Mike McCarthy: “If you don’t front up physically, if you come second best you are not going to win the game.” Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Straw clutching down Carton House way. A staid media afternoon before the daunting Welsh opener should not be taken as reflecting the mood in the Ire(...)

Munster duo Tommy O’Donnell and CJ Stander both start for Ireland against Wales on Sunday. Photograph: Inpho

Rob Kearney and Sean O’Brien are the latest senior players ruled out of the opening Six Nations match against a well-stocked Welsh side. The Lei(...)

Ireland captain Rory Best at squad training. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Seán O’Brien has emerged as a significant doubt for Ireland’s opening defence of their RBS Six Nations title against Wales at the Aviva Stadium. The(...)

Joe Schmidt is bidding to take this Irish team to an unprecedented third successive Six Nations title.

Coach: Joe Schmidt Since taking over in 2013, New Zealander Schmidt has made himself into somewhat of a Six Nations specialist, leading Ireland to (...)

Franco van der Merwe has signed a contract extention with Ulster. Photograph: Inpho

Ulster have announced secondrow Franco van der Merwe has signed a one-year contract extension, keeping him at Ravenhill until June 2017. The 32-year-(...)

Ulster flanker Sean Reidy  drives for the try line despite the attentions of  Valentin Ursache of  Oyonnax during the Champions Cup game at Kingspan Stadium  in Belfast. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

An eight-try 56-3 thumping of Oyonnax put Ulster in as strong a position as they could have hoped for as they waited to learn whether it would be enou(...)

Secondrow Ultan Dillane has enjoyed a fruitful season for Connacht. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

European Challenge Cup: Connacht v Enisei-STM, Galway Sportsground, Saturday, 3pm Careful now, the Six Nations is nearby. Surely it’s no coincidenc(...)

 Rory Best  runs at Simone Favaro of Italy during the 2015 Rugby World Cup. “To now captain Ireland going into the Six Nations is a massive thing for me and my family.” Photograph:  Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Spare a thought for Rory Best. There is probably no harder task than to succeed Paul O’Connell as captain, who had effectively succeeded Brian O’Drisc(...)

Rory Best: Candidacy will not have been harmed by reports of his half-time rallying call which contributed to Ulster’s comeback from 23-0 down to win in Oyannax . Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Rory Best is the odds-on favourite to be named as the next captain of the Irish rugby team when Joe Schmidt announces a squad of around 36 or 37 playe(...)

Seán O’Brien: “You don’t want to be doing too much yapping towards the backs”

Joe Schmidt will announce an extended Ireland squad for the Six Nations Championship on Wednesday and will reveal the player to take over the captain(...)