Ulster’s Robert Baloucoune scores his sides first try despite the attentions of Tom Collins and George Furbank. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Last-16 format leaves potential for all four Irish sides to qualify for the first time ever

Leo Cullen was keen to park the result and move on after Leinster’s record win. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

Montpellier boss Saint-André laments Covid woes that left him with ‘academy backline’

Jordan Larmour scores  despite the efforts of Montpellier’s Karl Martin. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Irish province notches 13 tries in impressive display in first fixture in over a month

On Saturday afternoon Connacht seek to boldly go where no Connacht side has gone before. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Connacht hope to make history, Leinster seek vengeance, Ulster hit hard by injuries

Connacht’s Bundee Aki has turned down some big offers from abroad to stay with the Irish province. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

A talisman on the pitch, Connacht’s first Lion in 39 years is adored by the young fans

Ross Byrne: will start at outhalf againt for Leinster against Montpellier.  Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Cullen’s side will be highly motivated by controversial walkover which still rankles

Munster’s Jack Crowley will play an important role on Friday night against Castres. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

A tricky assignment against such familiar and gritty opponents awaits Munster

Peter O’Mahony starts for Munster against Castres. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Jack Crowley to make full European debut as province make five changes to starting XV

Connacht’s Conor Oliver celebrates scoring his side’s third try during the United Rugby Championship game against Leinster at the RDS. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Backrow has enjoyed an outstanding season so far with ball in hand

South African Johann Van Graan will take over as head coach at Bath on a long-term contract from next season. Photograph: Inpho

The two are close friends since Munster coach’s time as assistant with the Boks

The New Zealand-born Jared Payne represented Ulster on 78 occasions and earned 20 caps for Ireland. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

John Cooney ruled out of Champions Cup match against Northampton Saints

Munster will have Simon Zebo available to them this weeknd. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

RG Snyman has signed a two-year deal that will see him remain until at least June 2024

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen with forwards coach Robin McBryde during Leinster training at  Energia Park, Donnybrook. ‘At training today, I don’t know how many backs there were, but there were 24 forwards, three packs, so we’re in great shape really. We just need a game.’ said McBryde. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

Cullen’s men will bring sense of grievance over conceded walkover into RDS clash

 Johann van Graan: ‘I’ve been open with this group. I will continue to do so and I’ll continue to put every bit I have into this club until I leave here on the 30th of June.”  Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Coach scotches any notion he would quit the province before the end of his contract in June

 Ireland and Leinster centre Robbie Henshaw has been named the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland men’s player of the year. Photograph: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Béibhinn Parsons wins women’s award for the second year in a row

The five Heineken Champions Cup games in round two between French and UL sides have been declared as 0-0 draws. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Leinster’s game away to Montpellier not affected and remains a 28-0 win for French side

Winger Mack Hansen will miss Connacht’s Heineken Champions Cup game at home to Leicester on Saturday with a calf injury. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Exciting winger suffers calf injury in training but could return against Stade Francais

 Peter O’Mahony is back in training after missing out against Ulster last weekend. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Centre unlikely to feature in Champions Cup clash against Castres

 Tadhg Furlong, Ronan Kelleher and Andrew Porter during Leinster training on Tuesday. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

Leo Cullen’s Leinster side have not played since early December

Toulouse’s Maxime Medard celebrates with Cheslin Kolbe and Baptiste Germainthe after the club’s  Champipns Cup victory over La Rochelle  at Twickenham last May. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

European brand has been damaged over the last two seasons – and not just by Covid

Simon Zebo has signed a new two-year contract at Munster. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

Ireland international back will remain at the province until the summer of 2024 at least

Connacht celebrate Bundee Aki’s match-winning score against Munster. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Andy Friend’s side are continually on the upgrade as stodgy Munster fail to inspire

Bundee Aki and Finlay Bealham celebrate Ireland’s victory over the All Blacks during the Autumn Nations Series at the  Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Memorable victory over New Zealand was one of the best-ever Ireland displays

Munster’s Jack O’Donoghue scores a try against Castres. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Munster player felt a huge buzz watching young team beat Wasps in Champions Cup

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen. Photo: Ben Brady/Inpho

Toulon had a similar situation last April with match in Dublin cancelled after travelling

Leinster are currently top of the URC table. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Leinster v Lions and Connacht v Stormers will now take place on a Six Nations weekend

Munster and Castres players shake hands after the final whistle during the Heineken Champions Cup match at Thomond Park, Limerick. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Postponement of some matches and cancellation of others leave teams frustrated

Castres’  Santiago Arata Perrone, Thomas Combezou and Filipo Nakosi tackle Munster’s Damian de Allende causing him to knock on the ball as he goes for the try line during the Heineken Champions Cup game at Thomond Park. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Johann van Graan happy with nine-point haul from opening two games in Europe

A young Munster supporter gets a photo with Diarmuid Barron and Julius Nostadt of Castres after the Heineken Champions Cup  game at  Thomond Park on Saturday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Full squad will get together at training on Tuesday for the first time in over two months

Munster’s Jack O’Donoghue scores a try during the Champions Cup win over Castres. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Jack O’Donoghue notched his first European try in a scrappy performance at Thomond

Johann van Graan leaves Munster for Bath in the summer after five season at the helm. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Johann van Graan’s departure will leave province in need of a new coaching ticket

Ben Healy starts at outhalf for Munster in Saturday night’s Heineken Champions Cup game against Castres at Thomond Park. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Ben Healy named at outhalf following injury to Joey Carbery

Ulster’s Craig Gilroy celebrates scoring their fourth try during the Heineken Champions Cup match against Northampton at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Stuart McCloskey and Iain Henderson both forced off with injury for home side

Munster’s United Rugby Championship match against Leinster on St Stephen’s Day at Thomond Park  will now have a capacity of 5,000. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

A maximum crowd of 5,000 will now be allowed at Thomond Park

The weekend’s European fixtures between French and English clubs have been postponed. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Ulster, Munster and Connacht’s second round Champions Cup ties will still go ahead

The IRFU have agreed to fully publish the two independent reports currently being conducted into women’s rugby. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Announcement follows letter sent to Government by 62 current and former players

Bundee Aki returns for Connacht against Leicester on Sunday. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Andy Friend welcomes back six internationals for Sunday’s trip to Welford Road

Jason Jenkins is in line to make his Munster debut off the bench against Castres. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

A new-look bench named for Thomond clash but visit of French side remains in doubt

Johann van Graan overseeing Munster training at   UL, Limerick. “Munster Rugby are one of the very proud clubs in world rugby. I’ve said it from day one,” said the coach who will be leaving to join Bath at the start of next season. Photograph:  Bryan Keane/Inpho

Atmosphere buoyant in camp after last weekend’s heroics against Wasps

Leinster’s Scott Penny during training ahead of the Champions Cup match against Montpellier. Photo: Ben Brady/Inpho

Cullen’s squad looks to be skeletal after positive tests with opponents in same boat

Munster Head coach Johann van Graan who will leave the club at the end of this season. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Incoming Bath head coach doesn’t deny reports of rifts or tensions behind the scenes

Munster head coach Johann van Graan will leave his role at the end of the season. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

South African had signed a new two-year deal in July but will now head for Bath

Johannn van Graan will leave his role with Munster at the end of the season. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

South African coach to depart Thomond Park with Bath his reported destination

Munster flanker John Hodnett breaks through against Wasps in Coventry. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty

Emboldened O’Mahony drives unlikely success as Champions Cup starts with a bang

 Munster players celebrate their victory over Wasps in the  European Champions Cup clash at the   Coventry Building Society Arena. Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Province have no time to rest on their laurels after remarkable victory over Wasps

A number of current and former  players have expressed their loss of faith in the IRFU’s management of the women’s game.  Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Union rejects claims made in letter which expresses a loss of faith in the organisation

 Daniel Okeke celebrates after the game  Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Temporary boss Ian Costello says the last fortnight will live long in players’ memory

Peter O’Mahony celebrates after the game. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Young stars such as Okeke and Buckley shine in frenetic bonus point win away in Coventry

Conor Murray and Daniel Okeke celebrate Scott Buckley’s try against Wasps. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Province’s young and old combine in style to secure a famous opening bonus point win

Andrew Porter is part on an all-international Leinster frontrow for the game against Bath. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

Leo Cullen’s side look good enough for bonus-point opener against struggling visitors

Munster academy manager Ian Costello talks with Tadhg Beirne, Chris Farrell, Peter O’Mahony, Joey Carbery, and Conor Murray  during Munster’s training session at UL on Friday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Munster will give their all but a victory looks beyond a team with five debutants

Ulster have been boosted by the inclusion of South Africa number eight Duane Vermeulen for their Champions Cup opener away to Clermont Auvergne. Photograph:  Ashley Western/PA Wire

Leinster’s trip to Montpellier next weekend will be very revealing

Marcus Smith of Harlequins takes on the Leicester defence during the Gallagher Premiership match  at  Welford Road. Photograph:  David Rogers/Getty Images

Munster and Cardiff sides will start on the back foot due to Covid issues

Toulouse’s Pita Ahki is spayed with champagne by team-mate and captain Antoine Dupont after the victory over La Rochelle in the Heineken Champions Cup Final at  Twickenham in May. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

The Top 14 sides go into the opening rounds of the Champions Cup having played a dozen game

Toulouse’s French scrumhalf Antoine Dupont has been named as World Rugby’s World Player of the Year. Photograph: Romain Perrocheau/AFP via Getty Images

Toulouse scrumhalf enjoyed a brilliant run with club and country

Patrick Campbell is among those making his debut for Munster. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Vastly inexperienced side will head to Coventry after Covid-19 outbreak in the squad

Leinster are due to play Bath at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday. Photo: Inpho

Cullen: ‘Symptoms are very, very mild, generally speaking, which is good’

Peter O’Mahony: ‘There’s always a belief in playing for Munster and what it means to people.’ Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Captain knows he also has to concentrate on his own game also ahead of Wasps clash

Leinster are expecting a crowd not much more than 30,000. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

So far ticket sales are projecting an attendance of only about 30,000 at the Aviva

Young Munster fullback  Patrick Campbell is in line to make his Munster debut against Wasps on Sunday in the Champions Cup. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Johann van Graan says a number of players will make their Munster debuts in Coventry

Ian Costello has been preparing Munster for Sunday’s Champions Cup opener against Wasps . Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

‘There’s guys just out of school but to see some of the talent that’s come on is incredible’

Duane Vermeulen could make his Ulster debut in their opening Heineken Champions Cup game away to Clermont on Saturday. Photograph: Steve Bardens/Getty Images for Barbarians

South African number eight working his way back to match fitness after Covid diagnosis

Claire Molloy has been inducted into the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Hall of Fame. Photograph: Tony Kershaw/Inpho

Billy Holland receives Tom Rooney Award in recognition of his contribution to Irish rugby

Peter O’Mahony: ‘That’s been a test as well for some of the leadership guys and the international guys who are still here. It’s been a really enjoyable couple of weeks for us.’ Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Ireland backrow has been very impressed with how younger players have taken to task in hand

Johann van Graan: ‘ We’re a strong group of people and that’s the beauty of Munster Rugby – it’s built on our community’. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Johann van Graan hails ‘beauty of Munster Rugby’ in face of adversity

Ireland’s Tadhg Furlong in action against the All Blacks. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho

South Africa have the most representatives with five in the lineup and three All Blacks

Ireland’s Garry Ringrose makes a break  during the recent win over Argentina. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

The 26-year-old will remain with Leinster until at least the end of the 2024/25 season

Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle start their Champions Cup campaign  at home to Glasgow. Photograph: Dave Winter/Inpho

La Rochelle boss says Glasgow have nothing to lose as they travel to last year’s finalists

Josh van der Flier was named player of the match during Leinster’s recent win over Connacht. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Form says that changes the Leinster backrow made are working after impressive autumn

Patrick Campbell appeared in a development XV this year and is among those registered. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Three academy players among new crop as province boosts ranks ahead of trip to Wasps

Tadhg Furlong and Leinster are building for the visit of Bath on Saturday. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

Champions Cup opens with visit of Bath before attention turns to festive derbies

Leinster are the standout URC contenders in this season’s Champions Cup. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

Leinster the outstanding URC contenders but French and English sides look well prepared

Jamison Gibson-Park is back in full training and could feature against Bath. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

Ireland’s first-choice scrumhalf in November is back in full training after a thigh injury

Jack McGrath has been named on the Ulster bench for the URC match away to the Ospreys. The prop has been out of action for over a year with a hip injury that required surger. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Jack McGrath set for return after over a year out while Craig Gilroy could win 200th cap

Dan Sheehan on his way to scoring Leinster’s third try during the United Rugby Championship match at the  RDS. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Leo Cullen’s side get back on track with bonus-point win at the RDS

Ireland international centre Chris Farrell has returned to training for Munster ahead of their Champions Cup opener away to Wasps. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Academy fullback Jonathan Wren also returns to training after a leg injury

Connacht’s Jack Carty in action against Ospreys in the  Sportsground, Galway on November  26th. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

Leo Cullen making 10 changes to all-international XV and making intentions clear

Munster head coach Johann van Graan and  team manager Niall O’Donovan. Photograph:  Bryan Keane/Inpho

Province likely to seek reinforcements from within despite having option to recruit in players

Young Munster fullback Patrick Campbell is one of a number of Munster academy players set to  be registered for their European Champions Cup campaign after EPCR changed its rules. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

All clubs will can supplement squads with an unlimited number of previously unregistered players

Ireland will play Italy at Musgrave Park in next year’s Women’s Six Nations on Sunday, April 10th. Photograph: Brian Reilly-Troy/Inpho

Ireland will play games in Dublin, Cork and Belfast in next year’s championship

Harry Byrne during the Leinster captain’s run at the RDS on Thursday ahead of Fricay night’s URC game against Connacht. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

Leo Cullen turns to his Ireland internationals to get province back on the winning trail against Connacht

 Andrew Trimble and Barry Murphy have been announced as hosts of this year’s Zurich Irish Rugby Players Awards. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

After surviving RTÉ’s Ultimate Hell Week the duo will present Zurich Irish Rugby Awards

Munster’s Champions Cup fixture against Wasps is in dount despite the majority of the squad returning to Ireland on Wednesday. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Most of the province’s travelling party returned from South Africa on Wednesday

Bundee Aki has been ruled out of Connacht’s trip to the RDS to take on Leinster on Friday night. Photograph:  James Crombie/Inpho

Centre suffered a knee injury in Ireland’s win over New Zealand

Duane Vermeulen training  with the  Barbarians in London last week. Ulster have confirmed that the  South Africa number eight has tested positive for Covid-19. Photograph: Steve Bardens/Getty Images for Barbarians

South African number eight is isolating after his arrival in Belfast

Munster have confirmed nine further cases of Covid-19 after the latest round of PCR testing in South Africa. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Province remain stranded in Cape Town and waiting for green light to return to Ireland

Law variations will come into effect from January 1st, 2022. Photo: Ben Brady/Inpho

Measures include flexibility in number of players, game duration, pitch size and ball size

 A daily newspaper poster reporting on the recently introduced travel bans  in Harare, Zimbabwe after the outbreak of the Omicron variant of coronavirus in South Africa and Botswana. Photograph: Aaron Ufumeli/EPA

Chaos for URC while if and when Munster face Wasps it will be far from a level playing field

James Ryan at the Leinster training ground on Monday. Photo: Ben Brady/Inpho

Dan Leavy also likely to miss Friday’s match against Connacht after HIA last week

The Munster squad during training in South Africa last week. Photo: Gordon Arons/Inpho

As yet it is unknown whether squad will be allowed to train while in 10-day quarantine

Frank Murphy awarded 15 penalites against Leinster in their defeat to Ulster. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Getty

Cullen says province will need to have more edge when they meet Connacht on Friday

Munster are still working on securing a way home from South Africa. Photo: Gordon Arons/Inpho

With South Africa on a travelling red list, it’s difficult to see how the URC can proceed

Leinster’s Tadhg Furlong is tackled by Ulster’s Stuart McCloskey  during the URC clash at the RDS. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

First victory over Leinster in Dublin since 2013 proves a timely boost ahead of hectic schedule

Ulster’s James Hume runs in a late try during their URC clash with Leinster. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Late try from James Hume sealed the deal for the visitors on a freezing night in the RDS

Rob Kearney after Ireland beat New Zealand in 2016. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Ireland’s most decorated player will play final game of his career, lining up as Barbarian

Former All Black Charles Piutau could be eligible to play for Tonga under the new rules. Photograph: Duif du Toit/Getty

The likes of Piutau could feature at the next World Cup with nations of their heritage

Munster’s Jason Jenkins, formerly of the Bulls, looks set to debut against his hometown team. Photograph:  Masanori Udagawa/Getty Images

Johann van Graan returns to childhood stomping ground against formidable Bulls

Munster will meet the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty

Eight of province’s Ireland cohort will miss Saturday’s Bulls clash at Loftus Versfeld

Ireland’s Conor Murray, Josh van der Flier, Rónan Kelleher, Andrew Porter and Caelan Doris during their Autumn Internationals game against Argentina at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Ireland coach has created an environment where players will go that extra bit further

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