Josh Adams of Wales catches the ball prior to touching down during the Six Nations match between Wales and England at the Principality stadium. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Confidence has been dented but successful provinces can begin the healing process

Our rugby correspondent also hands out the gongs for player, coach, team and try of the tournament

Rob Kearney in action against Wales at the Principality Stadium. “There’s no doubt about it, today was a tough day. It was tough watching one of your competing nations lift trophies.” Photograph: Alex Davids/Inpho

Veteran fullback convinced Ireland have the ability to regroup and be a force again

Wales Dan Biggar and Ireland’s Jacob Stockdale in action during the Six Nations clash in Cardiff. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Renewed questions for Schmidt and Ireland following a surprisingly ragged performance

A dejected Cian Healy and Conor Murray following the defeat to Wales in Cardiff. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Coach says risks were taken in Six Nations to build squad strength for the World Cup

Ireland’s CJ Stander tries to claim possession of the ball during the  Six Nations match against Wales in Cardiff. Photograph:  Alex Davidson/Inpho

Ireland coach says display in Cardiff not as bad as opening loss to England

 Johnny Sexton during the 25-7 defeat at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff. Photo:  Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Late Larmour try no consolation for Ireland as Warren Gatland wins a third Grand Slam

Peter O’Mahony with Sean O’Brien  during yesterday’s captain’s run for Ireland at the  Principality Stadium, Cardiff. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Ireland will need to be at their best to deny Wales a Grand Slam in front of expectant home crowd

Wales head coach Warren Gatland during the Captain’s Run. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Heavy rain predicted for Saturday with a weather warning in place for strong winds

Rob Kearney returns after missing the win over France. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Tadhg Beirne to make Six Nations debut while O’Brien and Kearney return

Tadhg Beirne is tackled by Peter O’Mahony during Ireland training ahead of the Six Nations meeting with Wales. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Seán O’Brien is also in line to come back into the team after being left out against France

Conor Murray: “It’s such a massive occasion, playing Wales away. It’s so much on the line.” Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Scrumhalf expects Wales to be well-primed for Cardiff showdown but says Ireland will be ready

Ireland’s Dan Leavy in action against Argentina in the Guinness Series at the  Aviva Stadium on November 2018. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Leinster flanker (24) hasn’t played since December, but could be deployed against Wales

 Saturday’s clash in Cardiff will mark Joe Schmidt’s 30th and last Six Nations game as Ireland’s head coach, and also Warren Gatland’s 50th and last for Wales. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

The coach and his team are proven big-game performers and Ireland have it all to do

Ireland’s Garry Ringrose attempts to tackle George North of Wales during the defeat at the Principality Stadium in 2017. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Beating Wales on their own turf has proved beyond the hugely successful Ireland coach

Jonathan Sexton celebrates scoring Ireland's second try of the game with Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose and Conor Murray. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Ireland take on a Grand Slam-seeking Wales still in the mix and feeling better about chances

Ireland’s Keith Earls celebrates his try with CJ Stander and Conor Murray during the Six Nations clash against France. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Four tries for Joe Schmidt’s side secured a bonus point ahead of final trip to Cardiff

Trevor Brennan in action for Toulouse in the Heineken European Cup Semi-Final in 2003. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

With his son playing for France Under-20s, the former Irish international’s story goes on

Ireland’s Johnny Sexton celebrates kicking a drop goal to win the game against France in their  Six Nations game at Stade De France in February 2018. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Joe Schmidt knows his side have to win this one, and now he’s got the team that can do it

Sean O’Brien: It’s hard to think of him ever being omitted out of choice by either Schmidt or Declan Kidney since establishing himself as a regular in the Irish team in  2011. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Van der Flier’s return at open side to be one of six changes from the pack in Rome

 CJ Stander  suffered fractures to his cheekbone and eye socket with his first carry in the Six Nations opener against England. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Cheekbone and eye socket fractures suffered against England won’t stop the number eight

Simon Easterby: “We had long discussions involved in nearly every position. That process will continue but it’s great because we have more depth at the moment.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ringrose, Healy, Best, Ryan and Henderson all likely to start for Ireland against France

France’s outhalf Romain Ntamack scores his side’s first try of the game against Scotland during the Six Nations victory  at the Stade De France, Paris. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA

First France coach to name the same team for successive Tests since 2012

French head coach Jacques Brunel has named his team to play Ireland this weekend. Photograph: Getty Images

Jacques Brunel has retained the same French matchday 23 for the trip to Dublin

Ireland’s muted celebrations after  Conor Murray secured a bonus point against Italy. The body language of the Irish team in Rome was telling. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Gerry Thornley: Irish team can rebuild momentum by matching 2003 formula

  James Ryan in action against Scotland last month. Photograph:  James Crombie/Inpho

Leinster youngster keen to get back to action after missing Italy game over minor niggle

Joe Schmidt during Ireland’s open training session in Belfast. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland coach says Sexton will train fully next week with Carbery to return on Wednesday

Joe Schmidt has confirmed Johnny Sexton is likely to be fit for Ireland’s clash with France. Photograph: Tommy Dickosn/Inpho

Ireland coach says Joey Carbery, Dan Leavy and Robbie Henshaw set to train next week

Agustin Pichot: World Rugby’s vice-president has his work cut out if he is to persuade nations and elite players to buy into the World League concept as it is currently being presented.  Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

World Rugby has managed to antagonise all the stake-holders in the game that matter

Ireland’s Jacob Stockdale scoring against the All Blacks last November. Under the new World League proposals, Ireland would face each of the Rugby Championship countries at least once every year. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Sexton says the issue of player load needs to be properly understood in any talks

Ireland celebrate after Conor Murray scores a try in their  Six Nations Round 3 match against Italy at  Stadio Olimpico, Rome on Sunday. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Three substandard performances later, this team need to start enjoying rugby again

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt: ‘We feel that we can put a really good performance together and it’s got to be in two weeks’ time.’ Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Coach concerned team may be trying too hard and starting to lose faith in themselves

Ireland flanker and captain Peter O’Mahony passes the ball during their victory over Italy in the Six Nations in   Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Ireland captain knows taking a five-point haul from Rome is no mean achievement

Italy’s flanker Jimmy Tuivaiti  tackles Ireland’s centre Chris Farrell during the Six Nations international clash at the   Olympic stadium in Rome. Photograph: Cincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty

Schmidt relieved to get a bonus-point victory following a scrappy, error-ridden display

Ireland’s Keith Earls  dives to score a try despite  tackles from Italy’s  Tito Tebaldi and  Alessandro Zanni during the Six Nations match  at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Photograph: VIncenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images

Joe Schmidt’s side limp home with bonus point after poor performance at the Stadio Olimpico

Johnny  Sexton, Joe Schmidt and Jacob Stockdale at Ireland training on Friday. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Joe Schmidt looking for an improved overall performance against plucky Italians

“I’m loving life here. I’m hungry with Munster, and that’s my club, and in terms of Ireland I don’t see why you’d leave.”

‘I want to be the best, definitely, and I know that in the first two games I can be better’

Seán Cronin is in line to make his first Six Nations starts against Italy in Rome. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Joe Schmidt expected to make changes in pack for meeting with Italy

Johnny Sexton during Ireland’s squad session at Carton House on Tuesday. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Outhalf has been limited to just 103 minutes of rugby since the turn of the year

James Ryan, Quinn Roux, Jack McGrath, Cian Healy, Jack Conan and Jordi Murphy at Ireland squad training at Carton House. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Now an Irish citizen, South African enjoying his time with Connacht and his life in Galway

Gareth Anscombe in action against Italy. Many Welsh pundits believe Anscombe can bring more to Wales’ game than Dan Biggar. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

An England win at the Principality Stadium would as good as decide the Six Nations title

Andy Farrell was speaking after a typically full-on and open training session against the under-20s at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Joe Schmidt's Ireland replacement says he’ll need to ‘let people have their legs’

If the proposed redevelopment of the Sportsground is approved its maximum capacity would double in size to 12,000. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Planned €30m upgrade would help club attract talent and boost commercial growth

 Saracens players run onto the pitch for a  Premiership Rugby Cup semi-final against Worcester Warriors.  CVC Capital Partners  recently secured a 27 per cent stake in Premiership Rugby Limited.  Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty

Current revenue model of the global game likely to be replaced by new arrangements

 Chris Ashton kicks through for England’s third try  against France  on Sunday. Photograph:  Warren Little/Getty Images

England are showing the Six Nations how to use an old tactic to perfection

Ireland’s Keith Earls scores a try after a pass from Joey Carbery. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

They may not be back to fluent best, but there were a lot of positives in win over Scotland

Ireland’s Jacob Stockdale breaks away for a try as Johnny Sexton gets tackled by Allan Dell of Scotland in their   Six Nations round 2 match at   Murrayfield. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Schmidt may have scope to use tournament to ready squad for Tokyo next September

 Ireland’s   Joey Carbery making a break to set up the third Ireland try against Scotland  at Murrayfield. Photograph:   Stu Forster/Getty Images

‘On a personal level it was great to get out there and get the experience,’ Munster man says

Ireland’s defence coach Andy Farrell shakes hands with Scotland’s head coach Gregor Townsend before the Six Nations match between Scotland and Ireland. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Scotland coach accepts Ireland are of a slightly higher quality and that showed

Keith Earls of Ireland scores his side’s third try during the Six Nations win over Scotland at Murrayfield. Photo: Graham Stuart/PA Wire

First half tries from Conor Murray and Jacob Stockdale set the visitors on their way

Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony during the captain’s run at Murrayfield, Scotland. Photograph:   Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray should have enough to pull Scotland around the park

Chris Farrell and Bundee Aki team up for the third time in the centre at Murrayfield today. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Aki has only been ruled out by injury once, and today is his 14th start in last 17 Test matches

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt issues instructions during training at Carton House on Thursday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Head coach changes five for Scotland encounter at Murrayfield

 Rob Kearney training yesterday at Carton House ahead of Ireland’s Six Nations clash with Scotland. Photograph:  Billy Stickland/Inpho

Kearney in line to be reinstated at fullback while O’Brien to bring experience to open side

Rob Kearney in training at Carton House on Tuesday. The Leinster player is set to return at fullback for the Six Nations game against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Robbie Henshaw to return to centre, Seán O’Brien and Jack Conan in backrow

Quinn Roux  made his third Six Nations appearance off the bench against England last Saturday. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Management have no fears over Connacht secondrow in must-win Six Nations game

Keith Earls fields the ball ahead of England’s  Jonny May. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Winger has recovered from injury and holds up hand for England’s opening try

 Scotland’s Finn Russell in action during the Guinness Six Nations Championship match between Scotland and Italy at Murrayfield on Saturday. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Gregor Townsend is right to gamble on his instinctive playmaker in Ireland clash

England’s Jonny May competes for the ball with Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw and Conor Murray  during the Guinness Six Nations match at Aviva Stadium on Saturday. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

There are issues to address after England defeat, but this Irish side deserves our faith

England’s Henry Slade chases the loose ball on his way to scoring the visitors’ third try in the victory over Ireland at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Inpho

Stander’s facial injury set to force a change at No 8 for Scotland clash

Tadhg Furlong’s progress is halted by the combined tackles from  England’s Mark Wilson and Maro Itoje during the Six Nations clash at the  Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

England dominate key gain-line contest as Ireland’s go-to carriers stopped in their tracks

England centre Henry Slade dives over the line to score one of his two tries in the  Six Nations match against Ireland at the Aviva stadium. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

England started with an early try and never relented against an out-of-sorts Ireland

Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton are the most decorated Irish half-back pairing ever in international rugby. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

O'Driscoll and O'Gara on why you would not swap Ireland's halfback pairing for any in world rugby

Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony preparing for  England during training at   the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Visitors bring heavyweight pack with lots of ballast, a mix of brute force and creativity

Ireland’s Rory Best during the captain’s run at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Photograph: PA

On this very week before last season’s opener Best considered resigning as captain

Wales captain Alun-Wyn Jones leads his players through their paces at Stade de France yesterday. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

Unpredictable les bleus will fired up and keen to redeem themselves after Fiji upset

Ireland captain Rory Best feels the squeeze as his pack practise their maul at Aviva Stadium yesterday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland head coach admits he has one eye on World Cup with fullback selection

Ireland’s Conor Murray in action  at the Six  Nations Championship Round 5  match against England at Twickenham in March 2018.  Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Former Ireland captain believes England’s strength is overstated as they arrive in Dublin

Robbie Henshaw has won only one of his 36 caps at fullback but it is believed to be his favourite position. Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Murray’s return at scrumhalf and Henshaw at fullback likely to be the only changes

Forwards coach Simon Easterby at an Ireland  press conference in Carton House, Co Kildare. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

‘There’s no doubt that it’s a huge game for lots of different reasons, but for us it’s the next game'

Jacob Stockdale scores a try against New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin in November.  Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Winger not expecting to equal last year’s try tally, but could seize the day at Six Nations

Conor Murray stretches during training at Carton House on Tuesday. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

It is a headline and we are focusing on how good we can be. Let’s see how the game goes

Crusaders assistant coach Ronan O’Gara, who will be flying from Christchurch, New Zealand to Dublin to join the Virgin Media studio panel for analysis of the Guinness Six Nations matches. Photograph: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

Coaching duties in Auckland will dovetail with TV punditry in Dublin for Six Nations

Under Agustin Pichot’s proposal, the League of Nations would bring the Autumn internationals, summer tours, the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship together into one annual league.

Subsuming tournament in a new ‘World League of Nations’ would be fraught with danger

Warren Gatland has won three Six Nations titles with Wales (albeit none since 2013), including two Grand Slams. Photograph: PA Wire

Veteran Kiwi coach knows when Wales have momentum their confidence soars

Joe Schmidt: a fourth Six Nations title in six years would be a fitting farewell. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Narrow margins and intense competition define a tournament like no other for coach

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt and captain Rory Best with Ireland Women’s captain Ciara Griffin and Ireland Women’s Head Coach Adam Griggs at the Six Nations launch event in London. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Tournament set to hit the ground running with clash at Aviva on opening weekend

Six Nations coaches at yesterday’s launch in London: Jacques Brunel (France), Warren Gatland (Wales), Eddie Jones (England), Joe Schmidt (Ireland), Gregor Townsend (Scotland) and Conor O’Shea (Italy). Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Ireland coach says he has no interest in job for at least 12 months after World Cup

Munster’s Tadhg Beirne blocks a kick by Exeter Chiefs Nic White during the clash at Thomond Park. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Strength of Irish provinces bodes well with the start of the Six Nations fast approaching

Munster’s Joey Carbery kicks the winning penalty against Exeter Chiefs at Thomond Park. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

In-form youngster says there is a feeling in the side that they can now take on anyone

Munster’s Tadhg Beirne blocks a kick from Nic White of Exeter Chiefs during the Heineken Champions Cup Round 6 match at Thomond Park, Limerick on Saturday.  Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Exeter prove tough nut to crack as Munster grind out a win through sheer will and work

Garry Ringrose scores a try for Leinster in their Heineken Champions Cup Round 6 match against Wasps at Ricoh Arena in Coventry on Sunday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

For many fans, Champions Cup quarter-finals will be bigger than UK leaving the EU

 Leinster’s bonus point win over Wasps secured Leo Cullen’s team a home quarter-final. Photograph: Tony Marshall/Getty Images

All of the Irish provinces are through to the last eight but who will they play?

Munster head coach Johann van Graan leaves Thomond Park after his team beat Exeter. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

‘You’ve got to get out of your pool. We did the hard work and we’re into a quarter-final’

Munster’s Tadhg Beirne blocks a kick from Nic White of Exeter Chiefs during the Heineken Champions Cup match at  Thomond Park. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Joey Carbery’s late penalty secures tense win as Munster qualify for record 18th quarter-final

Geordan Murphy: Leicester have beaten Harlequins (35-24) and Gloucester (34-16) in their last two games since they made the Irishman full-time head coach. Photograph:  Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Henderson’s return a timely fillip as they try to seal the deal against Murphy’s Leicester

Peter O’Mahony: back in the Munster side for Exeter’s visit  to Thomond Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

O’Mahony’s return the ideal boost as Exeter attempt to storm the Limerick citadel

Munster’s Mike Haley scores the first try of the game in their victory over Gloucester  at Thomond Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

The 24-year-old made the move to Munster with big games like today's against Exeter in mind

Munster’s Peter O’Mahony, JJ Hanrahan, Rory Scannell, Billy Holland and Chris Cloete applaud the travelling support after the draw away to Exeter at Sandy Park. Photograph:  Billy Stickland/Inpho

All four Irish provinces could qualify for European quarter-finals for a first time

Munster’s Jean Kleyn will  becomes eligible for Ireland under the residency ruling at the start of next season.  Photograph: Laszlo Geczo

Secondrow says partnership with Tadhg Beirne is flourishing ahead of showdown

(Left to right) Jack Carty, Tom Farrell and Caolin Blade have all been called into the Ireland squad for the first time ahead of the Six Nations. Photo: Inpho

Schmidt embraces green energy with Jack Carty, Tom Farrell and Caolin Blade selected

 Munster’s Rory Scannell in action against Gloucester’s Danny Cipriani and Ed Slater during his side’s victory in Kingsholm Stadium. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

‘We’re under no illusions as to what waits for us on Saturday,’ admits Munster centre

Connacht’s Caolin Blade looks set to be included in the Ireland squad for the opening two Six Nations matches. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Connacht scrumhalf looks like he will be included when Joe Schmidt names his 38

 Munster’s Peter O’Mahony leaves the field   injured against Gloucester last weekend at Kingsholm Stadium, England. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Injured captain’s chances of playing in Saturday’s Pool 2 showdown ‘50-50 at best’

Adam Byrne celebrates his try against Toulouse with Leinster teammate’s Jordan Larmour and Josh van der Flier Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Provinces place far greater trust in youngsters to help them punch above their weight

Munster’s head coach Johann van Graan knows what’s at stake in this weekend’s Champions Cup clash with Exeter Chiefs. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Munster head coach knows they will need the Thomond Park energy in Exeter showdown

Munster’s Peter O’Mahony after Friday night’s win over Gloucester. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Full extent of rib cartilage injury will only become clearer after the results of a scan

 Leinster’s Dave Kearney fields Ross Byrne’s crossfield kick to score a try desptie the attempted tackle from  Toulouse’s Romain Ntamack at the RDS. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Toulouse succumb to home side’s remorseless carrying and recycling

Leinster’s Jordan Larmour  during the Champions  Cup match against Toulouse at the RDS Arena. Photograph: Getty Images

Four Irish provinces on top of their European pools, although all still need one more win to make sure of qualification

 Leinster’s Dave Kearney scores a try in the corner. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Leinster will top Pool 1 in Champions Cup with a win over Wasps next weekend

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