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6 Nations

Farrell Focused On ‘Getting Back Up To Speed And Being At Our Best’

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Andy Farrell sees plenty of room for improvement as his Ireland squad face into an electric set of Bank of Ireland Nations Series games against South Africa, Fiji and Australia.

Along with the Ireland ‘A’ curtain raiser fixture against the All Blacks XV, upwards of 50 players are set to don the green jersey in the coming weeks as the new international season gets underway.

Farrell is loving being back at the coalface this week, working with the assembled squad at the IRFU High Performance Centre after monitoring the early rounds of the BKT United Rugby Championship and Emerging Ireland’s successful tour.

Asked about his ambitions for the Bank of Ireland Nations Series, he responded: “Like always, improvement (is the ambition). There’s so much improvement that we want to prove to ourselves first and foremost that we can do, so it’s great to be back in after watching the URC for a few weeks now.

“It’s great to be back in and have this week to get back and running and prepare properly, dust ourselves down and understand where we’re trying to go with our game and where we’re trying to push on because we’ve prided ourselves on trying to get back up to speed as soon as we possibly can.

“That, as we all know, is the art of international rugby because nobody really cares whether you’ve got five days or six months of preparation.

“So, to get back up to speed for that first game and be at our best is where we want to be, and I think we all know it’s where we have to be coming up a good team like South Africa.”

Since Farrell’s first match in charge against Scotland in early 2020, he has given international debuts to 25 players. Twelve of them are in the squad for the upcoming three-Test run at the Aviva Stadium.

Caolin Blade, Shane Daly, Max Deegan and James Hume, who have all been capped in the last two years, are also part of the Ireland ‘A’ panel.

By the time the Ireland ‘A’ contingent come into camp next week after round 7 of the United Rugby Championship, there should be a clearer picture on a number of players who are currently nursing knocks.

The IRFU injury update issued yesterday was mostly positive, particularly for Joey Carbery who, following a shoulder injury sustained during Munster’s derby defeat to Leinster, is set to train fully this week.

“Just so he can get back up and running and train as a team and have him barking orders, that’s what a general always does,” Farrell commented on Carbery.

“For Joey to have that piece of mind to get back up and running himself is pretty reassuring for everyone else.”

Five players, including Leinster duo Jamison Gibson-Park and Hugo Keenan, will be reintegrated into training this week, while experienced forwards Tadhg Furlong (ankle) and Peter O’Mahony (neck) are still to complete their rehab programmes.

Regarding Furlong and O’Mahony’s likely availability, the Ireland head coach admitted: “Yeah, confident but there’s certain stages that they’ll have to get through.

“They’ve pulled up in not too bad shape and they’ll go through a process and we’ll see how they are at the beginning of next week.”

He added: “There’s a lot going on but, in general, the feeling is amongst the medical staff that people are progressing really well. Most people should be back sometime this week, if not the end of the week.

“Then there’s a couple that we’ll keep assessing throughout. So, decent enough news actually coming in last night and medical checks this morning. Not a bad place to be.”

South Africa’s tour squad will be announced on Friday, following on from a three-day training camp that wrapped up in Stellenbosch today. Their ‘A’ panel will travel to Cork next week, in advance of their game against Munster.

“It was a fantastic camp, and it offered the coaches an ideal opportunity to get the players to switch their focus to the Ireland Test next week and the forthcoming SA ‘A’ matches,” explained Rassie Erasmus, South Africa’s director of rugby.

“It was also valuable in the sense that it exposed new players such as Manie (Libbok) and Sacha (Mngomezulu) to our structures and to see them in action as we finalise the selections for the Springbok and SA ‘A’ teams.

“The Springboks are facing the two best teams in the world on successive weekends in Ireland and France, and Italy and England are always forces to be reckoned with, especially at home, while Munster and Bristol are top clubs and will test the SA ‘A’ team thoroughly.”

With some of his freshly-assembled Ireland squad at varying stages of recovery, Farrell said that no one has been ruled out of contention for Saturday week’s showdown with the Springboks.

“We’re gradually building the week as we go, so Thursday-Friday is going to be a big couple of days for a few of the players. We’ll just wait and see,” acknowledged the Wigan man.

“Some players don’t need that much game-time, some players are able to just hit it straight from the word go.

“Some players need five or six games to hit the ground running. It’s up to us to assess that. We’re not a massive playing pool as well, so it’s needs must at times. Certainly, nobody is ruled out at this stage.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


6 Nations

Wales team to face Ireland in Dublin named

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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.

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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)

Replacements

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

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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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6 Nations

O’Connell Gives Update On Keenan As Ireland Return To Training

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Hugo Keenan is Ireland’s main injury concern ahead of Saturday week’s Guinness Men’s Six Nations clash with Wales. The ever-influential full-back took a blow to his left knee during the win over Italy.

Keenan sustained the injury when falling awkwardly in a 52nd-minute tackle from Italian replacement Giosuè Zilocchi. He was replaced shortly afterwards by Harry Byrne, with Jack Crowley switching to the full-back position.

The 27-year-old Dubliner has become central to Andy Farrell’s plans in a short space of time, with his 15s international debut coming just over three years ago. He has accumulated more match minutes than any other player so far during Farrell’s coaching reign.

He has started 38 of Ireland’s last 42 Test matches, and Jimmy O’Brien and Michael Lowry are the only other players who have worn the number 15 jersey during that time.

Asked about Keenan’s likely availability for the third round of the Six Nations, Ireland forwards coach Paul O’Connell said: “Hugo didn’t train today, but he hasn’t been ruled out for the Welsh game yet.

“He’s progressing with his rehabilitation, he was there at training today and took part in the organisational bits, but I have no full update. He’s still available for selection for Wales, but I’m not sure what will happen in the next few days.

“He plays a big role, he’s obviously been injury-free for a long time. He’s an excellent player and in full-back, covering the back-field defensively, he has a lot of work to do in attack as well, recreating our attack by moving side to side.

“There’s a lot of IP (intellectual property) there that we might miss out on if he wasn’t playing. He also plays a big leadership role for us, he’s a very smart guy.

“He’s a problem-solver within the group and highly regarded within the group. Whether he’s there or not, he’ll continue to play that role.”

Keenan has had a strong start to the tournament, with his individual highlights including his try-saving tackles on Damian Penaud, including one which drove the French dangerman back a few feet, and an electric break against Italy from Craig Casey’s kick over the top.

He has an 85.7% tackle success rate, including two dominant hits and a turnover tackle. In attack, he has had gain-line success with two-thirds of his carries in the Championship, and has the team’s best tackle evasion rate of 47.1%.

If the Leinster star is ruled out when Ireland resume their campaign next week, the versatile Ciaran Frawley, Jordan Larmour, Jacob Stockdale, Calvin Nash, or indeed Crowley, could be options to fill the full-back berth.

Larmour, who returned to international action last Sunday for the first time since 2021, made nine starts at full-back between 2018 and 2020. Farrell handed him the number 15 shirt for his first game in charge of Ireland four years ago.

Last August against Italy, Frawley made his debut as a half-time replacement for O’Brien at full-back. He has started six times in the position for Leinster this season, with Stockdale, Nash and Crowley also having provincial experience in the back-field.

As O’Brien and Mack Hansen are also injury-enforced absentees, O’Connell admits that it could provide an opportunity to build more depth in that area if Keenan is unable to recover in time.

“It’s good for us in some ways because it makes us play someone else there if he doesn’t make it,” commented the Limerick man, who is in his fourth Men’s Six Nations campaign as part of the Ireland coaching group.

“I’m not sure yet, I don’t pay as much attention to the backs, but I’m not sure yet where  Hugo is at. As I said, he was around training today, so we’d be hopeful.”

Meanwhile, Garry Ringrose is on track to play some part against Wales at the Aviva Stadium having returned to training. He missed the opening two rounds due to a shoulder injury.

“Yeah it looks like it, he trained today,” O’Connell said of Ringrose. “We didn’t do a massive session today but he trained today and was in good shape.

“No one else sat out training, no, so they’re all good to go, I believe.”

That includes captain Peter O’Mahony (calf), Tadhg Furlong (calf), and Bundee Aki (knee), who all sat out the 36-0 bonus point victory over Italy as they recovered from their respective knocks.

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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