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6 Nations

What Italy Will Lose if Parisse Calls Time

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Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

On June 8th, 2002 an 18-year-old Sergio Parisse stepped onto the pitch for Italy for the first time, the next 17 years are history.

From day one he has been up against it on the international stage, facing the mighty New Zealand on his debut as his team fell to a 64-10 defeat.

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Since then his country have lost a further 99 matches out of the 134, he has played in, but it is a tale of wrong place and time for a rugby legend.

While his team has had poor fortunes on the pitch he has stood out, and to the despair of the nation he comes into the upcoming 6 Nations admitting it could be his last.

“Maybe it will be my last Six Nations, but I don’t like to think or talk too much about the future. In my head, I know I want to play in my fifth World Cup,”

If it is to be the end Italy may well regret not making the most of the time, they have had with Parisse in the team.

At 35, this will be his 15th championship, he has played in the competition 65 times and will play a record 66th on Saturday against Scotland.

In that time Italy have finished bottom of the table on many occasions, even with the power and creative flare of their feisty No 8.

He has contributed seven tries and a memorable drop-goal to the Italian cause in that time, while others around him failed to reach his heights.

The problem Italy have had over the years is winning games often overly relying on their captain. They are currently on a 17-game losing streak in the 6 Nations with their last win coming on February 28th, 2015 against Saturday’s opponents.

With this there has been calls for Italy to be taken out of the tournament with Georgia being put in. However, Parisse believes that Italy have earned their place to compete above the Georgians.

“Georgia are doing good things and good for them, but we showed last November that we play on another level to them,”

With less than a hand full of wins over the past two years, people have questioned whether head coach Conor O’Shea is the man for the job.

What people forget is that without O’Shea, captain fantastic Parisse could have left in 2015 only for the No 8 to get fully behind O’Shea’s vision, even saying he wishes that the system was in place earlier.

“Over the past three years with Conor we have started making a lot of changes in Italy, working behind the scenes with the two franchises,” he said.
“Personally, I wish we’d made those changes 10 years ago. But it’s better now than to continue doing nothing,”

The two Italian sides Treviso and Zebre have improved since O’Shea’s arrival with the former currently sitting in second place in the Pro14’s Conference B.

Their rise is a positive for a nation desperate for an upturn in fortunes.

However, with two-time world player of the year nominee Parisse possibly going into his final year, they will need to replace not only a system, but the greatest player and leader to have ever put on the Azzurii blue jersey.

6 Nations

Andy Farrell Names 40-Player Squad For New Zealand Tour

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Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has named an extended 40-player squad for the five-match tour of New Zealand this summer.

Jonathan Sexton will captain the squad in what will be Ireland’s first tour since their memorable 2018 series win over Australia.

Farrell’s men will play three Test matches against New Zealand in Auckland, Dunedin and Wellington, as well as two fixtures against the Māori All Blacks – in Hamilton ahead of the first Test, and in Wellington following the second Test.

Ireland have not toured New Zealand since 2012 and have never recorded a victory over the All Blacks in Aotearoa.

Five players in the current squad toured New Zealand in 2012 – Cian Healy, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Sexton and Keith Earls – while Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, O’Mahony, Murray, Sexton and Robbie Henshaw were part of the British & Irish Lions squad that toured New Zealand in 2017.

There are five uncapped players included in Ireland’s summer tour squad – the Leinster trio of Ciaran Frawley, Joe McCarthy and Jimmy O’Brien, Munster prop Jeremy Loughman and Connacht flanker Cian Prendergast.

There are a further 12 players included who have won less than 10 caps for Ireland – Harry Byrne, Craig Casey, Gavin Coombes, Mack Hansen, James Hume, Michael Lowry, Ryan Baird, Dave Heffernan, Tom O’Toole, Dan Sheehan, Nick Timoney and Kieran Treadwell.

Robert Baloucoune, Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell and Ronan Kelleher have been ruled out of the tour through injury.

Ireland head coach Farrell commented:

This is the start of our Rugby World Cup campaign and it is going to be a fantastic challenge for our group facing five massive tests across the three weeks.

Due to Covid we haven’t had an opportunity to tour, and touring plays a massive role in teams gelling together and building cohesion on and off the field.

This group could also be the last to play a Test series in New Zealand which makes it even more special.

“We will learn so much about the players and the group as a whole as we have to front up for five incredibly tough fixtures, far from the comforts of home and in grounds where the home support will greatly outnumber travelling Irish fans.”

Connacht senior coach Peter Wilkins will join the national coaching group for the duration of the summer tour to assist in team preparation.

Mick Kearney has been reappointed as men’s national team manager following Gerard Carmody’s promotion to the IRFU Director of Operations role.

Mick previously held the position between 2012 and 2016 and will fulfil the role through to the end of the Rugby World Cup in France next year.

Geraldine Armstrong will lead team operations for the tour to New Zealand, while Carmody will continue to support team operations and planning for Rugby World Cup 2023.

Ireland’s summer tour fixtures will be broadcast live on Sky Sports across Ireland, and there will also be live radio commentary on RTÉ Radio.

IRELAND 2022 SUMMER TOUR SQUAD:

Player/Club/Province/Caps –

Backs (18):

Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht) 37
Harry Byrne (Lansdowne/Leinster) 2
Joey Carbery (Clontarf/Munster) 32
Craig Casey (Shannon/Munster) 5
Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster) 96
Ciaran Frawley (Skerries/Leinster) *
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 17
Mack Hansen (Connacht) 4
Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster) 57
James Hume (Banbridge/Ulster) 3
Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster) 20
Jordan Larmour (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 30
James Lowe (Leinster) 12
Michael Lowry (Banbridge/Ulster) 1
Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 96
Jimmy O’Brien (Naas/Leinster) *
Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster) 42
Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) (capt) 105

Forwards (22):

Ryan Baird (Dublin University/Leinster) 8
Finlay Bealham (Buccaneers/Connacht) 23
Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster) 30
Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster) 27
Gavin Coombes (Young Munster/Munster) 2
Caelan Doris (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 17
Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 57
Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 116
Dave Heffernan (Buccaneers/Connacht) 6
Iain Henderson (Academy/Ulster) 68
Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 26
Jeremy Loughman (Garryowen/Munster) *
Joe McCarthy (Dublin University/Leinster) *
Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) 84
Tom O’Toole (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 2
Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) 43
Cian Prendergast (Connacht) *
James Ryan (UCD/Leinster) 43
Dan Sheehan (Lansdowne/Leinster) 7
Nick Timoney (Banbridge/Ulster) 2
Kieran Treadwell (Ballymena/Ulster) 5
Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster) 40

* Denotes uncapped player

IRELAND 2022 SUMMER TOUR FIXTURES:

Māori All Blacks v IRELAND
FMG Stadium, Hamilton, Wednesday, June 29 (kick-off 7.05pm local time/8.05am Irish time)

New Zealand v IRELAND
Eden Park, Auckland, Saturday, July 2 (kick-off 7.05pm local time/8.05am Irish time)

New Zealand v IRELAND
Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, Saturday, July 9 (kick-off 7.05pm local time/8.05am Irish time)

Māori All Blacks v IRELAND
Sky Stadium, Wellington, Tuesday, July 12 (kick-off 7.05pm local time/8.05am Irish time)

New Zealand v IRELAND
Sky Stadium, Wellington, Saturday, July 16 (kick-off 7.05pm local time/8.05am Irish time)

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

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6 Nations

Sean O’Brien to retire from rugby

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Image Credit: London Irish

London Irish can confirm Seán O’Brien is set to retire from rugby at the end of the 2021/22 season.

The back-row forward will bring a storied 14-year career to a conclusion this summer after two-and-a-half years with the Exiles.

O’Brien spent eleven seasons with his home province of Leinster, winning four Pro12/ Pro14 league titles, four Heineken Cup/ Champions Cup honours and an Amlin Challenge Cup, whilst also earning the ERC European Player of the Year accolade in 2011. 

He was capped 56 times for Ireland between 2009 and 2019 and represented the British and Irish Lions on two tours, firstly to Australia in 2013 and then to New Zealand in 2017. 

O’Brien joined London Irish in December 2019 and has played a vital part across three successful seasons in west London, becoming a fan favourite amongst the Exile Nation. 

On his decision to retire, O’Brien stated: “After much deliberation and consultation with my family and friends, I can confirm that I have decided to retire from playing professional rugby at the end of the season.

“I’ve had an incredible career and am thankful for every second of my time at Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the British & Irish Lions. 

“As a 20-year-old, I fulfilled my childhood dream by pulling on the Leinster jersey, and when I made my debut against Cardiff Blues in 2008, I never imagined what would then follow over the next 14 years. 

“A special mention must go to Colin McEntee for his ‘big brother’ approach when I joined the academy. 

“I feel lucky to have experienced so many wonderful highlights over the course of my career.

“At an international level, I feel privileged to have won 56 caps for Ireland. 

“I gave everything I could possibly give, and I will always look back with great pride at every time I pulled on the Irish jersey to represent my country, my county, my friends, and family.

“I feel very fortunate to have had the career I’ve had but none of it would have been possible without the support of so many people.

“Firstly, I would like to thank my Mam and Dad for taking me to Ballon Rathoe Community Games and then Tullow RFC when I was 8 years old. 

“They took me to every sport in my area which gave me the exposure to all types of sport. 

“They were the perfect role models who taught me to not be afraid of hard work, which certainly helped me progress my career and I can’t thank them enough.

“I was lucky to play alongside some great players and under some brilliant managers and coaches during my time at Tullow, Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the Lions and I would like to thank every one of them. 

“I would also like to thank the backroom staff at each of those clubs, they all showed me fantastic support during my time with them.

“I would like to say a special thank you to some people who believed in me early on in my career, who are sadly no longer with us. 

“Jim Kealy (Tullow RFC) and David Wilkie (Edenderry RFC) always said the right thing to me and gave me direction when needed.

“Away from rugby, I feel lucky to have had such a close group of friends that I have always been able to count and rely on throughout the course of my career. 

“Thanks to all of you, especially James Foley and Daniel Davey. 

“Finally, the most important thank you is reserved for my family. 

“I can’t thank my Mum, Dad and brothers (Stephen and William) sisters (Caroline and Alex) enough for their unconditional support over the years. 

“It has meant everything to me and to have 6 nephews watching means the world to me.

“There is still a lot of rugby to be played this season before the time comes to hang up my boots, and I am fully focused on giving my all in the London Irish jersey until then. 

“I’m going to soak up every minute I get on the pitch and look forward to helping the team wherever I can.

“I am excited about the future and feel I still have a lot to offer the game, in whatever capacity that may be. 

“I am currently taking my time to consider a number of options and will make an announcement with regards to the next stage of my career very soon.”

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6 Nations

Dan Leavy to retire

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

It has been announced that Leinster Rugby back row Dan Leavy is to retire from the game with immediate effect.

The 27-year-old has played 79 times for Leinster Rugby since his debut against Edinburgh Rugby in October 2014 and has also won 11 Ireland caps.

Unfortunately, Leavy suffered a significant knee injury against Ulster Rugby in March 2019, and following expert medical opinion, and despite his best efforts, he has been advised to retire.

Speaking to leinsterrugby.ie, Leavy said, “I have done everything I can to come back from the knee injury I suffered in 2019 but unfortunately I can’t do any more or ask any more of my body.

“I’d like to thank Andy Williams, my surgeon, and Karl Denvir, my physio in Leinster, for all that they have done for me in the years since then. I can take solace from the fact that I tried everything over the last three years.

“From the early days in Old Belvedere to my time in St Michael’s College, all I wanted was to pull on a Leinster Rugby jersey. And then when you achieve that, it’s an Ireland jersey.

“I am very proud of all that I achieved in my short time as a professional.

“Some amazing highs with my brothers in blue and in green and I am beyond grateful for those days and those moments especially the highs of 2018 in Bilbao, the Aviva Stadium and Twickenham.

“More than that I am proud of how I carried myself, in particular over the last few years, and I hope I represented my club, my country, my family and friends to the best of my abilities in those years. I am beyond grateful to them all for their support and in particular to my mum and dad, Eilish and Donal, my sister, Rachel, and my brother, Adam.

“I am also very grateful to Leo Cullen. Leo has been an unbelievable support to me over the last few years. On the field, and off, and I cannot thank him enough.

“Not many people get to enjoy and experience what I have over the last 10 years representing my school, my club and my country.

“This is not the end I had hoped for, but as I look back, at the highs and the lows, they have all been shared with the best teammates, family and friends around me, and what more could I ask for?”

Leinster Rugby head coach Leo Cullen said, “Dan was a player earmarked from an early age as a special talent and I think everyone could see that, particularly in those few years in and around 2017, ’18 and ’19, just how dynamic and destructive a player he could be with Leinster and with Ireland where he went on to achieve unprecedented success at that time.

“While the public have seen very little of Dan since his injury, we have seen plenty of him in here and we have seen the same determination, character and drive that marked him out on the pitch as one of the best.

“Dan has also received incredible support from his family and all the medical staff here along the difficult path of trying to return to playing.

“Speaking on behalf of the support staff here at Leinster Rugby it has been a pleasure and privilege to have worked with Dan. He always brought such a positive energy to the group and we will all miss him dearly but would like to acknowledge the significant contribution he has made to the team during his time here.

“Talking to him, Dan is very appreciative of the times he has enjoyed in here with Leinster but now, it’s about us all supporting him as best we can as he starts that next stage in his life.

“I have no doubt that he will apply himself with the same determination that we have seen since he first pulled on a Leinster jersey in 2014 and that he will make a success of himself away from the rugby fields. We wish him well and I hope he knows that there will always be a warm welcome for him here in UCD or down the road at the RDS.”

Leavy, who played seven times for Leinster this season and last appeared against Ulster Rugby last month, made his debut in 2014 and has played 79 times in total for Leinster Rugby scoring 17 tries.

He was an ever-present member of the double-winning Leinster Rugby squad of 2017/18 and he brought that club form to the international stage when making his Irish debut in November 2016 against Canada at Aviva Stadium.

He made his Six Nations debut later that season coming off the bench against England at Aviva Stadium in March 2017.

During his Ireland career, he never lost a game in his 11 caps and was a key member of the Grand Slam-winning side of 2018.

Everyone in Leinster Rugby sends Dan our very best wishes for the future, and thank him most sincerely, for brilliant days in blue.

Dan Leavy Biog:

DOB: 23 May 1994
Birthplace: Dublin
Height: 6′ 3″
Weight: 16st 7lbs
Leinster Caps / Tries: 79 / 17
Ireland Caps / Tries: 11 / 3

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