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6 Nations

Big Calls Cause a Stir; Ireland vs England Preview

The teams have been named and there are some interesting calls on both sides as Ireland and England collide once more

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Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP / Getty Images

It’s getting closer and closer to 16:45 on Saturday when two old foes clash at the Aviva as Ireland host England in the 6 Nations.

Both teams have been named and they have caused some debate, but will the changes pay off?

The hosts and reigning Grand Slam champions have called on their big players, however Robbie Henshaw has been selected at full-back ahead of veteran 15 Rob Kearney.

Kearney has been recovering from an injury and returned to playing duties last weekend with Leinster as they hosted the Scarlets, but made a massive mistake leading to a try and isn’t ready in Schmidt’s eyes.

Instead, his Leinster team-mate, Henshaw, usually at centre, comes in and has opened up the selection battle for the World Cup later in the year.

Elsewhere on the park, captain Rory Best starts alongside Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong in a formidable front-three.

Behind them, Leinster duo Devin Toner and James Ryan partner up once more. While Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander and Josh van der Flier make up the pack, with van der Flier being preferred to Sean O’Brien at seven.

Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton are the half-backs, with Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose continuing their championship winning partnership in the centre.

Last year’s top try scorer and player of the tournament, Jacob Stockdale, will be looking to continue his fine form at 11, with Keith Earls on the opposite wing, and Henshaw at 15.

The bench sees Dave Kilcoyne picked over Jack McGrath, and Quinn Roux gets a seat ahead of Ultan Dillane. Elsewhere, John Cooney is in line for his championship debut, and Jordan Larmour is selected as the 23rd man.

If Ireland’s selection turned a few heads, England’s certainly raised some eyebrows with some debate as players battled for places.

Like Ireland, they have decided to pick a different full-back, with Elliot Daly starting ahead of Mike Brown, who, like Kearney fails to make his team’s 23.
The visitors have had a few boosts since their November series and none more so then having both Vunipola brothers at their disposal.

Mako Vunipola is joined in the front-row by Jamie George and Kyle Sinckler.

In the second-row Maro Itoje is partnered by George Kruis, who wins his place over the likes of Joe Lauchbury and Courtney Lawes.

The back-row is made up of Mark Wilson, Tom Curry, and Billy Vunipola. While Ben Youngs comes in at scrum-half alongside captain and fly-half Owen Farrell.

In the centre, Manu Tuilagi is in line for his first 6 Nations start in over five years, with Henry Slade by his side.

Jack Nowell has been rewarded for his impressive form at Exeter with a starting role at 11. Jonny May occupies the No 14 jersey, with Daly finishing the starting XV.

Their bench will have a significant role to play with the likes of Courtney Lawes, Nathan Hughes, George Ford, and Chris Ashton to call upon. Wasp’s Dan Robson is also in line for his test debut.

Speaking ahead of the match both coaches are confident and explained their decisions.

Ireland head coach, Joe Schmidt, has predicted an exciting match and believes the two teams will go toe to toe on Saturday.

“It will be exhilarating and edge of the seat. I don’t think there will be a huge amount between the teams. People are going to be entertained,” he said.

Schmidt will have made a few players sweat with his logic behind the Henshaw selection too, admitting this may become a permanent position for the Athlone native.

“Maybe even as a longer-term option with only 31 going to the World Cup you need guys who can be versatile. There is probably a little bit of that as well as Robbie being a good player and recognised fullback anyway,” he said.

His opposite number, Eddie Jones, has told the media that his team is ready for Ireland and claim a first win in the Aviva since 2013.

“It is well documented no one thinks we can win but I can tell you everyone inside our camp believes we can win,” he said.

He added to Schmidt’s views on how the game will plan out too, as his team look to end a three-game losing streak in the competition and thinks the final minutes will be crucial.

“Traditionally England and Ireland games are always very close, they are tough affairs, there is a lot of emotion in the games so our ability to finish the game strongly is going to be vital,” he said.

Last year, this fixture saw Ireland claim a 24-15 victory and the Grand Slam with it, but it will be a different beast this time around.

So, the teams have been named, the coaches have had their say, players have been dropped, others have been given an opportunity to impress in battle.

All that is left to do is wait and watch, as these two old foes are set to light up the Aviva on Saturday, with the winner gaining bragging rights and possibly the 6 Nations this year.

6 Nations

Scotland unveil new faces and joint captains for Tonga test

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Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Scotland’s opening match of the 2021 Autumn Nations Series will be marked with a number of notable firsts as Gregor Townsend names the team to face Tonga at BT Murrayfield on Saturday 30 October – kick-off 2:30pm.

Scotland will be represented by Co-Captains for the first time as Glasgow Warriors and British & Irish Lion Ali Price and Edinburgh Rugby’s Jamie Ritchie both lead the team.

The game, live on Amazon Prime, will also see Scotland field four uncapped players in the starting XV, two in the backs and two in the forwards.

A further four debutants are in line for caps off the bench, which has a 6-2 forwards split.

Edinburgh flyer Darcy Graham starts at full-back and is joined in the back three by Glasgow duo Kyle Steyn, who will add to his single cap won against France in the last match at BT Murrayfield played in front of crowds in March 2020, and Rufus McLean who will make his first Scotland start.

Joining McLean on Scotland debut will be clubmate Sione Tuipulotu who lines up with fellow Glasgow Warrior Sam Johnson as the centre partnership.

Co-Captain and Lions scrum-half Ali Price teams up with Edinburgh’s Blair Kinghorn at fly-half to form a brand new half-back pairing.

In the pack fellow British & Irish Lions Zander Fagerson starts at tighthead prop with Hamish Watson at openside flanker, as they feature for Scotland for the first time since the South Africa tour this summer.

Edinburgh Rugby’s Jamie Ritchie, also named as Co-Captain, packs down on the blindside of the scrum which is anchored by Glasgow Warriors’ Matt Fagerson at number eight.

Youth and experience combine in the second row which sees Rob Harley earn his 23rd cap for Scotland and joined by Edinburgh lock Jamie Hodgson, who will win his first cap.

Up front George Turner starts at hooker with Fagerson and with a debutant on the loose-head side in Edinburgh Rugby’s Pierre Schoeman.

Edinburgh Rugby provide forward replacements on debut in the form of lock Marshall Sykes and back-row Luke Crosbie.

Glasgow Warriors half-back partners Jamie Dobie and Ross Thompson are the uncapped backs.

Former Scotland Captain Stuart McInally is available off the bench alongside Glasgow props Jamie Bhatti and Oli Kebble in the front row, with backrow forward Nick Haining of Edinburgh completing the matchday squad.

Scotland Head Coach Gregor Townsend said: “As a playing and coaching group we are looking forward to returning to international rugby over the coming four weeks in the Autumn Nations Series.

“This week has been our first opportunity since the Six Nations to come together as a team, and our goal is to become a better team over the next month. Saturday will also be a huge occasion for a number of players in our squad who have the honour of playing for their country for the first time.”

Tickets for the game start at £16 for adults and £11 for U18s and students, with U12s tickets only £1. Secure your tickets here.

Source – Scotland Rugby

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6 Nations

Ireland Squad Named For Autumn Nations Series

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Andy Farrell has named a 38 strong squad for the upcoming Autumn Nations Series fixtures at the Aviva Stadium.

Ireland face Japan on Saturday 6th November before hosting New Zealand a week later on Saturday 13th.

The final game in the series sees Mario Ledesma’s Argentina line out at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday 21stNovember.   The Aviva Stadium will be at full capacity for these three games.

Johnny Sexton who has been capped 99 times for his country will lead the squad during this international window.

Six of Ireland’s players who toured with the British and Irish Lions during the summer – Bundee Aki, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson and Conor Murray are included as is Ronan Kelleher who joined the squad in South Africa.

Six of the players who won their first caps during the Vodafone Summer Series in July have been included in the squad – Robert Baloucoune, Harry Byrne, Gavin Coombes, James Hume, Tom O’Toole and Nick Timoney.

There are two uncapped players named Leinster duo Dan Sheehan and Ciaran Frawley while Munster’s Simon Zebo is named in an Ireland squad for the first time since June 2017.

Robbie Henshaw will continue his rehabilitation programme under the supervision of the Ireland medical team.

Thomas Ahern (Munster) and Jamie Osborne (Leinster) will train with the squad as development players during this window.

Ireland Head Coach Andy Farrell, commented,

“It has been a short lead in to this international window but that is the challenge, to get back up to speed quickly and build on the performances from the Six Nations and the Summer Tests.  This is the start of an exciting period for the group as we begin to build towards the Rugby World Cup in France.”

“In September we got together and mapped out what was coming up in this window, the exciting fixtures that lay ahead in the next 12 months and beyond that the opportunities to improve as a group over the next five windows we will have together.

“In a few weeks’ time we will face an exciting and well coached Japan team who showed in July what a dangerous team they are.  New Zealand dominated the Rugby Championship losing just one game while Argentina are battle hardened from playing the southern hemisphere’s Big 3 week in week out over the past two months.

“It would be fantastic to play in front of a full-house at the Aviva Stadium.  We had small crowds back in for the games in July and even that made a huge difference to the team and the atmosphere in the stadium.”

Ireland’s Autumn Nations Series fixtures at the Aviva Stadium will be televised on RTE (ROI) and Channel 4 (NI).

IRELAND Autumn Nations Series Squad 2021

Backs (18)
Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 31 caps
Robert Baloucoune (Ulster/Enniskillen) 1 cap
Harry Byrne (Leinster/Lansdowne) 1 cap
Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 24 caps
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 3 caps
Andrew Conway (Munster/Garryowen) 25 caps
Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 93 caps
Ciaran Frawley (Leinster/UCD)*
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 10 caps
James Hume (Ulster/Banbridge) 1 cap
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 13 caps
Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 30 caps
James Lowe (Leinster) 6 caps
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor) 5 caps
Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 89 caps
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 34 caps
Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 99 caps CAPTAIN
Simon Zebo (Munster/Cork Constitution) 35 caps

Forwards (20)
Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 5 caps
Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 16 caps
Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 22 caps
Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 20 caps
Gavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster) 2 caps
Ultan Dillane (Connacht/Corinthians) 19 caps
Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 9 caps
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 49 caps
Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 109 caps
Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 63 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 22 caps
Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 13 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 45 caps
Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 76 caps
Tom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 1 cap
Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 37 caps
James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 37 caps
Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne)*
Nick Timoney (Ulster/Banbridge) 1 cap
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 32 caps

*denotes uncapped player

Development Players

Thomas Ahern (Munster/Shannon)
Jamie Osborne (Leinster/Naas)

Autumn Nations Series Fixtures 2021

IRELAND v Japan
Aviva Stadium , Saturday 6th November, 2021

IRELAND v New Zealand
Aviva Stadium , Saturday 13th November, 2021

IRELAND v Argentina
Aviva Stadium , Sunday 21st November, 2021

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

** EXCLUSIVE DAVID LLOYD OFFER FOR ULSTER RUGBY FANS **

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6 Nations

Wales & Cardiff star to retire at 27

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Cardiff Rugby fullback Hallam Amos will retire at the end of the season to focus on a career in medicine.

The 27-year-old joined Cardiff ahead of the 2019-20 season having previously come through the ranks at the Dragons, where he spent nine years.

He recently completed his clinical medical exams and has informed the club and Welsh Rugby Union of his intention to hang up his boots in June.

Amos said: “After a decade of professional rugby, the 2021/22 season will be my last. I’ve experienced a lot in rugby and have been fortunate to go to two Rugby World Cups, a Commonwealth Games, several Six Nations and I’ve had a lot of great times in the regional game.

“I’m very grateful for the incredible experiences I’ve had but the time has almost come to face a new challenge. I am happy with what I have achieved and telling Dai and Cardiff, and Wayne (Pivac) and Wales, early so they can plan for the future sat a lot easier with me.

“It’s always been my intention to finish when I complete my degree and this season aligns nicely with the final year of my medical studies, so a perfect time to transition from pitch to hospital.

“Throughout my years combining university with a rugby career I’ve had plenty of support – from the WRU, from the Dragons for the first few years of my career, from Cardiff Rugby more recently, and from Cardiff University itself – and I’ll always be thankful for their willingness to accommodate both aspects of my life.

“Particular thanks go to Dai and Wayne who have been understanding over the last couple of weeks as I’ve talked to them about the thought process behind my decision.

“Retiring at 27 will definitely be strange but I’m fully committed to Cardiff Rugby for the rest of the season and hopefully I can finish on a high over the next few months.”

The full-back has made 32 appearances since joining the Blue and Blacks and has taken his tally of international caps to 25.

Cardiff Director of Rugby, Dai Young has led the tributes to the Cardiff medical student and commended his decision to retire on his own terms and with a clear education and plan for the future.

Young said: “Obviously it will be disappointing to lose a player of Hallam’s quality and he has plenty of rugby left in him but you can only admire his decision.

“Not many players get to go out on their own terms and to switch from rugby to a full-time career in medicine sets him up for a long and fruitful career.

“Hallam has worked incredibly hard to juggle rugby and his studies up until now and has achieved a huge amount in the game both at regional and international level.

“He will remain an important figure for us for the remainder of the season and can play without the pressure of the decision hanging over him. For now, the focus is on Cardiff and enjoying his rugby and next summer we will wish him all the very best for the future.”

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