URC Quarter-Final Clashes To Come In Dublin And Belfast

The first ever last-eight line-up in the United Rugby Championship has been set following the thrilling completion of round 18 tonight.

The URC quarter-final fixtures will take place on Friday, June 3 and Saturday, June 4, with kick-off times to be confirmed early next week following consultation with host broadcasters.

Irish provinces will host two of the quarter-finals and one of them will be an interprovincial derby as third-placed Ulster meet Munster at Kingspan Stadium in two weeks’ time.

Leinster, who were already assured of finishing top of the table, have pencilled in a home quarter-final against Glasgow Warriors in Dublin, with the carrot of a home semi-final also dangling in front of them.

The two other quarter-final fixtures will take place in South Africa, marking the first time in the league’s history that play-offs will be hosted in the southern Hemisphere.

The DHL Stormers, who scored a late try in Llanelli to finish second overall, won the South African Shield and will have home advantage against Edinburgh, the 1872 Cup and Scottish/Italian Shield winners.

There is also a heavyweight South African derby to look forward to with the Vodacom Bulls and the Cell C Sharks going head-to-head in Pretoria.

League rankings determined which teams were placed into each quarter-final match, with home advantage in the semi-finals going to the winners of quarter-final 1 and quarter-final 2.

Home advantage for the United Rugby Championship final next month goes to the team with the highest ranking.


Friday, June 3 & Saturday, June 4 –

QF1: LEINSTER v Glasgow Warriors
QF2: DHL Stormers v Edinburgh
QF4: Vodacom Bulls v Cell C Sharks

Semi-Finals: QF1 (home advantage) v QF4, QF2 (home advantage) v QF3


1. LEINSTER 67 points
2. DHL Stormers 61 points
3. ULSTER 59 points
4. Vodacom Bulls 58 points
5. Cell C Sharks 57 points
6. MUNSTER 56 points
7. Edinburgh 54 points
8. Glasgow Warriors 50 points


Irish Shield: LEINSTER

South African Shield: DHL Stormers

Welsh Shield: Ospreys

Scottish/Italian Shield: Edinburgh

Munster Face Trip To Ulster After Losing To Leinster Young Guns

An understrength Leinster side rose to the occasion to win 35-25 at the Aviva Stadium and deny Munster a home quarter-final in the United Rugby Championship.

Four tries in 22 minutes – with Scott Penny’s opener coming inside 90 seconds – made for a highly entertaining first half which ended 15-12 in the table toppers’ favour.

Penny and Cormac Foley crossed for the hosts, who rested their first-choice players ahead of next week’s Heineken Champions Cup final, while Munster had back-to-back scores from Jack O’Donoghue and Mike Haley.

An opportunist Conor Murray try moved Munster a step closer to finishing second in the standings, but Leinster roared back with a penalty try – Niall Scannell was sin-binned for collapsing a maul – and a rapid Rory O’Loughlin effort.

Harry Byrne’s 70th-minute penalty clinched it for Leinster who have a home quarter-final against Glasgow Warriors in two weeks’ time. Ending up in sixth place, Munster will travel to Ulster in the last-eight.

Leinster also picked up silverware on the night, receiving the competition’s inaugural Irish Shield after finishing eight points clear of Ulster. Munster were a further three points back in third, with Connacht fourth.

Returning to the scene of their heart-breaking European exit, Johann van Graan’s men were stunned when Ciaran Frawley’s cross-field kick played in Penny to score past Joey Carbery in the right corner.

Back to full fitness, Ryan Baird had made the initial break during the build-up, and a strong counter ruck and pick-up from Thomas Clarkson saw Munster turned over during their first attack.

Out-half Byrne, who missed the conversion, tagged on a penalty for 8-0, but a reliable lineout platform set up Munster to strike back with some nice handling and a excellent finish.

Munster’s stand-in captain O’Donoghue clawed back five points, doing really well to stay in play and score in the right corner despite the presence of Foley. The try was created by a long Keith Earls pass.

Good approach work by the visitors’ forwards allowed them to make it a quick-fire double in the 16th minute. Ever-alert full-back Haley picked from a ruck to snipe in under the posts and Carbery converted.

Jordan Larmour’s electric run from a kick receipt inspired Leinster’s second try. He brought play back up to halfway and Jamie Osborne then sprung Ciaran Frawley through midfield, with the final pass putting Foley over for his first score in Leinster blue.

Although Byrne’s boot made it 15-12, Leinster had winger Rob Russell sin-binned before the break for a deliberate knock-on. Centre Frawley also made way for a head injury assessment.

A bomb of a kick from Haley caused trouble for Leinster on the restart, the breaking ball being scooped up by Murray for a gift of a try, which Carbery converted for a 19-15 scoreline.

The Munster number 10 then cancelled out a Byrne penalty, only for this youthful Leinster side, boosted by a fresh front row which included Cian Healy, to lift their game.

A brilliant 50:22 kick from Foley put them in prime position and their lineout drive forced a penalty try, with Munster hooker Scannell also seeing yellow for the infringement.

O’Loughlin followed up just two minutes later with a terrific bonus point effort, the initial damage caused again by the dazzling footwork of Larmour, the URC player-of-the-match. Byrne’s conversion made it a 10-point game.

Carbery chipped away with his second penalty, yet a long-range strike from Byrne settled the issue with Leinster’s defence on top late on in front of the 32,411-strong crowd.

Two knock-ons really dented Munster’s hopes of getting back into contention, while the sight of Jack Daly being hammered into touch by Osborne and then go off injured added to their woes.

With their injury list already headed up by regular skipper Peter O’Mahony, Simon Zebo and Damian de Allende, and the game coming too soon for Gavin Coombes, Munster also lost Jean Kleyn, Andrew Conway and Alex Kendellen at key stages.

Back on provincial duty for the first time since January, the fit-again Conway was prominent early on – particularly in the aerial contests – but had to hobble off on the hour mark.

If it proves to be his final appearance for Leinster, it was a fitting way for retiring lock Devin Toner to bow out. Sean Cronin, another player set to hang up his boots, enjoyed a 50-minute run-out.

Masterson Signs Off With Try In Scrappy Connacht Win

Departing flanker Eoghan Masterson scored as Connacht closed out their season with a ragged 22-20 United Rugby Championship win over Zebre Parma at the Sportsground.

Tries from Kieran Marmion, Niall Murray and Masterson gave Connacht a 17-8 half-time lead, the bottom-placed Italians rallying with a late score from Lorenzo Pani.

John Porch bagged the hosts’ bonus point in the 48th minute, but closing efforts from Zebre replacement Matteo Nocera and Enrico Lucchin made for a tighter-than-expected finish.

Carlo Canna kicked Zebre into a third-minute lead, rewarding full-back Pani’s chase down of his own kick and Asaeli Tuivuaka’s follow-up at the breakdown.

Connacht centre Tom Daly broke through the middle in response and with Zebre caught for numbers on the left, Marmion reached over from a sixth-minute ruck.

The hosts doubled their tally on the quarter hour mark, Cian Prendergast beating a defender and laying off for lock Murray to go over in the left corner.

The penalties were beginning to rack up against Zebre, who fell 17-3 behind after Masterson was driven over from a lineout maul in the 25th minute and Jack Carty converted.

Knock-ons prevented Connacht from extending their lead, while Tuivuaka’s thumping tackle halted Marmion following a promising break from Prendergast, the eventual URC player-of-the-match.

Indeed, Zebre finished the first half with a well-worked five-pointer from the pacy Pani, who handed off Tom Farrell to score.

Lucchin’s turnover penalty thwarted Connacht on the restart, but lovely hands from Carty, Alex Wootton and Oran McNulty freed up Porch to dash past Jacopo Trulla and briefly get the scoreboard moving again.

Unfortunately the game then entered a rather listless spell, with Zebre unable to profit from a decent scrum platform and Connacht giving the likes of Ultan Dillane and Sam Arnold a chance to sign off in the green jersey.

A bulldozing charge from Tuivuaka got the visitors’ attack firing, though. Nocera duly burrowed over in the 67th minute with timely support from fellow replacement Ross Vintcent.

Zebre were much the better team down the final stretch, deservedly scoring again when impressive centre Lucchin took advantage of three missed tackles to go over out wide. Canna converted but Connacht held on.

Ulster Hold Off Fast-Finishing Sharks To Earn Home Quarter-Final

Ulster have a home United Rugby Championship quarter-final to look forward to after defeating the Cell C Sharks 24-21 at Kingspan Stadium.

Dan McFarland’s men were the better team for the first 65 minutes, with captain Iain Henderson, player-of-the-match Nick Timoney and Stuart McCloskey all playing leading roles.

Billy Burns and Ethan McIlroy deftly created Michael Lowry’s 26th-minute try which, on top of a John Cooney penalty, gave Ulster a 10-0 half-time lead.

McCloskey swatted away two tackles to score early in the second half and an excellent team effort, finished off by James Hume, cancelled out a close range try from Sharks replacement Ntuthuko Mchunu.

Ulster had hopes of pushing on for the bonus point at 24-7, but the South Africans made it a nervy finish thanks to late tries from Marius Louw and lively replacement Grant Williams.

It was a little too close for comfort in the end which will give the Ulstermen plenty to work on for the play-offs. They will find out tomorrow where they finish in the top four, but most importantly home advantage awaits in two weeks’ time.

The Sharks’ first attacking opportunity inside the Ulster 22 broke down, McCloskey tidying up a loose ball and full-back Lowry breathing a sigh of relief having conceded the initial lineout.

Flanker Timoney, who carried well off an early scrum, popped up with an important turnover penalty to thwart a Sharks surge. The visitors returned fire to halt a promising break from deep involving McCloskey and Hume.

Burns’ right boot became more influential in the wet conditions as he went close to linking up with McIlroy near the left touchline. He followed up with a well-judged touchfinder out to the right.

Ulster ended the opening quarter with a 3-0 lead, Henderson harassing Jaden Hendrikse into a handling error and Ox Nche was caught offside. Cooney mopped up with the three points from straight in front.

The Ulstermen were unable to profit from Aphelele Fassi’s error in leaking a lineout in his own 22. Rob Herring spun off the resulting maul but a Burns knock-on allowed the Sharks to kick clear a couple of phases later.

Curwin Bosch’s tackling of Robert Baloucoune in the air invited Ulster forward, and a further penalty plunged the Sharks back to within five metres of their own try-line.

The South Africans’ maul defence prevented a try but when Burns spun the ball wide, McIlroy stepped inside Werner Kok’s challenge and slipped a beautiful offload away for Lowry to score. Cooney converted with aplomb from out wide.

Fassi caught the eye with some sharp attacking play, both in the air and with ball in hand. Worryingly for Ulster, two tackles on the Sharks full-back saw Hume go off temporarily for a HIA and Lowry left permanently.

Out-half Bosch pushed a long range penalty wide in the 35th minute and although the Sharks continued to build some pressure, Timoney claimed a hard-earned penalty at the breakdown just before the interval.

Henderson was to the fore on the restart, helping Ulster earn turnover ball before Burns made a break and had a footrace with Fassi. The Ulster skipper collected the drop out and was soon involved in the build-up to McCloskey’s brilliant score.

Lovely hands from Tom O’Toole and Henderson invited the big centre through a gap and he shrugged off both Louw and Fassi to power in underneath the posts. Cooney converted for a 17-point lead.

The Sharks, who also have a quarter-final place, responded by battering away through a mammoth set of phases. They opted for scrums right in front of the Ulster points, yet the home defence stood firm and eventually forced a knock-on.

The breakthrough came for Sean Everitt’s side when Thomas du Toit closed down Cooney from a kick, Ulster leaked a penalty and the quick tap allowed the freshly-introduced Mchunu to crash over.

Barely two minutes later, Burns crisply released Baloucoune from halfway, the winger linking inside with Cooney who drew in a defender and fed the supporting Hume to go over untouched.

Cooney’s conversion restored the 17-point advantage, but the Sharks’ pacy backs were beginning to exploit some gaps as the home defence finally showed some signs of tiring.

Matthew Rea got the decision at the breakdown to foil a dangerous break from Makazole Mapimpi, following the lead of Cooney who tackled replacement Sikhumbuzo Notshe to stall the Sharks at the edge of the Ulster 22.

Nippy scrum half Williams really came into his own, using the platform of a lineout to cut open the Ulster defence from 40 metres out and he had Louw up in support to touch down to the left of the posts.

Another seven-pointer swiftly followed in the 79th minute, Williams’ clever kick over the top from inside the Sharks’ 22 finding Louw and his return pass sent Williams scampering clear from 70 metres out.

Replacement Boeta Chamberlain’s second conversion made it a three-point game, but Ulster were not to be denied as they handed the Sharks their first defeat in four matches since March.

Aldi Play Rugby Festival Gallery

Over 300 Primary School boys and girls enjoyed the Aldi Play Rugby National Festival at the Aviva Stadium this week. Ireland stars Beibhinn Parsons and James Ryan joined the fun as we celebrated the biggest season yet.

National Festival A Fitting Finish To Aldi Play Rugby Biggest Season

This week marks the most successful ALDI Play Rugby season yet!

While the pandemic put a halt to most sporting activities, ALDI Play Rugby has bounced back with a record number of 117,286 students from nearly 800 primary schools across Ireland taking part in the programme between September 2021 and May 2022.

On May 18th, the National ALDI Play Rugby Festival took place in Aviva Stadium, where over 300 children from 16 schools across Ireland had the chance to follow in the footsteps of Irish rugby heroes and play in Aviva Stadium. Additionally, the lucky young students were afforded the chance to meet a selection of Ireland rugby Internationals.

This national event follows a series of regional festivals that took place throughout the four provinces earlier this year. From there, 16 schools were selected to visit Aviva Stadium on May 18th.

Amongst the rugby stars who were on hand to put the lucky participants through their paces were Ireland Internationals and ALDI Brand Ambassadors, James Ryan and Beibhinn Parsons.

ALDI Play Rugby is a national programme aimed at primary school children across Ireland. Developed by the IRFU and supported by ALDI, it is a free, supervised and non-contact rugby programme that provides boys and girls with a fun introduction to the sport. Schools are offered access to invaluable resources including sessions with Community Rugby Officers, online coaching resources and free coaching equipment.

Speaking on the day, Beibhinn Parsons, ALDI Brand Ambassador and Ireland international said,

“It was fantastic to see the girls and boys really enjoying the ALDI Play Rugby National festival. I benefited from being introduced to sport from a young age and it’s wonderful to see over 117,000 kids have had the chance to participate the ALDI Play Rugby programme already this year. Well done to all who took part.”

James Ryan, ALDI Brand Ambassador and Ireland international player said,

“I am delighted to have the chance to meet and train with these young kids, giving them a start in the sport I have so much passion for. This programme in association with ALDI is an amazing one that gives schools across the country the opportunity to avail of much needed facilities for their students. It is a great feeling to be able to return to hosting such amazing days following the ease of restrictions.”

It is part of ALDI’s wider commitment to promoting healthier habits every day. That means encouraging children to get active, participate in regular exercise and eat healthily.

Commenting on the programme, Des Kavanagh, IRFU President said, “It has been wonderful to have the opportunity to visit Aviva Stadium today and witness the enthusiasm and excitement from the 16 schools participating in the ALDI Play Rugby National Festival. My thanks, on behalf of the Irish Rugby Football Union, to our friends in ALDI for their on-going support for this invaluable programme, and help in making today an unforgettable day for the lucky participants.”

For more information on ALDI Play Rugby and how your school can get involved, please visit: https://www.ALDI.ie/playrugby-programme

Aviva Stadium To Host 2023 Heineken Champions Cup And Challenge Cup Finals

European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) has today announced that Dublin’s Aviva Stadium will host the 2023 Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup Finals.

The two showpiece matches, representing the pinnacle of elite European club rugby, will take place at the home of Irish Rugby on Friday 19 May and Saturday 20 May 2023.

International brewing giant Heineken® will continue as title sponsors of the Heineken Champions Cup, marking an extension of a long-standing association with Europe’s elite club competition.

The 2023 Finals, which will also be supported by EPCR’s Official Logistics Partner DHL and newly-announced Official Hotels Partner IHG Hotels & Resorts, return to Dublin after a decade when RC Toulon defeated ASM Clermont Auvergne to lift the famous silverware for the first time in 2013.

Ticket sales for Dublin 2023 open with a priority window from Friday (20 May) enabling fans to secure their places and plan their weekend well in advance.

Fans can register for the priority window by signing up to ECPR’s newsletter The Offload and will then have access to a limited number of Golden Tickets – the best tickets at the best prices between Friday 20 May to Friday 27 May.

To date, six countries – England, France, Ireland, Scotland, Spain and Wales – have staged European club finals, and next week the spotlight moves to the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille with big attendances expected for what promises to be a thrilling weekend of high-class rugby.

Kevin Potts, IRFU Chief Executive, said: “The IRFU is delighted that the Aviva Stadium has been chosen to host the 2023 Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup Finals.

“It is an exciting prospect to have the opportunity of hosting the pinnacle of European club rugby at the home of Irish rugby. Hopefully, we will have at least one Irish team involved in the final stages of what will be a true celebration of European club rugby, stamped with the unique atmosphere that Irish supporters inevitably bring to the culmination of these major European competitions.

“Whatever the ultimate line- up, all in Irish rugby look forward to extending a warm welcome to supporters from across Europe to Dublin for what promises to be a thrilling rugby occasion.”

Niall Rynne, Chairman of the Aviva Stadium Board, commented: “We are delighted to be hosting the Finals of the Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup. It is always one of the great weekends in European rugby. This will be the fourth time for Ireland to host the Heineken Champions Cup final and the second time for the Aviva Stadium to play host. The old Lansdowne Stadium was host in both 1999 and 2003, while the redeveloped Aviva Stadium held the final in 2013 when RC Toulon won the first of their three titles in a row.

“This will of course be the first time for the Aviva to host the EPCR Challenge Cup, although it was played in Ireland previously at the RDS in 2013.

“Ireland has of course a wonderful association with the Heineken Champions Cup in particular and I have no doubt that the prospect of a home Final in 2023 will be an even greater incentive for our Irish teams to do well next year.

One thing is certain: whoever makes the Final can be certain of a great welcome not only at the Aviva but also from the city of Dublin.”

Heineken Champions Cup, Aviva Stadium, Dublin 14/5/2022 Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Dominic McKay, EPCR Chairman, said: “Following extensive discussions with all stakeholders, including the Aviva Stadium, Dublin City Council and the IRFU, we are delighted to be bringing the Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup Finals back to Dublin next May.

“The ground has a strong association with EPCR, having staged three finals over the years, and we are very much looking forward to returning to Dublin.”

The 2023 Finals were originally scheduled to be staged at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium; however, with the Premier League concluding later than usual due to the 2022 FIFA World Cup taking place in November and December, coupled with the impact of Rugby World Cup 2023 on the EPCR calendar, it was decided to select the Aviva Stadium as next season’s host venue.”

Wojciech Bogusz, Marketing Director of HEINEKEN Ireland, said: “Heineken® is synonymous with the Heineken Champions Cup, a tournament we are truly proud to be title sponsor of. The Irish provinces and their loyal fans have enjoyed so many great successes and occasions over almost 30 years, many etched into the folklore of Irish sport forever.

“We look forward to Dublin 2023 and to welcoming the whole rugby community to Dublin for what promises to be an amazing festival of rugby in a city that has the very best pubs, bars and restaurants for all fans to enjoy.”

Monaghan And Van Der Flier Win Player Of The Year Awards

Sam Monaghan and Josh van der Flier have been named as Players of The Year by their fellow players at tonight’s Rugby Players Ireland Awards, supported by Accenture.

An ever present for his country, van der Flier has continued his fine form on the European stage where he has been to the fore of Leinster’s march to the upcoming Heineken Champions Cup final in Marseille.

The 29-year-old Wicklow man won in a category that included formidable competition from Caelan Doris, Mack Hansen and Hugo Keenan to claim the Accenture Men’s 15s Players’ Player of the Year award.

Having made his Ireland debut in 2016, van der Flier has had to bide his time on the international stage amidst a host of back row options.

A nominee for the Six Nations Player of the Championship this season, his consistently excellent performances have not gone unnoticed by his peers.

On receiving his award, van der Flier commented:

I have many great memories from what has been a special year for me, on both a personal and professional level.

“To be acknowledged by my team-mates and opponents in this way is particularly humbling. A special word of thanks to my fiancé and family who continue to help guide me through!”

The Accenture Women’s 15s Players’ Player of the Year, as voted by members of the Ireland squad, was presented to second row Monaghan following several prominent performances this season.

Monaghan prevailed over Linda Djougang and Eve Higgins, who took home both the WHOOP Women’s 15s Young Player of the Year and the iZest Marketing Women’s 15s Try of the Year awards.

The TritonLake Women’s Sevens Player of the Year was awarded to the outstanding Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe.

Speaking as she claimed the 15s Player of the Year award, Monaghan said:

This team has been through a tremendous amount this year, we always keep fighting. The bravery these players have shown, past and present, on and off the pitch, is captivating.

“To be voted by them for this award is an extreme honour and we will continue to fight to put the green jersey in a better place for the next generation.”

Many of the biggest names in the Irish game were present at the Clayton Hotel on Burlington Road for what was a celebration of a season of highs and lows for the game on the field.

Amongst them was Connacht star Hansen, who accepted the Druids Glen Hotel & Golf Resort Moment of the Year Award on behalf of his Ireland team-mates on account of their Triple Crown success.

Despite also having two efforts in the mix for the MSL Mercedes-Benz Dealerships’ Men’s 15s Try of the Year, Hansen was pipped by Doris for his try against New Zealand.

Other award winners on the night included Terry Kennedy who was named as the AIB Corporate Banking Men’s Sevens Player of the Year for the second successive season.

Andrew Porter’s work in the community was also recognised in his winning of the Zurich Contribution to Irish Society award.

Cian Prendergast was presented with the Nevin Spence Men’s Young Player of the Year award. This year marks the tenth anniversary of Nevin’s passing. All of the winners on the night received a WHOOP 4.0.

Simon Keogh, CEO of Rugby Players Ireland, commented: “I am delighted to see Sam, Josh and all our winners receive the recognition of their peers following what has been a hugely successful season for Irish Rugby, both on and off the field.

“Winning a Rugby Players Ireland award is the highest honour an individual player can receive in Ireland.

“To be acknowledged by your team-mates and opponents in this manner goes some way to justifying the sacrifices that are required to make it at the top level of the game.”

Alastair Blair, Country Managing Director at Accenture in Ireland, one of this year’s sponsors, added: “Accenture is delighted to support the Rugby Players Ireland Awards which acknowledge and celebrate the hard work that these players put in on and off the field throughout the season.

“I wish to extend my congratulations to all of our worthy winners tonight – and to all of those who were nominated. I look forward to seeing how each progress in their careers into the future.”



Caelan Doris (Leinster)
Mack Hansen (Connacht)
Hugo Keenan (Leinster)
Winner: Josh van der Flier (Leinster)


Linda Djougang (ASM Romagnat Rugby)
Eve Higgins (Railway Union)
Winner: Sam Monaghan (Wasps)


Michael Lowry (Ulster)
Winner: Cian Prendergast (Connacht)
Dan Sheehan (Leinster)


Winner: Eve Higgins (Railway Union)
Neve Jones (Gloucester-Hartpury)
Aoibheann Reilly (Blackrock College)


Winner: Caelan Doris – Ireland v New Zealand, Autumn Nations Cup
Mack Hansen – Connacht v Vodacom Bulls, United Rugby Championship
Mack Hansen – Ireland v France, Guinness Six Nations


Winner: Eve Higgins – Ireland v France, TikTok Women’s Six Nations
Eve Higgins – Ireland v Italy, TikTok Women’s Six Nations
Lindsay Peat – Ireland v USA, Autumn International


Winner: Terry Kennedy
Bryan Mollen
Andrew Smith


Eve Higgins
Lucy Mulhall
Winner: Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe