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6 Nations

Ireland: 6 Nations Predicted Matchday 23

Our predicted team to face England. Tough choices in the backrow

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Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ireland will open their Six Nations campaign in Dublin on February 2nd, against an English side on a redemption mission. While most of the squad is nailed down, there are spots up for grabs, particularly on the bench

Front Row

Cian Healy seems to have overtaken Jack McGrath again, after a few years of backing up his Leinster team-mate. Captain Rory Best is a dead cert for the number two jersey. The Ulsterman has not played an awful lot of club rugby lately, but generally saves his best performances for the green jersey. Tighthead prop is a no brainer; Tadhg Furlong. The Wexford man is by some distance the best in the world in his position

Second Row

James Ryan and Devin Toner are in pole position for the engine room. Toner is basically undroppable for Joe Schmidt, there is no better lineout operator in the country. We saw this against Argentina in the autumn; a misfiring lineout righted itself as soon as Toner arrived on the scene. James Ryan is incredible, in a word. Already one of the best in the world in his position at only 22, he always puts up ridiculous numbers in defence and attack, Ryan will carry and tackle all day long. Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne may feature at some point, injury permitting.

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Back Row

Two spots here are dead certs: Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander. O’Mahony is a future Ireland captain, and is a brilliant leader in the pack, while Stander will carry ball all day. Openside is up in the air, given the timely return of Sean O’Brien. Josh Van Der Flier has been in amazing form for Leinster, and Dan Leavy looks likely to be fit in time to feature.  Dan Leavy is a very good ball carrier as well as his breakdown ability, while Van Der Flier will tackle everything that moves, and Sean O’Brien when he’s on song, is the best in the world. Josh Van Der Flier will probably start to begin with, Sean O’Brien might take the 20 jersey, given that he has been playing number 8 a lot for Leinster, and is probably the most versatile bench option. Jordi Murphy has been flying for Ulster and will probably feature off the bench.

Half-Backs

Very little to discuss here. Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton. The only pairing in the world that rivals Smith and Barrett. Irish fans will be praying there will be no injuries.

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Centres

Robbie Henshaw has returned at just the right time. The Athlone man looked to be straight back to his best against Wasps at the weekend, and should start against England. Garry Ringrose has maintained his high standards performing for Leinster, and is a dead cert for 13, Bundee Aki, and both Farrells (Tom and Chris) will be waiting in the wings should there be any injuries

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Back Three

Jacob Stockdale, Rob Kearney, and Keith Earls will almost definitely be the three chosen. Earls has been in outstanding form for Munster and is well deserving of a spot. Stockdale has been in great try scoring form Ulster and will hopefully build on his great performances in the last year November. Rob Kearney has been struggling for fitness lately but will come into the team as soon as he is fit. Kearney has wonderful fielding ability, and covers the entirety of the backfield himself, an integral part of Andy Farrell’s defensive system. Will Addison is the most likely candidate to come in should there be any injuries. Jordan Larmour is also in contention, but Addison has the edge defensively.

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Bench

Sean Cronin has his set piece issues, but is joint top scorer in the Champion’s Cup this season, which should see him get the backup spot ahead of Niall Scannell. Jack McGrath will get the 17 jersey if he doesn’t start ahead of Cian Healy. Andrew Porter is just getting better and better, becoming seriously good value for jackaling this season, to add to his already impressive repertoire. The replacement second row jersey will go to one of Ultan Dillane or Quinn Roux. Dillane is probably the better player but has struggled for form a bit for Connacht in the last few months, so Roux is the more likely to get the nod.

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Bench backrower will probably be Sean O’Brien. He covers each position to an incredibly high standard. Replacement scrum half should go to John Cooney. Caoilin Blade is in contention, but aside from injury probably will not get any gametime. Joey Carbery has been in flying form for Munster, his move south having proved incredibly beneficial. He has made his last 20 kicks at goal in a row, since Munster’s loss to Castres in the Champion’s Cup, proving his worth as Johnny Sexton’s deputy. The 23 jersey should be Will Addison’s. The English-born Ulsterman covers 11-15 to an international standard

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Predicted Match Day 23:

  1. Cian Healy
  2. Rory Best
  3. Tadhg Furlong
  4. James Ryan
  5. Devin Toner
  6. Peter O’Mahony
  7. Josh Van Der Flier
  8. CJ Stander
  9. Conor Murray
  10. Johnny Sexton
  11. Jacob Stockdale
  12. Robbie Henshaw
  13. Garry Ringrose
  14. Keith Earls
  15. Rob Kearney

     16. Sean Cronin

     17. Jack McGrath

     18. Andrew Porter

     19. Quinn Roux

     20. Sean O’Brien

     21. John Cooney

     22, Joey Carbery

     23. Will Addison

Let us know if you would make any changes on our Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.

6 Nations

Schmidt applauds Irish Support.

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(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

He may have led his side out for the final time at the Aviva Stadium today, but for Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt, the importance of the Rugby World Cup in Japan meant he could not get too wrapped up in the occasion.

A well-earned victory over Wales for the second weekend running provides Ireland with considerable momentum heading into their Pool A opener against Scotland on Sunday, September 22. Speaking afterwards, Schmidt’s post-match thoughts were already on that Yokohama clash.

“The focus of the World Cup is huge, so you’re immediately starting to think in terms of our next game,” he explained. “Obviously Scotland have had a couple of big wins against Georgia and a good win against France after doing similar to what we did against England, in not really being ready to go from the very start.

“That’s the nature of these pre-World Cup Test matches, where people are trialling combinations and people are at various stages of preparation. For me, it’s been good to take the emotion out of it, as emotionally connected as I am to the team and the performance to the Aviva Stadium and what it’s meant over the last 10 years.

“I was here at the first game of rugby with my kids watching an Under-20 game with the four provinces mixed into two teams. Ever since then I’ve had some really special experiences just being here and absorbing the atmosphere.

“It’s phenomenal for such an open stadium the volume of noise that gets created. We are incredibly lucky with the support that we have and that was very evident with the reception that Rory (Best) got coming off the pitch today.”

Indeed, the emotion Schmidt did allow himself in the minutes that followed this afternoon’s encounter was that of relief. Given how close the start of the Rugby World Cup is, he was pleased to see the majority of his troops coming through the game unscathed.

Cian Healy was withdrawn at half-time for a head injury assessment, and Keith Earls came off with a quad injury, but the Ireland boss was otherwise able to report a clean bill of health.

“After a game, relief is probably the primary emotion. Just because hopefully we’ve negotiated that. The boys who came off seemed in really good spirits. We’ve hopefully gotten through that unscathed. That’s always the most important thing. Then we’ve got a performance that we can be proud of, I think. The first quarter of the game we couldn’t hang onto the ball.

“I think we made 40 tackles as opposed to them having made six tackles in that early part of the game. I thought we did a really good job defensively and then we built our way into the game. I felt we dominated the last quarter. It wasn’t necessarily pretty to watch, but it was nice to get that result.”

On just his third appearance in an Ireland jersey, Schmidt felt that Jean Kleyn was ‘solid, not spectacular’. Nonetheless, he believes the Munster lock has the tools to become a key figure for Ireland in Japan, with the other second rows, including man-of-the-match James Ryan, adding their own unique flavours to the Irish pack.

“Jean’s a good man for us in the engine room. He can carry okay as well. He’s a big man. I think across the board there was a real work ethic out there today. It wasn’t flash, but it was functional. Sometimes when you’re building towards something you want functional. I think James Ryan is James Ryan really.

“He just keeps setting a bar for himself and then looking to jump a little bit higher. I thought Iain Henderson added some value and we’ve Tadhg Beirne too, so it’s going to be a good contest for those spots. They are four quite different profiles of second row. So it allows us a little flexibility in how we change up the game, during a game or from game-to-game.”

Schmidt also has a number of options in midfield as Bundee Aki, Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose and Chris Farrell are vying for the two starting berths. The old Connacht centre partnership of Aki and Henshaw received the nod on this occasion and repaid Schmidt’s faith with a pair of powerhouse performances.

“Those two know each other inside-out. They are good friends, they are good players together. I thought Robbie’s first carry, when he gets that ball in behind the line, Bundee knows exactly where to be and punches onto that ball really well. Instead of us just having a ruck on the edge of our 22, suddenly we’re going forward to the next ruck.

“Defensively they got to space. I do think that our midfield defence with those two was really strong as well. We’d have real confidence in all four midfielders we have, especially that they are very good defenders. They are going to compete for spots.

“Some of it is about the combinations, and the fact that Bundee and Robbie know each other well. Then Robbie and Garry Ringrose have been playing together for Leinster and they know each other well. Chris Farrell has never let us down, so there’s a mix there.”

A number of firsts have been achieved by this Ireland squad over the course of Schmidt’s coaching reign. Victories against the southern Hemisphere giants of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa spring to mind, while 2015 saw them retain the Six Nations title for the first time in 66 years.

Another milestone was ticked off the list today with Ireland’s return to form propelling them to the number one position in the World Rugby Rankings. Although he sees it a notable feat for Ireland, Schmidt still believes his native New Zealand will be the team to beat at the tournament in Japan.

“I didn’t even realise that we were (number one in the rankings) until I did an interview after the game. That’s how far away from our thoughts it’s been. It’s a label, it’s a nice label to get and it’s a nice…first time that we’ve been in that position.

“We have been lucky enough to tick a few firsts off with this group in the last six years. But that label is not going to be relevant to anyone. We all know who the favourites are for the Rugby World Cup, and it’s not us.”

The post Schmidt: We’re Incredibly Lucky With The Support We Have appeared first on Irish Rugby.

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6 Nations

Two Uncapped Players In Ireland Squad For Italy Match

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There are two uncapped players included in the Ireland match day squad for the opening game of the Guinness Series against Italy on Saturday.

Munster’s Jean Kleyn will make his Ireland debut in the second row alongside Devin Toner in a new look Ireland side captained by Rhys Ruddock.

Ruddock is joined in the back row by Jordi Murphy and Tommy O’Donnell, who won the last of his 12 caps against Scotland in 2016.

Jack McGrath, Rob Herring and Andrew Porter are named in the front row.

Luke McGrath and Joey Carbery fill the half back positions with Chris Farrell and Garry Ringrose named in the centre.

Jordan Larmour is at fullback with Andrew Conway and David Kearney on the wings.

The uncapped Mike Haley is included in the replacements. He is joined by Niall Scannell, Cian Healy, John Ryan, Iain Henderson, Tadhg Beirne, Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty.

The match will be live on RTE and Channel 4.

Ireland Team & Replacements (v Italy, Guinness Series 2019, Saturday, August 10, Aviva Stadium, 2pm)

Player/Club/Province/Caps
15. Jordan Larmour (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 13 caps
14. Andrew Conway (Garryowen/Munster) 12 caps caps
13. Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster) 20 caps
12. Chris Farrell (Young Munster/Munster) 5 caps
11. Dave Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster) 17
10. Joey Carbery (Clontarf/Munster) 18 caps
9. Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster) 10 caps

1. Jack McGrath (St Marys College/Leinster) 54 caps
2. Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 7 caps
3. Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) 14 caps
4. Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster) 64 caps
5. Jean Kleyn (Munster) 0 caps
6. Rhys Ruddock (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 21 caps Captain
7. Tommy O’Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster) 12 caps
8. Jordi Murphy (Lansdowne/Ulster) 27 caps

Replacements
16. Niall Scannell (Dolphin/Munster) 14 caps
17. Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 88 caps
18. John Ryan (Cork Constitution/Munster) 18 caps
19. Iain Henderson (Queens University/Ulster) 44 caps
20. Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster) 5 caps
21. Kieran Marmion (Galwegians/Connacht) 25 caps
22. Jack Carty (Buccaneers/Connacht) 3 caps
23. Mike Haley (Munster) 0 caps

The post Two Uncapped Players In Ireland Squad For Italy Match appeared first on Irish Rugby.

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6 Nations

Alun Wyn Jones Announces Future Plans

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones has confirmed his long-awaited decision for the future

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(Photo credit PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Image)

Alun Wyn Jones has announced that he has signed a contract extension with both the Welsh Rugby Union and the Ospreys until June 2021.

The second-row, who had been rumoured to be heading overseas come the end of the season has committed his future to his hometown region and confirmed the news on social media.

“I have some news I would like to share with you. I’m happy to announce that I have signed a contract extension to June 2021 with the Welsh Rugby Union and the Ospreys and will be playing at the Liberty Stadium for the foreseeable future,” he said.

The Welsh captain who has gone on to make 134 caps at test level (125 with Wales and 9 for the British & Irish Lions), admitted he considered all options available to him but decided to stay put.

“After serious consideration and taking stock of all options, it is the right decision for my career at this point in time, along with my personal ambitions on and off the field, my welfare, and needs of my family. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to tell you directly, in particular to the Ospreys supporters and all those who have supported me during my career to date. Thanks, Alun Wyn,” he added.

Jones is set to head to Switzerland this week for Wales’ first overseas training camp ahead of the Rugby World Cup, and WRU CEO Martyn Phillips is delighted that Jones will be remaining in the country after the tournament in Japan.

“This announcement is a huge boost for Welsh rugby. Alun Wyn is hugely respected across the game and I’m delighted he has committed his future here in Wales and that he will be continuing to play for his hometown region. It is a boost for the game both on and off the field and I’m sure the news will delight both Wales and Ospreys supporters alike as he continues to inspire the next generation. The extension allows the WRU and the Ospreys to continue working together with Alun Wyn to ensure he has the very best of environments to thrive in,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ospreys head coach Allen Clarke is also excited to have the clubs most capped player (238 caps) still in his squad and believes it is brilliant news for everyone in the region.

“Today’s announcement is fantastic news for us as a club and all Ospreys and Wales supporters. Alun Wyn is a man I have the upmost respect for; he is greatly admired not just because of what he has achieved and what he represents as a local boy playing for his home region and country but importantly because of the ambition and level of performance he consistently displays. He’s a tremendous individual and a winner with a deep hunger for the Ospreys to be successful on and off the field. Alun Wyn has spent his entire career with the Ospreys and I expect him to continue his legacy as a player and well beyond his playing days,” he said.

Jones’ announcement will be a massive boost for all Welsh Rugby supporters and will also be a motivation for the national team heading into the World Cup later this year as they look to add more silverware to their Six Nations Grand Slam from earlier in the year.

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