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RaboDirect Pro12

Zane Kirchner scores his side's opening try 31/5/2014

Zane Kirchner was in fine form for Leinster

It was a solemn farewell for Brian O’Driscoll but an electric Zane Kirchner ensured the Leinster legend bowed out with back-to-back RaboDirect PRO12 titles.

O’Driscoll, playing in his last professional match, was forced off the pitch early on at a sun-soaked RDS but Kirchner lifted Leinster spirits with a try before setting up Shane Jennings in the first half.

Finn Russell ensured Glasgow Warriors were never too far off the pace with an accurate kicking display but Kirchner crossed over again late on before Gordon D’Arcy completed the scoring to make it 34-12.

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RaboDirect PRO12 balls 5/8/2011Defending Champions Leinster will face Glasgow Warriors in the final of the RaboDirect PRO12 in front of a capacity crowd in Dublin tonight. Kick off is at 18:15 BST, 19:15 SA Time.

Leinster will be more familiar with the experience having played in and won many finals in the PRO12 and elsewhere in European Rugby, while it will be Glasgow Warriors first appearance ever in a final at this level.

Leinster stalwarts Brian ‘O Driscoll and captain Leo Cullen will be playing their final match for the club before they retire. The Glasgow Warriors also features players competing in the their final match for the team- Chris Cusiter, Ruaridh Jackson and Moray Low, who will be furthering their careers with clubs in England next season.

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RaboDirect PRO12 balls 5/8/2011LeinsterLeinster Rugby’s Jamie Heaslip talks about this weekends Rabo Pro12 final against Glasgow.

After the Heineken Cup double, last year Leinster settled for an Amlin trophy, but after being knocked out by the eventual winners, now look to the Pro12 to retain the trophy-winning streak they have cultivated over the last five years.

“They’re the positions you want to be in at this time of the year, to be playing in those games (European finals). I was awful jealous at the weekend not being involved in any sort of competition. It was the first time in a couple of years that happened.”

“We want to kick on come this week and we know the challenge ahead of us. We played these guys last year in the semis, we played them I don’t know how many times over the last couple of seasons in Europe and the league. We know that margins that are there; last year could have gone either way. I think Rob made a great tackle on the line and held a guy up over the line, one score separated the team.”

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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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jonnygrayGlasgow’s Jonny Gray was named ‘Young Player of the Year’ at the RaboDirect PRO12 Awards evening in the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh.

Jonny Gray picked up the award after not only breaking into and starting in the Glasgow side, but also into the Scottish national team.

He beat Leinster centre Noel Reid to the title and follows in the footsteps of Tim Visser (Edinburgh Rugby), Toby Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors) and Luke Marshall (Ulster Rugby) as the RaboDirect PRO12 ‘Young Player of the 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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ospreysHanno DirksenWing Hanno Dirksen has signed a new three-year Ospreys contract keeping him at the Liberty Stadium until the end of the 2016-17 season.

He has been signed up ahead of the region’s final RaboDirect Pro12 clash of the season with Connacht on Saturday.  Dirksen, 23, is the 13th player to re-commit to the region along with the likes of Alun Wyn Jones and Dan Baker.

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UlsterIan HumphreysIan Humphreys is back at Ulster after the fly-half left London Irish to sign a two-year deal with his home province.

The 32-year-old former Leicester Tigers player moved from Ulster to the Exiles in 2012.

“I have loved my time at London Irish but when the unexpected opportunity to come home arose, it was a very easy decision to make,” said Humphreys. ” It’s exciting to be part of a squad that’s challenging in Europe and is at the top of the Pro12 every year.”

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RaboDirect PRO12 balls 5/8/2011The Rhino Collision Kings Award is awarded each year to the team in the RaboDirect PRO12 which has shown most improvement at the breakdown throughout the regular season.

The trophy is a replica of the groundbreaking Collision King machine invented by Richie Gray, Rhino skills consultant and brand ambassador who was recently appointed breakdown coach to the Springboks through to next year’s World Cup.

The selection panel for the Award is chaired by Galashiels-based Gray, who in addition to other duties has been a BBC Radio Scotland commentator throughout much of the PRO12 season.

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top14logoFrench club rugby’s governing body, the LNR (Ligue Nationale de Rugby) has announced radical new plans (entitled the ‘New Deal’, showcasing France’s bizarre love of anglicised naming devices) designed to improve the Top 14, and by proxy the French international team, from the start of next season.

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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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RaboDirect PRO12 balls 5/8/2011Peter Murchie scored twice as Glasgow Warriors climbed to second in the RaboDirect PRO12 table with a dramatic 37-34 win over Edinburgh that also sealed them the 1872 Cup for a fifth year in a row.

In their rescheduled clash after January’s fixture was washed out, the Warriors ran in three tries in the first half through Murchie, the departing Ruaridh Jackson and Mark Bennett.

WP Nel barrelled over for the visitors who struggled with ill discipline as they lost a man in each half to the sin bin but Murchie bagged a second soon after the interval to put the Warriors in control.

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RaboDirect PRO12 balls 5/8/2011glasgowrugbyEdinburgh RugbyGlasgow Warriors home RaboDirect PRO12 match against Edinburgh Rugby finally takes places this Saturday at Scotstoun (kick off 19:05 BST, 20:05 SAST) and is the only PRO12 game this weekend. The match, which also doubles up as the second leg of the 1872 Cup, was initially due to be played on 1ST of January this year but was called off due to the pitch being waterlogged.

Had there not been the 1872 Cup to play for there would have been little more than pride at stake in this match for Edinburgh. They have missed out on their chance to qualify for next season’s European Champions Rugby Cup by not being able to end sixth or higher on the PRO12 log. Glasgow, who will play in that competition, will be keen to win the match to enhance their already good chance of qualifying for this season’s knockout stage of the PRO12 by ending in the top four on the log. They should also look to win well and try score four tries at least to pick up an all important bonus point for that too as they still have a chance of securing a home semi final by ending second.

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glasgowrugbyWe brought the news last week of two of Glasgow Warriors loose forwards, Tyrone Holmes and Rob Harley, extending their contracts with the Scottish club. Both players signed two year extension to their contracts which will see them featuring for the Scotstoun based team until at least May 2016.

It has since been confirmed that two more back rowers who were approaching the end of their contracts have signed on for further terms for Glasgow.  These players are Ryan Wilson and James Eddie.

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RaboDirect PRO12 balls 5/8/2011glasgowrugbyGregor Townsend today branded Saturday’s 1872 Cup second leg Scotstoun clash with Edinburgh as the biggest game of Glasgow’s season.

A thrilling 27-9 Good Friday victory over Ulster has taken Warriors to within four points of second-placed Munster.

While with the Limerick side set to host third-placed Ulster in their final game of the campaign and the Scotstoun men nursing this weekend’s derby dust-up against Edinburgh in hand, Glasgow’s chances of landing a first-ever home play-off semi-final are growing by the week.

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MathewReesInspirational hooker Matthew Rees admitted he had been ‘overwhelmed’ with the support from the rugby world as he made his comeback in the stunning victory over Ulster Rugby.

The front row ace came on as a second half replacement to a thundering standing ovation from the Arms Park faithful as Blues shocked high-flying Ulster in the RaboDirect PRO12.

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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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ERCA new European Cup accord will be signed this week after nearly two years of fraught negotiations and stand-offs. The six unions involved in the tournament, together with officials from competing sides in England, France and Wales, met in Paris on Monday to finalise the details.

It was hoped the stakeholders would be able to sign the heads of agreement at the meeting but the translation of the document into Italian was completed only over the weekend and their rugby federation said it had not had time to fully scrutinise it.

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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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Edinburgh RugbyEdinburgh Rugby’s next home match against Ospreys on Friday 28 February (kick-off 7.35pm) will be played at Meggetland, the club confirmed on Wednesday

Concerns over the current Murrayfield Stadium playing surface – caused by a parasitic infection that damaged the roots – mean the club will relocate the RaboDirect PRO12 clash to ensure the international pitch is in robust health for Scotland’s home fixtures in the 2014 RBS 6 Nations, against England and France.

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glasgowrugbyWinger Lee Jones has been added to the Glasgow Warriors squad for the forthcoming RaboDirect PRO12 matches, to provide injury cover until the end of the season.

The 25-year-old returns from Scotland 7s duty in New Zealand following his agreed loan from Edinburgh Rugby and will be available for this Sunday’s game against Connacht at Scotstoun Stadium.

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Edinburgh_Rugby_logoAStraussbIt was speculated here on rugby-talk on Saturday that South African centre Andries Strauss was going to sign up with Edinburgh Rugby. The news was confirmed on Sunday by the club. Strauss has signed up for two and a half seasons, subject to passing the customary medical tests.

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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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