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6 Nations

Easterby: Emerging Ireland Tour Allows Us To Look Further Into Talent Pool

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Presenting an early opportunity to work with and impress the national coaches in a World Cup year, an Emerging Ireland squad has been selected to compete in the upcoming Toyota Challenge in Bloemfontein.

Three of South Africa’s Currie Cup teams, the Griquas, Pumas and Cheetahs, will provide the opposition for a young squad coached by Simon Easterby, the national defence coach.

The 35-man panel includes four Test-capped players, three who saw action against the Māori All Blacks, and a number of players who featured for the Ireland Under-20s in recent seasons, including 2022 U-20 Grand Slam winners James Culhane and Chay Mullins.

These are the first fixtures for an Emerging Ireland side since the Tbilisi Cup back in 2015, with Easterby hoping those selected can make the most out of the tour and press their claims for further involvement in November and beyond.

“I guess to put it in context, and the year that presents itself leading to the Rugby World Cup, we know that we have a real good, strong core group of players that’s been with us for a number of years,” said Easterby.

“But, we have to try and grow the depth and look further into the talent pool, in terms of our squad going forward.

“This is a real opportunity to build some continuity for some of those players that would have been with us in New Zealand during the Māori games and spent time with us in the environment there.

“But, also bring back a few players who have been out of the system for a while due to injury or form, and also look at some of the depth in positions that we need to fulfil a World Cup year.”

Ulster’s Robert Baloucoune and Cormac Izuchukwu are both back from injury, as is Munster’s highly-rated back rower John Hodnett, while promising young tightheads Tom Clarkson, Roman Salanoa (pictured above) and Sam Illo will travel.

This week’s announcement that an Ireland ‘A’ team will take on an All Blacks XV in November should give an added incentive to the South Africa-bound group, who will first come together for a three-day camp at the IRFU High Performance Centre next week.

Easterby explained: “We know 33 players will go to the World Cup, but we all know that that number needs to be higher and we need to have a larger pool of players at our disposal.

“To do that and effectively have that number of players, we need to spend more time with players and get to know players, connect with players.

“That’s why there’s a good cross-section of players that have got a few caps, players that have spent time in the environment recently, but also players who won’t have had any time in the environment.

“That gives us an opportunity to expose them to what we’re trying to do as a team, and for us as coaches in particular, to connect with those players and get to know them a bit better in what will be a really challenging year.”

The Toyota Challenge, which will see Emerging Ireland play three times in nine days, beginning on Friday, September 30, is happening at the same time as some of the early rounds of the BKT United Rugby Championship.

Among those matches are interprovincial derbies in both Belfast and Galway, but Easterby said that there has been plenty of communication and hard work going on behind the scenes to ensure that both provincial and national needs are met.

“There’s been dialogue right through with Andy (Farrell) and the provincial coaches, in particular, discussing players, discussing their needs, our needs,” acknowledged the former Ireland and Lions flanker.

“There’s been compromises, there will be some selections that the province will feel that they’d be better served with them, but there’s also players that we feel would be better served, at this moment in time, exposing them to our environment.

“Looking at the bigger picture, the short to longer term is that this year presents itself with not just the three games in South Africa, there’s an Ireland ‘A’ game against a New Zealand XV in the autumn, there’s three Tests in the autumn, there’s the Six Nations and then there’s the pre-World Cup.

“So there’s not that many opportunities to expose players to the environment and find out a little more about certain players.

“With that in mind, we also have to feel like we’re not ripping the heart out of the provinces and taking too many players in one position.

“I’m sure there will be discussions along the way, injuries will inevitably happen throughout the next couple of weeks. We have to be prepared to be flexible and compromise as the provinces have in allowing us to select this team.”

Ireland head coach Farrell will be involved in the preparatory camp at the IRFU HPC, but will not be travelling to South Africa as he remains busy focusing on the November internationals and Rugby World Cup matters.

Easterby, who will be supported by fellow national coaches Paul O’Connell, Mike Catt and John Fogarty, said that Farrell will be ‘getting around and staying connected’ with the other Ireland players who will be returning for their provinces in the coming weeks.

“The timing of the tour coincides with a lot of players returning from their national break, the international players,” he added.

“So, player management and welfare has been at the forefront of a lot of what we’ve been talking about and understanding that, yes, we’re taking players out of the provincial system, but there will also be players re-entering their system at the same time as when we travel.

“To build depth we need time with the players, we need to find out a little bit more about them, about their personalities.

“We need to find out about how do they adapt to international rugby or at least adapt to situations where we’ve only got three or four training sessions to prepare for a game.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


6 Nations

RTÉ And Virgin Media Confirm Details Of Free-To-Air Six Nations Coverage

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RTÉ and Virgin Media Television today announced details of its joint Guinness Six Nations coverage, where the action will be free-to-air for supporters in the Republic of Ireland.

Kicking off on Friday, 3 February, this year’s Six Nations coverage will include all fixtures from Ireland’s Men’s, Women’s and U20 tournaments.

The partnership will see all games equally aired across both broadcasters again this year.

The 2023 Men’s Six Nations will open with Ireland v Wales on Virgin Media One, followed by England v Scotland on RTÉ2. Ireland will then take on current champions France on Saturday, 11 February.

The TikTok Women’s Six Nations will begin on Sunday, 26 March with Wales v Ireland.

Speaking at this morning’s launch at the Aviva Stadium, presenters Jacqui Hurley and Joe Molloy were joined on stage by members of their broadcast teams this year including pundits Rob Kearney, Fiona Hayes (Virgin Media Television), and RTÉ’s Jamie Heaslip and Hannah Tyrrell.

RTÉ also confirmed that Irish international and Munster player Simon Zebo will be joining their punditry team.

Commenting, Head of RTÉ Sport, Declan McBennett said: “With this being a great year for rugby, there is added excitement about this year’s Six Nations which RTÉ is once again bringing to sports fans all over the country free-to-air along with Virgin Media Ireland as part of our historic partnership which we launched last year.

“It’s going to be a huge year for Irish rugby and we’re really looking forward to it.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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Ireland Squad Named For 2023 Guinness Six Nations Championship

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The Ireland Coaching Team have named a 37-man squad for the upcoming Guinness Six Nations Championship, which kicks off with an away trip to Cardiff to face Wales on Saturday, 4th February.

In Round 2, Ireland host France at Aviva Stadium looking to secure their first victory over Fabien Galthie’s side since 2019.  There was just six points between the two sides last year in Paris and France emerged the victors when they last faced off in Dublin the previous year, winning 15-13.

In Round 3, Ireland travel to Rome to face a resurgent Italy who have recorded wins over Australia and Wales in the past year.

Round 4 sees Andy Farrell’s side travel to BT Murrayfield to face Gregor Townsend’s Scotland and six days later, in the final game of the Championship, Ireland play host to England at Aviva Stadium.

Both of Ireland’s home games against France and England are sold out and all of Ireland’s fixtures will be broadcast live on free-to-air television and radio across RTE, VIRGIN, BBC, ITV, RTE Radio and BBC NI Radio.

Ireland finished second to France in last year’s Championship with four wins and five bonus points for a total of 21 points, claiming the Triple Crown for the first time since 2018.

There is one uncapped player named in the squad, Leinster’s Jamie Osborne. Osborne was first integrated into the Senior squad in November 2021 as a Development Player and has since featured for Emerging Ireland and Ireland A.

Ireland Head Coach Andy Farrell commented: “The Six Nations is a huge competition for us and another opportunity for us to grow as group. 2022 was a busy year as we got to work with a larger group of players as we continued to build our squad depth and competition for places.

While there are a few players carrying knocks and others that have missed out on selection for the start of the tournament, they will have the opportunity to push their case playing for their provinces in the URC over the coming weeks as no doubt we will need to call upon the wider group as the tournament progresses.”

Ireland Squad, 2023 Guinness Six Nations:

Backs (17):

Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 41 caps
Ross Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 14 caps
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 7 caps
Jack Crowley (Munster/Cork Constitution) 2 caps
Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 98 caps
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 23 caps
Mack Hansen (Connacht) 8 caps
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 25 caps
Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Marys College) 30 caps
James Lowe (Leinster) 15 caps
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor) 9 caps
Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 100 caps
Jimmy O’Brien (Leinster/Naas) 3 caps
Jamie Osborne (Leinster/Naas) *
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 47 caps
Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College)(captain) 109 caps
Jacob Stockdale (Ulster/Lurgan) 35 caps

Forwards (20):

Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 8 caps
Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 27 caps
Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 36 caps
Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 33 caps
Gavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster) 2 caps
Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 23 caps
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 63 caps
Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 121 caps
Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 68 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 31 caps
Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 18 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 48 caps
Joe McCarthy (Leinster/Dublin University) 1 cap
Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 89 caps
Tom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 4 caps
Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 48 caps
Cian Prendergast (Connacht/Corinthians) 1 cap
James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 48 caps
Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne) 13 caps
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 45 cap

*denotes uncapped player

2023 Guinness Six Nations Fixtures:

Wales v IRELAND
Saturday 4th February 2023, KO 14:15 (IST)
VIRGIN / BBC / RTE Radio / BBC Radio

IRELAND v France
Saturday 11th February 2023, KO 14:15 (IST)
RTE TV / ITV / RTE Radio / BBC Radio

Italy v IRELAND
Saturday 25th February 2023, KO 14:15 (IST)
RTE TV / ITV / RTE Radio / BBC Radio

Scotland v IRELAND
Sunday 12th March 2023, KO 15:00 (IST)
RTE TV / BBC / RTE Radio / BBC Radio

IRELAND v England
Saturday 18th March 2023, KO 17:00 (IST)
VIRGIN / ITV / RTE Radio / BBC Radio

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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Murphy Names Ireland U20 Squad For Six Nations

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Head Coach Richie Murphy has today named a 32-man Ireland squad, sponsored by PwC, for the upcoming 2023 U20 Six Nations, including seven players who were involved in last year’s Championship and U20 Summer Series.

Leinster hooker Gus McCarthy has been appointed captain ahead of Ireland’s opening fixture against Wales in Colwyn Bay on Friday, 3 February (Kick-off 7pm, live on Virgin Media).

Leinster duo Diarmuid Mangan and Conor O’Tighearnaigh, as well as Ulster back row James McNabney, were part of last season’s Grand Slam-winning squad, while a further four players – Sam Prendergast, Charlie Irvine, Harry West and George Hadden – are named in the 2023 Championship squad having featured during the U20 Summer Series in Italy last June.

The Ireland squad have been building towards the Six Nations through a series of camps at the IRFU High Performance Centre, while Challenge Matches against Italy, Munster Development and Leinster Development over the Christmas period have aided preparations.

Ireland kick off the Six Nations away in Wales, before hosting France in Round 2 at Musgrave Park on Friday, 10 February (Kick-off 8pm, live on RTÉ 2).

Murphy’s side will then go head-to-head with Italy on Friday, 24 February in Treviso (Kick-off 7.15pm, RTÉ 2), before concluding the Championship away to Scotland on Friday, 10 March (Kick-off 7.15pm, RTÉ 2) and at home to England in Cork on Sunday, 19 March (Kick-off 5pm, Virgin Media).

Speaking at today’s squad announcement and media day at PwC HQ in Dublin, Murphy also confirmed his coaching staff for the 2023 Championship, with Willie Faloon (Defence and Lineout) and Mark Sexton (Backs and Attack) continuing in their roles and Aaron Dundon joining the team as Scrum and Contact Coach.

“We have been working hard for a number of weeks and it’s an exciting time for these young players, who have the honour of representing the wider group in the Six Nations,” Murphy said.

“We as coaches have pushed the players over the last number of months and I have been impressed by their work-rate, commitment and application. Now our focus turns to performance and the opening game against Wales, which we know will be a big challenge first up.

“We are looking forward to the opportunities over the coming weeks and are excited by the prospect of an Ireland U20s team returning to Six Nations action at Musgrave Park in Cork, where we always have huge support.”

Feargal O’Rourke, PwC Ireland Managing Partner, commented: “At PwC, we are excited for the start of the 2023 Six Nations Championship as we enter our eighteenth year as sponsors of the Ireland U20 squad. As defending Grand Slam Champions we have no doubt that the team will rise to the occasion for the 2023 campaign. The dedication and team-work that the U20s show is always exceptional and mirrors our own values at PwC.

“Wishing the team the very best of luck in the upcoming Championship. #FutureIsGreen.”

IRFU President, John Robinson, added: “The onset of a Championship is always a hugely exciting time and the U20s programme is a very important part of Irish Rugby, with previous squads enjoying tremendous success over the years.

“The players have all worked incredibly hard, supported by coaches, parents, schools and clubs to attain this level and they are now about to represent their country in this very prestigious and world class tournament. I wish them every success in the forthcoming games and know that they will show Irish Rugby at its best.

“To PwC, I thank you again for your ongoing support as sponsors of the Ireland U20s. I know that this will be your eighteenth year of this sponsorship which is greatly appreciated and has been a major factor in the development of these squads to be able to compete and be successful at this very high level of competition.”

Tickets for Ireland’s home matches at Musgrave Park are available to purchase now via Ticketmaster.ie.

Ireland U20s Squad:

Forwards (17):

George Morris (Lansdowne/Leinster)
George Hadden (Clontarf/Leinster)
Gus McCarthy (UCD/Leinster)(captain)
Conall Henchy (DUFC/Munster)
Danny Sheahan (UCC/Munster)
Ronan Foxe (Leinster/Old Belvedere)
Fiachna Barrett (Corinthians/Connacht)
Paddy McCarthy (DUFC/Leinster)
Conor O’Tighearnaigh (DUFC/Leinster)
Charlie Irvine (Queen’s University/Ulster)
Evan O’Connell (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Joe Hopes (Queen’s University/Ulster)
Jacob Sheahan (UCC/Munster)
Diarmuid Mangan (UCD/Leinster)
Ruadhán Quinn (Old Crescent/Munster)
James McNabney (Ballymena/Ulster)
Brian Gleeson (Garryowen/Munster)

Backs (15):

Jack Oliver (Garryowen/Munster)
Oscar Cawley (Naas/Leinster)
Fintan Gunne (Terenure/Leinster)
Sam Prendergast (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Matthew Lynch (DUFC/Leinster)
Harry West (Buccaneers/Connacht)
Sam Berman (DUFC/Leinster)
Hugh Gavin (Galwegians/Connacht)
Hugh Cooney (Clontarf/Leinster)
John Devine (Corinthians/Connacht)
Ike Anagu (La Rochelle/IQ Rugby)
James Nicholson (UCD/Leinster)
Rory Telfer (Queen’s University/Ulster)
Henry McErlean (Terenure/Leinster)
Noah Sheridan (Clontarf/Leinster)

Ireland U20 Fixtures:

  • Friday, 3 February: Wales v Ireland, Colwyn Bay, 7pm (Virgin Media)
  • Friday, 10 February: Ireland v France, Musgrave Park, 8pm (RTÉ)
  • Friday, 24 February: Italy v Ireland, Stadio Comunale di Monigo, 7.15pm (RTÉ)
  • Friday, 10 March: Scotland v Ireland, Scotstoun Stadium, 7.15pm (RTÉ)
  • Sunday, 19 March: Ireland v England, Musgrave Park, 5pm (Virgin Media).

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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