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6 Nations

‘Captaincy A Nice Step In Craig’s Journey’ – Farrell

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Casey is one of twelve players involved who lined out against the Māori All Blacks in the summer, while fit-again Ulster winger Jacob Stockdale is back in green for the first time since the 2021 Vodafone Summer Series.

The inaugural All Blacks XV, selected by head coach Leon MacDonald, includes eight capped players with Damian McKenzie partnering vice-captain TJ Perenara at half-back, and Blues lock Patrick Tuipulotu skippering the side.

Casey first trained with the Ireland squad two years, making his debut against Italy at the start of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations. Head coach Andy Farrell felt the 23-year-old was the perfect fit for the captain’s role.

“He was an obvious choice for us. We approached the subject straight away and it was unanimous that it was going to be Craig. Why? Because it’s him just being himself. He’s a natural leader,” said Farrell.

“Just the way that he handles himself on a daily basis in and around everyone. He’s the ultimate professional, he prepares really well.

“He’s been in and around this (Ireland) environment for some time now so the responsibility is a nice step in his journey as well.”

Ireland A Tickets On Sale

The Limerick youngster is no stranger to captaining teams, having done so during his school days at Ardscoil Rís and also been captain of the Ireland Under-18 Schools team.

He enhanced his leadership skills as vice-captain of the Ireland Under-20s for their U-20 Six Nations Grand Slam-winning campaign in 2019, as well as that summer’s World Rugby U-20 Championship.

Revealing how he found out about his captaincy of Ireland ‘A’, he said: “It happened on Monday morning just before the team was named. Andy just pulled me aside for a normal chat that we would have and he just asked me then.

I was absolutely delighted. Massive honour for me, for my family, for everyone that’s helped me to this point. It’s a huge honour for them as well.

“I was delighted. It’s such a great team to be a part of and to be asked to lead it is a great honour.”

Casey has become an important figure in the Munster squad, recently making his 50th appearance for the province on the back of signing a three-year contract extension.

The Ireland ‘A’ panel has quickly come together as a galvanised unit this week, clearly relishing this opportunity to take on a talented New Zealand outfit on home soil and put their hands up for involvement in next week’s Fiji Test.

Ireland ‘A’ last played as the Ireland Wolfhounds against England Saxons in January 2015 when Felix Jones was skipper and Casey’s current Munster team-mate, Keith Earls, lined out at outside centre.

“All my teams growing up in Ardscoil I was the captain of, and then with the Irish 18s I had a bit of captaincy. So I’m well used to captaining teams, but this is obviously to the next level.

“Kind of controlling the week with lads that are part of the leadership group as well has been enjoyable,” said the Shannon clubman, who has made three starts for Munster so far this season.

The ‘A’ matchday squad contains seven players who were part of the successful Emerging Ireland tour to South Africa. Amongst them are Casey’s provincial colleagues, Diarmuid Barron, Jack Crowley and Calvin Nash.

Ireland head coach Farrell is pleased to see the return of Ireland ‘A’ fixtures which, along with the Emerging Ireland tour, give players exposure to the international environment and a chance to press for a senior call-up.

“I think the more opportunity the better it’s going to be for Irish Rugby. A lot of things have to be in place for this kind of thing to continue to happen,” noted Farrell.

“To give lads an opportunity to show their growth, and what normally happens when they come into a different environment, they learn from each other, they go back to their provinces and their own personal development improves as well.

“So that can only be a good thing that we need to look at. But, if we look at the here and now, the continuity from the Māori game to this, and then the lads coming in now to play against the All Blacks XV, is a massive step up.

“And the right direction of a step up. We’ve seen some people thrive on the Emerging Ireland tour, and then they come into camp and see what the expectation is when they see the senior boys flying around in training, etc.

“It can only be a good thing for them, and they get to show their worth at a different level against what is going to be a very strong New Zealand side on Friday night.”

The addition of the Ireland ‘A’ match has certainly added to the coaching workload but Farrell would have it no other way. He wants the players to thrive under pressure, both in training against the senior side and in the heat of battle against an elite New Zealand selection.

On managing the preparations for back-to-back games, he admitted: “It’s been fantastic, it’s been great. It’s been different and I like it being different. I don’t like people just going through the motions and just ticking boxes as far as schedules are concerned, etc.

“We’ve had two teams going against each other (in training) which we don’t normally get. We normally get lads going against each other who know exactly what’s going on.

“So the vibe in and around the place has been perfect for us moving forward. It has been a great experience for everyone.

“Nice to have everyone in the room and to acknowledge where everyone’s at and see who is coming in, that’s very exciting for us all to be part of.

“You can see from a lot of those lads coming back from the Emerging Ireland tour, they understand what it takes. Delivering that on a different level is their next step on the ladder and it’s going to be very interesting on Friday night.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


6 Nations

Jones officially sacked by RFU

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The Rugby Football Union (RFU) will now conclude the long-term work it has been undertaking on coach succession planning with changes set to be announced in the near future. In the interim, Richard Cockerill will take over the day to day running of the men’s performance team.

“It is important to recognise the huge contribution Eddie has made to English rugby, winning three Six Nations Championships, one Grand Slam and taking us to a Rugby World Cup Final,” said RFU CEO, Bill Sweeney.

“He has the highest win ratio of any previous England head coach and has helped develop the leadership skills of many players and coaches. I am grateful to Eddie for all he has done for England across many areas of the game and the professional way in which he has approached reviewing the performance of the team. He has provided the panel with astute insight and meaningful lessons that will support the team performance going forward.”

During his time in charge Jones steered England to three Six Nations titles, including a Grand Slam in 2016, two series wins in Australia, an unbeaten run of 18 matches, an Autumn Nations Cup, and a Rugby World Cup final in Japan.

“I am pleased with much that we have achieved as an England team and I look forward to watching the team’s performance in the future,” said Jones. “Many of the players and I will no doubt keep in touch and I wish them all well in their future careers.”

The decision for Eddie to leave was taken by the RFU board earlier today. Speaking about the decision, RFU Chair, Tom Ilube said: “The independent review panel regularly updates board on its discussions and findings. We are fully supportive of its process and recommendations.”


Images & Content from England Rugby
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6 Nations

Gatland returns as Pivac is sacked

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Warren Gatland will return to Wales before Christmas to replace incumbent head coach Wayne Pivac.

Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) CEO Steve Phillips has confirmed Gatland will take charge of Wales for the 2023 Guinness Six Nations and at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, with the ability to go through the next World Cup cycle up to and including Australia 2027.

Wales’ most successful and longest serving coach is back to take over from fellow New Zealander Pivac, who has agreed to part company with the WRU after the official 2022 Autumn Nations Series review was completed and approved by the WRU Board.

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“This is one of the toughest calls to make in sport, but the review process has reached its conclusion and we have acted quickly and efficiently in the very best interests of our national team,” said Phillips.

“Ultimately we are in the results business and we have agreed with Wayne that the current trajectory for Wales is not where we want it to be and we thank him sincerely for his time, enthusiasm, diligence and effort, which is unquestioned, as head coach over the last three years.”

Gatland leaves Super Rugby side the Chiefs to return, after formerly serving Wales over a 12-year period. He completed his first Six Nations clean sweep in his debut season with Cymru in 2008, before repeating the feat in 2012 and finishing on the same high to win the 2019 tournament.

“In Warren we are bringing in one of the very best coaches in the international game,” continued Phillips.

“We were sorry to see him go when he left and we are delighted that he has agreed to return.

“We know him well and, most importantly, he knows us well too. We are extremely excited about this latest chapter for Wales-and-Warren-Gatland and I know the feeling is mutual.

“He will undoubtedly be able to make an immediate impact, just as he did when he joined us for the first time in 2008. But it has also been important to both parties to ensure we get absolute maximum gain out of the return of such an experienced and highly regarded individual.

“It is for this reason that we are particularly pleased to have been able to secure Warren’s services for the next few years with the ability to go to the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

“This appointment is no quick fix, nor sticking plaster, it is part of our long term planning for the game in Wales.

“We have been able to take swift action in difficult circumstances and that is testament to the good grace and professionalism of Wayne and the efficiency of our review process.”

Native New Zealander Gatland, who took charge of two successful British & Irish Lions tours during his time with Wales, was also in charge for three Rugby World Cups, reaching the semi-final stages on two occasions (2011 and 2019) and took Wales to the top of World Rugby’s rankings – for the first time – by virtue of a record 14-match unbeaten run during his final season.

“I’m very much looking forward to returning to coach Wales,” said Gatland

“This is an opportunity to achieve something with a talented group of players in a country so passionate about rugby. A country which made my family and I so welcome, when we first arrived fifteen years ago, and all the time we were there.

“Our immediate priority is obviously the 2023 Guinness Six Nations and next year’s Rugby World Cup.

“There is little time for sentiment, professional sport is all about preparation, values and results. There will be new challenges as there always is with a change in head coach, but for me the environment, the players and their families will always come first.

“We must prepare to the best of our ability in the time available. We will value and respect each other, we will work hard and, if we get this right together, performances and results will follow.”

The WRU and New Zealand Rugby have reached agreement for Warren Gatland to be released from his existing contract with immediate effect.

“Warren Gatland is Wales’ most successful coach, overseeing a period in which we won three Grand Slams and reached the very top of World Rugby’s rankings for the first time in the history of those records,” added recently appointed WRU chair Ieuan Evans

“We are delighted he has agreed to return to us. We will of course need to afford him time and ensure he has the tools at his disposal to rekindle the success he has achieved with Wales during his previous tenure, but we are all very excited about the future.

“I would like to add my sincere gratitude to Wayne. He has given much of himself over the last three years, including leading Wales to the Six Nations Championship title in 2021 and we are extremely grateful to him for his dedication to the role.”

Wayne Pivac said: “I am obviously extremely sad to stand down from the role.
“It was a speedy review process post-Autumn Nations Series as time is of the essence with the Six Nations fast approaching. Unfortunately, the results or performances this year were not all as we hoped. As a group we all take responsibility for that, but me in particular as head coach.

“We have played some really good rugby at times, but needed to do that more consistently. However, I know that there is a strong foundation for the squad to progress to great things in the future.

“I would like to thank the players, coaches, management and the WRU for their commitment, support and hard work in my time as head coach and to all the people in Wales for making me feel at home here over the past eight years.”

Images & Content – Wales Rugby


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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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