Paul O’Connell  in Twickenham: “For me when you play England, you always think of the size of the players.” Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

This almost feels a little like the start of the World Cup. It’s Twickenham, all the squads have been named and England kick off the global, four-y(...)

Ireland’s Tommy O’Donnell had his World Cup dreams shattered against Wales. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

The roof closed out the sunshine and in addition a cloud hung over Ireland’s otherwise encouraging start to their World Cup preparations in Saturda(...)

Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip in relaxed mood with head coach Joe Schmidt during the captain’s run at the Millennium Stadium. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

As Jamie Heaslip noted, time was when players re-introduced themselves to the game with a modest pre-season friendly for their provinces, maybe a leag(...)

A teenage Gordon D’Arcy at Ireland squad training in 1998. Photograph: Keith Heneghan/Inpho

First sight of Gordon D’Arcy was on his knees in the background. The snapshot from March 1995 is of Geordan Murphy, his predecessor in the art of evas(...)

Gordon D’Arcy’s announcement does not rule out the possibility of  a World Cup farewell. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

It’s been one of the stellar Irish rugby careers, for sure, and when the end of October comes and Gordon D’Arcy heads into the sunset he can do so (...)

Robert Kitson names 11 provincial players in his all-time European Cup best XV, including former Munster number eight Anthony Foley. Photograph: Getty

Time-travelling is always a temptation at this time of year. This week sees the 20th showpiece final in European club rugby’s eventful history and, in(...)

Paul O’Connell: Victory over Wales at Millennium Stadium would set a new Ireland record of 11 wins in a row. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

As befits his status as arguably Ireland’s greatest forward, Paul O’Connell will become only the fourth Irish player to reach the milestone of 100 cap(...)

Munster’s Billy Holland wins a lineout in the Guinness Pro12  game against Ulster at Thomond Park, where the north and south terrace was closed. Photograph:    Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Perception is, perhaps, everything. Coming hard on the heels of defeats to Glasgow and a second-string Ulster at the tail end of last season were l(...)

“As a professional athlete you’re criticised to your face every week, that’s part of the game. You go into analysis and you’re critiqued and you’re told, ‘right, you messed up here’.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Perhaps it’s a measure of the cold pragmatism that runs through professional rugby, or simply a career that among the many things it teaches, is to be(...)

 Gordon D’Arcy could wear the number 13 jersey for Ireland acording to David Wallace. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Gordon D’Arcy could prove Ireland boss Joe Schmidt’s surprise choice to succeed Brian O’Driscoll at outside centre.Ireland’s Kiwi coach must quickly s(...)