Connect with us

6 Nations

‘We’re Good To Go’ – McNabney On Ireland U-20s’ Showdown With Australia



James McNabney is one of the most experienced players in Richie Murphy’s Ireland Under-20 squad. He was part of both the 2022 and 2023 Grand Slam-winning sides, alongside fellow forwards Conor O’Tighearnaigh and Diarmuid Mangan.

There have been a few quality Ulster backrows come up through the Irish U20s system in recent years, McNabney is the latest to join that list behind the likes of 2022 Grand Slam winning captain Reuben Crothers and current Ulster players, Harry Sheridan, and David McCann.

McNabney said Crothers has been a great help to him, saying: “Reuben has been a big inspiration to me, he was the captain of the U20s last year. He’s a fellow friend at Ulster, me and him are in the academy together, we train hard together. He has helped me along the way.

“I would say I’m probably more mature and better than I was last year, or I liked to hope so. He’s definitely helped me along the way, as well as Willie Faloon as a coach”, said the Ulster academy player.

He is a past pupil of Cambridge House in Ballymena. The 20-year-old said the school has helped shape him into the man he is today, and he takes a lot of pride in representing his hometown of Ballymena.

“It’s a great honour to represent the school, the school has done everything for me and got me probably to where I’m at today, shaped me into the person that I am.

“I had the same coach at school as I did at the club, he has been great for me. Ballymena is my home club and it was always an honour to play for them. They’ve done a lot for me and I’m very grateful for that”, told the proud Ballymena native

McNabney switches back to the number six jersey for tomorrow morning’s game vs Australia. The versatile backrow player scored a try in the 34-34 draw with England. He admits it was a tough game and they need to win tomorrow if they are going to make that semi-final.

“It was a tough game.  The forwards had to work hard throughout the game, we could’ve won, we could’ve lost, but we were just happy to come away with the three points.

“Originally, we started out saying we had to win all games and that slightly changed, there is slightly more pressure added to this week against Australia, I think we can definitely do it and we need to get the win if we’re planning to get top four,” explained the back-to-back U20s Grand Slam winner.

Tomorrow’s game has huge implications for their future in the rest of the tournament, it’s arguably the biggest game yet for this particular group. The young player is aware of the magnitude of the challenge ahead, but he believes every game they’ve played so far at this level has carried a level of importance.

“This is probably one of the biggest games of the year for us because it’s do or die, as Mark said, if we lose this one, we probably won’t get top four, but also on the other hand, every game is a big game for us, and if you don’t win every game, you’re as good as your last game, so we try and win them all”, said McNabney.

The U20s World Cup provides the perfect platform for young players to test themselves against some of the brightest young talents on the other side of the world. McNabney got a taste for southern hemisphere opposition before when he played against South Africa in the Summer series last year, but for many in the squad, it’ll be their first time squaring up to a team like the Junior Wallabies.

“We know they have threats all over the park. They are a southern hemisphere team, a lot of the lads haven’t really played against, I only played against South Africa last summer, that was the first exposure I had to it.

They are very physical, they like to run with the ball, they’re good in open space, we got to take that away from them at the start.

The condition of the pitch at Paarl Gimnasium remains a big talking point heading into tomorrow morning’s game. The hard surface makes it difficult to play an expansive brand of rugby, being a true forward, he admited the conditions have actually suited him personally.

“The pitch is heavy. There is not much we can do about it, both teams are in the same circumstances and we just have to get on with it. At the end of the game, we were definitely very tired as a pack, the legs were drained.

“But I kind of suit that pitch, I’m use to that sort of environment. The legs were sore after the game, but we’ve recovered well and we’re good to go”, admitted the old school forward.

A short format competition like this demands a lot of the players both physically and mentally. It asks questions of your fitness and the resources and strength of your overall squad

McNabney said they are ready to go again.

“It doesn’t seem long since we played, but we have a great team of physios, and we are just working hard to try and get back, doing as much as possible, getting as much sleep and recovery as possible, and the team is good to go for tomorrow”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

6 Nations

Munster Confirm Three New Signings



Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm the signing of Oli Jager from the Crusaders with the tighthead prop signing a contract until the summer of 2027.

Hooker Eoghan Clarke is rejoining Munster on a short-term contract with back three player Colm Hogan also returning on a short-term deal.
Jager will join the province in the coming weeks with his contract beginning at the start of December.

Born in London, Jager started out at Naas RFC before playing schools rugby at Newbridge College and Blackrock College. He lined out for the Ireland U18 Schools team in 2013 before moving to Canterbury in New Zealand at the age of 17.

Initially attending the Crusaders International High Performance Unit, he earned a place in the Crusaders Academy in 2014. After impressing with New Brighton RFC, he earned a place in the Canterbury squad for the Mitre 10 Cup in 2016.

Jager made his Super Rugby debut for the Crusaders in 2017 and has been a key member of their squad for the past seven years, winning seven consecutive Super Rugby titles.

Eoghan Clarke spent three years in the Munster Academy before departing for Jersey Reds in March 2021. A former Ireland U20 international, Clarke won the English Championship with Jersey Reds last season before the club went into liquidation last month.

Colm Hogan, who has lined out for Ireland U20 and Munster A in the past, played his schools rugby with Glenstal Abbey. He captained Dublin University in the AIL and also had a spell with Colomiers in the PRO D2 while studying in France.

The 26-year-old played for Leinster against Chile last year and lined out with recent Munster arrival Alex Nankivell for Tasman Mako in the NPC this year.

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

Continue Reading

6 Nations

Farrell Named Coach Of The Year As Five Irish Players Make Dream Team



Andy Farrell has been named Coach of the Year and five Irish players included in the Men’s Dream Team at a star studded World Rugby Awards Ceremony tonight. Former International Referee David McHugh was also honoured on the night with the World Rugby Referee Award.

Just hours after South Africa defeated the All Blacks to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for an historic fourth time at Stade de France, the victorious team reunited to open the spectacular 90-minute show, held at the breathtaking Opéra Garnier in the heart of Paris.

Farrell was named World Rugby Coach of the Year, recognising his achievement in leading Ireland’s to a Six Nations Grand Slam and top spot in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini for 15 months.

Andy Farrell and Dan Sheehan celebrate after the game 18/3/2023

Head Coach Andy Farrell and Dan Sheehan – Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Speaking about the award Andy Farrell said, “I would like to thank World Rugby for this recognition and congratulate the other nominees for their efforts this year. Coaching is a demanding and hugely rewarding profession, with many highs and lows, and in accepting this award, I would like to pay tribute to the players and wider coaching and support staff who work tirelessly to bring success to Irish rugby.

I am incredibly proud to work with such a talented and committed group. This award is recognition for all those involved in Irish rugby and our incredible supporters who travel near and far to support us. I am honoured to accept this award on their behalf.”

Four nations are represented in the Dream Team with Rugby World Cup 2023 hosts France and Ireland claiming five players apiece, New Zealand four and World Champions South Africa one.

Three Irish forwards made the team with Dan Sheehan, Tadgh Furlong and Caelan Doris included. In the backline Bundee Aki, who was shortlisted for Player of the Year, and his centre partner Garry Ringrose were named.

Ireland’s Garry Ringrose and Bundee Aki – Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

McHugh was given the World Rugby Referee award in recognition of his dedication and contribution to the game of rugby which spans more than 20 years, from his decade as an international referee taking charge of 28 tests. He officiated at three Rugby World Cups between 1995 and 2003, and has acted as a mentor for the next generations of match officials, including the likes of Joy Neville and John Lacey in Ireland and Nika Amashukeli in Georgia.

Of the 11 awards presented in Paris, nine were selected by the star-studded World Rugby Awards panels, while the International Rugby Players Men’s Try of the Year was decided by a fan vote on social media.

Nominees and winners in a further four women’s categories will be announced and celebrated separately, at the conclusion of the ongoing WXV tournament.

Ireland’s Tadhg Furlong and Caelan Doris and Italy’s Michele Lamaro – Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

World Rugby Men’s XVs Dream Team

1. Cyril Baille (France) 2. Dan Sheehan (Ireland) 3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland) 4. Eben Etzebeth (South Africa) 5. Scott Barrett (New Zealand) 6. Caelan Doris (Ireland) 7. Charles Ollivon (France) 8. Ardie Savea (New Zealand) 9. Antoine Dupont (France) 10. Richie Mo’unga (New Zealand) 11. Will Jordan (New Zealand) 12. Bundee Aki (Ireland) 13. Garry Ringrose (Ireland) 14. Damian Penaud (France) 15. Thomas Ramos (France).

World Rugby Award Winners

World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year in partnership with Mastercard – Ardie Savea (New Zealand)

World Rugby Coach of the Year – Andy Farrell (Ireland)

World Rugby Men’s 15s Breakthrough Player of the Year in partnership with Tudor – Mark Tele’a (New Zealand)

World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year in partnership with HSBC – Rodrigo Isgro (Argentina)

World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year in partnership with HSBC – Tyla Nathan-Wong (New Zealand)

World Rugby Referee Award – David McHugh (Ireland)

Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service – George Nijaradze (Georgia)

Rugby for All Award – SOS Kit Aid

International Rugby Players Special Merit Award – John Smit (South Africa)

International Rugby Players Men’s Try of the Year – Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland)

World Rugby Hall of Fame inductees: Daniel Carter (New Zealand), Thierry Dusautoir (France), George Smith (Australia), Juan Martín Hernández (Argentina), Bryan Habana (South Africa).

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

Continue Reading

6 Nations

Historic Rugby Calendar Reform To Supercharge Reach And Competitiveness



The World Rugby Council has approved transformational reform of the global men’s and women’s rugby calendars, a seminal moment for the sport that marks a new era of opportunity, certainty and growth for the game, a fitting finale to its 200th birthday year.

Reform of Regulation 9 governing international player release has paved the way for the global club and international game to complement each other with clearly defined windows of release for international duties, as well as enhanced player welfare outcomes in the form of Player Load Guidelines.

Shaped through close collaboration with the players and stakeholders from across the whole sport, including domestic and international competitions, regions, unions, the adjustments have been driven by a game-wide commitment to prioritise player welfare while supporting desired competitiveness increases across performance unions.

In the women’s game, the decision means clearly defined global and regional player release periods for the first time with no domestic competition overlap, opening the way to a harmonious structure that promotes opportunity and growth ahead of an expanded 16-team Rugby World Cup in 2025.

In the men’s game, new competition structures coupled with an increased level of cross-over fixtures between the high performance and performance unions, will deliver long-term certainty of content for the first time, supporting increases in competitiveness, interest and value ahead of a landmark Rugby World Cup in the USA in 2031.

Together, these developments crucially allow for better management of player load and overall welfare in the game, with the development of new Player Load Guidelines and ongoing expert input to oversee the development and evolution of the guidelines working with all stakeholders.

First-ever global calendar for women’s rugby with dedicated release windows

  • First-ever dedicated international release windows (regional release window of seven weeks and global release window of eight weeks) from 2025.
  • Clarity of release periods for club/league and cross-border competitions, to allow certainty of planning and investment.
  • A commitment to more effectively manage player load and welfare in the fast-evolving women’s game, working with all stakeholders
  • A framework to review the women’s global calendar and international competition structures on an ongoing basis to recognise that fast-evolving environment and opportunity.

First-ever global calendar for men’s rugby with new competitions and increased opportunity

  • Establishment of an enhanced global calendar for men’s rugby with clearer international windows, including confirmation of the release window for Rugby World Cup 2027 (Australia).
  • Expansion of Rugby World Cup to 24 teams in 2027, providing more qualification opportunities for more teams and regional competitions.
  • Launch of a bi-annual new international competition from 2026, comprising a top division of 12 teams (Six Nations unions, SANZAAR unions and two further unions to be selected via a process run by SANZAAR), and a second division run by World Rugby of 12 teams with promotion and relegation commencing from 2030. Played in the July and November international release windows, it will provide crucial opportunities (and certainty of fixtures) for unions currently outside of the existing annual competitions, and in turn provide opportunities for unions and regional associations through to the second division.
  • The competition provides players and fans with compelling matches, to build audiences and value for all.
  • A significant uplift in the number of cross-over matches between unions in the respective divisions are included in the global calendar in the two other years, providing performance nations with annual competition certainty against high performance unions.
  • Launch of new annual expanded Pacific Nations Cup competition in 2024, featuring Canada, Fiji, Japan, Samoa, Tonga and USA with home fixtures and Japan and USA alternating as finals hosts, guaranteeing a minimum of three additional matches a year in addition to the new international competition and cross-over fixtures.
  • The global men’s calendar provides additional clarity for elite league and cross-border club competitions, supporting value growth investment opportunities for all.

The reform follows extensive consultation with the professional game, including regions, unions, domestic and international competitions, and detailed evaluation of the playing, commercial and fan landscape. Implementation of the agreed package will continue to involve dialogue with all parties.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “It is fitting that we finish Rugby World Cup 2023, the sport’s greatest celebration of togetherness, with the sport’s greatest feat of togetherness. Agreement on the men’s and women’s global calendars and their content is the most significant development in the sport since the game went professional. An historic moment for our sport that sets us up collectively for success.

“We now look forward to an exciting new era for our sport commencing in 2025 (women) and 2026 (men). An era that will bring certainty and opportunity for all. An era that will support the many, not the few, and an era that will supercharge the development of the sport beyond its traditional and often self-imposed boundaries. I would like to thank all my colleagues for their spirit of collaboration. Today, we have achieved something special.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

Continue Reading