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6 Nations

Farrell Praises Murray As He Joins Ireland’s 100-Cap Club



Coming back into the starting XV to face South Africa, Murray joins a select band of players to have reached the century mark for Ireland – Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara, Rory Best, Cian Healy, Paul O’Connell, Jonathan Sexton and John Hayes.

Considering players of the calibre of Peter Stringer, Jamie Heaslip and Rob Kearney have fallen short of the milestone, it shows the high standards the Limerick man continues to hit in an international career that has spanned 11 years.

“I’m in awe of these people,” admitted Farrell. “It’s pretty special because we all know, through a career, to be able to get to that type of milestone of what it really does take.

“I suppose when you’re a coach or when you’re a player, you see all the ups and downs and you see the pressures that come in from all sorts of different directions.

“You see everyone wants to move onto what they perceive to be the next best thing. I just think somebody who stands up to be counted time and time again, to get to a point like that, I’m in awe of it.

“The hardest thing is to stay at the top. Of course there’s ups and downs, but Conor’s a legend of Irish rugby, everyone knows that, and the abilities that he’s shown through the years are second to none.”

A debutant against France in a 2011 Rugby World Cup warm-up match, Murray made the number 9 jersey his own for a prolonged period, setting a new Irish record of 64 starts together at half-back with current captain Sexton.

During the Farrell era, he has taken on a cameo role given Jamison Gibson-Park’s excellent form, but the latter’s recent injury lay-off has opened the door for the 33-year-old’s first start for Ireland in a year.

The pair have dovetailed and worked very well in tandem in what is ‘a respectful, competitive battle’ for the number 9 shirt, according to Farrell. It is exactly why Murray is held in such high regard by players and coaches alike.

“The biggest compliment that I could give Conor is that he is a top, top class bloke. I don’t know anyone who’s got a bad word to say about him,” insisted the Wigan native, who first coached him during the 2013 British & Irish Lions tour.

We’re all obsessed with rugby, but I suppose when it comes down to how he’s managed himself throughout his career – there’s some bigger things along the way as well – amongst his peers, which really matters to Conor, he is classed as a fantastic human being.

“He’s a tough old character, Conor. He’s steely strong, mentally. He cares a lot about his own game. He gets a chance now to show us how he wants to push forward.”

Like Gibson-Park, full-back Hugo Keenan has been injured for the first few weeks of Leinster’s season. He has since recovered from knee and abdominal issues and returns to man the back-field against the Springboks.

Farrell is confident that Keenan can deliver a big performance despite his lack of recent game-time, and it will be needed given how crucial the kicking and aerial battles will be.

“When you talk about someone like Hugo, we could talk all day about him really. He’s the fittest in the team, we’ll start there.

“He’s probably the most diligent in the team as well as far as his work and the confidence that that gives – not just getting across his own work, but everyone else’s work – to the group in that regard.

“Some people can hit the ground running and be very good, some people take three or four weeks to be able to do that. We believe Hugo is in a good space to be able to perform on Saturday.”

It has been quite a balancing act for Farrell this week in terms of overseeing preparations for two big encounters with southern hemisphere opposition – the Ireland ‘A’ team take on the All Blacks XV on Friday night before Saturday’s main event.

He would have it no other way, though, as testing weeks like this will give Ireland the best possible shot at delivering on their potential at next year’s Rugby World Cup and beyond.

“It’s brilliant. I love coaching, I love rugby, I love the players, I love the environment. So, there’s nothing better than having 50 lads that are not just galvanising together and wanting each other to do so well, but competing, like I’ve said, all week.

“The responsibility on Friday night is for those young lads not just to perform, but to show the rest of the group what they’ve learned and what they’ve picked up during the week. That they’re able to apply it under pressure.

“I’ve no doubt lads, whether they’re going to the ground (at the RDS) or staying at the hotel, I’m sure that’s going to inspire them. It certainly would me.

“Sat there before a game watching your team-mates who you’ve trained with all week, that would certainly inspire me to want to put the boots on on Saturday morning.”

The inclusion of Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey on the bench is a notable one, given the physical and game-breaking impact he could make against the Springboks. He has six Ireland caps, the last one coming against the USA in July of last year.

The sight of McCloskey, during the URC’s opening round against Connacht, taking out two defenders and brilliantly offloading for Luke Marshall to score gave another glimpse of what he is capable of.

The Bangor man helped Ireland to victory against the Māori All Blacks in July, and he has a clear aim now to stay in Farrell’s thoughts with a possible run as a replacement this weekend and further involvement against Fiji.

“He’s a game player, Stuart. He’s one that over the last few years, it’s been tough for him. It’s certainly be tough enough for me as well because I think Stu’s a great player, a great talent,” acknowledged the Ireland boss.

That position, as we know, has been strongly contested. They’re great together (the centres). To be able to see Stu strive in the environment and send him home every Wednesday has been tough for him to take.

“But his performances have never wavered. In fact his hunger has got stronger. The start of the season has been very bright for him, so I’m pleased for him to get the opportunity to show what he’s about on Saturday.

“You just want him to be himself. He plays really strong and he’s got a chance now to show his team-mates that he’s the real deal as far as the big time is concerned – push on and perform really well and give us a massive headache come the Six Nations.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

6 Nations

Ireland’s TikTok Women’s Six Nations Home Games To Be Played At Musgrave Park



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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6 Nations

Leading Rugby Stakeholders Unite To Consider Future Of Rugby



Rugby’s major stakeholders have united to consider the short and long-term insights and priorities for ensuring the sport is a relevant, accessible and attractive sport for all as it grows over the next decade.

The World Rugby Shape of the Game conference, hosted in London, gathered leading coaching, playing, officiating, medical and event owner minds to consider how to build a better game for all, focusing on safety and spectacle. Underpinning that mission is the ongoing prioritisation of player welfare, while fostering an environment that is simpler, more accessible and more attractive.

It will be followed by similar conferences on the elite women’s 15s and community games as the sport looks to growth opportunities over the next decade. The process will also consider fan views and general sport and entertainment considerations to create a holistic approach to the future of the sport.

Over two days, delegates considered the global welfare landscape, including reinforcing the data regarding the relative safety of the community and age-grade game, global playing trends and the role of match officials, the narrative around the sport with all participants focused on the bigger picture.

The conference identified key areas for further exploration:

• Focus on the fan: Insights from fans and broadcasters to inform the longer-term development of the sport as an entertainment product

• Speed up the game: Focus on interventions and innovations to reduce stoppages, increase continuity and the rhythm of the game

• Support match officials: Provide them with the tools to perform their role to their best ability, consider TMO intervention reductions

• Underpin with player welfare: Continue to implement evidence-based strategies to mitigate head injuries and overall injuries in the sport

• Change the narrative: The community game is the lifeblood of the sport, the risk of injury is much less than that of the elite game, focus on the benefits while managing the risks

World Rugby will take away the considerations and insights for further exploration to prioritise areas that can be implemented in the short term without changing law ahead of Rugby World Cup 2023.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said:

“As a sport, a movement and a family, we must always challenge ourselves to be better. That means taking time to consider what fans and players want the future of our sport to be, a future where more people want to play and support the game, where injury risk is reducing and where all involved in the game have their say.

“This conference was the first step towards a reimagination of our sport. The full and frank contributions from a wide spectrum of disciplines gives us plenty to consider and to move forward with through our structures. I would like to thank all participants for taking time out at a busy time to unite, collaborate and consider our future.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

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6 Nations

England side to face Springboks



England host the Springboks at Twickenham Stadium in their final Autumn Nations Series game on Saturday 26 November (5.30pm KO).

Manu Tuilagi will make his 50th appearance for England at outside centre, having made his debut for England against Wales in August 2011. Owen Farrell will again captain the side at inside centre.

Marcus Smith is at fly half and Jack van Poortvliet is at scrum half. Tommy Freeman comes in at right wing, Jonny May is at left wing and Freddie Steward is full back.

Jamie George (hooker) and Mako Vunipola join fellow prop Kyle Sinckler in two changes to the starting front row. Maro Itoje and Jonny Hill stay at lock. Alex Coles comes in at flanker with Tom Curry, while Billy Vunipola is No.8.

Last weekend’s double-try scorer Will Stuart is named as a finisher along with Luke Cowan-Dickie, David Ribbans, Sam Simmonds, Ben Youngs, Henry Slade and vice-captains Ellis Genge and Jack Nowell.

“This is our last game of the autumn and our chance to continue building on the improvements we have made throughout the matches,” said Jones. “We have made steady progress from game-to-game, culminating in a pulsating draw against New Zealand.

“Now we have the chance to test ourselves against the might of the world champions. We’re going out there to light the crowd up. The support at Twickenham was outstanding last week and we want to work hard on the pitch to make sure we have another atmosphere like that again on Saturday.”



15. Freddie Steward

14. Tommy Freeman

13. Manu Tuilagi

12. Owen Farrell (C)

11. Jonny May

10. Marcus Smith

9. Jack van Poortvliet

1. Mako Vunipola

2. Jamie George

3. Kyle Sinckler

4. Maro Itoje

5. Jonny Hill

6. Alex Coles

7. Tom Curry

8. Billy Vunipola


16. Luke Cowan-Dickie

17. Ellis Genge

18. Will Stuart

19. David Ribbans

20. Sam Simmonds

21. Ben Youngs

22. Henry Slade

23. Jack Nowell

Images & Content from England Rugby
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