Jamie Heaslip in training with the Leinster squad. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Inevitable that Matt O’Connor would make changes after loss to Toulon

Ian Madigan has been dropped for Leinster’s must win Pro 12 game against Ulster at Ravenhill. Photograph: Inpho

Gordon D’Arcy returns to take the number 12 jersey as Matt O’Connor makes four changes

Leinster’s Rob Kearney if tackled by Matt Giteau of Toulon during the European Champions Cup semi-final at Stade Velodrome, Marseille. Photograph: Billy Stickland.

Playing Ulster in Belfast a big test of character, says Rob Kearney

Tommy Bowe is happy to be back with Ulster after a spell with the Ospreys. Photograph: Inpho

Winger says he was happy to return home after spell in Wales took heavy toll on body

Toulon flanker Steffon Armitage  collides with Cian Healy during the European Champions Cup  semi final  in Marseille. Photograph: Boris Horvat/AFP/Getty Images

Leinster flanker was left with sour taste in mouth after breakdown battle with Toulon

Leinster head coach Matt O’Connor speaking to the press ahead of his side’s Pro12 clash with Ulster in Ravenhill. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Leinster coach says he has been honest with IRFU on issue

Leinster prop Marty Moore looks set to miss the rest of the season as he is due to undergo a second surgery this season on a shoulder injury. Photo:    Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Prop set for second operation since October on injury picked up against Toulon

Munster’s first Irish captain Jim McCarthy has passed away at the age of 91. Photo: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Cork native won 28 caps and was a member of the 1948 Grand Slam-winning side

Ulster and Leinster face off in Ravenhill this weekend. Photograph: Inpho.

Matt O’Connor’s men need wins, plenty of tries and other results to go their way

Bryan Habana vies for a high ball with Fergus McFadden, who is out for the rest of the season with a thumb injury. Photograph: Bertrand Langlois/AFP/Getty Images

Ireland winger has endured dismal season with thumb injury the latest setback

Ian Madigan’s fateful pass, which was intercepted for the Bryan Habana of Toulon’s extra-time try at the Stade Vélodrome. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho.

Maverick skills of Ian Madigan get lost in one moment of calamity

Steffon Armitage was the difference really. At least three textbook turnovers killed Leinster momentum.

Gavin Cummiskey assesses the performances of both sets of players as Toulon reach yet another final

Frédéric Michalak in action for Toulon against Wasps in the quarter-final of the European Champions Cup. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Toulon outhalf has resurrected a career that has long mixed the flaky with flawless

Leinster captain Jamie Heaslip directs play during their European Rugby Champions Cup quarter-final victory over Bath at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Photograph: Inpho

Leinster team to face Toulon at Stade Velodrome

Toulon’s Ali Williams dives to score a try against Wasps in their  European Rugby Champions Cup quarter-final at Stade Flix Mayol, Toulon. Photograph: Inpho

Toulon team to face Leinster at Stade Velodrome

Sean O’Brien returns to the Leinster starting line-up for Sunday’s Champions Cup semi-final against Toulon. Photograph: Inpho

Matt O’Connor goes with the same line-up as the quarter-final for Stade Velodrome clash

FAI chief executive John Delaney speaking at Croke Park, where Irish Sports Council Funding was announced for the FAI, IRFU and GAA for 2015. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

GAA, IRFU chiefs happy to answer questions on range of topics but not FAI counterpart

CEO for the IRFU speaks on camera at the Irish Sports Council Funding for FAI, IRFU and GAA for 2015 in Croke Park. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.

Making live coverage exclusive to terrestrial television could potentially ruin Irish rugby

 Toulon’s Ali Williams in action against Wasps in their European Champions Cup quarter-final. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Lock says financial divide needs to be solved to avoid ruining international game

Leinster’s Fergus McFadden is set to return for the European Champions Cup semi final. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

‘We’ve been poor this year. We haven’t gelled together...It’s come down to 80 minutes’

Grenoble  flanker Rory Grice scores one of his side’s four tries against Toulon in their Top 14 35-24 defeat. Photograph: Jean-Pierre Clatot/AFP Photo

Grenoble coach believes Leinster can cause an upset in their Champions Cup semi-final

DUBIan Madigan’s kicks were crucial but can Leinster win without Johnny Sexton. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Gopperth-Madigan-Te’o aren’t a poor trio, they just aren’t Sexton-D’Arcy-O’Driscoll

Mils Muliaina’s Connacht salary could have covered the cost of an astonishing 60 academy players. Photograph: Craig Thomas/Inpho

Fullback returns after injury-broken season for Challenge Cup quarter-final

Mike Ford:  Circuitous Rugby League career took him, by chance, to Ireland in January 2002. Photograph: Getty Images

Ireland’s former defensive coach the guiding influence with Champions Cup contenders

All Black legend has only made 10 appearances for Pat Lam’s side so far this season

Jordi Murphy is set to start for Leinster against Bath in the Champions Cup. Photograph: Inpho

Matt O’Connor set to start Heaslip, O’Brien and Murphy in Aviva Stadium Champions Cup game

Charles Piutau, seen here in  action for Auckland Blues in March, will join Ulster on a two-year deal from this summer. Photograph:   Michael Bradley/AFP/Getty Images

Versatile All Blacks and Auckland Blues back looking forward to moving to Belfast

Peter Stringer will leave Bath at the end of the season. Photograph: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

Former Ireland scrumhalf will be involved at Aviva, says Bath coach

Republic of Ireland midfielder  Wes Hoolahan holds off the challenge of Poland’s  Tomasz Jodlowiec during the Euro 2016 Group D qualifying  at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Gavin Cummiskey marks Martin O’Neill’s men out of ten after their late Euro qualifier draw

Isaac Boss stretches to score his second try to secure a bonus point for Leinster in their Guinness Pro 12 clash against Glasgow Warriors at the RDS. Photograph:   James Crombie/Inpho

Down 27-7 at half-time Matt O’Connor’s side ended up taking three points at RDS

 Ulster’s Paddy Jackson returns to action against Cardiff after recovering from a cracked elbow suffered against Toulon. Photograph: Franck Pennant/INPHO/Presseye

Stuart Olding also returns and the pair could yet find themselves in the Ireland reckoning

Ian Madigan: will assume the place-kicing duties for Leinster against Glasgow. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Absence of several first-teamers ensures a tough assignment for Matt O’Connor’s side

Leinster head coach Matt O’Connor: “There are a lot of games in the Pro 12 that are impacted on by the lack of availability of Test players.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Coach says the player management system needs to be restructured

Luke Fitzgerald takes on the Scotland defence at Murrayfield, Edinburgh. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Resurgent Leinster winger encapsulates belief now flowing through Ireland squad

Larissa Muldoon, Sophie Spence, Gillian Bourke and Ailis Egan celebrate at the final whistle in Broadwood Stadium, Cumbernauld. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

The strength of our women rugby players should be cherished

Ireland’s Jared Payne scores his side’s  third try during the Six  Nations Championship match at Murrayfield, Edinburgh. Photograph: Inpho

Six Nations champions show there’s still little something up sleeve ahead of World Cup

Tom Tierney talking to the Irish backs during the captain’s run recently. The Grand Slam may have slipped out of reach but a second Six Nations in three years is within touching distance. Photograph: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Tom Tierney’s side have found a rhythm since that dark night against the French

Luke Fitzgerald: “I don’t think I can do what Simon [Zebo] does. I can do what I do.” Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Winger feels ‘in great position to kick on’ after unlucky international career so far

Ireland’s Sophie Spence. “You can only get better if you are playing at that level against international sides.” Photograph: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Secondrow believes extra international matches are needed to develop depth

Ireland captain Paul O’Connell and Seán O’Brien react to a decision by referee Wayne Barnes during the Six Nations defeat to Wales at the Millennium Stadium. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Ireland coach says Jack McGrath’s scrummaging against Wales was ‘very correct’

Luke Fitzgerald starts for Ireland against Scotland - his first international start since 2011. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Leinster winger makes his first Ireland start since 2011 after battling string of injuries

Ireland captain and fullback Niamh Briggs clears her lines during the Women’s  Six Nations match against Wales  at St Helen’s  in Swansea. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Niamh Briggs’s team playing for both championship and Triple crown honours

Dan Trayers scores Cistercian’s second try in the semi-final against Newbridge. Trayers in the main man in the lineout for Roscrea. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Both Cistercian and Belvedere enter final of brilliant tournament with battle scars

Ireland wing Alison Miller: “It was always going to be a time when other players stepped up.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho.

Events at Twickenham could have bearing as Irish and French battle for title

Ireland’s Paul O’Connell is tackled by Luke Charteris of Wales during their Six Nations match at the Millennium StadiCardiff, Wales. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Wales coaching staff got tactical drop on Joe Schmidt before match began

Peter O’Mahony wins a lineout during their SixNations Championship match at the  Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales. Photograph: Inpho

Jared Payne highlights combination of good Welsh defence and poor Irish decision making

Robin McBryde: “You’ve got to be confident going in against Ireland”

Robin McBryde, Shane Williams and Victor Costello try to predict where and how the Six Nations match at the Millennium Stadium wi(...)

Jackie Shiels return to midfield alongside Jenny Murphy which should improve the distribution out wide against Wales. Photograph: Inpho

Women’s Six Nations Preview: Wales v Ireland, Swansea RFC, 12pm – Live on 2FM

Ben Te’o is continuing his rugby union education with the Leinster A side. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho.

British and Irish Cup final place up for grabs in Worcester

Jamie Heaslip: recovered from the three cracked vertebrae caused by Pascal Pape’s knee. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Ireland’s experienced number eight praises Warren Gatland’s coaching nous

Shane Williams dives past Ireland’s Keith Earls to score a Welsh try during the 2011 Rugby World Cup quarter-final in New Zealand. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty.

Retired Wales international believes modern game has no place for small men

Jackie Shiels has been named in the Ireland starting line-up against Wales.

Centre returns in place of the injured Katie Fitzhenry for Sunday’s match in Wales

Roscrea’s Dan Trayers scores his side’s second try against Newbridge during yesterday’s semi-final at Donnybrook. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Joe Murphy try secures a one-point win and a final date with Belvedere

Dublin’s Nicky Devereux Tyrone’s and Mattie Donnelly challenge for the ball during Friday night’s game at Croke Park. Photograph: Inpho/Cathal Noonan

Dublin manager and Tyrone opposite number Mickey Harte share similar views despite differing styles

Brian O’Driscoll celebrates winning the 2009 Grand Slam with his father Frank. O’Driscoll was represented by his father for much of his career and Frank O’Driscoll has given some advice to Tom Henshaw. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Parents as representatives in nothing new in rugby as agents remain strictly regulated

Iain Henderson: returned to the Ireland squad as a replacement against England following his recuperation from a hip injury. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Luke Marshall and Roger Wilson cited after Ulster’s defeat of Scarlets on Friday

Newbride’s Jake Howlett is tackled by Tim Foley of Cistercian College Roscrea during the Leinster Schools Senior Cup semi-final at Donnybrook. Photograph:    Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Keith Kavanagh’s second-half try squares things up in senior semi-final

Jack Clarke of Belvedere College celebrates at the end of the game. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho.

Brave Clongowes comeback falls just short in an enthralling semi-final

Ireland’s Robbie Hensaw: the try scorer and man of the match in Sunday’s Six Nations match with England will see out his contract with Connacht. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Leinster, Munster and several European clubs expected to want to sign Ireland centre

Ireland’s women’s rugby team: Indications from within World Rugby appear to make Ireland favourites to host the 2017 World Cup ahead of England and South Africa. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

IRFU proposes that pool matches be played in UCD with knockout stages in Belfast

 Simon Zebo competes for a high ball with George Ford during Sunday’s action at the Aviva Stadium:  Ireland kicked the ball 44 times compared with England’s 27.  Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Stuart Lancaster admits he knew an aerial bombardment was coming from Ireland

Ireland’s Shane Horgan scores a try against England at Croke Park  following a crossfield kick by  Ronan O’Gara. Photo: Alan Betson

The atmosphere in Dublin will be special as we once again welcome ‘the old enemy’

Ireland’s Alison Miller and Jenny Murphy celebrate the Women’s Six Nations Championship victory over England at   Ashbourne RFC. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Penalty after 76 minutes sees off England in Ashbourne

Jordi Murphy comes in to replace Jamie Heaslip for Sunday’s Six Nations fixture against England. Photograph: INPHO

Joe Schmidt keeps Cian Healy on the bench while Eoin Reddan comes in for Isaac Boss

Ireland’s Rory Best performs a choke tackle on France’s Rory Kockott during the recent Six Nations game at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Wales assistant coach says increasing resort to the tackle is a blight on the game

Ireland flanker Paula Fitzpatrick has been in outstanding form in the Six Nations campaign. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Tom Tierney’s side face an England side that blew Ireland away in Paris semi-final

 Dylan Hartley: One of the few sportsmen who instil fear with a look. Photograph: Getty Images

Northampton captain to put mistakes behind him as Lancaster’s England side seek title

Alex Goode is poised to start at fullback should Mike Brown fails to prove his fitness. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Tom Wood, Courtney Lawes and Geoff Parling released to clubs ahead of Ireland clash

Stuart Lancaster’s England squad training at Pennyhill Park in Bagshot, Surrey, ahead of Sunday’s Six Nations clash against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Stuart Lancaster’s powerful side aiming for fifth win in row over Ireland

Wales’ George North leaves the field to be assessed after a head injury during the Six Nations match against England at the Millennium Stadium. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA Wire.

Clubs, doctors and physios, as well as rugby’s official bodies, are in firing line on concussion

Clongowes Wood captain John Molony seemed to suffer a head injury during Clongowes’ victory over St Michael’s College in the Leinster schools cup quarter-final.  Photograph: Colm O’Neill/INPHO

Peter Robinson has questioned why captain John Molony was allowed to play on

Ireland outhalf Jonathan Sexton  is given treatment for a cut to his eye after a clash of heads with France’s Mathieu Bastareaud during the Six Nations at Aviva Stadium. Photograph:   Michael Steele/Getty Images

Recent high-profile cases mean rugby can no longer ignore the elephant in the room

The Ireland and French teams are in the dark after a floodlight generator problem at the Women’s Six Nations Championship match at Milltown House, Ashbourne RFC, Co Meath. Photograph: Inpho

Despite defending their spiritual home in Ashbourne, the side deserve a better venue

Richardt Strauss was one of three Leinster players forced off with a head injury during Sunday’s Pro 12 loss to Newport Gwent Dragons. (Photograph: INPHO/Colm O’Neill)

Leinster coach watched as three of his charges forced off with head injuries during Dragons loss

 Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton leaves the pitch to be treated for a head injury. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Johnny Sexton among four players forced to leave field with Spedding unable to return

Johnny Sexton was named man of the match in Ireland’s 18-11 Six nations win over France at the Aviva Stadium.  (Photograph: REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton)

Heroes to a man, but which Ireland players were the pick of the bunch in the win over France?

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre. “He may  be a practical coach but the French media stone him for his inability to settle upon a team.” Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

Inconsistent selection and brutish, forward-orientated tactics testing the patience of the French fans

 Ireland’s Jenny Murphy and Alison Miller are dejected after defeat to France. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Visitors hold on in Ashbourne as darkness falls on Ireland’s Six Nations hopes

Irish and France women in darkness as the lights go out at Ashbourne RFC in Six Nations. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho.

Brave finish from Irish but France just shade it after venue's lights go out twice

 Ben Te’o gets a long overdue fourth appearance for Leinster against the Dragons on Sunday, having so far only played 87 minutes of rugby union. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Australian lock might be tempted to return home by Michael Cheika before World Cup

Ireland women’s captain’s run at Ashbourne RFC, Co Meath, ahead of their second match of the Six Nations against France. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Hosts without wing Hannah Tyrell who has been replaced by Aoife Doyle after concussion

Cian Healy returned to action more quickly than expected. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Seán O’Brien and Cian Healy could no longer be spared with huge matches on horizon

Johnny Sexton during a training session at Carton House. Photograph: PA

Ex-French international Laurent Bénézech warns of risk starting against Les Bleus

Johnny  Sexton will play his first game since November’s win over Australia when Ireland take on France in the Six Nations this weekend. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Ireland and Munster flanker Peter O’Mahony admits ‘the fear is always there with France’

 Roscrea players celebrate scoring a try at the death against Blackrock College in the Leinster Schools’ Senior Cup quarter-final in Donnybrook.  Photograph: Marcus Sheridan / Inpho

2015 the year of the underdog as south Dublin behemoth go the way of St Michael’s

 Ireland’s Katie Fitzhenry on the attack against Italy. The Blackrock back will start at inside centre against France. Photograph: Ivan Marianelli / Inpho

‘What they (France) lack in experience they make up for in pure aggressiveness and eagerness’

Ireland’s Ian Keatley in action against Italy. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire.

It’s taken him a while, but Munster outhalf is starting to look like a true international

Tommy O’Donnell gets over the line to score Ireland’s second try against Italy at Stadio Olimpico, Rome. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho.

Seán O’Brien’s injury gives Tipperary backrow a chance to shine against Italy

Sean O’Brien was forced to withdraw from the Ireland team ahead of the 26-3 victory over Italy in Rome after damaging his hamstring during the warm-up and is now a doubt for Saturday’s fixture against France at the Aviva Stadium. (Photograph: INPHO/Dan Sheridan)

Ireland backrow damaged hamstring in warm-up before victory over Italy in Rome

Niamh Briggs and  Nora Stapleton: Ireland will be hoping to repeat their 2013 Grand Slam. They face Italy today in their opening match of the Six Nations.  Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

The team have new players and new coaching staff but should have strength to beat Italy

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has a word with his outhalf Ian Keatley at training this morning. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland coach explains rationale for picking Munster outhalf this weekend

Ian Keatley’s impressive form, despite Munster troubles in Europe, sees him glide past Ian Madigan in the outhalf pecking order. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Munster outhalf will make first Six Nations appearance against Italy on Saturday

Tom Tierney, coach of Ireland women, as well as Glenstal Abbey and Cork Constitution, says it has taken a lot of work to fit them all into his schedule. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Former scrumhalf is coaching three sides but believes Ireland are ready for Italy clash

Size is the bottom line in rugby and the key to optimising physical power is getting access to players when they are young, writes(...)

Ireland’s Conor Murray in action: the scrumhalf has  been passed fit to play against Italy in Rome this Saturday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Schmidt still looking for best centre pairing since departure of O’Driscoll last season

The flanker defends Leinster coach Matt O’Connor against criticism

Mike Ross at Ireland training in Carton House, Co. Kildare. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Coach Joe Schmidt still favours veterans Mike Ross and Gordon D’Arcy

onathan Sexton during kicking practice at Twickenham last year. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland outhalf talks though his place-kicking routine in promo for Investec

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