Maro Itoje is arguably the world’s best secondrow. Photograph: Clive Rose/Getty

Gavin Cummiskey assesses the defending champions ahead of their date in Dublin

Caelan Doris carries for Leinster against Ulster. Photograph: Donall Farmer/PA

Gavin Cummiskey looks at the Leinster XV looking for revenge at the Aviva Stadium

Ramaz Kharazishvili’s life not in danger after incident at the offices of governing body

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall pictured before the Heineken Champions Cup match against Racing 92  at Allianz Park back in January. Photograph: Henry Browne/Getty Images

It’s hard to see how legacy of club’s cheating won’t leave a stain on his coaching career

Owen Farrell was banned for five weeks after his sending off against Wasps. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty

Bristol’s Pat Lam chances his arm, rugby needs a mega star as Amazon comes calling

Leinster’s Caelan Doris stole the show once more in Leinster’s Pro14 final victory. Photograph: Inpho

Leinster possess at least three dominant big men in Ryan, Scott Fardy, and Caelan Doris

Leinster celebrate after their Pro14 final win over Ulster. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Leo Cullen’s side parade a third-straight title in front of an empty house at the Aviva

Leinster’s Ross Byrne reacts after kicking a penalty to take the lead over Ulster in the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final a, Aviva Stadium, Dublin in March 2019. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Ulster will need all the heroics they can muster up to topple the title-holders

Munster’s Chisom Ugwueru. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Wendy Keenan outlines the importance of putting the players front and centre

Owen Farrell of Saracens leaves the field of play after being sent off during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Saracens and Wasps last Saturday. Photograph: Clive Rose/Getty Images

The Offload: Fans miss out on semi-finals on the telly; Leo Cullen cries foul over poaching

Ulster’s Ian Madigan scores the winning penalty against Edinburgh on Saturday night. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

31-year-old buries a few ghosts as Murrayfield as Ulster progress into Pro14 final

Ulster’s Ian Madigan celebrates his team’s comeback win in Edinburgh. Photograph: PA

Edinburgh switched off in the last 20 minutes and Irish outhalf punishes them from the tee

 Ulster coach Dan McFarland: ”I have a love of the contact, of collective speed, that the system lasts longer at a persistent speed than the opposition.”  Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Ulster still building for the future but province have plenty still to play for in the short-term

Republic of Ireland striker Adam Idah in action against Bulgaria’s Kristian Dimitrov during the Uefa Nations League game at the Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia. Photograph: Vassil Donev/EPA

Stephen Kenny’s first game saw promising signs of the way he wants to play

South African president Nelson Mandela presents the William Webb Ellis trophy to captain Francois Pienaar after the victory over New Zealand in the 1995 Rugby World Cup Final at Ellis Park in Johannesburg. Photograph:  Billy Stickland/Inpho

1995 Rugby World Cup final: South Africa 15 New Zealand 12 (aet)

Canterbury have apologised for their handling of the Ireland women’s kit launch.

Dylan Hartley’s book gives a revealing insight into rugby’s professional ‘guinea pigs’

Connacht’s Abraham Papali’i is red carded by referee Frank Murphy. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Johann van Graan’s Munster have a tight turnaround before Leinster semi-final

Connacht’s Abraham Papali’i is shown a red card by referee Frank Murphy. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Abraham Papali’i sees red on provincial debut as new man Damian de Allende shines

Dion O’Cuinneagain (with headband) celebrates the Five Nations win over Wales at Twickenham in 1999 with Conor O’Shea, Victor Costello and Paddy Johns. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Allsport

The former Irish captain is now a doctor in his native South Africa

Virgin Media subscribers won’t have access to this weekend’s inter-pro fixtures at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

296,200 Virgin subscribers won’t have access after Eir removed its channels from platform

RG Snyman training earlier this month at Munster Rugby Squad Training, UL, Limerick. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Munster’s injury crisis deepens with Springbok star facing up to a year out

Ulster’s Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

One member of the senior squad identified as a potential conact has begun self-isolation

RG Snyman is facing up to a year out with a knee injury he sustained in the early stages of Munster’s defeat to Leinster. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Province won’t be allowed to bring in new players despite Thomond Park injury crisis

Jacob Stockdale returned to action with Ulster from fullback. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ulster’s experiment with Jacob Stockdale at fullback could reap rewards for Ireland

Wales’ scrumhalf  Mike Phillips celebrates as a dejected Paul O’Connell, Mike Ross and Cian Healy of Ireland look on at the final whistle of the 2011 Rugby World Cup quarter-final. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Sexton left out as golden generation miss the chance of a lifetime in 2011 Rugby World Cup

Munster’s Chris Farrell is awarded the Pro14 man of the match award at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday by his captain Peter O’Mahony. Photograph: Inpho

Somebody tell the young Munster halfbacks to go for it rather than accepting defeat

Munster’s Keith Earls gets over in the corner for a try during the Guinness Pro 14 game against Leinster at the  Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Injuries to RG Snyman and Dave Kilcoyne will test Johann van Graan’s strategic reach

Munster’s RG Snyman watches from the bench due to a knee injury. Photograph: Inpho

The Springbok lock was forced off with a knee injury after just seven minutes

Garry Ringrose scores a try for Leinster against Munster. Photograph: Inpho

Munster lost new signing RG Snyman after just seven minutes with a knee injury

Leinster’s Caelan Doris is tackled by Dave Kilcoyne and Chris Cloete of Munster during the Guinness Pro 14 game at  Thomond Park in December 2019. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Munster roll out World Cup winners RG Snyman and Damian de Allende at the Aviva Stadium

Connacht and Ireland centre Bundee Aki has bulked up ahead of the restart. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

With no warm-up games and no crowds, it could take a while before teams get up to speed

Caelan Doris moves to blindside flanker to allow Jack Conan to return at number eight in Saturday night’s Pro 14 game against Munster at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Jack Conan returns to the Leinster backrow as Munster unveil new South African duo

IRFU medical director Rod McLoughlin. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho

Zero positive results from 308 tests carried out ahead of Pro 14 derbies this weekend

JJ Hanrahan kicks a conversion during the Pro14 match between Munster and Scarlets at Thomond Park, Limerick in February. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

With Carbery still out, Munster coach needs to field all his big weapons against Leinster

Canterbury have announced they will make a range of Irish women’s kits available. File photograph: Inpho

It will be available to purchase in October and to preorder from August 20th

The Top 14 season is set to kick off with Stade Francais hosting Bordeaux Begles on September 4th.  File photograph: Getty Images

The Paris club’s preseason match against Toulon on August 27th has been cancelled

Hayden Hyde scores Ireland’s second try during the Under-20 Six Nations match against England at Franklin’s Gardens in February. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

With residency law set to be extended to five years, the IRFU have changed approach

A sprinkle of positives results from Monday morning tests at Munster HQ in the University of Limerick could derail this weekend’s interpros. File photograph: Inpho

‘Risky’ rugby hacks sidelined for annual Lansdowne dance; British and Irish Lions

Stade Francais CEO Thomas Lombard: “We decided that it was wiser to stop everything and place everyone in isolation until August 17th.’ Photograph: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images.

‘We never lost control,’ says club chief executive Thomas Lombard

Game against Leinster next weekend still scheduled to go ahead as planned

London Irish’s Seán O’Brien: “It will be down to me at the end of the day, how well I am playing and how well the team is going.”   Photograph: Roger Evans/Inpho

Veteran flanker ready to hit the ground running as rugby resumes in England

Sene Naoupu has been named in the Ireland squad for the final two games of the Six Nations. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Sene Naoupu included but no place for Jenny Murphy

Ian Madigan is determined to reignite his Ireland career after joining Ulster. Photo: Andrew Surma/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dubliner is now 31 and knows he’ll face a lot of stiff competition at his new province

Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster during a training session on Monday. Photo: Tom O’Hanlon/Inpho

Coach says he has not been approached to take role with Lions but would be open to it

Leinster’s James Lowe will be eligible for Ireland from November. Photo: Tom O’Hanlon/Inpho

Change to Regulation 8 now won’t come into affect until December 2021

According to reports over the weekend, World Rugby are seemingly offering Joe Schmidt a new role. File photograph: Inpho

Rugby returns in 12 days and fans are keen to see Ryan Baird and Dan Leavy in action

Leicester Tigers director of rugby, Geordan Murphy. Photograph: Matthew Lewis/Getty

Manu Tuilagi has gone but director of rugby is positive about the future at Welford Road

RG Snyman listens in to a Munster team huddle during a training session at UL. Photograph: Inpho

World Cup-winning lock to miss start of 2020-21 season if Rugby Championship proceeds

The IRFU’s Mary Quinn speaking in March. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Warren Gatland’s Chiefs are struggling, Manu Tuilagi and Noel Reid for hire

Jonah Lomu runs through the Ireland defence at Ellis Park in Johannesburg during the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Even now it is hard to fathom the level of impact the great All Blacks winger had on the game

World Rugby vice-chairman Bernard Laporte. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

World Rugby vice-chairman Bernard Laporte confirms deal; IRFU don't comment

Munster captain Peter O’Mahony launches the #DoBitsHelpLots campaign with GreenAware at his home in Cork. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Players face reduced wages in August if IRFU-Rugby Players Ireland stalemate remains

Springboks winger Aphiwe Dyantyi will face a doping hearing after he failed a drugs test a year ago. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty

25-year-old tested positive for anabolic steroids a year ago and missed World Cup win

Two sides will meet for a fourth time on Wednesday in a bid to broker a deal

Munster players returned to training last week. Photograph: Inpho

It is surprising nobody has opted out as negative tests bring a return ever closer

Leinster celebrate their Champions Cup triumph in Bilbao in 2018. Photograph:  Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Final set for Marseille but details of fixtures still unclear due to lingering coronavirus threat

Ireland players are trying to negotiate on pay cuts with the IRFU. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Swing Low matters, the disappeared Argentineans, by the numbers and quotes

Linda Djougang: “I tell people, ‘try and live in my shoes just for one day and see what it feels like being black, being different.” Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Cameroon-born Ireland prop says Irish society needs to be more willing to learn about others

The IRFU reportedly intends to shave off 20 per cent of player salaries in order to save €13 million. File photograph: Inpho

Kiss, kiss: how athletes and reporters greet each other after being kept apart for so long

 Oli Jager lands awkwardly during  Canterbury’s Mitre 10 Cup match against Southland at Orangetheory stadium  in Christchurch in August 2019. Photograph: Martin Hunter/Getty Images

Taking his father’s advice to head to New Zealand he's worked hard for his opportunities

Beauden Barrett of the Blues (centre-right, facing) celebrates with teammates at the final whistle during the Super Rugby match between the Auckland Blues and Wellington Hurricanes at Eden Park stadium in Auckland on June 14th, 2020. Photograph: Michael Bradley/AFP

The current conflict over a return in Northern Hemisphere surrounds player wage cuts

Gina Akpe-Moses: ‘I don’t want to raise my children in a world where I have to tell them to be careful just walking down the street’ Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Irish sprinter has added her voice to the Black Lives Matter movement

Joe Schmidt has suggested  a biennial Test  match between between the winners of the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Former Ireland coach predicts significant drop in player salaries in the coming seasons

Irishman Oli Jager has committed himself to becoming an All Blacks player after signing a contract extension with the Canterbury Crusaders. Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images

24-year-old tighthead prop signs new deal with Canterbury Crusaders until 2022

Munster Rugby chief executive Ian Flanagan (right) with Leinster counterpart Mick Dawson. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Ireland prop received a one-month doping suspension after a pharmacy mix-up

 Daniel Leo, the former Samoan lock: “I’ve been contacted by four or five high-profile players, in the prime of their careers, Wallabies and current All Blacks, who have said ‘My heart wants to play for my Pacific Island nation – when is that going to happen?’” Photograph: Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty

Rugby’s cosy cartel continues to deny Samoa, Tonga and Fiji their full due

Eddie Jones didn’t hold back when asked about the All Blacks’ production line. Photograph: Getty Images

Sam Burgess bites back and savages Ford, English RFU keen to reduce two metre rule

 Twickenham Stadium: under the current guidelines, the stadium would lose  €13.4 million) during the November international window. Photograph:    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Fears mount over potential loss of Aviva Stadium revenue if 2m distancing rule remains

Bernard Jackman has been helping coaches from around the world share their coaching experiences while there is no action. Photograph: Harry Trump/Getty Images

Zoom gathering started with just seven coaches has mushroomed during lockdown

Braydon Ennor with George Bridge during Crusaders training. New Zealand won’t be using the temporary laws when they return to play on June 13th. Photo: John Davidson/Inpho

Schmidt stuck in Tokyo jungle, E sport revolution, by the numbers and more

After acquiring stakes in the Premiership and Pro14, CVC are looking towards the Six Nations. Photo: Ashley Western/MB Media/Getty Images

Gavin Cummiskey profiles the investment firm looking to make waves in the sport

IRFU chief executive Philip Browne has ruled out relegation becoming part of the Six Nations or the Pro 14. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

IRFU boss rules out relegation from Six Nations and Pro 14

The event is spearheaded by Vinny Hammond, the IRFU’s head of analytics and innovation. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Pádraig Harrington to join Andy Farrell et al on a Zoom call raising money for Pieta House

Munster have been forced to pause the renewals of their season tickets for 2020-21. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Province can’t pay off oustanding €6.9m loan from IRFU with no supporters at the match

IRFU CEO Philip Browne gave a grim outlook for the financial aspect of sport in the country. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Sexton determined to Play On, Plan C and D, word of mouth and by the numbers

Iain Henderson and Rory Best arrive at Laganside Magistrates court in Belfast on January 31st, 2018  where Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were on trial accused of raping the same woman. Photograph:  Pacemaker

Sporting Controversies: The former Irish rugby captain has offered three evolving reasons for his decision

Johnny Sexton celebrates his winning drop goal in the 2018 Six Nations game against France at the Stade de France. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Lockdown has given Ireland outhalf a chance to evaluate things as he plans for the future

Old rivals Leinster and Munster are scheduled to clash in the Aviva Stadium, minus supporters, in August.  Photograph: James Crombie

Leinster v Munster at the Aviva on August 22nd to herald a hectic spell of games

Press conferences with questions via video link, as seen here at Downing Street, may be the order of the day. Photo: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/AFP via Getty Images

Insurance scuppers Japan-based All Blacks, word of mouth, by the numbers and more

Munster’s James Cronin has already served his one-month ban. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Munster player has already served one-month ban for failing a drugs test

Aviva Stadium: “Even when the stadium is empty it still costs a phenomenal amount of money to keep it running. You have security, pitch maintenance, rates of €900,000, insurance before you open the door. There are staff costs on top of that,” said  stadium director Martin Murphy. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Like any business, the national football and rugby ground is facing a race against time

Isa Nacewa celebrates with Leinster fans after the Guinness Pro 14 Final win over the Scarlets in May 2018. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Leinster legend on the reopening of New Zealand and the return of rugby action

The November internationals can bring in up to €9 million in gate receipts for the IRFU. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Irish rugby’s sustainability is anchored to filling the Aviva stadium at least five times a year

England rugby players Elliot Daly, Jamie George, Ellis Genge and Tom Curry during day one of the Cheltenham Festival in March. Photo: Tom Jenkins/Getty Images

English players posing at the Festival could be one of the lasting images this year

James Cronin in action for Munster against Racing 92 in the Heineken Champions Cup match at  Thomond Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Dr Una May says cost will not determine if case is taken or not

Guy Easterby (right) will be part of the Covid team at Leinster. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Government exit plan allows for a resumption of matches from August 10th

Aviva Stadium: Irish rugby is financially dependent on 50,000 full houses at the Aviva for a minimum of five internationals every year.   Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Return to play document a guideline only and remains subject to national health guidelines

James Cronin in action for Munster against Saracens. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho

Mr Versatile set to bow out . . . Pro 14 boss and the non-denial denial

World Rugby chairman  Bill Beaumont has announced an investigation is underway into allegations of homophobia by Fiji Rugby Union chairman Francis Kean. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

World Rugby chairman says his nomination came from Fiji Rugby Union and not chairman

On Friday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar explained that if everything goes to schedule then competitive team sports could resume on July 20th. Photograph: Inpho

Director of the national virus laboratory believes club championship could happen

Ireland’s Nora Stapleton, Ashleigh Baxter and Niamh Briggs celebrate at the final whistle. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Gavin Cummiskey talks to players, coaches and officials about that Women's World Cup day

James Cronin in action for Munster against Racing 92 at Thomond Park during last November’s Champions Cup game. Photograph:  Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Old boys club set to remain in power at World Rugby; IRFU chef cooking up a storm

Raelene Castle, who stepped down as chief executive of Rugby Australia this week, received a death threat last year. Photograph:   Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Staff were ordered not to leave any doors on the lower level of its headquarters open

Andrew Porter and Eric O’Sullivan take part in an Ireland v Ulster training session at the IRFU’s high-performance centre at  the Sport Ireland Campus. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Lancet report challenges idea that team sports can safely return to empty stadiums

James Cronin in action for Munster in the Champions Cup game against Racing 92 at Thomond Park back in November. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

World Anti-Doping Agency and World Rugby both going through a similar process

Francis Kean has stepped down as Fiji Rugby Union president. Photo: Getty Images

The 54-year-old has also lost his bid to join the World Rugby executive committee

Bernard Laporte is running for the role of World Rugby’s vice-chairman. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty

Allegations of homophobia made against Fijian chairman seeking election

Sunday Times published 'graphic recordings' of 'rampant homophobia' from Francis Kean

Belgian goalkeeper Jean Marie Pfaff claims the ball ahead of  Spanish forward Emilio Butragueno during the World Cup quarter-final in Puebla, Mexico in June 1986. Photograph: AFP via Getty Images

A packed South Terrace, a gifted Ireland side and an inspired Belgium goalkeeper

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