Ulster outhalf Christian Lealiifano is playing his final game for the province before returning to Australia.  Photograph: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker

Injury-hit side needs a repeat of last week’s winning performance against La Rochelle

Rose Byrne: mans the outhalf berth for Leinster against Montpellier. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho

Leo Cullen’s rejigged team aiming to make it six wins from six in Pool Three

Who needs what in the final round of fixtures to qualify for the knockout stages?

Robbie Henshaw  tackled against Glasgow Warriors in th European Champions Cup.The centre played 55 minutes, getting through reams of high calibre work Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Newcomers James Lowe and Jordan Larmour are helping drive the team forward

Montpellier’s Fijian wing Nemani Nadolo has a good try-scoring record against Leinster. Photograph: Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty

Leo Cullen’s side have conceded six tries to wingers in five previous pool games

Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong at Leinster training. The handling by forwards has been key to  Leinster’s expansive style of play. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho

Visit to Montpellier is chance to end long Leinster’s losing streak in France

Leinster’s Jordan Larmour scores a try against Ulster.  Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Leinster backs coach pleased with progress of 20-year-old ahead of squad announcement

Niko Matawalu collides with Johnny Sexton as the Leinster outhalf scores a try at the RDS. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Outhalf has recovered from bang he suffered against Glasgow

John O’Sullivan looks at what we learned from the penultimate round of fixtures

 Leinster’s James Lowe scores a try against Glasgow. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Leinster backs light up the RDS as Glasgow put to the sword in Champions Cup rout

Plenty still to play for in next weekend’s final round of Champions Cup fixtures

Leinster’s Scott Fardy scores a try during the Champions Cup game against Glasgow Warriors at the RDS. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

James Fardy and Isa Nacewa both grab doubles in Leinster's RDS landslide victory

La Rochelle’s Fijian centre Levani Botia will pose a big threat to  Ulster in the Champions Cup clash at the Kingspan Stadium. Photograph:  Xavier Leoty/AFP/Getty Images)

Recent performances suggest province have it all to do against impressive La Rochelle

 Former Leinster centre Brendan Macken is included in  Wasps’ midfield for their pivotal clash with Harlequins at The Stoop. Photograph:  Stu Forster/Getty Images

Wasps and Exeter Chiefs eager to secure wins that will put them back in contention

 Scarlets’ Leigh Halfpenny:   along with Johnny McNicholl he pulled up lame during the captain’s run. Photograph:  Ian Cook/Inpho

Welsh side already without key players ahead of pivotal Champions Cup fixture

In the last pool game Munster come across a familiar face in Ben Whitehouse – he has refereed them three times in the Pro14 this season. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Analysis of main match officials and their particular areas of interest now common

Andrew Conway impedes Leinster’s James Lowe, leading to a penalty try and a yellow card against the Munster player during the Pro14 game at Thomond Park on St Stephen’s Day. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Conceding penalties due to skills errors must be avoided, says CJ Stander

Connacht’s Niyi Adeolokun and Tiernan O’Halloran in action against Munster’s Simon during Munster’s 39-13 win at Thomond Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Emphasis on line speed and aggression in tackles pays off for Johann van Graan’s side

Munster’s Chris Farrell in action against Connacht’s Pita Ahki during his side’s 39-13 victory  at Thomond Park. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Coach happy with Connacht win ‘but in terms of bigger picture, it’s a thing of the past now’

Munster’s Conor Murray during his team’s win over Connacht at Thomond Park. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

The host’s pack produced a relentless intensity that wore down a gutsy Connacht

Garry Ringrose is tackled by Connacht’s Tom Farrell and Bundee Aki. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Ireland centre improving with every game six months on from shoulder surgery

Thomas Farrell: has been in impressive form for Connacht this season. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Absence of an Ireland development squad has left a vacuum for emerging talent

Ulster’s Kieran Treadwell and Nick Timoney tackle Niall Scannell on New Year’s Day. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Fallout from defeat to Ulster in Belfast significant for Johann van Graan’s side

Leinster’s Josh van der Flier tackling Connacht forward Shane Delahunt during his side’s victory at the RDS. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Province primed for Ulster clash as McGrath, Leavy and Byrne recover from knocks

Jack McGrath leading his team out as Leinster captain against Munster: 'It was a massive honour and a bit of a surprise to be honest.' Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Dedicated loosehead prop may get to reprise captaincy role for Leinster this weekend

Leinster’s James Lowe is tackled by Bundee Aki and Niyi Adeolokun of Connacht in their Guinness Pro14 clash at the RDS in Dublin on Monday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Coach Kieran Keane praises effort, but admits Connacht let their emotions take over

Luke McGrath crosses for Leinster in their narrow win over Connacht. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Keane’s side leave Dublin with just a losing bonus point to show for their huge efforts

Jordan Larmour in action against Munster at Thomond Park. In terms of touches to points ratio, no one could eclipse his personal contribution. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

So much to admire in fullback’s footwork, peripheral vision and decision-making

Leinster’s Dan Leavy and Jamison Gibson Park celebrate the win over Munster at Thomond Park. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

In-form flanker keenly aware of battle for starting places within Leinster camp

Former Italy boss Jacques Brunel has been named as the new French head coach. Photograph: Getty Images

In wake of poor 2017 results, Guy Noves replaced by former Italy and Perpignan coach

Leinster’s Tadhg Furlong is tackled by Exeter Chiefs’ Matt Kvesic during the  Champions Cup  clash at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Visit to Stade Altrad to face Montpellier could be pivotal game to decide pool honours

Luke McGrath crosses Leinster’s match-winning score. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Outhalf forced off with head injury but hosts show huge steel in second half at the Aviva

 John Cooney scored 27 points for Ulster on Friday night. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Ulster’s six-try, bonus-point success was less facile than the final margin suggests

Jacob Stockdale: “You have to take everything with a pinch of salt. It’s only good performances that create the buzz.”   Photograph:  Henry Browne/Getty Images

In-form winger will pose a major threat to Harlequins at the Kingspan Stadium

Iain Henderson: led his Ulster team-mates from the front against Harlequins last week. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Harlequins missing some big names for the Champions Cup visit to Belfast

Kieran Keane: will want   to see an incremental improvement in Connacht’s playing stats as their European adventure gathers momentum. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho

Green shoots in the province’s development process evident in Challenge Cup games

Iain Henderson: will captain Ulster at Harlequins as Rory Best misses out through injury. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Visitors will require more bristling aggression from pack to prosper at The Stoop

 Exeter Chiefs’ Jack Nowell   celebrates with team-mate Gareth Steenson (left) after scoring a  try during the Aviva Premiership semi-final against Saracens at Sandy Park.  Photograph: Steve Bardens/Getty Images

Tony Rowe and Rob Baxter have overseen the impressive progress of a model modern club

 Gareth Steenson:  “We are very excited about the game. We know we have to be on our mettle but we feel we are in a good place.” Photograph:  Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Exeter Chiefs outhalf ready to face former Ireland U-21 team-mate Jonathan Sexton

 Scotland centre Huw Jones dives over the line to score a try against Australia. His return to the starting line-up will be welcomed by Glasgow. Photograph: Andy Buchanan/Getty

Clash with fellow-strugglers Montpellier should prove an entertaining affair

Owen Williams of Leicester Tigers is tackled by Keith Earls  and Jaco Taute of Munster during the European Rugby Champions Cup match  at Welford Road in December 2016. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Rugby stats: Provinces set to square off against English clubs in Champions Cup

“This is a massive year for everyone. There is a core group of us where this is everything to us. If we don’t get into the World Series then what do you do? Go into a 9-5 job?”

Leg go by Leinster, the Ireland Sevens team offered a new lease of life for Dardis

Dave Kearney scores his Ireland’s second try against Fiji at the Aviva. Photograph:  Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Intercepted pass dominates wing’s thoughts despite try-scoring display on return

Ulster centre grew into his debut after bruising start against Fiji

Cian Healy had a big impact off the bench against Fiji. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

John O’Sullivan runs the rule over Joe Schmidt’s side after a narrow win in Dublin

At 6’ 5” and over 135 kgs (over 21 stone), Nemani Nadolo is more than a handful for a winger. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Big, strong, full of flair and possessing world-class talent

Chris Farrell makes his Test debut in the Ireland midfield against Fiji. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Chris Farrell makes his debut while a number of players start a Test for the first time

Ireland’s  Paul Dunne tees off on the second hole during the first round of the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates  in Dubai. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

All the action from desert swings in Dubai to Ireland looking for redemption in Perth

Jonathan Sexton and Tadhg Furlong of Ireland tackle Siya Kolisi of South Africa during last Saturday’s Guinness Series match at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photograph:  Lorraine O’Sullivan

Rugby Stats: Springboks dominated possession, but Ireland never let up on the tackling

CJ Stander successfully negotiated his way through Ireland’s 38-3 victory over the Springboks at the weekend.Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

Munster number eight believes new coach Johann van Graan will hit the ground running

Tadhg Furlong and Dave Kilcoyne during Ireland training. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

The Munster prop and Leinster lock both sat out Ireland training with slight knocks

Andrew Conway breaks clear to score Ireland’s opening try against South Africa at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Former schoolboy star has taken circuitous route to international rugby

Ireland won the frontrow battle against South Africa. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Farrell deserves credit for miserly defence while Sexton and Murray control the game

South Africa’s players react to their defeat  at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Getty Images

A night to forget for Allister Coetzee and his team as they suffer record defeat to Ireland

The South African team line up after the Captain’s Run at the Radisson St Helen’s Hotel in Dublin. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

John O’Sullivan profiles Ireland’s opponents at the beginning of their northern hemisphere tour

Ireland players get ready for the squad photograph after the  Captain’s Run at  the Aviva Stadium on Friday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

John O’Sullivan runs down Joe Schmidt’s XV for the opening autumn international

There are four Ireland teams in action in the coming days plus tennis, darts, GAA, golf and cycling

Bundee Aki at an  Ireland  training session in  Carton House, Co Kildare. Photograph:  Billy Stickland/Inpho

Few would quibble with impact Payne and Stander have made for adopted country

Ireland and Munster player Keith Earls expects a physical game on Saturday when Ireland play South Africa. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

In-form Ireland back says ‘phenomenal’ youngster Jacob Stockdale ticks all the boxes

  Kieran Treadwell  will join up with the Ireland squad on Wednesday. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Ulster’s Kieran Treadwell the only absentee due to delayed flight

Sean Cronin starts at hooker for Leinster’s clash with Glasgow. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Seán Cronin, Adam Byrne, Dave Kearney and Conor O’Brien among those selected

Munster’s Rhys Marshall and Chris Cloete during training. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Darren O’Shea and Sam Arnold in senior squad for first time as Jean Kleyn returns

Tim Schmidt in action for Terenure College in 2014: the son of Ireland coach Joe has been included in the Ireland Sevens squad. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Tim Schmidt one of six new players added to squad for Silicon Valley Sevens tournament

Ireland’s bid director and IRFU’s chief operating officer Kevin Potts (right): “We have reflected on the report in a measured way; we haven’t panicked.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland’s bid director says country will relentlessly pursue right to host tournament

Tim Schmidt, pictured here playing a senior cup match  for Terenure College in 2014, has been named in the Ireland Sevens squad for this weekend’s  Silicon Valley Sevens tournament in San Jose, California. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Son of Ireland coach one of six players added for tough assignment in California

In relation to the Irish stadiums’ guarantees, there’s no doubt that World Rugby believed that Ireland had its homework done – it’s just that it hadn’t brought it to class unlike the other two pupils

Ireland will now have appeal to voting countries to ignore bottom-line mathematics

World Rugby’s Technical Review Group released their findings on Tuesday. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

John O’Sullivan looks at key areas in World Rugby’s Technical Review Group report

Páirc Uí Chaoimh was yet to be completed when the stadiums included in the Irish bid were assessed. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Venues considered ‘higher risk’ due to work needed while ‘cities lack prior experience’

Ireland’s bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup has been dealt a major blow after a technical review group endorsed South Africa’s bid.  Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

World Rugby’s Technical Review group rank Ireland last in five of the six hosting criteria

Ugo Monye: brings a touch of expertise combined with  humour to his analyst’s role.

Viewers suffer the bland and inane before unearthing a nugget or two of wisdom

Leinster’s Josh van der Flier and Barry Daly could be out until the new year. Photo: Gary Carr/Inpho

The pair have both undergone surgical procedures for syndesmosis, suffered last week

Munster’s Rory Scannell will be keen to prove a point after being omitted from Ireland’s squad for the Autumn Internationals. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Announcement of Joe Schmidt’s Ireland squad will add spice to interprovincial clash

Simon Zebo has been left out of the Ireland squad for the November internationals after confirming his move to Racing 92. Photo: Inpho

Bundee Aki, Adam Byrne, Chris Farrell and Darren Sweetnam could make their debuts

 Munster’s John Ryan makes a break  before being tackled by  Paddy Jackson of Ulster: Munster  were  unbeaten away   in matches immediately after the commencement of European fixtures  during the 2012-2016 period.   Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Leinster look set to continue unbeaten streak when Irish rivalries are renewed this weekend

Andrew Trimble:  will pop up from the blindside wing, taking passes inside or outside outhalf Christian Lealiifano. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Andrew Trimble, Tommy Bowe and Darren Cave all selected to start in France

David Kilcoyne: he scored one try, might have had another and gave Munster multiple positive gain-lines in an outstanding display  against Castres. Photograph: Dan Sheridan

Munster pair stand out as making a huge number of metres despite their positions

Australia head coach Michael Cheika gives instructions to his players during a Wallabies training session earlier this month. Photograph: Gabriel Rossi/Getty Images

This will be the first time that the Lansdowne Cup will be contested over three games

 Leinster’s Tadhg Furlong is  tackled during their victory over Munster on Saturday. Photograph:  Billy Stickland/Inpho

Despite results Leinster’s tackling could be sharper while turnovers are hurting Ulster

Leinster’s Devin Toner and Peter O’Mahony of Munster compete for the ball during their Pro14 clash at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Analysing the key aspects of both side's performances before the big European kick-off

Paul Dunne of Ireland celebrates making a birdie on the 16th during day two of the  Alfred Dunhill Championship at Carnoustie. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images

Tommy Fleetwood cards course-record 63 at Carnoustie to share lead with defending champion Tyrrell Hatton

Robbie Henshaw makes his first start  of the season for Leinster on Saturday. Photograph: Inpho

There’s no place for Sean O’Brien as Munster go with Tyler Bleyendaal and Ian Keatley

Stuart McCloskey:  has been very effective on the gainline so far this season for Ulster. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Defeat to Zebre will have concentrated minds within Jono Gibbes’ Ulster squad

Ulster’s Iain Henderson is named in the backrow for Connacht encounter. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Matt Healy back for Connacht, as hosts make nine changes for Kingspan Stadium clash

Leinster’s Jack Conan on the attack against the Southern Kings at a sparsely populated Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Photograph: Ryan Wilkisky/Inpho

Almost 14,000 that watched Zebre clash more than doubles record first home crowd

Neville Furlong in action for Ireland during the 1992  tour of New Zealand. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Garryowen and Connacht player scored Ireland’s last four-point try on Test debut in New Zealand

Garth McGimpsey (Royal Portrush) pitching to the 10th green in the semi-final of the AIG Senior Cup at Carton House. Photograph: Pat Cashman

Portrush veteran loses after 28 years away as victors look to finish job against Limerick

Ballybunion’s hero Brian Slattery and team-mates (from left) Philip Byrne, Ronan Cross, Frank Geary and Adrian Walsh after their victory in the final of the AIG Junior Cup at Carton House.  hotograph:  Pat Cashman

Brian Slattery comes from three down after eight to win 2/1 on 17th thanks to 100-ft putt

Joe Lyons  of Galway driving at the eighth in the AIG Barton Shield at Carton House on Wednesday. Photograph:  Pat Cashman

Hurling giant gives talk ahead of All-Ireland Cup and Shields finals at Carton House

Ireland captain Rory Best could miss the November tests through injury. Photograph: Inpho

Leinster fullback Rob Kearney ruled out for six to eight weeks with a hamstring injury

Rory Scholes: makes his first start of the season for Connacht against Dragons at Rodney Parade. Photograph: Tommy Grealy/Inpho

Head coach Bernard Jackman hoping to lead Welsh outfit to a first league victory

Leigh Halfpenny: will man the fullback berth for Scarlets against Ulster. Photograph: Simon King/Camerasport/Inpho

Reigning champions have three Lions available against depleted home side in Belfast

Wayne Barnes will referee Leinster’s Champions Cup opener. Photograph: Inpho

England’s Wayne Barnes will take charge of Leinster’s clash with Montpellier at the RDS

Ulster’s Tommy Bowe: “I feel fit. I feel probably as good as I felt in a few years. If that call came I’d be more than delighted.” Photograph: Giuseppe Fama/Inpho

Monaghan man finds himself wearing number 13 for Ulster in early league matches

Ulster assistant coach Dwayne Peel: “It is going to be a tough, tough game for us.”

Pro14: Skills coach admits Scarlets are coming to Kingspan stadium as the form team

The Leinster squad going through their paces at training  at   UCD, Dublin. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Rob Kearney, Dan Leavy, Devin Toner and Scott Fardy among those not travelling

 Garry Ringrose: player  racking up 22 matches for Leinster in 2015-2016 and then last season lining out for a further 17 times for the province. Photograph:  James Crombie/Inpho

Player who underwent surgery after Japan tour seeks to improve ‘all aspects of game’

Bernard Laporte: allegedly intervened on behalf of Mohed Altrad and Montpellier. Photograph: Jean Catuffe/Getty

Emmanuel Macron opts out of France’s delegation to World Rugby in London

Cork Constitution’s Niall Kenneally and team-mates celebrate the Division 1A final victory over Clontarf at the Aviva. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Champions’ captain expecting another competitive season in Div 1A of Ulster Bank League

New Ulster coach Jono Gibbes. Photograph: Darren Kidd/Inpho

New Zealander’s relationship with Les Kiss made his decision an easy one

Rory O’Loughlin: “I got great feedback off the coaches on what I need to do this season and what to improve on.”  Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Leinster man aiming to build on the huge progress made over the last 12 months

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