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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.


6 Nations

RTÉ And Virgin Media Confirm Details Of Free-To-Air Six Nations Coverage

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RTÉ and Virgin Media Television today announced details of its joint Guinness Six Nations coverage, where the action will be free-to-air for supporters in the Republic of Ireland.

Kicking off on Friday, 3 February, this year’s Six Nations coverage will include all fixtures from Ireland’s Men’s, Women’s and U20 tournaments.

The partnership will see all games equally aired across both broadcasters again this year.

The 2023 Men’s Six Nations will open with Ireland v Wales on Virgin Media One, followed by England v Scotland on RTÉ2. Ireland will then take on current champions France on Saturday, 11 February.

The TikTok Women’s Six Nations will begin on Sunday, 26 March with Wales v Ireland.

Speaking at this morning’s launch at the Aviva Stadium, presenters Jacqui Hurley and Joe Molloy were joined on stage by members of their broadcast teams this year including pundits Rob Kearney, Fiona Hayes (Virgin Media Television), and RTÉ’s Jamie Heaslip and Hannah Tyrrell.

RTÉ also confirmed that Irish international and Munster player Simon Zebo will be joining their punditry team.

Commenting, Head of RTÉ Sport, Declan McBennett said: “With this being a great year for rugby, there is added excitement about this year’s Six Nations which RTÉ is once again bringing to sports fans all over the country free-to-air along with Virgin Media Ireland as part of our historic partnership which we launched last year.

“It’s going to be a huge year for Irish rugby and we’re really looking forward to it.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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Ireland Squad Named For 2023 Guinness Six Nations Championship

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The Ireland Coaching Team have named a 37-man squad for the upcoming Guinness Six Nations Championship, which kicks off with an away trip to Cardiff to face Wales on Saturday, 4th February.

In Round 2, Ireland host France at Aviva Stadium looking to secure their first victory over Fabien Galthie’s side since 2019.  There was just six points between the two sides last year in Paris and France emerged the victors when they last faced off in Dublin the previous year, winning 15-13.

In Round 3, Ireland travel to Rome to face a resurgent Italy who have recorded wins over Australia and Wales in the past year.

Round 4 sees Andy Farrell’s side travel to BT Murrayfield to face Gregor Townsend’s Scotland and six days later, in the final game of the Championship, Ireland play host to England at Aviva Stadium.

Both of Ireland’s home games against France and England are sold out and all of Ireland’s fixtures will be broadcast live on free-to-air television and radio across RTE, VIRGIN, BBC, ITV, RTE Radio and BBC NI Radio.

Ireland finished second to France in last year’s Championship with four wins and five bonus points for a total of 21 points, claiming the Triple Crown for the first time since 2018.

There is one uncapped player named in the squad, Leinster’s Jamie Osborne. Osborne was first integrated into the Senior squad in November 2021 as a Development Player and has since featured for Emerging Ireland and Ireland A.

Ireland Head Coach Andy Farrell commented: “The Six Nations is a huge competition for us and another opportunity for us to grow as group. 2022 was a busy year as we got to work with a larger group of players as we continued to build our squad depth and competition for places.

While there are a few players carrying knocks and others that have missed out on selection for the start of the tournament, they will have the opportunity to push their case playing for their provinces in the URC over the coming weeks as no doubt we will need to call upon the wider group as the tournament progresses.”

Ireland Squad, 2023 Guinness Six Nations:

Backs (17):

Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 41 caps
Ross Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 14 caps
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 7 caps
Jack Crowley (Munster/Cork Constitution) 2 caps
Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 98 caps
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 23 caps
Mack Hansen (Connacht) 8 caps
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 25 caps
Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Marys College) 30 caps
James Lowe (Leinster) 15 caps
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor) 9 caps
Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 100 caps
Jimmy O’Brien (Leinster/Naas) 3 caps
Jamie Osborne (Leinster/Naas) *
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 47 caps
Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College)(captain) 109 caps
Jacob Stockdale (Ulster/Lurgan) 35 caps

Forwards (20):

Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 8 caps
Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 27 caps
Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 36 caps
Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 33 caps
Gavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster) 2 caps
Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 23 caps
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 63 caps
Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 121 caps
Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 68 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 31 caps
Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 18 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 48 caps
Joe McCarthy (Leinster/Dublin University) 1 cap
Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 89 caps
Tom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 4 caps
Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 48 caps
Cian Prendergast (Connacht/Corinthians) 1 cap
James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 48 caps
Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne) 13 caps
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 45 cap

*denotes uncapped player

2023 Guinness Six Nations Fixtures:

Wales v IRELAND
Saturday 4th February 2023, KO 14:15 (IST)
VIRGIN / BBC / RTE Radio / BBC Radio

IRELAND v France
Saturday 11th February 2023, KO 14:15 (IST)
RTE TV / ITV / RTE Radio / BBC Radio

Italy v IRELAND
Saturday 25th February 2023, KO 14:15 (IST)
RTE TV / ITV / RTE Radio / BBC Radio

Scotland v IRELAND
Sunday 12th March 2023, KO 15:00 (IST)
RTE TV / BBC / RTE Radio / BBC Radio

IRELAND v England
Saturday 18th March 2023, KO 17:00 (IST)
VIRGIN / ITV / RTE Radio / BBC Radio

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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Murphy Names Ireland U20 Squad For Six Nations

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Head Coach Richie Murphy has today named a 32-man Ireland squad, sponsored by PwC, for the upcoming 2023 U20 Six Nations, including seven players who were involved in last year’s Championship and U20 Summer Series.

Leinster hooker Gus McCarthy has been appointed captain ahead of Ireland’s opening fixture against Wales in Colwyn Bay on Friday, 3 February (Kick-off 7pm, live on Virgin Media).

Leinster duo Diarmuid Mangan and Conor O’Tighearnaigh, as well as Ulster back row James McNabney, were part of last season’s Grand Slam-winning squad, while a further four players – Sam Prendergast, Charlie Irvine, Harry West and George Hadden – are named in the 2023 Championship squad having featured during the U20 Summer Series in Italy last June.

The Ireland squad have been building towards the Six Nations through a series of camps at the IRFU High Performance Centre, while Challenge Matches against Italy, Munster Development and Leinster Development over the Christmas period have aided preparations.

Ireland kick off the Six Nations away in Wales, before hosting France in Round 2 at Musgrave Park on Friday, 10 February (Kick-off 8pm, live on RTÉ 2).

Murphy’s side will then go head-to-head with Italy on Friday, 24 February in Treviso (Kick-off 7.15pm, RTÉ 2), before concluding the Championship away to Scotland on Friday, 10 March (Kick-off 7.15pm, RTÉ 2) and at home to England in Cork on Sunday, 19 March (Kick-off 5pm, Virgin Media).

Speaking at today’s squad announcement and media day at PwC HQ in Dublin, Murphy also confirmed his coaching staff for the 2023 Championship, with Willie Faloon (Defence and Lineout) and Mark Sexton (Backs and Attack) continuing in their roles and Aaron Dundon joining the team as Scrum and Contact Coach.

“We have been working hard for a number of weeks and it’s an exciting time for these young players, who have the honour of representing the wider group in the Six Nations,” Murphy said.

“We as coaches have pushed the players over the last number of months and I have been impressed by their work-rate, commitment and application. Now our focus turns to performance and the opening game against Wales, which we know will be a big challenge first up.

“We are looking forward to the opportunities over the coming weeks and are excited by the prospect of an Ireland U20s team returning to Six Nations action at Musgrave Park in Cork, where we always have huge support.”

Feargal O’Rourke, PwC Ireland Managing Partner, commented: “At PwC, we are excited for the start of the 2023 Six Nations Championship as we enter our eighteenth year as sponsors of the Ireland U20 squad. As defending Grand Slam Champions we have no doubt that the team will rise to the occasion for the 2023 campaign. The dedication and team-work that the U20s show is always exceptional and mirrors our own values at PwC.

“Wishing the team the very best of luck in the upcoming Championship. #FutureIsGreen.”

IRFU President, John Robinson, added: “The onset of a Championship is always a hugely exciting time and the U20s programme is a very important part of Irish Rugby, with previous squads enjoying tremendous success over the years.

“The players have all worked incredibly hard, supported by coaches, parents, schools and clubs to attain this level and they are now about to represent their country in this very prestigious and world class tournament. I wish them every success in the forthcoming games and know that they will show Irish Rugby at its best.

“To PwC, I thank you again for your ongoing support as sponsors of the Ireland U20s. I know that this will be your eighteenth year of this sponsorship which is greatly appreciated and has been a major factor in the development of these squads to be able to compete and be successful at this very high level of competition.”

Tickets for Ireland’s home matches at Musgrave Park are available to purchase now via Ticketmaster.ie.

Ireland U20s Squad:

Forwards (17):

George Morris (Lansdowne/Leinster)
George Hadden (Clontarf/Leinster)
Gus McCarthy (UCD/Leinster)(captain)
Conall Henchy (DUFC/Munster)
Danny Sheahan (UCC/Munster)
Ronan Foxe (Leinster/Old Belvedere)
Fiachna Barrett (Corinthians/Connacht)
Paddy McCarthy (DUFC/Leinster)
Conor O’Tighearnaigh (DUFC/Leinster)
Charlie Irvine (Queen’s University/Ulster)
Evan O’Connell (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Joe Hopes (Queen’s University/Ulster)
Jacob Sheahan (UCC/Munster)
Diarmuid Mangan (UCD/Leinster)
Ruadhán Quinn (Old Crescent/Munster)
James McNabney (Ballymena/Ulster)
Brian Gleeson (Garryowen/Munster)

Backs (15):

Jack Oliver (Garryowen/Munster)
Oscar Cawley (Naas/Leinster)
Fintan Gunne (Terenure/Leinster)
Sam Prendergast (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Matthew Lynch (DUFC/Leinster)
Harry West (Buccaneers/Connacht)
Sam Berman (DUFC/Leinster)
Hugh Gavin (Galwegians/Connacht)
Hugh Cooney (Clontarf/Leinster)
John Devine (Corinthians/Connacht)
Ike Anagu (La Rochelle/IQ Rugby)
James Nicholson (UCD/Leinster)
Rory Telfer (Queen’s University/Ulster)
Henry McErlean (Terenure/Leinster)
Noah Sheridan (Clontarf/Leinster)

Ireland U20 Fixtures:

  • Friday, 3 February: Wales v Ireland, Colwyn Bay, 7pm (Virgin Media)
  • Friday, 10 February: Ireland v France, Musgrave Park, 8pm (RTÉ)
  • Friday, 24 February: Italy v Ireland, Stadio Comunale di Monigo, 7.15pm (RTÉ)
  • Friday, 10 March: Scotland v Ireland, Scotstoun Stadium, 7.15pm (RTÉ)
  • Sunday, 19 March: Ireland v England, Musgrave Park, 5pm (Virgin Media).

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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