Niall Scannell takes a lineout throw during the “A” Interprovincial at Thomond Park in Limerick between Munster A and Connacht Eagles. Photograph: James Crombie/INPHO

The four Irish provinces have enjoyed contrasting preparation for the start of the Pro14 tournament at the weekend. Munster and Connacht used what wer(...)

 Connacht’s Tiernan O’Halloran in action for Benetton in October. The player returns from injury to face Munster at the Sportsground. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Connacht v Munster, Sportsground, Saturday, 5.15pm - Live on TG4, Free Sports The obvious impact of the national player management programme notwiths(...)

Toulouse players celebrate the victory over Bath at the Recreation Ground last weekend. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Toulouse are back, literally if not figuratively. Having won the Heineken Champions Cup a joint record four times and been ever-presents since the to(...)

Joey Carbery scoring for  Clontarf: the outhalf had a stunning, two-try full competitive debut for Leinster in last week’s win over Treviso. Photograph: colm O’Neill/Inpho

The Ulster Bank League kicks off again next weekend with a full programme of 25 matches across all five divisions of 10 clubs; that’s 450 regular sea(...)

Cian Healy: his “character and mental strength are incredible”. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Leinster v Benetton Treviso, RDS, 7.35. On TV: Live TG4. Leinster begin the season with as much uncertaintyas the opening weekend of any new campai(...)

Pushing on: “Head down, slightly sidewards and gone like a hare. That was the ultimate Ultan.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

When Ultan Dillane turned 18 in November 2011, he begged his coaches at Tralee RFC for a game with their first team. The squad travelled to Waterford (...)

Munster’s Doug Howlett is tackled by Scott Waldrom of New Zealand in their 2008 match: “I don’t think I felt more alive in a match.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Every wannabe David, with understandable trepidation, is already lining himself up against a rugby Goliath. New Zealand against Namibia. Australia (...)

Rob Kearney: “We’re in the process of putting together a sort of mentoring programme. You have to be very careful how you do it because it’s very important that we’re not creating a hierarchy in the organisation”. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Rob Kearney is accumulating a portfolio of responsibilities that includes a new role as chairman of Irupa and another as one of two trusted lieutenant(...)