Shane Warne, Darren Clarke and BBC presenter Stephen Watson share a joke after playing in the Irish Open Pro-Am at Royal Co Down. Photograph: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images.

Stephen Ferris and Shane Warne show skills not confined to rugby and cricket

Cian Kelleher of Lansdowne (right). He and Clontarf’s Collie O’Shae are named on the squad to take on Barbarians on Thursday. Photograph: INPHO/Donall Farmer

Selection for Ireland squad is a gilt-edged opportunity for the two young players

Eoin Reddan: “The important thing for a new guy coming in,  whoever it is, is that people buy into what he wants.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Departure of coach came as surprise and players ‘must take collective responsibility’

Leinster head coach Matt O’Connor has been let go by the Irish province. Photo: Gary Carr/Inpho

Forwards’ coach Leo Cullen is to take over in the short term

Luke Fitzgerald:  “It was a no-brainer to have the surgery.” Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Leinster star targeting a return in time for the World Cup warm-up games

Ian Madigan: “I probably hope that’s in the 12 position and, if Johnny is unfit or unavailable for whatever reason, then I’d be ready to step in to the outhalf position.” Photograph: Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Leinster player looking to impress against Barbarians to nail down World Cup place

 Clontarf’s Matt Darcy: won both the “Top Try Scorer” and Division 1A player of the year. Photograph: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Division 1A winners Lansdowne have three players up for awards in various categories

One of Ireland’s all-time great fullbacks Hugo MacNeill. He will be a member of the oversight board

IRFU has announced a board of oversight to combine strands needed for tender

Ulster’s Stuart McCloskey scores a try against Benetton Treviso during the Pro12 game at Kingspan Stadium in February. Photograph: Darren kidd/Inpho.

Golf may have been his first love but, after a growing spurt, rugby is his sole attraction

Leona Maguire has moved to number one in the ladies’ amateur world rankings. Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images

Duke University student goes to number one in the amateur rankings

Iain Henderson has been cleared by a disciplinary committee agfter he was sent off during Ulster’s 23-23 draw with Munster. Photograph: Inpho

A disciplinary committee cleared Henderson after he was sent off in draw with Munster

Ben Te’o has adjusted well in his switch to Rugby Union this season. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

The Leinster centre not ruling out playing international rugby in the future

Leinster assistant coach Richie Murphy: “Our squad is our squad.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Team will work with what they’ve got, says assistant coach

Lansdowne celebrate their triumph in the rugby Ulster Bank League Division 1A final at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Clontarf left to rue missed chances as challengers reel in nine-point second- half lead

Lansdowne celebrate their 18-17 win over Clontarf in the Ulster Bank League Division 1A final at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Inpho

Holders Clontarf left to rue missed opportunities as they are reeled in at the Aviva

Clontarf’s Matthew D’Arcy makes a break against Cork Constitution. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Lansdowne look to win title back against defending champions

Leinster’s Luke Fitzgerald: Leinster forwards coach Leo Cullen said “He will certainly be out for the next two weeks. I don’t think it’s a World Cup issue.” Photograph: Inpho

Ireland international undergoes shoulder operation and joins the already sidelined prop Marty Moore and hooker Seán Cronin

 London Irish owner Mick Crossan fronted the consortium that bought the club in 2013. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Owner has hired former captain to help return club to its old standing and values

Munster’s Donnacha Ryan: with the World Cup looming the secondrow could benefit from playing for Emerging Ireland at the Tbilisi Cup in June. Photograph: Inbpho

Ireland coach Nigel Carolan announces 28-man squad for IRB Under-20 World Championship in Italy next month

Wayne Barnes will be the man in the middle for Leinster’s European Champions Cup semi-final against Toulon on Sunday. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

The referee has played a significant role in some of the province’s big European games

Paul O’Connell captained Ireland to  Six Nations Championshps success. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho.

Paul O’Connell, Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton join the Connacht player in vying for top accolade

Declan Fitzpatrick scoring a try against the Dragons. The tighthead who was strong in the scrum and a marauding presence in the loose made 98 appearances for Ulster. Photograph: Inpho

Ulster prop leaves game on medical advice having won seven caps for Ireland

Leinster secondrow Kane Douglas has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a back injury. Photograph: Inpho

Australian international secondrow faces three months out with back injury

Jocelino Suta of Toulon wins the lineout during last year’s Heineken Cup semi-final between the French side and Munster at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille. Photoraph: David Rogers/Getty Images.

France air control strike will not hamper flight plans for semi-final with Toulon

Ulster’s Ireland contingent of Iain Henderson, Jared Payne, Rory Best and Tommy Bowe do a selfie after the Six Nations Championship win against Scotland at Murrayfield last month. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho.

The Irish province signs Peter Browne and Paul Rowley for next season

Gordon D’Arcy: “All I can worry about is the next game. That’s all I can control. If I play my best game there, and that gets me into the team, great. If I play my best game and it doesn’t get me into the team, I’ve done all I can.”

Centre is no longer first choice for club and country but he is eager to change that

Fergus McFadden is following return-to-play protocols after getting  head injury during Leinster’s victory over Bath in the Champions Cup quarter-final

Wing sustained head injury against Bath while secondrow still struggling with back

Bundee Aki has been passed fit for Connacht’s match against Ulster next weekend.

Centre to return for first time since January for key Pro 12 derby clash in Galway

Jonathan Joseph burst onto the international scene in this season’s Six Nations Championship, finishing it as the top try scorer. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Bath and England centre has blossomed as a player since moving to Recreation Ground

French referee Jérôme Garcès, who refereed Ireland’s Six Nations defeat of Scotland at Murrayfield last month, will take charge of Leinster’s Champions Cup game against Bath at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.

Manner in which Leinster contest tackles and rucks crucial to progress of Matt O’Connor’s Irish province

Sky Sports have sealed exclusive rights to at least three of Ireland’s World Cup warm-up matches. Photograph: Afp

Games against Scotland and Wales won’t be available to watch on terrestrial television

Peter Stringer has 98 Ireland caps and has not given up hope of adding to that number. First up, though, is to find a new club, with Leinster among the sides rumoured to be interested in his services. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Former Ireland scrumhalf is leaving Bath but is eager to find a new club

This try against the Dragons was one of five in Craig Gilroy’s last four games for Ulster. Photograph: Ian Cook/Inpho.

Wing has scored five in last four matches and wants to extend run against Cardiff Blues

Seán O’Brien is back in the Leinster squad for the Champions Cup campaign. Photograph: Mark Runnacles/PA Wire

Healy, O’Brien and Nick McCarthy added to Leinster roster for Champions Cup

Dave Kearney says he’s delighted for the Irish team. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Mixed feelings for injured players who played no part in Ireland’s triumph

Ian Madigan and Sean Cronin are set to return for Leinster in the Pro12. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Ireland remain in third in World rankings after Six Nations triumph

Jonathan Sexton celebrates with Jared Payne after the Ulster back scored his first try for Ireland. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Overseas press hail Ireland’s ability to move up gear in final-day shootout

Ireland number eight Jamie Heaslip makes the crucial try-saving tackle as Scotland fullback  Stuart Hogg loses possession and knocks on going over the try line during the Six Nations game at Murrayfield. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Tiny margins the order of the day as Joe Schmidt’s side make it back-to-back successes

Tommy Bowe:  He worked extremely hard all afternoon and made some excellent breaks for a 92-metre haul. A couple of offloads didn’t go to a teammate but that doesn’t take away from the impact he made. Rating: 7

As Ireland do more than is asked of them at Murrayfield, John O’Sullivan rates the Irish performances

With Irish roots and a newly discovered George Best link, Scottish speedster Stuart Hogg merits close attention

Under-20 Six Nations Championship head coach Nigel Carolan. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Nigel Carolan’s team faces Scotland next after successive defeats to England and Wales

Lorcan Dow: ““We’re ready to move on and restore pride in the jersey.” Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Nigel Carolan’s side have Scotland in their sights

Ireland’s Mike Ross (right) and Rory Best tackle Wales’ Rhys Webb during the Six Nations game at the Millennium Stadium. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

‘Each referee will have his own strengths and weaknesses and you have to identify those and get on the right side of him’

Ireland number eight Lorcan Dow and centre Sam Arnold move in to tackle Wales’ Harrison Keddie during the Under-20 Six Nations match at Parc Eirias in  Colwyn Bay. Photograph:  Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Ireland number eight Lorcan Dow says side want to right wrongs from Wales defeat

Ireland’s lineout misfired badly at the Millennium Stadium. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Wales deserve huge credit but Ireland need to look at themselves after 23-16 defeat

Rob Kearney: A few early errors but grew into the game with some traditional high fielding and a willingness to carry ball repeatedly: some success in breaking first line of defence on cut-backs and was his side’s most effective ball carrier with 104 metres. Rating 6

John O’Sullivan rates the Irish performances in Cardiff

Welsh secondrow’s talent on the pitch will pose the biggest threat to Ireland in Cardiff

Ireland U-20s centre Garry Ringrose skips past Will Owen of England during the recent clash at Donnybrook. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Outhalf Ross Byrne says team determined to purge frustrations of home defeat to England

Wales lost seven of 18 lineouts in the first two matches, coughing up four against England and three to the Scots. They didn’t lose a single lineout against France the last day, winning all 10 throws.

Joe Schmidt’s side have carried the ball and passed more than any other team in the championship

Rory Best: “The Welsh [team] will probably see it as a chance to right a few wrongs.” Photograph: Russell Pritchard/Presseye/Inpho.

Ireland want to celebrate captain Paul O’Connell’s 100th cap with a victory

Gordon D’Arcy: 81 times capped Leinster centre has been left out of the Ireland squad to face Wales. Photograph: Craig Thomas/Inpho.

Gordon D’Arcy a notable omission from 36-man Ireland squad

Jeremy Loughman in action during the Under-20 Six Nations match against England at Donnybrook. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho.

‘Set-piece would be my first priority’ says loosehead prop

Luke Fitzgerald will start on  the wing for Leinster against Scarlets. Photograph: James Crosbie/Inpho.

Scarlets should be overcome by Matt O’Connor’s side

Donnacha Ryan makes his return to the Munster squad after a year of rehabilitation with a foot injury.

Donnacha Ryan may make return from bench against Ospreys

Samoan international Mike Stanley makes his first start for Ulster at inside centre. Photograph: Inpho.

Mike Stanley to make first appearance for province against Dragons

Padraig Harrington says he will have to make big changes to his playing schedule. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Win makes him eligible for five additional tournaments - ‘It’s a nice problem to have’

Padraig Harrington shakes hands with Daniel Berger on the second playoff hole during the continuation of the fourth round of The Honda Classic. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Three-time Major winner explains how his mindset changed between playoff holes

Isa Nacewa may be returning to Leinster next season with talk of his signing a year-long contract in a player/coach role. Photograph: Dan Sheridan /Inpho

Leo Cullen says squad needs to be bolstered, especially with players going to World Cup

Leinster say Zane Kirchner contract talks are at an advanced stage. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Isa Nacewa return in player/coach capacity is ‘miles off’ say province

Generally speaking Conor Murray’s box-kicking was wonderfully accurate and it was an area of the game in which Ireland generated huge currency in possession terms.

A fine 19-9 victory with just enough ‘work-ons’ to occupy Joe Schmidt and his management team over the next fortnight.

 Billy Vunipola makes a break at the Aviva Stadium. James Crombie/Inpho

John O’Sullivan assesses the English performances at the Aviva Stadium

Rob Kearney: A couple of loose kicks aside he was the personification of calm collection under the high ball and that infuses confidence in those around you. Rating: 7

How Ireland’s players rated in today’s 19-9 win over England

Leinster’s Luke Fitzgerald would love to make the match squad against England on Sunday. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Switching between centre and wing doesn’t faze Ireland star getting back to his best

Bath’s director of rugby Mike ford talks to his son George, the outhalf of that club and England. George will have a pivotal position as kicker when England come to Dublin for the Six Nations game on Sunday. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty.

The son of Ireland’s former backs coach is back in Dublin as outhalf

Hooker Damien Varley made 121 appearances for Munster and won three caps for Ireland during his career. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Gordon D’Arcy, Eoin Reddan and Zane Kirchner ready to return for Leinster

Ulster outhalf Ian Humphreys says province are determined to win the block of four matches during the Six Nations. Photograph: Darren Griffiths/Presseye/Inpho

Ian Humphreys targets run of wins to build momentum for top-four place

 Johnny Sexton temporarily leaves the field with a blood injury against France in the Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Eric Luke

England’s Mike Brown will not resume training this week but hopes he can play against Ireland

Jonathan Joseph scores a try for England against Italy. The centre crossed over twice in a man-of-the-match performance. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

The 23-year-old Bath player is hoping that number 13 isn’t unlucky for him

Ireland’s Jamie Heaslip stands for the National Anthem against France. He was substituted after 60 minutes with a back injury. Photograph:  James Crombie/ Inpho

Ireland number eight could be back in time for Six Nations game against Wales in Cardiff

Leinster’s Richardt Strauss goes off with a suspected head injury against the Dragons. Photograph: Colm O’Neill/Inpho

Former Ireland scrumhalf Peter Stringer will leave Bath at the end of the season

Pascal Papé has been cited for his knee to the back of Jamie Heaslip during Ireland’s 18-11 Six Nations win over France at the Aviva. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Secondrow was sinbinned for kneeing Ireland number eight in the back during Six Nations tie

Ireland’s Mike Ross holds on to the shorts of French winger Teddy Thomas to make a vital tackle during the Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Midfield excellence in defending against French power runners proved key

 Nathan White: back in the Connacht line-up for the visit to Scarlets. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Pat Lam’s side eager to protect their top six status against their closest pursuers

Ian Keatley and Keith Earls have been named in Munster’s team for tomorrow night’s game against Cardiff Blues. (Photograph: INPHO/Dan Sheridan)

Anthony Foley names a strong side for visit of Cardiff Blues at newly refurbished Musgrave Park

Ireland’s Oisín Heffernan: “It’s about confronting them up front, at scrum and lineout, and not giving them the space to play; getting up in their faces.”Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

But prop Oisín Heffernan looking forward to the challenge at Dubarry Park

Garry Ringrose prepares for the French challenge. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

‘There’s so much strength in depth in the squad, your previous experience doesn’t really matter’ says Ringrose

Ireland’s Tommy Bowe was frustrated against Italy on Saturday last. Photograph: Matteo Ciambelli/Inpho

Ulster man had a frustrating game against Italy comprised of chasing box-kicks and punts

Marty Moore (L) is in line to make his seventh Ireland appearance from the bench against France on Saturday. (Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire)

23-year-old Leinster tighthead has ousted Mike Ross in Leinster team but likely to start on bench

Outhalf  Ian Keatley solid after a nervy start in Rome.  Photograph:  Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

John O’Sullivan sees plenty of positives after a 26-3 win for Joe Schmidt’s side in Rome

Leinster centre Garry Ringrose is one of the talented backs in the Ireland under-20 team to play Italy. Photograph: Inpho.

Anticipation mounts as coach Nigel Carolan unleashes talented side in championship opener

  Jérôme Garcès, who sent off Jared Payne in last year’s Heineken Cup, will referee Ireland’s match with Scotland. Photograph: Darren Kidd/INPHO/Presseye

Each decision now prompts a debate but greater consistency is required in Six Nations

But what are the chances of the French players having to wear name tags to training?

Italy head coach Jacques Brunel.

Jacques Brunel has broadened Italy’s playing patterns to make them a more rounded team but he hasn’t quite solved the halfback con(...)

Scotland coach Vern Cotter.

Vern Cotter’s done a decent job since taking over before the November Test series last year.

Anscombe is one of 11 players selected by Warren Gatland  born outside of Wales.

There is very much a welcome for the 23-year-old outhalf in the hillsides and valleys

England head coach Stuart Lancaster.

First match up against Wales at the Millennium stadium is a massive momentum moment

Coach Joe Schmidt and his management team have passed every test to date despite Ireland’s lengthy injury list. Photo: Dan Sheridan

There’s a massive challenge for Schmidt and his management team but they’ve passed virtually every test

Tommy Bowe will take his place on the right wing for Ireland’s opening game against Italy at the Stadio OIimpico in Rome. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

The Ireland wing has missed the last two Six Nations campaigns

 Jamie Heaslip has been playing with a shoulder problem he picked up against Ulster. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Jonathan Sexton and Cian Healy may be available for Ireland’s game against France

Scrumhalf Nick McCarthy was chosen by his teammates to lead the side this year

John O’Sullivan finds a wholly professional regime under head coach Nigel Carolan

Thierry Dusautoir of France and Philippe Saint Andre pose with the Six Nations trophy at the Hurlingham club in London. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

French coach looking forward to the World Cup when he will have uninterrupted access to his players in preparation terms

Captains for Six Nations, clockwise from top: Paul O’Connell, Chris Robshaw, Thierry Dusautoir, Greig Laidlaw, Sam Warburton and Sergio Parisse. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Overriding objective to show improvement ahead of World Cup, says Ireland coach

Keith Earls hands off Sale Sharks’ Luke McLean to run in the first of eight second-half tries for Munster. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho.

Foley’s side score eight second-half tries in a strange afternoon at Thomond Park

Munster’s Dave Foley is tackled by  Mark Jennings of Sale during the Champions Cup match at Thomond Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho.

Dave Foley damages wrist and Keith Earls taken off as a precaution

Simon Zebo scored twice in a man of the match performance as Munster thrashed Sale Sharks 65 10 at Thomond Park. (Photograph: INPHO/Dan Sheridan)

Simon Zebo man of the match as Foley’s side run in nine tries against hapless second-string Sharks

Mils Muliaina, confronted here by Phil Burleigh of Edinburgh, will captain Connacht against La Rochelle. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Pat Lam’s team can progress to Challenge Cup quarter-finals with a victory in France

French referee Jerome Garces during the Heineken Cup clash between Leinster and Northampton at the Aviva Stadium in 2013. Garces will also referee Saturday’s pivotal match against Wasps. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

The Irish province are familiar with style of Saturday’s French referee Jerome Garces

Ulster centre Stuart olding has been ruled out of Ireland’s Six Nations campaign. (Photograph: INPHO/Presseye/Franck Pennant)

Centre suffered significant ligament damage during record defeat away to Toulon

Leinster will not register Sean O’Brien or Cian Healy for Saturday’s trip to play London Wasps. (Photograph: INPHO/Ryan Byrne)

Ireland internationals have made good progress but won’t be risked in final pool game

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