Sonny Bill Williams in action for the Blues, the Lions’ second opponents of the tour. Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty

Warren Gatland’s side must face all five of New Zealand’s red hot domestic franchises

Munster’s Keith Earls and his daughters Ella May and Laurie after the game. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Director of rugby believes his players have come a long way in turbulent season on and off pitch

British and Irish Lions team captain Sam Warburton training with Rory Best. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Gavin Cummiskey profiles the 41-men charged with the task of taking it to the All Blacks

Scarlets’ Steff Evans is sent off by referee Marius Mitrea at the RDS. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Winger was sent off in win over Leinster as Scarlets reached their first ever final

Munster coach Rassie Erasmus:  “Hopefully it’s third time lucky . . . We are happy that the final is in Ireland.” Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Lions now have 30 of their 41-man squad in place, but several players have injury worries

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen at the RDS for Friday night’s Pro12 semi-final defeat. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Three seasons and no trophy, Leinster need silverware in 2018 or something’s got to give

Leinster prop Jack McGrath grimaces in pain as he leaves the field after suffering an arm injury in the Guinness Pro 12 semi-final defeat to Scarlets. Photograph:  Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Loosehead prop will have X-ray to see extent of damage suffered in semi-final defeat

Scarlets’ Gareth Davies celebrates on his way to scoring their third try in the  Guinness Pro 12 semi-final at the  RDS. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Welsh side deserve their place in final as thoughts turn to injured Irish Lions players

Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac will seek to halt Leinster’s undefeated streak at home in Friday’s Pro12 semi-final. Photograph: Kevin Barnes/Inpho

Scarlets coach hopeful Leinster castaway Tadhg Beirne will shine in Pro12 semi-final

Leinster’s Rhys Ruddock comes up against with Jonathan Evans and Aaron Shingler of Scarlets in March. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Matchday squad shows Schmidt does not dictate selection for season-defining games

Italy head coach Conor O’Shea: “I absolutely agree with it and feel it is something that should have been in place a long time ago.” Photograph: Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Conor O’Shea supports move to ensure top seven in Pro12 qualify from next season

Joe Schmidt has named eight uncapped players for Ireland’s summer tour of the USA and Japan. Photograph: Atsushi Tomura/Getty

Eight uncapped players selected in 31-man squad while Donnacha Ryan misses out

Jamie Heaslip: the Ireland number eight is in contention to travel to the US and Japan. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ronan O’Gara, Girvan Dempsey and Felix Jones to be part of coaching team

Conor Murray has been voted  player of the year by Rugby Players Ireland. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Tadhg Furlong is also voted supporters’ player of the year by 'Irish Times' readers

Ireland’s head coach Joe Schmidt: paid compliments to Japan’s recent progress. Photograph: Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images

‘Good, bad and ugly’ the coach’s reaction to being pooled with Scotland and hosts Japan

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt with Japan’s head coach Jamie Joseph  and Scott Johnson, the performance director of Scotland, at the Rugby World Cup 2019 pool draw  in Kyoto. Photograph: Dave Rogers/AFP/Getty Images

Analysis: Possible last eight meeting with Springboks would not faze Joe Schmidt’s side

 Andrew Trimble: “Maybe our skill level isn’t good enough? Maybe our mental resilience when we are up against it needs to be worked on?  Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Lions rested for Leinster clash as province conclude another disappointing campaign

Ulster’s Rory Best and Iain Henderson will not play against Leinster this weekend. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Payne, Best and Henderson rested for final Pro12 game of the season

Robbie Henshaw, Tadhg Furlong, CJ Stander and Conor Murray are shortlisted for Players’ Player award. Photograph: Inpho

Rob Henshaw, Tadhg Furlong, CJ Stander, Conor Murray vie for Player’s player gong

Just three of the players that lined up for Ireland against Namibia in Bordeaux at the World Cup 10 years ago are still playing. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Veterans of 2007 retain influence as Ireland’s first fully professional generation emerges

“It will be very, very tight,” said Cullen when asked if he expects them back playing this season.

Injured duo unlikely to feature again for Leinster this season

Darkness in the RDS after the floodlights failed during Leinster’s Pro12 win over Glasgow. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Despite a late floodlight failure, Leo Cullen’s side held on to remain top of the Pro12 table

Marnitz Boshoff is back at outhalf for Connacht on Saturday night. Photograph: Inpho

‘Next two games present a great opportunity to prepare for the qualification playoffs’

Ulster’s Stuart McCloskey impressed off the bench against Munster. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Ulster travel to Swansea knowing their Pro12 playoff destiny remains in their own hands

Saracens’ Billy Vunipola breaks through during his side’s victory over Munster in the Champions Cup semi-final at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images)

Murray’s absence keenly felt as champions run out deserved winners in brutal semi-final

Dejected Munster players after the final whistle in the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Ipho

Coach’s decision to stay put for another two years provides huge boost for province

 Rassie Erasmus will not be leaving Munster in the summer. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty

Niall Scannell reveals South African has told squad he will remain at Thomond Park

 Maro Itoje looks on during a Saracens training session  in St Albans, England ahead of Saturday’s Champions Cup semi-final against Munster at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Mark McCall has played key role in helping build north London rugby powerhouse

Shane Horgan and Brian O’Driscoll celebrate defeating Toulouse in France in a 2006 Heinieken Cup quarter-final. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Toulouse breakthrough and 2012 semi-final provide good memories ahead of Clermont clash

Clermont Auvergne’s forwards coach Jono Gibbes, who is set to become Ulster’s new coach

French club keenly aware of big games lost ahead of Champions Cup clash with Leinster

Leinster are not expected to appeal Cian Healy’s ban. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Leinster prop was cited for charging into a ruck in Pro12 derby against Connacht

 Leinster’s Cian Healy tackles Dave Heffernan of Connacht at the Sportsground. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

A Pro12 disciplinary hearing will be held in Edinburgh on Wednesday afternoon

Young Munster’s Dan Goggin in action for Munster A in the British & Irish Cup quarter-final against Ulster A in Cork last month. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Club unhappy at having to field weakened team, after Dublin side refuses to reschedule

Simon Zebo gets swallowed up by Ulster’s Stuart Olding, Paddy Jackson and Andrew Trimble at Thomond Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Peter O’Mahony’s relaxed attitude bodes well for province ahead of European semi-final

Conor Murray is a major doubt for Munster’s Champions Cup semi-final against Saracens. Photograph:    Donall Farmer/Inpho

Rassie Erasmus admits scrumhalf’s recovery from shoulder stinger has been slow

Munster’s Angus Lloyd scores a try despite an attempted tackle  from Ulster’s Sean Reidy  during the Guinness Pro 12 game at  Thomond Park. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Rassie Erasmus’s side set for home semi-final after Thomond Park victory

Bundee Aki: the Connacht star has signed up as an ambassador for Kinetica Sports’ partnership with Hell & Back who run the the 7 & 12km adventure race events in Bray. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Samoan excited about the arrival this summer of former Chiefs coach Kieran Keane

Bundee Aki is not making any decision on his international plans at the moment. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Centre wants to concentrate on Connacht’s end of season

 Clermont Auvergne forwards coach Jono Gibbes is looking forward to teaming up with Les Kiss. Photograph: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Former All Black will arrive at Ulster having thrived out of comfort zone at Clermont

 In a prematch press conference, Kerry manager Éamonn Fitzmaurice cited a number of examples of what he described as Dublin’s “hard edge”. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Fitzmaurice defends prematch comments about Dublin’s physicality after tight victory

Ronan O’Gara has suggested Leinster hooker Sean Cronin could be a dark horse for the Lions tour. Photograph: Simon King/Inpho

Dan Biggar’s comments after Ospreys loss to Leinster bring HIA protocols into question

Stuart Lancaster has signed a new two-year deal with Leinster. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Stuart Lancaster signs two-year deal, backs coach Girvan Dempsey a one-year deal

Leinster’s  Joey Carbery  in full flight against Joe Simpson of Wasps during the  Champions Cup quarter-final at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

‘I feel we prepared really well this week. We were really sharp in training,’ Carbery said

Joey Carbery celebrates with Fergus McFadden after his try in Leinster’s Champions Cup win over Wasps. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Sexton and Carbery guide side to last four and offer exciting glimpse of things to come

Leinster’s Johnny Sexton is tackled by Kearnan Myall of Wasps during their Champions Cup quarter-final tie. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Leinster coach was disappointed with some late hits from Wasps on the outhalf

Wasps’ Willie Le Roux scores a try but has it disallowed by referee Nigel Owens during their Champions Cup clash with Leinster. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

The Wasps coach did say that his player should have just touched the ball down

Marty Moore of Wasps in full flow: “Regardless of what’s happened, I’m happier for being here than I would have been back home.” Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

The prop’s move to Wasps cost him his Ireland place but there have been benefits

Isa Nacewa: “There is a great feeling around Leinster at the minute.” Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Leo Cullen challenges players to step up as Premiership leaders arrive in Dublin

 Jack Conan  missed last weekend’s 22-21 win over Cardiff with a tight calf. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Backrow set to return after missing last weekend's win over Cardiff due to a tight calf

 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

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