Marcell Coetzee: the former Springbok international had an outstanding debut against Edinburgh. Photograph: Inpho

Pro12 preview: Ulster v Glasgow Warriors, Kingspan stadium (3.0, live on Sky Sports 1)

Connacht coach Pat Lam: “We’re very aware of where we are in this competition and what we need to do.” Photograph: Inpho

Pro12 preview: Connacht v Newport Gwent Dragons, Sportsground (7.35, live on TG4)

Munster’sJean Kleyn: will miss the next eight to 10 weeks with a neck injury.Photograph: Inpho

Pro12 preview: Ospreys v Munster, Liberty stadium (Saturday 5.15, live on Sky Sports)

The French team before  facing Ireland in 2014. Photograph: Inpho

France only country to hold outright winning record against Irish in Six Nations

CJ Stander shows his determination as he brushes past an Italian  challenge at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

South African points to better mindset as key factor in Ireland’s improved performance

Ireland’s John Ryan, Niall Scannell and Ian Keatley celebrate the big victory over Italy in Rome. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Munster hooker steps in for Rory Best and makes the most of his Ireland debut

 Hannah Tyrrell scores Ireland’s  bonus-point try in the 81st minute in Italy. Photograph: Giuseppe Fama/Inpho

Late try against Italy in Six Nations caps unconvincing performance

Ireland captain Paula Fitzpatrick. Photograph: Craig Watson/Inpho.

Italy game presents opportunity for players to come in and make their mark

Paddy Jackson kicked nine out of nine conversions as Ireland routed Italy in Rome. Photograph: Inpho/Dan Sheridan

Ireland coach pays tribute to CJStander and Paddy Jackson after nine-try rout of Italy

Niall Scannell replaces captain Rory Best for Ireland’s Six Nations clash with Italy. Photograph: Inpho/Dan Sheridan

Niall Scannell starts after skipper pulls out of Six Nations tie due to stomach upset

Johnny McPhillips kicks a penalty for Ireland during the narrow victory over Italy.

Outstanding performance from St Mary’s man edges Ireland to hard-earned win

Dave Kearney: returnes (following an ankle injury) to the Leinster  team for the first time since  October. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho r

Leo Cullen’s squad boosted by the return of likes of Dave Kearney, Mike Ross and Joey Carbery

Munster’s Darren Sweetnam: will be looking to make a big impression at Musgrave Park. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Depth of Rassie Erasmus’s squad likely to be tested again at Musgrave Park

Marcell Coetzee: the Springbok is due to make his long-awaited debut for Ulster against Edinburgh at Kingspan Stadium. Photograph:  Matt Mackey/Presseye/Inpho

One win in six outings the background for Les Kiss’s side as Edinburgh come calling

Munster winger Calvin Nash comes into the Ireland under-20 team. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho.

Backs hoping to make significant gains against Italian side in Prato

Donnacha Ryan, Conor Murray and Keith Earls all attended St Munchin’s College in Limerick which leads the way with seven in providing senior internationals among the last 100 players to be capped by Ireland. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

In the last 11½ years 46 schools nationwide have provided players to senior team

Fresh from his Munster debut, Calvin Nash will start for Ireland under-20s in Italy. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Nigel Carolan has made two changes to his side to take on Italy in Rome this weekend

Referee JP Doyle with Sergio Parisse during last Sunday’s Six Nations clash with Wales: Italy lost the penalty count 16-5. Photograph: Matteo Ciambelli/Inpho

Captain Sergio Parisse on course to be fit to play in Six Nations clash with Ireland

The Scotland team celebrate with the Quaich trophy. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

John O’Sullivan rates the victorious Scottish players after their Murrayfield win over Ireland

How did the Irish players rate in the defeat to Scotland? Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

On a disappointing day for Irish rugby, John O’Sullivan looks at how Joe Schmidt’s players performed individually

Blindside flanker Cillian Gallagher, in action above for the Connacht Eagles against London Irish, will line out for Ireland against Scotland. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Flanker emphasises importance of mindset ahead of Six Nations opener in Scotland

Calvin Nash scoring a try for Munster A against Doncaster. Nash comes into the Munster backline for the trip to Edinburgh. Photograph: Rachel Holborn/Inpho/Camerasport

Calvin Nash and Peter McCabe come in for their starting debuts against Edinburgh

 Romain Poite - Matches: Scotland v Ireland, Murrayfield; England v Italy, Twickenham.

We take a closer look at the referees for all of the upcoming Six Nations matches

The Aviva Stadium: the winning ratio when Ireland host Wales, Scotland and Italy is 81 per cent (played 27, won 22, lost four, drawn 1) as against 63 per cent (16-10-5-1) when England and France are the visitors to Dublin. Photograph: Inpho

Ireland has winning records against four of the five Six Nations teams

Johnny Sexton is fit to play for Ireland in their Six Nations opener against Scotland at Murrayfield. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

The trio will all be fit for the Six Nations opener while Andrew Conway is out

Conor O’Shea: the right man to lead Italy forward. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Conor O’Shea’s squad have a puncher’s chance in their three home games

There are a few selection conundrums for Ireland coach Joe Schmidt. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Getting to the final game against England unbeaten could be a difficult assignment

Guy Noves could be building a  squad capable of competing with the best. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Tournament may be coming a little too soon for fast-improving French

England’s head coach Eddie Jones has enjoyed a honeymoon period since taking over from Stuart Lancaster. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Justifiable championship favourites with record in their sights

Alun Wyn Jones: takes over as captain from Sam Warburton. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Fixtures fall nicely and Rob Howley has form as coach, but lack of creativity a weakness

Vern Cotter: will leave Scotland in a better position than when he took over. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Opening fixture against Ireland should set tone for the Scots’ tournament

The full fixture details for the Champions Cup knockout stages have been revealed. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Leo Cullen’s team first in action at Aviva, before Munster v Toulouse at Thomond Park

Ireland Under-20 captain Jack Kelly. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Fullback will be sixth consecutive Under-20 captain from Dublin school St Michael’s

 Keith Earls in action for the British and Irish Lions in 2009. The Munster man did not feature in the preceding Six Nations tournament for Ireland. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Earls and Quinlan were named in 2009 squad despite missing tournament for Ireland

Connacht’s Cillian Gallagher returns to the Ireland under-20s squad for the Six Nations. Photo: Inpho

Sons of former internationals Paul Dean and Brendan Mullin are included in selection

Leinster’s Cian Healy replaces  Jack McGrath  during the Champions Cup victory  over Montpellier at the RDS. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Visit to France holds no fears for experienced prop as visitors target a home quarter-final

Leinster’s Cian Healy during training ahead of their Champions Cup clash with castres. Photo: Inpho

Leo Cullen has named his starting lineup for their final Pool 4 match in Champions Cup

Jonathan Sexton kicks at goal against Montpellier, a game in which he reached a landmark in Champions Cup rugby. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/inpho

Leinster outhalf chases another scoring milestone in European Champions Cup

Ian Madigan returns at outhalf for Bordeaux-Bégles’ Pool Five encounter against  Clermont Auvergne, a match Ulster hope will result in a Clermont win. Photograph: Getty Images

European Champions Cup previews: Irish international Martin Moore continues at tighthead prop for Wasps

Leinster’s Isa Nacewa: “You look at what Adam Byrne and Rory O’Loughlin have done in the last six or seven weeks. They’re great to play alongside.” Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Massive Fijian winger scored a brace of tries for Montpellier last time the sides met

Isa Nacewa returns to captain Leinster for their Champions Cup clash with Montpellier. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Jack Conan joins Josh van der Flier and Jamie Heaslip in backrow for Montpellier game

Munster defeated Glasgow Warriors 16-15 in the Pro12 League at Scotstoun on December 2nd. Photograph: Craig Watson/Inpho.

Gregor Townsend’s side need to improve if they are to sustain European ambitions

 Ireland’s Michael McKillop  celebrates  victory after the Men’s 1500 metre-T37 final at the   Paralympic Games in Rio. Photograph:  Alexandre Loureiro/Getty Images

Sports review of 2016: John O’Sullivan on the Irishman’s brave gold medal performance at the Paralympics

Munster’s Tyler Bleyendaal in action at Welford Road against Leicester. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Irish province never stopped battling to overcome inaccuracies of their performance

Munster’s Niall Scannell scores a try in the Champions Cup clash against Leicester at Welford Road. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

‘They were really desperate and they deserved to win the game’

Owen Williams of Leicester kicks a long range, last minute, match winning penalty at Welford Road. Photograph: Inpho

Leicester outhalf struck last minute penalty to grab win for home team at Welford Road

Bordeaux-Begles’ Irish fly-half Ian Madigan won’t play in their Champions Cup clash with Exeter Chiefs. Photo: Getty Images

Ian Madigan misses out for Bordeaux, as does Gareth Steenson for opponents Exeter Chiefs

Munster’s CJ Stander prepares to evade the tackle of Leicester’s Brendon O’Connor at Thomond Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Leicester are determined to exact revenge in ground where they have a formidable record

Josh van der Flier has full faith in 21-year-old outhalf Ross Byrne. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Josh van der Flier has no fears that replacement outhalf Byrne can step up to mark

Wasps director of rugby Dai Young. Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Dai Young wants more possession and more solid scrum when side play at Sportsground

Connacht’s Cian Kelleher is tackled by Federico Zani of Treviso during their Pro12 match at  The Sportsground, Galway. Photograph: Inpho

Cian Kelleher’s figures highlight why he is one of the standout attacking players

Leinster’s Seán Cronin is tackled by Jamie Gibson of Northampton during the Champions Cup game at Franklin’s Gardens last Friday. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho.

Seán Cronin wary of Saints marching to Dublin on a pride salvaging operation

Ross Byrne took over at outhalf against Northampton following Joey Carbery’s injury. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho.

Extent of Joey Carbery’s ankle injury and length of absence to be discovered soon

Joey Carbery is to see a specialist after injuring his ankle in Leinster’s win over Northampton at Franklin’s Gardens. Photograph: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Outhalf to consult a specialist after damaging ankle ligaments in Champions Cup win

Ulster coach Les Kiss: “Our defensive line shrank in a bit and that gave them space on the edge that put us on the back foot. Defensively we can definitely improve.” Photograph: Getty Images

Clermonts two bonus points keeps the French side in control of the Pool Four

Ulster flanker Chris Henry tackles  Nick Abendanon of Clermont Auvergne during the European  Champions Cup match at   Kingspan stadium in Belfast. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Coach admits that two bonus points earned by French side leaves them in control of pool

 Charles Piutau scores Ulster’s fifth  try in the European  Champions Cup match against  Clermont Auvergne at Kingspan stadium in  Belfast. Photograph: Darren Kidd/Inpho/Presseye

Clermont Auvergne take two bonus points back to France after nine-try thriller

Les Kiss: “If Clermont win they’re in charge of everything and then we’re pretty low in the points to be able to get one of those second-place spots.” Photograph: Jonathan Porter/Inpho/Presseye

Les Kiss missing several big names for intriguing clash against the French giants

AJ MacGinty will start at outhalf for Sale Sharks against Saracens. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images.

Holders Saracens name Will Skelton as a replacement for Sale Sharks encounter

Nicole Cronin of Ireland is tackled by Mathilde Coutouly of France during day one of the Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Photo: Tom Dulat/Getty Images

The IRFU is gradually bulding a profile for Irish Sevens on the international platform

Ireland and Ulster players Paddy Jackson and Rory Best will return for the province’s clash against Clermont Auvergne at the  Kingspan Stadium. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Injury-hit province strengthened by return of key players Paddy Jackson and Rory Best

Ross Byrne has been added to Leinster’s squad for Friday night’s Champions Cup clash with Northampton Saints. Photograph: Inpho/Donall Farmer

Ulster’s South Africa prop Wiehahn Herbst signs a new two-year deal at Ravenhill

Daniel Dass:  Former Belfast Royal Academy pupil will captain Cambridge University   against Oxford University  at Twickenham. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Daniel Dass, Brian du Toit and Jonathan Dixon all to line out at Twickenham

Brendan Macken scores for Wasps against Worcester last weekend. Photo: Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Wasps centre could retain his place in midfield for Champions Cup meeting

George North of Northampton  will not play against Leinster on Friday night. Photo:  Clive Mason/Getty Images

Northampton winger will be assessed by independent medical specialists

The presence of Iain Henderson in the backrow, returning from international duty, is a huge plus for Ulster. Photograph: Inpho

Iain Henderson’s presence in Les Kiss’s side will help to pack build solid platfrom

Marnitz Boshoff starts in the 10 jersey for Connacht this weekend. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Matt Healy is back after injury as Benetton Treviso travel to the Sportsground

Tommy O’Donnell:  the Tipperary man makes  his 100th appearance for Munster tonight when the province visit Glasgow Warriors. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Glasgow Warriors welcome back nine players from Scotland duty for intriguing clash

Jamie Heaslip is expected to follow Devin Toner and sign a new contract with Leinster. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Negotiations in relation to number eight’s contract believed to be at advanced stage

 Australia’s Bernard Foley  landed three of just six points conceded due to  Ireland penalties in recent Tests. Photograph: Colm O’Neill/Inpho

Joe Schmidt will be very pleased at discipline showed by players in autumn Tests

The Six Nations 2017 will be the first to have bonus points awarded in it. Photograph: Getty Images

Format follows Pro12 with one caveat - team that wins Grand Slam gets three extra points

CJ Stander has been named the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Player of the Year. He was honoured at the awards dinner in the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin. Photograph: Inpho

Ireland forward is also Munster’s Player of the Year for the second time in succession

Ireland’s Jared Payne: did not return to the pitch following half-time against Australia at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Reuters

Fears Irish centre, Payne may be ruled out until New Year with fractured rib cage

  Australia’s Dean Mumm is shown a yellow card by referee Jerome Garces last Saturday. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Australian flanker will receive no further sanction for his tackle on Tadhg Furlong

Ireland’s CJ Stander during the Autumn international Test against Australia at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photograph: Brendan Moran/Getty Images.

Players working hard for each other key to taking big scalps on international stage

Ireland’s Devin Toner is dumped by Bernard Foley of Australia in the last few minutes at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

John O’Sullivan looks at the main talking points after a hugely positive autumn series

Ireland’s captain Niamh Briggs has recovered from the hamstring injury that saw her miss the England and Canada games. Photograph: Inpho

Preview Ireland v New Zealand; Sunday – Belfield Bowl (2.0)

Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony during the captain’s run at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Munster must plan without O’Mahony who  returned to Ireland camp.

PRO12 PREVIEW: Saturday – Munster v Benetton Treviso, Thomond Park (2.0)

Ireland captain Rory Best and fefence coach Andy Farrell. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

‘I feel fit, happy with my game and the big thing for me is I’m really enjoying it’

15. Rob Kearney (Ireland). Photograph: All photos from Getty Images

John O’Sullivan takes a look at the two XVs who’ll do battle at the Aviva on Saturday

Flanker Chris Henry (left) returns to the Ulster team after injury. Photograph: Jonathan Porter/Inpho.

Province look in good shape to reignite season with victory over depleted Italian side

Dan Leavy in action against Castres at the RDS. Leavy, happily injury free, has consistently delivered on his prodigious ability this season. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Depth of Leo Cullen’s squad sure to be tested as visitors face difficult assignment in Wales

South African outhalf Marnitz Boshoff is set to make his Connacht debut from the bench. Photograph: James Crosbie/Inpho.

Cardiff present usual tough challenge but Pat Lam is quietly confident of taking home advantage

 Ireland’s Tiernan O’Halloran scores a try against Canada. The Connacht fullback has made more metres (634) than any other player in the PRO12. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Livepic/Reuters

Next two home games against Cardiff Blues and Treviso pivotal for Pat Lam’s side

Andrew Trimble on Rory Best: “He’s tough and rugged and hardy. He’s a guy I’ve looked up to for a long time.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland winger hails influence of captain who will win his 100th cap against Australia

Josh Van der Flier: made his senior Leinster debut just over two years ago. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Leinster flanker ready to make impact against Australia after showing against All Blacks

Munster duo Simon Zebo and Keith Earls are both in the mix to feature for Ireland against Australia on Saturday. Photograph: Inpho/Billy Stickland

CJ Stander and Rob Kearney following head injury protocols, Simon Zebo back training

Ireland’s Garry Ringrose runs past Aaron Smith of New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium where Ireland were defeated 9-21. Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images

Centre who replaced injured Henshaw after 11 minutes reflects on ‘really tough Test’

All Blacks captain Kieran Read came in for some criticism after his side’s win in Dublin. Photograph: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Unsurprisingly the Kiwi press had a slightly differing view on the All Blacks’ tackling

Ireland captain Rory Best in conversation with South African referee Jaco Peyper during the All Blacks’ 21-9 win at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Inpho/Billy Stickland

All Blacks well worthy of Dublin victory but their cause was aided by poor officiating

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen was proud of his team’s defence in their victory at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

New Zealand head coach unapologetic when asked about the legality of his team’s tackling

The AIG Rugby Weekend, Solider Field, Chicago, USA 5/11/2016Ireland vs New Zealand All BlacksThe Ireland team stand for the National AnthemMandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

A look at the Irish and All Black teams ahead of Saturday’s rematch in Dublin

Expect dinks, grubbers, cross-kicks, contestable box-kicks, and  long diagonal kicks or punts as All Blacks put boot to ball as they did against Italy last weekend. Photograph: Tony Gentile/Livepic

World champions likely to move away from running game employed in Soldier Field

Rob Kearney and Jamie Heaslip during an Ireland training session at carton House. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/inpho

Fullback expects a different New Zealand looking for revenge in Dublin

 Jack McGrath celebrates Ireland’s historic win against the All Blacks at Soldier Field in Chicago. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

New Zealand ‘weren’t at their best; we will definitely have to be at our best’, says prop

Brian O’Driscoll at the Ireland bid announcement for the 2023 Rugby World Cup at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

‘No matter where you go, you talk to people about the atmosphere and the welcome people get in Ireland’

IRFU chief executive Philip Browne with Brian O’Driscoll. Photograph: Inpho/Billy Stickland

‘We have 12 months to persuade the rest of the world that this is something worth doing’

Croke Park in Dublin.

Eight GAA grounds join four rugby stadiums as potential venues for 2023 tournament

Derry’s Celtic Park is one of 12 venues which could be used if Ireland host the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Photograph: Inpho/Lorcan Doherty

Derry’s Celtic Park named as one of 12 potential venues for the 2023 tournament

Ireland’s Sean Cronin is tackled by Lucas Rumball of Canada during Ireland’s 52-21 victory at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

‘It’s all about this week – there’s no looking back to Chicago,’ insists hooker Sean Cronin

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