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6 Nations

Ireland Player Ratings vs France

Ireland put in a brilliant performance to beat France but who were the best players on the day?

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Ireland have given themselves a fighting chance of retaining their Six Nations title by beating France 26-14 on Sunday but who impressed the most?

Here are our player ratings starting from the front-row and why the players got their scores.

1) Cian Healy (7) – Having been rested against Italy, Healy showed why he is so important to the Irish set-up. Taking the ball on at every chance, playing a part in a near perfect line-out and making eight tackles before being taken off after a solid performance.

2) Rory Best (8) – In his last ever home Six Nations game the captain put in a brilliant display at the set piece, with all but one of his throws going to hand in the line-out. He also made some great carries, not to mention scoring the try that started it all off. A great showing from an Irish legend that will be sorely missed once he retires.

3) Tadhg Furlong (7.5) – Another blistering performance from arguably the best prop in the world. Earning the hard yards and contributing to the set-piece success. Also got off early to rest before next weekend’s clash and will be vital for Ireland to get any result in Cardiff.

4) Ian Henderson (7) – Continued his recovery from injury with a big performance, making carries, massive tackles and ripping the ball from the French. He has definitely given Schmidt an option to partner James Ryan in the second-row with a line-out performance reminiscent of a certain Devin Toner.

5) James Ryan (9) – Incredible. Yet another man of the match performance from the young Leinster man. 13 tackles are the pick of his statistics for the day in a game Ireland controlled but his overall attitude and influence on the game was remarkable. Pushing Rory Best over for the opening try and staying on until the end, he seems irreplaceable in this Irish team.

6) Peter O’Mahony (7) – A typical O’Mahony performance, going under the radar mostly while pushing the team over the line. He never really has a poor game in a green jersey.

7) Josh van Der Flier (6) – Unfortunate to be taken off early after suffering a leg injury but showed good signs before then. Hopefully will be back for next week and showing his class.

8) CJ Stander (8.5) – Following five weeks on the side-line he was back with a bang. Motivating his side, carrying well, and making 15 tackles. He was sorely missed and like Furlong and Ryan is certain of a starting role in this side if he continues with this form.

9) Conor Murray (7) – Looked to be back to his normal self. Benefitted from the quick ball at ruck time and seemed to rekindle his spark with Sexton ahead of next week.

10) Johnny Sexton (8) – A wonderful wrap-around try and three from four conversions are the most noticeable stats but his attitude appeared much improved to the one in Rome. A performance he needed after some criticism and looked more like last year’s world rugby player of the year.

11) Jacob Stockdale (6.5) – Didn’t have many opportunities to show his quality on the ball but looked dangerous when he did carry. Still can’t score against the French though.

12) Bundee Aki (6.5) – Put himself forward for some hard carries and made six tackles. Did nothing wrong but was out shone by his midfield partner on the day and will need to show more to keep his place when Robbie Henshaw returns.

13) Garry Ringrose (9) – Nobody would have argued had he won man of the match on his return to action. He looked sharp and posed danger to the French defence with every touch of the ball. Also made six tackles when needed but provided Ireland with a midfield spark that had been missing. His battle with Jonathan Davies next weekend will be one to watch.

14) Keith Earls (7.5) – Took his try perfectly, showing incredible pace and was unlucky not to get more chances. A first try against the French is another thing to tick off for the Munster man who seems to get better with age.

15) Jordan Larmour (7) – Having been called into the starting XV just before kick-off due to Rob Kearney’s absence he had a very tidy game. Almost got in for a wonderful individual try but for all the brilliance of his side-stepping and pace, a few more passes to team mates wouldn’t go astray.

Replacements (7) – Jack Conan was incredible. Having to come on so early in the game, making a total of 15 tackles, carrying with real intent and scoring Ireland’s third try. The rest of the bench came on after Ireland had won the tie in all honesty with Jack Carty making some lovely kicks and Dave Kilcoyne causing the French front-row major issues. However, they couldn’t add to the score-line and allowed the French in for two late tries to ruin an otherwise flawless performance.

Coaching Staff (9) – In Schmidt’s final home Six Nations game he didn’t put a foot wrong. They got their full 23 on the pitch and were three minutes away from holding the away side scoreless. They seemed to have solved the issues in the team. Next week will tell us how far they’ve come but it was a brilliant performance today.

The Crowd (5) – Anyone who was at the Aviva yesterday will have to admit, the French supporters were fantastic. From the walk to the ground, the bars, the anthems and throughout the match, the French supporters outshone their players. “La Marseillaise” rang almost as loud as ‘Amhrán na bhFiann’ & ‘Ireland’s Call’ and they never ceased with ‘Allez les bleus’ compared to one poor rendition of the ‘Fields of Athenry’ from the Irish Fans.

You can watch Highlights & Read our Match Report here.

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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