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6 Nations

France – The Blind Leading The Blind

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Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images

“We can do this. But do we work on it? No.” The telling words of Morgan Parra after France’s humiliation at Twickenham. The veteran halfback questioned the preparations of the French team after their disastrous performance against England. “I think that we are capable of doing what the English do, but are we working on this during training? I think we don’t work on it enough, even not at all”.

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Parra has not made the 23 for this weekend’s game against Scotland, for what Jacques Brunel calls “sporting reasons”, so read into that what you will. Camille Lopez is in the same boat; after the game, he acknowledged that the French players were accountable, but he said I think it is not just us, and we are not alone in this disaster”. After watching the Wales game, you would’ve thought that French rugby couldn’t get much more disorganised, but when you hear stories of poor Romain Ntamack being sent on to the pitch not even knowing what position he was to play, there really must be something rotten in the state of France.

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Selection policy is something French coaches generally have difficulty with. Whether its the pressure or expectation of the job, who knows, but most of the time its absolutely mystifying. This weekend’s backline is the most sensible one to be seen on a French teamsheet in quite a while, compared to last week’s rabble of four centres and a wing as the outside backs. Thomas Ramos is wearing the 15 jersey for the weekend. Ramos made his debut in Twickenham, limiting the damage in the second half to fourteen points, compared to 30 points in the first half.

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France at home are a different beast to the shower of chancers that turned up to play England game. Last year it took a Hail Mary moment from King Johnny for Ireland to get over the line in Paris, and they came absolutely flying out of the blocks against Wales. Two early tries from Yoann Huget and Louis Picamoles and a peachy drop goal from Camille Lopez had Wales rattled. Wesley Fofana was a brute in midfield, Arthur Iturria and Louis Picamoles were making gains with ease up front. It looked for all the world like France were back.

The second half was a different story. Wales began defending and two gift-wrapped tries for George North later, France were behind. It is no coincidence that France really began to fall apart after captain Guilhelm Guirado went off. A rather alarming interview with Sebastian Vahaamahina revealed that late in the game there was such confusion in the French ranks that Vahaamahina didn’t even know he was captain.

France didn’t close out the Wales game when it was in the balance because the leaders among them didn’t cool the heads around, nobody was there to say “Boys! Take it easy! Keep it simple!” (or the French equivalent). Instead you had a second row throw a 20m miss pass that ended up being intercepted for Wales’ decisive try. The same thing happened in Twickenham. The lack of consistency in French selections mean that there is no real leadership group in the French squad. Guilhelm Guirado is a fantastic captain, that any team would be delighted to have, but there is only so much he can do, and playing in the front row as he does, he is rarely going to finish a game.

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Compare this to Ireland; Rory Best is captain. He leaves at the 50 minute mark, you still have Munster captain Peter O’Mahony, Leinster captain Johnny Sexton, and you have CJ Stander who has loads of experience captaining Munster. Sean O’Brien is not a captain, but is apparently one of the most influential voices in the Irish squad. This is the benefit of consistent selections. A group of leaders emerges in the squad, but if you pick a different pack every week, this just won’t happen.

For many years France have not had a non-French coach, and this is their downfall. They need a fresh voice, someone from outside the system. Guy Noves was good; his results were not, but there was signs he was building something, blooding players, trying to build combinations. You would be fascinated to see what someone like Vern Cotter or Joe Schmidt could do with the talent of the French backs, but given the FFR’s track record this is highly unlikely.

It is clear there is something rotten in the French team. The players can see it, the fans and pundits can see it, but whether the coaching staff will figure it out who knows. Scotland will arrive at the Stade De France this weekend with an injury plagued squad; as to what kind of France team will face them, nobody knows.

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6 Nations

Aviva Stadium To Host Connacht-Ulster Clash Next Month

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Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Connacht Rugby and the URC can confirm the round 5 fixture between Connacht and Ulster will take place at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, October 23 (kick-off 5.15pm).

In what will be a day of celebration at the home of Irish Rugby, the derby game is due to be one of the first professional sporting events in Ireland following the planned relaxing of most remaining restrictions the previous day.

Andy Friend’s men previously played two matches at the ground in August 2020, including a win over Ulster in their first game back since the suspension of the 2019/20 Guinness PRO14.

Connacht can also confirm the following ticket info:

  • All Season Tickets will be valid, with holders provided a complimentary upgrade to Premium Level seats. Emails will be sent to all ST holders tomorrow where they can choose their location in the ground and purchase additional tickets
  • Remaining 1885 Club members will have exclusive access to purchase tickets from Friday for the weekend. As a thank you, these members can also purchase tickets in the Premium Level for the same price as a Category 1 ticket
  • Remaining tickets for the Lower Level and Premium Level will go on General Sale this Monday from 9am

Willie Ruane, CEO of Connacht Rugby, says the day promises to be a memorable occasion.

“Connacht Rugby are really pleased to confirm our fixture against Ulster is to be held at the Aviva Stadium next month,” he announced.

“This will be the first time that our supporters will have the opportunity to watch our professional squad at the Aviva Stadium, and I’m confident that as usual they will turn out in force and make it a memorable occasion.

“With all of the uncertainty surrounding capacities over recent months the opportunity provided to us by the IRFU to play at the Aviva Stadium is one that we felt we could not pass up.

“As we all know there are tens of thousands of people living in Dublin who are originally from the west of Ireland, and we hope to use this game to not only provide our supporters living in the west with the opportunity to make this a memorable day but also for our supporters living outside the province to come along and cheer on their home team.

“We’d like to thank our official supporters club, the Connacht Clan, for their support of this fixture since we first engaged with them last month, as well as the IRFU for their support in helping us to bring this game to the home of Irish Rugby.”

Connacht head coach Friend says the whole squad cannot wait to return to the Aviva, acknowledging: “Our fixture against Ulster at the Aviva last year was a really special occasion.

“At the time it was our first game in six months and for most of the players it was their first experience playing at the stadium.

“You could see straight away that the venue was ideal for the type of rugby we want to play, and that helped give us the win we deserved.

“The prospect of returning there – but this time with thousands of Connacht supporters behind us – is something the staff and players have been fully behind since the start, and we can’t wait until that day arrives.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

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6 Nations

Eddie Jones names 45 man England Squad

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(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

England men’s head coach Eddie Jones has named a 45-player squad for a short training camp.

The group will meet at The Lensbury, Teddington on Sunday 26 September – Tuesday 28 September.

It will be the first time England’s new coaching staff will work with the players, after the appointments of Richard Cockerill, Martin Gleeson and Anthony Seibold over the summer.

There are eight uncapped players named in the squad (Mark Atkinson, Jack Kenningham, Louis Lynagh, Gabriel Oghre, Raffi Quirke, Sam Riley, Bevan Rodd and Ollie Sleightholme). 

Nine players who made their debuts in England’s summer series of fixtures have also been selected (Jamie Blamire, Trevor Davison, Alex Dombrandt, Joe Heyes, Lewis Ludlow, Adam Radwan, Harry Randall, Marcus Smith and Freddie Steward).

There are returns to the squad for senior and experienced players, including England’s second most-capped player Ben Youngs (109 caps), alongside Owen Farrell, Courtney Lawes, Joe Marler, Jonny May and Anthony Watson – all of who have more than 50 caps.

The camp will form part of England’s preparations for the Autumn Nations Series in November.  England will host Tonga [Saturday 6 November, 3.15pm KO], Australia [Saturday 13 November, 5.30pm KO] and world champions South Africa [Saturday 20 November, 3.15pm KO].  All matches will be live on Amazon Prime.

Jones said: “This is an exciting squad made up of experienced players and young guys who did well in the summer and have earned their place again.

“We have left out some experienced players but we’re really clear that the door isn’t closed to them, and we’re looking forward to seeing them work hard to get back into contention.

“We have five campaigns now until the 2023 World Cup so each one counts, and this is a chance for this 45 to impress the new coaching staff.”

Tickets for England v Tonga are on general sale priced from £37 for adults and £22 for children. Tickets can be bought via EnglandRugby.com/Tickets.

Tickets for England v Australia and England v South Africa are on sale now to the rugby family.

FULL SQUAD

FORWARDS

Jamie Blamire (Newcastle Falcons, 2 caps)
Callum Chick (Newcastle Falcons, 2 caps)
Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 31 caps)
Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 33 caps)
Trevor Davison (Newcastle Falcons, 1 cap)
Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins, 1 cap)
Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 23 caps)
Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 30 caps)
Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers, 2 caps)
Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, 9 caps)
Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors, 2 caps)
Maro Itoje (Saracens, 48 caps)
Jack Kenningham (Harlequins, uncapped)
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 87 caps)
Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 10 caps)
Lewis Ludlow (Gloucester Rugby, 2 caps)
Joe Marler (Harlequins, 72 caps)
George Martin (Leicester Tigers, 1 cap)
Beno Obano (Bath Rugby, 3 caps)
Gabriel Oghre (Wasps, uncapped)
Sam Riley (Harlequins, uncapped)
Bevan Rodd (Sale Sharks, uncapped)
Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, 7 caps)
Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 44 caps)
Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 12 caps)
Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 24 caps)

BACKS

Mark Atkinson (Gloucester Rugby, uncapped)
Owen Farrell (Saracens, 93 caps)
George Furbank (Northampton Saints, 4 caps)
Ollie Lawrence (Worcester Warriors, 7 caps)
Louis Lynagh (Harlequins, uncapped)
Max Malins (Saracens, 8 caps)
Joe Marchant (Harlequins, 6 caps)
Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 66 caps)
Raffi Quirke (Sale Sharks, uncapped)
Adam Radwan (Newcastle Falcons, 1 cap)
Harry Randall (Bristol Bears, 2 caps)
Dan Robson (Wasps, 14 caps)
Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 40 caps)
Ollie Sleightholme (Northampton Saints, uncapped)
Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 2 caps)
Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 2 caps)
Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks, 43 caps)
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 51 caps)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 109 caps)

ENDS

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6 Nations

Ireland Host One Day Camp at IRFU HPC

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

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.

Robert Baloucoune scores a try against the USA in the Vodafone Summer Series at the Aviva Stadium

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.

Backs (23)
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

Forwards (27)
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
TBC

New Zealand v IRELAND
TBC

New Zealand v IRELAND
TBC

Source –  Irish Rugby

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