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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

England side to face Ireland in Six Nations



Captain Owen Farrell will start at fly half, Manu Tuilagi returns to the side at inside centre with Henry Slade at outside centre. There is a first England start for Henry Arundell on the left wing, Anthony Watson is at right wing, and Freddie Steward is full back.

In the forward pack Lewis Ludlam is named vice-captain and is flanker alongside Jack Willis. Alex Dombrandt is at No. 8. In the same front row that has started each game of the championship, vice-captain Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler are at prop and Jamie George is at hooker. David Ribbans starts at lock with Maro Itoje.

Dan Cole is in line to make his 100th appearance for England after being named as replacement. Cole made his England debut in the Six Nations in February 2010. He has gone on to play in three Rugby World Cups and has won three Guinness Six Nations titles.

Nick Isiekwe and Joe Marchant return to the bench, along with Jack Walker, Mako Vunipola, Ben Curry, Alex Mitchell and Marcus Smith.

“We travel to Dublin to face an Ireland team on Saturday that has the chance to secure a Grand Slam Championship victory at home for the first time” said Borthwick.

“We know that after the bitter disappointment of the display against an exceptional France team last week, we will have to be much improved to meet the challenge of playing the side presently ranked number one in the world.

“However, I have witnessed an England squad determined to make amends for the defeat at Twickenham, and I am confident that the team announced today will once again want to show the sort of resilience and attitude that brought us victory in Wales.”

Team to face Ireland


15. Freddie Steward

14. Anthony Watson

13. Henry Slade

12. Manu Tuilagi

11. Henry Arundell

10. Owen Farrell (C)

9. Jack van Poortvliet

1. Ellis Genge (VC)

2. Jamie George

3. Kyle Sinckler

4. Maro Itoje

5. David Ribbans

6. Lewis Ludlam (VC)

7. Jack Willis

8. Alex Dombrandt


16. Jack Walker

17. Mako Vunipola

18. Dan Cole

19. Nick Isiekwe

20. Ben Curry

21. Alex Mitchell

22. Marcus Smith

23. Joe Marchant


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6 Nations

Ireland Squad Named For Guinness Six Nations Super Saturday



Ireland will take on England at a sold-out Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening (Kick-off 5pm) for the chance to claim the Guinness Six Nations Championship title, the Triple Crown and a fourth Men’s Grand Slam title.

World Player of the Year Josh van der Flier will win his 50th cap on Saturday. He lines out in an unchanged back row as Caelan Doris is named to start alongside him and Peter O’Mahony.

In the front row, Dan Sheehan has been passed fit and will start with Andrew Porter and Tadhg Furlong on either side of the scrum. Rob Herring comes in on the bench in place of Ronan Kelleher.

Ryan Baird, who came on for the injured Iain Henderson in Scotland, will partner James Ryan in the second row with Kieran Treadwell named in the replacements.

Captain Johnny Sexton will be partnered at half-back by Jamison Gibson Park and Robbie Henshaw comes into the centre to play alongside Bundee Aki.  The back three of Hugo Keenan, Mack Hansen and James Lowe start for a fifth consecutive Six Nations fixture.

Sexton equalled Ronan O’Gara’s Six Nations Championship all-time points scorer record (557 points) against Scotland and can become the outright top points scorer against England this weekend.

Jimmy O’Brien come into the match day 23 to join Cian Healy, Tom O’Toole, Jack Conan, Conor Murray and Ross Byrne who all featured last weekend in Murrayfield.

Ireland’s final game of the Championship will be broadcast live on VIRGIN and ITV television and RTE and BBCNI radio.

IRELAND Team (v England, 2023 Guinness Six Nations Championship, Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Saturday 18th March, 2023, KO 17.00 (IST))

15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 29 caps
14. Mack Hansen (Connacht/Corinthians) 13 caps
13. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 61 caps
12. Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 45 caps
11. James Lowe (Leinster) 19 caps
10. Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 112 caps (c)
9. Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 24 caps

1. Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 52 caps
2. Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne) 16 caps
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 64 caps
4. Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 10 caps
5. James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 52 caps
6. Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 93 caps
7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 49 caps
8. Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 27 caps


16. Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 33 caps
17. Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 122 caps
18. Tom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 8 caps
19. Kieran Treadwell (Ulster/Ballymena) 10 caps
20. Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 37 caps
21. Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 104 caps
22. Ross Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 18 caps
23. Jimmy O’Brien (Leinster/Naas) 4 caps

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

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6 Nations

Wales name much changed team for France



Head coach Warren Gatland has named his Wales senior men’s XV for the final round Guinness Six Nations match against France this Saturday at the Stade de France in Paris (KO 2.45pm GMT live on ITV and S4C).

No 8 Taulupe Faletau will win his 100th Wales cap having made his debut against the Barbarians in June 2011 and won his 50th cap against Fiji at Rugby World Cup 2015.

Dillon Lewis is in line to make his 50th senior international appearance for Wales from the bench. George North – also in the Wales starting line-up that faced the Barbarians when Faletau made his debut – partners Nick Tompkins in the Wales midfield.


Louis Rees-Zammit makes his third start for Wales at full back. Rio Dyer and Josh Adams are selected on the wings.

Dan Biggar returns from injury at fly half. Rhys Webb, who made his first start in this year’s Championship against Italy, continues at scrum half.

There are two changes to the forward pack that started last weekend’s outing at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Alun Wyn Jones is named in the second row, while Aaron Wainwright will make his first appearance this Six Nations coming in at blind-side flanker. Jac Morgan has been ruled out with an ankle injury picked up in training.

Among the Wales replacements Bradley Roberts and Gareth Thomas join Lewis in providing the front row cover.

Dafydd Jenkins and Tommy Reffell are the other forwards in the match day 23. Leigh Halfpenny is named one of the Wales replacement backs, along with Tomos Williams and Owen Williams.

Gatland said: “Last weekend was really important for us getting a win in the Six Nations and building a bit of confidence. It was a step in the right direction but there’s still lots for us to work on.

“We’ve worked hard on a few things in terms of tidying some of the defensive lapses that we’ve made and getting those things right. We’re still working hard on our attack.

“I think France last weekend put in probably one of the best performances seen in a long, long time. They’re the number two team in the world. They bring a really physical approach to the way they play and they’ve tended to start well.

“So that’s the important thing. We’ve got to go out there and start well, make sure we’re in that arm wrestle with them and give ourselves that opportunity.

“They’re a team that kick the ball a lot, so we’ve also got to make sure that our backfield is right and we’ve got to be good in the air.”

On Faletau reaching 100 caps for Wales Gatland added: “Toby has been a fantastic servant for Welsh rugby. Even though he’s reaching 100 caps he’s still pretty quiet, but he’s incredibly well respected by the players for what he’s achieved.

“I remember in the early years he was just a constant and he became absolutely world class in terms of his performances.

“There’s a lot of things that people don’t see in terms of his ability to read the game – he’ll run support lines that people don’t see. You see that when you’re going back through the videos and there have been times where he’s been on the end of a pass and scored tries. We saw that last week, Rhys Webb makes a break and Toby scores a try.

“Getting 100 caps is a great recognition for what he’s achieved in the game. It’s fantastic for him and his family and hopefully we can go out there and give him a really good performance and something for him to remember.”

Wales senior men’s XV to play France in the 2023 Guinness Six Nations, Saturday 18 March KO 2.45pm GMT. Live on ITV and S4C

15 Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester Rugby – 24 caps)
14 Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby – 48 caps)
13 George North (Ospreys – 112 caps)
12 Nick Tompkins (Saracens – 26 caps)
11 Rio Dyer (Dragons – 6 caps)
10 Dan Biggar (Toulon – 106 caps)
9 Rhys Webb (Ospreys – 39 caps);
1 Wyn Jones (Scarlets – 47 caps)
2 Ken Owens (Scarlets – 90 caps) CAPT
3 Tomas Francis (Ospreys – 70 caps)
4 Adam Beard (Ospreys – 45 caps)
5 Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys – 157 caps)
6 Aaron Wainwright (Dragons – 36 caps)
7 Justin Tipuric (Ospreys – 92 caps)
8 Taulupe Faletau (Cardiff Rugby – 99 caps)

16 Bradley Roberts (Dragons – 4 caps)
17 Gareth Thomas (Ospreys – 20 caps)
18 Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Rugby – 49 caps)
19 Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs – 5 caps)
20 Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers – 8 caps)
21 Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 44 caps)
22 Owen Williams (Ospreys – 6 caps)
23 Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets – 98 caps)

Images & Content – Wales Rugby

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