Domestic rugby preview: Sat 8th November 2014. By George Millar

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We have no sooner moved on from European competition, with the Autumn International series commencing this weekend. The eyes of the world will be on a Sport that is not without controversey as the subject of injuries and their causes dominate the game at all levels. The recent publication by Professor Allyson Pollock – ‘Tackling Rugby: What every parent should know’ has raised many questions that need to be confronted by Rugby admimnistrators. In Ireland we have the IRFU funding a research programme being carried out by ‘Trauma Surgeon’ Pooler Archbold from the Royal Victoria Hospital into schoolboy injuries in Rugby. The Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists meet this week at Croke Park on Friday and Saturday. They have conducted research that hi-lights the number of injuries that are taking place in Rugby union due to the confrontational nature of the Sport. Only this week Christain Day, the chairman of the players Association in England discussed possible strike action by players if the concerns over player welfare are not adequately addressed. Day went on to say Rugby was a ‘brutal sport’ that had seen more players forced to retire in the last four years. Players are worried about too many games and would prefer rest periods and a guaranteed mid season break along with a mandatory summer break. I suspect we will hear much more on this subject. In Ulster we suffered the tragic loss of Benjamin Robinson during a game of rugby in Jan 2011 to injury. There will be the usual voices who object to this conversation. It is important Administrators and Match officials take seriously their duty of care to all rugby players from Schools through to Club rugby.

Club action in Ulster this weekend will focus on the All Ireland league and the Quarter Finals of the Millar McCall, Wylie Junior Cup.
Wins for AIL clubs including Ballynahinch, Ballymena, Malone, Belfast Harlequins, Queens, Dungannon and Armagh along with a draw for Banbridge have boosted the fortunes of the Ulster clubs. City of Derry and Ards remain the only clubs without a win. Rainey OB succumbed to runaway leaders Old Wesley in Div 2A. We have two Ulster derbies with Ballymena hosting Malone at Eaton Park and City of Derry entertaining Banbridge at Judges Road. Ballynahinch now sit fourth in Div 1A with Ballymena topping 1B after a last min Pen from Timothy Small to win 23 -22 away to undefeated Galwegians in Galway. Much needed wins were secured by Belfast teams Malone and Quins. Queens moved up to fourth place in Div 2A – five points behind leaders Old Wesley who they play at Donnybrook this weekend. There will be much relief in County Tyrone as Dungannon ended their losing run by defeating Seapoint convincingly at Stevenson Park to secure a bonus point win. Banbridge held on for a 3 – 3 draw at home to Blackrock College. Rainey coach Richard Boyd will know his side need to start picking up league points. Armagh remain undefeated in Div 2B, one point behind leaders Highfield who they play at the Palace grounds this weekend. Struggling Ards remain bottom with Richmond on one point after four matches.
With this being a rest week for Ulster rugby players, the Ulster AIL clubs will have no players released to boost their playing squads. This is not the case in Munster, Leinster and Connacht. Clubs are asking why the rest period was arranged during an AIL week. This places the Ulster AIL clubs at a disadvantage this weekend. Ballymena have shown they have the playing squad minus their Ulster players to win away to UL Bohemians and Galwegians in the AIL.

Div 1A Ballynahinch despite missing Charlie Butterworth, James Simpson, Kyle McCall and Rhuardi Murphy should still have the strength in depth to win at Young Munster. Rodger McBurney, Sam Arnold and Kenny Morton remain on the injured list. There is enough talent in Derek Suffern’s playing squad for players to step up to AIL level.
Playing Friday 7.11.14. Kick off 7.30pm
Clontarf v Old Belvedere
Dolphin v Cork Constitution
St Mary’s College v Landsdowne
UCD V Terenure College
Playing Saturday 8.11.14. Kick off 2.30pm
Young Munster v Ballynahinch

Div 1B Leaders Ballymena should strengthen their grip on top place in the league when they welcome Jacque Benade and his Malone side to Eaton Park. Ballymena selection will be minus Ulster’s back row forward Mike McComish from the win in Galway. Malone secured a much needed win last weekend at home to UL Bohemians. With Ulster players, Bronson Ross, Alan O’Connor and Conor Joyce unavailble this weekend there will be places up for grabs by squad players. Should be an entertaining game involving two sides who like to play with the ball in hand. Belfast Harlequins boosted by that outstanding win in Limerick against Shannon will be looking for a home win. Notable performances by their young second row of Caleb Montgomery and Josh Davidson will have boosted the competition for places.
Playing Friday 7.11.14. Kick off 7.30pm
Corinthians v Galwegians
UL Bohemians v Garryowen
Playing Saturday 8.11.14. Kick off 2.30pm
Dublin Uni v Shannon. kick off 2pm
Ballymena v Malone
Belfast Harlequins v Buccaneers

Div 2A The game of the day in this league will be at Donnybrook where leaders Old Wesley entertain Queens Uni. Desite their opening day defeat at Thomond the students have bounced back to win their last three matches. A win is vital for the students if they are to secure an automatic promotion place. They have an outstanding Captain in Ryan Clarke and along with forwards Nigel Simpson and Lorcan Dow and experienced backs including Stuart McIIwaine and Damian Hall the Students are quietly confident they can win this match. Should be a thriller for Ulster supporters down supporting Ireland in Dublin to attend. Judges Road will not be a place for the faint hearted as City of Derry seek their first AIL win at home to Banbridge. Coaches Mark Nicholl and Neil Beddow have a strong playing squad at their disposal with second row Chris Cooper making his first appearance of the season. Captain David Funston is restored in the centre with Andrew Semple returning at out half. The bench will see the return of Richard McCarter and Josh Lewis to cover the backs. Banbridge coach Daniel Soper knows his team will be faced by a fired up Derry team. Should be a thrilling game for the spectators. Rainey face a difficult trip away to play NUIM Barnhall. Despite the talent in their playing squad the players have to start picking up league points. Dungannon bouyed by their first AIL win make the long journey to Cork to play UCC. Ex Ulster Raven James McMahon scored an impressive three tries against Seapoint with Ulster under 20 outhalf Jack Milligan contributing 15 points. More of the same will be needed against the Cork students.
Playing Friday 7.11.14. Kick off 7.30pm
Skerries v Bective Rangers
Playing Saturday 8.11.14. Kick off 2.30pm
Seapoint v Thomond. kick off 2pm
Blackrock College v Naas
Cashel v Nenagh Ormond
City of Derry v Banbridge
NUIM Barnhall v Rainey OB
Old Wesley v Queens Uni
UCC v Dungannon

Div 2B This is the biggest match for the Orchard County side since they returned to AIL rugby. A head to head involving league leaders Highfield at the Palace grounds. Coach Andrew Hughes has a full squad at his disposal. Scrum half Harry Doyle continues to impress along with their influential number 8 Neil Faloon. Expect a large and vociferous crowd to get behind their team. Ards make the long trip to Munster to play Kanturk. Despite their narrow 11 – 3 loss at home to Navan the Hamilton Park side are still looking their first win.
Playing Friday 7.11.14. kick off 7.30pm
Bruff v Richmond
Playing Saturday 8.11.14. Kick off 2.30pm
Armagh v Highfield
Boyne v DLSP
Greystones v Midleton
Kanturk v Ards
Navan v Sundays Well
Old Crescent v Tullamore
Sligo v Wanderers.

Millar McCall Wylie Junior Cup Quarter Finals. Four quarter finals with Ballyclare, Instonians, Ballynahinch seconds and Ballymena seconds expected to progress to the semi final draw. But this is the Cup and their opponents Belfast Harlequins seconds, Bangor, Omagh and Enniskillen are all capable of causing an upset. Ballyclare welcome Quins seconds to Cloghan and with their Cup pedigree are expected to progress. Quins have put together a four match unbeaten run and are more than capable of winning this game. Instonians should prove too strong for a game Bangor side at Shaws bridge. Coach William Leacock has put together a forward unit that has overwhelmed all opposition this season in their unbeaten run in all competitions. Both sides are at full strength for a match that is sure to attract another large crowd to the South Belfast venue. Cup holders Ballynahinch seconds travel to County Tyrone to play Q 2 leaders Omagh who remain undefeated like their opponents in all competitions. Something has to give. Can Phil Marshall and his team upset the odds. Another venue that will have the home side urged on by a large vocal support. Surprise quarter finalists Enniskillen have recorded two excellent wins away to Malone seconds and home to Dromore to make the quarter finals. Skins are at full strength with Ulster Junior Centre Alan Wilkinson adding his experience to the backline. With no injury worries coach Norman Richmond has a full squad at his disposal. Ballymena seconds having won at Clogher Valley in the previous round should travel with confidence to Mullaghmeen.

Qualifying Four Playing Sat 8.11.14. kick off 2.30pm
BHSFP v Cavan
CIVIL Service v Monaghan
Letterkenny v Londonderry YMCA

With no Ulster matches until the 21st November there is the opportunity for the thousands of Ulster rugby supporters to support their local club this weekend. We have games taking place in Armagh, Enniskillen, Omagh, Derry, Ballymena and Belfast.

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