Ireland’s Conor Murray with referee Mathieu Raynal during the meeting with Wales last year. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Mathieu Raynal will take charge of Andy Farrell’s first game in charge this Saturday

Max Deegan, Caelan Doris and Andrew Porter will all be pushing for Six Nations selection. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

All eyes on Andy Farrell’s first XV, is Finn Russell the victim or simply an eejit?

 Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll touches down for a try against France in the 2000 Six Nations. Photograph: Tom Honan/Inpho

The mantle of 1948 was taken up by the three O’s: O’Driscoll, O’Gara and O’Connell

 Finn Russell will not feature for Scotland against Ireland next month. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Racing 92 outhalf will now not take part in the Six Nations opener against Ireland

 Rory Best (right) attended the Belfast rape trial with Ulster and Ireland teammate Iain Henderson: Pacemaker.

‘I know now in hindsight that was wrong. I shouldn’t have been there,’ he said

Felix Jones: “I’m still very keen to stay in the sport,” he said at the AIB Future Sparks festival launch, which  takes place on March 26th in the RDS. “I’ve a number of options that I have to give due consideration to.”  Photograph:  Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Arrival of World Cup-winning Springboks next summer to bolster Van Graan’s squad

 Saracens players celebrate after the victory over Racing 92 which clinched their place in the Champions Cup quarter-finals. Photograph:  Henry Browne/Getty Images

Rule-breaking squad pose a major threat in Champions Cup where they face Leinster

John Kelly of Munster goes over for a try despite the attention of Gloucester’s Thinus Delport at Thomond Park in January 2003. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

All may seem lost for Munster, but there’s always the chance of doing the impossible

Johnny Sexton has been confirmed as Ireland’s captain for the upcoming six nations. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Andy Farrell names five uncapped players in 35-man squad for upcoming tournament

Devin Toner has spoken about being left out of Joe Schmidt’s Rugby World Cup squad. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Ulster and Munster’s European defeats show the importance of power in Champions Cup

Caelan Doris: looks on course to make his international debut against Scotland. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Leinster duo pushing to be firmly in Farrell’s plans as Six Nations beckons

Ulster team manager Bryn Cunningham: ‘I came in around November 2014 and we had a very strong first XV on paper that year and in subsequent years but there wasn’t the depth below that.’ Photograph: Matt Mackey/Inpho/Presseye

Director and former fullback defends Leinster influx but is keen to develop talent

Ulster’s John Cooney has been in excellent form. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Jacob Stockdale is unquestionably returning to his world class standards of 2018

Connacht’s Niall Murray dejected after his side’s heavy 54-7 defeat to Leinster at the RDS. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Leinster and Ulster aim to secure home advantage in Champions Cup quarter-finals

Leinster’s Garry Ringrose is tackled by Robin Copeland of Connacht during their  Pro 14 match at the RDS. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Deegan gives best ever showing in a blue jersey against injury-ravaged visitors

Leinster’s Garry Ringrose scores his team’s seventh try against Connacht. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

James Ryan’s injury a concern as Leinster make easy work of Connacht at the RDS

 Jordan Larmour of Ireland during a Six Nations match against France at the Aviva Stadium  in Dublin last year. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

We can already predict a lot about the make-up of the squad for the tournament

Ireland’s Conor Murray celebrates Robbie Henshaw’s try against New Zealand. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

After 111 years of waiting, history is written on a crisp Chicago afternoon

Jordan Larmour was named man of the match in Leinster’s win over Northampton in Dublin. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Possibilities in new World Cup cycle endless, English Premiership the priority not Europe

 Jordan Larmour:  further proof that Ireland should have built their attack around him  in 2019 was evident throughout his stunning performance against Northampton. Photograph:    Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Young number eight making huge strides while fullback turns on the style

Leo Cullen: “It was a tough period to get through,” said the 41-year-old. “It’s not something I’ll ever forget.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Coach overcame a shaky start to guide the province back to the summit of European game

Leinster’s James Ryan in training ahead of the Champions Cup clash with Northampton Saints. Photo; Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Johnny Sexton will see a specialist in the UK with his return for Six Nations in doubt

Former Ireland captain Rory Best. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Former Ireland captain criticised for Schmidt quotes, Nucifora review unacceptable

Chris Boyd was impressed with the quality of Leinster during their Champions Cup loss. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

‘They play a completely different way, they pose a different problem’, says Saints coach

Leinster’s Josh van der Flier  breaks past Dan Biggar during their Heineken Champions Cup victory over  Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Cullen pleased with ‘killer mentality’ as side refuse to be knocked off course by Sexton injury

Leinster’s Jonathan Sexton pictured with strapping to his right knee   after the match at Franklin’s Gardens. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Leo Cullen: ‘I don’t know the extent of it, but we’ll find out more in the early part of next week’

Ross Byrne scores Leinster’s fifth try against Northampton. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Johnny Sexton limps off but Leo Cullen’s side don’t miss a beat to get the job done in style

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen: ‘In certain circumstances, a losing bonus point is not the end of the world.’ Photograph:   Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Head coach expects ‘very attacking-oriented’ opponents in Champions Cup clash

Dublin county board chief executive John Costello has questioned Primer Time’s reporting on Dublin GAA. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

CEO points to ‘increasingly twisted manner of public discourse’ in his report

Rory Best “I think we started to become - not dictated to - but we just let Joe do everything.”

Information overload contributed to Ireland’s World Cup failure

 Ian Madigan: has slipped down the pecking order at  Bristol Rugby and looks set to be moving on again next summer. Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

Madigan struggling to make an impression at Bristol

Ian Madigan continues to be left out at Bristol Bears. Photo: Alex Davidson/Getty Images

Conor O’Shea would have plenty to offer Ireland; average new crop of rugby books

 Leinster’s Jimmy O’Brien:  “I’d say I was more of an introvert.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan

Coach sees huge benefits of turning polite young men into vocal leaders on the field

Racing 92’s Donnacha Ryan and Simon Zebo after the Heineken Champions Cup game against Munster at Thomond Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Former Ireland coach’s decision not to use a ghostwriter means readers miss out

Denis Buckley made 18 tackles during Connacht’s win over Montpellier, while playing the full 80 minutes. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

A trip to France is next for Friend’s side after they secure a famous win over Montpellier

Connacht prop Denis Buckley, centre,   and his  team-mates celebrate a  late first-half try during the victory over Montpellier at the Sportsground. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty

Connacht victory the highlight of a morale-boosting provincial clean sweep

Garry Ringrose completes his hat-trick and scores Leinster’s fifth try of the game in the Champions Cup victory over Benetton Treviso at the RDS. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Returning World Cup stalwarts use home comforts to exorcise the horror of Shizuoka

Johnny Sexton celebrates scoring Leinster’s fourth try against Benetton in their Champions Cup opener at the RDS. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Johnny Sexton’s celebration after scoring the bonus-point try was telling

Devin Toner at the Leinster Rugby Captain’s Run in the  RDS, Dublin on Friday. Mystery still surrounds his exclusion from Ireland’s World Cup squad. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

‘It just gets you into that mindframe but I don’t think we need it’ – Johnny Sexton

Johnny Sexton returns to captain Leinster against Benetton on Saturday afternoon. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Johnny Sexton returns to captain side against Benetton at the RDS

 Saracens’ celebrate with the trophy after beating Leinster in last year’s final. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Gavin Cummiskey looks at the contenders ahead of the first round of Champions Cup games

Ronan Kelleher scores his second try for Leinster  against Connacht at the Sportsgraound. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Powerful Leinster hooker looks a potential ready-made replacement for Rory Best

JJ Hanrahan goes down with a suspected hamstring injury during the victory over Ulster at Thomond Park. With Carbery already ruled out, Munster face trip to Ospreys with just one established outhalf Tyler Bleyendaal fit. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Western province facing a full-scale second row crisis after further injuries to O’Brien and Dillane

Munster’s Andrew Conway on his way to scoring a try against Ulster at Thomond Park. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ulster’s pack of Leinster exiles fail to cope after van Graan’s men turn up the heat

Munster’s Andrew Conway gets past Ulster’s Matt Faddes on his way to scoring his side’s third try during the Guinness Pro 14 game at  Thomond Park. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Andrew Conway’s moment of brilliance secures interpro victory at Thomond Park

Munster head coach Johann van Graan with new forwards coach Graham Rowntree. “We have big dreams for the squad,” said van Graan.  Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Carbery’s absence a major blow as proud South African plots European campaign

Bundee Aki is set to return to the Connacht side for Friday’s clash with Leinster. Photograph: Tom O’Hanlon/Inpho

Head coach Andy Friend plagued with injury worries ahead of Friday’s clash with Leinster

Joey Carbery: “I honestly can’t say because I don’t know [when he will return],” said van Graan. “Because of the type of injury he is definitely not going to be back in the next few weeks.”  Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Van Graan says outhalf needs time to fully recover from an ankle injury

Leinster’s Jonathan Sexton, Ulster’s Iain Henderson and Munster’s Rory Scannell at the Heineken Champions Cup launch in Cardiff. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Outhalf believes Ireland prepared ‘unbelievably well’ and plays down talk of tactical shift

Chris Robshaw in action for Harlequins against Saracens in January. The former England captain says Saracens salary cap breach is “cheating.” Photograph: Henry Browne/Getty

Defending European champions fail to turn up for Wednesday’s Champions Cup launch

Backs coach Felipe Contepomi at  Leinster rugby squad training in Donnybrook, Dublin 4 on Monday. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

As dust settles on Ireland’s collapse in Japan, Johnny Sexton set to line up against Lyon

Rassie Erasmus, the South Africa head coach, holds aloft the Webb Ellis Cup after their victory over England in the World Cup Final in  Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan. Photograph:  David Rogers/Getty Images

Premature deaths, racial abuse and doping allegations a cloud over South African rugby

Joe Schmidt: “Any 23 can play very well against the All Blacks and not get the result,” said Schmidt before New Zealand thrashed Ireland 46-14. Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Unexplained conservative strategy will forever taint the most important Schmidt season

John Fogarty will be part of the Lions coaching set-up in 2021. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Former hooker and incoming Ireland scrum coach will help plot a route past Springboks

Joe Schmidt’s Ireland tenure came to an end with Saturday’s defeat to the All Blacks. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA

Outgoing coach has left a blueprint behind, Jamie Joseph will have plenty of options

Ireland’s Cian Healy, Josh van der Flier and James Ryan during the Rugby World Cup quarter-final clash with New Zealand in Tokyo. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Casting the net wider can help move Ireland from middleweight ranks to heavyweight

Makazole Mapimpi dives to score South Africa’s third try in their win ovre Japan. Photograph: Hannah Peters/Getty

Brave Blossoms wilt against South Africa as they set up a semi-final meeting with Wales

Ireland’s James Ryan is tackled by New Zealand flanker Ardie Savea during the Rugby World Cup quarter-final in Tokyo. Photograph: Behrouz Mehri/AFP via Getty Images

‘I have full faith we will push on’ says secondrow after All Blacks romp home in Tokyo

Cian Healy and Josh van der Flier during Ireland’s defeat to the All Blacks. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Gavin Cummiskey rates Schmidt’s side after their thrashing by the All Blacks in Tokyo

 Jonathan Sexton arrives alone for the captain’s run training session at the Tokyo Stadium.  “If we can walk off that pitch tomorrow having played our best, given everything, we will be able to look at ourselves no matter what.” Photograph: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty

‘Of course we know we can make history and we can create something a little bit special’

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen at the captain’s run on Friday ahead of the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Ireland in Tokyo on Saturday. Photograph:   Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP via Getty Images

The former policeman has always known the value of listening on the way to the top

Johnny Sexton walks out for the captain’s run ahead of Ireland’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final date with the All Blacks. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA

Outhalf bullish but calm ahead of his first start in a Rugby World Cup quarter-final

The Ireland and New Zealand encounters define the Joe Schmidt era.

Ireland and New Zealand have shared two wins apiece since 2013. That will change on Saturday

Ireland’s head coach Joe Schmidt speaks during a training session ahead of the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against New Zealand. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Kiwi coach says his side must go into quarter-final with New Zealand full of belief

Conor O’Shea: “They [Ireland] have belief in that there is a benchmark, as these players have beaten New Zealand. But I think the All Blacks are an unbelievable rugby team.” Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)

Italy coach says Japan have shown nothing is impossible in this World Cup

Ireland’s Bundee Aki takes part in a training session at the Arcs Urayasu Park ahead of the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against New Zealand. Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/Getty Images

Final decision will be made once written report is received on Tuesday afternoon

Japan winger Kotaro Matsushima dives to score against Scotland. Photograph: William West/Getty/AFP

Kotaro Matsushima and Cheslin Kolbe fight it out in our mid-tournament awards

Steve Hansen looks on during an All Blacks training session in Urayasu - they meet Ireland on Saturday. Photograph: Hannah Peters/Getty

All Blacks coach says Ireland bring the best out of his side but this meeting is do or die

Japan’s wing Kenki Fukuoka scores a try during the  Rugby World Cup Pool A match against  Scotland at the International Stadium in Yokohama. Photograph:  Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images

Ireland will now play world champions New Zealand in the last eight next Saturday

Tadhg Furlong en-route to scoring his stunning try in Ireland’s win over Samoa. Photograph: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty

Tighthead’s try one to tell the grandkids with world class Andrew Porter waiting in the wings

Joey Carbery seemed back to full fitness as Ireland beat Samoa in Fukuoka. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA

Ireland outhalf came on for Sexton and displayed his full array of skills against Samoa

Bundee Aki is consoled by Jack Lam after he is shown a red card during Ireland’s win over Samoa. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Coach Steve Jackson hopes World Rugby will ‘see sense’ after Aki’s red a for high tackle

Tadhg Furlong crashes over for Ireland’s second try in Fukuoka. Photograph: Jayne Russell/Inpho

Gavin Cummiskey runs the rule over a resurgent Ireland after their win in Fukuoka

Ireland’s Jordan  Larmour in Hakatanomori Stadium, Fukuoka, preparing for the game against Samoa. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Is the young player a free bird currently caged by the Irish system and a departing coach’s overwhelming authority?

Japan’s head coach Jamie Joseph has hit out at Scotland for threatening legal action over the potential concellation of their Rugby World Cup Pool A meeting on Sunday. Photo: Odd Andersen/Getty Images

Scots say they will take legal action, Japan coach says they want to play just as much

South African referee Jaco Peyer gives a yellow card to Samoa’s flanker TJ Ioane  during the Pool A match between Japan and Samoa at the City of Toyota Stadium last Saturday. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images

No sign of typhoon but Ireland could still be hit hard as Samoans have nothing to lose

Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw in training ahead of the Rugby World Cup match against Samoa. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Rugby World Cup: Ireland coach says he’s picked players who can give ‘best preparation’

Filo Paulo is one of those Samoan players out of contract at the moment. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Pacific Islanders have sacrificed to be here and a big performance could secure a contract

Wales’ Jonathan Davies   holds off Fiji’s Jale Vatubua during his side’s win at   Oita Stadium. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire

Gatland must regenerate squad to face Uruguay but will almost certainly top Pool D

Liam Williams of Wales scores his team’s fourth try during the Rugby World Cup win over Fiji. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Pacific Islanders started off quickly and raced into lead but Gatland’s men hit back

Ireland’s CJ Stander, Andrew Porter and James Ryan during the anthems before their defeat to Japan at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Easterby believes ‘phenomenal athlete’ James Ryan will become ‘one of the greats’

Tadhg Beirne: “Look, I’m always an option at six and Joe knows that.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Demands of tournament taking a heavy toll on Joe Schmidt’s panel strategy in Japan

South Africa fans arrive in Shizuoka ahead of their win over Italy. Photograph: Adam Pretty/Getty

The brooding Boks sidestep problems while Hotel Love is the place to stay in Nagoya

Andy Farrell has urged Ireland to use their Japan setback as a positive. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Incoming coach says embrace the setbacks, Springboks look too big for Ireland to handle

Jordi Murphy goes off injured during Ireland’s win over Russia. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Part of contingency plan could be to move fixture to Sunday at the same stadium

Samoa’s  Henry Taefu  is tackled by Japan’s  Michael Leitch  during their  World Cup Pool A match  at the City of Toyota Stadium. Photograph:  Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP via Getty Images

Schmidt must be wary of Samoan desire to land a significant blow at the World Cup

Japan’s wing Kotaro Matsushima scores a try against Samoa during the  Pool A victory for the hosts   at the City of Toyota Stadium. Japan now have an eight-day rest before a huge game against Scotland.  Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty

Joseph’s side have serious momentum for the defining Yokohama clash with Scots

Tim Nanai-Williams of Samoa receives treatment during the defeat to Japan. Photograph:  Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Steve Jackson: ‘At the moment we don’t know where we stand’

Japan’s Kenki Fukuoka runs in to score a try during the 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match against Samoa. Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/Getty Images

Pressure returned to Ireland and Scotland after hosts do their bit in Toyota City

Japan prop Isileli Nakajima (left) celebrates victory over Ireland  at the Ecopa stadium in Shizuoka. Photograph:  William West/AFP/Getty Images

The Japanese public has taken to devouring rugby stories as it gets to know its heroes

Cheslin Kolbe skates in to scores South Africa’s third try in their demolition of Italy. Photograph: Adam Pretty/Getty

South Africa deliver a performance of menace and muscle as Andrea Lovotti sees red

Johnny Sexton stabs through a kick for Peter O’Mahony to score Ireland’s second try in Kobe. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Outhalf ran show for 40 imperious minutes before being wrapped in cotton wool again

Ireland’s Andrew Conway looks to break through Vladimir Podrezov of Russia during their Rugby World Cup 2019 Group A game at Kobe Misaki Stadium on Thursday. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Ireland accentuate the positive after 35-0 victory over Russia on a rainy night in Kobe

Ireland’s Garry Ringrose is tackled by Igor Galinovskiy and Vasily Artemyev of Russia during the 2019 Rugby World Cup match in Kobe. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Russian coach Lyn Jones believes Ireland may lack sting in tail of the All Blacks

Gavin Cummiskey looks at Irish performances after an underwhelming win over Russia

Ireland’s Joey Carbery has been replaced in the squad by Conor Murray. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Conor Murray replaces him as scrumhalf cover for pool match against Russia

“Samoa were really physical against Scotland the other night but the points came in the last 12 minutes because the Samoan boys were out on their feet.” Photograph:  Craig Mercer/MB Media/ Getty Images

Ireland must endure purgatory of intense humidity during showdown with Russians

Russia captain Vasily Artemyev (right) celebreates with team-mate  Kirill Golosnitskiy after the winger scored his side’s first try in the  Rugby World Cup  Group A game against  hosts Japan  at the Tokyo Stadium in the opening game of the competition. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Russian captain could so easily have lined out in a green jersey after his time in Ireland

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