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

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen: “We’re expecting a physical encounter, one where they’ll kick the ball a fair bit. Sexton and Murray are both key guys at driving them around the park and have real variation in their kicking game.”

“You can’t be off on your game, because they’ll penalise you”

Craig Gilroy, Rob Kearney and Devin Toner enjoy a stroll in Chicago. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Expect Ireland coach to rely on experienced men against rampant New Zealand

Connacht’s Bundee Aki: the New Zealand-born player will qualify to play for Ireland  by next season. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Luke Fitzgerald and Ronan O’Gara not afraid to speak their minds on controversial rule

Leinster’s Seán O’Brien tries  to get past Dave Heffernan and Craig Ronaldson of Connacht during Leinster’s 24-13 win in the Guinness Pro12 at the RDS, Dublin, on Saturday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Travelling party of 27 to be confirmed on Monday morning after injuries are assessed

Leinster flanker Dan Leavy came through the province’s academy system. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho.

Leo Cullen comes up with another fine backrow alternative

Joey Carbery evades John Muldoon during Leinster’s Pro 12 win over Connacht. Photograph: Inpho/James Crombie

Connacht move into a six point lead after 14 minutes and don’t score again until last play

 John Muldoon celebrates with Eric Elwood after Connacht’s victory over Leinster in Edinburgh. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Pro12 final is four days away and Pat Lam and co are plotting Leinster’s downfall

Connacht’s Bundee Aki celebrates as he leaves the field after the  team’s Pro12 final victory over Leinster at Murrayfield. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

‘Irish Times’ writer Gerry Thornley’s new book examines Connacht’s rise to Pro12 success

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen: “When we sat off them in the final last year, we found it difficult defending against them.” Photograph: Donall FarmerDonall Farmer

In-form Connacht arrive in confident form but have never won at the RDS

Unity. Munster and Ulster players and coaching staff showed their respects to Axel. Photograph: Inpho

‘They’ve been through some tough times and we did it out of respect, and to honour Axel’

Munster’s Rory Scannell scores the winning drop goal. Photograph: Inpho

Man of the match Rory Scannell’s drop goal completes comeback at Kingspan Stadium

Munster’s Peter O’Mahony will make his fourth appearance since his return from injury. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Munster have good recent record in Belfast but history is against them maintaining it

Ruan Pienaar’s stay at Ulster will conclude at the end of this season. Photograph:  Georges Gobety/AFP/Getty Images

Developing indigenous talent is IRFU’s way of competing with bigger and wealthier rivals

The uncapped John Ryan (left) and Billy Holland (right) join the returning Peter O’Mahony in the Ireland squad to face New Zealand in Chicago. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho.

New faces unlikely to get debuts against All Blacks but should feature against Canada

The Munster squad stand for a minute’s silence for  Anthony Foley before Saturday’s stirring victory over Glasgow. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Anthony Foley’s legacy began by reuniting team and supporters at Thomond Park

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt: “I’d like to thank the IRFU for their patience and confidence as the decision to continue took somewhat longer than I’d anticipated.” Photograph: Inpho

After drawn out saga New Zealander can now plan for daunting challenge of All Blacks Tests

The Leinster changing room before the match against Montpellier yesterday  with the Munster number eight jersey in tribute to the late Munster head coach Anthony Foley. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Three wins out of four for provinces in Champions Cup as all teams honour ‘Axel’

Tyler Bleyendaal on his way to scoring a Munster try against Glasgow Warriors. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Munster rugby director says he is ‘really proud’ of result and players’ performance

Munster’s Simon Zebo runs in for a try despite the efforts of Stuart Hogg of Glasgow in the clubs’ European Rugby Champions Cup second round match in Thomond Park, Limerick, on Saturday. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

South African is emphatic inspired Munster display against Glasgow will not be a one-off

 Munster’s CJ Stander with Tony and Dan Foley after the game with Glasgow; Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Anthony Foley’s sons join players on the pitch after emotional win over Glasgow

 Munster’s Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland and Tommy O’Donnell celebrate winning a penalty try. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Munster harness emotions on poignant day as Glasgow blown away at Thomond Park

Anthony Foley was an all-rounder on the playing fields and also lined out for St Munchin’s College hurling team. He is second from right in the front row. Photograph courtesy of St Munchin’s College

Teachers and old team-mates recall an inspirational player who never forgot his roots

A fan pays  tribute to Anthony Foley outside Thomond Park. Photograph:  by Eamon Ward

It has been an unimaginably draining week for a squad still deep in mourning

Munster captain Peter O’Mahony before the media at the University of Limerick. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Munster captain grew up idolising man who became ‘coach, friend and brother’

Munster captain Peter O’Mahony becomes emotional during the press conference at the  University of Limerick. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Munster director of rugby pays fitting tribute to his colleague and friend Foley

A European Cup clash at Thomond Park is the fitting way to pay tribute to Anthony Foley. Photograph: Inpho/Billy Stickland

There is no ideal time for Munster to return - but the Champions Cup is the ideal stage

Tributes are paid to Anthony Foley outside Thomond Park. Photograph: Inpho

Rassie Erasmus: ‘This time is about a husband, a father, a son, brother, a fallen friend’

Mike Ross spoke fondly about Anthony Foley at yesterday’s Leinster Rugby press conference. Photograph: Inpho

All at Leinster are struggling to come to terms with the death of the much-respected old adversary and team-mate

A Munster  fan pays tribute to former Ireland and Munster star Anthony Foley outside Thomond Park in Limerick. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Province to confirm if Champions Cup encounter will go ahead after Anthony Foley death

Leinster have yet to decide upon Johnny Sexton’s inclusion this weekend, Rhys Ruddock however is definitely ruled out with injury. Photograph: Getty Images

Sean O’Brien may be in line for return with Rhys Ruddock ruled out with torn calf injury

Munster Players celebrate as their captain, Anthony Foley, lifts the trophy following victory during the Heineken Cup final between Munster and Biarritz Olympique  on May 20th, 2006, in Cardiff’s  Millennium Stadium. Photograph:  David Rogers/Getty Images

Gerry Thornley on the aftermath of Munster coach Anthony Foley’s sudden, tragic death

As to whether Munster will go ahead with their scheduled European Champions Cup game against Glasgow on Saturday at Thomond Park remains secondary to the needs of the Foley family,

Decision to go ahead with Saturday’s game at Thomond Park still to be made

Munster head coach Anthony Foley passed away in Paris ahead of their Champions Cup clash with Racing 92. Photo: Inpho

Sporting fraternity across country in shock at untimely death of head coach in Paris

 “He was a big man, a solid unit, and as a man he was as solid as a rock too.” Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

The death of the man who represented what Munster is about is too sad for words, too shocking to be believed

Munster Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus ahead of their Champions Cup opener against Racing 92. Photo: Inpho

Rassie Erasmus’ side begin Champions Cup quest with considerable challenge of Racing

Toulouse scrumhalf Jean-Marc Doussain gets his box-kick away against Clermont last week. Connacht face Toulouse this weekend, while Ulster will meet Clermont in back-to-back matches in December. photograph: Thierry Zoccolan/AFP Photo/Getty Images

Provinces will have to punch above weight when they face financial behemoths of Top14

Connacht Rugby Head Coach Pat Lam at a press conference ahead of his side’s Champions Cup clash with Toulouse. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Last year’s Pro12 winners will open their campaign against French giants Toulouse

Leinster’s Jonathan Sexton is tackled by Munster’s Rory Scannell at the Aviva Stadium earlier this month. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Champions Cup likely to be Anglo-French carve-up again with odds against Pro12 sides

Young hooker Dave Heffernan is likely to start for Connacht against Toulouse in the continued absence of Tom McCartney. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho.

French giants no longer a foreboding presence at the Sportsground

Ulster assistant coach Joe Barakat speaks at a press conference ahead of their opening Champions Cup match. Photograph: Inpho

Piutau, Marshall, Olding and Trimble in mix as Ulster seek positive Champions Cup start

 Leinster’s Johnny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw were in fine form against Munster. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Leinster will still be smarting over last season, while Ulster have backs to hurt any team

Leinster’s Robbie Henshaw is tackled by Munster’s Keith Earls at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Domestic derbies held steel all four Irish provinces for European combat

Munster’s Simon Zebo makes a try-saving tackle on Isa Nacewa of Leinster during their Pro12 clash at the  Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Leo Cullen happy with game management as Johnny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw perform

Munster’s Peter O’Mahony and Jamie Heaslip of Leinster during the sides’ Guinness Pro12 clash at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Johnny Sexton was again the key man for the home side with some superb place-kicking

Leinster’s Robbie Henshaw will line out at centre against Munster. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Henshaw’s debut and O’Mahony’s return add lustre to hugely anticipated Pro12 clash

Cian Kelleher scores Connacht’s fourth try during the Guinness Pro 12 derby encounter with Ulster at the Sportsground. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Pat Lam’s side claim bonus point as they end Ulster’s winning start to season

Leinster outhalf Felipe Contepomi celebrates scoring a try against Munster in the Celtic League in 2005. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Nothing feeds this encounter more than both teams clamouring for place at the top table

Leinster’s Robbie Henshaw during training ahead of their Guinness Pro12 clash with Munster. Photo: Inpho

Leo Cullen has made a total of 11 changes to the side that last week defeated Cardiff Blues

Josh Van der Flier in action against England’s Mike Brown during the Irishman’s debut in the Six Nations at Twickenham. Photograph: Glyn/AFP/Getty

Former Wesley College student braced for upcoming battle with Munster

EPCR director general Vincent Gaillard speaks during the European Rugby Champions Cupa and Challenge Cup  launch at  the Dublin Convention Centre, Photograph:  Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Organisers will treat Ireland differently with more free-to-air coverage but not before 2019

Former All Black and Munster winger Dougie Howlett.

Former Munster winger says there is no magic formula to New Zealand’s success

Soldier Field in Chicago, where Ireland will take on the ALl Blacks. Photograph: Andrew Cornaga/Photosport/Inpho

Broadcaster also showing European Champions Cup matches live

Ireland will take on the All Blacks  at Soldier Field in Chicago on November 5th. Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Virgin customers will not be able to watch the Test match at Soldier Field in November

Stuart Lancaster: “We are going to be tested all over the park. The key for me is we need to make sure we get ourselves ready.” Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Former England coach ready for pressure cooker of his first Irish derby against Munster

Jamie Cudmore  of Clermont leaves the field early in the first half of the 2015 Champions Cup final due to concussion. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Canadian lock Jamie Cudmore is taking legal action against former club Clermont Auvergne

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