Friday 9 December 2016

Top seeds Connacht to avoid Saracens in Euro draw

Published 01/06/2016 | 02:30

Connacht players celebrate following their side's victory in the Guinness PRO12 Final match. Photo: Sportsfile
Connacht players celebrate following their side's victory in the Guinness PRO12 Final match. Photo: Sportsfile

The Irish provinces will find out their European fate for next season on June 29 when the draw for the Champions Cup group stages is made in Switzerland.

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Connacht will be among the top seeds after winning the Guinness Pro12 and they'll avoid Saracens and the winners of the French Top 14. They could be joined by Leinster whose second-place finish in the Pro12 means they're in with a chance of a top seeding for the draw.

Ulster will be in tier two or three, while Munster will be amongst the lowest seeds when the draw will be held in Neuchatel.

Meanwhile, South Africa have been dealt another blow ahead of this month's three-Test series with Ireland after lock Pieter-Steph du Toit withdrew from the squad.

The second-rower, a colossus for the Stormers in Super Rugby this season, has a grade two hamstring tear that would keep him out of action for up to six weeks, SA Rugby confirmed via a press release.

He has been replaced by uncapped Lions lock Franco Mostert, who is promoted from the South Africa 'A' squad preparing for a series against the England Saxons.

Du Toit's absence means it is a near certainty that the starting Bok lock combination for the first test against Ireland will feature Lood de Jager and Eben Etzebeth. Other injury concerns for new coach Allister Coetzee are centre Jesse Kriel (bruised sternum) and prop Trevor Nyakane (shoulder).

Elsewhere, World Cup winner Sonny Bill Williams is set to announce that he has signed a contract to remain with New Zealand Rugby (NZR) until after the 2019 World Cup in Japan. The 30-year-old's current deal runs until the end of the year after he signed a two-year agreement following his move back from rugby league.

Williams is not with the squad preparing for upcoming Tests against Wales as he has committed to the All Blacks' sevens programme for the Olympics.

Irish Independent

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