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Ryan shines for Racing, Copeland's debut, and Kidney's Exiles struggle

Jeremy Davidson’s Brive are leading the Top 14 after the opening round.
Sep 8th 2020, 11:33 AM 14,032 25

AS THE RUGBY schedule quickly becomes congested, the Irish involvement abroad is also ramping up again.

The return of French rugby last weekend saw lots of Irish involvement, while the Premiership continued too. 

Top 14

Jeremy Davidson‘s Brive are top of the table after last weekend’s opening round of the 2020/21 season, having recorded a 42-23 win over Bayonne.

Former Ireland and Lions second row Davidson has been doing consistently impressive work in French rugby for years now, while he has welcomed ex-Munster number eight James Coughlan to Brive as defence coach this season.

donnacha-ryan-and-finn-russell-celebrate Donnacha Ryan helped Racing to a win in Lyon. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

36-year-old Donnacha Ryan was named in Midi Olympique’s team of the week after helping Racing to a 27-23 win away from home against Lyon, the Tipperary man running the lineout well in a typically influential performance. Racing attack coach Mike Prendergast will have been pleased to see new signing Kurtley Beale making his debut at fullback.

Elsewhere, former Munster tighthead prop Dave Ryan was in Agen’s number three shirt as they suffered a 22-26 defeat at home to Castres. 34-year-old Ryan is now into his sixth season with Agen.

On Friday night, Daniel Brennan made his sixth Top 14 appearance off the bench for Montpellier as they lost 23-26 at home to Pau. Brennan – the son of former Ireland, Leinster and Toulouse man Trevor – has aspirations of playing for France, having represented their underage teams.

Jono Gibbes and Ronan O’Gara‘s La Rochelle had a positive start to the season as they beat Toulon 29-15 and they will hope to build on that result in the coming weeks. 

Pro D2

Former Munster scrum-half James Hart came off the bench for Biarritz as they opened their campaign with a 21-12 win at home against Perpignan, with his fellow ex-Munster man Francis Saili scoring the first try of the new Pro D2 season.

Robin Copeland made his debut for Soyaux Angoulême on Saturday, starting at number eight, but they suffered a 28-23 defeat at home against Provence.

robin-copeland-celebrates-after-scoring-the-winning-try-14122019 Copeland moved to France after leaving Connacht this summer. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Ex-Munster flanker Sean Dougall was in the back row for Valence Romans as they recorded a 32-19 victory over Colomiers, with the former Emerging Ireland international now into his second season with the club.

Former Munster lock Darren O’Shea enjoyed a winning debut for Vannes as he helped them to a 30-22 success against Aurillac and will hope there is more of the same to come this season.

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Second row Frank Bradshaw Ryan came off the bench to score a try for Nevers in their visit to Grenoble but they still came up short on a 27-17 scoreline.

On Sunday, Ireland-capped tighthead Jamie Hagan and former Munster lock John Madigan started for Béziers away to Mont-de-Marsan but it was a disappointing beginning to the campaign as they lost 33-10.

Gallagher Premiership

Ex-Leinster hooker Bryan Byrne started for Pat Lam’s Bristol in their 36-16 win away to Worcester on Friday night, while former Ireland U19 Sevens international Callum Sheedy was at out-half again as his good form continued.

Ex-Ireland U20s lock Joe Joyce and former Ireland U19 international back Piers O’Conor both featured off the Bristol bench. 

Former Ulster hooker Niall Annett started for the defeated Worcester team, while ex-Ulster loosehead Callum Black came off the bench.

london-irish-v-saracens-gallagher-premiership-twickenham-stoop London Irish have yet to win since the restart. Source: PA

Exeter maintained their superb form on Friday night too, with 36-year-old Gareth Steenson kicking two conversions and a penalty from out-half in a 22-19 win away to Northampton.

On Saturday, Mark McCall‘s Saracens suffered a 28-18 defeat at home to Wasps as Owen Farrell was sent off. Irish-qualified centre Dom Morris made an appearance off the bench for Sarries. 

It was a sweet win on the road for the Wasps coaching staff, which includes former Munster coach Ian Costello.

Harlequins, where Jerry Flannery is now part of the coaching team, had a tough day as they lost 41-27 to Bath, where Girvan Dempsey is in charge of the attack and would have been pleased with the four-try performance. Former Ulster out-half Brett Herron kicked 10 points for Quins in defeat. 

Dublin native AJ MacGinty, who is now a USA international, scored 19 points as Sale Sharks enjoyed a 40-31 win away to Geordan Murphy‘s Leicester Tigers.

But it was another disappointing day for Declan Kidney‘s London Irish, who lost 36-23 away to Gloucester. Paddy Jackson kicked 13 points from out-half but Sean O’Brien remains sidelined with an injury niggle.

Kidney’s men have lost all five of their Premiership games since the restart and will hope to turn their form around in the final few weeks.  

The Premiership continues this evening, with Joyce, Sheedy, and O’Conor starting for Bristol – whose coaching team includes Irishmen John Muldoon and Conor McPhillips - while former Connacht loosehead Peter McCabe in on the bench.

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Murray Kinsella

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