Ulster Agree Early Release For Coetzee

With Marcell Coetzee currently sidelined with a hamstring injury, Ulster have agreed terms which will see him released from the province at the end of this month, ahead of his planned departure at the conclusion of the 2020/21 season.

Given the need for several weeks of rehabilitation following the injury sustained by Coetzee in last month’s Guinness PRO14 fixture against Leinster, Ulster and the South African back rower have reached a mutual agreement to part ways on Friday, April 30.

Ulster’s head of rugby operations and recruitment, Bryn Cunningham, said: “We have come to an agreement that will allow Marcell the time and space required to continue his rehab.

“I’d like to thank Marcell for his contribution to the province over the past five years and we wish him and wife Chanelle the very best for their upcoming return home to South Africa.”

The post Ulster Agree Early Release For Coetzee appeared first on Irish Rugby.

Leinster’s McBryde To Coach Lions Forwards

British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has today announced the coaching team for the 2021 tour to South Africa.

Gregor Townsend (Scotland), Leinster’s Robin McBryde, Steve Tandy (Scotland) and Neil Jenkins (Wales) will assist Gatland for the tour, as well as the pre-tour match against Japan at BT Murrayfield on Saturday, June 26.

“I am very pleased to have assembled such a high-quality coaching team,” said Gatland. “It’s a really strong group and I’m excited to see what we can achieve together – I think we’ll all complement each other well in South Africa.

“A Lions tour is a unique challenge, so it’s important to have some continuity in the coaching group. Neil understands the exceptional demands that only a Lions tour can present, and we will benefit from his knowledge and experience.

“But it’s also important to have new voices and a fresh perspective. Gregor is doing an excellent job in charge of Scotland and is an outstanding coach.

“He also understands the challenges of touring South Africa as a player and what it takes to win there, so I am extremely happy he will be part of the set-up.

“Steve has made Scotland’s defence one of the most organised in world rugby – something we saw throughout the recent Six Nations. He’s clearly an intelligent coach and someone I am very much looking forward to working with.

“Obviously Robin is someone who I know very well from our time together in Wales. He is an impressive and experienced coach who continues to have success with Leinster.

“I think he’ll be well suited to the Lions environment and I am sure he will do an excellent job with the forwards.

“As the tour approaches we may look to bring in some extra resource, but this will be the core group for the time being.

“Touring South Africa is always a huge challenge and clearly when the squad assembles in June to begin our preparations everything is going to look and feel a bit different to previous tours.

“But having spoken to the coaches individually over the past few days we’re absolutely determined to make it an enjoyable, memorable and ultimately successful experience for everyone involved.”

Scotland head coach Townsend will take charge of the Lions attack. This will be the first time the former Scottish outhalf will have been part of a Lions coaching team, having previously toured South Africa triumphantly as a player in 1997.

“To be involved as a player and now as a coach is truly humbling,” commented Townsend. “The Springboks are a formidable opponent on home turf, but looking at the talent in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, it is a hugely exciting opportunity for us to do something special.

“One of the great challenges of a Lions tour is to bring together players from four different countries, in a short space of time, and create an attacking threat that will cause the opposition problems. It’s something I am already looking forward to.”

Meanwhile, Tandy – part of Townsend’s Scottish coaching set-up – will be responsible for the Lions defence.

“To take on the World champions in their own backyard is a massive test and one I am really looking forward to being part of,” he remaked.

“There have been some brilliant Lions defence coaches in the past – Andy Farrell, Shaun Edwards and Phil Larder – so it’s a huge honour to be chosen.

“From a defence perspective we need to make sure we get everyone on the same page as quickly as possible. I am sure Gregor and I will benefit greatly from this experience and gain valuable knowledge about the Springboks ahead of the Rugby World Cup in two years’ time.”

Former Wales assistant coach McBryde, now an assistant coach at Guinness PRO14 champions Leinster, will take responsibility of the forwards.

“I am very much looking forward to linking up with Warren and being part of his coaching group again,” said McBryde.

We’ve seen some excellent rugby in the Six Nations recently with some stand-out performances by players from the four home nations – especially some of the forwards. That’s really positive for the Lions.

“South African rugby is known for its physicality, so we’ll be under no illusions of what to expect when we arrive. The challenge for us will be to come together quickly and be physical and uncompromising in the way we play.

“I am grateful and excited for the opportunity ahead, but my focus will remain with Leinster until the end of the season and I’m incredibly grateful to them for allowing me to tour.”

Welsh kicking coach Jenkins will look after the kickers. This will be his sixth tour as both a player and coach.

“The Lions is a unique experience for players and coaches,” said the former out-half. “To bring together the best players from four countries and take on the Springboks in their own backyard is very exciting. To do it with one of my Lions team-mates from 24 years ago is incredibly special for me.”

McBryde will remain with Leinster until the conclusion of the season before joining up with Gatland and his fellow coaches. The Lions management team will be announced shortly.

The Lions tour to South Africa will be shown exclusively live on Sky Sports.

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Kick-Off Times Confirmed For Opening Rainbow Cup Fixtures

The kick-off times and dates for the first three rounds of the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup have been confirmed, with the opening game kicking off in South Africa.

The DHL Stormers and the Cell C Sharks will compete in the cup competition’s first game on Friday, April 23 in the early time slot (7pm local time/6pm Irish time), and will then be followed by Ulster’s derby match against Connacht and Zebre’s trip to Edinburgh.

On Saturday lunchtime, Benetton Rugby will host Glasgow Warriors to start off a run of four matches which will see the Vodacom Bulls take on the Emirates Lions, the Ospreys playing Cardiff Blues and Leinster hosting Munster in a repeat of their recent PRO14 final clash.

The Dragons and Scarlets will finish off round 1 on Sunday, April 25 with a 1pm kick-off at Rodney Parade.

All games will be available live across the PRO14 network of broadcasters: Premier Sports, Super Sport, eir Sport and DAZN, with S4C and TG4 showing selected live free-to-air matches, deferred coverage and highlights throughout the Rainbow Cup.

Confirmation for rounds four to six will follow once PRO14 Rugby has received all necessary approvals and permissions from the relevant Governments and health authorities for the South African teams to travel.

Round 1

Friday, April 23

DHL Stormers v Cell C Sharks – KO 18:00 UK / 19:00 RSA

Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town | Host Broadcaster: SuperSport

Ulster v Connacht – KO 20:15

Kingspan Stadium, Belfast | Host Broadcaster: Premier Sports | Deferred Coverage: 22:25 TG4

Edinburgh v Zebre Rugby Club – KO 20:15 UK / 21:15 ITA

BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh | Host Broadcaster: Premier Sports

Saturday, April 24

Benetton v Glasgow Warriors – KO 13:00 UK / 14:00 ITA

Stadio de Monigo, Treviso | Host Broadcaster: DAZN

Vodacom Bulls v Emirates Lions – KO 15:00 UK / 16:00 RSA

Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria | Host Broadcaster: SuperSport

Ospreys v Cardiff Blues – KO 17:15

Liberty Stadium, Swansea | Host Broadcaster Premier Sports | Deferred Coverage: 20:35 S4C

Leinster v Munster – KO 19:35

RDS Arena, Dublin | Host Broadcaster: eir Sport  | Deferred Coverage: 21:45 TG4

Sunday, April 25

Dragons v Scarlets – KO 13:00

Rodney Parade, Newport | Host Broadcaster Premier Sports| Deferred Coverage: 16:00 S4C

Round 2

Friday, April 30

Cell C Sharks v Emirates Lions – KO KO 18:00 UK / 19:00 RSA

Jonsson Kings Park, Durban | Host Broadcaster: SuperSport

Saturday, May 1

DHL Stormers v Vodacom Bulls – KO 16:00 UK / 17:00 RSA

Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town | Host Broadcaster: SuperSport

Friday, May 7

Zebre Rugby Club v Benetton – KO 18:00 UK / 19:00 ITA

Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma | Host Broadcaster: DAZN

Munster v Ulster – KO 20:15 UK

Thomond Park, Limerick | Host Broadcaster: eir Sport  | Deferred Coverage: 22:30 TG4

Glasgow Warriors v Edinburgh – KO 20:15

Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow | Host Broadcaster: Premier Sports

Saturday, May 8

Connacht v Leinster – KO 19:35

The Sportsground, Galway | Host Broadcaster: TG4

Scarlets v Ospreys – KO 19:35

Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli | Host Broadcaster: Premier Sports | Deferred Coverage: S4C

Sunday, May 9

Cardiff Blues v Dragons – KO 13:00

Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff | Host Broadcaster: Premier Sports | Deferred Coverage: S4C

Round 3

Saturday, May 8

Emirates Lions v DHL Stormers – KO 15:00 UK / 16:00 RSA

Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg | Host Broadcaster: SuperSport

Vodacom Bulls v Cell C Sharks – KO 17:15 UK / 18:15 RSA

Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria | Host Broadcaster: SuperSport

Friday, May 14

Munster v Connacht – KO 18:00

Thomond Park, Limerick | Host Broadcaster: eir Sport  | Deferred Coverage: 20:30 TG4

Leinster v Ulster – KO 20:15

RDS Arena, Dublin | Host Broadcaster: eir Sport  | Deferred Coverage: 22:30 TG4

Saturday, May 15

Scarlets v Cardiff Blues – TBC May 15/16

Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli | Host Broadcaster: Premier Sports | Deferred Coverage: S4C

Benetton v Zebre – KO 17:15 UK / 18:15 ITA

Stadio de Monigo, Treviso | Host Broadcaster: DAZN

Edinburgh v Glasgow Warriors – KO 19:35

BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh | Host Broadcaster: Premier Sports

Sunday, May 16

Dragons v Ospreys – KO 13:00

Rodney Parade, Newport | Host Broadcaster: Premier Sports | Deferred Coverage: S4C

Round 4: Weekend of May 29.

Round 5: Weekend of June 5.

Round 6: Weekend of June 12.

Final: Weekend of June 19.

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Leinster Announce Signing Of Prop Alaalatoa

Leinster have confirmed the signing of prop Michael Alaalatoa from the Crusaders.

The 29-year-old tighthead, who has been capped at international level by Samoa, will link up with his new team-mates in time for pre-season training this summer, ahead of the 2021/22 campaign.

Discussing his signing, Leinster head coach Leo Cullen said: “We are very excited by Michael’s arrival in the coming months. He is a player with top quality Super Rugby and international experience, and he is hungry for further success and to play a part in building on the work that is already underway here.

“We have a group of younger props who will only benefit from his experience, and we believe the wider group will also learn a lot from Michael and his rugby knowledge from playing with the Crusaders, in particular.

“We look forward to welcoming him and his family to the province later this summer.”

Alaalatoa, who was born and raised in Sydney, has represented Samoa at Under-20 and senior international level, like his father Vili before him.

His last game for Samoa was in the 2019 Rugby World Cup against Ireland where he lined up against many of his future Leinster colleagues.

He made his Super Rugby debut for the Waratahs in 2014, before moving to the Crusaders in 2016, where he has enjoyed considerable success, winning the Super Rugby title on three occasions and the Super Rugby Aotearoa Championship last year when the Super Rugby season was cancelled due to Covid-19.

Alaalatoa is a powerful, six foot-three, 126kg prop and has 89 Crusaders caps to his name. He has started five of their six Super Rugby games so far this season.

Speaking to leinsterrugby.ie, Alaalatoa commented: “It is a huge honour to be given the opportunity to join Leinster Rugby.

“They have enjoyed a lot of success for a long time and have produced a lot of Irish internationals which speaks highly of their rugby programme and team culture.

“It is something that I am really excited about being a part of and I am looking forward to starting a new adventure in Dublin with my family.”

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O’Donnell To Retire At End Of Season

Munste Rugby and Ireland star Tommy O’Donnell has today announced that he will retire at the end of the current season.

A one-club man, O’Donnell has made 186 Munster appearances since his debut in 2007 and earned 13 caps for Ireland.

Munster Rugby’s Player of the Year in 2013 and Greencore Munster Rugby Academy Player of the Year in 2009, he also featured in two 6 Nations-winning campaigns for Ireland.

O’Donnell turns 34 next month and confirming the news, said: “It has been the greatest honour and privilege to represent Munster Rugby for the past 14 seasons. I feel it is the right time for me and my family to step away from rugby and this season will be my last.

“I’m proud to know that I will retire as a one-club man. I am confident and content in my decision, having chased the dream from the age of 16 through the youths, underage and academy systems to represent Munster and Ireland.

“While it is not the end just yet and I’m very much looking forward to contributing to the team in the final part of the season and new competition ahead, I felt the time was right to make my intentions to retire known.

“My family and I are looking forward to the new chapter ahead. My passion and belief in Munster Rugby will always remain unwavering.

I look forward to looking on as a supporter and bringing my boys to experience the magic of a packed Thomond Park in the years to come.”

Ireland vs Italy – Ireland’s Tommy O’Donnell Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

A product of Clanwilliam FC, O’Donnell lined out for UL Bohs in the AIL and made his Munster debut against Scarlets in 2007 as a 20-year-old Academy player.

He was part of the Ireland U20 Grand Slam-winning team of 2007 and was named Academy Player of the Year in 2009. After featuring in Munster’s famous win over Australia at Thomond Park in 2010, the 2011/12 season saw O’Donnell firmly establish his place in the back-row and he won the Munster Player of the Year award in 2013.

His rise continued with a first Irish cap against the USA in June 2013 and he played in Emerging Ireland’s 2014 Nations Cup-winning campaign.

O’Donnell made his Six Nations debut against Scotland in 2014 and contributed in both Championship-winning campaigns in 2014 and 2015.

Despite suffering his fair share of injury setbacks over the seasons, most notably a hip dislocation that kept him out of contention for the 2015 World Cup, dogged determination always saw O’Donnell return fitter, stronger and hungrier from everything thrown his way.

Munster vs Maori All Blacks Munster’s Tommy O’Donnell celebrates winning Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

He led Munster to victory in their historic win over the Maori All Blacks in November 2016 – his first time captaining the side, and made his 150th appearance against Racing 92 in 2017.

Head Coach Johann van Graan added:

“Tommy has been a brilliant player for Munster Rugby and has made a massive contribution to this club, always giving 100% in every situation.

“A fantastic man on and off the field, he is a real leader and a hugely positive influence on the group.

“To play at such a high level for 14 seasons is a testament to his quality, his determination and his resilience.

“A one-club man, I can only thank Tommy for everything he has done for Munster but he still has a part to play for the remainder of the season.”

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New Ways For School Children To Enjoy Aldi Play Rugby

The IRFU are launching a suite of rugby offerings to help children in schools get ready for rugby in the coming months.

Aldi Play Rugby has had over 100,000 participants in each of the past three years and school children in the four provinces can now enjoy three new ways to pick up a rugby ball, learn skills and have fun.

All activities are suitable for class bubbles and pods within government guidelines in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Speaking about the plan, IRFU Children & Youth Development Management Colm Finnegan says:

“The importance of safe, organised and fun activities for school children has come into clear focus in recent times and we’re very excited to launch these offerings.”

“Aldi have been really innovative in how they’ve helped children get active and enjoy rugby and these new activities represent another evolution in the Aldi Play Rugby programme.

We’re looking forward to see it all come to life in the coming weeks.”

Aldi Play Rugby Rugbyathon – Wednesday April 28th

The Aldi Play Rugby Rugbyathon will give every child in a participating school the chance to play rugby on the same day.

Using class pods and COVID-19 safety bubbles children will be active through fun rugby games and activities over the course of a school day.

The Rugbyathon will coincide with a Jersey Day in schools and will encourage schools to donate the funds to a local charity.

Aldi Play Rugby Class Sessions – From Monday May 10th

Aldi Play Rugby Class Sessions will bring rugby into the classroom to help children learn their core subjects in a fun and interactive way.

Teachers will use special Class Session packs that use rugby to explore literacy, numeric and artistic skills as well as subjects like history and geography.

From passing the ball to spell the word on the wall to using rugby scores to help with addition and multiplication, the Aldi Play Rugby Class Sessions are tailored with easy progressions and regressions to engage children at all levels.

Aldi Play Rugby Virtual Sessions – From Monday May 24th

Aldi Play Rugby Virtual Sessions will empower teachers to deliver their own non-contact rugby sessions in schools with the guidance of development staff.

IRFU and provincial rugby staff will be on hand through video conferencing to guide teachers through each session and offer support briefings beforehand and afterwards.

Training Session Plans are circulated to teachers in advance while Aldi have kindly offered to provide any equipment necessary to ensure the sessions are safe, fun, enjoyable and purposeful.

If your class bubble might be interested in any of these activities, Click Here To Send An Email.

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Leinster Rugby Announce Plans For Rapid Antigen Testing Pilot

Leinster Rugby has this morning announced the submission of detailed plans to Government for a proof of concept test event, to assess the use of rapid antigen testing as a solution for the safe return of spectators to matches at the RDS Arena.

With matches in the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup scheduled for the coming weeks, a trial match could take place as early as next month, May 2021.

Details of the comprehensive plans, which have IRFU approval and are a direct response to the Government’s Rapid Testing Group’s recommendation to immediately implement antigen trial events, were submitted to the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport & Media on Friday, 9th April and include:

  • Leinster Rugby would host a match where a pilot scheme for rapid antigen testing to detect COVID-19 would be trialled with a limited number of 2m socially distant spectators.
  • Pre-match antigen testing would take place by appointment and would be on site at the RDS.
  • The chosen rapid antigen testing system is EU approved and can successfully detect Covid-19 and all variants of concern.
  • The antigen tests would complement existing Covid-19 guidelines already in place at the RDS Arena for staff and teams.
  • Capacity for this proof of concept match at the RDS Arena will be capped at 2,000 spectators, just 11% of normal match-day capacity

Addressing the plans Leinster Rugby CEO, Mick Dawson outlined the background to the submission.

“This is an expertly researched project, which has been subject to robust scrutiny at every level, and we see it as a key contribution to the Government’s efforts to return our country to some form of normality. This initiative has the potential to be used as a blueprint by all sporting, cultural and community organisations for the safe return of limited crowds to their events.

“In October 2020, a combined working party from the FAI, GAA and the IRFU submitted proposals to the Department of Sport around the return of supporters to our grounds in a safe and Covid-19 compliant manner. The report made a number of recommendations but in particular the need for trial games ahead of any full re-opening of stadia.

“Similarly, a report was launched last week by the Government’s Rapid Testing Group, chaired by Professor Mark Ferguson, which also recommended the immediate use of antigen testing on a trial basis in schools, colleges, workplaces and sporting organisations as an additional tool to help fight the spread of Covid-19.

“Leinster Rugby has been working with key stakeholders for a number of months to finalise plans for a phased re-opening of the RDS Arena.

“We are confident that we have the infrastructure in place to ensure a safe and efficient trial and Martin Murphy, Chair of the combined working party, has written to the Department of Sport accordingly, outlining our readiness for such a trial and indeed, as I have stated earlier, our willingness that any data and lessons from such a trial be shared with relevant authorities and with other National Governing Bodies.”

The 52-page Covid-19 response plan incorporating rapid antigen testing drafted by Event Safety Consultants, Eamon O’Boyle & Associates, adheres to all recommendations contained in the Government’s Rapid Testing Group Report, and is in addition to the current Covid-19 Event Management Plan already in place at the RDS Arena and in operation successfully since October 2020.

Since the resumption of professional sport, 11 Leinster Rugby matches have been played behind closed doors at the RDS Arena, with no incidences of Covid-19 reported as a result of these games taking place.

“What we are offering the Government” continued Dawson, “is a pilot test event that meets all the recommendations of the Rapid Testing Groups’ Report.

“This is an opportunity to show that matches with supporters are possible, under strict testing, supervision and management of course, and that there is a roadmap ahead that rugby and indeed all sports and events can follow.

“The lessons that we could all take from hosting such a trial match would be invaluable as the wider sports and entertainment industry looks to recover from the effects of the last 12 months and looks forward to a better and a brighter future when we can hope to resume some level of normality.

“At some stage we have to take those first steps, and we believe that we have a robust and safe plan in place that will allow us to do just that, and plan for the safe return of all supporters from the beginning of next season.”

The capacity for the trial game would be a maximum of 2,000 spectators, just 11% of the normal RDS Arena match-day capacity.

A view of the RDS  – Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Leinster Rugby Official Members will be offered an opportunity, by ballot, to purchase a pair of tickets and each attending pair of spectators must come from the same household or Covid-19 bubble.

The antigen testing centre would open on match day from 7.00am, with testing by appointment only through a secure mobile App.

Originating from Germany, the rapid antigen testing system chosen to be deployed is on the EU approved list of antigen tests and can successfully detect Covid-19 and all variants of concern.

The secure mobile App and related testing technologies for this proof of concept event are also approved by the UK Government and will be used for multiple large sporting events in the UK over the coming weeks as the UK further lifts Covid-19 restrictions.

Access to the RDS Arena to attend the match will be on the basis of each spectator receiving a negative antigen test result.

Spectators, who have received a negative result, will be segregated into four separate RDS Arena zones of 500 people.

Each zone will have their own entry and exit points and facilities. Seating will be on the basis of two metres social distancing between each pair and wearing of face masks will be compulsory.

Any spectator in receipt of a positive antigen result, a Covid-19 PCR test will be organised for them either at the RDS or using the current HSE testing system. That spectator and their companion will not be permitted entry to the match.

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McCarthy Heading Back To Leinster

Leinster Rugby have this morning confirmed the signing of Nick McCarthy from Munster Rugby.

The 26-year-old scrumhalf came through the Leinster Rugby Academy system and scored four tries in 36 appearances for Leinster before signing with Munster ahead of the 2019/20 season.

Speaking to leinsterrugby.ie, Leinster Rugby Head Coach Leo Cullen said, “Nick is a player we know very well. We know the qualities that he brings as a player but also as a person and the additional experience he now has from two years in another environment is an added advantage.

“We look forward to him joining us for pre-season and welcoming him back to UCD.”

McCarthy has been capped at Ireland Under 20s level and captained them at the 2014 U20s World Cup.

“I want to thank everyone for my time in Munster Rugby. It’s a special club to play for with a great rugby culture. I have really enjoyed the experience, learned loads and made friends for life.

“I am excited now to get back to Dublin in the summer. I will continue to challenge myself, compete at the highest level and hopefully add value to the squad in Leinster.” said McCarthy.

McCarthy made his Leinster Rugby debut in December 2015 in the Aviva Stadium against Toulon in the Champions Cup and his last game for his home province was the Guinness PRO14 Final against Glasgow Warriors in Celtic Park in 2019.

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Leinster And Ulster Face Away Games In European Semi-Finals

Following the draws for the semi-finals of the Heineken Champions Cup and European Challenge Cup which were held today at BT Sport’s studios in London, EPCR has confirmed the high-profile fixtures.

The draws were broadcast live on BT Sport, beIN Sports and france.tv, and live-streamed on epcrugby.com with Craig Doyle as MC, Brian O’Driscoll and Lawrence Dallaglio as ball-drawers, while the proceedings were overseen by scrutineer, Lauren Pagé, of the law firm Bird & Bird.

The matches will be played on the weekend of April 30-May 1/2, and the exact dates, kick-off times and TV coverage will be announced shortly. The countries and venues for this season’s finals will be decided by EPCR at a later date.

HEINEKEN CHAMPIONS CUP SEMI-FINALS:

La Rochelle v LEINSTER, Stade Marcel Deflandre
Toulouse v Bordeaux-Bègles, Stade Ernest Wallon

EUROPEAN CHALLENGE CUP SEMI-FINALS:

Leicester Tigers v ULSTER, Mattioli Woods Welford Road
Bath v Montpellier, The Recreation Ground

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