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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 18 July, 2019
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Hanrahan at inside centre, O'Dea flying high and all the Irish exiles' exploits

It was a busy weekend for the Irishmen based in England, France and Italy.

A THRILLING INTER-PROVINCIAL clash between Munster and Connacht was the focus of the Irish rugby weekend on home soil, but there were many Irish players involved in the professional leagues elsewhere in Europe.

Here’s how Ireland’s rugby exiles got on across a busy weekend.

Premiership

Ex-Ulster out-half Gareth Steenson was the key man as Exeter retained second spot in the English league with a 26-25 victory over Conor O’Shea‘s Harlequins.

Rugby Union - Aviva Premiership - London Irish v Exeter Chiefs - Madejski Stadium Steenson was in superb form for the Chiefs. Source: David Davies

Steenson scored a try, kicked two conversions and added four penalties in a superb individual display, while fellow Ulsterman Ian Whitten played the full 80 minutes for the Chiefs at inside centre.

Having previously been used predominantly as a wing, all of 28-year-old Whitten’s five starts this season have come in midfield for Exeter.

Defeat saw O’Shea‘s Quins drop down to fourth in the Premiership table. Mark McCall‘s Saracens, meanwhile, strengthened their lead at the top of the log with a bonus-point 48-18 win over Worcester in Allianz Park.

Donncha O’Callaghan and Niall Annett both started for Worcester, who drop to ninth following this loss. The Irish pair have been first choice in the Warriors’ five games so far this season.

JJ Hanrahan played the closing quarter of Northampton’s 15-3 win over David Humphreys‘ Gloucester on Friday night, coming on at inside centre for Luther Burrell. The strong form of Stephen Myler at out-half continued, however, and the former Munster man may have to continue to bide his time in terms of starting prospects.

Paddy McAllister made his fifth start of the league season for Gloucester at loosehead, having established himself well since joining from Aurillac during the summer. It was, however, a tough day at scrum time for Gloucester against the powerful Saints.

Northampton Saints v Scarlets - European Champions Cup - Pool Three - Franklin's Gardens Hanrahan was a second-half replacement for the Saints. Source: Paul Harding

Sale Sharks drew 15-15 at home to Newcastle on Saturday, with 37-year-old Peter Stringer playing the closing 23 minutes as a replacement, while former Ireland U20 hooker George McGuigan started for Newcastle.

Ex-Leinster centre Brendan Macken played the final 10 minutes of Wasps’ 33-15 win away to London Irish, as Dai Young’s men continued their superb form.

Former Ireland international Tom Court was in his usual spot at loosehead for the beaten Exiles, while Gorey man Eoin Sheriff made his first Premiership start for the club since joining from Saracens.

The Ireland U20-capped lock had already made four replacement appearances domestically, as well as two Challenge Cup starts.

Championship

Bristol retained top spot in the English second tier with a bonus-point 37-13 win over London Scottish in Friday night’s televised game, with Jack O’Connell and Joe Joyce in the starting team.

Former Leinster front row O’Connell was making his seventh start of the season at loosehead prop, while Ireland U20-capped lock Joyce – who came through the Exiles system – was impressive on his fourth start in the second row.

Jack O'Connell O'Connell and Bristol are top of the Championship. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Ex-Stade Français man Peter Lydon was at fullback for London Scottish, scoring a try and kicking a penalty, while former Lansdowne FC hooker Tyrone Moran made his league debut off the bench.

Irish halfback pairing Michael Heaney and Declan Cusack were important as Doncaster’s impressive season continued with a 34-11 victory over Moseley that leaves them in second position.

Out-half Cusack, formerly of Munster, joined from Plymouth during the summer, while Heaney made the move from his native Ulster.

Moseley, where ex-Ireland international Kevin Maggs is director of rugby, have won only three times in 10 league games this season.

Rotherham had a day to forget on Saturday as they lost 27-6 at home to Jersey. Openside Ali Birch and fullback Sean Scanlon started for the Titans, while Michael Cromie made his sixth appearance of the season off the bench.

Loosehead prop Cromie, an underage international for Ireland, spent last season in France’s Fédérale 1 league with Stade Rodez, earning a move to Rotherham with his strong form.

21-year-old wing Ross Adair scored his second try of the season for Jersey in their crucial win, having joined from Ulster last summer, while ex-Connacht man Mark McCrea was a second-half replacement.

Ross Adair scores his side's third try Ross Adair was on the scoresheet for Jersey. Source: Ian Cook/INPHO

Ireland U20 and Leinster A-capped centre Ben Woods scored a brace of tries in Nottingham’s 24-22 win away to Ealing Trailfinders, on what was his 10th start of the season in the 13 shirt.

Also in the winning Nottingham team were 24-year-old tighthead Conor Carey and ex-Leinster wing Sam Coghlan Murray, both of them earning their 10th starts of the campaign. Ricky Andrew, the former Ulster fullback, appeared off the bench.

Opposite the excellent Woods in the Ealing side was ex-Munster man Danny Barnes, who joined the Trailfinders last summer after two seasons with Newcastle. The Kerryman has enjoyed six starts since making the move.

Bedford managed to earn two points despite a 32-31 defeat on the road against the Cornish Pirates, with Mark Flanagan helping the Blues to secure one losing bonus point and one for their four tries.

The 26-year-old Westmeath man has been almost ever present in the Bedford second row since moving from France after two years with Mont-de-Marsan.

Pro12

Ulsterman Michael Allen made his debut for Edinburgh in their bonus-point 32-13 win over the Dragons on Friday evening, having joined the club from his home province during the summer.

Michael Allen Allen made his Edinburgh debut after recovering from injury. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The 25-year-old wing suffered a shoulder injury during pre-season and only recently returned to full training. The Emerging Ireland-capped flyer will now hope to battle his way into Alan Solomons’ starting XV.

Former Ulster prop John Andress was also among the Edinburgh replacements, making his eight appearance in the Pro12 this season.

Top 14

It was a tough afternoon for Pau on Saturday, as they were hammered 46-10 by Raphaël Ibañez’s Bordeaux, who ran in six tries in total. James Coughlan was at number eight, with the in-form Paddy Butler starting on the openside, but the Irish duo were powerless to prevent a big win for UBB.

The Simon Mannix-coached Pau sit 12th in the league, three points ahead of bottom pair Agen and Oyonnax.

Agen managed to secure a losing bonus point in their 23-18 loss on home soil against Castres, with former Munster and Ulster prop Dave Ryan making his third start of the campaign at tighthead prop.

The 29-year-old has racked up a further five appearances off the bench for Agen in the Top 14 and Challenge Cup this season, but will hope to see the club’s league results improve.

Dave Ryan Ryan was under utilised by Ulster last season. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Oyonnax had an even worse day at home on Saturday, losing 34-9 to Brive at Stade Charles-Mathon, with ex-Leinster and London Irish midfielder Eamonn Sheridan making his eighth league start of the season in the 12 shirt.

The 26-year-old centre earned his Champions Cup debut for the club against Toulouse earlier this month.

Bernard Jackman‘s Grenoble remain in eighth position after a 21-19 defeat at home to reigning champions Stade Français. None of their Irish players were involved in yesterday’s game at Stade des Alpes, with FCG now seven points off the play-off spots.

Racing 92, where Ronan O’Gara is an assistant coach, had a better weekend thanks to a 28-13 win at home to Toulouse. The victory means the Parisians have moved up to second in the Top 14 table.

Pro D2

Aurillac’s superb season in the Pro D2 under ex-Ireland and Lions lock Jeremy Davidson continued on Friday as they beat Aix-en-Provence 30-17 at home, with Ulsterman Conor Gaston making his eighth start of the campaign on the left wing.

The low-budget Cantal-based side remain second in the league, eight points behind wealthy leaders Lyon, and Davidson’s coaching stick rises with each weekend.

Jeremy Davidson 31/8/2010 Davidson came close to getting the Clermont forwards coaching job before Jono Gibbes was appointed. Source: Darren Kidd

Former Munster prop Alan Cotter was part of the losing Aix-en-Provence team, appearing off the bench at tighthead in the 47th minute. Cotter has played seven times this season, including five starts and one try, but this defeat leaves les Aixois lying 15th in the table.

Meanwhile, French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique this morning reports that Eddie O’Sullivan and Biarritz have reached an agreement on his severance package after his time as head coach of the Basque club came to an end in September.

Biarritz claimed a vital 15-10 win away to relegation rivals Dax on Thursday, lifting them out of the bottom two in the league table, but O’Sullivan’s tenure is now finally officially finished.

Fédérale 1

Lille’s strong season in Group 2 of the Fédérale 1 league (France’s semi-professional third tier is split into four separate groups made up of ten teams each) continued on Saturday with a 24-10 victory over Libourne.

Former Munster man Luke O’Dea made his seventh start for the club at fullback, having initially been used as a left wing when he arrived in France. Lille were denied a place in this season’s Pro D2 due to financial reasons, but their form so far in this campaign suggests they may secure promotion again.

If that occurs, the expectation is that the club would be ready to meet the financial requirements to play in the Pro D2, where O’Dea would likely excel. Still, a long season lies ahead in what is a highly attritional league.

Luke O'Dea dives in to score a try Luke O'Dea's Lille are riding high in Féd 1. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Out-half Peter Durcan, an ex-Ireland U21 international and Connacht man, missed out on Limoges’ 32-17 victory away to Tulle in Group 2, but he has been important in seven starts during this campaign as Limoges sit just two points behind Lille.

In Group 4, ex-Munster scrum-half Gerry Hurley helped Grasse to a 28-3 win at home to Vienne, making his eighth start of the season in the number nine shirt. The 31-year-old will hope to see Grasse – which is situated 30 minutes away from the Côte d’Azur – rise from their current position of fifth in the coming months.

On the beaten Vienne team was experienced lock Christian Short, formerly of Connacht, Northampton, Brive and Lyon.

Ireland U20-capped lock Joe Moran, who played in the 2009 Junior World Championship with the likes of Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Ian Madigan and Dave Kearney – was not involved but has played for Vienne three times this season.

Second row Dean Moore - a product of Balbriggan RFC who also played with Old Belvedere and represented Ireland up to Clubs level – was vital as Auch picked up a 34-14 win away to Agde yesterday in Group 3.

Dean Moore Dean Moore is performing impressively in France. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The 6ft 6ins lock was selected as one of the outstanding Auch players by Midi Olympique as he made his fifth start of the season. Moore spent the 2014/15 campaign with Cognac, before shifting south to Auch – which is around one hour east of Toulouse – in the summer.

Auch now lie second in Group 3, hopeful of earning promotion into the Pro D2.

National Championship of Excellence

Irishman Ian McKinley was at out-half for Viadana in their 34-14 defeat away to Rovigo on Saturday, scoring two conversions in his fifth start of the campaign.

The former Leinster out-half, who made his Pro12 debut for Zebre against the Scarlets in October, remains unable to play games on Irish soil due to the IRFU’s refusal to sign up to World Rugby’s trial of allowing protective goggles to be worn on the pitch.

McKinley’s mother, Pam, had an impassioned open letter published in Saturday’s Irish Times asking the IRFU once again to reconsider their stance.

- This article was updated at 2.30pm to include a line about Gloucester’s tough outing against the Northampton scrum.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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