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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 20 February, 2019

O'Connell on the scoresheet, Schmidt into the semis and all the exiles action

There was plenty of Irish involvement in England, France, Wales and Italy over the weekend.

WHILE THE IRISH provinces were busy playing derby games on the final regular season day of the Guinness Pro12, there were a number of Irish players abroad involved in important games in France, Wales, Italy and England.

Aviva Premiership

Exeter secured a home Premiership semi-final with a 34-20 victory over Gloucester on Saturday, with Saracens now set to visit Sandy Park on 20 May.

33-year-old Ulsterman Gareth Steenson was at out-half for the Chiefs and kicked four conversions and two penalties in an assured performance, while Ian Whitten scored his sixth try of the season.

Whitten Whitten scored for the third weekend in a row.

29-year-old Whitten – capped twice by Ireland in 2009 – is in excellent form heading into the semi-finals and finished his try from outside the 22.

On David Humphreys‘ beaten Gloucester team was ex-Ulster loosehead prop Paddy McAllister, starting for the 13th time this season.

While it was a disappointing end to the Premiership season for Gloucester, who finished ninth, they will hope to win the Challenge Cup this weekend and secure a Champions Cup qualification play-0ff semi-final against Connacht.

If Gloucester don’t beat Stade Français in that Challenge Cup final, Northampton will face Connacht after they ended the season seventh in the Premiership with a 22-20 win over Harlequins on Saturday.

Irish-qualified scrum-half Charlie Mulchrone came off the bench for Quins as they secured sixth spot and Champions Cup qualification despite defeat, the former Ireland U18 international making his 10th league appearance of the season.

JOC Jack O'Connell dotted down for Bristol.

Relegated Bristol’s season ended with a 39-27 loss at home to Newcastle, but Irish loosehead Jack O’Connell was among the tries as his strong end to the campaign concluded in style.

The former Leinster man burst over for his second try of the season after running an excellent support line onto an offload from Tusi Pisi, while 26-year-old Irish-qualified centre/wing Jack Tovey also scored for Bristol.

Tovey, who played for the Irish Exiles U18s back in 2007, was making his 10th Premiership appearance of the season.

Tovey Jack Tovey scored his first Premiership try on Saturday.

10th-placed Sale finished their season on a winning note with a 27-24 victory over Bath, with AJ MacGinty‘s place-kicking proving important.

39-year-old scrum-half Peter Stringer, who will leave the club this summer but is keen to play on next season, came off the bench for his final appearance for the club.

Mike Phillips, making his final appearance as a professional player, started in the nine shirt for the Sharks but Stringer replaced him in the closing 10 minutes and helped Sale to see out their win.

9s Stringer replaced Mike Phillips for Sale.

Mark McCall‘s Saracens were beaten 35-15 by Wasps, who finished top of the table after the regular season, and now face an away semi-final against Exeter.

Meanwhile, former Ireland U20s hooker George McGuigan came off the bench for Leicester – where Geordan Murphy is an assistant coach - as they won 28-23 away to Worcester to secure the fourth and final play-off spot, meaning they will travel to play Wasps in the semi-finals on 20 May.

24-year-old McGuigan remains qualified to play for Ireland despite an appearance for the England Saxons last summer and has made 18 Premiership appearances so far this season after his move from Newcastle.

On the losing Worcester team was 38-year-old former Munster lock Donncha O’Callaghan, making his 18th start of the season. The 94-times capped Ireland international will play on next season.

Top 14

Racing 92, with whom Ronan O’Gara is an assistant coach, secured their place in the barrages phase [essentially the quarter-finals] of the Top 14 with a 22-20 victory over Bordeaux on Saturday.

James Hart Hart is heading to Munster this summer. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Munster-bound scrum-half James Hart played the closing minutes off the bench, his 16th league appearance of the campaign, and Racing will now travel to Montpellier for their barrages clash on 20 May, with the victor facing Clermont in the semi-finals.

Pau missed out on making the play-offs after a 32-12 defeat away to Toulon, as James Coughlan made his final appearance as a professional rugby player from number eight.

The former Munster man will move into a coaching role with Pau’s academy next season, and signed off by completing the 80 minutes in his 20th appearance of the campaign.

Meanwhile, relegated Grenoble – where Mike Prendergast has been interim head coach in recent times – ended their season with a 53-21 win over Lyon, former Connacht lock Aly Muldowney starting in the second row for the 22nd time this season.

Guinness Pro12

Ian McKinley‘s brilliant season for Treviso ended in fitting fashion as the former Ireland U20 out-half kicked three penalties and a conversion in their 19-3 success over Zebre, a win that secured Treviso qualification into next season’s Champions Cup.

Ian McKinley kicks at goal McKinley was named in the Italy squad last week. Source: Giuseppe Fama/INPHO

McKinley started 12 games in total this season for Treviso and was picked in the 10 shirt ahead of 30-times capped Italy out-half Tommaso Allen for Saturday’s win over Zebre.

Meanwhile, fellow former Leinster man Tadhg Beirne made his 15th league appearance of the season in the Scarlets’ second row as they secured third spot in the Pro12 with a comprehensive 40-17 win over the Ospreys.

Beirne, enjoying a superb season, will now face his native province in the semi-finals at the RDS on 19 May.

Greene King IPA Championship

London Irish advanced into the promotion final of the Championship with a 39-22 victory over Doncaster Knights in the second leg of their semi-final.

The Exiles were 74-25 winners on aggregate, with former Leinster back row Conor Gilsenan playing the closing 15 minutes off the bench last weekend.

Conor Gilsenan Gilsenan and London Irish are into the final. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Former Ulster scrum-half Michael Heaney started for the Knights in their defeat, while ex-Connacht lock Dave Nolan and former Munster out-half Declan Cusack both appeared off the bench.

London Irish advance to face Yorkshire Carnegie over two legs in the final, on 17 May and 24 May, with a place in next season’s Premiership on the line.

Pro D2

Champions Oyonnax, where Mike Prendergast will be attack coach next season, finished their season with a 57-10 defeat away to Montauban.

Former Leinster centre Eamonn Sheridan made his 11th appearance of their promotion campaign in the 13 shirt, as Oyonnax look forward to playing in the Top 14 next season.

Tomas O'Leary and Eamonn Sheridan tackle John Ryan Sheridan [tackling John Ryan here] was formerly with London Irish. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Agen secured a home semi-final in the promotion play-offs with a 13-13 draw against Colomiers, with former Munster man Dave Ryan part of the bench. They will now take on Biarritz in the play-offs, with Montauban and Mont-de-Marsan in the other semi.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Davidson‘s time as Aurillac head coach finished with a resounding 54-19 victory over Dax, former Ulster wing Conor Gaston starting on the right wing as Davidson’s men ran in eight tries.

The former Lions and Ireland lock will join Bordeaux as forwards coach next season.


Toulouse’s espoirs side [their U23 team] advanced into the semi-finals of the French championship after a big 63-20 win away to Montpellier.

download Tim Schmidt was at scrum-half for Toulouse.

Tim Schmidt, the son of Ireland head coach Joe, started at scrum-half in the excellent victory, while Daniel Brennan, the son of former Toulouse and Ireland lock Trevor, was at tighthead prop.

Toulouse now await the winner of the barrages match between Clermont and Castres in the semi-finals on 21 May, with Schmidt and Brennan likely to be important men again.

Brennan is already an underage international for France, while 21-year-old Schmidt has professional aspirations.

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Murray Kinsella

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