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Cork Con begin League defence

Wednesday, 13th September, 2017 6:01pm

The Ulster Bank League returns this weekend for its new season with champions Cork Constituation looking to defend their Division 1A crown.

In a mouth-watering opening clash, Con will welcome Clontarf to Temple Hill on Saturday, the same opposition the Cork side beat in the final by 25-21 to be crowned Division 1A champions last season. Con's preseason preparations have gone well, advancing from a Munster Senior Cup tie against Shannon at the weekend thanks to the ever-reliable Tomas Quinlan. The reward for the 20-12 win is a quarter-final place against a fellow Cork team, Division 1B side UCC, at the Mardyke.

Quinlan, who started the game as a substitute, came off the bench to score ten points in the form of a try, conversion and a penalty to seal the win for the Balllintemple-based side, despite trailing Shannon 9-3 at half-time.

Elsewhere Dolphin and UCC will be looking to improve on last season in Division 1B; the students finished the 2016/2017 in fifth place while Dolphin avoided relegation with a playoff win, despite finishing second from the bottom in ninth place. UCC open their season at the Mardyke on Saturday to Shannon while Dolphin welcome Naas to Irish Independent Park.

Speaking on the new season IRFU President Phillip Orr said: “This is the 28th season of the All-Ireland League and the seventh with the involvement of our community sponsors Ulster Bank. It is now the third season of the new format when we have five divisions of ten teams playing home and away. In the Ulster Bank League we see more and more talented and ambitious players coming forward having played in these matches and getting picked up by provincial and national teams and even the sevens squad,” he commented. “The Try of the Month is new initiative that has been introduced whereby each club in all five divisions has the opportunity to post their best try of the month on social media and the best one will be selected and the scorer of that try will get a prize of €250 which I hope would be shared with his teammates and more importantly whoever posts the try on social media,” he concluded.

Meanwhile the IRFU have announced a National Men's 7s squad for the 2017/2018 season with Cork Con and Munster's Shane Daly among the 14 selected. The squad has secured a place in the World Rugby Sevens World Series qualification tournament in Hong Kong next April, and qualification for the 2018 Sevens Rugby World Cup in San Francisco in July.

In order to maximise preparation for these two hugely significant tournaments, a number of players will be prioritizing their involvement with the 7s programme this season. 14 players from both the club game and provincial academies will form the core squad of the Ireland Men's 7s Programme.

Director of Sevens Rugby, Anthony Eddy said: “This is a real positive step and provides a core group of players with an opportunity to focus primarily on 7s this season, as many of them have already committed so much to the success of the program over the last couple of years.

“They will continue to play club rugby and train with the academies but they will have a greater commitment to the 7s programme, and will be provided the opportunity to train and play Rugby Sevens more regularly, rather than just the weekend camps that have operated during previous seasons.

“The best players interested in being involved will be provided an opportunity to represent Ireland and be part of a very busy and important season for the Ireland Men's 7s programme. Additional players from the club game and academy programmes will train with the squad throughout the season and as the season progresses it will be vital to have depth within the group. We are communicating regularly with the club and academy coaches to minimize disruption particularly for the core group who have committed to 7s for the season but also for players who will be training with the squad and who could potentially represent their country this season,” concluded Eddy. The squad will compete in three international tournaments before the end of the year – the Oktoberfest 7s in Munich in September, the Silicon Valley 7s in San Jose, California in November and the Dubai 7s in early December.

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