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Union Bordeaux Begles vs Cell C Sharks Match Preview



The Cell C Sharks will face one of their sternest challenges in recent rugby history when they take on Bordeaux Bègles in tonight’s Heineken Champions Cup clash in France.

Adapting from a 30 or more degree turnaround in weather conditions is one challenge, so to playing a French team at their home ground, and against a passionate and hostile home crowd to add to the hype.

Cell C Sharks Director of Rugby Neil Powell pointed out that it’s been a challenging week, but an exciting opportunity for his team to grown and build momentum in this prestigious competition.

“We spent 27 hours travelling to Bordeaux, we also have a short week and we have the weather difference, so it’s not the easiest of weeks,” he explained in the build-up to the game.

“But we can only control what’s in our hands so it’s about how we emotionally and mentally approach this game. We know we’re here to do a job and everyone is focussed and committed to doing that job tonight.

“Our preparations have gone well and although we know it’s going to be cold when we play, if we keep talking about how difficult that’s going to be, then we have to just embrace the conditions and face whatever comes our way.”

While no coach wants to harp on about difficulties and challenges, and let that take the focus off the job at hand, Powell explained that every week is a new challenge, given weather conditions or the opposition.

“We analysed the opposition and look at the weather forecast and from there work out a game plan based on that and on how we want to play against a specific team in a specific environment. It’s important that we adapt from week to week and we’ve done that this week.

“It’s not about changing the whole game plan but small adaptations for things we want to do differently against Bordeaux.”

The conditions and travel challenges aside, there has been the loss of one player but the return of a couple which has been a real boost for the side.

“We’ve had a look at Bordeaux’s game against Gloucester last weekend and it’s important that we scrum well against them because it’s an area we feel we can target” Powell explained. “It’s a pity we don’t have Ox available, he contributes a lot to the game, but we have hope and belief in what Nthuthuko Mchunu is capable of and it’s a great opportunity for him.

“In terms of Lukhanyo Am’s return, he’s been injured for quite some time and it’s important that we get him back on the field and give him a fair bit of time off the bench.

“Will he shoot the lights out? He’s a quality player, we all know what a talent he is and he’s an x-factor player who can create opportunities from nothing. He might show a bit of rustiness but we’re keen to see him back and see what kind of form he’s in. It’s good to have him and his experience back and hopefully he’ll enjoy his 20 minutes or so on the field.”

A novel experience awaits many of the players, not all of them have played in France or in front of a French home crowd that really gets behind their team.

“That could pose a challenge, but we will rely on players who have played in France before as well as our international players who played here so recently, and in similar conditions.

“This is my first experience in front of a French crowd as a coach in 15s, but I’ve spoken to the coaches in our system who have been in this situation before, I’ve chatted to [Springbok coach] Jacques Nienaber as well, so we’ll rely on their experiences to navigate the team and the system through this challenge.”

Content & Images from – Cell C Sharks Rugby

Champions Cup

Academy Trio Stepping Up & Contract News



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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Squad Update Ahead Of Zebre At Virgin Media Park



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


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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Dan McFarland departs Ulster Rugby



Dan McFarland departs Ulster Rugby

3 minutes ago


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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