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6 Nations

Murray: I Couldn’t Think Of A Better Group To Reach 100 Caps With

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He is the first scrum half to reach the century milestone, having had a rapid rise as a 22-year-old to play at the 2011 Rugby World Cup and shown impressive consistency over the years in the number 9 jersey.

The Limerick man has won three Six Nations titles with Ireland, including the 2018 Grand Slam, and two Triple Crowns. His 15-try haul includes his famous score against New Zealand in Chicago six years ago.

Asked about what it will mean for him to join some of his former team-mates in the 100-cap club, Murray said: “It will be a very proud day for me, for my family more importantly with the commitment they’ve shown to be at pretty much all the games.

“I couldn’t think of a better group of players to reach that milestone with, given how competitive we are, what we’ve done in the last year.

“It’s incredible, it’s probably the first full year I’ve spent not starting and, oddly enough, it’s been the most enjoyable year or two. It is a a hugely proud moment (to reach 100 caps) and it’s a privilege, a cool list to be on.”

That list of legendary Irish Rugby figures includes two of Murray’s current team-mates, Cian Healy and Jonathan Sexton, and Paul O’Connell, the current Ireland forwards coach and the scrum half’s former captain at Munster.

It is made up of Brian O’Driscoll (133), Ronan O’Gara (128), Rory Best (124), Healy (118), O’Connell (108), Sexton (108) and John Hayes (105).

Murray has played in three World Cups and toured three times with the British & Irish Lions, helping them to win the 2013 Series in Australia. He was voted onto World Rugby’s Team of the Decade for 2010-2019.

At the heart of Murray’s outstanding international career is his ever-enduring half-back partnership with Jonathan Sexton. The pair will start together for Ireland for the 65th time this weekend, 14 short of the world record set by Australia’s Stephen Larkham and George Gregan.

The possessor of a top class pass and excellent kicking skills, whether of the box-kicking variety or a long range penalty strike, the 33-year-old Munster star has had his starting opportunities limited by the form of Leinster’s Jamison Gibson-Park.

However, he remains a quality operator and, at the start of a new international season, is determined to put his best foot forward ahead of a massive year for Andy Farrell’s men.

“In the last year or two my opportunities to start have reduced and it’s about having that drive – listen to the coaches, see what they want from you,” said Murray.

“The competitive spirit is still there. My goal is to get starting and be the number 9 in the Irish team and that’s always been my goal. It takes a bit of getting used to. It refocuses you.

“Jamison has been playing brilliantly over the last year and that’s driving the standards of myself and Craig (Casey) and whoever else comes in.

“With the type of game we’re playing, Andy and Mike (Catt) are very open and honest and that’s something that players really appreciate.

Sometimes previously – and you hear it from other players as well – coaches can give them willy-nilly excuses. It could be anything.

“Like, it’s very easy for a coach to say, ‘look, a few of your passes were down, and I want you to work on that’. Whereas they’ll give you the feedback that you definitely agree with because you’re probably seeing the same things as well.

“That’s something players really appreciate, so then you can go away and set up a list of goals, or a training routine, that will help improve that. I think that’s really refreshing, to have that type of feedback from coaches.”

Murray has faced South Africa on nine previous occasions with Ireland and the Lions, including last year’s first Test win during the Covid-19-impacted Lions Series in Cape Town.

He was victorious with the national team in 2014, 2016 and 2017, memorably running in a try during the 2016 first Test at Newlands Stadium which marked Ireland’s first ever triumph over the Springboks on South African soil.

He was of course coached by Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber at Munster, but it is his former provincial team-mate, South African assistant coach and European-based coaching consultant Felix Jones, who he is wary of in terms of potentially flipping the script.

“The Springboks try and impose themselves on other teams through physicality. Over the 10 years, their game-plan hasn’t historically changed too much, because it works,” he acknowledged.

“When it comes to World Cups and big competitions, they tend to be there or thereabouts because of the style of rugby that they play. Some call it low-risk or whatever – it’s rugby inside a phone box at times.

“They have a back-three that are really lethal, and if the game does break up they are guys that’ll really punish you.

“But I think you might see a certain picture on a Saturday and it could be completely different, because they’ve got Felix who likes to tinker with the plan.

“He’s quite an intelligent coach. That’s when it’s dangerous, when you think you know someone and then they present something different on the weekend.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


6 Nations

England side to face Ireland in Six Nations

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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

Starting

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

Replacements

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

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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

Replacements

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

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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.

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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)

Replacements
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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