Australia head coach Michael Cheika holds a team talk during the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Nobody moulds adversity into a positive force better than Wallabies coach Cheika

Rory Best during Ireland squad training at Carton House. I think Rory should be named as Ireland captain for the World Cup no matter what, but the form player must get the jersey. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Players unlikely to be Japan-bound now have chance to replace those who seemed bankers

Ireland’s Garry Ringrose in action against Italy in the Guinness Summer Series at the  Aviva Stadium on Saturday August 10th. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

We could all do with the sight of Ringrose and Sexton tearing it up at Twickenham

Munster’s Mike Haley is tackled by Rhys Ruddock of Leinster in last Saturday’s Guinness Pro14 semi-final at the RDS in Dublin. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo

Lacking sheer physicality, Johann Van Graan’s men need to build a new playing style

The sight of each other will motivate these Leinster and Munster players on Saturday. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

No motivation needed to forget pain of defeat but Munster need a win to avoid stagnation

Leinster’s Seán O’Brien in action against Toulouse in the Champions Cup semi-final at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Aura he brings can inspire those around him to be better players, to exceed expectations

Rocky Elsom in action for Leinster: “We adopted an under-12s mentality in many games that season [2008-9]. Give the ball to the big fella and pile after him. It worked, especially against Munster at Croke Park.”  Photograph: Graham Stuart/Inpho

Fardy and Lowe following in proven footsteps of likes of Williams, Nacewa, Aki and Elsom

Munster’s Darren Sweetnam is tackled by Saracens’ Alex Goode during the Champions Cup semi-final at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Leo Cullen’s side will have to produce something special to disrupt a well-oiled machine

Leinster’s James Lowe celebrates a try against Saracens during the  Champions Cup quarter-final at the  Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Talented Toulouse in exceptional form and will fully test Cullen’s champions

Munster’s Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray and Billy Holland celebrate their victory over Edinburgh at Murrayfield. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

New Zealander can guide van Graan’s side past Saracens into dream showdown with Leinster

Leinster’s Garry Ringrose is tackled by Ulster’s Nick Timoney. The latter has made the most of his opportunities since joining the northern province.  Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Bleeding Leinster to feed the other provinces works for Ireland – but not for Leo Cullen’s crew

Ireland’s Ronan O’Gara and Paul O’Connell after a Six Nations match against France at Stade de France, Paris in April 2012.  Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

It’s one thing to be a great rugby player, but to motivate players is another job altogether

Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton dejected after defeat in Cardiff. ‘The frustrations are real. You can see it on senior players’ faces.’ Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

However, Schmidt faces biggest challenge of coaching career to rebuild belief for Japan

Joe Schmidt and Rory Best: have led Ireland to unprecedented heights and would love to register a win in Wales in their final Six Nations game. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland won’t lack motivation with Schmidt and Best facing their last Six Nations game

Johnny Sexton of Ireland is tackled by Kieran Read of New Zealand. Both players emphatically rejected proposal of a new World League.  Photograph:  Phil Walter/Getty Images

So many difficulties to address before a World League should even be considered

The Ireland team regroup after Georgia score during the 2007 World Cup in Bordeaux. Photograph:   Billy Stickland/Inpho

A few beers on the roof might be a better option if the bubble becomes too suffocating

Ireland’s Jordan Larmour makes a spectacular break to set up a try for Luke McGrath against Italy at Soldier Field, Chicago. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Final three Six Nations games a chance to find the real flow of our attacking game

France’s  Guilhem Guirado  and Dany Priso react on the bench as their Six Nations game enters its final minutes at Twickenham last Sunday, England winning 44-8. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

France are a sorry sight in this Six Nations, but they were once the beating heart of rugby

When Ireland used Plan B, via Conor Murray’s boot, the officials deemed the line of England blockers to be legal. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Physical standards were not met against England but a defeat such as this can cleanse the soul

Ireland will play their own game via Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton – together again for the first time since Australia last summer. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

From Sexton to Porter, this group of players crave pressure - it’s their primary motivation

Leinster’s Johnny Sexton and Cian Healy speak to referee Frank Murphy in Thomond park. Photograph:  Gary Carr/Inpho

Latest verbal volley unveils greatest fear for England – leadership, or a lack thereof

Leinster’s Jack Conan, Cian Healy and Scott Fardy in action with Charlie Faumuina of Toulouse during their victory at the RDS. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Munster have all the motivation they need and must continue pushing to knock Leinster

Munster’s Sam Arnold  could shoot from the line in Kingsholm on Friday night to put Billy Twelvetrees on his backside. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

My Ireland teams lacked the current levels of streamlined preparation. That’s the difference

Ireland’s Jacob Stockdale celebrates scoring the memorable try in the victory over the All Blacks at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Twelve tries in 14 Tests an incredible stat as Jacob ascends the ladder to greatness

James Ryan in action for St Michael’s Collge against Castleknock College in a Leinster Schools junior cup match in March 2011. Photograph:  Morgan Treacy/Inpho

The likes of Scott Penny and Caelan Doris started their ascent in their early teens

An injured Gordon D’Arcy  during Ireland’s Guinness Series clash with Australia in November 2014.  Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

In 2015, focused on getting picked for Ireland, I broke the cardinal rule: Do Your Job

Ireland celebrate as  Jacob Stockdale scores the game’s only try. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Gifted generation ensure New Zealand fully aware now of the threat to their crown

Dan Leavy and James Ryan celebrate victory over England in Twickenham. They two of the new breed – used to winning silverware. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland players now believe they are capable of beating the number one side in the world

 New Zealand’s  Ryan Crotty crosses the line to score the winning try in the last minute of the 2013 clash at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Schmidt’s side have grown since and Chicago 2016 changed the narrative for Irish rugby

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt celebrates winning the Six Nations with CJ Stander and Jonathan Sexton. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Irish system gave coach everything he needed to transform Ireland into a top team

Gloucester’s Danny Cipriani  tackles Munster’s Rory Scannell, resulting in a red card, during the Heineken Champions Cup match at Thomond Park. Photograph:  Brian Lawless/PA Wire

World Rugby need to be sure about which problem they are trying to solve

Bath’s Freddie Burns runs behind the posts but fails to ground the ball to score during the European Champions Cup game against Toulouse. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire

Most success is built on failure, this error might prove a catalyst for something special

Joey Carbery and Johann van Graan at a Munster training session on October 8th  Photograph: James Crombie/INPHO

‘Don’t f**k up’ – coaches can have a big impact on young players mental approach

Tadhg Beirne: his  incredible engine gets him into situations where an extra set of hands become a vital link. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

A flowing philosophy over a rigid system looks like Munster’s new foundation stone

Ireland’s Rob Herring, Jordi Murphy and Rob Kearney celebrate as referee Paul Williams signals a knock on against Australia during the second Test at the AAMI Park in Melbourne. Phogograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Schmidt has spent three years rebuilding a squad of sufficient depth for the job at hand

Australia’s Israel Folau   is tackled by Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton in his side’s 18-9 Test victory on Sunday. Photograph:   Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

To genuinely compete for the 2019 World Cup, we need 34 Test-standard players

Leinster players celebrate after the win over Racing 92. Three years after my career has ended at least I know the changing room will stay lodged in my mind until I’m old and grey.  Photograph:  Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

It’s fleeting but being together in a trophy-winning dressing room will be cherished forever

Fear of further failure fuelled Leinster’s Heineken Cup victory over Leicester in 2009. File photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Parallels with 2009 abound and leaders from that campaign should give side the edge

Dan Leavy carries to score during Leinster’s win over Saracens. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Defeat to Connacht will be a mere footnote if Cullen’s men deliver on the grand stage

Joey Carbery in action for Leinster: it looks like  Carbery or  Ross Byrne  will be coerced into leaving their boyhood team. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Leinster won’t remain best in Europe if they have to solve Munster and Ulster’s problems

Gordon D’Arcy: I don’t think pressure will alter the way Sexton operates, do you? Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Provinces have opted for very different preparations ahead of semi-final assignments

Dan Leavy: his performances have been sensational both for Leinster and Ireland. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Bringing your best to the match-day arena is the sole objective of any training method

Andrew Conway takes advantage of Toulon’s lack of defensive discipline to cut through for the crucial try at Thomond Park. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Multitalented Toulon relaxed for one vital moment and Conway made them pay

 Peter O’Mahony will be central to Munster’s chances against Toulon. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Rugby may be the people’s game now, but in a sports-mad country people are fickle

Ireland players celebrate the Grand Slam.  It’s important after scaling the mountain top to relax your mind for the way back down because there’s always another peak on the horizon. Photograph:  Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ireland are top of the mountain but can improve by giving fringe players their fling in Australia

 Scotland’s Blair Kinghorn tackled by Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony. I’m confident this Irish group – under the leadership of Rory Best, Johnny Sexton, Rob Kearney, CJ Stander and O’Mahony – understand what needs to be done. Photograph: Óisin Keniry/Inpho

This game is already decided. One of the camps has already struck the right chord

Johnny Sexton looks after his pack in a way Finn Russell does not. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Ireland’s halfbacks have the patience and experience to know when to pull the trigger

Jacob Stockdale runs in his second try against Wales at the  Aviva Stadium.  Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Rise to prominence of Porter, Farrell, Leavy and Aki a huge plus for Irish rugby

Any potential assumption by Wales that Chris Farrell and Bundee Aki are a smash and bash partnership  will play nicely into their hands. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Munster man has all the tools to play No 13 in a major Test match

Bundee Aki and Johnathan Sexton are forming a blossoming relationship for Ireland. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Blossoming Murray-Sexton-Aki axis adds an exciting dimension to Joe Schmidt’s side

Johnny Sexton  stood above the entire stadium and identified a way to cover the crucial 15 metres Ireland needed to reach the edge of his range to kick the drop-goal. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Sheridan

Johnny Sexton’s brilliance followed the correct decisions made under pressure

Ulster captain Rory Best during the defeat against Wasps. The club remain too reliant on the hooker and Iain Henderson. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Province will not achieve success unless it develops coherent strategy

Leinster’s Jordan Larmour scores the first try of the game against Ulster. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Harmonious culture at Leinster will give him everything he needs to develop his rare talent

Gordon D’Arcy in action against Northampton in 2013. “I know the precise moment we lost that night at a packed Aviva. After the warm-up, before the kick-off. I saw it happening. The body language was wrong, too many smiles.” Photograph: Billy Stickland

Wounded Tigers and chastened Chiefs will ask real questions of provinces this weekend

Peter O’Mahony is a cultural driver, the rightful heir to follow Gaillimh, Axel and O’Connell. The IRFU needs to find the figure that makes Pete feel valued. Photograph:  Billy Stickland/Inpho

From my own contract negotiations I know the IRFU could be playing a very dangerous game

Ireland in action against Fiji at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin last weekend. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Ignore empty cliches – Ireland have plenty beneath the surface to make us unbeatable

South African head coach Allister Coetzee cut the image of someone on work experience. Maybe he knows he’s leaving too. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Not enough being done to nurture Irish born players ahead of recruiting overseas

Bundee Aki at the Ireland rugby squad training centre at Carton House, Co Kildare. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Saturday should show that Bundee Aki is a central figure in Joe Schmidt’s thinking

 The big screen in the Aviva Stadium at the announcement in 2016 of Ireland’s bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Photograph:  Billy Stickland/Inpho

Seems we competed on emotional level knowing we didn’t stand a chance on stadiums or profit

Mick Galway with a young Peter Stringer and Ronan O’Gara during Amhrán na bhFiann prior to a Six Nations game in 2000. Photograph: Patrick Bolger/Inpho

If they don’t drive the culture, the team suffers – as on the Lions tour in 2005

James Ryan played in the Ireland v England  2016 Junior World Cup final. Photograph: Gary Carr/INPHO.

Constant rotation producing the likes of Jacob Stockdale for the national side

Keith Earls scores a try despite Adam Byrne’s best efforts. Byrne will play for Ireland sooner rather than later. No harm getting a lesson from  Earls along the way. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Game plan to defeat Munster was tailored with one eye on starving Vern Cotter’s side

Celebrating with my team-mates after scoring against France in  2009. There is a story behind my big happy head that  my kids can tell people about because now it is etched into their childhood. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

All I needed to remember from the age of 18 to 35 was to bring my boots. Now life begins again

New Zealand’s inside centre Ngani Laumape passes the ball during the third  Test match against the  British and Irish Lions: player dropped a number of balls in the series decider. Photograph:   Michael Bradley/AFP/Getty Images

The tourists drew the series by tapping into unbelievable levels of determination

Aaron Smith is the source of the All Blacks attacking ploys. If he is dancing diagonally forward from ruck to ruck, taking two steps before torpedoing another hard runner into soaking red jerseys then the series is all but gone.

Lions’ ability to cut off the supply of quick ball at source laid the foundation to Wellington win

British and Irish Lions team huddle with Warren Gatland during the training. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Warren Gatland will remind his squad that the Lions have superior game managers

Maro Itoje  has to feature somewhere at some stage against the All Blacks. Photograph:  Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

Rather than quick ball, Lions seek contact, which is tough to resource

Stuart Hogg and Jonathan Sexton. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Early games will see Warren Gatland’s charges working on their combinations

Tyler Bleyendaal has done well this season but now, on Saturday, he’ll be asked to close out a final, to stamp a performance on the stage where everyone remembers. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

If any team deserves to end the season with success then it is Munster

The Crusaders did an excellent job of nullifying the threat of Beauden Barrett during their Super Rugby clash on Saturday. Photo: Getty Images

Tourists can go a long way to stopping the All Blacks if they can stop the Hurricanes outhalf

Tommy Seymour, Maro Itoje and Tadhg Furlong. Itoje and Furlong are the sort of men who can help the modern Lions reach new heights.  Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

And facing the All Blacks in New Zealand is the ultimate test for any rugby team

Felipe Contepomi celebrates with team mates Denis Hickie (left) and Will Green after their victory in Toulouse in the Heineken Cup quarter-final in 2006. ‘There were a lot of similarities between that game and Leinster’s loss to Clermont.’ Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Battling defeat in Lyon can do for current side what Toulouse victory did for 2006 crop

Clermont’s Morgan Parra and Luke McGrath of Leinster. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Munster lacked impact off their bench and squad depth to cope without Conor Murray

 Morgan Parra:  playing as well as he ever has and steers the ship for  Clermont Auvergne. Photograph: Photograph:  David Rogers/Getty Images

A Munster win in Dublin seems more logical than a Leinster win over Clermont in Lyon

Joey Carbery’s presence makes Johnny Sexton a far more dangerous proposition. And vice versayan. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Leinster and Munster attacks now include second playmaker in what is vital evolution

Ireland’s Gordon D’Arcy supported by Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell during the 2011 Rugby World Cup match against USA. Photo: Bill Stickland/Inpho

Leinster and Munster must both go to The Well on Saturday and not give an inch away

A strong indicator of Leinster or Ireland being in a good collective head space is when Sean O’Brien won’t shut up. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

The strength-in-depth that Ireland have continues to be nurtured by Joe Schmidt

 Jonathan Sexton tackles England’s George Ford. If Ireland seek out Ford in open field they can hurt England, drag him into the physicality of the game. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Payne’s return would strengthen Ireland who must target Ford’s defensive limitations

Eddie Jones’ England look like a team feeling the pressure as the weight of creating history bears down on them. Photograph:  David Rogers/Getty Images

England may be closing in on record but they look a shadow of team that dominated 2016

Conor Murray’s try was pivotal against France but his game management was arguably even more important in getting Ireland over the line. Photograph: Paul Faith/Getty Images

The players can prepare in a good head space over the next week - the same can't be said for Wales

Conor Murray’s ability to dart through the smallest gap is not what France are expecting from Murray or Ireland at this moment. Photograph: Inpho

Expect something new from Ireland and Joe Schmidt, something to ignite Ireland’s Six Nations

(From L) France’s centre Remi Lamerat, France’s scrum-half Baptiste Serin, France’s centre Gael Fickou, France’s prop Uini Atonio, France’s full back Scott Spedding and France’s flanker Louis Picamoles celebrate a try at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis. Photograph: Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images

France will take Ireland to a dark place, but a high enough tempo game should see us prevail

 Stuart Hogg runs in his second try against Ireland at Murrayfield. Photograph:  Stu Forster/Getty Images

Defensive lapses cost us but no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater

Finn Russell is the outhalf Scotland have been lacking for a number of years, and is vital to their Six Nations hopes. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty

Presence of electric Glasgow Warriors duo takes Vern Cotter’s side to another level

Adam Byrne’s arrival from a lovely hidden position off the blind wing against Castres was all but unreadable. His acceleration allowed him ghost through the gap. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Winger epitomises so much of what is good about Leinster’s attack right now

Conor Murray of Munster is treated for an injury during the match against Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Munster scrumhalf clearly targeted in Glasgow and can expect similar for rest of season

Robbie Henshaw is supported by Garry Ringrose and Johnny Sexton as he makes a break against Zebre. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose forging a truly exciting midfield partnership

New Zealand’s Malakai Fekitoa tackles Simon Zebo of Ireland around the neck during the November international at the Aviva stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Zero tolerance on new law will have drawbacks but high tackle needs to be consigned to history

Munster’s Jaco Taute scores their third try against Leicester last weekend. Photo: Dan Sherida/Inpho

Much to be excited about Irish rugby right now but controversy could be down the line

 Keith Earls scores Ireland’s  third try against Australia in the November series. Ireland will bring their attacking gameplan into the Six Nations with bonus points now on offer. Photo: Colm O’Neill/Inpho

Joe Schmidt saw it coming: a try isn’t worth five points any more – it’s a quarter of a bonus point

Simon Zebo’s man and ball hit on Michael Hooper. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Ability to think on their feet during games marks this Ireland team out as champions

Ireland line up as New Zealand perform the Haka before Saturday's clash at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Cane is not dirty but he gambled and Henshaw was carried off, nobody should profit from that

New Zealand captain Kieran Reid leads the Haka prior to kick-off in Chicago on November 5th. Photo:  Phil Walter/Getty Images

It will be harder to beat New Zealand for a second time but it can be done

Ireland celebrate Robbie Henshaw’s try at Soldier Field in Chicago.  Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/AP Photo

Ireland preyed on New Zealand’s inexperience to beat All Blacks at their own game

 Leinster’s Garry Ringrose in acton against Montpellier. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Refusal to give in and ability to win small battles will be key against All Blacks

Anthony Foley hands off a tackle from Iain Balshaw at Twickenham in 2004. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Anthony would do anything for you on the field. And you wanted to do the same for him

 Munster’s CJ Stander was tackled early and often by the Leinster defence. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Rassie Erasmus’s side need to offer more variety than they displayed against Leinster

Tempers flare during the 2009 Heineken Cup semi-final at Croke Park. Photo: Inpho

Leinster versus Munster has become sanitised. Too much about rugby.

Leinster’s Joey Carbery: the Glasgow game was only his third cap for Leinster, but now he knows what he can and cannot get away with. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Graham Henry agrees that there's no need to worry about finding a replacement for Johnny Sexton

 Aly Muldowney and Bundee Aki celebrate with John Muldoon after Connacht’s Pro12 win over Leinster. Connacht’s success was built on Pat Lam striking the correct balance between homegrown talent and players recruited from elsewhere.

Our provincial squads need to be constantly strengthened by world-class foreign players

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