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6 Nations

Plenty of Changes; Ireland vs Scotland Preview

Both Ireland and Scotland have been forced to make changes to their teams but who will benefit from them?

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Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ireland have made five changes to the team that lost last weekend as they hope to bounce back against a confident Scottish team in Murrayfield on Saturday.

Joe Schmidt gambled with players last weekend in Ireland’s 32-20 loss to England, but the damage has been much worse than just the result.

Most noticeably he chose to start three natural centres in Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose, and Robbie Henshaw, who came in at full-back.

It was a bold move however, Ringrose was ruled out earlier in the week due to a tight hamstring and today it was confirmed that Henshaw has picked up a dead leg and will miss this round.

All of which has led Schmidt to pick Munster’s Chris Farrell at 13 to partner Aki. Farrell isn’t a bad option, he played one match for his country last year and picked up the man of the match award and has an unexpected opportunity to prove himself once more.

Elsewhere, the front row has remained the same with Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong joining captain Rory Best. In the second-row James Ryan is partnered by Quinn Roux, who will win his first 6 Nations start, following Devin Toner’s injury.

At the back of the pack there are two changes with Sean O’Brien getting the nod ahead of Josh Van Der Flier, who was Ireland’s standout performer last time out. He is pushed to the bench.

Jack Conan comes in to replace CJ Stander at No 8, after Stander played 62 minutes with two fractures in his cheek and eye socket against the English.

The pack is completed by Peter O’Mahony.

Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton continue in the half-back positions, while Aki and Farrell are at inside and outside centre as mentioned previously.

In back-three is made up of Jacob Stockdale, Keith Earls, and a fit again Rob Kearney, who takes over at full-back.

The bench remains largely the same as last week and will add a great amount of power when used. With the likes of Sean Cronin, Andrew Porter, Joey Carbery and Jordan Larmour to call upon. Ultan Dillane is the only change.

The Scottish team sees four changes to the one that saw off Italy 33-20 last Saturday.

In the front-row Allan Dell and captain Stuart McInally are joined by Simon Berghan, who comes in for the injured WP Nel.

In the second-row, Ben Tollis moves to the bench as Jonny Gray plays alongside Grant Gilchrist.

There is a change in the back-row also, as Josh Struass replaces Sam skinner. Ryan Wilson and Jamie Ritchie are his partners at 6 and 7 respectively.

Greig Laidlaw and Finn Russell begin the game at scrum-half and out-half, while Sam Johnson and Huw Jones remain in the centre.

Sean Maitland has been chosen ahead of last week’s hat-trick hero Blair Kinghorn at 11, with Tommy Seymour and Staurt Hogg making up the starting XV.

There are also four new players on the bench for the hosts as Fraser Brown, Pete Horne and Rob Harley take a sit with the uncapped D’arcy Rae.

Speaking ahead of the clash Schmidt admitted his excitement at Farrell having a chance to shine.

“It’s a pretty exciting opportunity to give Chris Farrell the chance to play against Scotland. He stepped in only once last year, got man-of-the-match, and he’s a guy that’s coming back to form after the long lay-off that he’s had,” he said.

He also told the press that Ireland have to move on from last weekend’s defeat and grow into the match on Saturday.

“We have to build our way into the game, we can’t be chasing things and trying to get instant results. You’ve got to earn whatever you get up there because they give so little away. (Last week’s defeat) doesn’t change the mentality too much, we just want to take it one game at a time. We’re not going to chase a tournament when we’ve got such a tough task in front of us,” he added.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has warned his team that this will be their biggest challenge in this year’s 6 Nations.

“It’s massive. It’s probably the biggest challenge we’ll face in the Guinness Six Nations, given the way Ireland have been playing in the last few years – they are Grand Slam Champions and the number-two team in the world,” he said.

Scotland currently sit top of the table after round one due to their bonus-point victory over the Italians, but the spotlight will be firmly on last year’s Grand Slam winners, Ireland, to see how they react especially with the injuries to adding to the pressure.

What is certain is that at 14 15 on Saturday there will be two teams going all out for a confidence boosting win.

6 Nations

Rory Best to retire.

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ulster and Ireland captain Rory Best has confirmed that he will retire from professional rugby when his current contract expires after the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Best will bow out with a hugely impressive list of honours and will go down as a legend of the modern game, having spent 15 seasons at the top level.

Rory began his rugby development at Banbridge RFC, with whom he is still involved, while he also played at Portadown College and Belfast Harlequins RFC on route to the professional game.

He made his competitive debut for Ulster in 2004 and has amassed 219 appearances to date, scoring 23 tries. He was a key member of the squad which won the Celtic League title in 2005/06.

Best is Ulster’s most-capped international with 116 appearances (10 tries) and has helped Ireland win the Six Nations Championship on four occasions, including two Grand Slam successes (one as captain).

Best’s leadership of Ireland is record-breaking; he captained Ireland to its first ever win against New Zealand in 2016 and has steered the country to second in the world rankings.

He was a member of the British & Irish Lions squad for the 2013 and 2017 tours to Australia and New Zealand respectively.

Best was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2017 Birthday Honours for services to rugby.

“It is with mixed feelings that I announce my retirement from Ulster Rugby as of the end of this season,” said Best.

“This feels like the right time for me to go out on my terms, a luxury for which I feel very privileged.

“I am very excited for the end of the season with Ulster Rugby and for the upcoming World Cup with Ireland, both of which I hope to finish with a massive high, playing at the top of my game.

“In my 15 years at this brilliant club, I have been lucky to have met, played alongside, been coached by and supported by many great people, and I would like to thank every individual for the time they have invested in me since 2004.

“I grew up supporting Ulster Rugby, have been fortunate to play and captain Ulster Rugby, and now look forward to supporting Ulster Rugby in the future with my family.”

Paying tribute to Best, Ulster’s Operations Director, Bryn Cunningham said:

“No player representing Ulster Rugby has had a more profound impact in the professional era than Rory.

“When Rory enters the room, everyone waits for his words. On the training pitch, he demands high standards at all times. During a match, players turn to Rory for leadership and direction. He has been our all-encompassing talismanic figure for more than a decade.

“Rory’s ability to not only stay at the top, but also fight his way through adversity, shows the strength of character he possesses.

“The ever-present support of the Best family on the side-lines, in particular Jodie, Ben, Penny and Richie, encapsulates Rory as the ultimate family man. We know that they will continue to follow Ulster Rugby for many years to come.

“Rory will justifiably go down as one of the greatest legends of Ulster and Irish Rugby.”

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6 Nations

Richards Claims 2003 World Cup Winners Cheated, Woodward Denies

Dean Richards has made some serious accusations to the RFU.

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Former Harlequins director of rugby and ‘Bloodgate’ scandal Dean Richards told the RFU that England’s 2003 World Cup winners cheated in a report.

He claims that his Harlequins side were not the only team using fake injuries to win games and that the World Cup winners were doing so too.

The document, which was uncovered by a documentary on talkSPORT revealed what Richards had said.

“The use of fake blood, cutting players, re-opening wounds, feigning injury in the front row, jabbing players with anaesthetic all occur regularly throughout the game,” he said.

When asked about giving examples by former RFU head of discipline Jeff Blackett he accused the English team.

“RWC 2003. England used faked blood,” he said.

Richards, who was banned from rugby for three years in 2009 for his part in the scandal in which players used fake blood to be taken off as blood substitutions has been shut down by 2003 coach Clive Woodward.

“This is simply not true. I am not sure why Dean raised this. I have never been involved in anything like this. It is ridiculous,” he said.

He also said that the claim was “absolute nonsense”.

It appears as though the RFU have nothing to worry about this time around as it seems like Richards is trying to stir the pot once more in the rugby world.

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6 Nations

French Rugby rule out foreign coach.

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Photo by ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images

It’s been well documented that current French Coach Jacques Brunel will be vacating his role with the FFR post World Cup in Japan later this year and with all confirmed exits, speculation is always rife as to who will step up and take the role.

One thing that was confirmed this week was that the next head coach of France will not be Warren Gatland, Joe Schmidt, Eddie Jones – or any other overseas coach that has been linked with the top job in French Rugby.

This decision was made following a referendum of the country’s amateur rugby clubs which ruled out a non-Frenchman taking charge.

59% of the clubs voted with a view that they would not support the appointment of a foreigner to replace Jacques Brunel after the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

French Federation president Bernard Laporte has promised to respect the result.

“I welcome this democratic expression and of course I will respect that choice,”

Several names have been linked with the job. Warren Gatland and Joe Schmidt who have both coached their last 6 Nations games with Wales & Ireland respectively would be shrewd appointments as would Sir Clive Woodward and John Mitchell were also thought to be on the FFR’s shortlist. Current Montpellier boss Vern Cotter – was also expected to be a contender but he too will now not be considered for the role.

Rumours are still strong regarding Ronan O’Gara taking some sort of coaching role with the FFR pre Rugby World Cup but nothing official has been announced to date.

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