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6 Nations

Ireland’s 6 Nations Squad: The Talking Points

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Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Joe Schmidt named his squad for the opening rounds of the Six Nations on Wednesday. While it was full of mostly familiar faces, there were some new caps, and some interesting talking points raised.

Scrum-Half Trouble

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Luke McGrath was helped from the field during the second half of Leinster’s win over Toulouse with what appeared to be a serious looking knee issue. Kieran Marmion is still rehabilitating after surgery on his ankle. This leaves the very talented but also quite green at international level John Cooney, and the uncapped Caoilin Blade. Cooney has won 4 caps so far, not against high-level opposition. He has been a revelation for Ulster, his ‘petit general’ style of play, and clutch goal-kicking has won Ulster several games. He is probably the closest in style of play to Conor Murray out of all the backup nines. Caoilin Blade is the only player to be involved in every game for Connacht this season, and in the opinion of many has moved ahead of Kieran Marmion. He plays a similar snappy game to Marmion and has even captained Connacht in the Challenge Cup. Blade is well deserving of his call-up, but it is more likely to be Cooney that gets the number 21 jersey.

A New 10

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The most surprising exclusion in the squad was probably the Leinster out-half. Byrne made his long-awaited international debut in Chicago this November after his stellar 2017-2018 season. The King of the Crosskick was Leo Cullen’s deputy of choice for Johnny Sexton and saw Leinster through a number of important games. While he has not performed at the same level this season, he put in a good display against Toulouse in the RDS, marking it with the usual crosskick assist. But what of his replacement in the Ireland squad, Jack Carty? The Connacht 10 is having the season of his life. Carty has been playing with a new lease of life, as has the rest of the Connacht backline, since the change in coaching this summer. Why has Schmidt chosen to call him up now though?

The reason may lie in the difference in quality between the forward packs of Leinster and Connacht. The mark of a great 10 is the ability to play their own game behind a pack that’s under pressure and on the back foot, and Carty regularly has to deal with that. Ross Byrne plays behind a pack full of internationals week in week out, and gets an armchair ride from his forwards. Schmidt wants a 10 that’s used to playing under pressure, and Carty has been, and doing it well.

Tom Farrell

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Tom Farrell is the form centre in Irish rugby at the moment. The Connacht man has had a meteoric rise since being brought in as injury cover, winning Fan’s Player of the Year last season and forming a solid partnership with Bundee Aki. Equally adept at 12 or 13, something that could stand to him travelling to Japan this September. Farrell has all the attributes you need, pace, a strong passing game, and defensively rock solid. As of now Farrell is probably fourth or fifth choice centre, behind Ringrose, Henshaw, Aki, and probably Chris Farrell.

Will Joe roll the dice on selections?

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Historically the Six Nations is not a place for experimentation, but a World Cup year is different. Last year we saw some rotation against Italy; Jack Conan started at number 8, with CJ Stander on the bench, and James Ryan rested. Jordan Larmour made his debut off the bench in the same game. Any rotation is likely to come on the bench: Will Addison will probably get some time in the 23 jersey, Tadhg Beirne may get a start in the second row.
It would also be a good idea to bring on the replacement halfbacks earlier in play. Joey will be the replacement for most of the games, and would be beneficial for him to come into a game in the balance with around 20 minutes to go, likewise for the scrum-halves, whoever that may be in the 21 jersey. Tactically, you would imagine someone with the vast playbook of Joe Schmidt won’t show his full hand. It’s all about the mind games

Full-Back

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Rob Kearney is injured, and there is no update on when he will return at time of writing. Jordan Larmour played full-back against Argentina last November and against Australia last summer so has some credit in the bank.

Will Addison however is the likely candidate to start if Rob doesn’t come back. Ireland’s defensive system relies on Kearney covering the entirety of the backfield himself, which allows the wingers to take spot in the defensive line. Jordan Larmour doesn’t yet have the defensive nous to do this to the required level, so it will likely be Will Addison running out against England on February 1st.

It’s certainly going to be an interesting campaign with lots more talking points to come.

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6 Nations

Wales & Cardiff star to retire at 27

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Cardiff Rugby fullback Hallam Amos will retire at the end of the season to focus on a career in medicine.

The 27-year-old joined Cardiff ahead of the 2019-20 season having previously come through the ranks at the Dragons, where he spent nine years.

He recently completed his clinical medical exams and has informed the club and Welsh Rugby Union of his intention to hang up his boots in June.

Amos said: “After a decade of professional rugby, the 2021/22 season will be my last. I’ve experienced a lot in rugby and have been fortunate to go to two Rugby World Cups, a Commonwealth Games, several Six Nations and I’ve had a lot of great times in the regional game.

“I’m very grateful for the incredible experiences I’ve had but the time has almost come to face a new challenge. I am happy with what I have achieved and telling Dai and Cardiff, and Wayne (Pivac) and Wales, early so they can plan for the future sat a lot easier with me.

“It’s always been my intention to finish when I complete my degree and this season aligns nicely with the final year of my medical studies, so a perfect time to transition from pitch to hospital.

“Throughout my years combining university with a rugby career I’ve had plenty of support – from the WRU, from the Dragons for the first few years of my career, from Cardiff Rugby more recently, and from Cardiff University itself – and I’ll always be thankful for their willingness to accommodate both aspects of my life.

“Particular thanks go to Dai and Wayne who have been understanding over the last couple of weeks as I’ve talked to them about the thought process behind my decision.

“Retiring at 27 will definitely be strange but I’m fully committed to Cardiff Rugby for the rest of the season and hopefully I can finish on a high over the next few months.”

The full-back has made 32 appearances since joining the Blue and Blacks and has taken his tally of international caps to 25.

Cardiff Director of Rugby, Dai Young has led the tributes to the Cardiff medical student and commended his decision to retire on his own terms and with a clear education and plan for the future.

Young said: “Obviously it will be disappointing to lose a player of Hallam’s quality and he has plenty of rugby left in him but you can only admire his decision.

“Not many players get to go out on their own terms and to switch from rugby to a full-time career in medicine sets him up for a long and fruitful career.

“Hallam has worked incredibly hard to juggle rugby and his studies up until now and has achieved a huge amount in the game both at regional and international level.

“He will remain an important figure for us for the remainder of the season and can play without the pressure of the decision hanging over him. For now, the focus is on Cardiff and enjoying his rugby and next summer we will wish him all the very best for the future.”

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Connacht Sign Samoan International Tuimauga

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Connacht have added to their recruitment for the 2021/22 season with the signing of loosehead prop Tietie Tuimauga.

The 28-year old joins from New Zealand side Manawatu and won his first two caps with the Samoan national team during the summer, playing twice against Tonga.

Tuimauga will link up with the Connacht squad in the coming weeks with a view to being available for selection later in 2021.

Commenting on the signing, the province’s head coach Andy Friend said: “It’s no secret we’ve been exploring further options at loosehead following Denis Buckley’s long-term injury, so we are really pleased to welcome Tietie to Connacht.

“We now have strong cover across all of our front row, which is a good place to be, and with Tietie’s experience he’ll offer us something different.

“We now have a pro squad of 44 plus a number of integrated Academy players, so I’m really pleased with the group we have assembled.

“Our sole focus now is on building on last week’s win when we face the Dragons on Saturday.”

Source – Irish Rugby

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Rugby Stars support NHS Vaccine roll out

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KICKING COVID INTO TOUCH: RUGBY STARS SUPPORT NHS VACCINE ROLL OUT 

  • Rugby stars urge young people to get their COVID-19 vaccine in new short film
  • Sam Underhill, Alex Goode and Dan Robson amongst players sharing personal experiences of COVID-19

Some of the country’s top rugby players have today (Tuesday 28 September) encouraged young people to get their COVID-19 vaccine as they discuss their personal experiences of the pandemic.

Ahead of Round 3 of Gallagher Premiership Rugby this weekend, a new film has been released featuring key players Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby), Alex Goode (Saracens), Nathan Earle (Newcastle Falcons), Ollie Hassell-Collins (London Irish), Marland Yarde (Sale Sharks) and Dan Robson (Wasps) who discuss the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine and the impact the virus has had on them in the past year.

The players also share their thoughts on who to look out for this season. While their player predictions might be different, they all agree that the most important thing everyone can do this season is to get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

The film will be played out at stadiums across the country from this weekend (1st-3rd October) and comes as more than 82% of over-16s in the UK have now received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Earlier this month, the booster programme was also rolled out, with those eligible being invited to book their jab as soon as possible in order to keep the virus under control for the long term and protect the most vulnerable through the winter months.

The latest data (23rd September 2021) also shows that in particular, younger men have been more reluctant than younger women to take up both doses of the jab – in those aged 18-49, 70% of men are double vaccinated vs 76% of women in this group. 

In the film, the players discuss how the pandemic has directly affected their lives. Sam Underhill talks about how his dad was hospitalised with COVID-19, and Nathan Earle’s partner had their first child in the pandemic, meaning he wasn’t able to be in the hospital to support her through the birth.  

The film is part of a wider partnership with the Premiership Rugby League, and follows the “Every Vaccination Gives Us Hope” campaign launched earlier in the year to encourage the public to get their COVID-19 vaccinations. 

Over 48.7 million people have now received a first dose of a vaccine – over 89.7% of the UK over-16s population – with 44.7 million receiving their second dose. This means over 82.4% of over-16s in the UK have now received both doses of a vaccine, with 93.5 million vaccines administered overall.

Phil Winstanley, the Rugby Director at Premiership Rugby, said: 

It’s been so fantastic to have sports fans back in stadiums all over the country, and this couldn’t have been done without the COVID-19 vaccine programme. It’s been so instrumental in getting us back to normal, and as we get going with this year’s season, we need to make sure all our fans are as safe as they can possibly be – and that includes making sure they get the vaccine to protect themselves and those around them.”   

Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid said:

“It is fantastic to have these rugby legends come out and back the life-saving jabs. A massive thank you to Sam, Alex, Nathan, Ollie, Marland and Dan.

“It is thanks to the wall of defence built up by the vaccines that fans of all sports can get back to seeing their favourite players at the grounds. 

“Please get your jab as soon as possible, to protect yourself, your family and your loved ones.”

Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup said:

“The vaccine’s impact in giving us protection against COVID-19 has allowed us to return to doing the things we love – whether that be going out for dinner with friends, taking a trip abroad or watching your favourite sports players live in the stadium.

“It’s brilliant to see so many famous faces pledge their support for the vaccination programme – and we continue to urge all those who haven’t yet had theirs to come forward for the life-saving jab as soon as possible.”

Nathan Earle of Newcastle Falcons said:

“It’s been a really rough 18 months for everyone, but finally we’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Having the fans back in the crowd has been incredible – it just gives you that extra boost you need on the pitch. I’d say to anyone make sure you get your jab if you haven’t already – it’s quick and easy and has meant we can get back to the game we love!

Vaccinated people are far less likely to get COVID-19 with symptoms and are less likely to get serious COVID-19, to be admitted to hospital, or to die from it.  

The latest data from Public Health England shows that the vaccine rollout has saved more than 123,000 lives and stopped nearly quarter of a million hospital admissions. 

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine, visit: www.nhs.uk/covidvaccine 

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