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6 Nations

Who’s in Line for Schmidt in Ireland’s Scrum-Half Crisis?

The reality facing joe Schmidt is that one or none of his back up 9’s will be available for Ireland’s opening game against rivals England on February 2nd.

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Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Over the weekend the Irish provinces completed a clean sweep of victories in Europe, but as the clubs are booming the nation begins to switch to the country’s 6 Nations defence and ask who is our back up at scrum-half?

The worrying sight for the provinces was that out of four only one had their first choice No.9 fully fit by the end of the game.

Ironically, that man is Conor Murray the one scrum-half that was missing during Ireland’s November Series wins.

Leinster fans celebrated a 29-13 win over fellow giants Toulouse with a bitter sweet feeling after seeing Luke McGrath helped off the pitch by medical staff in the second half with a leg injury.

Today, it was confirmed that he has suffered knee ligament damage and could be set to miss up to eight weeks out on the side-line. In other words, the entire 6 Nations.

McGrath’s injury was followed by news that Ulster’s John Cooney had pulled out of their clash with Racing 92 due to back spasms caused in training.

Before all of this, Kieran Marmion, Ireland’s second choice, underwent surgery on his ankle after the 16-9 win over the All-Blacks in November and is expected back soon.

The reality facing joe Schmidt is that one or none will be available for Ireland’s opening game against rivals England on February 2nd.

Names that have been thrown around are Ulster’s David Shanahan, and Munster’s Duncan Williams.

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However, the is a shining light is Connacht’s Caolin Blade, who has been covering for Marmion since his surgery, has held his own over his 18 appearances so far this season.

The word on the street is that a man, who only as far back as last month said,

“I haven’t really spoken to anyone about that, more so trying to play well here and try get number one here [Connacht] first of all, that’s my aim” when asked about Ireland duty, will be called up.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise as he has helped Connacht to fourth in their Pro14 conference and within touching distance of a quarter-final place in the Challenge Cup.

Some even wonder if Marmion will find it hard to get back into the Connacht team after Blade’s displays let alone the Irish team.

All of which means, that when Schmidt names his extended squad for the 6 Nations tomorrow don’t be surprised to hear Blade’s name.

In fact, the Galway hopeful could be about to show his abilities on the international stage and make a last gasp bid to claim a stake for a ticket to Japan later this year.

6 Nations

Ireland Add Final Piece to Backroom Puzzle

Ireland have confirmed their final addition to Andy Farrell’s coaching staff

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(Photo by Ashley Western/MB Media/Getty Images)

Former England coach Mike Catt has been announced as Ireland’s new attack coach come the end of the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.

Catt is currently coaching the Italian national side however; he will leave his post following the conclusion of the World Cup and take up the role of Ireland’s attack coach until 2023.

He is the last of the coaches to be named as a part of Andy Farrell’s backroom staff, with Farrell set to take over from Joe Schmidt once the tournament in Japan is completed.

Catt is delighted to be moving on to work with the Irish side but insists that he is solely focused on his current task with Italy.

“I am looking forward to the Rugby World Cup in Japan and seeing the group of players we have here in Italy fulfil their potential and achieve the objectives we have set for ourselves. Obviously, it is an honour to be given this future opportunity with Ireland, but I will focus on that challenge only after I have given my all for Italy and this group of players,” he said.

Farrell and Catt previously worked together while part of England’s coaching set-up for the 2015 Rugby World Cup and has plenty of experience which is appealing to IRFU performance director David Nucifora.

“Mike brings a wealth of experience to the coaching group and has been operating at the highest level of the international game for some time. He was a smart and innovative player, and he brings those attributes and much more besides in his approach to coaching and player development. We feel that we have secured a talented practitioner who will add significant value to the group and to the wider Irish system,” he said.

Along with Catt, Farrell has added John Fogarty as the side’s new scrum coach, while Simon Easterby and Richie Murphy will continue on as forwards specialist and kicking and skills coaches respectively.

Farrell will be hoping that he will take over the reigns following a successful World Cup campaign and will want to hit the ground running having put together a top-quality backroom set-up.

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6 Nations

World Rugby Gives Deadline for Nations Championship

World Rugby have given the 10 unions from the Six Nations and Rugby Championship a final deadline to decide on the Nations Championship

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World Rugby have confirmed that global rugby chiefs will have until Friday to decide whether or not the Nations Championship plans will be backed

The governing body has given the unions of the Six Nations and Rugby Championship nations until the closing of business on Friday of this week to provide a yes or no answer towards their new plans.

For their plans to be progressed World Rugby needs a unanimous decision from the 10 unions.

If that is to happen, they plan to launch their new format in 2022, with winners of the Six Nations and an expanded six-team Rugby Championship going head to head.

The final proposals of the Nations Championship will have to be passed by a vote of the full World Rugby council, however none of this will go ahead unless there is backing from the 10 nations.

Proposals have included creating two-tier tournaments for the Six Nations and Rugby Championship which would include the possibility of relegation or promotion.

A format which Six Nations unions appear to dislike.

As well as this there is the issue of the Pacific Islands, who believe that the creation of such tournaments would mean that they would be less likely to face the top nations in November and therefore be unable to develop as they currently are.

Whatever is to happen will become clearer in the next couple of days and it could be the start of a new era for international rugby.

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6 Nations

Welsh Warrior to Play Trade Outside Wales Post-World Cup?

One of Wales’ finest players may make a move away from the country after the World Cup

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(Photo credit PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Image)

Alun Wyn Jones’ future with the Ospreys is in doubt after his duel contract with the Welsh Rugby Union and the Ospreys runs out at the end of the season.

The Welsh captain has spent his entire career with the Ospreys, but fans expect and are even encouraging the lock to seek a move elsewhere after Shane Williams said his future needed to be sorted.

Jones has previously turned down the chance to move abroad for a better contract, instead remaining in Wales and being a loyal servant to both his country and club.

Having made 125 caps for Wales, their Grand Slam winning captain would be eligible to continue playing for the country if he did move as he more than doubles the required 60-caps for overseas-based players.

Many are already speculating that Jones will be the British & Irish Lions captain for the 2021 tour of South Africa, but some fear a move abroad would prevent Warren Gatland from picking him.

Fans seem to think that Jones deserves to earn more overseas in the twilight of his career and set himself up for a more stable future come the end of his glittering career.

A move to England or France would be most likely with Harlequins fans calling on the club to make a move for Jones after losing Aussie James Horwill this season.

Another possibility for the 33-year-old could be a big-money move to Japan. Either way most of the clubs in Europe or Japan can offer Jones a significant salary rise which he could be tempted by.

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