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Injuries Pile Up, but Who Should Start for Ireland?

After Ireland’s defeat to England questions have been raised so who should be given a chance to play in Murrayfield?

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With the loss to England fresh in the mind Ireland must move on quickly and pick themselves up before facing Scotland in Murrayfield on Saturday.

The thing on everyone’s mind is who will Joe Schmidt pick in his matchday 23 to bounce back.

It has been confirmed that Garry Ringrose, Devin Toner and CJ Stander will play no part against the Scots after picking up injuries which could force Schmidt’s selection slightly.

The main criticism that the team has faced in the aftermath of their defeat was their lack of intensity throughout the game. So, who could bring that up, who could kick start their championship?

To start with, the front-row. The pack was inferior to the English last weekend, but the front-rowers are unlikely to change with most expecting Cian Healy, captain Rory Best, and Tadhg Furlong to retain their places.

They had a bad day at the office, however it would be hard to see any of them getting dropped.

In the locks James Ryan is almost certain to continue in the team, the question is who will partner him? It’s between last week’s sub Quinn Roux, Ultan Dillane, and newly drafted in Billy Holland after Toner was ruled out.

Roux has been a regular on the bench over the past while under Schmidt so he would appear the most likely to come into the starting XV, with Dillane or Holland on the bench.

The back-row is another area where a change is certain after it was confirmed CJ Stander played 62 minutes against England with two fractures in his cheek and eye socket. An injury which leaves him out for a minimum of four weeks.

The options at No 8 would probably be Jack Conin, an out and out eight, or the highly versatile Sean O’Brien. Rhys Ruddock and Jordi Murphy are other options, but what would seem clear is that whoever is picked will play with Peter O’Mahony and Josh Van Der Flier.

O’Mahony’s position is never really under question when he is fit as his leadership and work rate would see him into nearly any team. Van Der Flier has surely cemented his place in the side for at least this match after an outstanding showing in defeat, in which he made a sensational 19 tackles.

No 6 O’Mahony believes Leinster man O’Brien should start, but admits that he doesn’t pick the team, it’s only his opinion.

“I’m not going to sit here and pick the team, but Sean O’Brien, the name along speaks for itself,” he said when speaking about the weekend.

“He’s been unlucky with injury here and there, but there isn’t anybody more professional and a big-game player than Sean O’Brien,” he added showing his support for O’Brien’s inclusion.

Elsewhere, the half-backs are pretty set in stone with Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton expected to continue at scrum-half and out-half respectively.

Joey Carbery could be a surprise inclusion if there is any doubt over Sexton but is more likely to remain on the bench.

Bundee Aki will probably be at 12, and after his stint at full-back, Robbie Henshaw is almost certain to come in at 13 for the injured Garry Ringrose.

Chris Farrell is another option, along with utility back Will Addison if Schmidt wants to switch things up.

Henshaw’s move from 15 will mean changes to the back three too.

Last year’s player of the championship, Jacob Stockdale, has to stay at 11 after he still managed to make 78 metres last weekend with hardly any ball in hand.

Keith Earls trained well earlier today but was unconvincing against England before his withdrawal at half-time. That could open up the door for the likes of Jordan Larmour or Will Addison to sneak onto that wing, but probably not.

Andrew Conway would have been an option but has returned to Munster following an injury and is unavailable.

Rob Kearney is the most obvious choice to replace Henshaw at full-back after being left out last weekend. It is an opportunity he would relish to show his worth to the team.

Larmour and Addison could also be considered, however Kearney would be the most reliable selection. Whoever is picked will have to be up for a lot of running with Scotland’s Stuart Hogg on top form at the moment.

Outside the starting team, the bench is as competitive.

Sean Cronin is most likely to be at 16 while Jack McGrath and Dave Kilcoyne will both be options at 17, and Andrew Porter probably at 18.

Whoever misses out between Roux, Dillane, and Holland in the battle to partner Ryan in the second-row will have to fight for a place on the bench too.

Holland being drafted into the squad would suggest he will probably be an impact sub to come in after the hour mark.

Again, the losers of the war in the back-row between Murphy, O’Brien, Ruddock and Conan will have to compete to be in the 23.

John Cooney is certain to be on the bench after his brilliant cameo last weekend when he scored a try and impressed with his quick hands.

Carbery will have to be in the squad with his quality, so if not in the first 15 he will be the 22nd man.

Larmour and Addison will be the three that will be trying to force their way into the 23.

The changes will bring new dimensions, but the team as a whole will need to bring their A-game to win back the fans and send a message out that they are still in the running for the World Cup.

No place is certain following last weekend’s defeat and with the likes of Dan Leavy, Tadhg Beirne, Luke McGrath, and so on to also come back from injury before Japan. This is not only a chance to get back in title race, but a way to steak a claim for a place on that plane.

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6 Nations

Official. Eddie Jones signs new England Deal.

Official.

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England men’s head coach Eddie Jones and the RFU have agreed a contract extension which will see him continue his role until the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
 
Jones joined England Rugby at the end of 2015 and has coached the men’s national side on 54 occasions winning 42, drawing one and losing 11 – giving him a win ratio of 78%, the highest in the history of England coaches.
 
Under Jones, England has won two Six Nations titles including a Grand Slam in 2016, a 3-0 away Test series win against Australia in the same year, an unbeaten run of 18 matches equalling New Zealand’s record and were finalists at last year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan. 
 
Jones said: “The extension is a great honour for me, but in the current environment, it is only right to acknowledge what a difficult time the world is facing.  We are all looking forward to a time when we can get back to playing rugby and use the sport as a force for good in bringing people back together. I never thought coming here four years ago I would be doing a second four years but the circumstances are right. Obviously it is important for the team that we keep improving and my focus will be solely on that.
 
“I am excited about raising the standards again. We have a great team. We set out four years ago to be the best team in the world and unfortunately we missed that by 80 minutes. Now we want to be the team that is remembered as being the greatest team the game has ever seen. It’s a big ambition but I believe we are capable of doing it. We have players with an enhanced reputation, we have a team that is expected to do well, so it’s a great opportunity for us to keep moving forward.”
 
Bill Sweeney, RFU CEO said: “My thoughts and those of all of us at the RFU are with everyone impacted by COVID-19, both across the country at large but also within our own rugby union community. In exceptionally difficult times, we are pleased to be sharing some good news.  We are delighted that Eddie will continue as head coach to run England’s campaign to take us to the 2023 Rugby World Cup. His record since joining speaks for itself and he has proven why he is one of the best coaches in world rugby. The progress shown by England since 2015 has been indisputable and having fielded the youngest-ever team to play in a World Cup final, we know even more growth is possible. We are all excited by what this squad can do and having Eddie leading the team is very important to us. 
 
“We reached an understanding soon after returning from Japan but there were some things that we wanted to make sure worked for both sides. We have announced Eddie’s contract extension a few weeks later than planned as our focus was diverted to support the English rugby community during this difficult time, we are now turning our attention to developing plans to support the rebooting of rugby and a winning England team will provide a vital role in that.”
 
Ahead of the Guinness Six Nations Jones confirmed Simon Amor and Matt Proudfoot would join Steve Borthwick and John Mitchell as his assistant coaches. Jason Ryles will join later in the year as skills coach following Borthwick’s departure towards the end of the season.

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6 Nations

RFU CEO gives COVID-19 planning & support update

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Bill Sweeney – RFU, CEO

My thoughts and those of all of us at the RFU continue to be with everyone impacted by the difficult and exceptional situation we are all facing, both across the country and within our own rugby union community.

Earlier today we held a virtual board meeting and I am writing to advise you of the actions that have been agreed to offer a support package directly funded from the RFU worth £7m to provide support for community clubs in England.  

IMPACT

To support clubs we are today announcing that the RFU will be providing a £7m relief package for community clubs. The package includes monies ring fenced and diverted for the community game as well as additional funding. These measures include:

•       An early release of £800,000 cash due to clubs through the ticketing fund.  

•       Early release of final funding payments (£600,000) to Constituent Bodies and suspension of the activity plans against which this was allocated, enabling them to utilise this to provide “immediate support grants” to clubs most in need. In addition £400,000 will be made available to Constituent Bodies who elect to match fund from their own reserves.

•       A suspension of the Quarterly loan repayments for clubs with outstanding loans due in March (£335,000).  

•       The creation of a £5m support loans programme, offering loans of between circa £2k and circa £10k to clubs, with deferred re-payments for six months and repayable over three years. 

We will be providing more details on this financial package in the coming week. We will also be issuing regular club recovery updates with practical advice on how government grants can be accessed as well as other business management advice. 

We welcome government interventions which will provide business rate holidays and grants for clubs.

The RFU will continue to provide a free helpline to assist clubs with legal and tax related matters: https://www.englandrugby.com/participation/running-your-club/legal-and-administration

Significant progress has been made on the process for considering the implications of ending the season early. We will ensure a fair and balanced outcome for the game and are now committed to update on this by the middle of April.

No one can predict every possible outcome of the COVID-19 outbreak particularly with regard to the duration of this crisis and we are managing in the unknown. We have modelled three potential scenarios and are working on an assumption based on a medium term impact with a view to a return to rugby in the autumn. We will continue to monitor against this assumption and review and revise planning where necessary.

The RFU had budgeted for a loss making year within a four year cycle due to the costs of the 2019 RWC campaign and hosting only two home Six Nations games. The loss will now be considerably more as we face challenges similar to businesses across the country. 

The RFU’s biggest asset is also a major cost and the closure of Twickenham Stadium has a significant impact on the revenues we can generate to re-invest back into the game. In that sense we are like every other club in the Union, when we do not stage matches and events we do not generate revenue.

Based on our planning assumption we estimate RFU revenue losses over the next 18 months to be approximately £45-£50 million and have a firm plan in place to mitigate this. The RFU Executive Team will be taking a cut in remuneration in excess of 25%. In addition, combined Board fees will be reduced by 75%.

WELFARE  

We are continuing our support to ensure colleagues and communities are given help to follow government advice and are providing recommendations on how to stay fit and healthy and a range of new content will be made available to players and fans across our social media channels. 

We are discussing with government and the NHS the role the RFU and Twickenham Stadium can play in providing volunteers as well as support for the NHS including accommodation, parking and meal provisioning.

I am confident that rugby will play a big role in energising communities across England after this difficult period. In the meantime, we are working hard with the wider rugby community to take the necessary measures to safeguard a financially resilient Union so that we can.

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Rodney Parade to help in fight against coronavirus

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Rodney Parade has become the latest sporting venue to open its doors to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

The Newport stadium has been provided free of charge as a base for front-line NHS staff to check if they have the virus and are able to continue working. At this stage only NHS staff are eligible to be tested at Rodney Parade to see if they have COVID-19. Dragons managing director Mark Jones said: “The health service and care workers are doing an incredible job in such difficult circumstances so we are happy to offer our help and support in any way we can.

“Playing our part in the local community is at the heart of what we’re about at the Dragons and in times of crisis people stick together. We would urge everyone to follow the latest NHS advice on protecting themselves from the virus, particularly to stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel.”

A statement from Aneurin Bevan Health Board read: “The health and wellbeing of our staff is essential for delivering services for the people of Gwent. It is fundamental during this time when the most vulnerable people need us most.

“We have set up a drive-through facility to test staff for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and help us get our teams back in to work on the front line. The testing site is located at Rodney Parade in Newport and we ask that everyone practises the stay-at-home guidance and does not visit the site.

“Everyone at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board would like to thank the team at Rodney Parade for their community-focused approach and accommodating us during these difficult times.”

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