Ireland’s Paddy Jackson looks on dejectedly as Italy’s Sergio Parisse celebrates his side winning a late penalty in Rome in 2013. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

By kickoff the best laid plans had begun to unspool. Outhalf Paddy Jackson came in as a replacement for Johnny Sexton, and Ian Madigan had been drafte(...)

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(...)

 Cian Healy  is swallowed up by the Racing 92 defence. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

When you know how to win, you know how to win, and - as is so often the case in finals - Leinster found a way. In the process they became only the sec(...)

France warm up for the game against Canada. “The World Cup is really something special in France.  It’s a competition that works well with the French for some reason.” Photo: Darren Staples/Reuters

And so it has come to pass pretty much exactly as expected. France were long ago cast as 18/1 outsiders, incapable of finishing in the top half of the(...)

Jared Payne taking part in Ireland’s squad training session at Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, Wales. Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Jared Payne and Rob Kearney will almost certainly start for Ireland in their World Cup pool decider against France in Cardiff on Sunday. The squad ar(...)

Mathieu Bastareaud, who looks leaner and fitter, in action against Canada at Stadium MK, Milton Keynes. Photograph: Reuters

A vaincre sans peril, on triomphe sans gloire. Roughly translated: To win without peril (is) to triumph without glory. There was a time when French(...)

France’s prop Rabah Slimani (C) rides a tackle from Italy’s back row Samuela Vunisa (2L) to score France’s first try during the Pool D match of the 2015 Rugby World Cup between France and Italy at Twickenham stadium. Photograph: AFP PHOTO / Adrian Dennis

France 32 - 10 Italy It was all blue, more French blue than Italian blue, in Twickenham on Saturday night in Pool D. But it was hardly a spectacle of (...)

Toulon winger Bryan Habana dives over to score a try in the first half of extra time in the Champions Cup semi-final against Leinster at Stade Vélodrome in Marseille. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Toulon 25 Leinster 20An increasingly nerve-jangling, tryless epic for 80 minutes, burst into even more dramatic life in 20 minutes of extra-time. This(...)

Mathieu Bastareaud of Toulon runs with the ball against Leinster during the European Cup quarter-final match at Felix Mayol Stadium last year. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images.

To put the scale of the task facing Leinster into perspective, never have they been handed a more difficult knockout game in Europe’s blue riband. Put(...)

 Toulon’s Ali Williams in action against Wasps in their European Champions Cup quarter-final. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

The Toulon experiment is hardly new to elite sport. See Real Madrid. Or go further back to the 1970s when New York Cosmos temporarily wooed a US audi(...)