The Leinster team form a huddle after their loss to Saracens. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Leinster’s Saracens defeat does not mean Ireland are destined to lose to England

Matt Williams: Winning is a habit that has Leinster addicted to the juice that lifting trophies creates. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

An Ulster win in the Pro14 final would be one of Irish rugby’s greatest upsets

The high quality match that Munster and Leinster produced last week was the product of a much deeper motivation than fans cheering. Photograph: Inpho

We’d a ringside seat into the raw and loud realities of the grunts, bangs and sledging

Rugby in Ireland resumes with the clash of Leinster and Munster at the Aviva, but for it to be a success big sacrifices will be needed. File photograph: Inpho

The reward for this monastic existence? An economic boost and they get to play rugby

The scrums in the Waratahs and Melbourne Rebels match led to numerous stoppages. Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Scoring system needs to be re-thought to encourage fast play and less breaks

Health advice notices are seen at Sydney International Airport. Photograph:  Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Australia’s experience shows how difficult rugby’s return in Europe will be

Ireland celebrate winning a penalty at a Welsh scrum during February’s Six Nations clash at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Playing in the summer the tip of the iceberg as game drifts further from its core values

Beauden Barrett of the Blues signs autographs after a match against the Hurricanes at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand. Photograph: Hannah Peters/Getty

I forgot how much I missed the sight of grown men acting like children, just for fun

To be part of a rugby team requires high levels of co-operation, emotional intelligence, empathy, tolerance, resilience, leadership by example and strong communication skills. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Rugby continues to be a great educational outlet, just as it was intended

Many of the  attacking skills of great players such as New Zealand’s Jeff Wilson were learned through unsupervised play on the local green or on the school playground. Photograph:  David Rogers/Allsport

Coronavirus will further limit kids’ opportunities to work on rugby’s key skills

New Zealand Warriors rugby league team players arrive at the airport in Tamworth, New South Wales last Sunday. The squad will spend 14 days in quarantine  before competition restarts on May 28th. Photograph: Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images

Australia and New Zealand are perfectly placed to help the rugby phoenix rise again

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont  is being challenged by present vice-chairman  Agustín Pichot. Photograph: Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP via Getty Images

Bill Beaumont’s success would show rugby’s old order and northern hemisphere dominance

Scrums are again  a blight on the game. We need to see a return to the excellent laws from the 1980s, when penalty kicks at goal were not allowed from scrum infringements. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Cleaning up rucks and lowering target area for tackles to waist-high would help greatly

World rugby must strategically plan a new global calendar. Photograph: Jean Pierre Clatot/AFP via Getty

Needs of English and French clubs must be placed second to the international game

The skills of dairy farmers from Nenagh were not in high demand in the commercial hub of Sydney. Photograph:  Alan Betson

My grandmother kept her optimism through her 93 years despite all life threw at her

People queue outside of a Carrefour supermarket as they respect a one meter distance in Lormont on Wednesday. Photo: Mehdi Fedouach/AFP via Getty Images

Just a week ago it was all so different, now we’re fighting over the last packs of toilet paper

England head coach Eddie Jones and captain Owen Farrell at the post-match press conference after the Wales game at Twickenham. Photograph:  Andrew Fosker/Inpho

Time for World Rugby to finally take serious action and put an end to flood of foul play

The crowd at the Aviva Stadium for the Guinness Six Nations match between Ireland and England in February 2019. Those negotiating the future of the Six Nations would do well to look at the Australian experience with deep consideration. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Australian rugby went behind a paywall 25 years ago, and is now reaping the whirlwind

Ireland’s Ultan Dillane (right) and Bundee Aki leave the field dejected after their Six Nations loss to England at Twickenham. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

This Ireland side hasn’t progressed in a year and I’m unconvinced they can change

Jonathan Sexton is tackled by England’s Dylan Hartley in 2018. The bulk of this Irish team came to Twickenham on St Patrick’s Day in 2018. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Winning away is never easy and World Cup runners-up will relish home advantage

Ireland’s Tadhg Furlong (centre) celebrates after team-mate Josh van der Flier (hidden) scores his side’s third try during the Guinness Six Nations match against Wales at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin, on February 8th. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

The positivity and self-belief is beginning to come back – but it needs to be nurtured

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell watches his players warm-up ahead of the Six Nations  match against  and Scotland at the Aviva stadium. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP via Getty Images

If Ireland perform at the same level as last week, the Welsh will return to Cardiff with a winning bonus point

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell during a training session  at the Sport Ireland campus in Blanchardstown. Photograph: Brian Reilly-Troy/Inpho

Andy Farrell knows tight-five domination will lay platform for more expansive game

The men’s and women’s captains at the launch of the Guinness Six Nations Championship in London on Wednesday. From left:   Siwan Lillicrap (Wales),  Giada Franco (Italy),  Luca Bigi (Italy),  Stuart Hogg (Scotland),  Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales),  Sarah Hunter (England),  Charles Ollivon (France),  Owen Farrell (England),  Gaëlle Hermet (France), Ciara Griffin (Ireland) and  Rachel Malcolm (Scotland).  Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

With new coaches at Ireland, France, Italy and Wales, the winner will be hard to predict

Top coaches learn plenty from those who have preceded them before going on to forge their own distinctive coaching philosophy. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

The coaching fable of master coach and ‘Grasshopper’ conveys a universal truth

A Munster squad session. Over the last two decades, Irish provincial teams have had a number of world class players who have set exceptionally high standards. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho

Encounter in Sydney coffee shop recently got me thinking about key to success

A kangaroo rushes past a burning house in Lake Conjola, Australia, on the last day of 2019.  Since August, nationally the number of lost homes is over 1,200. Photograph: Matthew Abbott/The New York Times

Death, destruction and polluted air the byproducts of unprecedented bushfires

 Smoke haze from bushfires blankets the Sydney central business district  as beachgoers sit on a cliff on another hot day in Nielsen Park  in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Photograph: Steven Saphore/EPA

Sydney Letter: While fires burn inside Irish homes, in Australia they are raging outside

Those under-12 players made me remember how much fun I had playing the game and how much I loved it. For me that joy of playing morphed into an obsession. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

As a boy in Sydney my hot Christmas morning had a strange ritual – rugby practice

Conor Murray and Ross Byrne: ‘It’s important to also remember why you love to play rugby. Because it’s fun. I would like to see you both playing with the occasional smile on your faces.’ Photographs: Oisin Keniry and Billy Stickland/Inpho

With minor tweaks to their game, the pair can be Ireland’s halfbacks for the Six Nations

Chris Boyd: the wily Northampton Saints coach has led the club to the top of the Premiership table. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty

Franklins Gardens is always a tough trip and Saracens could be fully locked and loaded

Munster senior coach Stephen Larkham with Billy Holland: In recruiting Graham Rowntree and Stephen Larkham, Munster have brought in fresh creative thinking and vast experience into their organisation. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Precious little original thinking apparent as coaches embrace the herd mentality

Leinster’s Woodstock 50th anniversary celebratory tie-dye squashed, fifty shades of blue is in the running for the gong in the worst jersey of 2019 category. Photograph: Inpho

Irish provinces must beware of the Champions Cup wolves disguised as sheep

Leinster possess the mindset to achieve success within the unique environment of the Champions Cup. Photograph: Billy Stickland

Blues in box seat with Sarries’ troubles set to exclude them from usual suspects for glory

Andy Farrell will be in charge of Ireland following Joe schmidt’s departure. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Farrell needs to be brave and embrace what is a daunting challenge

In the wake of a magnificent English victory, Steve Hansen, Kieran Read (above) and their New Zealand team displayed astonishing dignity. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

New Zealand’s character revealed by their exemplary sportsmanship after defeat

England players take part in a training session at Arcs Urayasu Park ahead of the Rugby World Cup semi-final against New Zealand. Photo: Charly Triballeau/Getty Images

England coach is in total control of his environment and having fun in doing so

Ardie Savea, Sonny Bill Williams and George Bridge train ahead of Saturday’s clash with Ireland. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Schmidt’s side are blunt in attack but New Zealand could fall foul of new tackle laws

A red card is issued to Canada’s Josh Larsen by referee Luke Pearce during their World Cup Pool B match at against South Africa at the Kobe Misaki Stadium. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA Wire

The terrible refereeing at World Cup will hopefully lead to an officiating overhaul

Ireland players leave the pitch following their defeat to Japan. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty

Ireland’s attacking philosophy is outdated as they fail to evolve from the highs of 2018

 Michael Hooper  of Australia looks on after scoring a try against Fiji during the Rugby World Cup match clash  in Sapporo, Japan. Photograph: Mark R Cristino/EPA

Across the globe rugby is booming however in Australia the game is in decline

Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray at the World Cup welcome ceremony in  Chiba. It is time for the iconic Irish players to deliver. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

One strong 80-minute performance can put Joe Schmidt’s men back on track

France’s hooker Guilhem Guirado (R) poses with children at Yamanashi Kenristu high school in Fujikawaguchiko, where the French squad will train. Photograph: Getty Images

With the world watching, I hope our officials have the courage to punish all cynical play

Agustin Pichot: has been a sole voice campaigning for ethical changes to the eligibility laws for several years.   Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

World Rugby complicit in allowing the game to be debased and vulnerable players exploited

Devin Toner wins a lineout during the Autumn International against New Zealand at the Aviva stadium in November 2018. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

His ability to call and manage the set piece should have been an integral part of Ireland’s game plan

Joe Schmidt: Ireland’s coach  must get back his own “whoskabomy” and lead his team like he did in November 2018. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Joe Schmidt’s men have to lay down a serious marker against Wales in Cardiff

Ireland’s Conor Murray, Rory Best, James Ryan, Jordan Larmour and Sean O’Brien during the Six Nations game against England at  the Aviva Stadium In February. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

We need to see if Ireland have changed their attacking plan to nullify England

Australia outhalf Christian Lealiifano, supported by Kurtley Beale,  runs the ball during the  Rugby Championship match against New Zealand at Optus Stadium  in Perth. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Gainline theory has been knocking around for 90 years, but done right it’s still mighty effective

 Joey Carbery can become the other playmaker Ireland need.   Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland need another playmaker: opposition know if you can stop Sexton, you stop Ireland

Leinster’s Johnny Sexton celebrates after a late try against Munster in the Pro14 semi-final. Photograph:  James Crombie/Inpho

Province must frustrate Glasgow and land punches when opportunities arise

Munster’s Joey Carbery clashes with Leinster’s Johnny Sexton last year at Thomond Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Pro14 semi-final winner can move on from crushing Saracens Champions Cup losses

Leinster’s James Lowe during the  captain’s run, at St James’ Park in Newcastle, ahead of the Champions Cup final. Photograph: Inpho

Champions Cup final: Leinster standard in Toulouse win won’t cut it against Saracens

Connacht meet Ulster in a Pro14 quarter-final which isn’t quite a quarter-final this weekend. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

From team lists to six teams in quarter-finals, the rugby numbers game is too complicated

Saracens’ Billy Vunipola is confronted by a Munster fan after his side’s victory in the Champions Cup semi-final at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Folau and Vunipola do not represent community’s views but abusing them no use

A Division 1A game between UCD and Lansdowne at Belfield. Some sunlight needs to shine in the dark places of the AIL. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Pressing need to strengthen ties between four provinces and their AIL clubs

Ireland’s Billy Dardis lifts the trophy and celebrates with team-mates following victory in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series qualifier final at Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong. Photograph: Yyu Chun Christopher Wong/Inpho

After years of neglect, our men’s and women’s teams now ready to compete at the top flight

Referees need help in policing the offside line as the current system is  simply  not working. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Space and creativity are being squeezed out of rugby as offside rules are blithely ignored

Leinster’s Isa Nacewa consoles Racing 92’s Teddy Thomas after the latter’s error handed the Irish province victory in the Champions Cup final in Bilbao last year. Photograph:  James Crombie/Inpho

Champions Cup quarter-finals likely to be decided by defences and who makes fewest mistakes

The Millennium Stadium is a daunting venue for any visiting team. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Result of Six Nations decider in Wales could set course for team’s chances at World Cup

French supporters at the Six Nations Championship Round 3 match between France and Scotland at  Stade de France, Paris, in February. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

The French team is on an upward curve, but the rich seam of local talent must be mined

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

Schmidt’s exit and the slump in form of Sexton, Murray and Best has changed something

 Conor Murray in action against Scotland; his box kicking has been uncharacteristically poor this year.  Photograph:  David Rogers/Getty Images

Ireland must utilise the attacking kick to play the game in their opponents’ half

Ireland’s Tadhg Furlong with England’s Maro Itoje and Mark Wilson at the Aviva Stadium. England came to Dublin to prove themselves, and to regain respect. Now Ireland have to go to Edinburgh and do the same. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Against England we saw that the Irish attack is not designed to chase down a lead

Robbie Henshaw: England will target Ireland’s fullback who hasn’t played in the specialised position for club or country in four years. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Victors will have a massive psychological advantage going into the World Cup

The Ireland players form a guard of honour for New Zealand at the end of last weekend’s match. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Winning the World Cup is not just a dream, it can become a reality

Argentina’s Bautista Delguy scores his try last weekend. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Kiwis want to wipe the memory of Ireland’s win in Chicago from the face of the earth

 Munster’s Peter O’Mahony  during their defeat to Racing 92. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Matt Williams: Racing 92 defeat was the worst Munster performance I have witnessed

The Leinster Rugby Squad at training in UCD, Dublin. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/ INPHO

The demons must be slayed. The last five years of European failure must be revenged

Leinster’s Jordan Larmour in action with  Ryan Elias of Scarlets in February 2018. Photograph: Byran Keane/Inpho

Cullen’s men and opponents Scarlets boast brilliant attacks that can breach any defence

Toulon head coach Fabien Galthie will arrive in Munster under no illusions. Photograph:  Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images

Toulon need to develop the type of team DNA that Munster and Leinster have achieved

 Bundee Aki: played a key role in CJ Stander’s exquisite Irish try which showed the scale of the team’s ambition on the day. Photograph: Paul Harding/PA

The ambition Ireland showed in sealing the Grand Slam can spur team to further glory

The Ireland squad during training at   Carton House, Co Kildare, ahead of their showdown with England. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Ireland can defeat an ancient foe in London on St Patrick’s Day after being labelled as scum

The consistently high performance of the Irish scrum has been a revelation. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

If Ireland repeat their impressive possession stats it will set the platform for a home win

Steff Evans’s try was an example of Ireland’s defensive system failing. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Everyone in the Six Nations is playing running rugby but Ireland need to get their defence right

Chris Farrell has the toughest assignment of any player at the Aviva, the championship will ride on his  performance.Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Outside centre is one of the toughest positions so Ireland need a smooth combination

 Ireland’s Johnny Sexton looks on  as French players form a huddle following their defeat in the Six Nations clash at  Stade de France in Saint-Denis, outside Paris. Photograph: Yoan Valat/EPA

Ireland will expect to convert ample possession into scores against struggling Italy

France  coach Jacques Brunel and his squad during training. They face Ireland in the Six Nations on Saturday. As my Dad would say, “They are Bob Hope’s brother . . . No Hope.” Photograph: Michel Euler/AP

French rugby was a beacon, but with a lack of world-class players, the light has gone out

CJ Stander has been outstanding for Ireland with his powerful running, strong fends and great footwork. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

If Joe Schmidt’s team don’t improve, this powerful England side will demolish them

The volume of noise the Welsh supporters can generate is truly staggering. To call it noise is a gross injustice.  Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

At home, in the midst of song and passion, the red dragon is a very different animal

It was so much fun to watch Eddie Jones and Conor O’Shea speaking without filters to the media after the ruckus at Twickenham. Photograph:  Paul Harding/PA Wire.

A Six Nations so exciting that I can scarcely believe it’s northern hemisphere rugby

Former Australia lock Dan Vickerman died on Saturday, February 18th, aged 37. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty.

Ending of a professional’s playing days can be a difficult transition that must be monitored

Dejected Irish players at the final whistle in Murrayfield. Ireland were overconfident and did not give Scotland  the required respect.  Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

In Rome only a bonus point win will provide Ireland with the required outcome

Ireland Rugby Captain's Run, BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh, Scotland 3/2/2017Paddy JacksonMandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Six Nations promises to see a return to attacking rugby – and hallelujah for that

Stephen Moore has been an inspirational captain for Australia. Photograph: Getty Images.

Ireland need to stop Wallabies’ traditional running game as Michael Cheika makes his mark

 New Zealand Prime Minister John Key meeting with former New Zealand captain Richie McCaw during his visit to Kaikoura on the South Island’s east coast  following this week’s earthquake. Photograph: Mark Mitchell/AFP/Getty Images

Kiwis seek revenge, hoping to inspire those back home affected by the earthquake

Simon Zebo and Cian Healy after Ireland’s historic win in Soldier Field. Photograph: Billy Stickland

Ireland’s obsessive kicking for territory and working for penalties is hopefully gone

Head coach Steve Hansen has been envolved with the New Zealand management team for for over 10 years. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho.

Ireland have all basic tools needed to challenge the best rugby nation but it will take time

Dejected Irish fullback Jared Payne after Ireland’s late, late loss to South Africa in the second Test of Ireland’s rugby tour of  South Africa on Saturday. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Joe Schmidt has to lift weary team after blowing lifetime opportunity in Johannesburg

Springbok’s Willie le Roux is tackled by Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw and Jamie Heaslip at Newlands Stadium in Cape Town. Photograph: Nic Bothma/EPA

Defence won game but signs of more expansive attack is the real cause for optimism

Jamie Heaslip’s first try was an absolute belter. The offload from Simon Zebo (above), like all offloads, shattered the Italian defensive structure. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland thrived for two seasons under Joe Schmidt but have stood still in this campaign

Dejected looking Ireland players after the Six Nations defeat to France at Parc de France last month. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho.

Further decline looks inevitable unless there is a change of attitude and style

Tall tales: England coach Eddie Jones would never think about putting massive pressure on Ireland’s lineout, because if he did, it might ruin Ireland’s platform to go forward. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Nobody wants to see Ireland score tries when they can see a variety of kicks being used

Rob Kearney was the only Irish player to offload against France and even that went straight to the opposition. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

With proper evaluation losing games can benefit Ireland going forward

Ireland’s Jack McGrath in action against Wales. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Les Bleus attacking display against Italy last weekend does not bode well for Ireland

 Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt with his team. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Six Nations has lost its international relevance as Southern Hemisphere loses interest

Japan players celebrate their momentous victory over South Africa in the pool section – the Brave Blossoms missed out on a place in the quarter-finals but won the hearts of the rugby world. Photograph: Getty Images

‘Irish Times’ team looks back at an eventful tournament and pick their highs and lows

Victory for Australia will see their hooker and captain Stephen Moore, who lived in Galway until he was five years old, collect the William Webb Ellis trophy. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/AFP Photo/Getty Images

Aussies and Kiwis are the best of friends – but all affection vanishes on the field of play

Aaron Smith: his Otago  Highlanders team  were playing at a tempo way above anything I had experienced. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Constant box-kicking from the scrumhalf not going to trouble Southern Hemisphere teams

 With the Pumas entering the Rugby Championship in 2012, it was the time for decisive leadership and action. Photo: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

Without changing to a running game, any hope of defeating the top nations was a folly

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt: “Unless Ireland can find a running game both Argentina and New Zealand seem to be a league above.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

It’s not unpatriotic to question the lack of a cutting edge in Joe Schmidt’s side’s attack

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