Ireland’s Bundee Aki scores a try in their 28-17 victory over Argentina   at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Seán O’Brien ruled out with injury while Connor Murray return highly unlikely

 Jordan Larmour fumbles a catch during the international against Argentina  at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph:  Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Schmidt acknowledges major improvement will be required against the All Blacks

Bundee Aki  scores Ireland’s second  try during the autumn international against Argentina at the Aviva stadium. Photograph:  Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Seán O’Brien suffers broken arm during first half of Aviva stadium encounter

Jordan Larmour on his way to completing his hat-trick against Italy at Soldier Field in Chicago last week. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

O’Driscoll and Best are enthusiastic about ‘incredibly exciting’ fullback after hat-trick

Brian O’Driscoll:  “It’s [Argentina] a great test for us in advance of the All Blacks game because our perceived frailties will be tested.helped.”  .  Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Former star says O’Brien will be Schmidt’s first choice No 7 for World Cup if he stays fit

Joe Schmidt with Jonathan Sexton during Ireland’s captain’s run at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Expected edge at scrum time to establish the platform for Schmidt’s men

Rory Best will captain Ireland against Argentina having missed the summer tour of Australia through injury. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Ireland’s stalwart hooker missed summer tour of Australia with a hamstring injury

Seán O’Brien speaks with James Ryan, Dan Leavy, Rory Best and Kieran Marmion at the Ireland rugby squad training in Carton  House, Co Kildare on Thursday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Joe Schmidt makes a dozen changes to starting line-up for hugely relevant match-up

Rory Best is expected to return as Ireland captain. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

O’Brien set for his first outing in Ireland jersey in almost a year against Argentina

Robbie Henshaw during training at Carton House ahead of Ireland’s clash with Argentina. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Versatile back likes the freedom playing at fullback but is focused on current role

Andrew Porter and Jonny Sexton sharing a light-hearted moment during Ireland’s squad training session at Carton House. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Presence of both Conway and Addison suggests Kearney unlikely to be in the match-day 23

Tadhg Beirne stretches for the line to score Ireland’s  first try against Italy during the 54-7 victory at Soldier Field, Chicago.  Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Munster player grabbing every opportunity to apply pressure on established locks

Ireland’s Sean Cronin  celebrates with Rhys Ruddock, right, after scoring in their victory over  Italy on Saturday in  Chicago. Photograph: Kamil Krzaczynski/AP Photo

Argentina clash will be a good barometer of coach's attempt to grow Ireland's depth

Ireland’s Luke McGrath running in to score his side’s second try at Solider Field, Chicago. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland coach reflects on a glass half-empty in the first period, and a glass half-full in the second

Ireland's Jordan Larmour scores a try during the international win over Italy at Soldier Field, Chicago. Photo: Inpho

Competition for places on the Ireland team causing ‘really positive headaches’ for Schmidt

Jordan Larmour scoring his third and Ireland’s eighth  try against Italy at Solider Field, Chicago. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Larmour’s exploits overshadow other landmarks, including Ross Byrne's debut

 Ireland’s Jordan Larmour gets past Italy’s Michele Campagnaro  to run in his third try during the match at Soldier Field. Photograph: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

‘I do think it was a pretty spectacular effort from Jordan and he’ll be delighted with that’

Jordan Larmour scores Ireland’s  fourth try during the match against Italy in Chicago. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Second-half blitz helps Joe Schmidt’s side run up a half-century of points in Chicago

Ian McKinley in action for Treviso against Cardiff Blues. “I’m  an international rugby player now. No-one can ever take that away.”  Photograph: Ashley Crowden/Inpho

Despite losing the sight in his left eye, the former Leinster player has gone on to play for Italy

Joey Carbery gets in some kicking practice durin Ireland’s captain’s run at Soldier Field, Chicago on Friday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Despite the experimental line-ups, there is plenty at stake for players on both sides

Ireland’s coach Joe Schmidt. The aspect of the job he clearly relishes the most is being on the training ground with the players, Photograph:  Getty Images

Ireland coach says a decision to either go or stay will bring clarity for the team and the IRFU

Jordi Murphy, Will Addison and Bundee Aki  at the  Chicago Bulls vs Denver Nuggets NBA game at the  United Center, Chicago.  Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Chicago Test represents an opportunity for likes of Carbery, McGrath and Beirne

Tadhg Beirne: “It doesn’t matter who it is against or what the occasion is, it’s a start in a green jersey. It’s a big moment for me.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Move to Munster thoroughly vindicated as former Scarlets stalwart reaps the benefit

Jordi Murphy, Will Addison and Bundee Aki at Tuesday night’s Chicago Bulls v Denver Nuggets NBA game  at  the United Center in  Chicago. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Rhys Ruddock to lead Ireland at Soldier Field on Saturday

Italy head coach Conor O’Shea: “our biggest issue now is mental, and regenerating momentum and getting that belief”. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Head coach says team is making progress and beginning to create options in all positions

Gloucester’s Danny Cipriani (second left) tackles Munster’s Rory Scannell (centre), resulting in a red card during the Heineken European Champions Cup match at Thomond Park, Limerick on October 20th.  Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

For clampdown on high tackles to work the entire sport needs to be re-educated

Munster’s Joey Carbery: 'He gets it; he gets the game. He knows what he wants from people around him, and he’s not afraid to say it, which is great.' Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Absences mean Rhys Ruddock would seem a likely candidate to lead Ireland against Italy

Tadhg Furlong travels to Chicago for Ireland’s test against Italy. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Johnny Sexton among those rested for the clash with Italy at Soldier Field next week

Joey Carbery and Kieran Marmion will look forward to gaining valuable international game time in their respective positions over the next month. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

There will be plenty at stake for both teams and players with a World Cup looming

Joe Schmidt's Ireland squad just announced for the four-match November window represents a significant landmark on the road to the 2019 World Cup in Japan. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Uncapped Ross Byrne, Will Addison and Sam Arnold called up for November

Conor Murray launching Pinergy’s #WeAre16 Campaign.  Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

'I felt really happy here and it was an easy decision, a quick decision like my last contract'

Conor Murray is aiming to return to action by the end of November. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Munster and Ireland scrumhalf confirms he has not had surgery on his neck injury

Will Addison of Ulster charges upfield during the Champions Cup match between Ulster  and Leicester Tigers,  October 13th, 2018 in Belfast. Photograph:  David Rogers/Getty

Schmidt expected to name up to 38 players with big guns sitting out Italy game in Chicago

Ireland players  after their 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final, at the Millenium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales. File photograph: ©INPHO/Matteo Ciambelli

The five-year strategy sets highly ambitious targets at provincial and international level

Racing 92’s Simon Zebo during the Champions Cup clash with Ulster. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Bad losers Bath in danger of losing the run of themselves with replay ‘appeal’

Sean Cronin of Leinster makes a break past Zack Holmes of Toulouse to score his side’s third try during the Champions Cup loss. Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

‘Seanie was talking after the game and saying that we need to move on and build on this’

Zebo hugs Michael Lowry of Ulster at the end of the game. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Irishman says he is ‘delighted’ that he made the switch to pastures new in France

Ugo Mola, joint head coach of Toulouse, congratulates Yoann Huget and his fellow players after the victory over Leinster at Stade Ernest-Wallon in Toulouse. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

‘Beating Leinster could be a historic exploit for us’ says joint head-coach

Wenceslas Lauret crosses the line for one of Racing 92’s five tries against Ulster in their  44-12 victory in Paris. Photograph:  Billy Stickland/Inpho

Rory Best admits province will be ‘fighting for their lives’ in games against Scarlets

Toulouse’s Maxime Médard celebrates as  his side win a late peanlty to effectively end the game against Leinster at Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Champions falter in Toulouse while three serious injuries mar Munster’s victory

Toulouse’s Maxime Médard runs in to score a try during their Champions Cup win over Leinster. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Home side were resilient the whole way through and their late try sealed the win

Racing 92’s Teddy Thomas and Simon Zebo celebrate a try. Photograph: Getty Images

‘I just got too excited. I probably built up the game a bit too much in my head this week’

Racing 92’s Wenceslas Lauret scores his side’s second try  in the Heineken Champions Cup match at  Paris La Defense Arena. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Paris aristocrats secure bonus-point win after wild and loose game at La Defense Arena

Toulouse players celebrate the victory over Bath at the Recreation Ground last weekend. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Despite their history, famous club no longer enjoy the inherent advantages of yore

 Marty Moore:  makes his first start for Ulster after impressing off the bench last week. Photograph: Matthew Bunn/Inpho

In-form Zebo aiming to impress against Irish province for formidable Racing

Jordan Larmour scores Leinster’s sixth try against Wasps  despite the efforts of Wasps’ Elliot Daly. Photograph:  Billy Stickland/Inpho

Formidable champions unlikely to be daunted these days by a trip to Toulouse

 John Kelly celebrates his try for Munster during the “Miracle Match”, where the province needed to win by exactly four tries and 27 points against Gloucester, which they succeeded in doing so.   Photograph: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Alan Gaffney reflects on win over Gloucester to progress in 2003 Heineken Cup

 Leinster’s James Lowe  breaks with the ball to score his first try during the Champions Cup win against Wasps at the RDS. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Province’s talented young guns and ability to run straight setting them apart

Leinster’s  James Lowe  breaks through the Wasps defence  to score his first try during the Champions Cup match  at the RDS. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

New Zealander loving life at Leinster after brilliant start to season

Ulster’s Jacob Stockdale scoring  a try against the  Leicester Tigers at Kingspan Stadium,  Belfast.  Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Head coach Dan McFarland admits his team have plenty of room for improvement

Munster’s Joey Carbery  after the Champions Cup match against Exeter Chiefs  at Sandy Park stadium. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Munster’s 10-10 draw in Sandy Park against Exeter was the best result for the Irish sides

 Ulster’s Alan O’Connor dives over to score  a try during the  Heineken Champions Cup match against Leicester at Kingspan stadium. Photograph:  Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Ulster captain says side have been working hard on their maul attack

Ulster’s Jacob Stockale scores a try during the Heineken Champions Cup match against Leicester at  Kingspan stadium. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Excellent second-half performance sees Dan McFarland’s side open with win

Speaking about Joey Carbery,  Ronan O’Gara said: “People forget that Joey Carbery is 22 years of age. It’s staggering to see his growth as a player. I just hope people aren’t expecting too much of him in his first full season playing ‘10’.” Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Champions Cup top points scorer praises Carbery, describing his growth as ‘staggering’

Jacob Stockdale in action during Ulster’s captain’s run at   Kingspan Stadium, Belfast, ahead of their Champions Cup opener with Leicester Tigers. Photograph: Matt Mackey/Inpho

With Scarlets and Racing 92 also in Pool Four, win tonight is crucial for province

Leinster’s Jordan Larmour scores their sixth try despite an attempted tackle from Elliot Daly of Wasps during the  Heineken Champions Cup match at the RDS. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Defending European champions run in eight tries against Wasps in perfect start

Leinster’s James Lowe breaks to score their fifth try and his second during the  Heineken Champions Cup match at the  RDS. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Defending champions hand out record European defeat to Wasps at the RDS

Leo Cullen: has experienced surprising defeats at the RDS to visiting English sides both as Leinster captain and coach. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Host of big names return as Cullen makes nine changes from the win over Munster

Leinster’s Sean O’Brien will start on the bench against Wasps. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Leinster head coach says that Sean O’Brien could play a key role coming off the bench

Ireland’s Conor Murray celebrates after the series win over Australia in June. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Scrum-half will remain with Munster and could well pass 100 caps for Ireland

The summit of Exeter’s European  achievements in five campaigns has been one quarter-final three seasons ago. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Exeter have yet to prove themselves in Europe and desperately need a win against Munster

A view of the proposed redeveloped Sportsground. Photograph: Connacht Rugby

New Galway stadium will include a high-performance centre and greyhound racing track

 Leinster coach Leo Cullen:  “There will be guys disappointed that they’re not going to be involved next week and that is the way we want it.” Photograph:  Billy Stickland/Inpho

Leo Cullen unconcerned about province’s low possession rate in win over Munster

Munster’s Alby Mathewson in action against Leinster at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Scrumhalf’s fitness a cause for concern with difficult Exeter Chiefs clash looming

Munster’s Chris Cloete, Peter O’Mahony and Darren Sweetnam in action against Leinster duo Fergus McFadden and Sean O’Brien during the Pro14 clash at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Van Graan’s irritation understandable as a number of big calls went against Munster

Leinster’s James Lowe claims the ball ahead of Munster’s  Niall Scannell during the Guinness Pro 14 game at the  Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

James Lowe scores two tries as Leo Cullen’s side make it four wins on the spin in fixture

Munster’s Peter O’Mahony scores a try against Ulster in the Guinness PRO14 at Thomond Park, Limerick last week. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Leo Cullen has shuffled the pack but visitors have played a full hand for Aviva clash

At the launch of the  European competitions in Dublin were (L-R) Jonathan Sexton (Leinster), Ellis Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Peter O’Mahony (Munster), Callum Gibbins (Glasgow Warriors), Jordi Murphy (Ulster), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Luke Hamilton (Edinburgh) and Jarrad Butler (Connacht). Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Gerry Thornley’s Heineken Champions Cup preview: All you need to know

At the Heineken Champions Cup launch in Dublin;  Jarrad Butler (Connacht), Jordi Murphy (Ulster), Callum Gibbins (Glasgow Warriors), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Luke Hamilton (Edinburgh), Peter O’Mahony (Munster), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster) and Ellis Jenkins (Cardiff Blues). Photograph: Inpho/Billy Stickland

A look at the 20 sides in the 2018-19 Heineken Cup who are bidding for the ultimate prize

Seán O’Brien makes his first start since March as Leinster take on Munster at the Aviva on Saturday night. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Ross Byrne and Joey Carbery go toe-to-toe while a backrow battle for the ages awaits

If Ireland front-liners such as Johnny Sexton and Peter O’Mahony aren’t risked in the last warm-up for European action, fans and players are missing out. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Heavyweight clash should be moved if the frontliners are not allowed play

  Sevu Reece of Waikato had been due to join Connacht in November. Photograph: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

Waikato winger involved in domestic violence incident with his partner

Munster’s Joey Carbery on his way to scoring a try in the rout of Ulster at Thomond Park. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Facile Ulster victory not ideal preparation for impending visits to Leinster and Exeter

The final scoreboard tells the story of a grim night for Ulster at Thomond Park. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Munster warm up for Leinster assignment with nine-try rout of depleted visitors

Munster outhalf Joey Carbery breaks  free on his way to scoring a try during the Guinness Pro 14 game  against Ulster at  Thomond Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Injury-hit Ulster suffer record defeat in low-key interpro derby at Thomond Park

Tomos Williams of Cardiff Blues scoring a try against Munster at Arms Park, Cardiff.  Photograph: Billy  Stickland/Inpho

'The old cliche is that defence wins trophies, but it’s not a cliche. It’s 100% the fact of the matter’

Munster’s Alby Mathewson: he will make his debut as a short-term cover for the sidelined Conor Murray. Photograph: Getty Images

‘I think for us it’s a massive game because we haven’t been good enough so far this season’

Connacht head coach Andy Friend said Leinster “are the side you want to be playing against and coaching against too because it brings the best out of you”. Photograph: Craig Watson/Inpho

Head coach’s positivity has translated to the pitch with Carty taking greater responsibility

 Leinster head coach Leo Cullen: ‘Players need challenges the whole time, too, and I am not necessarily the best person to challenge them in all areas.’ Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Head coach untroubled by praise lavished on his colleagues Lancaster and Contepomi

 EPCR director general Vincent Gaillard at the Heineken Champions Cup and  European Rugby Challenge Cup launch in  Dublin. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Despite talk of more commercial partners, brewer remains title sponsor once more

At the launch of the Heineken Champions Cup and  European Rugby Challenge Cup in Dublin were  Jordi Murphy (Ulster), Jarrad Butler (Connacht), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster) and Peter O’Mahony (Munster). Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Captain says Leinster squad may not be as good as it was last year for many reasons

Edinburgh’s Richard Cockerill: he  rested some of his established international players for last Saturday’s visit to the RDS

For years we cocked our collective snoots at the French and their 'rotating'

Leinster’s Cian Healy is tackled by Simon Berghan and Ben Toolis of Edinburgh during their match at the RDS Arena. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Record loss to Connacht last year was lowest point of Leinster’s all-conquering season

Leinster’s Johnny Sexton goes over for a try against Edinburgh despite the tackle of Juan Pablo Socino. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

While four of Leinster’s tries came from outside backs, much of the dominance was based on the excellence of the forwards

Michael Bent and James Ryan of Leinster tackle Edinburgh’s Juan Pablo Socino during the Guinness Pro 14 match at  the RDS. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/ Inpho

Dan Leavy also went off with a head knock at the RDS

Leinster’s Johnny Sexton goes over for a try despite the tackle of Edinburgh’s Juan Pablo Socino during the Guinness Pro 14 game at the  RDS. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Head knocks to James Ryan and Dan Leavy the only down point at the RDS

Leinster in action against Montpellier in the Champions Cup last year. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Mick Dawson hoping side can benefit soon from proposed €30m upgrade to RDS

South Africa’s Jesse Kriel celebrates victory over New Zealand in Wellington on Saturday. Photograph:  Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images

Ireland will now have a more daunting task ahead to reach first-ever World Cup semi-final

Joe Schmidt’s Ireland are second favourites a year out from the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

With a settled team and squad, Schmidt’s men are justifiable second favourites one year out

Japanese fans  during the international  match between Japan and Australia  at Nissan Stadium  in Yokohama in November 2017. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Supporting Ireland in Japan won’t be cheap with packages going up to over €20k

Jack Conan after Leinster’s narrow defeat to the Scarlets. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Ireland backrow says province lacked a killer instinct as they were beaten narrowly in Wales

 Dominic Ryan: his story  underlines that doctors and match officials are right to err on the side of caution in demanding players undergo  HIAs. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Former rugby player illustrated how terrifying concussion and brain trauma can be

Dominic Ryan: forced to end his rugby career due to the impact of concussion. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

‘Concussion is a hot topic at the moment within rugby circles,’ says Leinster backrow forward

Stuart Lancaster: “I go hard on them, because I think it’s about winning,”. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho

Leinster strengthened for Dragons’ clash by imminent return of international stars

Leinster prop Jack McGrath has picked up a knee injury. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Leinster hopeful prop will be fit for Munster derby and opening Champions Cup match

Tadhg Beirne: Munster’s new signing is in line to make his debut against Glasgow Warriors. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho

Glasgow proved tough opposition last season on their artificial Scotstoun surface

Jordi Murphy: will make his Ulster debut in the back row against Edinburgh at Kingspan Stadium. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

New coach McFarland will be keen to see his side prevail in advance of games in South Africa

Fergus McFadden: “I’ve had lots of setbacks in lots of different ways. I’ve learned to deal with them and leave them at the door here or on the pitch when they happen.” Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Leinster back hoping to leave injury woes behind and focus on Pro14 tasks ahead

Devin Toner, James Ryan and their Leinster team-mates training this week ahead of their away game to Scarlets. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Veteran secondrower had an exceptional season last year, losing just one game in 30

Leinster backs coach Felipe Contepomi with Jordan Larmour during squad training in Donnybrook on Monday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Devin Toner and Jack Conan among those in line for a call to arms this weekend

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