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6 Nations

Furlong: Fiji Are Well Coached, Physical And Direct



The most-capped member of the starting XV with 61 caps, Furlong is looking forward to leading his country for the first time, ranking it up there in terms of career highlights as ‘something no one will ever take away from you’.

He is anticipating a strong performance from Fiji who only trailed Scotland by two points at half-time in Edinburgh last weekend, while Ireland only had three points to spare (23-20) when the sides last locked horns five years ago.

“It is different, but it’s still a challenge and especially for the group that we have,” admitted Furlong, speaking about moving on from playing reigning World champions South Africa to hosting the 11th-ranked Fijians.

“It’s the opportunity that lies in front of us and how we can be good, how we can drive it on…I think Fiji are playing really good rugby. I think they’re very well coached and they’re very physical, very direct.

“Obviously they have all the flare in the world out the back that they can score tries from nothing. I think we’re under no illusions about the size of the game at the weekend.”

Furlong is cognisant of the significance of his selection as captain, given the rareness of a prop leading the national team, his own rise from the youth ranks like Shane Horgan and Sean O’Brien, and the fact that he hails from Wexford.

The most recent props to captain the Ireland were Nick Popplewell (against Japan in 1995), Reggie Corrigan (against Tonga in 2003), and Simon Best during the 2007 summer tour to Argentina.

A proud product of New Ross Rugby Club, Furlong can also look back in the annals of Irish Rugby history for inspiration. Fellow Wexford man Karl Mullen, a native of Courtown, captained Ireland in their 1948 Grand Slam campaign and the British & Irish Lions two years later.

Asked by head coach Andy Farrell on Monday if he would lead the team if ‘fit and ready to go’, the 29-year-old tighthead has recovered quickly from the ankle injury he picked up against the Springboks.

Furlong has been part of Ireland’s leadership group since the early days of Farrell’s coaching reign, so was an obvious choice as skipper given the personnel changes this week and his standing amongst the group.

Despite that, he admits captaining the team was not something he envisaged doing, even when growing up on the family farm in Campile. He joked that his childhood dreams were more about ‘spuds, gravy, and mother’s Sunday roast’.

“It’s class, obviously look I didn’t know if I’d be playing or not to be perfectly honest with you. It’s class (to be captain). It’s not something I ever thought would be on my radar, to be honest.

To get an opportunity to captain the team is special. You know when you dream as a young fella, you want to play for Ireland, you want to play for Leinster, you want to play for the Lions…I never even dreamed of captaining Ireland.

“Look, I know it’s for a game. I know it’s not captaining your country week in, week out, but it’s still class. It’s still a class feeling. I know from people back home, they’ll be very proud, etc. So it’s great.”

Furlong’s captaincy experience is limited to a stint with the Ireland Under-18 Clubs team back in 2010, a side that produced a number of future professional players including Kieran Marmion, Alan O’Connor, Tom Daly, Eoghan Masterson, Jack Carty, Chris Farrell and Shane Layden.

The IRFU’s underage clubs pathway continues to produce promising players with plenty of talent – the current crop won 43-10 against Italy in Rome last Saturday – and Furlong also acknowledged the development of his Wexford compatriot Brien Deeny, the 22-year-old Leinster lock.

Shane Horgan would have came through (the non-traditional route), Seanie (O’Brien) comes through, I immediately identify with those people because they’re from a similar background. John Hayes the same. It’s easy to identify.

“We’re lucky now that there’s so much more of us coming through, especially in the professional game in general in Ireland. So you don’t have to look all that far anymore, whereas it was only two or three back in my day. It’s more accessible now.

“It’s not like it’s just Sean O’Brien and Tullow. It would be a Wexford Wanderers fella looking up to Brian Deeny who’s playing in Leinster now. It has become far more local than regional where it was before and it’s only good for the game, you know?”

Of his time captaining that Ireland U-18 team, he admitted: “That’s going back, boy. It was a lot of blood and guts, banging tables and stuff back then.

“I’ve been lucky to be involved in a lot of good teams with a lot of good captains. It’s just trying to fit your way in and enjoy it as well, as much as anything.”

Furlong has had to adapt to modern rugby’s more player-driven environment, with his captain with Leinster and Ireland, Jonathan Sexton, noting last week how the prop has ‘really come out of his shell over the last couple of years’.

Slightly hesitant at first, the Leinster front rower feels being a leader within the national camp is a more natural fit now for someone who Sexton has hailed for his ‘outstanding rugby brain’ and having ‘his finger on the pulse’.

“I suppose there was a time where players were about doing their job, putting the blinkers on and getting about with your business,” explained Furlong.

“People have changed, rugby has changed, in terms of more rounded, holistic environments, and wanting people’s opinions, wanting people to be themselves, wanting people to want to learn and not be afraid to ask for advice and be vulnerable a small bit.

“I had no clue of it. None of it. It’s something I didn’t know how to approach at the start. I think as a leadership group we probably didn’t, we were quite quiet. ‘What does Faz want?’…but as we grow and the years went on, it came more natural to us.”

Furlong wants to ‘make the most out of the weekend’ and his time as Ireland captain, a role Farrell said he was ‘the obvious choice’ for as they look to make it two wins out of two in the Bank of Ireland Nations Series.

“We’ve documented quite a bit over the last period of time just how much his leadership has come on and his standing within the group, so I am a big believer in how people make people feel,” said the Ireland boss.

“Not just during the week but beforehand in the dressing-room just before they go out, and he becomes the obvious choice with that.

“You’ve got to be comfortable in your own skin, haven’t you? You have to be across your own detail, your own game and understand what the team needs and how you go about playing our own game under the scrutiny of a Test match itself and with everything that goes with that.

“And then you are able to care about others. We have a lot of lads who are able to do that and Tadhg has figured it out more than most.”

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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