a decade and it’s just amazing to see how he keeps getting better with age, playing with maturity and providing valuable leadership to the Springboks,” said Mr Alexander.
“The Boks are building on depth and experience with an eye on the Rugby World Cup later this year, and I think they are in a good space under the coaching of Jacques Nienaber and the captaincy of Siya, but Eben’s role can’t be underestimated as he is not only the most experienced member of the squad, but he also sets the example for younger players and was widely regarded as one of the best players on the planet last year.
“Looking at the quality of young talent coming through, Canan was deservedly voted as the Young Player of the Year, but the other names of the list of nominees are all expected to still make a major mark on South African rugby, which bodes very well for the future.
“The winners in the other categories for our national teams, Nadine, JC and Sacha, all deserve these accolades after superb performances during the season. Starring in XVs and sevens takes some doing and Nadine never missed a beat; JC was a constant star for the Blitzboks; and Sacha is another one of the upcoming crop of future stars.
“I would also like to congratulate John and the DHL Stormers on their magnificent achievement in winning the Vodacom URC, as well as Sebastian, Jaywinn and Lusanda for leading the way in our very tough provincial competitions.
“The new year is already in full swing, but there is still a lot of rugby to be played and all eyes will be on France in September and October when the Boks defend the Webb Ellis Cup. I would like to congratulate every winner on their awards and wish them well for the next year, but I would also like to thank all the players, young and old, their coaches and team management, match officials, administrators, all our loyal sponsors and all other role players for making 2022 a season to remember.”
The winners and finalists (where applicable) for 2022 are:
SA Rugby Player of the Year: Eben Etzebeth
Finalists: Lukhanyo Am, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Siya Kolisi, Frans Malherbe
SA Rugby Young Player of the Year: Canan Moodie (Springboks / Vodacom Bulls)
Finalists: Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (Junior Springboks / South Africa ‘A’ / DHL Stormers), Jaden Hendrikse (Springboks / Cell C Sharks), Evan Roos (Springboks / DHL Stormers), Henco van Wyk (South Africa ‘A’ / Emirates Lions)
Springbok Women’s Player of the Year: Nadine Roos
Finalists: Lusanda Dumke, Aseza Hele, Zintle Mpupha, Aphiwe Ngwevu
Springbok Sevens Player of the Year: JC Pretorius
Finalists: Selvyn Davids, Zain Davids
Junior Springbok Player of the Year: Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu
Finalists: Suleiman Hartzenberg, Ruan Venter
Team of the Year: DHL Stormers
Finalists: Airlink Pumas, Springboks
Coach of the Year: John Dobson (DHL Stormers)
Finalists: Jacques Nienaber (Springboks), Jimmy Stonehouse (Airlink Pumas)
Carling Currie Cup Premier Division Player of the Year: Sebastian de Klerk (Airlink Pumas)
Finalists: Willie Engelbrecht (Airlink Pumas), Devon Williams (Airlink Pumas)
Carling Currie Cup First Division Player of the Year: Jaywinn Juries (Down Touch Griffons)
Finalists: Jaiden Baron (Boland Kavaliers), Duan Pretorius (Down Touch Griffons)
Provincial Women’s Player of the Year: Lusanda Dumke (Border Ladies)
OUTsurance Referee of the Year: Aimee Barrett-Theron
Vodacom United Rugby Championship Player of the Season (announced last year): Evan Roos (DHL Stormers)
Finalists: Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks), Marcell Coetzee (Vodacom Bulls), Warrick Gelant (DHL Stormers), Ruan Nortje (Vodacom Bulls), Vincent Tshituka
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