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McFarland learns Ulster's path to PRO14 joy

 

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Plan ahead: Dan McFarland now has dates to work with

Plan ahead: Dan McFarland now has dates to work with

�INPHO/Alex James

Plan ahead: Dan McFarland now has dates to work with

Ulster will resume their Guinness PRO14 campaign with back-to-back inter-provincial clashes against Connacht and Leinster at the Aviva Stadium at the end of August.

Dan McFarland's side will travel down to Dublin to take on Connacht on Sunday, August 23 at 4.30pm before returning to the same venue the following Saturday, August 29, for a 7.35pm kick-off against the reigning league champions.

Ulster, who are currently second in Conference B of the PRO14 behind Leinster, need only two points from the two games to qualify for the semi-finals, which will be played a week later, with the final scheduled to be played on Saturday, September 12.

It will be a full slate of derbies to resume the PRO14 as tournament organisers try to conclude the season as fairly as possible while also preventing cross-border travel due to coronavirus restrictions.

In Scotland, Edinburgh and the Glasgow Warriors will play back-to-back games at BT Murrayfield, while the Italian sides, Benetton and Zebre, will play each other twice as well.

In Wales, the Scarlets and Cardiff Blues will face off in the first game, followed by the Ospreys taking on the Dragons, with the Scarlets travelling to the Dragons and the Blues hosting the Ospreys a week later.

However, there is an issue in South Africa, where the current situation regarding Covid-19 has left PRO14 bosses unable to schedule a set of back-to-back fixtures between the Cheetahs and Southern Kings.

Tournament director David Jordan said: "So far we have been encouraged by the developments that have allowed all of our teams to return to training.

"Thanks to the great efforts of our clubs and unions, the willingness of governments and the support of our broadcasters, we now have a fixture list to look forward to.

"Everyone who makes our games possible has had to adapt to a new way of working under the restrictions of the pandemic and the response of all our key stakeholders has been very impressive."

Meanwhile, Ireland have received new dates to conclude their postponed Six Nations games, with World Rugby intending to play seven weeks of international rugby between October 24 and December 5.

The intention is for the postponed Six Nations games for both the men's and women's teams would be played at the end of October, with a mini-tournament between the Six Nations teams and other invited countries - believed to be Fiji and Georgia - played from November 14 to December 5 after a rest week.

In the southern hemisphere, the Rugby Championship - which is contested between South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina - will be played in a single country between November 7 and December 12.

That could negatively affect Ulster, however, as the final weekend overlaps with the scheduled first round of fixtures of next season's European Champions Cup, which could leave them without the services of star back-row Marcell Coetzee should he be called up to the Springboks squad.

Belfast Telegraph