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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

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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