Wednesday 19 September 2018

Glimmer of hope for Ulster as Munster scupper Pro 14 hopes

Munster’s Darren Sweetnam is tackled by Ulster duo Johnny McPhillips and Stuart McCloskey in Thomond Park yesterday. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Munster’s Darren Sweetnam is tackled by Ulster duo Johnny McPhillips and Stuart McCloskey in Thomond Park yesterday. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

Ulster's late challenge for a place in the quarter-finals of the Guinness Pro 14 may have come up short after a 24-24 draw with Munster in Thomond Park but at least they have a shot at a place in the Champions Cup next season. They will play off in Belfast against the Ospreys in three weeks on the same weekend as the Pro 14 semi-finals.

It remains to be seen if they will announce by then the identity of their new coach, who as yet doesn't know if his team will be competing in the Champions Cup or Challenge Cup next season.

"We have the coach lined up - signed and agreed - the number one candidate we were after so we're obviously very happy within Ulster and the IRFU as well," team manager Bryn Cunningham said last night. "Unfortunately we'll not be in a position to announce that probably potentially for another few weeks.

"At this stage of the season with everything going on it was really important we got some solidity into what's happening within Ulster over the next few years around the coaching group. It'll take a little bit of time before both are content about releasing it (the identity of the coach) formally."

Evidently the new coach, who is not a New Zealander, is still contracted to his current club. And if Cunningham reckons it will be possible to name him in a few weeks that would suggest he is working in Europe rather than in Super Rugby where the campaign has a few months to run.

Munster, meanwhile, confirmed that Gerbrandt Grobler will leave the province this summer to join Gloucester.

"Yes, Gerbrandt won't be staying at Munster," said head coach Johann van Graan after last night's draw. "I think it's a massive loss. He's a quality player. I thought that was his best 80 minutes for Munster."

Munster will be back at Thomond Park on Saturday to face Edinburgh in the Pro 14 quarter-final, with an away semi-final against Leinster as the prize.

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