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6 Nations

McCloskey Focused On ‘Going Out And Showing What I Can Do’

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Stuart McCloskey’s injury-enforced departure against South Africa was a case of cruel luck, but he feels fortunate to be in a position to make back-to-back Test starts for only the second time in his Ireland career.

McCloskey will win his eighth cap against Fiji just a week on from suffering an arm injury, which forced him off in the 26th minute of Ireland’s 19-16 Bank of Ireland Nations Series victory over the Springboks.

He teams up in midfield with Robbie Henshaw for the first time since making his debut alongside the Athlone man against England back in 2016. He is eager to show more of what he can do in attack this weekend.

“I think it’s something I’ve always done well at provincial level, is play week in, week out quite well and get better as I go on. So, hopefully that’s the case here,” said McCloskey, who started consecutive games for Ireland during the 2021 Vodafone Summer Series.

“Looking back on it (last week’s game), I was pleased with how the 27-odd minutes went. I can take solace in that. It’s just rugby. You’re unlucky at times, I was very disappointed at the time (with the injury), but things have resolved themselves pretty well.

“It was a nerve – the ulnar nerve if we’re being specific. I hit that and my arm just went completely dead. My forearm was in a lot of pain but it cleared up pretty well.

I was frustrated at the time, I thought I broke my forearm and I was pretty worried about that. Going off, I was thinking I had waited six-and-a-half years to play another tier 1 team – not that playing other teams wasn’t big, but it’s nice to show yourself against a world class team like South Africa, so I was disappointed.

“Looking back on it, the positives were I was playing quite well when I was on, and it hasn’t seemed to be as bad as first thought with the injury.

“Most of it was spent defending, South Africa started pretty well. Some of the tackle and breakdown stuff was good at the start, I just wish I could have stayed on longer and done a wee bit more going forward.”

McCloskey and Henshaw will certainly pack a punch as a centre pairing, standing at 6ft 4in and 6ft 3in respectively and weighing almost a combined 33 stone. Facing them are Fiji’s dynamic duo of Kalaveti Ravouvou and Waisea Nayacalevu, their experienced captain.

The Bangor man has experience of playing the Fijians before, getting the full 80 minutes under his belt when a Rhys Ruddock-led Ireland side scored three tries in a tight 23-20 win at the Aviva Stadium in November 2017.

McCloskey does not feel under any extra pressure to perform this week, given his early exit last Saturday and the fact that the competition for places will intensify even more with Bundee Aki back from suspension for the series finale against Australia.

Ireland are in a lucky position to have a clutch of world class centres at their disposal, and the 30-year-old Ulster star is doing his utmost to ensure he gets more match minutes heading into a Rugby World Cup year.

He has had to be patient in waiting for an opportunity given Ireland’s impressive form of late, with a ten match winning streak at home allied to their historic Test series success in New Zealand.

“It’s just about going out and showing what I can do, not letting the moment get over you and play your own game,” admitted McCloskey, who has scored three tries in his last five games for Ireland.

“When Bundee plays, he’s been very good. When Robbie’s played 12 he’s been very good. Why would you change a winning team? That’s the way I look at it.

“I’ve played at the same sort of level as them, provincial-wise, for a long time. It’s just waiting for your opportunity to get in there and play for Ireland.

“If I was Andy (Farrell), why would I change the team unless I was leaps and bounds ahead of those guys? Those two are probably two of the best 12s in the world for the best part of five or six years.

“I don’t think I was lots better than them, but I think it was quite an even battle between all three of us.”

McCloskey’s consistent form was one of the reasons why the Ireland coaching group backed him to deliver as a late replacement for the injured Henshaw against the ‘Boks. Paul O’Connell said they were ‘really confident in his ability and his smarts, the experience he has in that position’.

He will be tasked with building on that bright start from the South Africa game, doing the things that got him selected in the first place as he seeks to cause more selection headaches for Farrell and his fellow coaches.

“Listen, I’d love to be in the reckoning for the World Cup but there’s a long time between now and then. I just want to play a few more games in the next year leading up to the World Cup, and to play 80 minutes (this Saturday) would be great.

“I’d love to keep on playing on (in these next two games). I know it’s only provincially, but over the years I think I’ve done very well, bounced from game to game, played a lot of rugby.

“It’s always seemed to work for me when I’ve played three or four games in a row, not just in and out one game here and there,” he added.

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

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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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6 Nations

Leading Rugby Stakeholders Unite To Consider Future Of Rugby

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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

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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.”

Squad

Starters

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

Finishers

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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