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6 Nations

Guinness Six Nations Fantasy Rugby Guide; Round 4

With the penultimate round upon us returning stars are who you should be looking out for

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The second-last round of fixtures is here and with it we come near the end of this year’s fantasy rugby, so who do you need to consider buying points before the final round?

The three games this weekend have some returning stars to think about snapping up and some bargains to watch out for.

Scotland vs Wales is the first match of the weekend and there are a host of players to keep an eye on. For Scotland there is the return of fly-half Finn Russell who will certainly add a creative flair and at 13.9 stars may be worth a buy.

Blair Kinghorn, 15 stars, is at full-back for the hosts, with the ever-reliable
Jonny Gray, 12.2 stars, in the second-row and Josh Strauss, 12.1 stars, knuckling down in the back-row, a trio that could cause the Welsh some problems.

The surprise package on the Scottish team could in fact be scrum-half Ali Price, 12.1 stars, who comes in for Greig Laidlaw and will be hoping to put in a good showing with a rare chance to start.

On the other side, Wales, who are the only team still in the running for the Grand Slam, have a star-studded XV. The pick of the bunch are full-back Liam Williams and wing George North, who are pricy at 16.9 stars a piece but could reap your team rewards.

Elsewhere, Garath Davies, 13.9 stars, could look to target Ali Price at scrum-half, and could cause the Scots many problems at the break-down if he can get the better of Price.

Josh Navidi, 15.4 stars, has been outstanding so far in the competition and would add to any team. Adam Beard, 10.7 stars, who comes in for the injured Jake Ball will hope to cease his chance so expect a big performance.

The second game on Saturday sees England host Italy, as they hope to bounce back from their loss to Wales.

This year’s top try scorer, Jonny May, 17.5 stars, is an obvious choice to have on the wing if you can afford him. The same goes for fly-half and captain Owen Farrell, 16.6 stars.

Another option from the English back-line is Manu Tuilagi, 14.1 stars, who will surely have opportunities with Ben Te’o coming in aloingside him.

In the pack, Billy Vunipola, 15.2 stars, is the pick of the bunch, and Joe Launchbury, 15.1 stars, is one to keep an eye on as he returns to the team.

The visitors, who will be hoping for an upset, are welcoming back some key men following their defeat to Ireland in round 3.

Captain Sergio Parisse, 11.1 stars, will want to inspire his team after missing out against the Irish. Alongside him in the back-row are Sebastian Negri, 10.7 stars, and Abraham Steyn, 10.7 stars, who have been shining lights for the Azzurri so far.

Another man to consider in the Italian pack is Dean Budd, and at 9.4 stars could prove a great buy.

Outside of the pack, scrum-half Tito Tebaldi, 9.7 stars, is a live-wire and if he can produce the sort of performance that he did last time out he could gain your team a lot of points.

The final game of the weekend sees an out of sorts Ireland team seek form against a resurgent French side, in what could be a brilliant game.

The home sides returning stars are ones to watch as they seek to put Ireland’s poor form behind them. Among them are Garry Ringrose and CJ Stander at 14.1 stars each, while James Ryan, 13 stars, and Cian Healy, 15 stars, also return.

The most expensive player in the game is Ireland’s Jacob Stockdale, 17.9 stars, and if they cash is available, he is highly recommended.

The away side, who were highly impressive against Scotland two week’s ago, have kept the same XV and with that in mind, here’s some names for thought.

Thomas Ramos, 11.6 stars, not only is he great at gaining metres he also kicks so will get you points from the boot too. Gael Fickou, 15.2 stars, showed his talent against the Scots and if he gets going again could cause the Irish defence many issues.

Youngster Romain Ntamack, 13.8 stars, retains his No 10 jersey and will be in a confident mood in the Aviva on Sunday. Captain Guilham Guirado, 14.2 stars, and No 8 Louis Picamoles, 14.7 stars, are two players that will be vital if France are to win and always rack up the tackles and small metres.

In terms of bargains, England’s Joe Cokanasiga, 10.5 stars, makes his first start in the competition for the men in white and is electric. Luca Bigi, 8.7 stars, is a solid option at hooker for Italy, while young Darcy Graham of Scotland, 10 stars, may be worth a punt.

On the Welsh side Thomas Francais, 12.1 stars, is one of the cheapest on the team and could put in a big performance. In terms of the final game, Ireland’s Josh van der Flier, 11.5 stars and France’s Jefferson Poirot, 10.1 stars, are reliable men to have on a team.

Lastly, in the super sub department each team has standout players.

Greig Laidlaw, 13.6 stars, is on the bench for the Scots and will be raring to go if he gets on, while Dan Bigger, 15.8 stars, will be hoping to show his incredible ability like he did against the English from the bench once more.

Henry Slade, 14.7 stars, will be a menace to the Italian side if he comes on near the end due to his pace and skill-set, and Cherif Traore, 9 stars, will hope to have a big impact from the opposition dug-out.

Ultan Dillane has impressed Joe Schmidt so much that he keeps Tadhg Beirne out of Ireland’s 23 and at 11.4 stars could be a key man to your side. Maxime Medard, 13.4 stars, always causes problems for Ireland and could be introduced at any point making him a valuable player to have amongst your ranks.

Those are the players to watch out for before the final round comes up next weekend and hopefully some will set you up nicely before the tournaments concluding round.

6 Nations

Sean O’Brien to retire from rugby

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Image Credit: London Irish

London Irish can confirm Seán O’Brien is set to retire from rugby at the end of the 2021/22 season.

The back-row forward will bring a storied 14-year career to a conclusion this summer after two-and-a-half years with the Exiles.

O’Brien spent eleven seasons with his home province of Leinster, winning four Pro12/ Pro14 league titles, four Heineken Cup/ Champions Cup honours and an Amlin Challenge Cup, whilst also earning the ERC European Player of the Year accolade in 2011. 

He was capped 56 times for Ireland between 2009 and 2019 and represented the British and Irish Lions on two tours, firstly to Australia in 2013 and then to New Zealand in 2017. 

O’Brien joined London Irish in December 2019 and has played a vital part across three successful seasons in west London, becoming a fan favourite amongst the Exile Nation. 

On his decision to retire, O’Brien stated: “After much deliberation and consultation with my family and friends, I can confirm that I have decided to retire from playing professional rugby at the end of the season.

“I’ve had an incredible career and am thankful for every second of my time at Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the British & Irish Lions. 

“As a 20-year-old, I fulfilled my childhood dream by pulling on the Leinster jersey, and when I made my debut against Cardiff Blues in 2008, I never imagined what would then follow over the next 14 years. 

“A special mention must go to Colin McEntee for his ‘big brother’ approach when I joined the academy. 

“I feel lucky to have experienced so many wonderful highlights over the course of my career.

“At an international level, I feel privileged to have won 56 caps for Ireland. 

“I gave everything I could possibly give, and I will always look back with great pride at every time I pulled on the Irish jersey to represent my country, my county, my friends, and family.

“I feel very fortunate to have had the career I’ve had but none of it would have been possible without the support of so many people.

“Firstly, I would like to thank my Mam and Dad for taking me to Ballon Rathoe Community Games and then Tullow RFC when I was 8 years old. 

“They took me to every sport in my area which gave me the exposure to all types of sport. 

“They were the perfect role models who taught me to not be afraid of hard work, which certainly helped me progress my career and I can’t thank them enough.

“I was lucky to play alongside some great players and under some brilliant managers and coaches during my time at Tullow, Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the Lions and I would like to thank every one of them. 

“I would also like to thank the backroom staff at each of those clubs, they all showed me fantastic support during my time with them.

“I would like to say a special thank you to some people who believed in me early on in my career, who are sadly no longer with us. 

“Jim Kealy (Tullow RFC) and David Wilkie (Edenderry RFC) always said the right thing to me and gave me direction when needed.

“Away from rugby, I feel lucky to have had such a close group of friends that I have always been able to count and rely on throughout the course of my career. 

“Thanks to all of you, especially James Foley and Daniel Davey. 

“Finally, the most important thank you is reserved for my family. 

“I can’t thank my Mum, Dad and brothers (Stephen and William) sisters (Caroline and Alex) enough for their unconditional support over the years. 

“It has meant everything to me and to have 6 nephews watching means the world to me.

“There is still a lot of rugby to be played this season before the time comes to hang up my boots, and I am fully focused on giving my all in the London Irish jersey until then. 

“I’m going to soak up every minute I get on the pitch and look forward to helping the team wherever I can.

“I am excited about the future and feel I still have a lot to offer the game, in whatever capacity that may be. 

“I am currently taking my time to consider a number of options and will make an announcement with regards to the next stage of my career very soon.”

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6 Nations

Dan Leavy to retire

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

It has been announced that Leinster Rugby back row Dan Leavy is to retire from the game with immediate effect.

The 27-year-old has played 79 times for Leinster Rugby since his debut against Edinburgh Rugby in October 2014 and has also won 11 Ireland caps.

Unfortunately, Leavy suffered a significant knee injury against Ulster Rugby in March 2019, and following expert medical opinion, and despite his best efforts, he has been advised to retire.

Speaking to leinsterrugby.ie, Leavy said, “I have done everything I can to come back from the knee injury I suffered in 2019 but unfortunately I can’t do any more or ask any more of my body.

“I’d like to thank Andy Williams, my surgeon, and Karl Denvir, my physio in Leinster, for all that they have done for me in the years since then. I can take solace from the fact that I tried everything over the last three years.

“From the early days in Old Belvedere to my time in St Michael’s College, all I wanted was to pull on a Leinster Rugby jersey. And then when you achieve that, it’s an Ireland jersey.

“I am very proud of all that I achieved in my short time as a professional.

“Some amazing highs with my brothers in blue and in green and I am beyond grateful for those days and those moments especially the highs of 2018 in Bilbao, the Aviva Stadium and Twickenham.

“More than that I am proud of how I carried myself, in particular over the last few years, and I hope I represented my club, my country, my family and friends to the best of my abilities in those years. I am beyond grateful to them all for their support and in particular to my mum and dad, Eilish and Donal, my sister, Rachel, and my brother, Adam.

“I am also very grateful to Leo Cullen. Leo has been an unbelievable support to me over the last few years. On the field, and off, and I cannot thank him enough.

“Not many people get to enjoy and experience what I have over the last 10 years representing my school, my club and my country.

“This is not the end I had hoped for, but as I look back, at the highs and the lows, they have all been shared with the best teammates, family and friends around me, and what more could I ask for?”

Leinster Rugby head coach Leo Cullen said, “Dan was a player earmarked from an early age as a special talent and I think everyone could see that, particularly in those few years in and around 2017, ’18 and ’19, just how dynamic and destructive a player he could be with Leinster and with Ireland where he went on to achieve unprecedented success at that time.

“While the public have seen very little of Dan since his injury, we have seen plenty of him in here and we have seen the same determination, character and drive that marked him out on the pitch as one of the best.

“Dan has also received incredible support from his family and all the medical staff here along the difficult path of trying to return to playing.

“Speaking on behalf of the support staff here at Leinster Rugby it has been a pleasure and privilege to have worked with Dan. He always brought such a positive energy to the group and we will all miss him dearly but would like to acknowledge the significant contribution he has made to the team during his time here.

“Talking to him, Dan is very appreciative of the times he has enjoyed in here with Leinster but now, it’s about us all supporting him as best we can as he starts that next stage in his life.

“I have no doubt that he will apply himself with the same determination that we have seen since he first pulled on a Leinster jersey in 2014 and that he will make a success of himself away from the rugby fields. We wish him well and I hope he knows that there will always be a warm welcome for him here in UCD or down the road at the RDS.”

Leavy, who played seven times for Leinster this season and last appeared against Ulster Rugby last month, made his debut in 2014 and has played 79 times in total for Leinster Rugby scoring 17 tries.

He was an ever-present member of the double-winning Leinster Rugby squad of 2017/18 and he brought that club form to the international stage when making his Irish debut in November 2016 against Canada at Aviva Stadium.

He made his Six Nations debut later that season coming off the bench against England at Aviva Stadium in March 2017.

During his Ireland career, he never lost a game in his 11 caps and was a key member of the Grand Slam-winning side of 2018.

Everyone in Leinster Rugby sends Dan our very best wishes for the future, and thank him most sincerely, for brilliant days in blue.

Dan Leavy Biog:

DOB: 23 May 1994
Birthplace: Dublin
Height: 6′ 3″
Weight: 16st 7lbs
Leinster Caps / Tries: 79 / 17
Ireland Caps / Tries: 11 / 3

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6 Nations

Ireland Team Named For Super Saturday Scotland Showdown

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Image Credit: Irish Rugby

Andy Farrell has named the final Ireland Match Day Squad of the 2022 Guinness Six Nations Championship ahead of the Round 5 clash with Scotland at Aviva Stadium this coming Saturday.

Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose are retained in midfield with a back three featuring Hugo Keenan, James Lowe and Mack Hansen, the Connacht wing comes in for Andrew Conway who is being managed for a knee niggle.

The front row of Cian HealyDan Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong is retained while Tadhg Beirne and Iain Henderson are named at lock.

Jack Conan is named at No.8 with Caelan Doris switching to the blindside flank and Josh van der Flier makes his eight consecutive start at openside.

The replacements are Rob Herring, Dave Kilcoyne, Finlay Bealham, Kieran Treadwell, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery and Robbie Henshaw.

The game which kicks off at 4.45pm will be televised by VIRGIN (ROI) and ITV (NI).  Ireland can win the Triple Crown for the first time since 2018 by beating Scotland.

IRELAND Team & Replacements (v Scotland, 2022 Guinness Six Nations, Aviva Stadium, Saturday, March 19, kick-off 4.45pm):

15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 19 caps
14. Mack Hansen (Connacht) 3 caps
13. Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 41 caps
12. Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 36 caps
11. James Lowe (Leinster) 11 caps
10. Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 104 caps CAPTAIN
9. Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 16 caps
1. Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 115 caps
2. Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne) 6 caps
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 56 caps
4. Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 29 caps
5. Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 67 caps
6. Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 16 caps
7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 39 caps
8. Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 26 caps

Replacements
16. Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 25 caps
17. Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 47 caps
18. Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 22 caps
19. Kieran Treadwell (Ulster/Ballymena) 4 caps
20. Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 83 caps
21. Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 95 caps
22. Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 31 caps
23. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 56 caps

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