When the 2019 6 Nations begins on February 1st, England will be looking to erase the memories of a hugely disappointing campaign just under a year ago.
They will compete in what could be the most hotly-contested championships in years, with each of the six sides offering a unique challenge.
Eddie Jones’ side look as competitive as ever, following a largely successful set of Autumn internationals at the end of last year. They recorded three wins from four, including a thrashing of Australia that demonstrated how dangerous they can be when things come together.
The only setback was a narrow 15-16 defeat to southern hemisphere giants New Zealand, from which England could still take a vast number of positives.
They will face a similarly monumental task when their 6 Nations campaign begins at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday at 16:45. England will face an Ireland side ranked number two in the world, who have not lost in the 6 Nations in Dublin since 2013. Joe Schmidt’s men have won their last 12 home games, beating every tier-one nation.
Jones selected his 36-man squad last week, and England fans will be pleased to hear that second-row Joe Launchbury and flanker Brad Shields were included despite injury scares just days before. Shields’ return is much-welcomed after fellow back-rowers Chris Robshaw and Sam Underhill were ruled out through injury.
The group travelled to Portugal last week for their training camp.
Another huge boost is that rampaging number 8 Billy Vunipola will be involved in international rugby for the first time since breaking his arm three times. The 26-year-old has scored twice in three games for Saracens since returning.
Centres Jonathan Joseph and Manu Tuilagi were included in the backs, offering much-needed variety in the 12 and 13 positions. Bath’s Joseph returns after just one appearance in an injury-hit 9 months, but is still joint top try-scorer for England under Jones.
Perhaps the only concern for Jones is whether relatively inexperienced hookers Jamie George and Luke Cowan-Dickie will be able to fill the void left by co-captain Dylan Hartley. Hartley will miss at least the first couple of rounds with a knee injury.
Key man: Owen FarrellEmbed from Getty Images
England hearts will have dropped when Owen Farrell pulled out of Saracens’ Heineken Champions Cup pool match with Glasgow. His importance to the national team cannot be understated.
Fortunately, successful surgery on his thumb will see him return in time for the England’s opening fixture, and the decision to omit Danny Cipriani from the squad emphasizes Eddie Jones’ confidence in the fly-halves fitness.
Farrell is quickly establishing himself as one of the best players in the world, and has been outstanding yet again for Saracens this season. If he plays at 10 at the expense of George Ford as expected, he will need to replicate the intelligence and kicking prowess that has left him at the top of the Premiership points-scorer standings.
With Farrell at his dazzling best, England
One to watch: Henry Slade
Centre Henry Slade made his England debut in 2015, but it wasn’t until the November tests last year that he established himself as a regular starter.
The 25-year-old started three of the four games England played at Twickenham, and his assured performances in a white shirt have left Eddie Jones with a difficult decision in the centres.
With previous favourite at 13 Jonathan Joseph returning, as well as Manu Tuilagi, Jones will have a choice of silky footwork, raw power, or defensive expertise.Embed from Getty Images
Exeter Chiefs star Slade said: “Every time I’ve played for England, I’ve felt more comfortable and confident on each occasion. I feel like I played better as the autumn went on and, hopefully, I can continue in that vein going into the Six Nations.”
Should Slade get the nod in Ireland, he has every chance of building on his classy performances in the Autumn, and could be a key part of England’s title challenge.
Team to beat: Ireland
Although every game in the 6 Nations is colossal, few would disagree that England’s opening game will be the toughest. Ireland’s 16-9 victory over the All Blacks in November will have no doubt turned the heads of their 6 Nations rivals.
Lead by inspirational hooker Rory Best, they have arguably their strongest squad in years, and have every chance of back-to-back Grand Slam’s.
To get a sense of the challenge England face, it is important to consider this; Ireland were named Team of the Year at the World Rugby Awards in November; their squad includes World Player of the Year Johnny Sexton; they are managed by Coach of the Year Joe Schmidt.
Despite the arsenal of talent at Ireland’s disposal, England boss Eddie Jones was bullish about his side’s chances.
“Ireland have got to carry the weight of pressure,” said Jones.
“I am not too worried about Ireland, to be honest. All we can do is prepare as best we can. What people think, whether we are underdogs or favourites, doesn’t affect us.”
Should England leave Dublin with a victory on Saturday, there is every chance that their clash with Wales could be a Grand Slam decider.
But of course, as seen with England’s remarkably disappointing 5th place finish last year, no result is a foregone conclusion in the 6 Nations.
Dark horses: Scotlandhttps://gty.im/933050438
Scottish fans may be sick of their side being branded as a potential ‘surprise package’ before almost every 6 Nations, but 2019 may truly be the year they compete with the ‘big boys’.
Although they were beaten by Wales 21-10 in November, Gregor Townsend has assembled
This was highlighted earlier in the Autumn tests when they narrowly lost to South Africa, despite a tremendous effort.
Captain Greig Laidlaw picked out fly-half Finn Russell, who has been in scintillating form for Racing 92 this season, as Scotland’s key man ahead of the tournament.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast, the scrum-half said: “At times, we’re going to have to look to Finn for answers and he needs to be able to give them. I believe now he’s at that point to be able to do that.
“His skill-set is phenomenal, his passing game is wonderful and his kicking game is really good as well – sometimes people forget about that. He’s got good variety and is a good attacking weapon for us.
With a very winnable opener against Italy at Murrayfield on Saturday, followed by trip to an inconsistent French side the next week, Scotland have every chance to be in the top half of the table heading into round three. When England meet the Scots on March 16th in the final game of the 6 Nations, there could potentially be more to play for than just the Calcutta Cup.
Ireland Host One Day Camp at IRFU HPC
Andy Farrell and his coaching team have assembled a group of 50 players for a one day camp at the IRFU’s High Performance Centre at the Sport Ireland Campus in Dublin.
The Ireland men’s squad have an action packed 12 months ahead with games against Japan, New Zealand and Argentina at the Aviva Stadium in the Autumn Nations Series in November.
In February and March there are tricky away games against England and France in the 2022 Six Nations Championships while Ireland host Wales, Italy and Scotland at the Aviva Stadium.
In July 2022 the team are also due to play a three Test tour against the All Blacks in New Zealand.
During the summer Ireland recorded victories over Japan (39-31) and the USA (71-10) while capping nine new players – Robert Baloucoune, Caolin Blade, Paul Boyle, Harry Byrne, Gavin Coombes, James Hume, Tom O’Toole, Nick Timoney and Fineen Wycherley
Also during this period Jack Conan, Tadgh Furlong and Robbie Henshaw started all three Tests for the British and Irish Lions against South Africa while Conor Murray featured in all three games starting the second Test. Tadhg Beirne was a replacement in the first two Tests and Bundee Aki started the series decider.
Ireland’s Autumn Nations Series games at the Aviva Stadium will be televised on RTE (ROI) and Channel 4 (NI). The IRFU will finalise stadium capacity for these games following direction from government in October.
Will Addison (Ulster/Enniskillen) 5 caps
Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 31 caps
Robert Baloucoune (Ulster/Enniskillen) 1 cap
Caolin Blade (Connacht/Galwegians) 1 cap
Billy Burns (Ulster) 7 caps
Harry Byrne (Leinster/Lansdowne) 1 cap
Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 24 caps
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 3 caps
Andrew Conway (Munster/Garryowen) 25 caps
Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Constitution) 2 caps
Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 93 caps
Chris Farrell (Munster/Young Munster) 15 caps
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 10 caps
Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 52 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
Jacob Stockdale (Ulster/Lurgan) 35 caps
Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 5 caps
Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 16 caps
Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 22 caps
Paul Boyle (Connacht/Buccaneers) 1 cap
Ed Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 6 caps
Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 20 caps
Will Connors (Leinster/UCD) 9 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
Dave Heffernan (Connacht/Buccaneers) 6 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
Eric O’Sullivan (Ulster/ Banbridge) 1 cap
Tom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 1 cap
Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 37 caps
Rhys Ruddock (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 27 caps
James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 37 caps
John Ryan (Munster/Cork Constitution) 24 caps
Nick Timoney (Ulster/Banbridge) 1 cap
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 32 caps
Fineen Wycherley (Munster/Young Munster) 1 cap
Autumn Nations Series
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
2022 Guinness Six Nations Championship
IRELAND v Wales
Aviva Stadium, Saturday 5th February, 2022
France v IRELAND
Stade de France, Saturday 12th February, 2022
IRELAND v Italy
Aviva Stadium, Sunday 27th February, 2022
England v IRELAND
Twickenham Stadium, Saturday 12th March, 2022
IRELAND v Scotland
Aviva Stadium, Saturday 19th March, 2022
2022 Summer Tour
New Zealand v IRELAND
New Zealand v IRELAND
New Zealand v IRELAND
Source – Irish Rugby
TG4 And RTÉ Partner To Show Over 150 Hours Of URC Coverage
RTÉ and TG4‘s live free-to-air coverage of the new United Rugby Championship begins with Connacht live on TG4 on Friday, September 24, followed by an action-packed Saturday (September 25) as Leinster are live on TG4, and Munster live on RTÉ.
RTÉ will broadcast live television, radio and online coverage of 26 games featuring the provinces in the league, plus additional knockout matches. There will also be extensive highlights and analysis each week on Against the Head on RTÉ 2 and the RTÉ Player.
TG4’s Rugbaí Beo will continue to be the station’s flagship rugby programme and will broadcast 26 games involving the Irish teams, and an additional 16 games featuring international club sides.
Spórt TG4 will also have exclusive behind-the-scenes action from the competition across its social media channels.
The United Rugby Championship final will also be delivered free-to-air with RTÉ and TG4 broadcasting it live on alternate years.
The RTÉ/TG4 joint broadcast output contract has been awarded to Iris Productions. The Galway-based production company spearheaded many innovations in their previous rugby coverage on TG4, including behind-the-scenes referee briefings and audio-snoops on coaches and players. NEP Ireland will provide OB facilities.
Rónán O Coisdealbha, TG4’s Head of Sport, commented: “TG4 has been bringing interprovincial rugby to Irish audiences since the first days of the Celtic League in 2001, and we are looking forward to taking this next step with the URC and to see the South Africa ‘Super’ teams become part of our Rugbaí Beo line-up.
“This partnership with RTÉ galvanises TG4’s commitment to provide the best of sporting action to our audiences, and to making that coverage free-to-air and accessible to all fans.”
RTÉ’s Group Head of Sport, Declan McBennett, said: “Being in a position to provide free-to-air coverage of the provinces to our audience in the newly reconstituted URC allows us to ensure our best rugby players are seen, and seen to inspire future generations who want to one day wear their provincial and national jersey.”
Martin Anayi, the United Rugby Championship’s CEO, added: “The widespread return of URC and the provinces to free-to-air television in Ireland is a real cause for excitement.
“We can’t wait for that energy to be unleashed on the opening weekend with some cracking games on RTÉ and TG4 involving Leinster and Munster against two of South Africa’s heavyweights in the Vodacom Bulls and the Cell C Sharks.
“We have talked about the potential of our new partnership with RTÉ and TG4 and now we get to see if come to life in a week’s time.”
TG4’s Rugbaí Beo
TG4’s Rugbai Beo, led by presenter Máire Treasa Ní Dhubhghaill, will feature expert analysis from Eimear Consideine, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Niamh Ní Dhroma, Marcus Horan, Ronan Loughney, Eoghan Ó Neachtain and Eamonn Molloy along with a host of others.
Match commentary will be provided by Garry Mac Donncha, Gemma Ní Choinnaith will take over presenting duties from Máire Treasa while she is on maternity leave later in the year.
URC coverage will get underway on TG4 with a bumper weekend of action. On Friday, September 24,,Connacht travel to Wales to take on Cardiff Rugby (kick-off 7.35pm, TG4 & TG4 Player).
On Saturday, September 25, Leinster take on the Vodacom Bulls at the Aviva Stadium (kick-off 5.15pm, TG4 & TG4 Player).
RTÉ URC Live
RTÉ’s URC Live will be presented by Jacqui Hurley and Daire O’Brien with a top-class line-up of panellists.
RTÉ’s URC Live kicks off on Saturday, September 25 on RTÉ 2 and RTÉ Player with Jacqui Hurley live from Thomond Park as Munster begin their campaign against the Cell C Sharks. Donal Lenihan will be alongside Hugh Cahill on commentary.
RTÉ Radio 1 and RTÉ 2fm will have full live commentary on the key games involving the provinces as well as reports, analysis, and interviews throughout the season.
Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography
Philip Browne To Retire As Chief Executive Of IRFU
Philip joined the IRFU in July 1992 and assumed the role of Chief Executive in 1998.
Commenting on today’s announcement, Philip said: “It has long been my intention to retire from the role of Chief Executive to coincide with reaching the age of 60. I delayed my decision, given the recent extraordinary pressures on Irish rugby, as a result of the Covid pandemic.
“I now believe we are at a point where it is possible to commence plotting a sustainable route out of the pandemic and engage in a structured approach to future longer-term planning, hence the announcement of my decision at this time.
It has been a privilege to serve as Chief Executive and while undoubtedly it has been a pressurised and challenging role it has, in equal measure, been a truly exciting and rewarding career.
“I would like to thank the various Union committees with whom I have worked and the staff of the Union for their unwavering support as, together, we oversaw the constant changes required to ensure the Union remained relevant to its constituents and the world game.
“I intend, in time, to reflect on possible future part-time commitments but, as of now, have no definite plans.”
Des Kavanagh, President of the Irish Rugby Football Union, expressed his appreciation, stating: “Philip Browne has been an exemplary Chief Executive of the IRFU over a period of enormous change within rugby and broader society.
His calm demeanour and wise counsel have been critical in charting an effective course for our game throughout his tenure.
“In recognising his outstanding career, I, on behalf of the IRFU Committee, all his colleagues and the wider rugby family, express our sincere thanks to him.”
Declan Madden, Chairman of the IRFU Management Committee, commented: “Irish Rugby has been extremely fortunate to have had at its helm for such a significant time a person of Philip Browne’s calibre.
His vision, integrity and commitment have made him one of the standout figures, not just in Irish sporting and business circles, but also in World Rugby over that time.
“His contribution to Irish Rugby has, quite simply, been immeasurable. Never one to seek the limelight, he has been the constant in overseeing unprecedented playing and commercial success for Irish rugby over three decades.
“We are truly grateful to Philip and wish him every good fortune as he moves on with his life.”
The IRFU has commenced a detailed search for a replacement Chief Executive and has appointed the international recruitment consultancy, Korn Ferry, to assist them with the process.
In the meantime, Kevin Potts, Chief Operating Officer, will assume the role of Interim Chief Executive on Mr. Browne’s departure.
Source- Irish Rugby
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