Joe Schmidt reveals Six Nations squad, history shows Munster finish well

Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team

Richard Keogh and Derby County celebrate his winning penalty against Southampton. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty

Richard Keogh and Derby County celebrate his winning penalty against Southampton. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty

The 2019 Six Nations is looming and yesterday Joe Schmidt announced his 31-man squad for the tournament, as Ireland look to defend their Championship title in the Kiwi’s final year in charge. And there are three new call-ups - with the uncapped Connacht trio of Jack Carty, Tom Farrell and Caolin Blade all selected. Outhalf Carty’s inclusion comes at the expense of Leinster counterpart Ross Byrne, who missed out in what Schmidt called, “an incredibly tight call.” There are also places for Iain Henderson and Sean O’Brien fitness depending, while the absent Dan Leavy is likely to be called into the squad once he has recovered from a calf injury. Ireland begin the defence of their crown against England at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday February 2nd.

Before the Six Nations can begin the final round of Heineken Champions Cup pool games take place this weekend, with Leinster, Munster and Ulster all knowing a victory would see them progress into the knockout stages. And in this morning’s rugby statistic column John O’Sullivan has looked at each province’s record in their final pool fixture since the inception of the tournament in 1995. He writes: “Indeed Munster are on a run of 11 straight victories in their final pool game, eight at home as well as victories over Montauban, Northampton Saints and Benetton on the road, a hugely impressive sequence of results. . . In contrast Leinster have played away in 16 of their 23 matches in the final pool game, winning 12, losing eight and drawing three.” Johann van Graan’s side welcome Exeter to Thomond Park on Saturday, while Leinster travel to play Wasps on Sunday. Ulster meanwhile have won 11 of their 23 round six fixtures - six of these coming away from home. They travel to Leicester this weekend.

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