Connacht’s newly-qualified Bundee Aki is set to battle with Ulster’s Stuart McCloskey to partner Robbie Henshaw in the centre. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Following on from last summer’s tour to the USA and Japan, to all intents and purposes yesterday’s Ireland squad announcement continued the countdown (...)

Iain Henderson will captain Ulster for the first time in Friday’s Champions Cup opening game against Wasps. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Iain Henderson will captain Ulster for the first time in Friday night’s Champions Cup opening game against Wasps at Kingspan Stadium (7.45pm). The 25(...)

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

Ulster v Connacht, Kingspan Stadium (7.35, live on BBC 2 and TG4) Let the jostling begin. Although it falls outside the direct focus of securing a (...)

Munster’s CJ Stander and Jack Conan of Leinster battle for the ball. They could also be battling for Ireland number 8 shirt. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Can anyone read Joe Schmidt’s mind before the wounded Springboks come to Dublin on November 11th? Help is at hand. Leinster and Munster crossing path(...)

 Iain Henderson (Ulster), Dean Budd (Bennetton Treviso), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Isa Nacewa (Leinster), CJ Velleman (Southern Kings), Mark Bennett (Edinburgh) and Cory Hill (Newport Gwent Dragons) at the launch of the Guinness PRO14 season at the Aviva. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

From a Pro14 press release: “It promises to be a sensational season . . . ” Guinness and Sky Sports certainly hope so. The good folk behind Europe’s (...)

Ireland’s fullback Andrew Conway eludes the tackle of  Japan winger Kenki Fukuoka  during the Test match in Tokyo. Photograph: kazuhiro Nogi/Getty

Ireland 35 Tries: G Ringrose, K Marmion, R Ruddock, J van der Flier, S Reidy Cons: P Jackson (5) Japan 13 Tries: K Matsushima, A Yamada Pen: J Og(...)

Ireland players and management pose for a photo with sumo wrestlers at Shikoroyama-beya in Koto-ward in Tokyo. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

For this dry run ahead of the 2019 World Cup, it’s long established that Paddy Jackson would feature at outhalf against Japan on Saturday at the Shizu(...)

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt: “There are guys on standby, but what happens is when they go away on holiday as they normally would, they just take their boots and their gumshield.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Victorious post-match interactions between Joe Schmidt and press reporters feel like the school principal inadvertently wandering behind the sheds. E(...)

Joe Schmidt: “The door is never closed on a player playing externally. But it becomes a very difficult calculation.” Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

For those who missed the memo, the IRFU policy of not selecting players that venture overseas has hardened. “That’s probably a fair summation,” said (...)

Ulster’s Ruan Pienaar will play his last game for the province this weekend. Photograph: Inpho

Roger Wilson, Ulster’s most capped player, will earn his 221st and final cap for the province when he starts at number eight in Saturday’s sold out cl(...)

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