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Irish giants to battle Super Rugby franchise

NEWS: The Australian Super Rugby Pacific franchise Queensland Reds will undergo a two-game European tour, which includes a landmark match against Ulster in 2025.

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The match against Ulster at Kingspan Stadium on February 7 will follow the tour opener against English club Bristol at Ashton Gate Stadium on January 31.

Ulster bring their Irish style to the United Rugby Championship and the Champions Cup alongside the heavyweight clubs of Europe.

“To have this experience of playing English and Irish opponents in a British and Irish Lions tour year is a wonderful opportunity,” Kiss said.

“Being able to offer this to our players and staff is first class as preparation for our 2025 season. Northern hemisphere sides will test our game in all the different facets.

“Personally, I can’t wait. I have great memories of my own time at Ulster and players like Iain Henderson, a Lions player in his own right.

“The stadium is an intimidating place to play. I can’t think of a better experience for our players than to meet when the fans are singing ‘Stand Up for the Ulstermen’ on a cold Friday night.”

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The fixture against the Reds is a feature of Centenary celebrations for Ulster’s home ground at Ravenhill.

Kiss is a former Director of Rugby at Ulster while Reds prop Jeffery Toomaga-Allen is also fondly remembered for his playing time with Ulster during the 2022-23 season.

The visit to Belfast will be the first by a Queensland side since a Reds development squad toured in 2008 and the first full cap game against Ulster in Belfast since 1986.

The Reds won that 1986 clash 6-4 at the old Ravenhill with Wallabies Michael Lynagh, Andy McIntyre, Tom Lawton, Andrew Slack, Brendan Moon and Roger Gould aboard.

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The two-game tour shows the strong stance from the Queensland Rugby Union in creating fixtures outside Super Rugby Pacific to develop the state’s best players.

It is another block in an expanding off-season program which includes a July 19 clash for the Reds against Wales at Suncorp Stadium, a tour to play Tonga on July 26 and an October-November tour to play the Japanese club Wild Knights in Japan.

“Playing more often is a powerful way to ‘close the gap’, as Les puts it, because more in our squad will get the chance at a higher level,” QRU Chief Executive David Hanham said.

“It will help us build a stronger, deeper squad with this international exposure against different playing styles.

“The Reds are a strong brand in Australia. Taking it overseas more and more can only build on it with the wider rugby public.”

Ulster Interim Chief Executive Hugh McCaughey said the Reds match would be a highlight of celebrations to make 100 years of Ravenhill.

“We look forward to the arrival of the Reds as part of our celebrations with Les and Jeff set to receive a warm welcome from our supporters on their return to Belfast,” McCaughey said.

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