Dan Leavy: “I’m really looking forward to it. To get a start at home in the biggest game of the year is brilliant. Can’t wait.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Both Leavy and James Ryan have climbed from St Michael’s stocks to wear green jersey

Shane Williams with Warren Gatland. “I think it will be a little too much for Wales. I hope I’m wrong but, for me, Ireland have played the best rugby in this championship so far.”

Former winger says Kiwi ‘probably the most successful coach Welsh coach we’ve had’

Scott Fardy drives for the line against Scarlets. The Australian lock-cum-blindside has  made a huge impact at Leinster, as the likes of  Nathan Hines  or Brad Thorn did before him. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

With Jamison Gibson-Park stepping up at No 9, Maori winger will be squeezed out

Leinster’s Barry Daly and James Lowe with Dan Jones and Tom Williams of Scarlets at the RDS. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Tadhg Beirne impresses for Scarlets as late penalty secures a bonus point for visitors

Luke McGrath suffered a knee injury in Leinster’s win over Scarlets at the RDS. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Leinster scrumhalf suffers knee injury in second half of win over Scarlets

Leinster’s Scott Fardy drives towards the tryline  despite the efforts of Jonathan Evans and Corey Baldwin of Scarlets during the Guinness Pro 14 game at the  RDS. Photograph: Byran Keane/Inpho

Tadhg Beirne again impresses for Welsh side as they claim late bonus point

 Munster’s Gerbrandt Grobler  will make his first start for the province. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Tyler Bleyendaal will make his comeback from a next injury in Cardiff

Jordan Larmour: will be looking to show his attacking prowess against Scarlets a the RDS. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Leo Cullen’s side looking to consolidate their position as leaders of Conference B

Andrew Porter replaced Tadhg Furlong in the early stages of Ireland’s win over Italy. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Leinster prop thriving after switch to tighthead and could play crucial role for Ireland

Ireland’s Jordan Larmour on the attack against Italy at the  Aviva Stadium.  Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Debutant almost conjures a memorable late try from nothing in his first senior outing

Joe Schmidt: “I think Bundee was probably disappointed with some of his handling at times. He prides himself on looking after the ball and doing it well.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Coach quick to point out the flaws as well as offer suitable encouragement to new faces

Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw is treated on the pitch after injuring his shoulder during the Six Nations match against Italy at the Aviva stadium. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Irish coach believes Garry Ringrose return against Wales ‘will be a tough call’

Ireland Women head coach Adam Griggs says Ciara Cooney will miss the rest of the Six Nations. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Coach Adam Griggs hoping for fewer individual errors in first home game in charge

Italy’s players celebrate victory over South Africa  in November 2016. Photograph: Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty

Former Harlequins coach believes the right building blocks are slowly being put in place

Italy coach Conor O’Shea at the team base at Radisson St Helen, Dublin, yesterday. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

'This setback will only steel him to put more pressure on the guys ahead of him'

 Jonny Sexton drops a long-range goal to  for Ireland in the final play of the game to secure a victory against France. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Outhalf’s 42-metre drop goal came as a result of risks paying off and team effort

Ireland’s James Ryan in action during the Six Nations  match against France at Stade de France. Photograph: Regis Duvignau/Reuters

Young Leinster player evinces traits of a young Ian Jones or even Victor Matfield

Ireland’s James Ryan wins a lineout ahead of Wenceslas Lauret of France during the Six Nations game at Stade de France. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt praises young guns James Ryan and Dan Leavy

Outhalf  Jonathan Sexton  celebrates with  Bundee Aki after scoring the match-winning drop goal in the Six nations game against France at Stade de France. Photograph:  Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images

Gavin Cummiskey hands out the marks after an extraordinary ending in Paris

Niamh Briggs evades a tackle from Jade Knight during a challenge match in Wales last month. Photograph: Ashley Crowden/Inpho

Important experience lies ahead for new coach Adam Griggs and captain Ciara Griffin

France outhalf Morgan Parra will miss the Six Nations opener against Ireland due to a knee injury. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Kitman Labs’s data has found more contact work in training leads to less injuries in games

Bundee Aki is one of the Ireland players who could make his Six Nations debut. Photo: Getty Images

Joe Schmidt’s side are in red hot form and look like a serious challenge for England

Johnny Sexton in training ahead of Ireland’s Six Nations clash with France on Satuerday in Paris. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Joe Schmidt hopes new coach Jacques Brunel will not resort to usual Les Bleus tactics

Maro Itoje is integral to England’s hopes of making it three in a row. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

England are favourites to win a third title on the bounce but 2019 World Cup is priority

Leading the charge against France in my first start for Ireland. It’s always such an alien environment playing in Paris. Photograph: Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images

Ireland look like they could win the lot but the Six Nations can be a surreal experience

John Muldoon is set to join the Bristol coaching ticket under  his former Connacht coach Pat Lam. Photograph:  James Crombie/Inpho

Connacht player set to join coaching ticket at English club

Jacques Brunel has quite the task ahead of him with France in this year’s Six Nations. Photo: Getty Images

Controversy on and off the pitch for Les Bleus does not bode well for this year’s championship

Robbie Henshaw scores Leinster’s second try against Montpellier at the Altrad Stadium. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Victory over Montpellier secures Cullen a first success in France as head coach

Leinster’s Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong after the match against Montpellier, which the province won 23-14 at the Altrad Stadium. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Prop prevented the monstrous Fijian winger from scoring a potential game-changing try

Cronin celebrates his try with Josh van der Flier. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Leo Cullen’s side made it six group stage wins from six by swatting aside Montpellier

Fears of a legal quagmire prevent us knowing with certainty if Irish schools rugby has a doping problem. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Main route into professional rugby is outside IRFU remit and exempt from drug-testing

Jordan Larmour has been named in a 36-man Ireland squad for the Six nations. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Seán Cronin and Fergus McFadden earn recalls to Joe Schmidt’s extended selection

Gerbrandt Grobler: I hope Irish rugby, from the top down, didn’t knowingly sign off on a doper. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Recruitment of convicted drug cheat raises questions for province

Leinster’s Luke McGrath escapes the clutches of Warriors wing Lee Jones during his side’s 55-19 victory at the RDS. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Despite thrashing Glasgow, coach says province has ‘huge amount’ of work to do

Leinster’s Scott Fardy scores a try during his side’s 55-19 triumph against Glasgow. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpo

Leo Cullen’s side are now 13/8 favourites to win tournament for first time in six seasons

Leo Cullen: “When the teams were announced I remember reading comments about how I was disrespecting the competition for picking young players for their first starts in Europe.”  Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Two years ago this week Leinster’s coach gave five players their first European start

James Lowe:  included in the Leinster team to face Glasgow Warriors. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho

Struggling Glasgow Warriors unlikely to stop Leo Cullen’s in-form side at the RDS

Ireland’s Jenny Murphy has quit international rugby to take up boxing. Photo: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Ireland international has temporarily stepped away to pursue a career in the ring

Roscrea are threatening High Court action against the IRFU and Leinster Branch schools committee. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Cistercian College asking for ‘20 month rule’ to be ‘urgently and immediately’ waived

Leinster’s Jordan Larmour would “step you in a phone box”,  according to team-mate Scott Fardy. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Leinster player boasts excellent speed but also possesses rare trait: sharp rugby brain

Leinster’s Devin Toner battles for possession against Ulster at the RDS on Saturday evening. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Furlong, Ringrose and Tracy pick up worrying injuries in one-sided affair at the RDS

Ulster director of rugby Les Kiss: “We don’t have a constant dependable style of rugby that we can rely on.” Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Kiss laments side’s inconsistency but believes they have a chance to respond

Leinster had too much for Ulster at the RDS on Saturday night. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Garry Ringrose and Tadhg Furlong both Leinster injury concerns ahead of Glasgow

Leinster’s Jordan Larmour celebrates scoring a try in their Pro14 win over Ulster. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Leo Cullen’s side will go into Champions Cup fixtures full of confidence after easy win

John Cooney celebrates a successful late conversion for Ulster against Munster  in the recent PRO 14 clash at the Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Eight ex-Leinster men will be on Ulster’s payroll when Murphy and Moore arrive

Bundee Aki: will be a significant absentee from the Connacht line-up at Thomond Park. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Connacht absentees tilt the balance firmly in favour of Johann van Graan’s team

Josh Murphy: “Josh is very abrasive,” said Leo Cullen, “he gets through a mountain of work and that’s what coaches like.”  Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Leinster’s backrow injury list ensures an opportunity for promising Josh Murphy

 Peter O’Mahony steals  a lineout against England. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

O’Mahony and Sexton heroic as Ireland end old rivals’ long unbeaten Test run

Leinster’s Dan Leavy passes to Luke McGrath which led to Leinster’s crucial try. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ability to grind out win from 17-3 down – and with Sexton injured – shows side’s progress

Johnny Sexton receives treatment after suffering an early head injury against Exeter at the Aviva Stadium.  Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

‘It’s a physical game guys. A physical game. These games they do take their toll’

Geordan Murphy: “We let ourselves down on the big stage. We were bullied. We have an opportunity on Sunday to circle the wagons. Let’s see how we get on.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Leicester’s assistant coach favourite to take top job at Cardiff Blues next season

Micheál Donoghue with his 2017 Philips Manager Of The Year award at the  InterContinental Hotel in  Dublin. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Galway boss rewarded for ending his county’s long wait for an All-Ireland hurling title

Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster is focusing on the work that must be done after his side’s Champions Cup win over Exeter Chiefs. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Head coach frustrated at conceded try during mammoth Champions Cup win at Exeter

Belvedere College captain Max Kearney lifts the Leinster Schools Senior Cup after they won the title in 2017. Photo: Colm O’Neill/Inpho

The Junior Cup draw sees a mouthwatering first round tie of Blackrock and St Michael’s

Munster’s Sam Arnold is tackled by Leicester’s George Ford during the European  Champions Cup clash at  Thomond Park, Limerick. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Inspirational O’Mahony stresses the need to front up again at Welford Park next week

  Leicester Tigers coach Matt O’Connor  accused French referee Jerome Garces of failing to punish Munster and Conway for their lack of “a duty of care” to the Tongan fullback. Photograph:  Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Coach insinuates Munster player was responsible for Tongan fullback’s injury

Munster skipper  Peter O’Mahony celebrates scoring a try against Leicester  with Rory Scannell, Conor Murray and Alex Wootton. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

‘I thought both teams pushed the boundaries quite well’

Munster captain  Peter O’Mahony celebrates scoring a try in the Champions Cup game against Leicester at Thomond Park. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Bonus-point win puts van Graan’s side in control of Pool Four after three games

Munster’s Andrew Conway: “Good timing got me in again [to the Ireland team] in November. But that’s what rugby is. You have to take your opportunities when they come.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

It’s been a long and winding road to Munster for the former Blackrock and Leinster prodigy

 Connacht’s Tiernan O’Halloran could move to Munster next summer. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Connacht fullback wanted to replace the Racing 92 bound Simon Zebo

Peter O’Mahony at Munster’s press conference. Your emotion is with the club and getting it right for the weekend, you know what I mean?” Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Munster captain and CJ Stander remain flight risks if new IRFU deals cannot be confirmed

Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell at Munster squad training in UL on Monday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland assistant coach is helping province until it finds replacement for Jacques Nienaber

 Peter O’Mahony: “It’s professional sport, it’s a short career, and as I said hopefully it will be done by the New Year one way or the other.” Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Munster captain wants improved IRFU offer with one French club offering to double salary

Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony offloads during the Test match against Argentina at the Aviva. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Munster captain set to return against rivals Leicester Tigers for Champions Cup fixture

Chris Farrell and Bundee Aki have grabbed  the opportunity to show just what they are capable of in an Ireland shirt. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

After this November window, competition for starting places is fiercer than ever

Munster head coach Johann van Graan: “For every new beginning in life you have got to fly on your own.” Photograph: Giuseppe Fama/Inpho

Replacing Nienaber and the O’Mahony contract situation early issues for the new coach

CJ Stander and Peter O’Mahony could both leave Ireland in the summer as contract negotiations with the IRFU continue to stall. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

There has been no progress on the contract negotiations with the IRFU for either player

Munster’s Johann van Graan is hopeful that his captain Peter O’Mahony will remain with the province. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Chris Farrell to be out for six to eight weeks after injury picked up against Argentina

Jack McGrath at the end of the game against Fiji when he started but was replaced by Cian Healy: Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Shadow Lions prop must battle with Healy and Kilcoyne for a place in Ireland’s front row

Robbie Henshaw  suffered a hamstring injury last Tuesday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Robbie Henshaw and James Ryan ruled out of trip to Italy to face Treviso with injuries

Peter O’Mahony could make the move away from Ireland, putting his international career in jeopardy. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

The Munster captain has rejected an IRFU offer to remain on a national deal past 2019

Dave Kilcoyne barges through the Argentina defence of Marcos Kremer and Enrique Pieretto on Saturday evening. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

This series all about building a formidable squad for Ireland coach Joe Schmidt

Ireland’s Rob Kearney claims a high ball ahead of  Joaquin Tuculet. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Joe Schmidt’s tactics 'surprised’ Los Pumas says opposite number Daniel Hourcade

Chris Farrell has moved himself into contention for next year’s Six Nations. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Gavin Cummiskey marks Joe Schmidt’s side after their year-ending win over Los Pumas

Brent Pope, Tom McGurk and George Hook at the launch of RTÉ Sport’s comprehensive live coverage of 2008 RBS 6 Nations. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

After losing Six Nations coverage, the days of international rugby on RTÉ are ending

Leinster’s Jordan Larmour leaves Dragons players for dead during their Pro14 clash at the RDS. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Despite 15 players away on international duty the home side powered past the visitors

  Ireland lock James Ryan during his side’s victory against South Africa: the player starts his first Test match on Saturday against Argentina. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Ireland coach says Leinster lock’s work ethic and physique bode well for his future

Jordi Murphy: swaps the green number seven for blue. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Leinster’s formidable strength-in-depth will again be in evidence at the RDS

Adam Byrne during an Irish training session at Carton House, Kildare. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Robbie Henshaw misses out due to hamstring injury, he’s replaced by Chris Farrell

Leinster’s Ross   Byrne’s 543 minutes of action includes  seven starts and three runs off the bench. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Club and country commitments complicate matters for the respective coaches

An injured Joey Carbery leaving the field  against Fiji. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

‘Joey is brave, potentially to a fault, because he takes no heed who is in front of him,’ says Schmidt

Ireland’s Joey Carbery leaves the field in pain with Dr Ciarán Cosgrove after fracturing his left forearm. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Boss Joe Schmidt full of praise for young outhalf after thrilling display against Fiji

Joey Carbery inspired Ireland to a narrow win over Fiji at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Performance against Fiji at the Aviva Stadium shows he needs more chances at outhalf

French rugby president Bernard Laporte  in London on November  15th after France is named to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Photograph:  AFP Photo/Adrian Dennis

Inexperienced Irish bid refused to wade into murky waters and instead played by the rules

Jordi Murphy: “We are just very lucky in Ireland to be blessed with quite a lot of depth in the backrow”

Ireland player to win cap number 18 since his debut at Twickenham in 2014

Joey Carbery will make his first Test start for Ireland in Saturday’s clash with Fiji. Photo: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Joey Carbery is one of the players to come in from the team that hammered South Africa

France 2023: Bernard Laporte celebrates after winning the battle to host the Rugby World Cup. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty

Whatever he might say, French rugby’s wily president is an absolute master politician

The host for the 2023 Rugby World Cup will be unveiled on Wednesday. Photograph: Getty Images

The reaction to Rugby World Cup Board’s recommendation of South Africa as host

Ireland and Railway Union prop Lindsay Peat in action during last year’s Six Nations game against Scotland. Photograph:  Craig Watson/Inpho

Dates of three home games were set to clash with league and cup fixtures

The Ireland women’s rugby squad: “We want to do the best we can for the women’s game in Ireland in terms of giving them a profile and an opportunity to engage with the largest possible audience,” said RTÉ’s head of sport Ryle Nugent. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Friday and Saturday night double-headers ruled out for home Six Nations matches

Ireland’s Johnny Sexton  avoids Andries Coetzee during the Ireland v South Africa match at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Record defeat to Ireland shows need to put greater value on being part of a national team

Ireland’s Andrew Conway collects the high ball in the game against South Africa at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph:  Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Ireland coach delighted with the performance of midfield debutante Bundee Aki

 Ireland’s Jacob Stockdale scores his  late try. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Victorious Ireland are cool, calm and collected against a woeful Springbok side

South Africa head coach Allister Coetzee after the defeat to Ireland at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho

South Africa head coach says ‘it is difficult to explain’ record loss to Ireland

John Robbie in action for Ireland. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Former Ireland scrumhalf says tournament would be ‘marvellous’ for adopted nation

Ireland prop Cian Healy starts his first truly substantial Test match since the Six Nations was captured at Stade de France in 2014. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Prop has secured a starting position in Ireland squad after finding his rhythm again

Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw in action during the Ireland training session at Carton House on Thursday. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

‘I didn’t think it was very impressive from a media point of view to be honest’

Bundee Aki will make his Ireland debut against South Africa on Saturday. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Cian Healy starts ahead of Jack McGrath while Keith Earls out through injury

Ronan O’Gara with Jean de Villers during the latter’s solitary season with the province. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Springbok legend would ‘love to see’ likes of O’Connell and O’Gara on province’s ticket

IRFU chief executive  Philip Browne:  he   queried whether Rugby World Cup Ltd examined reasons for the Commonwealth Games being take out of Durban in a “substantive manner”. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

SA Rugby points to lack of serious crime at country’s soccer and cricket World Cups

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