Jimmy Gopperth: “We just have to be mentally on because it is going to be a knockout game of international standard.” Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Former Leinster outhalf braced for a massive challenge from his former team-mates

Republic of Ireland full back  Cyrus Christie closes down Iceland’s Ari Skulason during the friendly international  match at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph:  Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Séamus Coleman’s plight on the minds of Ireland’s players at the Aviva

Republic of Ireland’s John Egan beats Iceland’s Kristjan Finnbogason to the ball during their friendly encounter at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Gavin Cummiskey runs the rule over Martin O’Neill’s men after their disappointing loss

Eddie Jones expects 15 of his England squad to make this summer’s Lion tour - with owen Farrell among the front runners. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty

England coach: ‘They performed above themselves, we performed below ourselves’

Johnny Sexton played the full 80 minutes as Ireland stopped England from securing the Grand Slam. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Opposition blueprint for beating Ireland seems to centre around stopping outhalf

Maro Itoje grabs Johnny Sexton’s jersey during the Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Kilcoyne/Reuters

Ireland captain repeatedly asked referee Jerome Garces about English late hits

Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony wins a lineout ahead of England’s Maro Itoje during the Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph:  James Crombie/Inpho

Joe Schmidt refutes suggestions that late backrow change was tactical

Maro Itoje was the second best shot-putting schoolboy in England. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

England prodigy is captain-material and will seek to tick off Dublin on way to greatness

Ireland’s Jenny Murphy  runs at the  England defence during the Women’s Six Nations match against England at Donnybrook. Photograph:   James Crombie/Inpho

Ireland had their opportunities at a packed Donnybrook before late scoring spree

The Belvedere College players celebrate after their Leinster Schools Senior Cup final against Blackrock College at the RDS.  Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

A late Blackrock surge was repelled in thrilling finale at a wet and windy RDS

Nora Stapleton during Ireand’s Captain’s Run in Donnybrook Stadium. Team sponsors Aon will vacate their front of jersey sponsorship for ICHH, a charity fighting homelessness in Dublin since 2013, for the Grand Slam decider against England. Photograph: Inpho

Women’s Six Nations Championship: Ireland v England, Donnybrook, 8pm (RTÉ 2)

Blackrock College’s Mark Phelan scores a try against Gonzaga in the Leinster Senior Cup semi-final at Donnybrook. Photograph: Inpho

Preview: Leinster Senior Schools Cup: Blackrock College v Belvedere College, RDS, 2pm (Eir Sport)

A purple-eyed Johnny Sexton during Ireland training. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Absence of sidekick Murray puts pressure on Ireland outhalf to bring his best to Aviva

Conor Murray is out of the starting VX among three changes to the Ireland team to face England in the Six Nations finale. Photo: Inpho

Joe Schmidt makes a total of three changes to his starting lineup for final match

Current Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell watches his son Owen practise place-kicking during his time as part of the England backroom team. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

England centre shows his defensive qualities when topic of Andy Farrell is brought up

 England head coach Eddie Jones faces the media at Pennyhill Park, Bagshot, England, on Monday. Photograph:  David Rogers/Getty Images

‘It’s going to be raining high balls . . . fans at Lansdowne Road love it,’ says English coach

 Eddie Jones, the England head coach, faces the media at Pennyhill Park on Monday morning. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

The English head coach expects an Irish backlash in Dublin on Saturday evening

Hannah Tyrrell  (left) celebrates with team-mates after scoring Ireland’s second try against Wales in Six Nations clash on Saturday. Photograph: Ian Cook/Inpho

England hammer Scotland 64-0 ahead of St Patrick's Day showdown at Donnybrook

Robbie Henshaw after Ireland’s brutal Six Nations defeat to Wales in Cardiff. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Bullocking centre says ending England’s run adds Chicago-esque incentive to Dublin game

 Danny Care  scores England’s  seventh try in the whopping 40-point victory over outclassed Scotland at Twickenham. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty

Eddie Jones’s side look unstoppable with their potent mixture of power, pace and skill

England celebrate their Calcutta Cup victory over Scotland, a result which secured the Six Nations title. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty

England coach starts psychological war as they seek back-to-back Grand Slams

Ireland’s Hannah Tyrrell celebrates scoring her side’s second try. Photograph: Ian Cook/Inpho

Basic skill defects consistently ended attacks on either side, but Ireland do enough

 Joe Schmidt says Johnny Sexton’s yellow card was crucial in the defeat at the Principality Stadium. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

‘It was going at 100 miles an hour and then when it got into the 22s it started to chug’

Game will be emotional for Wales after death of 20-year-old international Elli Norkett

The players react as the final whistle blows at the Principality Stadium. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images

‘It was going at 100 miles an hour and then when it got into the 22s it started to chug’

Robbie Henshaw is penalised by Wayne Barnes for entering the maul at the side - a big turning point in Ireland’s Six Nations defeat to Wales. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP

George North one of a number of players who silenced the critics after defeat to Scotland

Johnny Sexton is injured in a clash with Wales centre Jonathan Davies at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff. Photograph: Getty Images

Wales needed this victory more and they snatched it off Sexton’s late error in Cardiff

Conor Murray faces his main competition for the Lions number nine jersey, Rhys Webb, in Cardiff on Friday night. Photograph: David Davies/PA

The two main Lions scrumhalf hopes face off at the Millennium Stadium on Friday night

Devin Toner at Ireland’s base at Carton House, Co Kildare. “It’s hugely competitive. There are so many good secondrows out there.” Photograph: Inpho

Jamie Heaslip has little to say ahead of reaching a milestone of 100 caps in Cardiff

Garry Ringrose during an Irish training session at Carton House this week, he retains the number 13 jersey for Friday night’s trip to Cardiff. Photograph: Inpho

‘I haven’t had any conversations with Wayne,’ Schmidt said on Wednesday

Blackrock’s Tom Roche powers past Sean Galvin of Gonzaga during their Leinster Senior Cup Semi-Final at Donnybrook. Photo: Gary Carr/Inpho

The southside school will take on northside rivals Belevedere in the final in 10 days time

Belvedere’s Max Kearney is tackled by Tom Monaghan and Matthew Martin of Clongowes during the Bank of Ireland Leinster Senior Cup semi-final at Donnybrook. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Phil Werahiko’s side play to strengths to book place in St Patrick’s Day decider

Ieland’s Devin Toner, Sean O’Brien and Paul O’Connell react to referee Wayne Barnes’ controversial late  decision against the visitors in Cardiff in 2015. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Ireland have been incredibly disciplined in reducing the penalty count against them

Ian Madigan will join Bristol from   Bordeaux-Begles in a deal worth over €1.5 million over three years. Photograph: Nicolas Tucat/AFP/Getty Images

Ireland international signs three-year deal with English club worth over €1.5m

Ireland’s Claire McLaughlin with Elodie Poublan of France during their Six Nations encounter in Donnybrook. Photo: Inpho

Women’s coach hit back at questions over removal of players from Six Nations squad

Ireland players celebrate Leah Lyons scoring a try during the Women’s Six Nations Championship match against France at  Donnybrook. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Title challenge still on course after tight win in stop-start affair

Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton kicks a drop goal in their Six Nations win over France. Photo: Colm O’Neill/Inpho

The outhalf was excellent against France and came in for praise from coach Joe Schmidt

 Tadhg Furlong put in another mammoth shift as Ireland ground it out against France in Dublin. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Gavin Cummiskey runs the rule over Joe Schmidt’s side after attritional French win

Vincent Clerc scored seven tries in four matches against Ireland between 2004 and 2008, including the winner at Croke Park in 2007. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Ireland’s tormentor-in-chief believes old boss Guy Noves can deliver success for Les Bleus

 Sophie Spence finally returns to the second row after a long-term issue with concussion. Photograph:  Giuseppe Fama/Inpho

Ireland’s Sene Naoupu, Ali Miller and Hannah Tyrrell absent for high-profile game

Andy Farrell: “I was unbelievably proud to be part of that.” Photograph: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

On 10th anniversary of 43-13 Croke Park win, defence coach recalls incredible pressure

Johnny Sexton will be braced for another physical afternoon against France as he returns to the Ireland side for Saturday’s Six Nations clash. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Coach Yannick Bru says Johnny Sexton’s return doesn’t change Les Bleu’s plans

Ireland’s Sene Naoupu will be unavailable for Ireland women when they take on France due to Sevens commitments. Photograph: Giuseppe Fama/Inpho

Naoupu, Miller and Tyrrell will play Sevens rather than for Ireland against France

Jonathan Sexton talks to his Irish teammates in training ahead of Saturday’s Six Nations clash. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Joe Schmidt’s team are looking for second Six Nations win against France on Saturday

Ian Madigan: “If it did happen that they decided to release me and an opportunity to come back to Ireland came up, it definitely would be something that would excite me.” Photograph:  Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ireland international outlines his time with Bordeaux and how his international ambitions will guide any future decisions

Ireland outhalves Ian Madigan and Paddy Jackson went head  head to head when Bordeaux-Begles’ hosted Ulster in the Champions Cup pool stages. Photograph: Nicolas Tucat/AFP/Getty Images

Outhalf says clear-the-air talks with Bordeaux president was gamble worth taking

Sene Naoupu and Alison Miller: Irish management will  confirm at Thursday’s team announcement if they will face France. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Sene Naoupu, Hannah Tyrrell and Ali Miller could travel to Las Vegas for tournament on March 3rd and 4th

Outhalf Ian Madigan has struggled to hold down a first-team place at Bordeaux-Bégles. Photograph: Nicolas Tucat/AFP/Getty Images

Ireland outhalf must wait for club to sign replacement before making next move

Leinster’s Bryan Byrne streches over to score a try during the Guinness Pro 12 game against Edinburgh at the RDS. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Leo Cullen’s side go top of Pro 12 but at a cost after high injury count high

Ireland’s Garry Ringrose celebrates scoring their seventh try with teammates in their Six Nations win over Italy in Rome. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Gavin Cummiskey runs the rule over Joe Schmidt’s charges after a convincing win

Italy clash will be Cian Healy’s first Six Nations start since March 2015.  Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland prop has struggled for three seasons having burst on scene as ultimate loosehead

Conor Murray: “It’s our team and we want to put it right. We slipped up last weekend.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Ireland camp still seemingly bemused by the errors that contributed to defeat in Scotland

Cian Healy has come in to the Ireland team to face Italy in their second Six Nations match in Rome on Saturday. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Joe Schmidt again referenced last week’s delay as a factor in defeat to Scotland

Eimear Considine: “This is a chance to be the best you can be and play with the best.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Clare woman part of mass migration of football and camogie players to oval ball game

“If you let a let a player like Finn Russell take a couple of steps and throw 20 metre passes to guys like Hogg, Seymour, Maitland on the wings you are always going to be struggling.” Photograph:   Andy Buchanan/Getty Images

Joe Schmidt’s disappointed players expect torrid Monday morning in Carton House

Dejection: Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw, Conor Murray and Paddy Jackson after the defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Scrumhalf’s performance at Murrayfield sprinkled with enough brilliance to keep the faith

The Ireland team bus arrived eight minutes late at Murrayfield ahead of their opening Six Nations defeat to Scotland. Photograph: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Team bus arrived at Murrayfield eight minutes late before a sluggish first half

Ireland Under 20 head coach Nigel Carolan. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

‘There’s guys there without a doubt who’ll be playing international rugby in a few years’

Scotland’s Greig Laidlaw celebrates his team’s victory. Photograph: Reuters

Joe Schmidt: We arrived in Edinburgh late, and were late to most things thereafter

Ireland’s Jenny Murphy celebrates scoring the winning try during the Women’s Six Nations game against Scotland at Broadwood Stadium in Cumbernauld. Photograph:  Craig Watson/Inpho

Tom Tierney’s side relieved to gain maximum points after error-strewn display

Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton after picking up an injury during the Six Nations match against Italy at the Aviva stadium last year. Photograph: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile/Corbis via Getty Images

Outhalf has completed just one match for Ireland and Leinster this season and five in the last 12 months

Garry Ringrose: ‘It was an opportunity to go in and train with the best players in Ireland. It wasn’t an opportunity that came around to every 19-year-old.’ Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

The Leinster youngster has made a promising start for Ireland but Scotland awaits

Mairead Coyne is backed up by Alison Miller in the Ireland v England match on November 13th. Photograph: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

It won’t be the thrashing of 2015, but Irish expect a convincing win over improved Scotland

Joe Schmidt addresses the media after announcing the Ireland side to play Scotland in the opening Six Nations game on Saturday. Photograph:   Gary Carr/Inpho

Ireland coach says outhalf has ‘outside chance’ of playing against Italy

Ireland’s Claire Molloy in action against England at Belfield: “We have a lot of pride in the green shirt.” Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Galway woman switched from GAA to rugby due to pursuing her medical studies in Cardiff

The Australian has turned the fortunes of English rugby with his fearless attitude

In a recent Champions Cup match, the HIA was completed successfully in under four minutes by Leinster’s Johnny Sexton. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

World Rugby maintained the Berlin gathering had labelled the protocol as ‘field leading’

Ian Madigan’s Bordeaux Bégles team play Clermont Auvergne this Sunday so even if he had been selected by Joe Schmidt he would be unable to join the Irish camp in Carton House. Photograph: Inpho

Starting XV all but picks itself but there is genuine competition for the replacements

Munster’s Ian Keatley celebrates scoring Munster’s third try against Racing 92 in the Champions Cup clash at Thomond Park in Limerick. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Peter O’Mahony leads by example as Erasmus’s side book seal a home quarter-final

Racing 92 defence coach Ronan O’Gara during the French side’s Champions Cup game against Munster at Thomond Park on Saturday. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho.

Racing 92 defence coach remains upbeat despite defeat to Munster at Thomond Park

Racing 92 assistant coach Ronan O’Gara ahead of the start of the  Champions Cup game against Munster at Thomond Park on Saturday. Photograph:   Billy Stickland/ Inpho

Former Irish and Munster outhalf relishes return to Thomond Park despite defeat

Munster’s Simon Zebo scores a first half try despite the attentions of Matthieu Voisin and Maxime Machenaud of Racing 92. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

CJ Stander again to the fore as Munster see off Ronan O’Gara’s visiting Racing team

CJ Stander and Jean Kleyn stand shoulder to shoulder with their Munster team-mates. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

CJ Stander, Jaco Taute and Jean Kleyn provide powerful framework of raw power

RC Toulon’s Leigh Halfpenny and nous of Matt Giteau can end Saracens’ 11 game European win record at home. Photograph: Getty Images

European Champions Cup previews: Glasgow need to beat Leicester to reach knockout stages

Munster’s Tommy O’Donnell, above in action against  Racing 92 at Stade Yves-du-Manoir, Paris, returns at openside while and Peter O’Mahony remains at blindside. Photograph: Inpho

Champions Cup: Munster v Racing 92, Thomond Park, Saturday, 5.30pm – Sky Sports 2

Donegal captain Michael Murphy is temporarily swapping Gaelic football for rugby with Top 14 team Clermont Auvergne as part of The Toughest Trade. Photograph: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile.

Donegal captain not concerned about making temporary step up to professional rugby

Leinster’s Hayden Triggs has an altercation with Montpellier’s Nic White during the European Champions Cup match at the RDS. Photograph: PA

Frans Steyn’s ‘dangerous tackle’ on Leinster outhalf Johnny Sexton will also be reviewed

Kieran Treadwell must back up Ulster coach  Les Kiss’s big selection call at secondrow. Photograph: Inpho

European Champions Cup – Pool 5 preview: David Shanahan takes over at scrumhalf

Leinster’s Johnny Sexton gets high tackled by Frans Steyn of Montpellier for which he later received a red card. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Frans Steyn was shown a red card for a forearm to the jaw and neck of Johnny Sexton

Leinster’s Johnny Sexton gets high tackled by Frans Steyn of Montpellier for which he later received a red card in their European Champions Cup tie at the  RDS, Dublin. Photograph: Inpho

Leo Cullen’s side produces arguably the most impressive 26 minutes since the Millennium Stadium miracle of 2011

On borrowed time? Stadio Moletolo, home of the struggling  Zebre  franchise. Photograph: Francesca Soli/Inpho

Financial problems of Parma club suggest restructuring of Italian game is inevitable

Craig Ronaldson, Steve Crosbie and Niyi Adeolokun during a Connacht training session at the Sportsground, Galway. Photograph: Inpho

Pat Lam’s side are level on 13 points with Wasp and Toulouse but trail in tries scored

Johnny Sexton eased back into action as Leinster hammered Zebre at the RDS. Photograph: Inpho/Dan Sheridan

Outhalf’s blossoming partnership with Luke McGrath one highlight of a big mismatch

Munster’s James Cronin and Jack Carty of Connacht. Connacht’s outhalf crisis appears to have been temporarily allayed by  Carty’s return, with Ciarán Gaffney, providing cover. Photograph: INPHO/James Crombie

Connacht may have along afternoon as they face Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric

Paul Marshal: will start at scrumhalf for Ulster against Scarlets. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Victory in Wales without Charles Piutau and Ruan Pienaar seems like too great a task

Ruan Pienaar is facing at least a month out after undergoing knee surgery. Photograph: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Ulster scrumhalf injured knee in Leinster loss and facing at least a month on sidelines

Jamie Heaslip has agreed a new deal to remain at Leinster under national contract until 2020. Photograph: Inpho/Ryan Byrne

Contract yet to be signed but Ireland number eight looks set to finish career in Dublin

Johnny Sexton returns to action for Leinster against Zebre on Friday night. Photograph: Inpho/Tommy Dickson

Ireland and Leinster’s talisman back in the saddle for Zebre after latest injury lay-off

Ulster coach Neil Doak. Photograph:  Matt Mackey/Presseye/Inpho

Les Kiss has a shortage of players available at scrumhalf, outhalf and in the frontrow

England prop Joe Marler had some choice words for rugby’s administrators in relation to the new laws.  Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

New law interpretations designed to reduce head injuries as worries around concussion continue to grow

Munster’s Tommy O’Donnell is led off the field at the Sportsground. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Pro12 leaders enter crucial period of season with three Champions Cup matches in row

Leinster’s Adam Byrne is tackled by Darren Cave of Ulster during their Pro12 clash at the RDS. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Hosts can’t force bonus point in a forgettable fixture despite absence of Ulster’s big guns

Francis Saili’s return has come at a good time for a depleted Munster. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Pro12’s form team Munster also weakened as they seek to retain lead at the top of table

Leinster’s Jack Conan: standout player in  defeat by Munster makes way for Jamie Heaslip in Ulster clash. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Leinster welcome back internationals for sold-out RDS clash with northern rivals

Leinster and Ireland’s loss was Wasps’ gain when Martin Moore left for pastures new. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

IRFU high performance director has had his doubters but ends year very much in credit

The Leinster number eight would ease into the first team at most of Europe’s top teams

Leinster’s Rory O’Loughlin. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Ipho

Leinster back is another who has been plucked from Dublin 4’s rugby conveyor belt

 Johnny Sexton: set to return for Leinster against Ulster at the RDS on New Year’s Eve.  Photograph: Inpho/Camerasport

Ireland outhalf could be back in action in the New Year’s Eve clash against Ulster

Munster’s Jaco Taute will now stay until the end of the season. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Decision to retain Munster’s Springbok centre is not consistent with Pienaar departure

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Rival fans want to see Heaslip v Stander and O’Brien v O’Mahony – not Leinster lite

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