Munster have a lot to improve on to reach perfection, says coach Johann van Graan. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Province are evolving under the 38-year-old South African but still have a long way to go

Des Cahill talks to Ireland rugby coach Joe Schmidt after he was named Philips Sports Manager of the Year at an awards ceremony at the InterContinental Hotel in Dublin. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Ireland rugby boss confident that coaching team will continue his legacy

James Ryan takes a lineout at The Rec. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

1,500 Leinster flags stuck outside the turnstiles ahead of province’s win at The Rec

Leinster’s James Ryan gets away from Bath’s Dave Attwood in the   Champions Cup pool one match at The Recreation Ground, Bath. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire

Leadership oozes from secondrow who was a standout player in province’s win

Sam Underhill enjoyed a fine game for Bath against Leinster. Photograph: David Davies/PA

Ryan concedes Leinster need to tighten up at the breakdown after narrow win at The Rec

Jordan Larmour races clear to score Leinster’s match-winning try against Bath. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Jordan Larmour’s moment of majesty the difference in gruelling encounter at The Rec

Leo Cullen: “Before most people wake, Leo is working away on what’s best for Leinster Rugby but people don’t see that,” says Isa Nacewa. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Leinster’s head coach overcame a turbulent start to prove his mettle in spectacular style

Leinster’s Jonathan Sexton in training ahead of their Champions Cup meeting with Bath. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Big guns return for the Irish province as they look to keep touch with Toulouse in Pool 1

Dan Leavy will start at number eight for Leinster as they take on Bath at The Rec. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Scott Fardy left out by Leo Cullen in favour of James Lowe and Jamison Gibson-Park

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen speaking to the press ahead of his side’s Champions Cup clash with Bath. Photo: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Leinster coach made robust defence of province in wake of O’Driscoll’s comments

 Brian O’Driscoll leaves the field injured in his last match for Leinster, against Glasgow in May 2014. Photograph: Patrick Bolger/Inpho.

‘It almost became like habit’ says former Ireland and Lions captain

Girvan Dempsey has said his position at Bath is secure as the club prepare  a coaching overhaul. Photograph: Bob Bradford/Getty

Club are enduring a poor season in the Premiership but change as afoot at The Rec

Andrew Conway: could face a scrap for a place in the Ireland squad with the likes of Chris Farrell and  Will Addison. Photograph: Tommy dickson/Inpho

Little rest forthcoming for England’s busy international contingent

Leinster’s Caelan Doris goes high to claim a lineout during the comprehensive victory over Dragons at Rodney Parade, Newport. Photograph: Alex Davidson/Inpho

Former Leinster stalwart the ideal man to provide the inside track on champions

Ulster’s Rob Herring: he will play his 150th Ulster game at hooker. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Visitors travel without current starting Wales outhalf Gareth Anscombe

Leinster’s Scott Penny: he made his debut against the Ospreys last week. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Dragons coach Bernard Jackman will have identified real opportunity to catch the champions

Leinster’s Adam Byrne with Joe Schmidt at an Ireland training session at Carton House.  “He didn’t treat me any differently to anyone else.” Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

‘Joe smashed through all that nonsense’ recalls current scrum coach Fogarty

Joe Schmidt with Brian O’Driscoll after Leinster’s 2011 Heineken Cup final win over Northampton. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Kiwi arrived in Ireland relatively unknown but leaves after shaping a rugby generation

Jordan Larmour during an Ireland training session at Carton House. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Young Leinster star underwent ‘minor’ operation but could return for Champions Cup

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt works with his team before the Guinness Series clash with the USA. Photo: Brian Keane/Inpho

Cheika spills the beans; Johnny Sexton a worthy winner of the biggest of awards

 Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell: “I couldn’t watch the Irish defensive effort [against New Zealand] without lamenting the loss England suffered when Andy Farrell was allowed to slip through the net.”  Photograph: Reuters

‘He is good at organising his team and filling up the space on the park. And he does that really well’

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt at a post-match press conference following the win over the USA. Photograph:  Tommy Dickson/Inpho

New Zealander says he has indicated his decision to IRFU and will announce it on Monday

 Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt with his New Zealand counterpart, Steve Hansen, speaking before the match at the Aviva. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Dan Leavy the latest player to keep injury details private; Toner thriving amid pressure

Peter O’Mahony claims a lineout. He took the game to New Zealand at every turn during the  historic night at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ex-Lions captain soared to banish any lingering disappointment over the 2017 tour

 Bundee Aki and Ian Henderson celebrate at the final whistle of the autumn international against New Zealand at the Aviva stadium. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Gavin Cummiskey looks at five key moments as Ireland claimed first home win over All Blacks

The Ireland team huddle after the All Blacks performed the Haka prior to the Guinness Series Test match at the Aviva stadium. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Gavin Cummiskey runs the rule over Joe Schmidt’s green shirted history-makers

 Ireland   coach Joe Schmidt shakes hands with New Zealand coach Steve Hansen at the Aviva in 2016. Photograph:  Billy Stickland/Inpho

The Ireland and All Blacks head coaches both boast hugely successful careers

Kieran Read speaks to the media on Friday. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

“I’m sure there is going to be a lot of emotion, a lot of heat out here”

Ireland’s Dan Leavy has been ruled out of Saturday’s Guinness Series meeting with New Zealand. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

IRFU spokesperson defends continuing trend of players not disclosing their injuries

New Zealand  coach Steve Hansen: “He’s pretty good, Joe, at finding a trick or two, so we’ll be expecting one or two coming our way on Saturday.” Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images

‘He’s pretty good, Joe, at finding a trick or two, so we’ll be expecting one or two coming our way on Saturday’

Bundee Aki and Kieran Marmion with  Ireland fan Jennifer Malone at Carton House. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Marmion says his Auckland-born Connacht team-mate will be fired up for a special Test

Iain Henderson and Dan Leavy pictured in an Irish team huddle at Carton House. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Joe Schmidt makes four changes to the Ireland team that beat Argentina last weekend

Devin Toner made a big impact coming off the replacements bench against the Pumas. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Our writers pick the Irish sides they want to see take on the mighty All Blacks

Jonathan Sexton of Ireland prepares to take a penalty during the Test match wi over Argentina. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Ireland outhalf will come up against fellow player of the year nominee Beauden Barrett

Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton speaks to the press ahead of Saturday’s Guinness Series meeting with New Zealand. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Outside centre suffered injury before Pumas win which rules him out of All Blacks clash

A   television official saw the boot of Courtney Lawes cross the invisible offside line a millisecond before TJ Perenara motioned to kick in the All Blacks' narrow victory over England

Stander says he never witnessed doping problems at Craven Week national trials

Ireland’s Dan Leavy in possession  during the clash against Argentina at the Aviva Stadium. Niall Carson/PA

Leinster flanker may well have played himself into the starting side to face the All Blacks

 New Zealand head  coach Steve Hansen gives  a press conference at   the Crowne Plaza hotel in  Blanchardstown on Sunday. Photograph:  Phil Walter/Getty Images

‘Big players get up. If they think they are right to play, let them play,’ says New Zealand coach

Seán O’Brien broke his arm during Ireland’s win over Argentina in Dublin. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Ireland flanker suffers broken arm on return from injury against Argentina

Ieland’s Ronan O’Gara has his face pushed into the ground by Argentina’s Juan Martin Scelzo during the fractious 2007 World Cup clash in Paris. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

For over a decade games between Ireland and Argentina carried a distinct whiff of cordite

Sean O’Brien: “ I get to wear the jersey this week, better make sure I do it justice and do my thing.” Photograph: Billy stickland/Inpho

Grizzled veteran knows every display important in a fiercely competitive environment

Ireland’s Jordan Larmour starts at fullback for the Guinness Series clash with Argentina on Saturday. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Seán O’Brien starts as Joe Schmidt names same pack that played Argentina last year

England’s Owen Farrell makes a challenge on South Africa’s Andre Esterhuizen during the international Test match at Twickenham. Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters

Schmidt’s Larmour and Beirne headache; World Rugby’s gender fail on selection panel

Munster players congratulate Mike Haley on his try during their Pro14 win over Cheetahs. Photo: Frikkie Kapp /Inpho

Johann van Graan’s side made heavy work of getting past the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein

Ireland’s Tadhg Beirne goes over for the third try in their win over Italy at Soldier Field, Chicago. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Gavin Cummiskey runs the rule over Joe Schmidt’s charges after their big win

 All Blacks’ Beauden Barrett   reacts during  the match  against the Springboks at Westpac Stadium on September 15th, 2018 in Wellington, New Zealand. Photograph: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

Former Ireland outhalf believes playing field between sides has never been so level

IIreland’s Joey Carbery and Luke McGrath during training ahead of the match against Italy at Soldier Field, Chicago. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Jordan Larmour will continue at fullback for the Soldier Field clash against Italy

Greg McWilliams: “Every coach I come across over here I tell them to forget systems; get your kids passing the ball and learn how to step off both feet. Skills, skills, skills”

Former St Michael's outhalf credits Joe Schmidt's influence on his coaching career

 Owen Farrell in action for Saracens in their Champions Cup match at Allianz Park, London, on October 20th. Photograph:   Steven Paston/PA Wire

Ian McKinley set for landmark moment; IRFU educates on concussion protocols

 Conor  Murray’s presence in Carton House gives him the opportunity to turn the assumptions of Hansen and O’Gara into reality.

“Is Conor really going to be out or is it an Irish trick? Or is it the truth?”

Philip Browne: ‘We simply cannot afford to have a separate Sevens and 15s programme,’

Racing 92’s French winger Teddy Thomas  celebrates with  Simon Zebo  after scoring a try against Ulster in Paris. Photograph:  Geoffrey Vand der Haselt/AFP/Getty

Former Munster man apologetic following try-scoring gesture in win over Ulster

 Felipe Contepomi, (centre) celebrates with  Denis Hickie (left) and Will Green after Leinster’s  victory over Toulouse in the  Heineken Cup quarter-final at  Stade Municipal  in Toulouse in April 2006. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Victory over defending champions Toulouse away proved a seminal moment in team’s development

Guy Easterby: “We want our players to play for Ireland. That is the absolute key to what we do and Leo [Cullen] has been an incredible driver of that.” Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Former scrumhalf now sees famous win in Toulouse as one big step on long road

Nick McCarthy has had plenty of exposure to Leinster’s first team – three starts and 18 runs off the bench in 2017/18. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Leinster move prompted by Jamison Gibson Park becoming Irish qualified in 2019

A dejected Freddie Burns leaves the pitch at The Red following Bath’s defeat to Toulouse. Photograph: David Davies/PA

If this is Burns giving his best “always” Bath are in deep trouble.

Munster outhalf Joey Carbery kicks behind the Exeter line during the Heineken Champions Cup game at  Sandy Park. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Johann van Graan praises new signings after battling draw away to Exeter

Munster’s CJ Stander scoring a try against the Exeter Chiefs  at Sandy Park stadium as Joey Carbery celebrates. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Stander try is converted by Carbery to level matters at 10 all with 15 minutes to go

Munster captain Peter O’Mahony and coach Johann van Graan after the 10-10 draw with Exeter at Sandy Park. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Keith Earls missed epic Exeter draw after feeling a tight hamstring during warm-up

Munster’s CJ Stander scores a try during the Heineken Champions Cup  match at Sandy park. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Epic Pool Two encounter ends in a share of the spoils after CJ Stander crashes over

 Geordan Murphy: “There’s always pressure. My good buddy James Ferris always told me, ‘Pressure is for tyres’. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Leicester coach knows the pressure is on at a club where the message is win, just win

Luke McGrath: “It is great to see the club has huge competition in every position.” Photograph: Morgan Treacy/inpho

Province building strength in depth and competition in pivotal position on the pitch

James Lowe scored two tries against Munster and looks set to start in the Champions Cup next weekend. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Gibson-Park injury means Leinster can include both southern hemisphere players

Ben Whitehouse was in the eye of the storm during Saturday’s Guinness Pro14   clash between Leinster and Munster at Aviva Stadium.  Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Compelling game swung on controversial decision to disallow Earls’s ‘try’

Munster’s Tadhg Beirne is tackled by  James Tracy with Jack McGrath during the Guinness Pro 14 game at the  Aviva stadium. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Finicky and time consuming officiating takes away from derby date

The scene of the IRA car bomb at Killeen in April 1987 in which Judge Maurice Gibson and his wife Lady Cecily Gibson were killed. What remained of their car is to the right behind the telegraph poles. The car in which |reland internationals David Irwin, Nigel Carr and Philip Rainey were travelling is in the middle of the road.

Craig Doyle and Brian O’Driscoll tell the story of one Irish team crossing the cultural divide

TG4’s coverage at the Sportsground on Saturday was sloppy. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Go for entertainment or cold blooded inquisition. Anything else is painful viewing

Connacht’s Jack Carty takes on Blade Thomson of the Scarlets at the Sportsground. ‘He’s got an amazing skill set and we are giving him licence to use that’ Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Seán O’Brien returns to squad for visitors as Andy Friend's side seek repeat of last meeting

Dan McFarland has made an encouraging start to his first head coaching job in Ulster. Photograph: Ulster Rugby/John Dickson/Inpho

Ulster coach faces array of challenges after difficult season on and off the field

Will Spencer (left) of Leicester Tigers is sent off by referee Ian Tempest after a high tackle on Tommy Taylor during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Wasps and  Tigers  in Coventry earlier this month. Photograph:  David Rogers/Getty Images

Simon Halliday insists rules on high tackles will not soften the game, but make it safer

Ulster’s Jordi Murphy goes past Jamie Ritchie of Edinburgh during their Pro14 clash. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Ulster man hoping more game time with province can get him back into Ireland set up

Conor Murray at  a Munster training session in Limerick on September 17th. Photograph:  James Crombie/Inpho

Former All Blacks scrumhalf Alby Mathewson could play for Munster against Ulster

Racing 92’s  Simon Zebo scoring  a try against  Castres on Saturday  at the Paris La Defense Arena in Nanterre. Photograph:  Getty Images

Ireland picked Johnny Sexton when he played in Paris, so why not white-hot winger Zebo?

  England’s  Paul Gascoigne celebrates after scoring   during the European Championship Finals group match against Scotland  on June 15th, 1996, in London, England. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Long before drink grabbed hold of Gascoigne, his childhood was tainted by tragedy

New Zealand players perform a haka during the Rugby Championship match between the All Blacks and the  Springboks at Westpac Stadium  in Wellington, New Zealand, last weekend. Photograph: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

With one year to go before the tournament, who’s going to rise or fall in the east?

Willis first player to sue an English club and medics for negligence over brain injury

 Dublin footballers (from left) Muireann Ni Scanaill, Niamh Collins, Lauren Magee, Sinéad Aherne, Lyndsey Davey and Sinéad Goldrick show Maya Kulendran, from Castlebar, Co Mayo, the Brendan Martin Cup at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital in Dublin yesterday. Photograph: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

‘The same love for football was there in 2014, we just weren’t playing as smartly’

England captain Sarah Hunter celebrates with team mates after series victory over Canada at Twickenham. Photograph: Paul Childs/File Photo/Reuters

Contracts will be granted on form, with the money permanently included in RFU budget

Jonny Cooper leads Dublin into action against Laois in the Leinster final. “Teams are trying to play to their own advantages the best they can and ultimately get a result.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

‘We are there to win and perform’ says Dublin’s vastly experienced defender

Declan Darcy with Jim Gavin: “You have to evolve because if you stand still, if you look behind for one minute, you will be caught.”

Jim Gavin’s long-serving selector still enjoying his role and excited by the challenge

Mattie Donnelly of Tyrone: until now, Tyrone were not ready for the penultimate leap. Photograph: Declan Roughan/Inpho

Even Jim Gavin agrees this Tyrone team is a different beast to last year’s semi-finalists

    Conor Murray could be sidelined for up to four months. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Murray could miss up to four months with unspecified injury

Jim Gavin greets Mickey Harte at the end of the All-Ireland Super 8s clash at Healy Park.  Healy Park, Omagh. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Past triumphs of no concern to Dublin supremo as he plans for latest final test

 Former Tyrone star Joe McMahon, Johnny Magee, Kilmacud Crokes manager  and ex-Dublin and Mayo’s Chris Barrett at the launch of this year’s Londis Kilmacud Crokes All-Ireland Senior Football Sevens.  Photograph:  Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Former Tyrone star convinced Red Hand men will relish their underdog status

Carnacon’s Cora Staunton and team-mates  after their win over Mourneabbey  in the All-Ireland Ladies SFC final at  Parnell Park. Photograph:  Oisín Keniry/Inpho

‘All our members want is to play football and we hope to get this opportunity again’

Micheál  Donoghue: “I think Croke Park, the powers-that-be, need to sit down with all the parties. I don’t think they can just come with proposals.” Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Galway manager pays tribute to ‘incredible job’ Kiely and Kinnerk did with Limerick

Jonathan Glynn after Galway’s All-Ireland final defeat to Limerick. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Losing manager says his team were ‘below par’ against ‘deserving winners’ Limerick

Limerick’s Mike Casey keeps a tight rein on Galway’s Johnny Glynn during the All-Ireland SHC Final at Croke Park. Phjotograph:  James Crombie/Inpho

Gavin Cummiskey runs the rule over John Kiely’s side after their All-Ireland win

Billy Burns: “I wouldn’t have come over here if I didn’t think it was a club going in the right direction, a club that has ambition that suits mine.”  Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Rory Scannell expecting Haley and Botha to make a big impact with Munster

Robin Copeland is readying himself for his maiden season in Galway after leaving Munster for Connacht. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

‘What I want to do is take Connacht to the next level, get in the team, start every week’

Leinster’s Jack Conan: “I think we have the squad, the depth and the talent.” Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Contepomi is new backs coach as blue province goes after another European star

Limerick’s Gary Kirby during the 1994 All-Ireland SHC final. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Selected XV will be paraded in Croke Park at half-time of Sunday’s All-Ireland SHC final

Jack McCaffrey is denied a goal by Galway’s Sean Kelly during the semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Busy newly-qualified doctor still enjoying the big occasions at Croke Park with Dublin

 Former Galway hurler David Collins at the launch of the Fexco 23rd Asian Gaelic Games  at Croke Park. Photograph.  Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Former Galway stalwart David Collins says the travel is unsustainable

Galway manager Kevin Walsh and Dublin manager Jim Gavin  shake hands after the  All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park on Saturday.  Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Challenge is now to catch up with Jim Gavin’s side, says Galway manager Kevin Walsh

Tyrone’s Niall Sludden scores the only goal of the match. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Can this approach stop Dublin’s march to four All-Ireland titles in a row next month?

Dublin’s Jack McCaffrey gets to the bounce of the ball ahead of Galway’s Johnny Heaney during  the All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Jim Gavin’s side pulls away in the second half as squad’s strength in depth shows itself again

Joe Tomane (centre) with Rhys Ruddock and Dan Leavy at the launch of the new Leinster home and alternate jersey at Life Style Sports, Grafton Street, Dublin. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Versatile talent targeted a spot with Cullen’s side when his Montpellier dream faded

 Ryan O’Dwyer, Bill O’Carroll, Fergal Whitely and Niall Corcoran, with U- 10 Kilmacud Crokes hurlers Michael Lyng, left, and Cian Manning at the launch of the The Beacon Hospital/Kilmacud Crokes  All-Ireland Hurling Sevens at Croke Park. Photograph:  Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Former Tipperary captain and Kilmacud mentor rules himself out of contention

Rory Beggan at Pearse Stadium: “We’re going in for the win – we’re not just happy to be going into a semi-final.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Goalkeeper believes team have every reason to be confident heading to Croke Park

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