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

Devin Toner: “I would be the first to say  Leinster put a lot of faith in me, a lot of work, and I am really grateful for it.”   Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Towering secondrow could make his 200th appearance for Leinster at RDS on Friday

Luke McGrath is available for Leinster selection for Friday night’s clash with Cardiff. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Jordi Murphy must prove his fitness ahead of Friday night’s Pro 14 clash with Cardiff

Jarrad Butler of Connacht. His side face a tough opening game against  the Warriors. Photograph: Getty Images

Irish internationals Kieran Marmion, Finlay Bealham and Ultan Dillane named in starting team

Scott Fardy: the Australian international  will play his  first competitive match for Leinster

Rob Kearney and captain Isa Nacewa to provide experience in youthful backline

Munster’s James Hart in action during  the pre-eason friendly against Worcester Warriors at the  Sixways Stadium, Worcester. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

James Hart and prop Ciaran Park set to make their competitive debuts for province

Stuarat McCloskey pursued by some of his team-mates in a light-hearted moment during Ulster’s captain’s run  at the Kingspan Stadium  in Belfast. Photograph: Stephen Hamilton/Presseye/Inpho

Jono Gibbes looking to a winning start as province’s new head coach

Seán Cronin at a Leinster  squad training session at  Rosemount, UCD, Dublin. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Leinster hooker has adopted a new attitude after been out of action for six months with injuries

Jamie Heaslip and Jack Conan in action during training with Leinster’s squad at Rosemount, UCD.  Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Number eight has been out with a back injury since eve of game against England

Willie Duggan: popular Kilkenny man won 41 caps for Ireland between 1975-1984. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Ireland's outstanding number eight dies at age 67 of a suspected heart attack

Leinster applaud their fans after beating Bath in a pre-season friendly. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho

However, Leinster’s Lions will not be available until probably round five of the Pro14

 Kerry’s Kieran Donaghy under pressure from Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea last weekend.

Mayo or Kerry? Dublin or Tyrone? John Evans, Ronan McGarrity and Ciarán Murtagh have their say

Rassie Erasmus will return to take up a position with the South African rugby union later this year. Photograph: Inpho

Director of Rugby says he’ll depart ahead of schedule if suitable replacement found

Saracens are the current holders of the Champions Cup. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

The three Irish provinces will face English opposition in back to back European ties

New Zealand players celebrate with try scorer Selica Winiata. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

World’s two top sides complete their pools unbeaten with wins over USA and Canada

New Zealand players celebrate the victory over Hong Kong in the Pool B clash at Billings Park UCD. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

England take on the USA while New Zealand lock horns with strong Canada side

Jack McGrath featured in all three Lions Tests against the All Blacks. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty

Ireland prop featured in seven of 10 games and came off the bench in all three Tests

France’s Chloe Pelle scores  against Australia in their Women’s Rugby World Cup encounter. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Serene progress contrasts with Irish struggles but hosts won last Six Nations meeting

It doesn’t get tougher than trying to end Dublin’s bid for an historic three-in-a row

Alex Matthews scores during England’s opening win over Spain. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Gulf in class clear as a sparse crowd turns up to watch World Cup opener at Belfield Bowl

Lions  Jack McGrath, Jonathan Sexton and Tadhg Furlong in their new Leinster kit.  Photograph: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Experienced outhalf looking forward to getting back into action with Leinster

 Mo Farah of Great Britain celebrates winning gold in the Men’s 10,000 metres final at the  16th IAAF World Athletics Championships in the  London Stadium. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty

Treatment of Gatlin in stark contrast to the refusal to ask questions about Mo Farah’s coach

Connacht have signed Andrew Deegan from the Waratahs. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

John O’Sullivan takes a look at where the four teams are at before the new campaign

New Leinster signing Scott Fardy. Photograph: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

39-time capped Wallaby secondrow: ‘To join a club like this is a fantastic opportunity’

 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, home of the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth.  Photograph:  Richard Huggard/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Inclusion of Southern Kings and Toyota Cheetahs broadly welcomed by provinces

Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, home of the Southern Kings who, alongside Toyota Cheetahs, have been added to  Pro14

Format of tournament changes with arrival of Southern Kings and Toyota Cheetahs

John O’Sullivan (The Irish Times), Arklow captain Mark Byrne, lady captain Bernie Darcy, secretary Bob Deignan and Tom Nallen, head of Customer-Commercial at Allianz, at Mount Juliet Golf Club. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan.

Kilkenny venue basked in sunshine for the Allianz/Irish Times Officers’ Challenge

“Snakebite” Peter Wright, whose hairstyle is that of a permanently surprised cockatoo. Photograph: Harry Trump/Getty Images

Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor plays the villain, as Snakebite and Gurney take centre stage

The Women’s Rugby World Cup trophy which the best team’s will battle it out for in Ireland in August. Photo: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

All you need to know ahead of the big event taking place next month in Ireland

Ireland women’s rugby head coach Tom Tierney and captain Niamh Briggs. Ireland are ranked fifth in the world. Photograph:  INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Captain Niamh Briggs wants squad to embrace the fact that they are at home

Nora Stapleton, pictured during an ireland trial match in June, is part of Tom Tierney’s Women’s Rugby World Cup squad. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Munster scrumhalf Nicole Cronin is the only uncapped player in the 28-woman squad

Munster’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus: initial reports suggesting he would return to South Africa in a capacity as director of rugby surfaced in April. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

‘There was a nine-month clause in this particular case,’ confirms IRFU CEO Browne

Irish captain, Niamh Briggs was at the GPO to unveil a special €1 postage stamp celebrating Ireland’s hosting of the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

IRFU hoping that it’s a precursor for winning the rights to hosts the 2023 men’s equivalent

The IRFU have issued a warning to the provinces to improve their finances. Photograph: Inpho

IRFU announce deficit of €2.8 million, the first shortfall since the 2007-2008 season

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