Autumn Nations Cup Build-Up To Georgia Home: Finlay Bealham – – November 26 2020

Bealham: It’s An Opportunity To Test Ourselves Against A Quality Pack

By Daire Walsh

Versatile Ireland prop Finlay Bealham is anticipating a stern examination from Georgia in Sunday’s Guinness Series and Autumn Nations Cup game at the Aviva Stadium.

Traditionally a tighthead, a calf injury sustained by Ed Byrne saw the Connacht regular offering cover to Cian Healy at loosehead in last Saturday’s 18-7 defeat to England.

On the same day at Parc y Scarlets in Llanelli, Georgia battled admirably before eventually losing 18-0 to Wales in the other Group A game.

This was preceded by a 40-0 loss to England the previous week, but with former Ulster players David Humphreys and Neil Doak involved as high performance consultant and backs coach respectively, Bealham will not be taking the Georgians for granted.

“They’ve always had a really strong set piece and some really big forwards,” he said of the Lelos. “We know that’s going to be a huge area on the weekend. It’s an opportunity as well for us to go against a quality pack in Georgia, really test ourselves.

“Outside the forwards, they’ve got some really explosive backs who have a lot of size as well. They’ve been playing some good rugby.

“I know the results haven’t gone their way, but we’re under no illusions. It’s going to be a tough game and we’re preparing accordingly for that.”

While he has been to the right of the front row for a considerable amount of time, Bealham has operated on the opposite side in the past. Back in March 2016, he made his international debut against Italy in the Six Nations in similar circumstances.

Whereas Byrne was forced to pull out of the matchday squad against England last Saturday, back then in 2016 it was Healy who was withdrawn at the eleventh hour.

“I know obviously it’s a change from tighthead, but it’s something I’m confident in doing. Throughout camp, I kept my eye on the loosehead stuff, just in case something like this would happen.

“I know it’s unfortunate for Ed that he couldn’t play at the weekend. I kept an eye on all the loosehead stuff, so thankfully the transition wasn’t too bad.

“I had to ask a lot of questions to the likes of Iain Henderson, James Ryan and Quinn Roux about lineouts and probably burned their ears out a little bit asking questions, but I had to do what I had to do to make sure I’d get through the detail.”

In a similar vein to Dave Heffernan, his front row colleague at Connacht, Bealham has had to wait patiently for opportunities to shine in an Ireland jersey.

His cameo in the rearranged Guinness Six Nations encounter with Italy last month was his first international appearance in almost two years – and his first Championship outing since that debut in 2016.

When rugby shut down in mid-March he was nursing a fractured ankle, but throughout his rehabilitation – which included regular FaceTime consultations with Connacht’s lead physiotherapist Garrett Coughlan – Bealham maintained a burning desire to return to the national set-up.

With a fifth successive Test cap on the horizon, the 29-year-old is making the most of the opportunities afforded to him by head coach Andy Farrell.

“Like a lot of people in the lockdown, you kind of get to sit back and have a look at things and when things kind of get back to normal, plan things out.

“Obviously playing for Ireland again in that November Series was a huge goal of mine and every time I had to go out and do a run, do a weights session or whatever it was, I had that in the back of mind, ‘look, this is all towards a goal of mine to get back into this Irish squad’.

“Thankfully I’m here now. When I got in as well, I just knew that all the hard work has got me here but I still have to keep that going.

“Like I said, whenever I got out on the field I had to go hard and make sure I made an impression. Because a lot of hard work has gone in from the injury, getting back to full fitness and then getting here. I’ll do all that justice and keep it going.”

Since making his Connacht debut in February 2014, Bealham has established himself as a firm fans’ favourite out west. To date, he has made 144 appearances for the province and was a key figure in their march to an historic PRO12 title in 2015/16.

Over the course of the 10 years the Canberra-born forward has been on these shores – he qualified for Ireland through a Fermanagh grandmother – Bealham has gradually matured as a player and now believes he is reaching the peak of his powers.

“I think I’m coming into my prime now. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I’ve learnt from them. You’re still always learning. I’m just honoured to be here,” he acknowledged.

“I feel like I’m coming into my prime and I feel I can really contribute to this team every time I get an opportunity.

“Regardless if it’s 15 minutes off the bench or it’s a start, I’m not going to count my minutes, I’m going to make my minutes count. Every opportunity I get, I’m going to go hard and do my best for the team.”

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Autumn Nations Cup Build-Up To Georgia Home: Stuart McCloskey – – November 26 2020

McCloskey Determined To ‘Go Out And Really Deliver’

By Daire Walsh

After waiting patiently in the wings for the past few weeks, Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey is ready to resume his international career with Ireland.

A debutant at inside centre in a 2016 Six Nations clash with England at Twickenham, it was close to 21 months before his next opportunity in a green jersey – a November Test against Fiji in 2017.

He picked up his third Ireland cap just over two years ago and grabbed a try in a convincing victory over the USA at the Aviva Stadium.

With competition for places in the Irish midfield – and so many players capable of switching between the 12 and 13 channels – he has had to bid his time since then.

Despite being part of the wider squad for the Guinness Six Nations either side of lockdown and the opening two rounds of the Autumn Nations Cup, McCloskey has remained idle for seven games in succession in 2020.

That is set to come to an end at the Aviva Stadium this Sunday when Ireland host Georgia in their final Group A game in the Nations Cup, as part of the Guinness Series.

“There’s been times where maybe I thought I’ve been playing excellent,” admitted the Bangor native. “I’ve been there or thereabouts for the whole time, but there’s a lot of good competition there.

“You think of all the guys that are here. Bundee (Aki), Chris (Farrell), Robbie (Henshaw), Ringer (Garry Ringrose) is out injured and you’ve got the younger guys coming through now.

“You’ve got the two guys at Ulster, you’ve got Ciaran Frawley at Leinster and then you’ve got Scans (Rory Scannell) at Munster. There’s a lot of talent there, it’s probably the most talented of any position in Ireland.

“You have to be at your best. I just want to get a decent opportunity and put my foot forward. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work out.

“At least I can go off knowing I’ve given it the best shot. I know I haven’t given it my best shot so far. I just want to go out there and really deliver.”

Still only 28 years of age, McCloskey was relatively young when he first came onto the Ireland scene. While he always felt he possessed a strong skill-set, he admits the defensive side of his game has improved over time.

“I’ve added a lot. I think I had a lot of skills back then. Defensively, I think I’m a lot better now. That’s five years ago now, I think everyone sort of gets a bit better at defending with age and reading defences.

“In terms of defence, I think that’s probably the thing that’s come on the most for me in terms of just knowledge and even my role in the team as a leader.

“I think everyone has been adding to their game over the years really. Everybody has to be able to pass now, everybody has to be able to put those wee kicks in behind. It’s just trying to get the opportunity to use it.”

Reflecting back on his first experience of Test rugby against England just under five years ago, McCloskey regrets not leaving more of an imprint on the game.

Having benefited from a consistent run of matches at Ulster, he knows he will need to hit the ground running against Georgia if he wants to remain in Andy Farrell’s plans going forward.

“It seems like a long time ago now looking back on it, but the England game, it’s nearly five years ago now. I remember playing in it and thinking I played alright.

“I just didn’t get another go and then the two (others) I had, I played alright. I was playing Fiji and the USA. Unless you’re tearing it up against them, you’re not going to get another opportunity.

“I’d just like to hopefully play well and get another game on the back of it, really try to put my mark down.

“I think that’s something I’ve been lucky with at Ulster over the years, where I’ve played game after game and it has allowed me to get a bit of form and really get a feel for the team.

“I think looking back on it, I just wish maybe I’d put more of a mark on my first game against England. Maybe I just tried to fit in a bit too much.”

Although he has not lined out for Ireland since rejoining the squad in mid-October, McCloskey has been heavily involved in team preparations at both the IRFU High Performance Centre in Blanchardstown and their hotel base in Carton House.

Despite the disappointment of recent defeats to France and England, which came on the heels of wins over Italy and Wales, he believes ‘fine margins’ are what are currently separating Ireland from the top teams in world rugby, adding:

“I don’t think there’s a lot between the teams. Every game nearly I’d go in thinking Ireland are favourites or, if not favourites, very, very close.

“There’s no real teams in the world now that I’d think going into them we wouldn’t be there or thereabouts. When you look back over the fine margins of games, you see how close we were.

“I don’t think some people on the outside sometimes see how close it was and maybe the scoreline didn’t show that. We did have a lot of opportunities and we just need to take them.”

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Autumn Nations Cup Build-Up To Georgia Home: James Ryan – – November 25 2020

Rallying Ryan Aims To Finish 2020 ‘On A High’

By Daire Walsh

Following some mixed results since the return of international rugby last month, stand-in captain James Ryan is hopeful that Ireland can finish 2020 ‘on a high’.

Either side of an emphatic victory over Wales in their Guinness Series and Autumn Nations Cup opener, Andy Farrell’s men have suffered defeats to France and England in separate competitions.

They also enjoyed a comfortable success at home to Italy last month in what was their first game together in all of eight months.

Ireland round off their Group A campaign in the Nations Cup with Sunday’s visit of Georgia to the Aviva (kick-off 2pm). They will have a fifth and final home game of the calendar year, six days later, against yet-to-be-determined opponents.

Speaking today at the IRFU High Performance Centre, Ryan said: “We’ve got to learn from these games. The France game, the England game, we’ve got to really take the learnings so that we’re not repeatedly making the same mistakes.

“We’ve just got to be good enough players to have that ability to have that bit of calmness, to see pictures in front of you and react accordingly.

“It’s definitely a focus point for us over the next two weeks. A couple of more games and we’re looking to finish on a high now. Be brimming going into the Six Nations.”

Having initially avoided defeat in his first eight Tests with Ireland – and lost just once in his opening 13 games in green – the last 18 months has seen Ryan encountering satisfaction and frustration in equal measures.

While there have been encouraging signs under Farrell’s watch so far, a fourth successive defeat (and a second in 2020) to England has left some people pondering where Ireland currently stand in comparison to world rugby’s leading sides.

Despite those disappointing recent results against Eddie Jones’ men and les Bleus, Ryan believes it will not take much for Ireland to turn the corner in 2021.

“If you stand back and look at the (England) game, their first try, Owen Farrell went to the edge on that kick, I thought, because the lads were defending so well through the middle.

“If you look at their other scores, Jonny May’s (second) try, he does unbelievably well to finish but it’s kind of on the back of our own mistakes after a big opportunity for us to get a score there.

“Six points from stupid penalties, one of which was from myself. If you look at where they’re getting their scores from, obviously they’ve defended unbelievably well, but I don’t think we’re very far from being able to go toe-to-toe with the world’s top couple of teams.

“As I said, we’ll take confidence from that. Yes, we’ve got to learn and we’ve got to really digest, make sure we’re not repeating the same mistakes.

“At the same time, if we’re a bit more accurate, if we’re not giving them that access into the game, I think these games will be very close.

“We’ll see how we go the next couple of weeks and we’ve got a Six Nations to come around obviously after that. We’ll get an understanding then of where we are, but as I said, I don’t think we’re far away.”

En route to delivering the goods on a consistent basis against fellow tier 1 nations, Ryan feels the Irish public will need to be patient as some of the squad’s newcomers continue to find their feet in the international arena.

“It was a relatively inexperienced side in comparison to some of those (English) guys who have been together for nine, 10 years. As I said, I was proud of the lads. I thought we really fronted up defensively.

“Guys like Caelan Doris, I thought, really stood up and although we didn’t finish those opportunities, I thought we kept slamming the door. We kept working very hard for each other.

“We’ll take massive confidence from that physicality that the lads showed and now the next layer of that is just about being a bit smarter.”

With Jonathan Sexton still nursing a hamstring injury, Ryan will again lead Ireland into battle on Sunday afternoon.

The young Leinster lock’s approach to the role ensured it was a relatively seamless transition to skipper, with the likes of Sexton and Peter O’Mahony ensuring there was not any extra burden on his shoulders. Ryan added:

“I just tried to focus on my own game and that’s what I tried to do. Once the game started itself, I kind of forgot I was captain to be honest.

“If I wasn’t dealing with the ref, I was just kind of doing my own game. As I was saying last week, there was plenty of experience there as well beside me.

“We kind of took things by the reins together that week and obviously Johnny was in camp as well. There wasn’t any massive, extra responsibility or anything like that. For me it was fine and again just focusing on my game. Not getting sidetracked by all of it.”

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Autumn Nations Cup Build-Up To Georgia Home: Simon Easterby – – November 25 2020

Easterby: It’s Really Important We Back The Players Selected Originally

By Daire Walsh

Simon Easterby has insisted Ireland’s coaching team will continue to back the players to make their own decisions on the pitch.

Following last weekend’s 18-7 defeat to England, Andy Farrell’s men will aim for their second Guinness Series and Autumn Nations Cup win when they welcome Georgia to the Aviva Stadium on Sunday (kick-off 2pm).

While recent losses to England and France has seen Ireland failing to convert opportunities after electing for touch over a shot at the posts, Easterby believes the men on the field are still best placed to make these calls.

“I think you’ve got to allow the leadership group to make those decisions,” he said. “I think if the players are always looking up at the stands and wondering what to do, then we’re not doing our job as a coaching group to try and build their decision making under pressure.

“100%, we’d back those decisions that they made. Is there a call sometimes to take three points to try and build a score, like we did against Wales? That certainly can keep momentum going and not take away the momentum from a missed opportunity to take points.

“You’ve also got a feel out there in the game. The players, they may feel there’s an opportunity to get more out of a strike play or a maul or a scrum, than it is to take three points.

“Because they feel that the opposition are under pressure. We don’t always get those decisions right, but more often than not it’s a decision made on the pitch and it’s certainly not one that we’re screaming down the microphone.

“We’ve got to allow the players to build experience and understanding in the moment what decision they make.”

As the forward specialist within Farrell’s coaching set-up, the lineout is a major part of Easterby’s remit. It was an area of concern at Twickenham – and at crucial times during the Six Nations decider against France – but the former flanker puts this down to the relative inexperience of some to the players involved.

“We’re continually trying to grow some experience and some leadership in that group. We had a couple of young players in there. Ronan (Kelleher) making his first start at Twickenham and he’s done really well across the board over the last six weeks.

“We had a number of challenges in there from the opposition, as well as making sure that we get our own drills in order. I think there’s probably a combination of things throughout the week.

“We felt like we had a good preparation, but it’s very different preparation. When the pressure comes on and the challenge is laid down, that’s when we find out a little bit more about players.

“There’s a little bit of inexperience in a number of areas. We probably needed to strip back a little bit, some of the options that we had.

“We’ll look to implement those over the next couple of weeks, but we’re on a bit of a journey with this lineout group as well. It’s a new group.

“We’ve got a couple of inexperienced younger guys in there, who we feel are learning every week and they’re growing in their roles. It takes time to build combinations and get those things right.”

After a calf strain ruled him out of last Saturday’s game, Leinster loosehead prop Ed Byrne will be marked absent this weekend as he undergoes a period of rehabilitation.

This has led to Eric O’Sullivan being called up to the squad, on the back of his impressive form for Ulster in recent months.

“It’s obviously a specialised position so we need specialist cover and Eric has been doing really well up in Ulster. We’re really happy with his progress.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to see him up close and see him work through the week. Unfortunately Ed is continuing his rehab now,” Easterby said of O’Sullivan, who turns 25 next Monday.

Aside from O’Sullivan, Farrell has resisted the temptation to add any more names to the squad and Easterby expressed his full confidence in those who were originally selected for this autumn iuternational window.

“It’s really important that we back the players that we selected originally. This is another Test match. There are players that are going well in their provinces, they’re putting their hands up.

“There’s also players that have trained really well throughout the last couple of weeks that haven’t had opportunities with us.

“I guess it’s getting a balance and the squad we selected originally was a squad we felt could take us through the games, through the end of the Six Nations and into these autumn games.

“We felt like we wanted to do that justice and probably not look to pick too much from outside the group. Players coming in for a week, they’ve got a lot to deal with it and take on board.

“Is it giving them the best opportunity to go and perform if we’re asking them to come in just six or seven days before a Test match? It’s kind of getting a balance.

“We just felt like the guys who we selected in the wider squad, originally, were guys we were looking to play in this Georgia game and there’ll be some experience in the team as well as some inexperience in the team for the weekend.

“We don’t want to be just handing out caps as well. We want to make sure that guys earn the right to get selected.”

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Guinness PRO14: Leinster V Cardiff Blues – – November 22 2020

Penny at the double to cap Leinster’s comprehensive win against Cardiff Blues

Leo Cullen’s four-in-a-row-chasing side remain the team to beat in the Guinness Pro14.

Leinster 40
Cardiff Blues 5

Daire Walsh reports from the RDS

LEINSTER MOVED SEVEN points clear at the summit of the Guinness Pro14 Conference A table with a convincing bonus-point triumph over Cardiff Blues this evening.

While Ulster will have an opportunity to close the gap on the defending champions when they host Scarlets at Kingspan Stadium later tonight, Leo Cullen’s four-in-a-row-chasing side remain the team to beat in this season’s competition.

After Dave Kearney, Jimmy O’Brien and James Tracy had touched down in the opening period, replacements Scott Penny (two) and Michael Silvester added their names to the scoresheet in the second half to wrap up a seventh successive league victory for Leinster.

Wasting no time in setting out their stall, the hosts broke the deadlock with just 37 seconds gone on the clock. Following initial leg work by half-backs Luke McGrath and Harry Byrne, Ciarán Frawley broke through Cardiff’s defensive line and released Kearney for a routine try.

A day after his older brother Ross featured for Ireland at Twickenham Stadium, Byrne comfortably dissected the uprights from the subsequent conversion.

It seemed like only a matter of time before the hosts added to their advantage and a second try duly arrived when fullback O’Brien chased down his own kick up the left wing for a superb individual five-pointer.

Byrne added the extras once again to stretch the Leinster lead, but Cardiff improved as the half wore on and eventually opened their account with an unconverted Aled Summerhill score in the 18th minute.

Leinster remained in control, however, and Tracy grounded off a line-out maul move to give his side a commanding 19-5 cushion at the break.

The Kildare man’s 11th provincial try edged Leinster a step closer to a seventh consecutive bonus-point win, but patience was required in their pursuit of additional scores.

Although Josh Murphy had produced a strong shift alongside Dan Leavy and team captain Rhys Ruddock, Penny’s introduction added a new lease of life to the Leinster back-row.

The dynamic openside finally sealed maximum points for the home team with a tidy finish over the line in the 67th minute and followed up with a second try against the base of the post moments later.

A fine day at the office for Leinster was completed two minutes from the end as Silvester raced onto Byrne’s delightful kick-through for his first Leinster try.

Leinster scorers:

Tries: Scott Penny [2], Dave Kearney, Jimmy O’Brien, James Tracy, Michael Silvester

Conversions: Harry Byrne [5 from 6]

Penalties: Harry Byrne [0 from 1]

Cardiff Blues scorers:

Tries: Aled Summerhill

Conversions: Jason Tovey [0 from 1]

LEINSTER: Jimmy O’Brien (Michael Silvester ’40); Cian Kelleher, Liam Turner, Ciarán Frawley, Dave Kearney; Harry Byrne, Luke McGrath (Rowan Osborne ’67); Peter Dooley (Michael Milne ’59), James Tracy (Dan Sheehan ’59), Michael Bent (Tom Clarkson ’53); Ross Molony (Devin Toner ’63), Ryan Baird; Josh Murphy (Scott Penny ’53), Dan Leavy (Jack Dunne ’71), Rhys Ruddock.

CARDIFF BLUES: Matthew Morgan (Hallam Amos ’68); Owen Lane, Garyn Smith (Max Llewellyn ’61), Ben Thomas, Aled Summerhill; Jason Tovey, Tomos Williams (Jamie Hill ’63); Corey Domachowski (Brad Theyer ’50), Ethan Lewis (Iestyn Harris ’40-44 & ‘61), Dimitri Arhip (Kieron Assiratti ’50); Ben Murphy, Rory Thornton (Teddy Williams ’50); James Ratti, Alun Lawrence (Gwilym Bradley ’71), Josh Turnbull.

Referee: Mike Adamson.

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Munster Senior Football Championship Final: Tipperary V Cork – The Backdoor GAA – November 22 2020

Munster SFC: Tipperary Pull Off Stunning Victory Over Cork To Secure A First Provincial Title Since 1935


CORK 0-14

By Daire Walsh

Tipperary ended a 85-year wait for a Munster Senior Football Championship title with a superb triumph over Cork at Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Sunday.

Conor Sweeney and Michael Quinlivan were superb throughout for the victors, finishing with a combined tally of 12 points. Having guided the county to an historic All-Ireland minor championship in 2011, David Power has now worked the oracle with the Premier’s senior footballers.

This was a particular poignant victory for Tipperary, with the game taking place a day after the 100th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. To commemorate this event, the Premier wore green and white jerseys, a replica of those worn by the county on that fateful day at Croke Park on November 21, 1920 – when 14 people (including Tipperary footballer Michael Hogan) tragically lost their lives.

Having dethroned provincial kingpins Kerry in the last-four, Cork were understandably favourites to progress to an All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo. Yet Tipperary faced the Connacht outfit as recently as 2016 at the same stage and weren’t there to simply make up the numbers.

The big team news before throw-in was the 11th hour introduction of Colin O’Riordan to the Premier’s half-forward line. Like Cork’s Mark Keane – held in reserve, despite his heroics against Kerry – O’Riordan currently plies his trade in Australian Rules football.

He is familiar with the ‘mark’ while donning the colours of Sydney Swans and after gathering his pass from deep, Tipperary full-forward Conor Sweeney raised his hand for a free shot at goal.

The Ballyporeen man convincingly converted off his advanced mark and before the clock had reached two minutes, he also had a point from play after being picked out at the end of a searing run by wing-back Robbie Kiely.

Michael Quinlivan subsequently split the uprights from distance to make it a dream start to the proceedings for Power’s charges. Despite being on home soil, the Rebels were finding it difficult to settle.

However with the midfield pairing of Ian Maguire and Killian O’Hanlon getting on top of possession, Cork eventually got up and running. Promoted to the starting line-up for this game, Luke Connolly pointed at a right-hand angle in the fourth-minute and slotted over a free from a similar position moments later.

Collins joined him on the scoresheet with a routine placed ball effort, moving the Leesiders on level terms in the process. While Sweeney got Tipperary up and running again, Connolly continued to lead the way at the opposite end.

A noted dead-ball specialist, the Nemo Rangers forward followed up a ’45’ with a long-range free to edge Cork in front for the first time. It proved to be a short-lived lead as the impressive Sweeney responded in fine style at the opposite end.

Though the sides were inseparable at the first water break, Tipperary were undoubtedly the dominant force for the remainder of the opening period. In addition to forcing a series of turnovers inside their own half, the Premier side were extremely efficient in front of the Cork posts.

Following trading scores between Liam Casey and Colm O’Callaghan, the pre-match underdogs rattled off consecutive points through Michael Quinlivan (two, including one with the outside of the boot), Sweeney and roaming centre-back Kevin Fahey.

Whereas Sweeney initially stood out, the influence of Quinlivan (an All-Star winner of 2016) became more pronounced the longer the action progressed. After Brian Hurley had released John O’Rourke for a fine point, the Clonmel Commercials star superbly curled over off his right-foot to give Tipperary a thoroughly-deserved 0-11 to 0-7 interval cushion.

Although Cork were not out of contention, they suffered a set-back when Connolly was withdrawn at the break with a hamstring injury. Tipperary stretched their cushion with another Sweeney mark and were somewhat unfortunate not to raise a green flag when they shook the crossbar and had a goal disallowed in the same attack.

While there was a notable increase in urgency from Cork, their retention skills still left a lot to be desired. Nonetheless, Collins added to his tally with a pointed free and Brian Hurley also found the target to the right of the posts.

Tipperary lacked the same fluency in attack during the third-quarter but, try as they might, Cork simply couldn’t punish them at the far end. After spurning some good opportunities, the 37-time champions were still three points adrift (0-12 to 0-9) at the second water break.

This temporary halt in play did Tipperary the world of good as they ended a lengthy barren spell with a Steven O’Brien point on 53 minutes. Yet another Sweeney contribution brought Tipperary another step closer to a famous win, but a brace of Collins frees did give Cork fresh impetus.

Keane was introduced to the middle of the field in the final-quarter and after catching superbly, he found Hurley with an excellent pass and he picked out Sean White in turn for a close-in point.

Cork looked set for a grandstand finish, but Tipperary were simply relentless. After goalkeeper Evan Comerford stepped forward to convert a free, Quinlivan capitalised on a poor Micheal Martin kick-out to grab his fifth score of the day.

Whilst the Rebels registered points through Cathal O’Mahony and O’Rourke either side of a Liam Austin effort for their counterparts, Tipperary held firm to pull off the biggest result of the year to date.

Scorers – Tipperary: Conor Sweeney (0-7, 2 frees, 2 marks), Michael Quinlivan 0-5 (1f), Evan Comerford (free), Liam Casey (mark), Kevin Fahey, Steven O’Brien, Philip Austin 0-1 each. Cork: Luke Connolly (2 frees, 1 ’45’), Mark Collins (3 frees) 0-4 each, John O’Rourke 0-2, Cathal O’Mahony (free), Colm O’Callaghan, Brian Hurley, Sean White 0-1 each.

CORK: Micheal Martin; Kevin O’Donovan, Maurice Shanley, Paul Ring; Tadhg Corkery, Sean Meehan, Mattie Taylor; Ian Maguire, Killian O’Hanlon; John O’Rourke, Colm O’Callaghan, Ruairi Deane; Mark Collins, Brian Hurley, Luke Connolly. Subs: Cathal O’Mahony for Connolly (half-time), Sam Ryan for Ring (40), Sean White for O’Callaghan (44), Mark Keane for O’Hanlon (59), Michael Hurley for Taylor (65).

TIPPERARY: Evan Comerford; Alan Campbell, Jimmy Feehan, Colm O’Shaughnessy; Bill Maher, Kevin Fahey, Robbie Kiely; Steven O’Brien, Liam Casey; Conal Kennedy, Michael Quinlivan, Colin O’Riordan; Brian Fox, Conor Sweeney, Colman Kennedy. Subs: Liam Boland for Colman Kennedy (53)Paudie Feehan for Fahey (54), Emmet Moloney for Fox (61), Padraic Looram for Kiely (66), Philip Austin for Casey (71).

Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois).

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Post-Match Reaction: Autumn Nations Cup – Ireland V England – Andy Farrell – – November 22 2020

Farrell: They’ll Be Bigger And Better For The Experience

By Daire Walsh

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell believes Saturday’s Autumn Nations Cup defeat to England was very much a tale of two teams at very different stages of their development.

Rugby World Cup finalists in 2019, England were recently crowned Six Nations champions and are well in contention to emerge as winners of this inaugural tournament.

Jonny May’s brace of first half tries created the platform for their success, and eight points from the boot of captain Owen Farrell did the rest in an eventual an 18-7 triumph.

Eddie Jones’ first game in charge of England was back in the 2016 Six Nations and this gives him a four-year head start on Andy Farrell, who took over from Joe Schmidt in the aftermath of last year’s World Cup.

In addition, the Wigan man has brought a number of new players into his squad and is expected to hand out more debuts before the Nations Cup campaign comes to a close.

Reflecting on the 11-point loss at Twickenham, Farrell said: “That England side, they’ve been together for 10 years. They’ve been through some massive ups and downs. It’s those down times that they’ve learnt from the most.

“They’ve become a fabulous side over a decent amount of time. We’re on a completely different journey. As far as that second half performance, coming away with more points than they had and territory and possession.

“Yes, of course we needed to be more clinical, but we can be proud of that. 100% we can be proud of that. The lads will learn from this experience. They’ll lick their lips and look forward to the next time. The next challenge.”

In particular, the absence of some key personnel in the Irish pack, who have contributed handsomely to victories over England in the past, meant there were some issues for the visitors in the lineout.

Nonetheless, Farrell feels that yesterday’s performance in London will prove invaluable as his new-look Ireland aim to become the force of old.

“Like I said to you during the week and over the last couple of weeks, it’s a completely new lineout. Devin Toner has dominated our lineout and done an unbelievable job over the years, along with Rory Best.

Iain Henderson has been the next cab on the rank as far as dominating at our lineout and being a leader. He has not been available to us.

James Ryan and Iain Henderson have been working closely together and we’ll get there. We’ll fix it. That’s the type of people that they are. Ronan (Kelleher) starts here for the first time. He has played one game coming back from injury.

“Again, it’s priceless learning for him. He’ll be better for the experience. I thought Rob (Herring) did pretty well when he came on. It’s a new lineout team, so to speak. We’ll learn from this experience and get better.”

Considering England recently leapfrogged New Zealand into second place in the World Rugby Rankings, this was always expected to be a daunting clash for Ireland. Yet, Farrell was pleased with the way his players stuck diligently to the task at hand.

“Some of that stuff out there is absolutely priceless for us. I heard James (Ryan) say before about the journey that we’re on, in comparison to England. It’s completely different sides of the spectrum really.

“We’ll learn a whole load about playing against a really good side, number two in the world, at home. We’ll learn an invaluable experience from dealing with pressure basically. Dealing with pressure and the pressure they put on.

“Whether we’re going to stick to task, making decisions or whether we go into our shell. We’ll analyse all those decisions and make sure that we take some good learning from it.

“But I thought the character, as you’d expect from any Irish side, was second to none. Especially in that second half, some individuals became proper international players I would have thought.

“There were some immense performances and from guys that would look back and be a little bit disappointed. They’ll be bigger and better for the experience as well.”

In between their defeats to England in both the Six Nations and the Autumn Nations Cup, Ireland were beaten 35-27 by France during the final game of the 2020 Championship.

England and France are currently at a level that Farrell’s men aspire to, but he is confident they can enter next year’s Six Nations believing it is possible for them to overcome their 2020 conquerors.

“You speak to those lads in the changing room and they’re gutted that they’ve lost the game, but they showed tremendous spirit there,” he added.

“If we just show them where the belief needs to keep coming from and we’ll be fine on the way forward. You have a plan and try and stick to the plan.

“Then sometimes pressure disorientates the plan a little bit. It’s just understanding the decisions that we’ve made along the way. That’s going to be key for us.”

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Post-Match Reaction: Autumn Nations Cup – Ireland V England – Iain Henderson – – November 22 2020

‘More Time Together Will Iron Out Creases’ – Henderson

By Daire Walsh

Iain Henderson acknowledged that Ireland remain a work in progress after they suffered an 18-7 defeat to England in the second round of the Autumn Nations Cup.

The combined forces of two-try winger Jonny May and eight-point captain Owen Farrell put paid to Ireland’s chances of a first win over Eddie Jones’ charges since March 2018.

While there was considerable disappointment amongst Ireland supporters following a fourth straight loss to England, Henderson was quick to point out that this is a relatively new side in terms of experience.

As a number of newcomers continue to find their feet at Test level, he said: “I can understand that (fan frustration), but at the same time 2019 was a whole year ago, more or less. 2019 for this group of players feels like a whole different scenario, different team setting.

“A lot has changed. We’ve very much drawn a line in the sand and from getting together at the start of the Six Nations. Granted, it was a disrupted Six Nations.

“And yes, I understand there were a couple of games that didn’t go our way and didn’t go the way we wanted them to. As I said, this group is still learning. This group is 100% trying to get to grips with each other.

“A lot of the players are trying to get to grips with international rugby and sort of understand what it takes, or what preparation it takes, to perform at this top level. Yes, I know things haven’t clicked 100% of the time, but there’s times when it has clicked.

“I guarantee you if the fans are frustrated, the players are a fair bit more frustrated, putting in the amount of effort that the guys do on the training field to try and get these things right for the fans at the weekend.”

England have certainly held the upper hand in this fixture since Ireland secured a famous Grand Slam in London on St. Patrick’s Day in 2018.

Either side of a Rugby World Cup warm-up win in August 2019, Jones’ men also recorded victories in the Six Nations clashes at both the Aviva Stadium and Twickenham.

Although yesterday’s losing margin was almost the same as their meeting back in February (24-12), Henderson believes the gap is closing between the two teams and that Ireland will be in an even better position to challenge England in 2021.

“It was frustrating in the Six Nations and this most recent opportunity that we weren’t able to do that, but I do feel like we have what it takes to turn them over,” insisted the Ulster captain.

“We have what it takes to put them to the sword, exploit their weaknesses and show what we’ve got to give. I understand that you do have to take into account the two games before that and the pre-World Cup game.

“Some of the players that were there, it does still sit in the back of their minds. I can guarantee that the next time we have to come up against England, that will be something we’ll definitely be using ourselves to ensure that we can drive the best possible performance out of us.”

Due to both injury and suspension, Henderson had not played for Ireland since the Six Nations triumph over Wales back in early February. After missing last week’s win over the the same opponents, he got a 30-minute run-out against England yesterday.

The lineout was an area of concern for Ireland either side of his introduction, with player-of-the-match Maro Itoje and Jonny Hill both getting their hands on throws from the visitors.

Henderson puts these set piece issues down to the new combinations head coach Andy Farrell has been trying in recent weeks, rather than something that could prove to be a worrying trend going forward.

“That England side have defended a fair bit together. A lot of those players have played a fair few caps together. That’s probably a very general summation of what I think went wrong,” added the 28-year-old.

“They’re a good defensive team, they’ve turned over a lot of lineout ball. We’re, as a pack, relatively fresh together. Relatively new combinations, new guys coming in to fit into the system.

“I think those two things combined probably gave us the result in the lineout today. However, I don’t think that’s anything to worry about. I think the guys who have been training and have been hitting their darts all week in training, they need to continue with their processes.

“Need some slight fix-ups, a bit more time together and that will ensure that those creases hopefully get ironed out. Not only in attack, but in defence as well. Then we can put a lot more pressure on the opposition ball.”

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Post-Match Reaction: Autumn Nations Cup – Ireland V England – James Ryan – – November 22 2020

Ryan Has No Doubt ‘We’re Going To Keep Building’

By Daire Walsh

His first outing as Ireland captain did not turn out as hoped, but James Ryan was not too despondent in the aftermath of Saturday’s 18-7 defeat to England at Twickenham.

Ryan led the team when Jonathan Sexton’s hamstring injury forced him off against Wales last week, and he held onto the captaincy for yesterday’s Autumn Nations Cup second round match.

The young second row was part of losing Ireland sides against England in the last two Six Nations tournaments, and although it may not necessarily show in the scoreline, he believes they produced a much better performance on this occasion.

“The positive thing was we put them under real pressure at times,” said Ryan, speaking at the post-match press conference. “I thought we created opportunities for ourselves, but we just weren’t clinical enough.

“Probably our set piece let us down at times in crucial moments. They scored off the back of some of those moments that we didn’t quite nail. I’m proud of the lads. I thought the team spirit was brilliant.

“I thought we created loads of opportunities. The next step is taking them. The other side of that, I thought the spirit was really good. Especially after (conceding) that second try.

“When we had that moment in their 22 and we didn’t quite nail it, they went the length of the pitch. It would have been very easy for us to dip our heads, but we just kept banging at the door.

“Same in that second half, we kept going. It was just little inaccuracies that gave them points. We’ll take loads from that and I’ve no doubt that we’re going to keep building.”

A number of new players has been integrated into the Ireland set-up by head coach Andy Farrell in 2020. Since rugby restarted, Hugo Keenan, Will Connors, Ed Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park, James Lowe and Billy Burns have all made their debuts in the green jersey.

Farrell’s selection yesterday had Gibson-Park, Lowe and Ross Byrne all making their second international starts, while it was only a second start in the full-back position for the three-times capped Keenan.

22-year-old forwards Ronan Kelleher and Caelan Doris have also only been playing Test rugby since February, while Cian Healy, Peter O’Mahony and Keith Earls made up over half of the Ireland starting XV’s 433 caps.

In contrast, England had 725 caps’ worth of experience in their side. Ryan acknowledged that it will take time for Ireland to reach England’s current levels of play, but is adamant they have it in them to do so.

“Look, this is a new group. The coaching staff, how many players have made their debuts over the last few weeks. It’s kind of a new chapter for us.

“England, in terms of where they’re at, they’ve been together a lot longer. I’ve no doubt that the gap is closing there.

“We just need to keep growing now and we’ll get so much from games like this as a group. I’ve no doubt we’re going to get closer and closer.”

Despite the result, it was a special moment for Ryan to lead out an Ireland senior team for the first time. The 24-year-old managed to downplay the significance of it during the build-up, and even in the aftermath of a landmark day in his career, there were other issues on his mind.

“To be honest, this week was much the same. Faz (Andy Farrell) told me to focus on my own game and that’s what I tried to do all week. It wasn’t a massive strain or anything.

“For me, I’m much more concerned with the team and the team performance than any of that stuff. Obviously another game next week (against Georgia), we’ve a couple of days off.

“Early in the (next) week will be a good opportunity for us to learn about that game and to keep building,” he added.

Posted in International Rugby | Comments Off on Post-Match Reaction: Autumn Nations Cup – Ireland V England – James Ryan – – November 22 2020

Post-Match Reaction: Autumn Nations Cup – Ireland V England – Chris Farrell – – November 22 2020

‘I Think We’ve A Lot Of Areas To Grow In’ – Chris Farrell

By Daire Walsh

Despite his obvious disappointment at losing 18-7 to England at Twickenham, Ireland centre Chris Farrell felt there were positives to take from Saturday’s game.

Flying winger Jonny May’s first-half brace of tries left Ireland in a difficult position, and while Jacob Stockdale crossed during the final quarter, two Owen Farrell penalties had effectively put England out of reach.

This was Ireland’s fourth successive loss to England, yet in contrast to those chastening reversals, Chris Farrell reckoned there was something to be gleaned from this Autumn Nations Cup tie.

“If there’s anything to take from it, it’s the fact we didn’t shy away,” he insisted. “In the past in big games against England over here, we’ve probably shied away, on reflection, in the games.

“We won the second half (today). We didn’t perform well enough in the first 20 minutes. We gave them 12 easy points and we gave ourselves an awful uphill battle.

“That will be something we have to look at and we’ll reflect on. We’ll be very disappointed with that and we are.

“I think there are definitely positives to take from the character of the team, character of some individuals. Character of the collective as a whole. We stuck in it.”

Before second half replacement Stockdale touched down for his 18th Test try, Farrell had a golden opportunity to open his own account at this level.

Latching onto Ross Byrne’s perfectly-weighted kick in behind the English cover, the Munster midfielder looked set to ground the ball past the whitewash – only to be held up by the retreating home defence.

While acknowledging he should have finished off this chance, the 27-year-old did use it as an example of the variety that Ireland were occasionally able to bring to their attacking play.

“Looking at it, I don’t know how. I felt I was going to score, I don’t know how they managed to hold me up there. I thought momentum was taking me over.

“I went to roll and then tried to get back, because I knew I was over the line to get it down but there was a hand there. You have to finish those at this level.

“You don’t get too many chances like that to get over the line against a quality team like this. We showed quite good variation in their 22 in terms of, they gave us some kick space and we took it a few times.

“Jacob’s try obviously (being one such move). I think we fronted up power-wise and carried well in that area towards the end of the game.

“For all the territory we had in the second half, for all the possession we had throughout the game, it’s hard to see how we haven’t come away with more points.”

Even though he was doing his utmost to remain upbeat in the face of a frustrating 11-point defeat, Farrell readily accepted that England were the superior side on the day.

This was the first time the Tyrone native had come up against the current Six Nations champions in a Test game, and it proved to be something of an eye-opener. He added:

“The one thing I felt out there is that the breakdown was phenomenal. Every time I carried, I felt like it was an absolute battle to get the ball back.

“I know the rules have made that tough, in that you can’t have too many movements on the ground now. It’s always going to be tough, but I feel like they took advantage of that massively.

“They’re so good at attacking breakdowns or as we carry, they get on the ball so quickly. That’s what I was so impressed about with them.

“They’re a complete team. They’re a quality, quality team. They’re a group that have been together for quite a while now.

“I think we have a lot of growth now as a group. I think we have a lot of areas to grow in. When you see the individuals that have come in this campaign, we’re missing a few and we have new individuals in. I think there’s a lot of growth there. I think there’s a lot of positives to take from it.”

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