Mathieu Bastareaud: returns to the Toulon side for the visit to Edinburgh  after serving a five-week suspension. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Forward power can help Castres pip Exeter in one of weekend’s most intriguing ties

Tommy O’Donnell: will don  the number seven jersey for the game against Gloucester at Thomond Park. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

If Van Graan’s side deliver, Thomond will again seem an imposing fortress to Gloucester

Will Addison  takes on Leicester Tigers’ Kyle Eastmond during the Champions Cup clash  at the Kingspan Stadium last week in Belfast. Photograph:  David Rogers/Getty Images

Versatile Ulster player set to be included in the Ireland squad for the November Tests

England wing Jonny May has recovered from his shoulder injury to face Scarlets in the  Heineken Champions Cup.  Photograph:  David Rogers/Getty Images

No Welsh team has triumphed at Welford Road against the Tigers

Ireland’s Bundee Aki jumps on teammate Johnny Sexton with Jordi Murphy as they celebrate winning the third Test against Australia in Sydney. Photograph: David Moir/EPA

Renowned coaching consultant impressed by culture at Connacht and Munster

Leinster’s Devin Toner and Brad Shields of Wasps in the lineout during last week’s Heineken Cup game. Toner admits his side were forced to make adjustments.  Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Statistics: Champions Cup referees have clamped down on offences out of touch

Toulouse’s New Zealand number eight Jerome Kaino will not feature against Leinster. Photograph: Getty Images

Jerome Kaino is banned for five weeks and Lucas Pointud for four weeks after Bath win

Devin Toner: “They’re going to want to come out and come at us, come at the champions, as every team is going to want to do.” Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Secondrow braced for the serious test posed by four-time Champions Cup winners Toulouse

Exeter Chiefs’ Jack Nowell scores a   try against Bath  during the Gallagher Premiership match at the Recreation Ground, Bath.  Photograph:  Nick Potts/PA

Starving high-flying Exeter of possession will be a key objective in Sandy Park showdown

Leinster’s James Lowe is congratulated by Ross Byrne after scoring a try during the Pro14 win over Munster. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

The Leinster man was immense on Saturday and can be a big presence going forward

Scrumhalf will provide cover for Conor Murray and Alby Mathewson at the province

Louis O’Hara (Athenry) celebrates holing a  35 foot putt on the 16th green in the final of the Barton Shield the  AIG Cups and Shields Finals at Thurles Golf Club. Photograph: Pat Cashman

Age no barrier as five pensioners help guide Nenagh to Pierce Purcell success

Ian Holmes (Athlone) lining up his putt on the 13th green in the semi final of the Pierce Purcell Shield at the 2018 AIG Cups and Shields Finals at Thurles Golf Club today (04/10/2018). Picture by Pat Cashman

Cups and Shields: Nenagh preparations pay off in the Pierce Purcell Shield

At the  All Ireland League launch at the  Aviva Stadium were (L-R) Daire Feeney (UCC), Mick Noone (Clontarf), Alan Fitzgerald (Garryowen), Colm Hogan (TCD), Alan Kennedy (Young Munster), Jack O Sullivan (Lansdowne), Will Leonard (Shannon), Stephen McVeigh (UCD), Michael Melia (Terenure College) and Gary Bradley (Cork Constitution). Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Stats show 74 academy players accounted for 552 starts in Divisions 1A and 1B last season

Lansdowne’s Jack O’Sullivan tackles Garryowen’s Andrew O’Byrne during the  Ulster Bank League Division 1A semi-final at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Talented backrow more than happy to bide his time All-Ireland League with Lansdowne

Stade Français’ Paris French centre Gael Fickou eludes Racing 92 number eight Antonie Claassen during the French Top 14 clash at Jean-Bouin Stadium in Paris. Photograph: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP/Getty

Wild Geese: Olding’s impressive form helps Brive to another victory in French Pro D2

Connacht left wing  Matt Healy: he has playing every minute of the team’s four matches this season

Connacht have used 33 players during the same period, and lean more heavily on a core group

Leinster’s Scott Fardy: ‘We have to go up against each other and challenge each other on a week-in, week-out basis.’ Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Australian preparing for clash against Connacht after his side’s 47-10 drubbing last April

Leinster’s Sean O’Brien: “He’s back and he’s good, and the medics are happy.” Photograph: Getty Images

Forwards coach John Fogarty speaks of the hurt following Leinster’s 47-10 thumping at the Sportsground last season

Leinster’s Josh van der Flier: “I’ve done about seven months of gym, three or four times a week, so I’m probably the strongest I’ve ever been.” Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Leinster rugby player and Dublin GAA star had knee surgery by Ray Moran in February

Seán O’Brien is on the verge of returning to action for Leinster. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland and Lions flanker last appeared for the province against Benetton in April

 Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill with Leinster head coach Leo Cullen at the RDS in 2017. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Leavy in line to return to side for match in which Sexton will make his 150th appearance

Seán O’Brien, Peter McCabe, Bundee Aki and Eoin Griffin at a Connacht squad training sesion at Sportsground, Galway. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Pro14 preview: Connacht v Scarlets, Sportsground (5.15, live on TG4, Premier Sports)

Ulster’s Angus Kernohan scoring  a try against Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Photograph:   Richard Huggard/Inpho

The 19-year-old Ballymena wing is selected to play against Cheetahs

Munster’s JJ Hanrahan: he  started the matches against the Cheetahs and Warriors at outhalf, before being replaced by Joey Carbery just after half-time in Glasgow. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

CJ Stander to make first Munster appearance of the season against Cardiff Blues

Marcell Coetzee of Ulster in action during the Guinness Pro14 clash with  Southern Kings at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium last Sunday. Photograph: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images/Getty Images

Unbeaten province's players lead the way statistically after three rounds of the Pro14

Blackrock player Michelle Claffey: “It’s nice to have someone there who has coached women before and can understand where we’re coming from.” Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Ireland player says arrival of new coach Philip Doyle to Blackrock is ‘fantastic’

Jamison Gibson-Park enjoyed a huge influence on the game and was a deserved man of the match against the Dragons at the RDS. Photograph: Inpho

Despite scoring two tries the Leinster scrumhalf believes he has much to improve in his game

Leinster prop  Tadhg Furlong on his way to scoring  a try despite the tackle from Tavis Knoyle of the Dragons at the RDS on Saturday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Leo Cullen’s side capitalise on absence of Ross Moriarty who was sin binned for late dunt on Sexton

Johnny Sexton kicks past Jack Dixon of the Dragons during the Guinness Pro 14 game at the  RDS. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Number nine Jamison Gibson-Park among those to impress in seven-try victory

Dan McFarland: his charges have begun the new season with wins over Scarlets and Edinburgh. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Coach McFarland makes three changes in the pack for the trip to Southern Kings

Head coach Leo Cullen and Leinster captain Jonathan Sexton. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

New captain in line for first start of season as Cullen welcomes back internationals

 Connacht’s head coach Andy Friend: “We face a big challenge in Murrayfield.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

In-form youngster Paul Boyle has been selected for Edinburgh challenge on Friday

Munster’s Joey Carbery has been handed his first start for their clash with Ospreys in the Pro14. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Munster have made a raft of changes for first game on the new 3G pitch at Musgrave Park

Munster’s John Hodnett is tackled by Peter Robb of Connacht during the Celtic Cup match last weekend. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Celtic Cup has made some difference but meaningful fixtures are still limited for many

Jordan Larmour: “The things in my game that need work, I want to try and bring them up and be more of a rounded player.” Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Leinster back likened to All Black Damian McKenzie by senior coach Stuart Lancaster

Dominic Ryan of Leicester Tigers tackles  George North of Northampton  Saints during the fateful Aviva Premiership match  at Franklin’s Gardens on September 9th, 2017.  Photograph:  David Rogers/Getty Images

Leicester flanker announces his retirement as head injuries take a career-ending toll

Leinster’s Barry Daly is tackled by Cardiff Blues’ Matthew Morgan during their Pro14 encounter. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Province scraped past Cardiff in opening game and were questionable in defence

Robbie Henshaw: “We know every opposition this year will be better, so we ourselves need to be a better team.”  Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Centre will try and help Leinster and Ireland defend their titles before World Cup beckons

Rob Kearney would like to extend his contract beyond 2019. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

His return date to the match environment is pencilled in for Pro14 round two or three

Ollie Campbell: led Ireland to their first ever  Test series win (2-0) in Australia in 1979.  Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

In 1979 Ireland recorded a Test series win in Australia and Galway lost the hurling final

Rory McIlroy lines up a putt on the 16th green during round one of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. Photo: Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Tiger Woods was also placed nicely after a solid 66 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

Clontarf and Galwegians in action at Castle Avenue. Photograph: Eric Luke

Many men’s and women’s AIL club fixtures to be played on the same day

Simon Zebo: will begin a new chapter in his career later this month with Racing 92 in the French Top 14 Championship. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Seven former Munster players are preparing for the new season in France's Top 14

Joey Carbery: moved from Leinster to Munster

Leinster contemplate Contepomi as Munster look forward to Carbery’s influence

Glasgow’s Celtic Park will hold the 2018/19 Pro 14 final. Photograph: Jeff Holmes/PA

Home of Celtic Football Club will host its first rugby union fixture on Saturday May 25th

Union unlikely to attract title sponsor in time for 2018-19 season

Colin Walshe: 'We are not depending on a different result. It’s in our hands, if we win in Galway we are in an All-Ireland semi-final.' Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Captain says focus has switched to Galway after Kerry’s late smash-and-grab in Clones

Anthony Nash: The Cork goalkeeper’s puck-outs will be pivotal to his county’s hopes against Limerick on Sunday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

One-time collaborators Anthony Nash and Sean O’Donnell not set for a battle of wits

Guinness Pro14 champions Leinster’s first home game is  against the Dragons on Saturday, September 15th. Photograph: Billy  Stickland/Inpho

Leo Cullen’s charges will spend the first two weekends of the season in Wales

The Leinster players celebrate with the Pro14 and Champions Cup trophies after their win over the Scarlets last season. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

First 17 rounds of fixtures for 2018/19 season announced by Pro14 organisers

Head coach Anthony Eddy talks to the Ireland women’s team during squad training for the  World Cup Sevens at   San Francisco GAA club. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

If men beat Chile in preliminary clash they take on number-one ranked South Africa

Kildare’s Neil Flynn celebrates scoring a goal against Fermanagh in the All-Ireland qualifier round 4 victory at  Páirc Tailteann. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

O’Neill’s men produce best performance of the season to outclass battling Fermanagh

Neil Flynn of Kildare celebrates scoring a goal in Navan. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

An 11-point interval lead is the platform for a comfortable win over Fermanagh in Navan

 IRFU’s director of rugby development Scott Walker;  IRFU operations manager of participation rugby David Keane; Damien Kavanagh, president of the Emerald Warriors and member of the organising committee of Union Cup 2019; and Tony Hayes, Union Cup organising committee chair. Photograph:     James Crombie/Inpho

Tournament for LGBTI community to be hosted by Emerald Warriors at DCU next June

Felipe Contepomi: “I spent much of my playing career at Leinster and now I’ll be back in Dublin to join a great staff and to work with great players.”  Photo: Inpho

Head coach Cullen delighted to see return of his former team-mate back as backs coach

Edinson Cavani:  spent much of the match when not clutching a limb and acting as a human roller for the turf, keeping the referee up to date with his innermost thoughts. Photograph: Wallace Woon/EPA

Former Republic star unimpressed as hyped Russia hit the self-destruct button

Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has given the Samoa rugby team a stark warning. Photo: Getty Images

Pacific Islanders are set to play off for a place in Ireland’s group at the 2019 World Cup

Felipe Contepomi in action for  Leinster during a Heineken Cup  match against  Toulouse  at the Stade Ernest Wallon on November 2007. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Argentinian star to return to province to take over from Girvan Dempsey

Peter O’Mahony holding aloft the trophy  after Ireland won the test series against Australia in Sydney. Photograph: Reuters

Schmidt has blooded several players and introduced depth to the squad

Israel Folau challenges Peter O’Mahony in the air, an incident which led to a yellow card for the Australian back. Photograph: Peter Parks/AFP/Getty

Following Ireland's series win there are calls for World Rugby to offer clarity on aerial duels

Peter O’Mahony will start at number seven on Saturday. Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Ten things you really should know ahead of the series decider in Sydney

Michael Silvester is tackled during Ireland’s defeat to Scotland in Perpignan. Photograph: Pascal Rodriguez/Inpho

Noel McNamara’s side teetering on the brink of relegation after another poor performance

 Joe Tomane in action for Australia against Wales in 2014 at the Millennium Stadium. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

The six foot two inch, 16 and a half stone centre was capped 17 times by Australia

The Georgia team celebrate scoring a try during their win over Ireland at the under-20 World Cup in France. Photo: Inpho

The Caelan Dorris-captained side will now playoff for place ninth to 12th in Narbonne

Lansdowne wing Peter Sullivan: he will start for Ireland against Georgia. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Conceding scrum penalties an area that will be under scrutiny against powerful Georgians

Johnny Sexton during Ireland training ahead of the Test series with Australia. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

If Johnny Sexton captains side during Australia tour he will be looking to break a mould

Ireland’s Jordan Conroy runs in a try against England in bronze medal game at the the HSBC London Sevens at Twickenham.  Photograph: Andrew Fosker/Inpho

‘We showed we can compete with the big guys’ says exciting Buccaneers winger

Ireland U20 assistant coach Paul O’Connell at the World Rugby U20 Championship last month: “I have to move away from the emotional state I had as a player.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Ex-Ireland captain relishing life as U20 assistant coach and challenges of it

Leinster’s Ross Byrne may well win a first cap during Ireland’s three-Test series in Australia. Photograph: Inpho

In total, 15 Irish players have been handed a first cap in Australia for tour next month

Tickets for Ireland’s World Cup Pool A game against hosts Japan  at Shizuoka Stadium range in price from €79 for a Category D ticket to €319 for Category A. Photograph:   Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images

World Rugby confirm that there have already been 1.5m applications for 1.8m tickets

McNamara’s side face daunting task against reigning U-20 Six Nations champions

Ulster’s Jared Payne: hasn’t played a match since complaining of feeling unwell during a British & Irish Lions tour match against the Chiefs in New Zealand last summer. Photograph: Inpho

New Zealand-born player has been appointed defence coach at Ulster and will travel to Australia

Stuart Olding has signed for French Pro D2 side Brive. Photo: Simon King/Inpho

Former Ulster centre has found a club after having contract revoked with Irish province

Caelan Doris: “Playing France in one of the first games of the World Cup in France, it’s going to be unbelievable,” said Ireland’s U-20s captain.  Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Several players are poised to catch the eye for Ireland in the U-20 World Championship

Number eight Jack O’Sullivan has been ruled out  of the Under-20 Rugby World Championship along with tighthead prop. Photograph: Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Ireland suffer big double blow ahead of tournament in France

South African referee Stuart Berry: Will rely on input from his officiating team in making decisions. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

South African referee may be hands-off at the breakdown as Leinster take on Scarlets

 Diarmuid Barron, Caelan Doris and Matthew Agnew at the announcement of the  squad for the U-20 World Cup in France at Spencer Dock in Dublin yesterday. Inpho: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Caelan Doris chosen as captain as five uncapped players included in Ireland squad

Caelan Doris will captain Ireland in the under-20 World Championship in France. Photo: Inpho

Ronan Kelleher, Angus Curtis and Eoghan Clarke all miss out on the squad through injury

Ulster’s Charles Piutau. Photograph: Brian Little/Inpho

Ulster v Ospreys preview: Kingspan stadium, Sunday (3.05, live on BBC 2)

Munster-bound Tadgh Beirne has been named secondrow for Scarlets. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Defending Pro14 champions won’t be cowed by hostile venue, but Scots could shade this

According to the official statistics James Ryan  did not miss a single tackle in the five European Champion Cup matches in which he started and the four when introduced as a replacement. Photograph:  David Rogers/Getty Images

Secondrow played more minutes than any other Leinster player in Champions Cup campaign

Robbie Henshaw starts in midfield for Leinster against Racing 92. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

John O’Sullivan runs the rule over Leo Cullen’s men ahead of their date with destiny

Racing 92’s electric French wing Teddy Thomas. Photograph: Christophe Simon/AFP

John O’Sullivan looks at the Parisians ahead of their clash with Leinster in Bilbao

Leinster players congratulating James Ryan after he scored a try against Scarlets.  The genesis of the try  was a sharp lineout move. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

One area in which Racing will have to improve massively is in discipline

Pro14 decider will now be played at 6pm on Saturday, May 26th

Leinster’s Jordan Larmour (left) will start in Bilbao with  James Lowe  (right) missing out. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Jamison Gibson-Park and Rory O’Loughlin expected to be named in matchday squad

 Richie Murphy, Andy Farrell, Greg Feek and Joe Schmidt during a training session at Carton House. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Feek will take up a position with Japanese club side Ricoh in the coming weeks

 Rory McIlroy plays a shot on the seventh hole during the second round of the  Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club  in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photograph: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Two-time champion makes the cut despite struggling to 76

 Connacht’s Kieran Marmion, Munster’s Conor Murray, Leinster’s Josh van der Flier and Ulster’s Marcell Coetzee at an event to announce that Eir Sport has  secures broadcast rights to the  Pro 14. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

TG4 will broadcast 34 matches per season, but will not include Munster and Leinster derbies

The Rugby World Cup in a Dublin hotel at an   announcement of match venues. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Ireland rugby matches in Rugby World Cup have to be free-to-air

 The Leinster team celebrate their Heineken Cup Final win in 2011.  Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

If Leo Cullen's side can also lift the Pro14 title they would eclipse class of 2011

Ulster coach Jono Gibbes speaks to the media on Tuesday. Photograph: Matt Mackey/Inpho

Some rugby reporters complained their ability to work had become compromised

Ulster rugby will not be allowing news journalists into Tuesday’s press conference. Photograph: Inpho

Ulster were unhappy with tone and line of questioning taken by some news reporters

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen says his team have had to adapt to a changing European landscape in the competition. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

The collective matters more than any personal considerations for the Leinster players

Leinster’s Irish fly-half Johnny Sexton celebrates with teammates after scoring a try during the European Champions Cup rugby union semi-final between Leinster and Scarlets at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photograph: Barry Cronin/AFP/Getty Images

Scarlets dismantled with ruthless efficiency as Leinster learn from previous humiliation

Leinster’s Fergus McFadden  is tackled by Leigh Halfpenny, Rhys Patchell and Scott Williams of Scarlets during the Champions Cup semi-final  at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

New Zealander believes knock-on call and try before half-time changed game

 Leinster players congratulate try scorer James Ryan/Morgan Treacy

Leinster make hay in Dublin sunshine as Scarlets blown away

Ulster’s Tommy Bowe: a huge tranche of the rugby community  would like to see him bow out in style in his final home match. Photograph: Giuseppe Fama/Inpho

Iain Henderson has been handed captaincy, with Rory Best on the bench

Munster’s Keith Earls: his  remarkable rehabilitation from injury forced Johann van Graan to make a selection decision in the back three. Photograph:  Donall Farmer/Inpho

French team possess some outstanding players in Teddy Thomas and Leone Nakarwara

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