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6 Nations

Tom O’Toole – A Tight-Head’s Journey



Tom O’Toole is delivering an impressive body of work in this year’s Guinness Six Nations Championships but his journey to this point has included a good degree of patience, trust and faith in his ability.

Tom made his Ulster debut at that age of 19 against Edinburgh in April 2018 and the following season he would make his Champions Cup debut off the bench against the Scarlets. As a raw tight-head prop he was making steady progress pre COVID and had made 51 appearances for Ulster including 16 starts before he was called in the national squad in January 2021 on a learning brief.

O’Toole entered an Ireland squad that had Tadhg Furlong and Andrew Porter packing down on the tight-head side and would get the opportunity to square off against veteran looseheads in Cian Healy and Dave Kilcoyne.

“Tom is a tough kid, a smart rugby player well able to play the game.  He has some unique physical attributes and at that age putting him into a group of props like Tadhg (Furlong), Cian (Healy) and Killer (Dave Kilcoyne) we knew he would learn on the job.  The plan was that he would come in, gain experience from being around the group and being around the environment.  That was what we wanted to do initially when he came in as a 21-year-old,”  – Ireland scrum coach John Fogarty.

Tom O’Toole Timeline

April 2018                     Ulster debut v Edinburgh at age 19

December 2018          Champions Cup debut for Ulster v Scarlets

January 2021              Named in Ireland Senior Six Nations Squad

July 2021                       1st cap vs USA at Aviva Stadium

November 2021          Replacement v Argentina at Aviva Stadium

January 2022              Named in Ireland Senior Six Nations Squad

July 2022                      Replacement v New Zealand in 1st Test & 2 starts v Māori All Blacks

November 2022         Start v All Blacks XV & replacement v Fiji

February 2023            First Six Nations appearance – four consecutive appearances

Tom O’Toole makes his Ireland debut against the USA in the Vodafone Summer Series, Aviva Stadium in July 2021

It was not part of the plan for O’Toole to feature in the Six Nations but he would be given an opportunity to don the green jersey a few months later as he started for Ireland against the USA at the Aviva Stadium in July.  He would also feature off the bench against Argentina in the Autumn Nations Series the following November.

Again, he was named in the Ireland squad for the 2022 Guinness Six Nations Championships where his tutelage continued with Finlay Bealham back in the tight-head mix and Porter now firmly established on the loosehead side.   He would again not feature in a match day squad across the Championship.

Named in the extended squad for the 2022 Summer Tour of New Zealand, O’Toole started the opening fixture of the tour against the Maori All Blacks in Hamilton.  A perfect storm of injury and illness opened the door for him to come off the bench in the first Test against New Zealand just three days later.  He would go on to again start in the win over the Māori in Wellington.

During the 2022 November international window he started against the All Blacks XV in a tough outing for Ireland A and he would earn another cap off the bench against Fiji.

Tom O’Toole in action against France in the 2023 Guinness Six Nations Championship

Speaking of O’Toole development in national camp, Fogarty said, “I think it’s important that players have a positive experience.  You are looking at them the whole time in training, gauging how calm they are, how much they understand how we want to play the game.  In training we first got glimpses of him getting what we wanted him to deliver.  He’s a very competitive kid and he learned very very quickly.   The games in New Zealand, he learned on the job and he put himself in a great place coming into this Six Nations.

Heading into his third Six Nations campaign O’Toole was primed to deliver and has done with aplomb coming off the bench in all four games adding value at set-piece and in open play.

“Tom has had to bide his time in the wider squad, he has had to gain trust of both the coaches and his peers and that trust has been built, and in himself as well.  He has absolute belief now in what he is doing and we are seeing that on the field.  He has been a big part of what we have done to date in this year’s Six Nations,” said Fogarty.

Roman Salanoa celebrates with teammates after beating the Griquas in the 2022 Toyota Challenge in Bloemfontein, South Africa

Roman Salanoa is another young tighthead on a steep learning curve.  Limited by injury at Munster, Roman was selected to tour with Emerging Ireland last autumn and started the game against the Pumas and was a replacement against both the Griquas and the Cheetahs. He was a late call up ahead of the opening round of this year’s Guinness Six Nations on the eve of the first round fixture against Wales and has been training with the squad ever since.

Speaking of Salanoa’s development Fogarty opined, “We want him to go through the same steps.  When players come in first they want to show everything that they can do, they want to show everything about themselves, they don’t quite fully understand what they plan is or what the system is and it takes a little bit of time for them and just be nice and accurate.  Tom went through that process and Roman is in that process now and we see a lot of the same attributes in Roman that we saw in Tom and we are going to keep a very close eye on what he is doing in Munster and his development here with us and we’d like him to follow the same pathway.”

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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