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

Fergus McFadden suffered a quad injury against Cardiff. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Fergus McFadden and Dave Kearney were forced off the field in win over Cardiff

Dave Kearney has been ruled out of Leinster’s clash with Munster. Photograph: Inpho

Leinster’s Rob Kearney, Robbie Henshaw and Sean O’Brien all continue rehabilitation

Jared Payne could be about to make the Ireland number 15 jersey his own. Photograph: Getty

Rob Kearney has been first choice for nearly a decade but that may be about to change

Talismanic captain Peter O’Mahony returns to action for Munster after almost five months on the sidelines. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Simon Zebo and Tommy O’Donnell also return as Zebre look to secure first win

Andy Warwick, Rory Best, who returns for the province against the Ospreys,  and Ruan Pienaar of Ulster during the Pro12 tie against Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow on September 23rd. Photograph: Inpho

Pro12 Preview: Ulster Rugby v Ospreys rugby, Kingspan Stadium – 6.30pm, Sky Sports

Leinster’s Jamison Gibson-Park in action against  Ospreys: he starts at scrumhalf for  Cardiff game. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Leo Cullen makes Johnny Sexton captain as province try to halt Blues’ winning start

Connacht prop Conor Carey will start against Edinburgh. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Pat Lam’s men must make mark against Edinburgh with tough October looming

 Robbie Henshaw, Seán O’Brien and Rob Kearney model Leinster’s new kit. Photograph:  Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Flanker erring on side of caution as he recovers from hamstring injury

Leinster’s Zane Kirchner: “I think Ruan’s got so much love for Ulster and the environment there. It’s like a second home to him.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Zane Kirchner is focusing on playing rugby for Leinster, but his future is not assured

Ulster’s Paddy Jackson has continued his fine form from Ireland’s summer tour of South Africa into the start of the domestic season. Photograph: Inpho

Backline could get even stronger as Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble return to training

Dane Coles: the  hooker gave three try-scoring passes against South Africa  in the bonus point win at home which sealed another Rugby Championship title for the All Blacks. Photograph:  Martin Hunter/Getty Images

Ireland face daunting task when they play New Zealand in Soldier Field in November

Leinster players celebrate after Josh van der Flier scored a try during Friday’s Guinness Pro12 victory over Ospreys at the RDS. Photograph: James Crosbie/Inpho.

Scrum coach John Fogarty positive about province’s progress so far this season

Munster’s defence coach Jacques Nienaber: he hopes to bring the province to their full potential under the directorship of his long-time friend, Rassie Erasmus.  Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Under Rassie Erasmus, Jacques Nienaber’s influence is already taking effect

Munster’s Dave Kilcoyne during training: he will make his first start of the season in the frontrow. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Keith Earls, Cian Bohane, Dave Kilcoyne and Dave O’Callaghan to play part for province

Ospreys’ Tyler Ardron challenges Leinster’s Jamie Heaslip. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Attacking lines and ball retention hit mark as home side secure bonus point

Johnny Sexton will make his season bow for Leinster against table-topping Ospreys at the RDS this weekend. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Sexton, Healy and Furlong return as Cullen names strong side to face in-form Ospreys

Munster’s CJ Stander in action against Cardiff. “That  game is always going tohang over us.” Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Defeat to Cardiff two weeks ago ups the ante for weekend game against Edinburgh

Munster Rugby’s  High Performance Centre: the purpose-built facility on the University of Limerick campus cost €15 million. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Modern €15m facility in University of Limerick means squad is now based in one centre

Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus: ‘We’ve got a tough challenge.’ Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Guinness Pro12 game against Edinburgh to be Munster director of rugby’s first at venue

Leinster’s Jamison Gibson Park in action during Friday night’s game at Murrayfield. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

New Zealand scrumhalf made his full competitive debut for Leinster last Friday night

Johnny  Sexton: “To see the amount of work that he’s put in to get back fit is incredible.” Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Stuart Lancaster takes control of first session while Rob Kearney is back on the injured list

Kieran Marmion returns to the Connacht line-up. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Game looms as an early season test of where champions really stand this season

Luke Marshall plays his first game of the season for Ulster against Treviso. Phorograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Italian side are already showing improvement under Kieran Crowley

Dave Kearney is back in Leinster line-up after recovering from shoulder injury. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Glasgow club will play first league game on their new 4G pitch at Scotstoun

Joey Carbery scoring for  Clontarf: the outhalf had a stunning, two-try full competitive debut for Leinster in last week’s win over Treviso. Photograph: colm O’Neill/Inpho

The club game is vital for supplying players to the provinces and must be protected

Alex Wootton carries Conor Murray on his back during Munster squad training at University of Limerick. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Cardiff Blues will offer strong challenge as they visit Musgrave Park in Pro12

Joey Carbery’s breakthrough has highlighted the talent on show in the domestic league. Photograph: Inpho

Ulster Bank League kicks off the week after next buoyed by contribution to provinces

Warren Gatland has said Ireland’s Test matches against New Zealand in November may give players an edge when it comes to Lions selection. Photograph: Getty

Lions coach says he would not have taken job if he didn’t believe tourists could win

Warren Gatland masterminded the successful Lions tour of 2013. He is set to lead the side again in New Zealand next year. Photograph: Inpho

Wales coach will have very little time to prepare for daunting series in New Zealand

Leinster’s new new senior coach Stuart Lancaster with  head coach Leo Cullen. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Former England head coach will be a good fit for the squad, says head coach Leo Cullen

Stuart Lancaster: is widely seen as damaged goods in light of England’s World Cup, but plenty of coaches are damaged along the way. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Arrival of former England head coach should benefit the province and Lancaster himself

Glasgow Warriors’ Tim Swinson scores the bonus point try against Connacht in their opening Pro12 game of the season. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Champions have plenty to fix but they only have a week to do so after opening day loss

Glasgow Warriors players celebrate after  Tim Swinson scores the bonus point try in the Guinness Pro 12 game against Connacht at The Sportsground. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Second-half performance bordered on alarming for Pat Lam’s side as Warriors earn bonus point

Eoin Griffin takes part in  Connacht Rugby pre-season training at the Sportgrounds, Galway. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Outside centre lines out for province in Pro12 after spending two years with London Irish

Leinster’s Joey Carbery scores his and Leinster’s second try during their Pro12 win over Treviso at the RDS. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Joey Carbery was the standout performer on his full debut with a brace of trys at the RDS

Cian Kelleher: to  make his competitive debut for Connacht. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Continuity of line-up in champions’ favour against a Glasgow side littered with test players

Munster centre Dan Goggin will make his first competitive start for the province against Scarlets in Wales on Saturday. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Erasmus reign begins with eight changes to line-up that finished last season’s campaign

Former Leinster player Ian McKinley playing for Zebre wearing his specially designed, protective eye goggles. Photograph: Francesca Soli/Inpho

Outhalf who lost sight in one eye has made remarkable comeback to professional game

Cian Healy: his “character and mental strength are incredible”. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Cian Healy and Rob Kearney back as province start Pro12 campaign against Treviso

Connacht coach Pat Lam: “We’re expecting a really fired-up Glasgow team, which is a great way to start the season.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Pro12 champions no longer underdogs, but have been hit by early-season injury toll

Ruan Pienaar: has proved a loyal stalwart for Ulster and wanted to remain with the province. Photograph: Simon King/Presseye/Inpho

It seems Ulster are paying for IRFU’s decision to allow Leinster to sign Gibson-Park

Joe Schmidt: has a few more family-related matters to consider over the next fortnight before deciding whether to stay or go. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Head coach will tell IRFU in two weeks’ time whether he will extend his four-year tenure

Leinster coach Leo Cullen: “It is a long season. We need to manage our squad as best we can.” Photograph: Donal Farmer/Inpho

Leinster coach admits province’s pre-season was a mixed bag ahead of Friday’s opening Guinness Pro12 game at home to Treviso

Kieran Marmion:  played in all bar eight of Connacht’s 90 Pro12 games in the last four seasons. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Scrumhalf believes Connacht are in good shape ahead of a taxing October with derbies against Ulster and Leinster anf two European (...)

The 12 team captains at the launch of the 2015/16 Guinness Pro12 season. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

The ins and outs, forecasted end of season position and betting odds for each team

A member of each Guinness Pro12 team at the launch of this season’s competition. Connacht captain John Muldoon (centre) will lead his team into battle on day one against Glasgow. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/inpho

It may lack glamour but the competition’s structure should ensure an exciting climax

“It’s important that our skillset, our fitness levels, our game awareness, everything moves up,” says Ulster’s Andrew Trimble. Photograph: Darren Kidd/Inpho/Presseye

Les Kiss’s new captain admits pressure is on province after too many near misses

 Munster’s director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Munster’s coach admits there is plenty of room for improvement at province

Players at the launch of the 2016/17 Guinness Pro12 season at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Leo Cullen expects congestion at the top of the table with up to nine real contenders

Ireland’s Thomas Barr comes home in fourth place following the men’s 400m hurdles at the Olympic Stadium in Rio. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire

Thomas Barr’s ‘date with destiny’ almost becomes the most heroic run of his life

Boxer Michael Conlan (right) shows his disgust as Vladimir Nikitin of Russia is declared the winner in their  bantamweight  quarter-final in  Rio. Photograph:  Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Michael Conlan ‘won every round’ on way to defeat, says Darren O’Neill

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt may return to his native New Zealand when his contract with the IRFU ends at the end of next season. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho.

In context Ireland have a bright season under a very progressive coach

Eoin Reddan in action against  South Africa in his final appearance for Ireland during the third Test at  Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth.  Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

But veteran scrumhalf will take many memories with him from a great career

Ireland fullback Tiernan O’Halloran gets upended by Willie le Roux of South Africa during the Test match at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday. Photograph: EPA.

Joe Schmidt’s side superior but fail to take full advantage in Port Elizabeth

Joe Schmidt “It’s not my really decision to be honest. I’ve got a young fella struggling at the moment,” he said, in reference to his unwell son Luke.  Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Long-term future of Ireland coach remains in doubt due to his family circumstances

Ireland secondrow Iain Henderson  drives forward during the third  Test against  South Africa  at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium  in Port Elizabeth. Photograph: Michael Sheehan/AFP/Getty Images

Ireland secondrow believes South Africa tour a real stepping stone for young side

Ireland fullback Tiernan O’Halloran is upended by Willie le Roux of South Africa during the third Test    at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in  Port Elizabeth. Photograph: Gavin Barker/EPA

Ireland coach unwilling to talk about decision over Willie le Roux yellow card early on

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