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WATCH: Leinster Seal Home Semi-Final with Four Games to Go – Report & Highlights

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Leinster limped into the semi-finals of the Pro14 with a 19-7 win over the Cheetahs at the RDS on Friday night.

The win has put the blues 26 points ahead of second-placed Benetton meaning they can no longer be caught at the top of the table,

However, it wasn’t the most impressive win that they will ever have to seal first place in the conference.

The first talking point of the match was the sin-binning of Cheetahs prop Ox Nche, who put a late and high challenge in on Fergus McFadden which could have warranted a red on another night.

Conor O’Brien scored the opening try of the game from a flat pass from Jamison Gibson-Park, which was converted by fly-half Ross Byrne.

The hosts failed to push on following that try and were punished when Cheetahs wing Rabz Maxwane gathered a Benhard Janse van Rensburg kick to score a try. Tian Schoeman secured the extras and it was 7-7.

Adam Byrne scored Leinster’s second try through a brilliant long pass from Rory O’Loughlin and left Leinster with a 12-7 lead at half-time.

The second-half was even more uneventful than the first with the only highlight being O’Loughlin’s try for the hosts after he dinked the ball forward for himself. Byrne struck over the two points from the left for a 19-7 lead.

Leinster tried and tested to gain a bonus-point with man of the match Max Deegan and Rhys Ruddock the biggest predators but failed to add anything else, however it was enough to ensure they will be top come the end of the season.

Speaking after the game Leinster head coach Leo Cullen admitted his content at winning the game against the South African based club in the poor conditions against an ever-improving side.

“Ultimately, we won the game, in very difficult conditions to play in. Cheetahs are a team I think are getting better all the time, you saw particularly how close that game was down in Galway against Connacht and they’re not affected by any call-ups or anything. Overall, we’re pleased to get a win,” he said.

Leinster’s next game sees them head to Edinburgh in three weeks’ time where they will be hoping to extend their lead at the top of Conference B, while the Cheetahs will be in Glasgow looking to improve on their current status of sixth in the conference.

Match Highlights:

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Ulster announce departure of key coach

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(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Ulster Rugby Defence Coach, and former Ulster player, Jared Payne will leave the club at the end of the season.

New Zealand-born Payne represented Ulster on 78 occasions and earned 20 caps for Ireland, before forming part of the Ulster coaching team for the past four seasons.

He will depart the club in the summer, after a decade of service to the province, to pursue coaching opportunities overseas.

On his time with Ulster, Payne, said:

“A big thank-you to the Ulster community, the fans, players and staff that have made my time here special.

“I will forever be grateful for the opportunities and experiences that we have shared, and I look forward to hopefully adding to those over these final few months.”

Head Coach, Dan McFarland, said:

“We all know how much Jared has given to Ulster, as a player, and as an important part of our coaching set-up since 2018.

“Jared has helped to shape who we are as a club over the past decade, and what we want to achieve, and his influence will continue to be felt in the years ahead. Jared’s desire to learn and improve himself as a coach has been impressive and it has been this spirit, in particular, that has made him a core part of our culture.

“On behalf of myself, the support staff, and the wider club, I would like to thank Jared for his significant contribution to Ulster, and he leaves with our best wishes for this next chapter.”

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Wales Women announce first full time contracts

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Rugby Ball - Gilbert - PixaBay

 The first full-time Wales Women players have been contracted by the Welsh Rugby Union including five Ospreys Women.

The 12-month contracts came into force this week with players and management based at the National Centre of Excellence.

The Ospreys in the mix include Wales Captain Siwan Lillicrap, hooker Carys Phillips, second-row Natalia John, scrum-half Keira Bevan and outside half Elinor Snowsill.

Group Chief Executive Steve Phillips said, “This is a very proud day for us as a governing body. I am very pleased to be able to say we have our first full-time female players who will represent Wales on the international stage. This is set to be a very demanding but unforgettable year for women’s rugby and these players – along with the players on retainer contracts and other squad members – will benefit from the full range of our expert on and off-field support to help them reach their potential. This is the start of an exciting journey for women and girls in Wales.

WRU Performance Director Nigel Walker said, “The historic awarding of 12 full-time contracts will enable all these players to be full-time professionals and have regular, weekly contact with head coach Ioan Cunningham, the rest of the coaches and our expert science and medical team. All of this will make a significant difference to the players’ preparation, fitness and skill sets in order to enable us to challenge the best teams in the world.

“We were so pleased with the quality of the players’ autumn performances that an increase to 12 full-time contracts was agreed, and the coaching team felt that working with 12 players who form the spine of the team would make a big impact. These players will be joined by 15 players on retainer contracts in the coming weeks.”

Wales Women head coach Ioan Cunningham said, “It’s been a tough but enjoyable process. Credit to all the players who have given us selection headaches. We are all now super excited to get the programme started.

“Talent and ability was the first element in our selection process and then the potential growth of the individual player along with their attitude.

“The conversations offering contracts were nice ones to have if often quite emotional. Some of the players had logistic issues to work through from a personal and professional perspective but it’s great to have them at the National Centre of Excellence now as we start to put the foundations in place for improvement. We have developed close working relationships with the players’ Allianz Premier 15s clubs and I’m confident our programme will prove beneficial for all parties.

On player selection: “We had to be fairly clinical and even ruthless. We clearly have short and medium term goals in terms of the Six Nations and the Rugby World Cup but we also have an eye on developing the best players for the future of Welsh rugby. Overall, we have gone for the players we feel could make the biggest gains at this time, not forgetting the contribution the players who receive retainer contracts will also make to the programme.

“Props Gwenllian Pyrs and Donna Rose are both dynamic ball-carriers, Carys Phillips is an exceptional talent as a throwing hooker, Natalia John has a huge workrate and was one of our stand-out performers of the autumn. All these front five players have huge potential and getting them into a full-time, professional programme will make a huge difference from a strength and conditioning perspective, along with the technical side of their game.

“In the back row, Siwan Lillicrap and Alisha Butchers are both excellent rugby players and great leaders on the pitch. Alisha has a fantastic skill-set, Siwan is our captain and has an amazing understanding of the game. Both deserve this opportunity to improve further physically and technically.

“We wanted to include two full-time scrum halves in the group and we feel Keira Bevan and Ffion Lewis will complement and challenge each other within the environment. Keira is very sharp, Ffion identifies running opportunities and we want to develop them both to be two of the best scrum halves in the world.

“Elinor Snowsill is an experienced player, understands the game brilliantly, and being part of a full-time environment will help her make a bigger impact in the game physically and provide the opportunity to hone key skills at outside half.

“Hannah Jones loves the physical side of rugby and leads defensively from the centre, Lisa Neumann is a powerful, attacking runner and Jaz’s talents are clearly already world-class with one of the best strike rates in world rugby, but having these players in full-time will give them a chance to develop all aspects of their game and become even better athletes and rugby players.”

The first full-time players:
Forwards:
Alisha Butchers, Natalia John, Siwan Lillicrap, Carys Phillips, Gwenllian Pyrs, Donna Rose,
Backs:
Keira Bevan, Hannah Jones, Jasmine Joyce, Ffion Lewis, Lisa Neumann, Elinor Snowsill 

Source – Ospreys Rugby

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Ulster squad named for trip to Munster

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Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

The Ulster coaching team has named their match-day squad to travel to Munster for their first game of 2022 on Saturday (Thomond Park, 7.35pm kick-off).

James Hume will make his 50th appearance for the Ulster men, as he has been named to start in the centre alongside Ben Moxham, who makes his first start this season. Mike Lowry is selected at full-back with Ethan McIlroy and Craig Gilroy on the wings. John Cooney and Billy Burns are the starting half-backs to complete the back line.

Jack McGrath will make his first start of the season at loosehead prop, with Rob Herring and Tom O’Toole completing the front row at hooker and tighthead respectively. Alan O’Connor will captain the side and starts in the second row alongside Sam Carter. Greg Jones is named at blindside flanker, with Nick Timoney and Duane Vermeulen selected at openside and Number Eight.

John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Ross Kane, Kieran Treadwell and Marcus Rea provide the forward options on the bench, while Nathan Doak, Angus Curtis and Rob Lyttle are selected as the back line replacements.

Ulster team to play Munster Rugby, United Rugby Championship Round 10, Saturday 8 January at Thomond Park, 7.35pm kick-off, live on RTÉ and Premier Sports:

(15-9) Mike Lowry, Craig Gilroy, Ben Moxham, James Hume, Ethan McIlroy, Billy Burns, John Cooney;

(1-8) Jack McGrath, Rob Herring, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor (Capt.), Sam Carter, Greg Jones, Nick Timoney, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Ross Kane, Kieran Treadwell, Marcus Rea, Nathan Doak, Angus Curtis, Rob Lyttle.

Unavailable for selection

Brad Roberts, Tom Stewart, Marty Moore, Iain Henderson, Cormac Izuchukwu, Jordi Murphy, Matty Rea, Ian Madigan, Stewart Moore, Stuart McCloskey, Luke Marshall, Robert Baloucoune, Jacob Stockdale, Will Addison.

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