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Guinness PRO12This weekend sees action in Round 6 of the Guinness PRO12 and is the last round of action before a few weeks break as we head into the initial stages of the European Professional Rugby Cup competitions – with the Champion and Challenge Cup matches kicking off next weekend.

There has already been two Round 6 PRO12 matches this weekend (Friday night) while there will be a further three on Saturday and the last match of the Round is due to be played on Sunday.

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Guinness PRO12Leinster’s indifferent start to the season continued as they slipped to a second loss of the campaign away at Connacht, going down 10-9.

The defending champions had led 9-3 at half-time thanks to three Ian Madigan penalties but Kieran Marmion’s solo try ensured Connacht – who had lost their previous 11 all-Ireland clashes – preserved their 100 per cent start to the season.

At the Liberty Stadium, Ospreys ran in nine tries against Edinburgh to consolidate their one point lead at the top of the table.

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Guinness PRO12The third round of matches in the Guinness PRO12 take place this weekend with three matches scheduled for Friday night, two for Saturday and one for Sunday.

Welsh outfit the Ospreys, who are unbeaten in the PRO12 this season, will head into round 3 at the top of the table with nine points. The only two other unbeaten teams are Glasgow Warriors and Connacht who are in 2nd and 3rd position respectively. Ulster are the other team in the top 4, courtesy of a draw and a win in their first two fixtures and they are the only team who have two bonus points for scoring four tries or more. Ulster top the try scoring list at this early stage in the competition having scored nine tries in their two matches. However, they have conceded the most tries, a handful, of the teams in the top four.

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Guinness PRO12Connacht continued their winning start to the season with another tight triumph, this time a 14-13 victory over Edinburgh Rugby thanks to Willy Faloon’s last-gasp try.

Tom Heathcote’s boot and a try from Cornell du Preez gave Edinburgh a 13-6 lead at half time; Connacht’s points coming from two Darragh Leader penalties.

Faloon was sent to the sin bin with 16 minutes left on the clock, but returned to touch down the winning try in the dying minutes.

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Guinness PRO12With the new Guinness PRO12 season kicking off this weekend on Friday, we take a look at the prospects of each of the 12 clubs. The competition is between clubs from Ireland, Italy, Wales and Scotland. Ireland and Wales have four clubs / regions/provinces in the Guinness PRO12, while Italy and Scotland both provide two teams each to complete the twelve team line-up.

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RaboDirect PRO12 balls 5/8/2011We have reached the knockout stage of the 2013 / 2014 RaboDirect PRO12 season with the semi-finals to be played this weekend. The first game takes place in Glasgow tonight (Friday) and will see Glasgow Warriors, who finished in second spot on the log host third placed Munster. This is the first time that Glasgow Warriors have hosted a semi-final game in the PRO12.

The second game, to be played tomorrow (Saturday) will be an all Ireland affair with first placed Leinster hosting fourth placed Ulster. Johan Muller, in his last season at the club, will be captaining Ulster and will be hoping for a win to make it one more game before the curtain falls on what has been a very good time for him at the Belfast club.

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Tyler BleyendaalMunsterCrusaders and Canterbury flyhalf Tyler Bleyendaal has become the latest high-profile New Zealand player to head abroad to continue his career.

He announced he will move to Ireland to play for the Munster at the end of this year.

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RaboDirect PRO12 balls 5/8/2011Round 22 of the Pro12 promises to be a fitting finale to the regular season, with Play-Off spots and European qualification still to be settled.

As with previous seasons all 6 games will kick off simultaneously to add to the excitement and give no advantage to any team.

At the top of the table 3 teams are still in contention for the 2 home Play-Off spots and European qualification still to be settled.

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RaboDirect PRO12 balls 5/8/2011The May Day weekend should provide the most intense scrutiny of the RaboDirect PRO12 table to date.

The opening fixture between Zebre and Ospreys could go a long way to answering some of the questions – a loss for the hosts would put Treviso in the driving seat for the Italian spot in next season’s European competition, whilst a loss for the visitors Ospreys, without picking up any league points, would take away their mathematical chances of making the Play-Offs .

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Heineken CupToulonReigning champions Toulon will have a shot at becoming only the third team in Heineken Cup history to defend their title after they overcame Munster 24-16 in the second semi-final at Stade Velodrome, Marseille.

The only try of the game may have come in the second half from Munster wing Simon Zebo, but Toulon were never behind in a game which saw Jonny Wilkinson end with 21 points and Delon Armitage smash over a 55 metre penalty.

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Heineken CupThe European Cup draws towards the Final with two french giants battling against the cream of the Irish and English leagues in the semifinals.

Reigning European Cup champions, Toulon, are aiming for a fourth European final in five seasons.

And although they are on the opposite side of the semifinal draw from French compatriots Clermont, successes for both of these teams could see a repeat of last years Final.

Last year’s Final saw Toulon just pip Clermont by a solitary point.

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MunsterJames Coughlan, who captained Munster to their 5-22 defeat at the hands of Glasgow Warriors last Saturday, was left infuriated by the display.

Munster’s shock defeat is their first at home in the competition and comes after a quarterfinal victory in the European Cup against Toulouse.

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Heineken CupThe tug of war regarding the premier club competition in European rugby has been conducted very publicly for a long time and a week ago it was reported that an announcement on the structure of future competitions was imminent. However, it all seems to have gone quiet and no final announcement has been forthcoming.

There are rumours that the Italian clubs and their representative bodies were needing to discuss a few details of what should otherwise be a done deal. Furthermore there is the question of the broadcasting battle between Sky and BT Sport which is apparently in the process of being sorted out with a joint broadcast agreement likely for next season. The final rumour is that the parties involved may not have wanted to make any announcements this week in the lead up to the quarter finals of the current Heineken Cup competition.

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RaboDirect PRO12 balls 5/8/2011With the Six Nations over the club  tournament of Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy takes centre stage once again as round 17 kicks off this Friday.

Having led Leinster to the Pro12 title last season, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt took the 6 Nations crown at the first time of asking in a tense finish to the Championship last weekend.  Following on Ireland’s success it is perhaps appropriate that as the Pro12 returns to centre stage three of the top four teams are Irish Provinces.

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RaboDirect PRO12 balls 5/8/2011After a round of games played in dreadful conditions during which yet another fixture fell foul of the weather, players and spectators alike must be hoping that Round 14 of the Pro12 fares better.

The round kicks off with two games in the Irish capitals on Friday night, one in Belfast and one in Dublin, both featuring Welsh opposition.

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MunsterCJ StanderFormer Bulls flank CJ Stander has committed to a long-term goal of playing Test rugby for Ireland by signing a two-year contract extension with Munster that will see them stay with the province until June 2016.

Stander joined Munster in October 2012 from Super Rugby side the Bulls and made his debut as a substitute against Scarlets that November at Musgrave Park.

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Heineken CupAmlin Challenge CupRound 6 of the European Cup, which includes the Heineken Cup (Premier Competition) and Amlin Challenge Cup (secondary Qualification Competition) happened this past weekend and there was high drama and lots of action!

Sunday evening the full puzzle of who plays where in the Play-Off’s of both the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge cup was revealed.

In the Heineken Cup, Ulster will host Saracens, ASM Clermont Auvergne will host Leicester Tigers, whilst the defending champions Toulon will host Leinster and Munster will host Toulouse at Thomond Park. The Quarter-finals will take place on the weekend of 4 to 6 April.

In the Amlin Challenge Cup Northampton Saints, Harlequins and Gloucester have booked their spots in the Quarter-finals along with the amlin Challenge Cup Pool winners Bath, London Wasps, Stade Francais, Sale Sharks and Brive.

Bath will host Brive, London Wasps will host Gloucester, Stade Francais host Harlequins and Sale Sharks will host Northampton Saints.

The race to these Cup winners will be interrupted by the Six Nations tournament, which takes place from 1 February 2014.

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RaboDirect PRO12 balls 5/8/2011The festive fixtures continue as return local derbies were scheduled to take place in Scotland, Wales and Italy during the Pro12’s Round 12.

Wales and Scotland were set to start the New Year with a game on New Year’s Day, as Cardiff Blues hosted Newport Gwent Dragons and after the Hogmanay celebrations in Scotland, Glasgow Warriors welcomed Edinburgh to Scotstoun. However, the game in Glasgow was called off less than an hour before kick off due to the field being waterlogged.

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RaboDirect PRO12 balls 5/8/2011The traditional festive season local derbies are set to take centre stage as the Pro12 Round 11 provides an exciting escape from turkey and TV. The games in Scotland and Wales take place on Boxing Day, whilst Ireland foregoes St Stephens’ Day games and sticks to the traditional Friday and Saturday slots.

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RaboDirect PRO12 balls 5/8/2011Round Eight of the Pro12 kicks off on Friday night with both Scottish teams in action – early season leaders Glasgow Warriors welcoming Newport Gwent Dragons to Scotstoun, whilst Edinburgh travel to Belfast to face Ulster.

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RaboDirect PRO12 balls 5/8/2011The top-of-the-table clash at Thomond Park between Munster and Ospreys on Saturday headlines Round Seven of the Pro12.  Munster currently lead the pack thanks to winning one more game than Ospreys, but Ospreys have garnered more bonus points in the six rounds than their hosts, so the scene is set for an epic battle.

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RaboDirect PRO12 balls 5/8/2011RaboDirect PRO12 log leaders Glasgow Warriors face second-placed Munster in a tantalising top-of-the-table clash at Scotstoun on Friday.
As the competition gets back into full swing with Round Six this weekend after a successful European double header, it’s clear that the Pro12 is going from strength to strength.

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heinekencupMjekevuPerpignan’s strong second-half showing overwhelmed Heineken Cup opponents Edinburgh at Stade Aimé Giral.  Tim Visser’s converted try helped the visitors into a deserved 7-3 lead at the interval. But they were undone by two tries early in the second half as Joffrey Michel and Wandile Mjekevu crossed.

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RaboDirect PRO12 balls 5/8/2011As the Pro12 enters Round Four, Glasgow Warriors – the last remaining team with a 100 percent winning record – are in action in Parma on Friday night when they face Zebre.

Having waited so long for their first win in the competition, the Italian outfit will have their work cut out to make it back-to-back victories as table-topping Warriors have already defeated champions Leinster and last season’s runners up Ulster so far this season.

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RaboDirect PRO12 balls 5/8/2011The new season of RaboDirect PRO12 rugby is nearly upon us and despite seeing several top players leave the league and opt to take up a contract in the Top 14, the 12 sides in the Celtic competition have had a busy summer as they look to bolster their resources. Several top internationals have decided to give the PRO12 a shot and we have picked out a selection of eye-catching transfers in the latest Scrum Sevens.

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