Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton kicks a penalty against Wales at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Outhalf lands crucial penalty moments after two heavy collisions in quick succession

Ireland’s Sene Naoupu runs in a try against Wales during the Women’s Six Nations clash at Donnybrook. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Kiwi scores a superb try and shows her class on her championship debut against Wales

Ireland’s Sene Naoupu scores a try despite Adi Taviner of Wales Photograph: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Ireland Women off to a winning start with impressive performance against Wales

Elise O’Byrne-White will make her debut for Ireland against Wales. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Reigning champions shuffle the deck with two players winning their first cap

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

‘I always relish the physical battle. It’s going to be a massive task for us against Wales’

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt at the press conference to announce the side to face Wales in the opening Six Nations  game at the Aviva stadium on Sunday. Photograph:  Billy Stickland/Inpho

Coach did not want to risk another late withdrawal for star flanker

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

Injuries force Joe Schmidt’s hand as he names side for Sunday’s clash in Dublin

Old Belvedere winger Elise O’Byrne-White earns her first international start against Wales on Saturday. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Skipper Niamh Briggs believes growth of squad numbers is healthy

Ireland’s Paula Fitzpatrick in action against New Zealand in 2014. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Six Nations-wining backrow expanding rugby horizons in Toulouse and Cardiff

England’s frontrow Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley and Alex Corbisiero celebrate a scrum penalty awarded against Ireland in the 2012 St Patrick’s Day massacre

The last two Six Nations campaigns after a World Cup have been painful for Ireland

Wales winger Liam Williams receives treatment after sustaining a head injuring during the World Cup match against England. He sat out the next match against Fiji before returning for the final pool game against Australia. Photograph: INPHO/James Crombie

Two leading medical experts discuss the issues surrounding brain injury in sport, particularly in rugby

Bundee Aki at Connacht  training. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Connacht’s Kiwi centre is feeling at home in the west and could play for Ireland in 2017

Brian O’Driscoll “I knew I was small and knew I had to wait for a bit of size to come. It came over the course of that summer. I must have grown four or five inches.”

Five players would go on to play for Ireland, a future great of the game was on the bench

James Tracy and Dominic Ryan take part in Leinster Rugby Squad Training, Rosemount, UCD 25th January. Photograph: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Leinster suffer from interminably long injury list and concussive non-concussion

 Johnny Sexton leaves the field after suffering a head injury in the match with Wasps: the Leinster and Ireland outhalf suffered four concussions in 2014. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

IRFU says Robbie Henshaw suffered no ill-effects after playing for Connacht

Leinster have confirmed Johnny Sexton did not fails a Head Injury Assessment during the province’s Champions Cup defeat to Wasps. Photograph: Inpho

Marty Moore ruled out of Six Nations with hamstring injury sustained in Wasps loss

Leinster outhalf Johnny Sexton gets treatment before leaving the field injured in the Champions Cup game against Wasps at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Leinster suffer heaviest defeat in Europe, but main concern is for Ireland’s outhalf

Leinster’s Josh van der Flier in action against Toulon. “Having those world-class players playing against you was very surreal. It was a big step up, even in tackling,” he says. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland call-up highlights dramatic impact former Wesley schoolboy has made at Leinster

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

Provincial selections raise no shortage of questions as Wales game looms into view

Munster head of fitness Aled Walters and head coach Anthony Foley during training at University of Limerick this week. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.

Treviso a chance to allow province finish disappointing campaign on a high

Leinster’s Ross Molony contests a lineout against Bath’s Stuart Hooper during the European Champions Cup pool game at the RDS. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Bath coach laments his side’s inability to cope with a vibrant, free-running Leinster

Leinster’s Sean Cronin celebrates after scoring a try in their clash with Bath in the European Champions Cup. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Leo Cullen’s side controlled the game at the RDS to send Bath crashing out of Europe

Munster’s Simon Zebo is attracting the interest of clubs like Toulouse while tighthead prop Marty Moore is leaving Leinster for Wasps in the English Premiership. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Those confined to provincial contracts will find lure of foreign clubs strong

Leo Cullen: “It’s great to give them the opportunity to play in such a big game”. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Bath need bonus-point win and will expect it over hosts having a peak at new generation

Members of the 1948 Ireland  Grand Slam pictured in 2005, from left: Jim McCarthy, Jack Kyle, Paddy Reid, Jimmy Nelson, Karl Mullen and Michael O’Flanagan. Photograph: Andrew Paton/Inpho

Garryowen centre was huge influence at club despite serving 40-year ban

Rob Kearney plucks Dan Biggar’s garryowen from the sky in the Ireland-Wales World Cup warm-up match last August. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Ringrose and Van der Flier omitted from squad as coach chooses experienced side

Munster captain CJ Stander: qualifies for Ireland via the three-year residency rule. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Johnny Sexton, Seán O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip all contenders for captaincy

Leinster’s Ben Te’o, Jack McGrath and Johnny Sexton struggle to dispossess Connacht’s Eoghan Masterson during yesterday’s Pro12 clash at the RDS. Photograph: Inpho

Coach will have to cope when mass Ireland call-ups weaken province

Ian Keatley: gets a chance to reaffirm his role as the starting outhalf for Munster. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Momentum firmly with Ulster as they welcome Anthony Foley’s struggling side

Rob Kearney is tackled by Tiernan O’Halloran during Leinster’s 13-0 win at a sodden RDS on Friday. Photograph: Inpho

Josh van der Flier’s dubious try ends Pat Lam’s men’s resistance on miserable night

Leo Cullen with some of his Leinster players at training in the RDS yesterday. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Garry Ringrose will make second start for province among a number of young players

Leo Cullen speaking at yesterday’s press conference ahead of the Pro12 match between Leinster and Connacht. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Cullen also feels the move of Ian Madigan to France is a huge blow for his team

Leinster’s Garry Ringrose in action against Munster at Thomond Park. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Likes of experienced Bundee Aki set to test young prospect’s mettle during RDS meeting

Les Kiss took over as director of rugby at Ulster after the World Cup and has brought a new intensity of play to the province. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho.

Province are already reaping the benefits of placing Australian atop of coaching

Ian Madigan new deal with Bordeaux-Bègles is believed to be at least €500,000 a season. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Ireland outhalf’s move to Bordeaux-Bègles guided by desire to be world class

 Keith Earls lies injured after been tackled by Leinster’s  Luke Fitzgerald and Zane Kirchner at Thomond Park. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Injury fallout from Thomond Park to impact on Ireland’s Six Nations preparations

Garry Ringrose: showed his undoubted quality in the win over  Munster at Thomond Park and has been tipped for stardom by the legendary Brian O’Driscoll. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

A spell at outside centre for Leinster could lead to an Ireland call-up from Joe Schmidt

Leinster’s Eoin Reddan and Munster’s Andrew Conway are upended during the Guinness Pro12 game at Thomond Park last night. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Garry Ringrose ready to take number 13 jersey in Six Nations, claims O’Driscoll

Leinster centre Garry Ringrose makes the break for Isa Nacewa’s early try in the Guinness Pro12 game at Thomond park. Photograph:  Billy Stickland/Inpho

Munster suffer fifth straight defeat in derby clash at Thomond Park

Ireland captain Paul O’Connell is taken from the field against France. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

A look back in tweets at a crucial win but a week to forget overall for Irish rugby

Toulon’s Drew Mitchell is denied a try by Leinster’s Seán Cronin and Isa Nacewa. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Leinster coach and captain refuse to be drawn on IRFU policy towards provinces

 Rob Kearney is tackled by Mathieu Bastareaud during Leinster’s Champions Cup match against Toulon at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Leo Cullen’s side unable to sustain strong start against the reigning champions

Leinster’s Cian Healy dejected after the game Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Toulon defeat leaves Leinster facing tough questions

Johnny Sexton tackles Ma’a Nonu during Leinster’s Champions Cup defeat to Toulon at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Inpho

Leo Cullen’s side fail to score after the break as their Champions Cup exit is confirmed

Former All Black centre Aaron Mauger, who became Leicester Tigers head coach last summer. Photograph: David Rogers/Inpho

Former All Black centre symbolises Tiger’s willingness to embrace something new

Paul O’Connell with his new Toulon team-mates yesterday, Samu Manoa on the left and Juan Smith on the right.

Former Ireland captain will be cheering his new club when they face Leinster

The Toulon panel, including new signing Paul O’Connell, pose for a photograph. Photograph:

Former Ireland captain enjoying first taste of life in the south of France

Munster coach Anthony Foley: “It’s all our doing. “That’s the hardest part to it.” Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

‘We have given ourselves a mountain to climb,’ says Munster’s coach

Munster’s Robin Copeland fends off the tackle from  Graham Kitchener of Leicester Tigers at Thomond Park. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Coach Anthony Foley frustrated as errors prove hugely costly for the home side

A dejected Tomas O’Leary after the final whistle as Munster suffer a frustrating defeat at the hands of Leicester Tigers Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Leicester make unmistakeable statement with Champions Cup win at one-time fortress

Ireland internationals Ian Madigan and Simon Zebo could be lining up options to play abroad next season. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

International selection policy will come under scrutiny should there be player exodus

Philips Manager of the Year award winners  Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill and Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill with  Philips MD Cel O’Reilly. Photograph: Morgan Treacy

Double qualification for Euro 2016 makes unanswerable case for soccer bosses

Roscrea’s Rob Wharton with the cup last year. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Blackrock College go into the competition as favourites and got a favourable draw

Ben Te’o is tackled by Ulster’s Paddy Jackson in a Pro12 game last month: the 28-year-old’s departure from Leinster would be offset by Robbie Henshaw’s switch from Connacht and the continued rise of Garry Ringrose. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Province struggling to keep New Zealander as offers from English, French clubs roll in

Ulster’s Iain Henderson sustained a hamstring tear playing against Edinburgh in the Pro12 last weekend. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho.

Hamstring tear injury to sideline Ireland forward for rest of season

Ian Madigan, who is out of contract with Leinster this summer, is waiting to hear from the IRFU’s high performance director David Nucifora, with an offer from Bristol worth €500,000 a season already on the table. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Ireland outhalf being courted by Bristol, Harlequins and two French clubs

Saracens celebrate Billy Vunipola’s bonus-point try at the end of the European Champions Cup game at Ravenhill. Photograph:   Niall Carson/PA Wire

English side dominate physically on the way to four-try triumph

Iain Henderson: returns to blindside flanker, where he can hunt and hurt Saracens with greater freedom. Photo: Darren Kidd/Inpho/Presseye

Iain Henderson’s return a massive fillip as Les Kiss’s side take on formidable Saracens

Leinster backrow forward faces up to 10 weeks of the sidelines after breaking a bone in a  foot. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Backrow adds to injuries in pack ahead of trip to play Bath

Peter Smyth has been appointed the new coach of Leinster Academy. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

The former Leinster player leaves his positions at St Mary’s and Blackrock College

Lindsay Peat during the Women’s Autumn International against England. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

The 35-year-old’s latest sporting exploit is becoming an Ireland international

Leinster replacement Garry Ringrose offloads in the tackle against Wasps at the RDS. Photograph: Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Cullen’s side already playing Champions Cup catch-up in after Wasps dominate at RDS

Leinster’s Jonathan Sexton appeals to the referee during the European Champions Cup defeat to Wasps at the RDS. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Leo Cullen’s team suffer the province’s record home European defeat on Sunday

 Anthony Foley’s side should pick up a bonus point against Treviso. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Irish provinces capable of a clean sweep this weekend as European campaign gets underway

Niamh Briggs: will captain Ireland against England at the Stoop. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Coach Tom Tierney including six debutants for Stoop test

Japan players celebrate their momentous victory over South Africa in the pool section – the Brave Blossoms missed out on a place in the quarter-finals but won the hearts of the rugby world. Photograph: Getty Images

‘Irish Times’ team looks back at an eventful tournament and pick their highs and lows

New Zealand captain Richie McCaw and Dan Carter  with the Webb Ellis Cup after the All Blacks’ victory over  Australia at Twickenham. Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images

All Black can ride off into sunset having delivered on world’s biggest stage

So close: Australia’s head coach Michael Cheika  walks past the the Webb Ellis Cup after Saturday’s final. Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

The Rugby World Cup is over, but for the Wallabies it’s the start of a brand new dawn

Australia’s Captain Stephen Moore and Head Coach Michael Cheika after the Rugby World Cup Final Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire.

Wallabies boss speaks of intention to continue progress in wake of final defeat

  New Zealand duo Daniel Carter and Richie McCaw chat during the Rugby World Cup final against Australia at Twickenham. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

Outhalf and backrow put in stunning displays as All Blacks retain title

Steve Hansen has been mentoring Canterbury players, and by extension many an All Black, even before Richie McCaw joined the Crusaders. Photograph: Paul Childs/Reuters

IRFU and Schmidt could learn a lesson from way world champions have dealt with media

New Zealand’s fly half Dan Carter takes part in a kicker’s training session at London’s Twickenham Stadium on the eve of the Rugby World Cup 2015 final between Australia and New Zealand. Photo: Martin Bureau/Getty Images

The outhalf will play his final match for the All-Blacks in tomorrow’s World Cup final

Centre Matt Giteau is a popular member of the Australia squad. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Australia’s policy on overseas players highlights England’s strategic failure

New Zealand centre Ma’a Nonu (left) and wing Julian Savea take part in a training session at the Pennyhill Park Hotel in London on Thursday ahead of their World Cup final against New Zealand at Twickenham. Photograph: Getty Images.

All Black linebreaker knows he will have to be at his best to thwart the Wallabies

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has named an unchanged side for Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final against Australia. Photograph: AFP

Steve Hansen keeps faith in the XV who edged past South Africa in the semi-finals

The more you understand it the better you cope with it, says veteran Kevin Mealamu

Australia hooker Stephen Moore was born in Saudi Arabia to parents who hail from Galway and Mayo. Photograph: Paul Childs/Reuters

Wallaby hooker left Ireland as child when GP father took job in Queensland mining town

Australia head coach  Michael Cheika congratulates David Pocock after the Rugby World Cup semi-final victory over Argentina at Twickenham. Photograph:   Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Battered Wallabies count injury cost of battle with Pumas ahead of final

New Zealand’s winger Nehe Milner-Skudder  evades South Africa’s flanker François Louw  during the  semi-final  of the 2015 Rugby World Cup  at Twickenham on Saturday. Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

Two tries prove the difference as All Blacks secure place in Rugby World Cup final

Francois Louw  and  Richie McCaw shake hands at the end of the World Cup semi-final at Twickenham. Photograph: Paul Gilham/Getty Images

All Blacks captain will play in World Cup final against Australia next Saturday

New Zealand’s Jerome Kaino scores his side’s first try during the Rugby World Cup semi-final against South Africa at Twickenham. Photograph:  David Davies/PA

Defending champions show all their rugby nous to hold off game Springboks

Australia’s scrum coach Mario Ledesma takes part in a team training session in Teddington, south west London. Photograph: Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty

Former Pumas hooker now firmly ensconced in the Australian camp

 David Pocock of Australia passes the ball during a training session at The Lensbury Hotel in London. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Cheika puts hopes in Pocock and Folau, but Argentina are not planning to sit back

 Richie McCaw: will win his 147th cap for New Zealand against South Africa in the World Cup semi-final.  Photo:  Phil Walter/Getty Images

Outstanding All Blacks’ flanker has for 14 years been bending the game to his will

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen speaks during a  media session at the Oatlands Park hotel in Weybridge. Photograph:  Phil Walter/Getty Images

‘Heyneke has praised us a lot this week and that’s a tactic’

Matt Giteau returned to the Wallaby fold when Michael Cheika took command. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/Afp Photo/Getty Images

Wallaby unwanted by Deans now eyeing second World Cup final appearance

Jared Payne will not play for Ulster until at least December. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

An update on Tommy Bowe’s injury never came from Ireland but is expected by Ulster

Australia head coach Michael Cheika looks on during a training session in London  ahead of their semi-final test against Argentina. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Australia coach confident Mario Ledesma will have Wallaby scrum at their best for Pumas

Referee Craig Joubert leaves the field at the final whistle as Scotland’s Jonny Gray and Josh Strauss look on. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Australia boss has come out to defend Craig Joubert - ‘I’d like my mates to back me up’

Ireland prop Mike Ross hopes to play on despite World Cup exit. Photogrpah: Reuters

Prop wants to play on and feels Ireland are still on the right course for success

A grounded Ian Madigan tries to stop Pablo Matera. Photograph: Matteo Ciambelli/Inpho

Joe Schmidt refuses to use injury count as excuse for Argentina loss

Chris Henry attempts to break through Argentina’s defence: “It just felt that every time we got the ball, we were chopped.” Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images.

Jared Payne’s loss felt as Argentina expose defensive weaknesses

France’s Morgan Parra and Brice Dulin try to halt New Zealand centre Ma’a Nonu at the Millennium Stadium. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

New Zealand set up Springbok semi-final with nine-try rout of demoralised France side

New Zealand players celebrate after going over for another try in their rout of France at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images

The All-Blacks recorded the highest winning margin in a World Cup quarter-final ever

 Ireland’s Johnny Sexton during the Captain’s Run at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff on Friday. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire

Ireland outhalf to be replaced by Ian Madigan after scans revealed a groin strain

New Zealand captain Richie McCaw with France’s Thierry Dusautoir. “If there wasn’t a certain Richie McCaw running around during the same period, Dusautoir would be seen as the dominant guy who has played rugby in that position over a long period,” says New Zealand coach Steve Hansen

All Black and France flankers have enjoyed compelling rivalry for almost a decade

Ireland’s Tommy Bowe in action against France in last week’s final pool stage match at the Millennium Stadium. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Rory Best: ‘Everyone now has to step up - they will not be held by the hand by Paulie’

The scoreboard after Argentina defeated Ireland at the 1999 World Cup. Photo: Patrick Bolger/Inpho

There have been plenty of memorable matches against Los Pumas down the years

Joe Schmidt talks to Johnny Sexton during an Ireland training session at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland manager says that it is not a risk but that Peter O’Mahony will be missed

All Black coach Steve Hansen gives a team talk to his players during a training session at Swansea University. Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images.

All Blacks coach expecting the French to have both flair and physicality

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