Murphy eyes return after tigers outing
GEORDAN MURPHY has set his sights on Ireland's Lansdowne Road clash with France on Saturday week after heralding his return to fitness by playing for Leicester Tigers in a friendly on Monday night.
Murphy played 55 minutes against Montpellier and afterwards told his Twitter followers that his "foot felt great". It was his first outing since he damaged ligaments and broke bones in his ankle last January.
French counting cost of injuries
Combative hooker Dimitri Szarzewski, who has not played since picking up an Achilles tendon injury in January, and centre Maxime Mermoz, out since February with shoulder trouble, are likely to be included in France's team to play Ireland on Saturday.
Other players returning from injury, including hooker William Servat, centre Aurelien Rougerie and winger Vincent Clerc will probably not feature in Bordeaux but may be available for the return tie in Dublin.
Prop Fabien Barcella is unlikely to be fit for either clash, but Biarritz bolter Raphael Lakafia is likely to be included in the back-row.
Wing Andrew primed for ulster debut
New boy Ricky Andrew will make his Ulster debut in a pre-season friendly against Bayonne at the intimidating Stade Jean Dauger stadium tonight.
The 20-year-old winger from Ballymena, who spent the last 12 months at the Castres Academy, has joined Ulster on a development contract -- as has James McKinney, last season's Ireland U-20 fly-half, who will also make his debut.
Scrum-half Paul Marshall (26) is the oldest player in a very young backline, while Tom Court has been released to play for 40 minutes after his stint against Scotland last Saturday.
Elwood heralds sponsors' drive
Connacht coach Eric Elwood has hailed Mazda, the province's new sponsors, as the westerners continue their preparations for their debut season in the Heineken Cup.
As first revealed in the Irish Independent last week, the deal is worth €1.5m over three years.
"This is a very exciting year for Connacht rugby, with the Heineken Cup coming to Galway for the first time," said Elwood.
"Mazda and Connacht share a lot of common values in terms of drive, passion and performance, and there are huge opportunities for us to work successfully together over the next three years."