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Ulster will start PRO12 title bid against Ospreys

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 18/07/2015

Ruan Pienaar scored 16 points with the boot for Ulster
Ruan Pienaar scored 16 points with the boot for Ulster

Ulster will begin their 2015/16 Guinness PRO12 campaign at home against the Ospreys on Friday September 4 with a 7.35pm kick-off.

The meeting between last season's beaten semi-finalists will be shown live on BBCNI.

The second fixture before a three-week break to accommodate the World Cup will be a trip to west Wales to meet Scarlets which, like last season, will be a Saturday fixture screened by Sky Sports.

The first inter-pro of the season will see Ulster travel to Thomond Park to face Munster on October 30 with both sides likely to be far from full strength due to international commitments.

The festive double-header is slated to be a Boxing Day visit to Connacht and a January 2 hosting of Munster.

The fixtures against Leinster will take place on Friday November 27 at the RDS and at the Kingspan Stadium during the final week of April.

While Ulster's newest All Black Charles Piutau will not be present for those match-ups - the 23-year-old will not join the team until the summer of 2016 - the winger made a try-scoring appearance for New Zealand yesterday in their 39-18 victory over Argentina to open the Rugby Championship.

Ulster's international representation will continue today with Ruan Pienaar starting at scrum-half for South Africa against Australia.

Meanwhile, Cooke's Ashleigh Baxter will be part of the Ireland Women's Sevens squad that will compete at the Rugby Europe Olympic Repechage, while Ballynahinch pair Aaron Cairns and David McGuigan are set to turn out for the Men's side.

A top-three finish is required in order to advance to the World Olympic Repechage, the tournament that will determine the final teams who travel to Rio next summer.

Ireland's women will compete in Pool B today alongside Belgium, Romania and Ukraine, while the knockout stages take place tomorrow. Seeded second in Portugal, Baxter is confident.

"As a team, we want to win the tournament," she said.

"Obviously we have high hopes of qualifying for next year so we need to look at this as a stepping stone towards the Olympics.

"Hopefully with us being centralised and a full-time programme, we'll know each other well enough to come through."

Baxter was speaking to the Belfast Telegraph on behalf of Cooke Women RFC. On Monday July 27, they will host a 'Give it a Try' night to encourage more women to take part. For further information, contact the club on 07541689870.

Ballynahinch Rabbitohs will meet Belfast Met Scholars in the Ulster Rugby League final this afternoon (2pm, Ballynahinch RFC).

The winners will play the Leinster victors in the All-Ireland semi-final at the Carlisle Grounds, Bray, next Saturday.

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