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6 Nations

Emerging Ireland Squad: Meet the Players

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The Emerging Ireland squad that will compete in the Toyota Challenge in Bloemfontein over the next two weeks features a host of players that have starred for Ireland at underage level and on the world stage for the Ireland Sevens. Fourteen were part of the IRFU’s National Talent Squad programme and the majority have already made a breakthrough at senior level for their Provinces.

The Capped Players

Max Deegan was named Player of the Tournament after helping the Ireland U20s to the final of the 2016 U20 World Rugby Championships. He was capped by Ireland against Wales in the 2020 Six Nations Championships and despite some serious injury setbacks, has amassed 85 senior caps for Leinster.

Shane Daly has two caps for Ireland, making his senior debut against Georgia in the 2020 Autumn Nations Cup. A former Ireland Sevens international, he has 49 senior caps for Munster.

Robert Baloucoune is another former Ireland Sevens international who has two senior international caps having made his debut against the USA in July 2021. The winger has 47 senior caps for Ulster.

The Maori Crew

Cian Prendergast played in both games against the Maori All Blacks during the summer. He played for the Ireland U20s in 2020 and has made 32 senior appearances for Connacht.

Joe McCarthy also played in both fixtures against the Maori All Blacks on the 2022 New Zealand Tour and played Ireland U20s with Prendergast in 2020. The second row has made 13 senior appearances for Leinster.

The Development Brief

Both Tom Ahern and Jamie Osborne trained with the Ireland squad as Development Players ahead of the 2021 Autumn Nations Series. Ahern was an Ireland U20 international in 2019 and 2020 missing the Grand Slam campaign through injury. He has made 21 senior appearances for Munster

Osborne represented the Ireland U20s in 2021 but had already made his senior Leinster debut at that stage. He has made 20 senior appearances for Leinster.

Proven Provincials

Stewart Moore, Calvin Nash and Diarmuid Barron have all established themselves as senior Provincial players. All three represented Ireland at U20 World Rugby Championships.

Since making his senior debut for Ulster in December 2019, Moore has accumulated 32 senior appearances. Nash has played 38 senior games for Munster, while Barron has 36 senior Munster caps.

The Class of 2019

John Hodnett, Scott Penny, David McCann, Dylan Tierney-Martin, Brian Deeny, Jake Flannery, Thomas Clarkson, Michael Milne, Callum Reid and Josh Wycherley were all part of Ireland’s U20 Six Nations Grand Slam winning squad in 2019.

At Munster, Hodnett and Wycherley have made 22 and 29 senior provincial appearances respectively while Flannery made six senior appearances for Munster before making the switch to Ulster this season. McCann, who captained the U20s the following year, has made 15 senior appearances for Ulster with Reid clocking 11 appearances to date.

Tierney-Martin has made eight senior appearances for Connacht and scored a try against the Stormers at the weekend. Penny has made the most senior appearances for Leinster with 42 with Milne (18), Clarkson (18) and Deeny (3) also making the breakthrough at senior level for Leo Cullen’s side.

The Sevens Boys

Baloucoune and Daly are not the only two players in the Emerging Ireland squad that have benefitted from exposure to the Ireland Sevens programme.

Andrew Smith and Chay Mullins both won bronze medals at the recent Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town while Cormac Izuchukwu won two Ireland Sevens caps before clocking nine senior appearances for Ulster.

Smith also won the Energia AIL title with Clontarf earlier this year and has made two senior appearances for Leinster. Mullins has joined the Connacht Academy this season having also helped the Ireland U20s to a 2022 Six Nations Grand Slam.

The 2020 Triple Crowners

The 2020 U20 Six Nations was cut short by the Covid pandemic but after three games the Ireland U20 squad had secured wins over Scotland, Wales and England, claiming an unofficial Triple Crown. Ethan McIlroy, Jack Crowley, Tom Stewart and Ben Murphy were in that squad alongside the aforementioned Smith, McCann, Prendergast, Ahern and McCarthy.

McIlroy has made 37 senior appearances for Ulster while Stewart’s progress has been hampered by injury but he claimed an impressive try against Connacht in the first round of this season’s URC.

Out-half Crowley has notched up 16 senior appearances for Munster including a start in the Champions Cup against Castres.  Murphy has also made his senior debut for Leinster having gone on loan to Munster during the 2021/22 season.

The Class of 2021

In 2021, the U20 Six Nations took place in the summer months of June and July as the global pandemic continued to disrupt the rugby calender. Osborne featured strongly for the Richie Murphy’s side but so too did Nathan Doak, Cathal Forde and Sam Illo.

Doak has already made a big impact at senior provincial level with Ulster clocking up 24 appearances since making his debut against Munster in December 2020. Forde has made two senior appearances for Connacht while Illo has featured three times since switching from the Leinster age grade system.

International IQ Rugby

There are three players in the squad that have come through the Irish qualified player pathway. Mullins came via the Bristol Academy and the IRFU’s IQ programme in the UK.

Michael McDonald was born in Ireland but represented Australia U20s at the 2019 U20 World Rugby Championship having emigrated down under with his family at the age of 13. He joined Ulster at the start of the current season.

Antoine Frisch was born in France but qualifies for Ireland via his grandmother. He joined Munster this season from Premiership side Bristol Bears and made his Munster debut against Cardiff in the opening URC fixture of the 2022/23 season.

Roman Salanoa was born in Hawaii but has qualified to play for Ireland through residency. He represented the USA at the 2016 U20 World Rugby Championship. Originally part of the Leinster development programme, Salanoa subsequently joined Munster and has made 10 senior appearances to date.

New Kid on the Block

James Culhane is yet to make his senior debut for Leinster but the powerful number eight left his mark on the 2022 U20 Six Nations. He was named Player of the Tournament as Ireland secured a memorable Grand Slam.

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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