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Nucifora: ‘Domestic Game An Essential Part Of Irish Rugby Landscape’

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Despite being severely disrupted during the global pandemic, IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora insists the club game remains an essential part of the Irish rugby landscape.

With the exception of a short period that was designated to the newly-created Energia Community Series in Autumn of last year, grassroots action has been effectively on ice since Covid-19 took its grip on these shores in March 2020 with only the elite form of the sport permitted to take place on a continuous basis.

There is finally some light at the end of the tunnel for clubs, however, with the return of matches pencilled in for July. This will come as a massive relief to those invested in the domestic game and with Colin McEntee, IRFU Director Of Rugby Development, working tirelessly to get things back up to speed, Nucifora is confident it can continue to thrive over the next few years.

“Club rugby has a really important part to play. The fact that our players haven’t been able to play in club rugby for the last 15 or 18 months really hurts everyone. It hurts the clubs, it hurts the players, the development of those players. That has a knock-on effect to the Provinces because the players aren’t getting the amount of game time that we’d like them to get,” Nucifora explained in a media briefing on Wednesday.

“Just for the game in general, for people who aren’t aspirational but just enjoy playing the game, we need to have the club game reopened and started again because people’s engagement and attachment to the game happens through the clubs primarily. I know it’s been unbelievably tough for them being shut down for that long.

“But I do know in speaking with Collie that the engagement with the clubs has been really good during the shutdown period. They’ve done a lot of work online with the clubs to keep and stay engaged with them.

“I know since the opening of the club game has been announced that the report back from the clubs and to me via Collie is that things are actually going really well and people are unbelievably enthusiastic about getting up and running again.”

Central Contracting

Over the course of an extensive virtual press conference, Nucifora also spoke about the current IRFU Central Contract model in the face of ongoing financial challenges presented by Covid-19.

“We’ve revisited that a number of times and looked at the different models that could work and at the moment we haven’t been able to come up with anything that is better than the model that we have,” said Nucifora.

“The model is strong, it helps us retain our players, it helps us keep the Provinces strong, which is important, and I suppose that crosses over into our unwritten rule of only selecting players that are playing in Ireland.

“If we were to loosen it, that would make the provinces vulnerable to losing a lot more players because they would have the ability to come back and play for Ireland and not necessarily contribute to Irish rugby through their provinces which would have a knock-on, detrimental effect.

“For the IRFU, in this time of financial hardship, would it be a good idea? It probably would, you know, to pass on the cost of our top players to English, French or Japanese clubs, but that’s not the right thing to do.

“The right thing to do is to support the Provinces, keep the game healthy in Ireland, and maintain what we are doing. I think our model has proven to be quite strong.”

A native of Australia – who earned two caps for the Wallabies during his own playing career – Nucifora has been with the IRFU since May 2014. His current deal with the union is set to expire in a year’s time and he admitted that he will have some big decisions to make regarding his future between now and then.

“I think it’s something that I’ll consider over the next 12 months, but I think at the moment Covid has affected us all in different ways, and the stresses and strains that it’s put on everyone. Personally, it has put different stresses on me, separated from my family, which is difficult,” Nucifora said.

“From a professional point of view we have worked unbelievably hard in the last 15 months just to keep the game afloat. Would I like to have seen us further down the road with the strategies that we’ve put in place? Yes I would. But we’ve had to do what we’ve had to do to keep going and that’s probably held us back from achieving some of the things that I would have liked to have achieved.

“So are there more things that I would like to do? Yes there are and that’s something that I’ve just got to weigh up over the next 12 months as to whether that’s the right thing to do on a personal front, and on a professional front whether it’s the right thing to do as well and if the IRFU want me to remain doing what I’m doing. So they’re decisions that I’ll make in the coming months.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

6 Nations

Australian Match Officials Appointed to 2022 Six Nations Fixtures

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The Guinness Six Nations 2022 kicks off on February 5th, and rugby fans couldn’t be any happier. The Championship never disappoints and is always packed with drama as France, England, Wales, Italy, Scotland, and Ireland go head to head. Some fans even take the enthusiasm a step higher and bet on these games. We highly recommend you read on BettingTop10 site how to find the best betting site for you. This way you will get all the information you need to make the safest bets.

When World Rugby announced the 13 referees who will be the match officials for this 15-match Championship, fans received the announcement with much praise. The match officials represent eight rugby unions, and Rugby Australia will have four officials raising their flag high. For Australian Rugby, the four officials will be making history as they take charge of matches on the February 12th weekend.

Andy Marinos, Rugby Australia’s Chief Executive, had a congratulatory message for his four officials. Marinos said, “It’s an incredible achievement for all four Australians who will be representing us during the Six Nations. I’d like to congratulate them on behalf of Rugby Australia.

“To have Nic, Angus and Damon take control of three individual games on the same weekend is something we’ve never had before in a team of Australian match officials during the Six Nations, and I know they’ll put their best foot forward.”

Angus Gardner is the first official and isn’t new to the Six Nations tournament, as he made his debut back in 2019. For the 2022 Six Nations fixtures, he’ll start as the 2nd assistant referee in the Ireland vs Wales match at Aviva Stadium, Dublin, on February 5th. However, on February 12th, Gardner will be the main referee in the game between France and Ireland at the Stade de France stadium in Paris.

Nic Berry is another experienced referee who had his first rodeo at the Six Nations in 2019. He will kick off the 2022 tournament on February 5th as the 1st assistant referee in the Scotland vs England match at BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh. Nic will, however, take the reins as the lead official on February 12th as former title winners Wales clash with Scotland at the  Principality Stadium in Cardiff.

New to the Six Nations will be Damon Murphy, and his first match will be between France and Italy at the Stade de France stadium in Paris. The game will be on February 6th, and Damon will be the 2nd assistant referee. And just like his countrymates, Damon will be the main referee on February 13th as Italy plays against England at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

Lastly, Brett Conan joins the Six Nations championship as a Television Match Official (TMO) for the first time and will make his debut on February 6th. He’ll join Nic Berry on February 12th as the TMO when Wales and Scotland battle it out on the pitch.

The selection of the match officials was a significant feat for World Rugby and was noted by the Chairman of the World Rugby Match Officials Selection Committee, Graham Mourie. He said, “The 2022 Guinness Six Nations represents an important milestone for our match officials on the road to Rugby World Cup 2023 in France.”

Mourie added, “ Being able to select from the largest pool of match officials since the last Rugby World Cup is exciting and also means that we will be able to optimise preparation on the ground prior to and during the Championship. I would like to extend my congratulations to Nika, Damon and Karl, who will be refereeing their first Six Nations matches, and wish all the best to all the match officials selected for the Championship.”

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6 Nations

Farrell Names 37 Player Squad For 2022 Guinness Six Nations

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Andy Farrell and the Ireland coaching group have named a 37 player squad ahead of the 2022 Guinness Six Nations Championship which commences in early February.

The squad will be captained by Johnny Sexton who earned his 100th cap for his country against Japan during the November international window.

Ireland will host Wales, Italy and Scotland at the Aviva Stadium over the course of the Championship while also travelling to Paris and London to face France and England respectively.

There are two uncapped players named in the extended squad – Ulster’s Michael Lowry and Connacht’s Mack Hansen. Both have trained with the national squad in the past few months, Lowry during the Vodafone Summer Series in July and Hansen during the Autumn Nations Series in November.

Michael Lowry training with Ireland during the Vodafone Summer Series, July 2021

Connacht’s Cian Prendergast will join the squad for the training camp in Portugal as a Development Player. The former Ireland U20 player has made nine appearances for Connacht this season.

James Lowe has picked up a muscle injury that has ruled him out for a number of weeks.

Andy Farrell, Ireland Head Coach, commented: “In November we challenged the group to get up to speed quickly so that the team could perform at international level. The same will apply for this Six Nations campaign, we need to be at our best against Wales on the opening weekend.

“We have a strong squad with competition for places across the board, there is a nice blend of experienced internationals and guys who have had their first taste of this level in the past 12 months.  The games in November gave us a good foundation to build on and areas where we know we will have to improve.

“It will be an exciting Championship with so many strong squads and impressive performances across the board during the Autumn.”

Ireland’s opening fixture of the 2022 Six Nations Championship is against Wales on Saturday 5th February. A week later, the squad will travel to France to take on Les Bleus in Paris. In Round 3, on Sunday 27th February, Ireland host Italy at the Aviva Stadium and then travel to Twickenham to take on England two weeks later.

In the final round of the Championship, Ireland host Scotland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday 19th March.

All games will be available on free-to-air television in both the Republic and Northern Ireland. ITV (NI) will broadcast all of Ireland’s games, RTE (ROI) will broadcast the games against Wales and England while VIRGIN (ROI) will broadcast the games against France, Italy and Scotland.

IRELAND Guinness Six Nations Squad 2022

Backs (17)
Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 33 caps
Robert Baloucoune (Ulster/Enniskillen) 2 caps
Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 27 caps
Jack Carty (Buccaneers/Connacht) 10 caps
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 4 caps
Andrew Conway (Munster/Garryowen) 27 caps
Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 96 caps
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 12 caps
Mack Hansen (Connacht) uncapped
Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 53 caps
James Hume (Ulster/Banbridge) 1 cap
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 16 caps
Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 30 caps
Michael Lowry (Ulster/Banbridge) uncapped
Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 92 caps
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 37 caps
Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 101 caps CAPTAIN

Forwards (20)
Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 6 caps
Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 18 caps
Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 25 caps
Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 22 caps
Gavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster) 2 caps
Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 12 caps
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 52 caps
Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 112 caps
Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 65 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 23 caps
Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 16 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 45 caps
Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 79 caps
Tom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 2 caps
Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 40 caps
James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 40 caps
Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne) 2 caps
Nick Timoney (Ulster/Banbridge) 2 caps
Kieran Treadwell (Ulster/Ballymena) 3 caps
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 35 caps

Development Player
Cian Prendergast (Connacht)

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

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Scotland name Six Nations Squad

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Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Gregor Townsend has named five uncapped players in his 39-man squad for the upcoming Guinness Six Nations including Saracens back-rower Andy Christie and London Irish scrum-half Ben White.

Rory Darge, Ben Vellacott and Kyle Rowe are also rewarded with call-ups ahead of Scotland’s first game of the championship on Saturday 5 February against England.

Andy Christie represented Scotland at youth level, playing for the Under-16s and the 22-year-old has played with Saracens since 2018, becoming a prominent figure for the London side.

Ben White, aged 23, signed for London Irish last year from Leicester Tigers and featured in their victory over Edinburgh Rugby last weekend.

Fellow London Irish player Kyle Rowe is also named in the squad having impressed in the Premiership this season, notably scoring a hat-trick against Saracens and was previously a member of the Scotland 7s and U20s teams.

Darge and Vellacott have been selected due to consistently good performances at Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh respectively.

Following his memorable debut against England last year, Bath centre Cameron Redpath has recovered from injury and will once again be in contention ahead of the Six Nations opener.

During the Autumn Nations Cup, Ewan Ashman, Jamie Hodgson, Josh Bayliss, Javan Sebastian, Pierre Schoeman, Rufus McLean and Sione Tuipulotu all received their first Scotland caps and are included once again.

he squad will meet up at Oriam on Monday 24 January for a training camp before reconvening the following week ahead of the Calcutta Cup clash.

Fresh from claiming top spot in Scotland’s all-time try scoring list during the Autumn Nations Series Stuart Hogg once again captains his country.

He is joined by fellow British & Irish Lions adding their experience to the squad in Finn Russell, Ali Price, Zander Fagerson, Chris Harris, Rory Sutherland, Duhan van der Merwe and Hamish Watson.

Elsewhere there are call-ups for Edinburgh pair back-row Magnus Bradbury and prop WP Nel who missed out on selection for the Autumn Nations, as did Exeter Chiefs lock Jonny Gray who also returns.

Northampton centre Rory Hutchinson also earns a squad selection having not featured for Scotland in 2021.

Scotland Head Coach Gregor Townsend said: “When you look through the squad this is the most competitive I’ve seen it in so many areas and that’s testament to the strength and depth we have.

“We are able to call-up several new players into the squad such as Andy Christie, Kyle Rowe and Ben White. We have been aware of all of the uncapped players for a while now and recently they have all experienced a breakthrough in terms of their performances at club level.

“A key part of the squad selection was rewarding form and that definitely applies to Ben Vellacott and Rory Darge who have been excellent for their clubs this season.

“We’re delighted to be able to include Cameron Redpath in the squad after missing the last few months with injury. He managed to get a game under his belt prior to the squad selection so we’ll see how he performs for Bath and in our training over the next couple of weeks.

“The Guinness Six Nations is the best competition we have in rugby so to be involved in it is a real privilege, especially starting with our oldest rivals in front of a sold-out home crowd.”

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