Leinster’s victory over Montpellier means a win in Castres would ensure them a home quarter-final. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Munster and Leinster have home ties within reach while Connacht have work to do

Munster’s Conor Murray is tackled by Josh Strauss of Glasgow Warriors during the sides clash at Scotstoun on Saturday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Provinces’ weekend achievements clouded by events that led to Conor Murray’s HIA

Munster’s CJ Stander: ‘We’re all competing in the backrow, but we’re all good mates and we want to see each other perform.’ Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Munster number eight says moment with O’Mahony typifies squad’s togetherness

Munster’s Francis Saili scores the winning try  at Scotstoun Stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Glasgow Warriors lead four times but couldn't prevent classic late smash-and-grab

Munster’s Francis Saili celebrates his crucial try with teammates in Saturday’s European  Champions Cup clash with Glasgow Warriors. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Rassie Erasmus hails Munster’s gritty performance, but concedes it was far from perfect

 Conor Murray is assessed for a possible head injury against Glasgow Warriors. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Connacht aim to join Rassie Erasmus’s team and Leinster in European quarter-finals

Jaco Taute of Munster is congratulated by supporters in the main stand at the final whistle after beating Warriors 14-12. Photo: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

‘I think it would be stupid too put targets out there,’ the Munster director of rugby said

Glasgow Warriors’ Josh Strauss is tackled by Peter O’Mahony of Munster during their Champions Cup clash at Scotstoun. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

A late Francis Saili try gave Rassie Erasmus’ the chance to book a home quarter-final

Head coach  Rassie Erasmus: “I would like players to have the feeling that we are committed because we don’t want to disappoint one another.”  Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

South African has brought emotional intelligence as well as a razor-sharp rugby brain

Keith Earls: recalled to the wing by Munster coach Rassie Erasmus. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Victory in group shoot-out would go a long way to securing a home quarter-final

Leinster backrow Jack Conan stretches out to score his third try in the Champions Cup game against Montpellier at the RDS. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Frans Steyn sent off for French side in first half after high tackle on Johnny Sexton

Jamie Heaslip finds the going tough when  Leinster were defeated by Montpellier during the Champions Cup game at Altrad Stadium last October. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho.

Irish province need to stick to their own game against multinational opposition

Munster’s Simon Zebo with Peter Murchie of Glasgow Warriors:  sides meet in  crunch  match  in Scotstoun on Saturday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Irish quartet all in reckoning, with Munster and Leinster each in control of own destinies

Leinster’s Tadhg Furlong leads the charge against  Northampton Saints at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Ireland prop has no interest in looking back as European quarter-final place beckons

Leinster scrum coach John Fogarty: Montpellier  “is a huge, huge game”. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Discipline and smart kicking key against physicality of ‘langueboks’

Scarlets’ Aled Davies is tackled by Ulster’s Sean Reidy  before Scarlets are awarded a penalty try and a yellow card is given to Reidy. Photograph: Ben Evans/Presseye/Inpho

World Rugby must be more proactive if it doesn’t want edict cursed with inconsistency

Robbie Henshaw is focused ahead of Leinster’s visit to Northampton this weekend, with victory ensuring a  first European Cup quarter-final of his career. Photograph:  Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Leinster and Ireland centre admits he will have to adjust his tackling technique

Andrew Conway scores Munster’s third try against Racing 92 during the European Champions Cup game at Stade Yves-du-Manoir, Paris on Saturday. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho.

Abysmal Racing 92 no match for clinical Irish province

Racing 92’s coach Ronan O’Gara wearing an Anthony Foley t-shirt during the warm up prior to the game at State Yves-du-Manoir. Photogra: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Province’s former outhalf agrees Racing were outplayed in every department

Racing 92’s Anthony Tuitavake and CJ Stander of Munster during the European Rugby Champions Cup Round 1 match at Stade Yves-du-Manoir in Paris on Saturday. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Munster play exactly as Anthony Foley would have wanted to secure win against Racing

Munster captain Peter O’Mahony leads his team off the pitch at the end of their Champions Cup win over Racing 92. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

‘It was a big week for the club for many reasons,’ the Munster captain said

Man of the match CJ Stander scored Munster’s second try as they trounced Racing 92 in Paris, a victory which sends them to the top of Champions Cup Pool One. Photograph: Inpho/James Crombie

Rassie Erasmus’s side claim bonus point with performance of ruthless efficiency in Paris

A tribute to Anthony Foley outside the Stade Yves Du Manoir last October. Foley’s untimely death led to the cancellation of Munster’s match against Racing Metro. Photograph:    James Crombie/Inpho

Racing 92 have impressive home form even if their focus is now on domestic league

Ronan O’Gara: “I think that’s what separates Munster from anywhere else in the world; the bond between the supporters and the team.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Racing coach prepares to renew old acquaintances with Munster in Champions Cup

Simon Zebo has a remarkably consistent strike rate for Munster. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Province’s all-time leading try scorer is one touchdown short of reaching half century

James Cannon: the ex-Northampton and Wasps lock follows a tradition of English locks pitching up at Connacht. Photograph: James Crombie/INPHO

Connacht’s lock admits team must begin to win away from home, starting with Ospreys

Dan Carter will miss Racing 92’s re-arranged Champions Cup clash with Munster this Saturday. Photo: Getty Images

However those expected to come in will be straining at the leash to impress

Irish fans celebrate  Ireland’s 35-25 Six Nations win over Scotland in Dublin last March. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

From the Six Nations to the choice of 2023 World Cup hosts, prospects are promising

Rory Best congratulated by team-mates on his 100th cap after Ireland beat Australia at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Season turned on Connacht’s daring and unlikely success and will go down in history

Simon Zebo acrobatically touches down for a try against Leinster at Thomond Park. Photograph: Inpho

Munster open up five point gap at top of the table after comfortable Thomond Park win

Robbie Henshaw touches down for Ireland’s  fifth try against New Zealand at Soldier Field in Chicago on November 5th. Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images

Sports review of 2016: Triumph put into perspective by Axel passing

Prop John Ryan, in action against Leicester at Welford Road, won his first cap for Ireland against Canada in November. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Better late than never for Cork tighthead prop as he enjoys his best campaign yet

Backrow CJ Stander will start for Munster against Leinster on St Stephen’s Day at Thomond Park. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho.

Rediscovered Thomond Park X factor should be key for home side in intense battle

Munster head coach Rassie Erasmus dismissed speculation linking All Black fullback Ben Smith with Munster. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Munster coach welcomes fierce foes to Thomond for first time since arriving in Limerick

Leo Cullen: Leinster, as bulk suppliers, will have the most difficult job

Ireland players set to miss matches between Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster

Dejected Northampton Saints troop off after their heavy defeat to Leinster at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho

Pro12 teams could provide four quarter-finalists in European Champions Cup

 Jack Carty celebrates the  winning  conversion with his team-mates after Connacht’s last-gasp victory over Wasps at the Sportsground. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Leinster primed for last-eight berth while Connacht and Ulster are firmly in the mix

Connacht’s Jack Carty watches his match-winning conversion against Wasps at the Sportsground, Galway. Photograph:  Matt Browne/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Jack Carty answers his critics as referee’s blunder leaves Wasps feeling stung

Connacht players celebrate with winning goal-kicker Jack Carty. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Outhalf worked on technique and mental preparation to improve flawed place-kicking

Naulia Dawai scores Connacht’s  late try in the Champions Cup game against Wasps at The Sportsground in Galway. Photograph:  Morgan Tracy/Inpho

Naulia Dawai scores last-gasp try with Jack Carty landing winning conversion

Leinster’s Ross Byrne and Rory O’Loughlin, products of the province’s academy,  in action against Northamptonm Saints at Franklin Gardens. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Academy the engine which drives a production line second to none in European game

Connacht’s Rory Parata in action against Wasps last weekend. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Pat Lam’s squad is depleted but with enough luck a famous victory is within their grasp

Dejected Leicester Tigers players after their 38-0 defeat to Munster at Thomond Park on Saturday. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images.

Despite heavy defeat to Munster, Leicester have good track record in return games

Pat Lam: “We’re only three points off, so  a win next week changes everything again.” Photograph: Paul Childs/Reuters

Focus switches to must-win return clash against Wasps at the Sportsground

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen: “Competition is good and guys want to be successful.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Saints in disarray after weekend hammering and pending suspension of Dylan Hartley

 Kurtley Beale gets past the tackle of  Connacht’s Stacey Ili before scoring Wasps’ first try in the Champions Cup game at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. Photograph:  Paul Childs/Action Images via Reuters/Livepic

Visitors left to rue missed chances as English club’s power game pays dividends

Munster players contemplate their second Heineken Cup final defeat in three seasons as Leicester’s Neil Back celebrates at the end of the 2002 final at the Millennium Stadium. Photograph: Patrick Bolger/Inpho

Similarities between two clubs help intensify one of Europe’s great traditional rivalries

Bundee Aki: will relish the battle for Connacht at the Ricoh Arena. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

English club have never lost at home to Irish opposition in this competition

Dylan Hartley of Northampton looks dejected after being shown the red card by referee Jerome Garces during the European Rugby Champions Cup game  against Leinster. Photograph: by David Rogers/Getty Images

Jim Mallinder accepts hooker will receive lengthy ban as Leo Cullen eyes Leinster ’s injuries

Referee Jérôme Garcès shows a red card to England captain Dylan Hartley. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Leo Cullen’s team score five tries to see off Northampton in Franklin’s Gardens visit

Leinster’s Joey Carbury and Luke McGrath have demonstrated their sound temperament this season. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Visitors have enough talent to finally register an overdue away victory in Europe

Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Warren Gatland likely to bring in Howley and Borthwick for tour of New Zealand

Pat Lam: Helped make Connacht winners, even champions. Photograph Andrew Surma/NurPhoto via Getty

Timing of head coach’s announcement will give province time to identify his successor

Grenoble head coach Bernard Jackman. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Gerry Thornley looks at the possible contenders to replace Lam at Connacht coach

It is understood that Bristol have offered Pat Lam an annual salary in the region of €750,000, dwarfing his wages at Connacht or indeed any other coach in Irish rugby, including Joe Schmidt.

English club understood to have offered Lam a salary in the region of €750,000

One of Ireland’s stalwarts Rory Best is congratulated on his 100th cap by his team mates following the win over Australia. Photograph:  Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Improved strength in depth and better attacking width augur well for the spring

Simon Zebo has cemented his standing as Ireland’s most creative player. Photograph:  Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ireland coach used 39 players in November internationals, including nine debutants

Joey Carbery of Ireland is tackled by Will Genia, David Pocock and Michael Hooper of Australia during Saturday’s match at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photograph: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile/Getty Images

Schmidt’s men can now look forward to Six Nations having made history on two fronts

Ireland attack the Australia line at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

Joe Schmidt has built a squad that regards adversity as a challenge to be overcome

Ireland’s Keith Earls scores their final try. Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Injuries take their toll again but Ireland grind out three-point win over Wallabies

Jack McGrath celebrates defeating New Zealand at Soldier Field, Chicago. Photograph: Inpho

As the Ireland captain earns his 100th cap against Australia he outlines why these particular matches are special

Rory Best: “I’m under contract until the end of next season and if I feel as I feel now, I don’t see why I couldn’t carry on playing.” Photpgraph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Rory Best recalls the highs and low of his career as he leads his team against Australia

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt: “It’s a lot harder to find time and space against Australia.” Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Victory over Wallabies would mean all three heavyweights vanquished within the year

Sean O’Brien was rested for Ireland’s captain’s run on Friday. Photograph: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Pair sit out captain’s run with Peter O’Mahony and Rory Scannell on stand-by

Members of the Irish squad, including Garry Ringrose (centre), during training at Carton House in Co Kildare on Thursday. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Irish squad can become first to beat southern hemisphere big three in same calendar year

Michael Cheika: “I was very disappointed to lose here in 2014 . . . There’s a lot of things that I suppose are on the line.” Photograph:  Dan Mullan/Getty Images

No less than ten of Wallabies’ World Cup final XV will be on duty at Aviva Stadium

CJ Stander  with Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

CJ Stander and Kearney winning fitness battle after suffering head knocks last week

Simon Easterby: “We always knew this game was going to be a huge game, for many reasons.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Return of Ultan Dillane and Keith Earls a welcome boost for coach Joe Schmidt

Australia head coach Michael Cheika: “[Ireland game] is going to be the toughest we’ve had on the tour.” Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

After tough start to 2016 Michael Cheika’s side have won six of last eight games

Too high: Malakai Fekitoa of New Zealand receives a yellow card from referee Jaco Peyper during Saturday’s  match between Ireland and New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photograph:  Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile/Getty Images

World Rugby has vowed to tackle high hits, but is there a different rule for the All Blacks?

Robbie Henshaw is tackled by Sam Cane. The collision led to the  Ireland centre being carried off at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photograph: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Henshaw, Stander and Kearney undergo tests to determine extent of head injuries

Ireland outhalf Johnny Sexton tries to prevent New Zealand’s Beauden Barrett grounding the ball for a try during Saturday’s Test at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Billy Strickland/Inpho

Ireland regret one that got away as Peyper fails to clamp down on cynical play

Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw had to depart the action after this tackle by Sam Cane. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Both players will face disciplinary hearings in the next two days following Saturday’s win

New Zealand’s Malakai Fekitoa on his way to his second and his side’s   third try an during the match against Ireland  at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph:  Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Stunning defensive display helps All Blacks make up for defeat in Chicago

Robbie Henshaw scores the  try that clinched Ireland’s victory at Soldier Field. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Schmidt’s men unlikely to ever face tougher test than a New Zealand dead set on revenge

    All Black Dane Coles: “I take a lot of pride in my line-out throwing. As a hooker, you’ve got to nail your own set pieces.”  Photograph: Martin Hunter/Getty

The loss to Ireland in Chicago a mere blip on New Zealand ace hooker’s winning streak

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

All Blacks make five changes, with Retallick and Whitelock returning to secondrow

 Rory Best with Tadhg Furlong and Jack McGrath at Ireland training at Carton House. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland coach unconcerned over referee for New Zealand clash despite previous history

Seán O’Brien: His body of work at Test level may tilt the odds of claiming the number seven shirt in his favour. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Seán O’Brien’s big-game experience may help him edge out unlucky Josh van der Flier

 Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, Brian O’Driscoll and Taoiseach Enda Kenny   at the Aviva Stadium for the launch of  Ireland’s bid to host the   2023 Rugby World Cup. Photograph:   Colin Keegan, Collins

‘We could do a phenomenal job at it, I really think that’

At the bid announcement for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in the Aviva Stadium were (from left) Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Brian O’Driscoll, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, chairman of the oversight board Dick Spring and president of the IRFU Stephen Hilditch. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Winning three-way race with France and South Africa could be worth €2bn for economy

Seán O’Brien brings a rare amalgam of power and pace into the backrow. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Ireland have backrow riches in abundance but the Leinster man is truly world class

Ireland team manager Mick Kearney. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Squad prepare for second All Black clash with no new injury worries after Canada win

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has no new concerns after Saturday’s win over Canada. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho.

Ireland head coach wary of a New Zealand backlash ahead of Saturday’s showdown

Ireland fullback  Tiernan O’Halloran scores the first of his two tries in the game against Canada at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph:    Niall Carson/PA Wire

Seán O’Brien makes big play for inclusion against New Zealand at Aviva next week

Ireland’s Conor Murray, Simon Zebo, Jared Payne and Sean Cronin celebrate after beating New Zealand at Soldier Field in Chicago. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Hooker will earn his 54th cap today but only his ninth with number two shirt on his back

Ireland players applaud as Peter O’Mahony arrives late for team photograph at the Captain’s Run on Friday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Preview: Ireland v Canada Venue: Aviva Stadium. Kick-off: 7.15pm. Live Sky Sports 3

Donnacha Ryan and Devin Toner in training for Ireland’s clash with Canada. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Three uncapped players Billy Holland, Jack O’Donoghue and Garry Ringrose to start

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt: would be happy for Irish defence coach Andy Farrell to work  with the Lions. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Warren Gatland had proposed idea but Ireland coach will focus on USA and Japan tours

Scarlets winger DTH Van Der Merwe returns to the Canada side for Saturday’s Test against Ireland. Photograph:   Simon King/Inpho/CameraSport

Coach Mark Anscombe names fairly experienced line-up for Dublin game

Eye on the ball: Garry Ringrose is set to make his long-awaited Test debut against Canada in the Guinness Series. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Cian Healy, Seán O’Brien to start alongside Garry Ringrose with five uncapped players on bench

New Zealand’s head coach Steve Hansen congratulates Joe Schmidt at Soldier Field. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

All Blacks win was reward for gameplan built on running rugby and clever kicking

The Ireland team and management celebrate in the dressing-room of Soldier Field. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland’s history with All Blacks was one of hammerings, humiliation and heartbreak

Conor Murray, Jared Payne and Jamie Heaslip celebrate Robbie Henshaw’s try, which sealed Ireland’s victory over New Zealand at Soldier Field – their first over the All Blacks in 111 years. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Ireland’s defeat of All Blacks ranks as best achievement in country’s rugby history

Joe Moody upends Robbie Henshaw: the Ireland centre’s late try was the highlight of a wonderfully combative performance. Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images

Decision-making by Best and execution by Sexton key to Schmidt’s strategy paying off

Joe Schmidt celebrates with Simon Zebo after the win over New Zealand. Photo: Inpho

Irish coach will lift alcohol ban after All Blacks blown way in the Windy City

Ireland players Rob Kearney (left) and Jamie Heaslip celebrate following their 40-29 victory over New Zealand. Photograph: Getty

Stunning performance by Irish rugby team in Chicago sees New Zealand finally beaten

Ireland’s Johnny Sexton practices his kicking at Soldier Field in Chicago ahead of the November Test against the All Blacks. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland’s history against All Blacks is bleak but another opportunity beckons in Chicago

All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith: ‘I love this team and want to do everything I can to help them succeed.’ Photograph: Eric Luke

The man known as ‘the Professor’ is a vital cog in New Zealand’s powerful machine

Ireland replacement outhalf Joey Carbery trains yesterday at the University of Chicago ahead of Saturday Test with New Zealand. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho.

Ireland head coach keen to get one over his native New Zealand in Chicago first Test

More articles