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All Blacks overcome brave Japan in Tokyo



Now it’s clear why Japan are called the Brave Blossoms in rugby as they pushed the All Blacks all the way before going down 38-31 margin in an enthralling game in Tokyo.

When Japan lock, and New Zealander, Warner Dearns charged down a ruck clearance by halfback Finlay Christie to regather the ball and run unchallenged to get Japan to 24-28 behind, 65,188 Japanese fans had cause to hope a first win over the All Blacks was on the cards.

Then, when lock Brodie Retallick was red-carded for dangerous play in an attempted cleanout in the 65th minute, they had hope again.

Outstanding openside flanker Kazuki Himeno with three minutes left, lifted hopes again, but New Zealand’s 14 held them out and ended the game with first five-eighths Richie Mo’unga kicking a penalty goal.

What impressed about Japan’s effort was their ability to absorb everything New Zealand threw at them, being forced to make 182 tackles compared to 103 by the All Blacks, while New Zealand won 121 rucks and mauls to 65.

Inspired efforts abounded for the home team as they made the most of the possession they gained. Himeno was ever present in the loose, locks Dearns and Jack Cornelson were athletic and competitive with ball in hand while blindside flanker Michael Leitch contested the loose ball and provided an experienced leadership hand. And in the backs, centre Dylan Reily and left-wing Siosaia Fifita and replacement Gerhard ven der Heever, took chances as they came.

They provided a timely reminder for the All Blacks of the job that lies ahead of them in the remainder of the their tour.

Down 17-21 at the break, New Zealand came out to start the second half at speed, to try to breakdown the Japanese resolve. It was wing Caleb Clarke who ran off a pass from second five-eighths Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to extend the lead. But Japanese defence denied them until they lifted their tempo and power, following Dearns’ try, to hammer the Japan line before No8 Hoskins Sotutu scored.

But then losing Retallick gave Japan another chance to apply the pressure, and it was some determined All Blacks defence, and time, that denied them a famous victory.

It was the first time in five victories over Japan that the All Blacks hadn’t passed the 50 points mark and represented the advance the host team has made.

Typical of Japan’s response was when New Zealand seemed set to pour on the power in the run to halftime, it was Japan who found their second wind and scored two tries in four minutes.

Enjoying a good share of possession throughout the first half, Japan took time to find their continuity, much of the sting in their game being taken out of them by having to contain the All Blacks with their tackling.

Using their set piece to maximise their opportunities during the middle stages of the first half they benefited from the unique skills that last-minute replacement Samisoni Taukei’aho provided, both with his ball play and his lineout throwing.

In New Zealand’s first try, Taukei’aho broke the defence in midfield, drew the final defender and then fed Retallick in for a 25-metre run for the try.

New Zealand missed a chance to score from a five-metre scrum in Japan’s goalmouth when No8 Hoskins Sotutu was turned and unable to present the ball. Moments later, the All Blacks used a similar position to move the ball right, then left and it was Mo’unga who got a ball away to second five-eighths Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and it was centre Braydon Ennor who scored in the 25th minute.

The TMO Marius Jonker felt there might have been a forward pass by Mo’unga but referee Nika Amashukeli said there wasn’t enough evidence to deny the try.

In the 31st minute, Taukei’aho’s pinpoint long throw was taken in midfield by Tuivasa-Scheck and his instant in-pass gave left-wing Sevu Reece space with one man to beat and he rounded him with ease for the third try.

Making more attacking play, the All Blacks lost the ball when Himeno turned the ball over. The ball was played down the right flank and kicked ahead. Perofeta almost pulled off a superb catch but lost the ball forward, and then Ennor couldn’t hold the ball when going down on it.

It was kicked ahead with talented Japan first five-eighths Takuya Yamasawa kicked it ahead, and then gathered the ball to score.

From the restart, Japan worked the ball down the right flank with Leitch making good ground, the ball went through the line with Reilly getting the ball out wide, and then passed inside to halfback Yutaka Nagare who ran in the try.

Scorers: Japan 31 (Takuya Yamasawa, Yutaka Nagare, Warner Dearns, Kazuki Himeno tries; Yamasawa 2 con, pen; Seungsin Lee 2 con) New Zealand 38 (Brodie Retallick, Braydon Ennor, Sevu Reece, Caleb Clarke, Hoskins Sotutu tries; Richie Mo’unga 5 con, pen). HT: 17-21

Content & Images from – New Zealand Rugby

6 Nations

‘It’s A Great Appointment’ – Farrell On Murphy’s Move To Ulster



With Dan McFarland stepping down as Ulster head coach this week, it has been confirmed that Murphy will take over the role on an interim basis following the conclusion of the Under-20 Six Nations Championship.

The Ireland Under-20s are in title contention again thanks to two opening wins, with Murphy having overseen back-to-back U-20 Grand Slam successes and a World Rugby U-20 Championship final appearance in the last two seasons.

Farrell first worked alongside Murphy when they were defence coach and skills and kicking coach respectively, during Joe Schmidt’s coaching reign with Ireland.

The pair have kept up a strong connection with Murphy continuing for a short while as a specialist kicking resource for the senior squad, and the Under-20s often training with Farrell’s men during the Six Nations window.

“I think it’s a great appointment. I think Richie will do a fantastic job (at Ulster), his rugby knowledge is second to none,” commented Farrell.

“He is a very experienced guy that has been an assistant for quite some time and I know that he worked with us for a short period before we went to the Under-20s, but that was his next step to take that type of mantle on and do it his way.

He has certainly done a fantastic job. I mean, coaching the Under-20s is coaching in its purest form, it’s bloody difficult because of the swapping and changing the whole time each year.

“It shows exactly the quality that he’s got and his knowledge of the whole game. I think the players up at Ulster there will love him.

“His attitude is great but first and foremost I think they will respect his knowledge, definitely.”

McFarland was in charge of Ulster since 2018 and guided them to the PRO14 final two years later. They looked to be finding form again with a trio of wins over Racing 92, Connacht, and Leinster, coming into the New Year.

However, last Sunday’s poor 19-17 defeat at the Ospreys was their third loss in a row, leaving them eighth in the BKT United Rugby Championship, and came just a few weeks after failing to reach the last 16 of the Investec Champions Cup.

Assistant coach Dan Soper will take the reins for their next URC fixture at home to the Dragons on Saturday week, before Murphy comes on board for their two-match tour to South Africa where they will play the Hollywoodbets Sharks and the DHL Stormers.

The Bray man will have to quickly get up to the speed as the Ulstermen then travel to Montpellier in the EPCR Challenge Cup’s round of 16, just after Easter. Given the people involved, Farrell is confident they can turn things around at Kingspan Stadium.

“Look, it’s obvious that we want all the provinces playing at the top of their game. If that happens, it’s a special place to be but it doesn’t tend to happen that often, does it?

“One thing I know for sure is that Ulster have got a fantastic squad and good people up there. The lads that we have within our squad are exemplary to the province, as far as their attitudes are concerned whether they’re playing or not.”

A dislocated toe, suffered during that loss to the Ospreys, means Iain Henderson is unavailable for Ireland’s clash with Wales on Saturday. His Ulster colleague, Stuart McCloskey, is one of only two backs on the hosts’ bench as they opt to return to a six-two split.

New-look Wales, who lost their first two games to Scotland and England by a combined three points, come to Dublin with a squad that has accumulated 662 caps, compared to Ireland’s 1012.

119 of those caps are provided by George North alone, while 21-year-old Exeter Chiefs lock Dafydd Jenkins continues as captain, and Cardiff back rower Mackenzie Martin could make his debut off the bench.

Asked what he is expecting from Wales this weekend, Farrell replied: “Playing against Wales, you know it’s always going to be a scrap.

“You know that every single time Wales play against Ireland, it means probably a little bit more to them, I’ve been told (that) over the years.

“So we’re aware of that, and we also know as well that Wales historically have got better throughout the competition.

“We’re five weeks into it come the weekend, from when we first started training. We know that they’ll be better and hopefully we’ve used our time wisely as well.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

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6 Nations

Wales team to face Ireland in Dublin named



Senior men’s head coach Warren Gatland has named the Wales side to face Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin in the third round of the 2024 Guinness Six Nations on Saturday 24 February (KO 2.15pm live on ITV and S4C).

There is one change to the starting XV that played England at Twickenham on 10 February, with Sam Costelow returning for Wales at fly half.

Among the replacements back-row Mackenzie Martin is in line to win his first senior cap this weekend and would become the 1,200th Wales men’s international.


Tight-head prop Dillon Lewis would be making his first appearance of this Championship if called on from the bench.

Gatland said: “We are excited to go out to Dublin and test ourselves against one of the leading sides in world rugby. It’s a challenge we are relishing.

“We’ve made steps in the last couple of games and now it’s about building on that, learning from those experiences and taking that into this weekend.

“It’s about continuing to work hard, looking for accuracy in our performance across 80 minutes and also keeping our discipline.”

Wales senior men’s team to play Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin in the Guinness Six Nations, Saturday 24 February KO 2.15pm GMT. Live on ITV and S4C.
15. Cameron Winnett (Cardiff Rugby – 2 caps)
14. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby – 56 caps)
13. George North (Ospreys – 119 caps)
12. Nick Tompkins (Saracens – 34 caps)
11. Rio Dyer (Dragons – 16 caps)
10. Sam Costelow (Scarlets – 9 caps)
9. Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 55 caps)
1. Gareth Thomas (Ospreys – 27 caps)
2. Elliot Dee (Dragons – 48 caps)
3. Keiron Assiratti (Cardiff Rugby – 4 caps)
4. Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs – 14 caps) Captain / Capten
5. Adam Beard (Ospreys – 53 caps)
6. Alex Mann (Cardiff Rugby – 2 caps)
7. Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers – 15 caps)
8. Aaron Wainwright (Dragons – 45 caps)


16. Ryan Elias (Scarlets – 40 caps)
17. Corey Domachowski (Cardiff Rugby – 8 caps)
18. Dillon Lewis (Harlequins – 54 caps)
19. Will Rowlands (Racing 92 – 30 caps)
20. Mackenzie Martin (Cardiff Rugby – uncapped)
21. Kieran Hardy (Scarlets – 19 caps)
22. Ioan Lloyd (Scarlets – 4 caps)
23. Mason Grady (Cardiff Rugby – 8 caps)

Images & Content – Wales Rugby

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6 Nations

Jager and Ahern Join Ireland Squad Ahead Of Wales



The Ireland squad re-assembled in Dublin on Sunday evening ahead of this weekend’s Guinness Men’s Six Nations Round 3 clash against Wales at Aviva Stadium (Kick-off 2.15pm).

Prop Oli Jager has joined the squad and Thomas Ahern has also linked up with Andy Farrell‘s side at the IRFU High Performance Centre this week.

Iain Henderson picked up a foot injury during Ulster’s URC game away to Ospreys on Sunday and there will be a further update later in the week.

The Ireland Match Day Squad to face Wales at Aviva Stadium will be named on Thursday at 2pm.

Ireland Squad – Wales Week: 

Backs (15):

Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht)
Harry Byrne (UCD/Leinster)
Craig Casey (Shannon/Munster)
Jack Crowley (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Ciaran Frawley (UCD/Leinster)
Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster)
Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster)
Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster)
Jordan Larmour (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
James Lowe (Leinster)
Stuart McCloskey (Bangor/Ulster)
Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster)
Calvin Nash (Young Munster/Munster)
Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster)
Jacob Stockdale (Lurgan/Ulster)

Forwards (21):

Thomas Ahern (Shannon/Munster)*
Ryan Baird (Dublin University/Leinster)
Finlay Bealham (Buccaneers/Connacht)
Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster)
Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
Caelan Doris (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster)
Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster)
Iain Henderson (Academy/Ulster)
Oli Jager (Munster)*
Ronan Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Jeremy Loughman (Garryowen/Munster)
Joe McCarthy (Dublin University/Leinster)
Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster)(captain)
Tom O’Toole (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster)
James Ryan (UCD/Leinster)
Dan Sheehan (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Tom Stewart (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
Nick Timoney (Banbridge/Ulster)
Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster)

*Denotes uncapped player

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

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