Ulster flanker Chris Henry tackles  Nick Abendanon of Clermont Auvergne during the European  Champions Cup match at   Kingspan stadium in Belfast. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Coach admits that two bonus points earned by French side leaves them in control of pool

 Charles Piutau scores Ulster’s fifth  try in the European  Champions Cup match against  Clermont Auvergne at Kingspan stadium in  Belfast. Photograph: Darren Kidd/Inpho/Presseye

Clermont Auvergne take two bonus points back to France after nine-try thriller

Les Kiss: “If Clermont win they’re in charge of everything and then we’re pretty low in the points to be able to get one of those second-place spots.” Photograph: Jonathan Porter/Inpho/Presseye

Les Kiss missing several big names for intriguing clash against the French giants

AJ MacGinty will start at outhalf for Sale Sharks against Saracens. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images.

Holders Saracens name Will Skelton as a replacement for Sale Sharks encounter

Nicole Cronin of Ireland is tackled by Mathilde Coutouly of France during day one of the Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Photo: Tom Dulat/Getty Images

The IRFU is gradually bulding a profile for Irish Sevens on the international platform

Ireland and Ulster players Paddy Jackson and Rory Best will return for the province’s clash against Clermont Auvergne at the  Kingspan Stadium. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Injury-hit province strengthened by return of key players Paddy Jackson and Rory Best

Ross Byrne has been added to Leinster’s squad for Friday night’s Champions Cup clash with Northampton Saints. Photograph: Inpho/Donall Farmer

Ulster’s South Africa prop Wiehahn Herbst signs a new two-year deal at Ravenhill

Daniel Dass:  Former Belfast Royal Academy pupil will captain Cambridge University   against Oxford University  at Twickenham. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Daniel Dass, Brian du Toit and Jonathan Dixon all to line out at Twickenham

Brendan Macken scores for Wasps against Worcester last weekend. Photo: Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Wasps centre could retain his place in midfield for Champions Cup meeting

George North of Northampton  will not play against Leinster on Friday night. Photo:  Clive Mason/Getty Images

Northampton winger will be assessed by independent medical specialists

The presence of Iain Henderson in the backrow, returning from international duty, is a huge plus for Ulster. Photograph: Inpho

Iain Henderson’s presence in Les Kiss’s side will help to pack build solid platfrom

Marnitz Boshoff starts in the 10 jersey for Connacht this weekend. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Matt Healy is back after injury as Benetton Treviso travel to the Sportsground

Tommy O’Donnell:  the Tipperary man makes  his 100th appearance for Munster tonight when the province visit Glasgow Warriors. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Glasgow Warriors welcome back nine players from Scotland duty for intriguing clash

Jamie Heaslip is expected to follow Devin Toner and sign a new contract with Leinster. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Negotiations in relation to number eight’s contract believed to be at advanced stage

 Australia’s Bernard Foley  landed three of just six points conceded due to  Ireland penalties in recent Tests. Photograph: Colm O’Neill/Inpho

Joe Schmidt will be very pleased at discipline showed by players in autumn Tests

The Six Nations 2017 will be the first to have bonus points awarded in it. Photograph: Getty Images

Format follows Pro12 with one caveat - team that wins Grand Slam gets three extra points

CJ Stander has been named the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Player of the Year. He was honoured at the awards dinner in the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin. Photograph: Inpho

Ireland forward is also Munster’s Player of the Year for the second time in succession

Ireland’s Jared Payne: did not return to the pitch following half-time against Australia at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Reuters

Fears Irish centre, Payne may be ruled out until New Year with fractured rib cage

  Australia’s Dean Mumm is shown a yellow card by referee Jerome Garces last Saturday. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Australian flanker will receive no further sanction for his tackle on Tadhg Furlong

Ireland’s CJ Stander during the Autumn international Test against Australia at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photograph: Brendan Moran/Getty Images.

Players working hard for each other key to taking big scalps on international stage

Ireland’s Devin Toner is dumped by Bernard Foley of Australia in the last few minutes at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

John O’Sullivan looks at the main talking points after a hugely positive autumn series

Ireland’s captain Niamh Briggs has recovered from the hamstring injury that saw her miss the England and Canada games. Photograph: Inpho

Preview Ireland v New Zealand; Sunday – Belfield Bowl (2.0)

Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony during the captain’s run at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Munster must plan without O’Mahony who  returned to Ireland camp.

PRO12 PREVIEW: Saturday – Munster v Benetton Treviso, Thomond Park (2.0)

Ireland captain Rory Best and fefence coach Andy Farrell. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

‘I feel fit, happy with my game and the big thing for me is I’m really enjoying it’

15. Rob Kearney (Ireland). Photograph: All photos from Getty Images

John O’Sullivan takes a look at the two XVs who’ll do battle at the Aviva on Saturday

Flanker Chris Henry (left) returns to the Ulster team after injury. Photograph: Jonathan Porter/Inpho.

Province look in good shape to reignite season with victory over depleted Italian side

Dan Leavy in action against Castres at the RDS. Leavy, happily injury free, has consistently delivered on his prodigious ability this season. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Depth of Leo Cullen’s squad sure to be tested as visitors face difficult assignment in Wales

South African outhalf Marnitz Boshoff is set to make his Connacht debut from the bench. Photograph: James Crosbie/Inpho.

Cardiff present usual tough challenge but Pat Lam is quietly confident of taking home advantage

 Ireland’s Tiernan O’Halloran scores a try against Canada. The Connacht fullback has made more metres (634) than any other player in the PRO12. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Livepic/Reuters

Next two home games against Cardiff Blues and Treviso pivotal for Pat Lam’s side

Andrew Trimble on Rory Best: “He’s tough and rugged and hardy. He’s a guy I’ve looked up to for a long time.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland winger hails influence of captain who will win his 100th cap against Australia

Josh Van der Flier: made his senior Leinster debut just over two years ago. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Leinster flanker ready to make impact against Australia after showing against All Blacks

Munster duo Simon Zebo and Keith Earls are both in the mix to feature for Ireland against Australia on Saturday. Photograph: Inpho/Billy Stickland

CJ Stander and Rob Kearney following head injury protocols, Simon Zebo back training

Ireland’s Garry Ringrose runs past Aaron Smith of New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium where Ireland were defeated 9-21. Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images

Centre who replaced injured Henshaw after 11 minutes reflects on ‘really tough Test’

All Blacks captain Kieran Read came in for some criticism after his side’s win in Dublin. Photograph: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Unsurprisingly the Kiwi press had a slightly differing view on the All Blacks’ tackling

Ireland captain Rory Best in conversation with South African referee Jaco Peyper during the All Blacks’ 21-9 win at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Inpho/Billy Stickland

All Blacks well worthy of Dublin victory but their cause was aided by poor officiating

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen was proud of his team’s defence in their victory at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

New Zealand head coach unapologetic when asked about the legality of his team’s tackling

The AIG Rugby Weekend, Solider Field, Chicago, USA 5/11/2016Ireland vs New Zealand All BlacksThe Ireland team stand for the National AnthemMandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

A look at the Irish and All Black teams ahead of Saturday’s rematch in Dublin

Expect dinks, grubbers, cross-kicks, contestable box-kicks, and  long diagonal kicks or punts as All Blacks put boot to ball as they did against Italy last weekend. Photograph: Tony Gentile/Livepic

World champions likely to move away from running game employed in Soldier Field

Rob Kearney and Jamie Heaslip during an Ireland training session at carton House. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/inpho

Fullback expects a different New Zealand looking for revenge in Dublin

 Jack McGrath celebrates Ireland’s historic win against the All Blacks at Soldier Field in Chicago. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

New Zealand ‘weren’t at their best; we will definitely have to be at our best’, says prop

Brian O’Driscoll at the Ireland bid announcement for the 2023 Rugby World Cup at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

‘No matter where you go, you talk to people about the atmosphere and the welcome people get in Ireland’

IRFU chief executive Philip Browne with Brian O’Driscoll. Photograph: Inpho/Billy Stickland

‘We have 12 months to persuade the rest of the world that this is something worth doing’

Croke Park in Dublin.

Eight GAA grounds join four rugby stadiums as potential venues for 2023 tournament

Derry’s Celtic Park is one of 12 venues which could be used if Ireland host the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Photograph: Inpho/Lorcan Doherty

Derry’s Celtic Park named as one of 12 potential venues for the 2023 tournament

Ireland’s Sean Cronin is tackled by Lucas Rumball of Canada during Ireland’s 52-21 victory at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

‘It’s all about this week – there’s no looking back to Chicago,’ insists hooker Sean Cronin

Iain Henderson is available for selection against the All Blacks on Saturday. Photograph: Inpho

Team manager Mick Kearney confirms Iain Henderson is available for selection

Ireland’s James Tracy runs in a try during the  Guinness Series match against Canada at the  Aviva Stadium in  Dublin on Saturday. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Ireland debut is sweet for Newbridge native who played for Leinster under Joe Schmidt

Ireland’s Ultan Dillane with Brett Beukeboom of Canada during the Autumn Test at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho

John O’Sullivan runs the rule over five players who impressed ahead of All Blacks

Peter O’Mahony launches the Dogs for the Disabled calendar 2017 with clients Cian Hennessey (8) from Togher and Darragh O’Regan (12) from Mallow. Photograph: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

Munster player targets Canada game after missing All Blacks win in Soldier Field

Ireland’s  CJ Stander  wins a lineout ball during the game against New Zealand at Soldier Field,  Chicago. Photograph Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand paid a big price and will be intent on rectifying matters at the Aviva

Finlay Bealham celebrates Ireland’s victory over the All Blacks at Soldier Field. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Canberra-born prop ready for new milestone after tasting glory in Chicago

Ireland assistant coach Simon Easterby with Joe Schmidt. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Simon Easterby says focus switched to Canada after return home of victorious squad

Seán O’Brien is ‘extremely motivated’ after the personal disappointment of missing Ireland’s win over the All Blacks. Photograph: Inpho/Donall Farmer

Seán O’Brien ready to go after personal disappointment of missing All Blacks win

Outhalf Paddy Jackson is with the Ireland squad in Carton House having not travelled to Chicago. Photograph: Shaun Roy/Gallo Images/Getty Images

Garry Ringrose in line for debut with other uncapped players knocking on door

Ireland’s Conor Murray, Andrew Trimble and Craig Gilroy celebrate victory at Soldier Field. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Ireland winger reflects on historic weekend – from gameplan, to mentality, to the doubts

 Ireland’s Jordi Murphy suffers the injury against New Zealand. Dan Sheridan

Knee ligament damage will rule Murphy out for at least six months

Bundee Aki comes back into the Connacht starting side for Pro12 fixture against Newport Gwent Dragons. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho.

Five changes made by western province for tough fixture against Dragons

Tommy Bowe is afforded more game for Ulster time on his return from injury. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.

Coach Les Kiss has long absentee list for must-win clash at Murrayfield

“Jerome (Kaino) has been covering for us the last few weeks and he’s very comfortable in the position.”

Flanker will make his first start at lock for New Zealand on Saturday

Connacht head coach Pat Lam wants a response from his team this weekend after the Leinster defeat. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

‘As a group, we are determined to right the wrongs from the last time out’

Rhys Marshall is among the replacements for Friday night’s encounter. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

In the half backs Tyler Bleyendaal returns to partner Duncan Williams for Friday night tie

Ulster Director of Rugby Les Kiss has named his team for their upcoming Pro12 fixture. Photograph: Matt Mackey/Inpho

Academy player Aaron Cairns could make his debut after impressing for Ballynahinch

The last team to prevent New Zealand from scoring a try in a Test match was Australia, in August 2014. Photograph:  Michael Bradley/AFP/Getty Images

All Blacks have won 30 Test matches since drawing 12-12 with Australia in August 2014

Leinster’s Jack Conan tackles Connacht’s Kieran Marmion during the PRO12 clash at the RDS. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Number eight excited to return to action following a long struggle with injuries

Joey Carbery could make his Ireland debut against the All Blacks after being included in the squad for the trip to Chicago. Photo: Inpho

Outhalf could make debut in Chicago with Paddy Jackson not part of Joe Schmidt's squad

Leinster’s Rory O’Loughlin, pictured tackling Connacht’s Tiernan O’Halloran, is a doubt for the province’s Pro 12 clash against Zebre. Photograph: Inpho

Meanwhile Connacht without four of their players for trip to face Dragons on Friday

Josh van der Flier had made just 20 appearances for Leinster before his Ireland debut against England (above) at Twickenham last March. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho.

Players average around 34 caps for their province before winning an Ireland cap

Leinster centre Garry Ringrose was included in Joe Schmidt’s Ireland squad on Wednesday afternoon. Photograph: Inpho

No place for either Mike Ross or Ian Madigan for trip to Chicago on November 5th

Iain Henderson will miss Ireland’s Test match against New Zealand in Chicago after injuring his knee in Ulster’s win over Exeter. Photograph: Inpho

Ulster forward facing up to a month out with Earls likely to miss November Tests

Connacht have confirmed the contract renewals of New Zealand born centre Bundee Aki and Irish international secondrow Ultan Dillane, ensuring an excellent 10 days on and off the pitch. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Aki, who will qualify to represent Ireland in autumn 2017, has penned a three year deal

Paddy Jackson watches his late drop goal secure victory for Ulster over Exeter Chiefs at the Kingspan Stadium. Photograph: Darren Kidd/Presseye/Inpho

Outhalf ’s dramatic intervention secures a hard-earned victory for Les Kiss’s charges

Paddy Jackson of Ulster celebrates after kicking the winning drop kick. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Late Paddy Jackson drop goal denies opposite number Gareth Steenson the glory

Craig Ronaldson: will form a new midfield combination with Peter Robb. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Pat Lam believes Wasps’ humiliation of Italian club will inspire a backlash this week

Ulster’s Ruan Pienaar during the Captains run ahead of Ulster’s European Rugby Champions Cup game against Exeter Chiefs at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. Photograph: Inpho

“We have to be physical to win this game. We’ve got to stand up and do the job”

 Mark McCall,  Saracens director of rugby, celebrates with Sean Maitland after their victory over RC Toulon  at Stade Felix Mayol in Toulon last weekend. Photograph:  David Rogers/Getty Images

Pool fixtures and team line-outs

Scrumhalf  Peter Stringer is  one of five changes to Sale Sharks team. Photograph:  Harry Engels/Getty Images

French giants will chase bonus-point win after opening-day loss to Saracens

Charles Piutau evades the lunging Jonathan Davies in Ulster’s Pro12 win over Scarlets earlier this season. Photograph: Darren Kidd/Presseye/Inpho

Kiwi recovering from concussion as Exeter come to Belfast also looking for first win

Garry Ringrose is set to make the graduation from Ireland Under-20s to the Test side. Photograph: Inpho

Graduates from the Ireland under-20 squad are few and far between in last five seasons

Tomas O’Leary has 24 caps for Ireland. Photograph: Inpho

Former Munster and Ireland scrumhalf added ahead of Sunday’s Leinster match

Leinster celebrate their Heineken Cup final victory in 2012, a year when they won one and drew one of their opening pool fixtures. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Positive results in the first two pool games not a guarantee of progress for Irish teams

Racing-Metro’s New Zealand backrow Chris Masoe is tackled by Stade Francais’s   Sekou Macalou during the French Top 14 clash in Paris. Photograph: Miguel Medina/Getty

Stade Francais a little unfortunate to lose 29-22 in the Top 14 Parisian derby

Ronan O’Gara: ‘I have been rattled by the accusation because there’s a presumption that anything goes in Racing’. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

‘If I believed that there were unsporting practices accepted here, I’d be out the door in the morning’

Jared Payne switches to fullback and assumes the captaincy for Ulster in their Pro12 game against Connacht. Photograph: Rob Hardie/Inpho.

Despite poor record against northern province Pat Lam’s side are better equipped

Leinster’s Rhys Ruddock is tackled by Munster’s  CJ Stander at the Aviva last April. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Sexton’s blemish-free placekicking proved the crucial difference last time sides met

World Rugby has officially ratified Ireland’s bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup along with those of France and South Africa.

South African and French bids also ratified by World Rugby

Tommy Bowe made his return to action in Ulster’s win over his former club Ospreys. Photograph: Inpho

Neutral officials would benefit European rugby, Ireland heavyweights make return

 Sean Reidy in action during Ireland’s second Test against South Africa in Johannesburg in June. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Josh van der Flier and Sean Reidy have been the form players at start of Pro12 season

Nathan White departs the field against Leinster last March. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

‘It’s disappointing to finish up this way, but I feel that I can look back with a lot of pride’

Munster’s Peter O’Mahony has returned to full training. Photograph: Inpho/Morgan Treacy

Backrow has been out injured since Ireland’s Rugby World Cup win over France last year

John Lacey will referee the opening weekend Champions Cup clash between Toulon and Saracens. Photograph: Inpho

Ireland’s John Lacey to take charge of marquee clash between Toulon and Saracens

Arnold Palmer with Michael Smurfit at the K Club in 2003. “He was the most charismatic golfer in the world, that’s for sure. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho /

‘He was charismatic, humble, an absolute gem of a human being,’ said Smurfit

Gold medalist Michael McKillop celebrates on the podium at the medal ceremony for the men’s 1500m T37 final at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on September 11th, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photograph: Alexandre Loureiro/Getty Images

In their words: Ireland’s Paralympic medal winners on their success

Juan José Méndez Fernández of Spain competes in the road race C1-2-3 during the Paralympic Games in Rio. Photograph: Anthony Edgar for OIS/IOC/AFP/Getty Images

Paralympics review: The true power of the ‘spirit in motion’ was on show in Rio

Noelle Lenihan of Ireland celebrates winning bronze after the F38 Discus Final at the Olympic Stadium during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

The 16-year-old set a Paralympic record for her classification

Katie-George Dunlevy of Ireland, along with her pilot Eve McCrystal, in action during the Women’s B Road Race at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

The Irish pair won their second medal of the Games with second in the Women’s road race

 Eoghan Clifford leading the men’s C1-3 road race  in Rio. Photograph: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Second such mishap in Rio saw Irish cyclist, favourite to win, drop to fifth place

Ireland’s Eoghan Clifford  leading during the  C1-3 Road Race  in Rio de Janeiro. Photograph:  Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Chain drop sees Galway lecturer finish fifth in road race

Ireland’s Niamh McCarthy in action during Women’s Discus Throw F41 final at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photograph: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Discus thrower from Carrigaline secures Ireland’s ninth honour of the Games

Orla Barry of Ireland celebrates in front of Ireland supporters after taking silver in the Women’s Discus F57 Final at the Olympic Stadium. Photograph: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

No messages from Skibberreen for Patrick O’Leary, but you can’t have everything

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