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

 Brian O’Driscoll gave a statement about Sean O’Brien’s good character to the disciplinary hearing.

Pascal Papé’s evidence points to “violent punch” that hampered him throughout the game

Ireland’s Keith Earls: “I’m happy at the moment. Hopefully there is more to come. Without any injuries it is great to be able to build on it each week. That’s the plan.”

Due to the number of walking wounded, normal plans have been shelved this week

Jonathan Sexton: reportedly  worked his adductor at training in Sofia Gardens and  ran 3.5km. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

O’Brien’s suspension ensures a quarter-final call-up for one of Ryan, Murphy or Ruddock

Felipe Contepomi: “For me he (Sexton) is one of the best outhalves in the world, if not the best. I feel sorry for him not to be fit. Maybe good for Argentina, I don’t know, because Ireland have big depth in strength.”

Leinster veteran looks back on Sexton years – but won’t make predictions for Sunday

Johnny Sexton during a training session in Cardiff on Wednesday. Photograph: Henry Browne/Reuters

Sexton and Keith Earls remain doubts for Sunday’s World Cup quarter-final

Paul O’Connell’s World Cup has been ended by a hamstring injury. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Jack McGrath, Robbie Henshaw, Chris Henry and Rhys Ruddock on Paul O’Connell

New Zealand centre Sonny Bill Williams meets the media in Swansea. Photograph: Gabriel Bouys/AFP

‘I didn’t even watch’ the defeat to France in 2007, says New Zealand centre Williams

Ireland’s Sean O’Brien gave a wonderfully bullish performance against France. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Sexton and O’Connell departures fail to halt unstoppable Irish momentum

Thierry Dusautoir: “Of course against New Zealand it is going to be the toughest, they are the best team in the world.”

“We don’t have that many injuries compared to Ireland. They have two, maybe three very serious injuries”

Ireland centre Jared Payne has been ruled out of the rest of the Rugby World Cup. Photograph: Inpho

‘He had an elder statesman presence around the place in terms of how he did thing’

Ireland centre Robbie Henshaw: centre is credited with 14 to 16 tackles against Italy. “Sixteen tackles, that won’t do. I’ll have to improve that, going to have to look to put in a harder shift again,” he said. Photograph: Inpho

Visit of sporting icons imbued players with pride in country and determination to succeed

Jared Payne will not  face France on Sunday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Cian Healy and Devin Toner both return to the XV for Sunday’s pool decider vs France

France’s Bernard le Roux in action against Italy at the Millennium Stadium. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Ireland outhalf’s former team-mate Bernard Le Roux aims to put Dubliner under pressure

 Paul O’Connell and Rob Kearney at the Celtic Manor Resort where the Ireland squad is based in advance of Sunday’s clash with France. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Communication a pivotal part of the game, though sometimes not with journalists

Devin Toner has rubbished French comparisons between Johnny Sexton and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Photograph: Afp

Ireland lock dismisses French claims outhalf threw his weight around at Racing Metro

Johnny Sexton  runs with the ball during the   Pool D match against Italy. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty

Outhalf full of praise for Michael Cheika before turning attention to French challenge

Jared Payne: Joe Schmidt stated Sunday night he expects to choose his team from a fully available 31-man squad. Photograph: Inpho

Kiwi centre is expected to feature in Ireland’s final pool game against France on Sunday

Jonathan Sexton says the French are not interested in winning the Six Nations. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Sexton: ‘We probably need the best performance of Joe’s time to win this weekend’

Ireland struggled at times against Italy and captain Paul O’Connell feels the gameplan possibly needs to change. Photo: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Tactical Ireland kicked a lot and didn’t take risks, says Parisse

Ireland’s Iain Henderson tackles Italy’s  Edoardo Gori during the Pool D match at the Olympic Stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho.

Ireland lock’s presence inspires others to heights of controlled ferocity

Jack McGrath and Cian Healy have traded places – largely due to the latter’s injury profile and McGrath starts against Italy. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

But, in stark contrast to previous regimes, the door is never welded shut

Mike Ross is vital to Ireland’s World Cup hopes despite his international career blooming late. Photograph: Getty

Ireland will need tighthead to be his usual durable self if they hope to fulfil ambitions at tournament

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt keeps an eye on training this morning. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Jared Payne and Rob Kearney miss clash with injuries as Sergio Parisse returns for Azzurri

Fiji’s centre Vereniki Goneva  is tackled by Dan Biggar  and   Jamie Roberts of Wales  during the Rugby World Cup  Pool A match at the Millennium stadium in Cardiff. Photograph: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

Free-spirited Fiji run in stunning try at Millennium Stadium

 Rob Kearney scores his  try against Canada last Sunday. Photo: Andrew Couldridge/Reuters

Simon Zebo to start at fullback with Robbie Henshaw to finally see some action

Tyler Morgan will partner Jamie Roberts in the Welsh midfield. Photograph: Getty

Loss of Nemani Nadolo and Nikola Matawalu to prove a major blow for Pacific Islanders

Peter O’Mahony and Jonathan Sexton go through their warm-up routines ahead of Ireland squad training at Surrey Sports Park in Guilford. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Versatile Munster man eyeing starting fullback spot if injury rules out Leinster rival

Jared Payne is an injury doubt for the upcoming Italy game. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Fullback Rob Kearney remains the other doubt for Italy game

Robbie Henshaw during a gym session at  Surrey Sports Park in Guildford on Tuesday. The Connacht centre is in line to make his World Cup debut against Italy next Sunday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Robbie Henshaw expected to make World cup debut against Italy

Ireland centre Jared Payne in action against Romania at Wembley. “He is probably one of the best passers of the ball in the squad,” says Tommy Bowe. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

World Cup pundits blaming Ireland’s lack of attacking fluidity on centre from New Zealand

Rob Kearney may have suffered a gluteal strain in scoring a try (above) against Romania. Photograph: Paul Gilham/Getty Images.

Rob Kearney a doubt for match against Italy, with Rob Henshaw likely to return

Rob Kearney is a doubt for Ireland’s Rugby World Cup fixture against Italy after he suffered a gluteal strain after scoring his side’s fifth try in the 44-10 win over Romania at Wembley. Photograph: Inpho

Fullback suffered a gluteal strain during Ireland’s win over Romania at Wembley

Jared Payne tries to get past Romania’s  Adrian Apostol at Wembley. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland’s cleverest of Kiwi recruits never quits – pick any phase of play and there he is

Uncompromising Springbok secondrow Eben Etzebeth manhandles Samoa’s Ken Pisi at Villa Park. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

South Africa get World Cup back on track with victory over Samoa but injuries mount up

Devin Toner and Keith Earls celebrate after Earls scored Ireland’s opening try of the Rugby World Cup pool match against Romania. Photo: Andrew Coulridge/Reuters

Competition for places becoming fiercer by the minute

 Samoa’s Viliamu Afatia is tackled by South Africa’s Lodewyk De Jager and Frans Malherbe during the Rugby World Cup  Pool B match at  Villa Park in Birmingham. Photograph:  David Jonjes/EPA

Gavin Cummiskey gauges the mood as Springboks roar back to life against Samoa

 South Africa’s Duane Vermeulen: “If we don’t win we are out. We have to give our all. I’m ready to do that.” Photo:  Steve Haag/Gallo Images

South Africa to rely on traditional game to banish memories of defeat to Japan

Ian Madigan in action during Ireland’s final training session at  St George’s Park in Burton-on-Trent. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Brother Dave’s tips on playing number nine could benefit the younger Madigan

Ireland manager Joe Schmidt has made 12 changes for Sunday’s Rugby World Cup pool C clash with Romania at Wembley. Photograph: Inpho

Cian Healy starts at Wembley while Ian Madigan is preferred to Paddy Jackson

Cian Healy is set to start for Ireland against Romania at Wembley on Sunday. Photograph: Inpho

Manager Mick Kearney confirms every member of 31-man squad fit for Wembley

Mark Bennett celebrates after scoring his second try during Scotland’s 45-10 win over Japan at Kingsholm. Photograph: Reuters

Vern Cotter’s side open World Cup campaign in style with comfortable win over Japan

South Africa’s head coach Heyneke Meyer attends a press conference at International Congress Center in Birmingham. Photograph: Getty Images

‘If we back each other more SA will be much better place with less hate and violence’

South Africa’s lock Lood de Jager, prop Tendai Mtawarira and backrow Francois Louw: “It is really going to be a test of character this week.” Photograph: Bertrand Langlois/AFP/Getty Images

Springboks accept loss to Japan but say it is now time to move on and face up to reality

Cian Healy made his return to the Ireland team against Canada in Cardiff. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Ireland prop admits nerve damage affected not only career but also quality of life

 Ireland outhalf Johnny  Sexton offloads to  Luke Fitzgerald during the Pool D game against Canada at the Millennium Stadium. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Connacht centre set to shake off hamstring strain and train during week

Ireland hooker  Rory Best gets tackled by Canada’s Djustice Sears-Duru  during Rugby World Cup Pool D game at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Photograph:  Mike Egerton/PA

Iain Henderson sticks his head that little bit higher in Cardiff

Iain Henderson, supported by Luke Fitzgerald, run at the Canadian defence during the  Rugby World Cup Group D encounter at the Milennium Stadium in Cardiff. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Coach confirms that Darren Cave will be involved against Romania

Jamie Heaslip with Keith Earls during the Irish team’s captain’s run. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

‘You think it’s going to be really dry, but with the roof closed the ball can be a bit slippy’

Keith Earls and Luke Fitzgerald at Ireland training in Cardiff. “Anywhere on the pitch I’d love to see Luke Fitzgerald,” says the Munster man. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho.

Sons of famous fathers have inherited grit and we are all better for it

Ireland’s Conor Murray was withdrawn  during the World Cup Warm up match at Twickenham Stadium against England after he picked up a head injury. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

The Ireland scrum-half says that none of the injuries were serious head traumas

Head coach Joe Schmidt has named Luke Fitzgerald at inside centre for Ireland’s World Cup opener. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Keith Earls and Iain Henderson earn starts as Ireland name team to face Canada

Ireland centre Jared Payne, seen here holding off George Ford at Twickenham, has become a pivotal part of the Ireland midfield. Photograph: Clive Rose/Getty Images

Ireland centre emerged just as rugby fraternity fretted over Brian O’Driscoll successor

Luke Fitzgerald is set to start alongside Jared Payne in Ireland’s midfield for the opening World Cup game against Canada. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Extent of Connacht centre’s injury will be revealed at Thursday’s team announcement

Dublin’s Alan Brogan: “Obviously there’s history there and a sense of occasion when you’re playing Kerry. My Mam is from Kerry so that brings its own little edge to it.” Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Dublin legend Alan Brogan may be the 15-minute man but he’s still hungry for success

Wexford manager JJ Doyle: “What we need to do now is to get over the line,” he says. “None of these guys ever won anything other than at under-21. Photograph: Sportsfile

Wexford manager says this may be last chance for this generation to win national title

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