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6 Nations

Sexton aims for ‘Big End To The Tournament’

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Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

After coming out on the right side of the result against Scotland, Ireland captain Jonathan Sexton admitted certain improvements will be required if they are to get the better of England in the final round.

Courtesy of Sexton’s late penalty, Ireland squeezed past the challenge of Scotland on a final scoreline of 27-24, moving them up to second in the Guinness Six Nations table in the process.

Andy Farrell’s men had developed a 14-point cushion, before the Scots responded through converted tries from Huw Jones and Hamish Watson.

This led to a frantic conclusion to the contest at BT Murrayfield, something that the Ireland skipper felt could have been avoided.

“With 10 minutes to go I didn’t see the game unfolding like that, but international rugby throws things at you that you don’t expect sometimes,” admitted Sexton afterwards.

“I thought we dominated large parts of the game, but when they had their small purple patches, they scored. When we’re 14 points up and we concede that try, it just changes the game again.

“We just need to be better there. We had a kick-off receipt we didn’t deal well with. We had a lineout we didn’t deal well with and then we missed a tackle that we should have done better.

“As good a team as Scotland are, we have to look at ourselves first and foremost, and need to improve. Because if you have a 14-point lead in international rugby, the next moment is the most important one.

“You can put a statement down. Top teams, they take the kick-off, they clear their lines and then they put pressure on again. We’re just short of that at the moment.”

There was just over three minutes left on the clock when Sexton split the posts with a crucial penalty turn a potential drawn game into a second victory in succession for his Ireland side.

Profiting on the excellent work of his Leinster team-mate Ryan Baird and Ulster’s Iain Henderson, the ever-influential out-half brought his personal tally for the day up to 17 points. Sexton noted:

It was brilliant by Ryan Baird, wasn’t it? To get the charge down. He’s so explosive the first couple of steps and then to make the tackle that he does, which allows Iain Henderson to get on the poach.

“Obviously then you’re going to have to kick it. I kicked pretty well all game. It wasn’t my best of the day. My best probably hit the post (his conversion attempt for Robbie Henshaw’s try), but it was enough. I was just trying to keep it a little bit lower.

“It was quite blustery in the stadium, but it was a good enough strike to get over and thankfully we get the four points, which is very important and we’re up to second now. Big end to the tournament next week.”

The foundation for much of Ireland’s good attacking play came from their work at the lineout – both defensively and offensively. Farrell’s charges secured nine out of 11 on their own ball, while also claiming six of Scotland’s eight throws.

This created an encouraging platform in Ireland’s third away trip of the 2021 campaign, and Sexton feels it could have led to even further joy in the opposition 22.

“The forwards have been outstanding for the last four games and they did a great job today. What we did with that ball at times wasn’t good enough. Some of the turnover ball, you want to make that your best source of possession.

“We turned the ball over straight away at times, which is frustrating, because it’s something we’ve been working on really hard. We’ll look at that, we’ll look at the video and like I said, there’s plenty to get better at.”

Back-to-back wins have not only helped Ireland to climb up the Six Nations standings, but they also come as a morale boost following earlier defeats to Wales and France.

Sexton and his team-mates will now aim to take that momentum into their Aviva Stadium showdown with England. Given the pedigree of their ‘Super Saturday’ opponents, Sexton knows what will be awaiting them, adding:

We feel that we’ve been building. We feel we were a little bit unlucky in the first couple of games. Even though England have had a couple of bad results, they’re the team that were in a World Cup final.

“The team that won the Six Nations last year, the team that won the Autumn Nations Cup. They’re a top, top team and we’ve to prove that we can match them and put in a performance to beat one of the top teams. Because we haven’t done it as of yet.”

From Irish Rugby


6 Nations

Ireland’s TikTok Women’s Six Nations Home Games To Be Played At Musgrave Park

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Ireland’s home matches in the 2023 TikTok Women’s Six Nations will be played at Musgrave Park.

The Cork venue has been the home of the Ireland U20s since 2019 and has become a real fortress in recent seasons, with Ireland Women also enjoying huge support there when they defeated Italy at Musgrave Park in last year’s Six Nations.

Greg McWilliams‘ side open their 2023 Championship against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday, 25th March (2.15pm) before welcoming France to Cork in Round 2 on Saturday, 1st April (3.15pm). After a rest weekend, Ireland will be on the road again, going head-to-head with Italy in Parma on Saturday, 15th April (4.45pm).

World Cup finalists England will visit Musgrave Park in Round 4 on Saturday, 22nd April (2.15pm) and the Championship will conclude with a trip to Edinburgh to take on Scotland at the DAM Health Stadium on Saturday, 29th April (7.30pm).

“We received huge home support during last year’s Six Nations and we’re excited to make Cork our home base for the 2023 Championship,” McWilliams said. “We enjoyed a good day out against Italy last year, with the people of Cork coming out to support the team and we will be hoping for more of the same in 2023, as two of the best teams in women’s rugby come to visit.”

Ticket details for Ireland’s home matches at Musgrave Park will be announced in due course.

TikTok Women’s Six Nations Fixtures 2023:

  • Wales v Ireland, Saturday 25 March, Cardiff Arms Park, 2.15pm
  • Ireland v France, Saturday 1 April, Musgrave Park, 3.15pm
  • Italy v Ireland, Saturday 15 April, Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, 4.45pm
  • Ireland v England, Saturday 22 April, Musgrave Park, 2.15pm
  • Scotland v Ireland, Saturday 29 April, DAM Health Stadium, 7.30pm.

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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6 Nations

Leading Rugby Stakeholders Unite To Consider Future Of Rugby

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Rugby’s major stakeholders have united to consider the short and long-term insights and priorities for ensuring the sport is a relevant, accessible and attractive sport for all as it grows over the next decade.

The World Rugby Shape of the Game conference, hosted in London, gathered leading coaching, playing, officiating, medical and event owner minds to consider how to build a better game for all, focusing on safety and spectacle. Underpinning that mission is the ongoing prioritisation of player welfare, while fostering an environment that is simpler, more accessible and more attractive.

It will be followed by similar conferences on the elite women’s 15s and community games as the sport looks to growth opportunities over the next decade. The process will also consider fan views and general sport and entertainment considerations to create a holistic approach to the future of the sport.

Over two days, delegates considered the global welfare landscape, including reinforcing the data regarding the relative safety of the community and age-grade game, global playing trends and the role of match officials, the narrative around the sport with all participants focused on the bigger picture.

The conference identified key areas for further exploration:

• Focus on the fan: Insights from fans and broadcasters to inform the longer-term development of the sport as an entertainment product

• Speed up the game: Focus on interventions and innovations to reduce stoppages, increase continuity and the rhythm of the game

• Support match officials: Provide them with the tools to perform their role to their best ability, consider TMO intervention reductions

• Underpin with player welfare: Continue to implement evidence-based strategies to mitigate head injuries and overall injuries in the sport

• Change the narrative: The community game is the lifeblood of the sport, the risk of injury is much less than that of the elite game, focus on the benefits while managing the risks

World Rugby will take away the considerations and insights for further exploration to prioritise areas that can be implemented in the short term without changing law ahead of Rugby World Cup 2023.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said:

“As a sport, a movement and a family, we must always challenge ourselves to be better. That means taking time to consider what fans and players want the future of our sport to be, a future where more people want to play and support the game, where injury risk is reducing and where all involved in the game have their say.

“This conference was the first step towards a reimagination of our sport. The full and frank contributions from a wide spectrum of disciplines gives us plenty to consider and to move forward with through our structures. I would like to thank all participants for taking time out at a busy time to unite, collaborate and consider our future.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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6 Nations

England side to face Springboks

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England host the Springboks at Twickenham Stadium in their final Autumn Nations Series game on Saturday 26 November (5.30pm KO).

Manu Tuilagi will make his 50th appearance for England at outside centre, having made his debut for England against Wales in August 2011. Owen Farrell will again captain the side at inside centre.

Marcus Smith is at fly half and Jack van Poortvliet is at scrum half. Tommy Freeman comes in at right wing, Jonny May is at left wing and Freddie Steward is full back.

Jamie George (hooker) and Mako Vunipola join fellow prop Kyle Sinckler in two changes to the starting front row. Maro Itoje and Jonny Hill stay at lock. Alex Coles comes in at flanker with Tom Curry, while Billy Vunipola is No.8.

Last weekend’s double-try scorer Will Stuart is named as a finisher along with Luke Cowan-Dickie, David Ribbans, Sam Simmonds, Ben Youngs, Henry Slade and vice-captains Ellis Genge and Jack Nowell.

“This is our last game of the autumn and our chance to continue building on the improvements we have made throughout the matches,” said Jones. “We have made steady progress from game-to-game, culminating in a pulsating draw against New Zealand.

“Now we have the chance to test ourselves against the might of the world champions. We’re going out there to light the crowd up. The support at Twickenham was outstanding last week and we want to work hard on the pitch to make sure we have another atmosphere like that again on Saturday.”

Squad

Starters

15. Freddie Steward

14. Tommy Freeman

13. Manu Tuilagi

12. Owen Farrell (C)

11. Jonny May

10. Marcus Smith

9. Jack van Poortvliet

1. Mako Vunipola

2. Jamie George

3. Kyle Sinckler

4. Maro Itoje

5. Jonny Hill

6. Alex Coles

7. Tom Curry

8. Billy Vunipola

Finishers

16. Luke Cowan-Dickie

17. Ellis Genge

18. Will Stuart

19. David Ribbans

20. Sam Simmonds

21. Ben Youngs

22. Henry Slade

23. Jack Nowell


Images & Content from England Rugby
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