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PREVIEW: All Blacks v Fiji

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Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

The Steinlager Series ends on a high in Hamilton as the All Blacks face an incredibly physical and skillful Fijian side who will be eager to improve on the 57-23 score line from Dunedin last week.

Match details: All Blacks v Fiji, Saturday 17 July, 7.05pm (NZT), FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton

Played: 6

First game: All Blacks 74, Fiji 13 (27 May 1987)

Last game: All Blacks 57, Fiji 23 (10 July 2021)

Referee: Damon Murphy

FIJI NO SURPRISE PACKAGE

While Fiji’s strong performance in the first Test came as a surprise to some fans, it wasn’t to the All Blacks according to first five-eighth Richie Mo’unga. “We knew what we were going to get and for those who didn’t know, the New Zealand public who don’t watch European rugby, these guys are rock stars over there,” Mo’unga said. Despite a hampered build-up to the first Test with some players not coming out of MIQ until the week of the Test, Fiji pressured the All Blacks in many facets of the game and trailed by just eight points with 20 minutes to go. Fiji Head Coach Vern Cotter believes his side can get even better with another week of preparation under their belt. “The ingredients are there, a brave performance…you can build something from that,” Cotter said.

ARDIE AND ANTON MILESTONES

It will be a night to remember for Ardie Savea and Anton Lienert-Brown who both bring up 50 Tests for the All Blacks. Both players debuted in 2016 as youngsters and have quickly become regular starters and leaders in the All Blacks. Lienert-Brown said it was even more special for him to celebrate the milestone in Hamilton. “This region is probably the reason I am here. It has given a lot to me so to do it at FMG Waikato Stadium is special so I am very grateful.”

BREAKDOWN CHALLENGE

Fiji excelled at the breakdown last week in Dunedin and will be looking to edge the All Blacks again in this crucial area. It’s no secret that the All Blacks have been working hard during the week to improve their work at the breakdown and the addition of Ardie Savea to the starting line-up for the first time in 2021 will no doubt boost the All Blacks ability to compete in the tackle zone. Assistant Coach Brad Mooar outlined a simple formula to success at the breakdown: “I think it’s more about just winning the race, beating the opposition to the breakdown, making good decisions and execution as a ball carrier, supporters’ anticipation, and getting into that breakdown,” Mooar said.

STATCHAT

This will be the All Blacks 600th Test in the team’s rich history. The first All Blacks Test match was against Australia way back in 1903.

COACH’S CHAT

Hear from All Blacks Head Coach Ian Foster on the 23 players named to face Fiji in Hamilton.

WATCH

Watch the action live on Sky Sport in New Zealand and click HERE for international broadcast details.

TEAMS

 

All Blacks (caps in brackets):

1: George Bower (2) 2: Codie Taylor (57) 3: Nepo Laulala (30) 4: Scott Barrett (41) 5: Samuel Whitelock – captain (124) 6: Akira Ioane (3) 7: Ardie Savea (49) 8: Luke Jacobson (4) 9: Aaron Smith (98) 10: Richie Mo’unga (23) 11: Sevu Reece (9) 12: David Havili (4) 13: Anton Lienert-Brown (49) 14: Will Jordan (4) 15: Damian McKenzei (29)

Reserves: 16: Dane Coles (76) 17: Ethan de Groot (1) 18: Angus Ta’avao (15) 19: Brodie Retallick (82) 20: Shannon Frizell (13) 21: Brad Weber (8) 22: Beauden Barrett (90) 23: Rieko Ioane (35)

Fiji:

1.Peni Ravai, 2. Samuel Matavesi, 3. Mesake Doge, 4. Temo Mayanavanua, 5. Leone Nakarawa (C), 6. Johnny Dyer, 7. Mesulame Kunavula, 8. Peceli Yato, 9. Frank Lomani, 10. Ben Volavola, 11. Nemani Nadolo, 12. Eneriko Buliruarua, 13. Waisea Nayacalevu, 14. Setareki Tuicuvu, 15. Kini Murimurivalu.

Reserves: 16. Mesulame Dolokoto, 17. Eroni Mawi, 18. Leeroy Atalifo, 19. Albert Tuisue, 20. Kitione Kamikamica, 21. Moses Sorovi, 22. Teti Tela, 23. Manasa Mataele.

Source – All Blacks Rugby

6 Nations

Sean O’Brien to retire from rugby

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Image Credit: London Irish

London Irish can confirm Seán O’Brien is set to retire from rugby at the end of the 2021/22 season.

The back-row forward will bring a storied 14-year career to a conclusion this summer after two-and-a-half years with the Exiles.

O’Brien spent eleven seasons with his home province of Leinster, winning four Pro12/ Pro14 league titles, four Heineken Cup/ Champions Cup honours and an Amlin Challenge Cup, whilst also earning the ERC European Player of the Year accolade in 2011. 

He was capped 56 times for Ireland between 2009 and 2019 and represented the British and Irish Lions on two tours, firstly to Australia in 2013 and then to New Zealand in 2017. 

O’Brien joined London Irish in December 2019 and has played a vital part across three successful seasons in west London, becoming a fan favourite amongst the Exile Nation. 

On his decision to retire, O’Brien stated: “After much deliberation and consultation with my family and friends, I can confirm that I have decided to retire from playing professional rugby at the end of the season.

“I’ve had an incredible career and am thankful for every second of my time at Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the British & Irish Lions. 

“As a 20-year-old, I fulfilled my childhood dream by pulling on the Leinster jersey, and when I made my debut against Cardiff Blues in 2008, I never imagined what would then follow over the next 14 years. 

“A special mention must go to Colin McEntee for his ‘big brother’ approach when I joined the academy. 

“I feel lucky to have experienced so many wonderful highlights over the course of my career.

“At an international level, I feel privileged to have won 56 caps for Ireland. 

“I gave everything I could possibly give, and I will always look back with great pride at every time I pulled on the Irish jersey to represent my country, my county, my friends, and family.

“I feel very fortunate to have had the career I’ve had but none of it would have been possible without the support of so many people.

“Firstly, I would like to thank my Mam and Dad for taking me to Ballon Rathoe Community Games and then Tullow RFC when I was 8 years old. 

“They took me to every sport in my area which gave me the exposure to all types of sport. 

“They were the perfect role models who taught me to not be afraid of hard work, which certainly helped me progress my career and I can’t thank them enough.

“I was lucky to play alongside some great players and under some brilliant managers and coaches during my time at Tullow, Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the Lions and I would like to thank every one of them. 

“I would also like to thank the backroom staff at each of those clubs, they all showed me fantastic support during my time with them.

“I would like to say a special thank you to some people who believed in me early on in my career, who are sadly no longer with us. 

“Jim Kealy (Tullow RFC) and David Wilkie (Edenderry RFC) always said the right thing to me and gave me direction when needed.

“Away from rugby, I feel lucky to have had such a close group of friends that I have always been able to count and rely on throughout the course of my career. 

“Thanks to all of you, especially James Foley and Daniel Davey. 

“Finally, the most important thank you is reserved for my family. 

“I can’t thank my Mum, Dad and brothers (Stephen and William) sisters (Caroline and Alex) enough for their unconditional support over the years. 

“It has meant everything to me and to have 6 nephews watching means the world to me.

“There is still a lot of rugby to be played this season before the time comes to hang up my boots, and I am fully focused on giving my all in the London Irish jersey until then. 

“I’m going to soak up every minute I get on the pitch and look forward to helping the team wherever I can.

“I am excited about the future and feel I still have a lot to offer the game, in whatever capacity that may be. 

“I am currently taking my time to consider a number of options and will make an announcement with regards to the next stage of my career very soon.”

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6 Nations

Ryan And Baird Ruled Out Of Scotland Game. 2 called up.

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

The Ireland squad returned to Dublin on Saturday evening following the victory over England at Twickenham and reassembled at Carton House on Sunday evening.

James Ryan will not be considered for selection this week and his return to rugby protocols will be supervised by the Leinster Medical Team. Ryan Baird is ruled out of the final fixture of the 2022 Guinness Six Nations with a back issue.

Uncapped locks Ross Molony and Joe McCarthy have been called up to train with the squad. Ross has been involved in Ireland squads since the summer of 2021 while Joe, a former Ireland U20 player, made his Leinster debut against Cardiff in January having impressed for Dublin University in the Energia AIL.

Robert Baloucoune, Nick Timoney and Mike Lowry all return after lining out for Ulster in the URC against Leinster at the weekend.

Ireland play Scotland in the final round of the 2022 Guinness Six Nations Championship on Saturday 19th March at 4.45pm. The game is being televised by Virgin (ROI) and ITV (NI).

Ireland Squad Round 5 2022 Guinness Six Nations Championships

Backs (16)
Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 36 caps
Robert Baloucoune (Ulster/Enniskillen) 2 caps
Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 31 caps
Jack Carty (Buccaneers/Connacht) 11 caps
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 5 caps
Andrew Conway (Munster/Garryowen) 30 caps
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 16 caps
Mack Hansen (Connacht) 3 caps
Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 56 caps
James Hume (Ulster/Banbridge) 3 caps
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 19 caps
James Lowe (Leinster) 11 caps
Michael Lowry (Ulster/Banbridge) 1 cap
Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 95 caps
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 41 caps
Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 104 caps CAPTAIN

Forwards (19)
Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 22 caps
Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 29 caps
Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 26 caps
Gavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster) 2 caps
Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 16 caps
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 56 caps
Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 115 caps
Dave Heffernan (Connacht/Buccaneers) 6 caps
Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 67 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 25 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 47 caps
Jeremy Loughman (Munster/Garryowen) uncapped
Joe McCarthy (Leinster/Dublin) uncapped
Ross Molony (Leinster/UCD) uncapped
Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 83 caps
Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne) 6 caps
Nick Timoney (Ulster/Banbridge) 2 caps
Kieran Treadwell (Ulster/Ballymena) 4 caps
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 39 caps

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6 Nations

Johnny Sexton Signs Contract Extension to 2023 Rugby World Cup

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Photo Credit - Irish Rugby

Ireland and Leinster out-half Johnny Sexton has signed a contract extension up until the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

In November Johnny earned his 100th cap for Ireland against Japan and played a pivotal role in Ireland’s third defeat of New Zealand. He hit the milestone of 500 Six Nations Championship points against Wales in Round 1 of this year’s tournament and has represented Ireland on 103 occasions to date.

The former World Player of the Year was appointed Ireland captain by Andy Farrell in January 2020 and has led the team to ten victories in his 13 game tenure as the on field general.

Johnny made his international debut against Fiji in November 2009 and has represented Ireland at three Rugby World Cups (2011, 2015 & 2019). Johnny is a two time Lions tourist (2013 & 2017) and has won three Six Nations titles with Ireland and five European Cups with Leinster. He has represented his provinces on 178 occasions, scoring 1549 points.

David Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director, commented: “Johnny’s performances continue to be of the highest standard and he remains an integral member of the Ireland and Leinster squads.  He has always been a leader on the field and in the past two years since taking on the Ireland captaincy his leadership off it has been top class. Johnny is a generational player and we are delighted that he has extended to 2023.”

 Johnny Sexton, commented: “I always said that if I am enjoying my rugby and the Ireland and Leinster set-ups believe I can add value to the environment then it would be an easy decision to sign another contract.  There is some great talent coming through at Leinster at present and I am excited about the prospect of competing at a fourth World Cup with Ireland and the potential for growth in this group between now and then.”

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