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6 Nations

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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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

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

British & Irish Lions issue Tour Update

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The British & Irish Lions and SA Rugby have confirmed they are aligned on delivering the Castle Lager Lions Series in South Africa in the scheduled playing window.

The Lions Board confirmed its preference to SA Rugby on Monday evening, prior to follow-up meetings earlier today (Tuesday).

“After reviewing information relating to the various contingency scenarios being considered, I can confirm that the Board’s intended position is for the Tour to go ahead as scheduled in South Africa in 2021,” said Jason Leonard, chairman of The British & Irish Lions.

“We acknowledge that there is a significant amount of work still to be undertaken to deliver a robust COVID-19 countermeasure plan to ensure a successful, safe and uninterrupted Tour. SA Rugby will have our full support to help implement this plan.”

Mark Alexander, president of the SA Rugby, said he would inform the Executive Council of the South African Rugby Union of the alignment.

“We appreciate the Lions’ faith and share their desire to see a safe and successful tour,” said Alexander.

“We have been in regular contact with our government to make that a reality against the backdrop of the pandemic and its predicted progression over the coming months.

“There are serious financial implications for SA Rugby, should the event take place without any supporters in attendance, and we cannot ignore that in our considerations. But we are determined that the eventual outcome will deliver the best occasion and experience for players, supporters and our commercial partners.”

Alexander said the original tour schedule was subject to review because of those considerations. Should any changes be required they will be communicated as soon as possible.

Leonard added: “Every British and Irish player dreams of wearing the famous red jersey, and players from the southern hemisphere aspire to be part of a Lions series. We owe it to the current players vying for a place in both squads to ensure they can become part of Lions history.

“We are very much looking forward to taking on South Africa for what promises to be a highly-competitive Series against the reigning World Champions.”

Alexander thanked the Castle Lager Lions Series’ commercial partners as well as the British & Irish Lions and ticket holders for their patience during the extended period of uncertainty.

“As hosts and ‘owners’ of the Castle Lager Lions Series no one has been more affected or more challenged by the current circumstances than SA Rugby,” said Alexander. “However, with the support of our government and good planning we can navigate the pandemic to nonetheless create a most memorable event for players, fans and partners.”

It is not yet known whether international or cross-border travel for supporters will be possible into the country in July. Supporters who have purchased ticket-inclusive packages through Lions Rugby Travel will be notified directly via email with information on the options available.

The Lions remind supporters that all packages purchased through Lions Rugby Travel are protected by the Covid-19 guarantee*. Supporters who have booked packages with official sub agents should contact them directly. For the latest guidance on travelling to South Africa please visit the UK Foreign Office website: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/south-africa or the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs website: https://www.dfa.ie/travel/travel-advice/a-z-list-of-countries/south-africa/

At this time, it also remains unclear whether spectators will be permitted into stadia in July and August. SA Rugby and the Lions continue to work with relevant South African Government departments to ascertain the latest guidance on COVID-19 countermeasure planning for major sporting events and will communicate any updates as soon as it is possible to do so.

In the event that spectators are not permitted to gain access to the Test matches, Lions supporters who had successfully purchased Test match tickets via the Lions ticket ballot will be refunded.

The British & Irish Lions Test match against Japan at BT Murrayfield Stadium on Saturday 26 June 2021 for the Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup will continue as scheduled. However, a decision on crowd size will be made nearer the time of the event and in line with the latest UK Government guidance. For more information, including ticketing enquiries, please visit:
https://www.lionsrugby.com/1888-cup-faqs/

The British & Irish Lions have toured South Africa on 13 previous occasions, with the first Tour taking place in 1891. In that time, the Lions have won four Test series, lost eight with one drawn. Their overall record against the Springboks is played 46, won 17, lost 23 and drawn six.

*For more information please visit www.lionstour.com

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6 Nations

Ireland make multiple changes for England

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Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

The Ireland coaching group have named their final match day squad of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championships ahead of the Round 5 clash with England at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

There are a number of changes to the team that started against Scotland last Sunday starting in the half-backs where Captain Johnny Sexton is joined in by Conor Murray.

Garry Ringrose is ruled out of the side through injury so Bundee Aki slots in at inside centre with Robbie Henshaw shifting to the No.13 jersey.

Jacob Stockdale returns to the team for the first time since the Autumn Nations Cup win over Scotland back in December and is named on the left wing with Keith Earls on and Hugo Keenan completing the back three.

In the front row Dave Kilcoyne starts at loosehead alongside Rob Herring at hooker and Tadhg Furlong at tighthead. 

Tadhg Beirne moves into lock to partner Iain Henderson in the absence of the injured James Ryan.

Will Connors was ruled out yesterday with a knee injury in training so Josh van der Flier comes in at openside. CJ Stander moves to 6 for his final Ireland game in Aviva Stadium and Jack Conan is named at No.8.

Speaking this week about Stander, Ireland captain Jonathan Sexton commented,

“He’s done things for the right reason. His wife and daughter are back in South Africa at the moment. They’ve been there for a few months and they went back for the last lockdown as well.

“It takes its toll, doesn’t it? He’s just taken the decision based on family reasons and we respect him for that, but he’s a big loss to Munster and Irish Rugby.

“He’s been huge for both teams over the last five, six years. Very shocked, but we wish him well and we hope that his last game in green will be one to remember.”

The replacements are Ronan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Ryan Baird, Peter O’Mahony, Jamison Gibson Park, Billy Burns and Jordan Larmour.

The game is being televised by VIRGIN (ROI) and ITV (NI) and kicks off at 4.45pm on Saturday afternoon.

IRELAND Team & Replacements (v Engalnd, 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championship, Aviva Stadium, Saturday, March 20, kick-off 4:45pm):

15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 10 caps
14. Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 92 caps
13. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 51 caps
12. Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 30 caps
11. Jacob Stockdale (Ulster/Lurgan) 33 caps
10. Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 98 caps CAPTAIN
9. Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 88 caps
1. Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 42 caps
2. Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 20 caps
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 48 caps
4. Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 62 caps
5. Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 21 caps
6. CJ Stander (Munster/Shannon) 50 caps
7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 30 caps
8. Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 19 caps

Replacements
16. Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 10 caps
17. Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 108 caps
18. Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 36 caps
19. Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 2 caps
20. Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 74 caps
21. Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 9 caps
22. Billy Burns (Ulster) 6 caps
23. Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 28 caps

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6 Nations

Wales name Grand Slam chasing team to face France

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Photo by John Berry/Getty Images

Wales have made one change to their side for their Guinness Six Nations finale against France on Saturday (KO 21.00 Local BBC & S4C), with Adam Beard returning to the starting line-up.

Wales are four from four in the Championship and top the table heading to Paris. Beard, who started the first three matches for Wales, comes back into the starting side alongside captain Alun Wyn Jones. Jones, who is the world test record holder with 156 international caps to his name (including nine British & Irish Lion appearances), will make his 148th Wales appearance on Saturday. His Wales caps alone are now equal to the second-highest capped player of all time, Richie McCaw.

Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Tomas Francis are named again in the front-row for Wales with Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau comprising the back-row.

Gareth Davies and Dan Biggar are named at half-back with Jonathan Davies and George North continuing their partnership in the midfield.

Josh Adams, Louis Rees-Zammit and Liam Williams make up the back-three.

“We are all looking forward to Saturday and to the finale of the Six Nations,” said Wales head coach Wayne Pivac.

“We are four from four to date but know this weekend will be a great challenge against a very good French side, but we are looking forward to it.

“We know we need to step up from our previous performances and we want to end the tournament with a performance we know we are capable of.

“We have had great continuity in selection throughout the tournament and that is shown once again with the selection for Saturday.”

Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith and Leon Brown are named as the front-row replacements for Wales with Cory Hill and James Botham completing the forward contingent. Tomos Williams returns from injury to take his place on the bench alongside Callum Sheedy and Uilisi Halaholo.

WALES TEAM TO PLAY FRANCE (SATURDAY MARCH 22 KO 21.00 LOCAL, BBC & S4C)

1. Wyn Jones (34 Caps)
2. Ken Owens (81 Caps)
3. Tomas Francis (56 Caps)
4. Adam Beard (24 Caps)
5. Alun Wyn Jones (CAPT) (147 Caps)
6. Josh Navidi (27 Caps)
7. Justin Tipuric (84 Caps)
8. Taulupe Faletau (85 Caps)
9. Gareth Davies (61 Caps)
10. Dan Biggar (91 Caps)
11. Josh Adams (31 Caps)
12. Jonathan Davies (87 Caps)
13. George North (101 Caps)
14. Louis Rees-Zammit (8 Caps)
15. Liam Williams (70 Caps)

Replacements:

16. Elliot Dee (36 Caps)
17. Nicky Smith (38 Caps)
18. Leon Brown (16 Caps)
19. Cory Hill (31 Caps)
20. James Botham (5 Caps)
21. Tomos Williams (21 Caps)
22. Callum Sheedy (8 Caps)
23. Uilisi Halaholo (3 Caps)

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