Piece On Rhasidat Adeleke Breaking 400m Indoor Record: The Tallaght Echo (Online) – February 28 2021

Rhasidat Adeleke sets new Irish indoor record

By Daire Walsh

Tallaght’s Rhasidat Adeleke set a new landmark in her burgeoning athletics career on Saturday evening by breaking the Irish Junior 400m indoor record.

Representing the University of Texas at the nearby Sports Performance Center, the talented 18-year-old registered an impressive time of 53.44 in the Big 12 Championships. This helped her to secure a sixth-place finish in the race – just under two seconds behind eventual winner Stacey Ann Williams (51.60).

As a consequence, she is now ranked third fastest amongst European U20 athletes, behind Kennedy Simon and Shalysa Wray.

A goal medallist at the European Athletics U18 Championships in 2018 – and a double gold winner at the European Youth Olympics a year later – her star continues to rise. A former student of Presentation Community College in Terenure, Adeleke had set a personal best run time of 54.14 in her heat race on Friday.

Thanks to her recording-breaking exploits, she is now placed 16th on the European U20 indoor all-time list.

During her time in Tallaght AC, Adeleke was coached by Daniel Killgallon – a native of Ballina in County Mayo who was appointed as National Sprints Co-ordinator by Athletics Ireland in May 2018. What makes her achievement all the more remarkable, in his eyes, is the fact she’s done so after such a dramatic change of scenery.

“She has done that within eight weeks of moving to a new country, starting university, with a new living environment, new coach, not to mention a new event. It’s very impressive. She’s really showing her mettle,” Kilgallon said.

Posted in Athletics | Comments Off on Piece On Rhasidat Adeleke Breaking 400m Indoor Record: The Tallaght Echo (Online) – February 28 2021

Post-Match Reaction: Six Nations Championship – Ireland V Italy – Jonathan Sexton – Irishrugby.ie – February 28 2021

Sexton: How Clinical We Were At Times Was Very Pleasing

By Daire Walsh

Jonathan Sexton hailed the performance of Leinster team-mate Robbie Henshaw in the aftermath of Ireland’s 48-10 bonus point victory over Italy in the Guinness Six Nations.

Building on industrious displays in the opening two rounds, Henshaw marked his 50th cap with a typically assured showing at inside centre. He made 28 metres off 10 carries and also executed 13 tackles during his 70 minutes on the pitch.

He made way for Billy Burns in the closing stages, with Sexton slipping effortlessly into the Ireland midfield alongside try scorer Garry Ringrose. By then, the visitors were already 41-10 in front and had the bonus point wrapped up.

Speaking at a post-match press conference in Rome, the Ireland captain said: “I’ve been training at 12 during the week at times, like I have for the first two games as well. It’s an option the coaches can have if they feel we need to open the game up a bit.

“I thought Robbie was outstanding. Best player on the park for me, on his 50th cap. I remember my 50th cap. You get a presentation and you get a bit emotional.

“Sometimes it can take away from your performance, you feel a bit drained. The way he played was just outstanding. Like I said, I thought he was the best player on the park. He deserved his rest. I don’t know how I played 80, I never play 80!”

Others to stand out for Ireland on the day were Kildare natives Tadhg Beirne and Will Connors, who combined to good effect with CJ Stander in a dynamic back row combination.

The in-form Beirne was the official choice as Guinness player-of-the-match, while Connors crossed for two tries to add to the five-pointer he grabbed on his debut against Italy at the Aviva Stadium back in October.

“Tadhg was excellent as well. He’s been outstanding for the last three weeks. His work on lineout, his work on breakdown. He’s improved massively from the end of November, when we were last together.

“He’s become a proper leader in that pack and helping out the guys at lineout. I can’t speak highly enough about him. He was outstanding too.

“You know what you’re going to get with Will. The energy that he brings. His chop tackles and his work around the breakdown. He’s a brilliant ball player as well, which we probably haven’t seen enough of.

“I think we saw glimpses tonight obviously. He was outstanding, but I think you can look across the park and I think everyone stood up today. Everyone was pretty good. They’re a really well-coached team, Italy.

“They stretched us at times and any team I’ve ever played against under Franco Smith have tested us. Whether it was a Treviso or Italy. He seems to be an outstanding coach and gets his team playing and challenging the opposition. I’m sure they’ll learn a lot from today.”

Throughout the week there have been calls from within the camp for Ireland to become more clinical and put away more of the try-scoring opportunities that they are creating.

Six tries over the course of 80 minutes in the Italian capital suggests this was what head coach Andy Farrell got from his charges. Sexton was pleased to see a lot of what they had practiced manifesting itself on the field of play.

“Some brilliant stuff, especially first half. I thought we were outstanding. Very frustrating to concede just before half-time. Our intent and our concentration, and how clinical we were at times, was very pleasing.

“It’s stuff that we’ve been taught and we’ve been learning in training. It finally came out in glimpses today. I’m happy for everyone. I’m happy for players and coaches. I felt we weren’t far away in our other performances.”

Whereas Sexton was making his 97th Test appearance for Ireland, 21-year-old duo Craig Casey and Ryan Baird were introduced on the hour mark for their senior debuts in the green jersey.

The St. Mary’s College clubman, who contributed 18 points from the tee, waxed lyrical about the two youngsters. He paid Casey a big compliment for the way he has conducted himself since joining up with the squad.

“Craig Casey, I didn’t know him that well obviously, because I’d never played with him. But his attitude, I don’t think I’ve ever come across anyone that reminds me of what I read about Johnny Wilkinson really,” acknowledged Sexton.

“That’s the only person I can relate it to. It’s inspiring for the rest of the group. For someone like me even. At this stage in my career, I like to be the last off the pitch and I’m never the last off the pitch now with Craig around.

“He’s been brilliant and Ryan was outstanding when he came on. He’s got that energy and is an incredible athlete. The future is bright with those two leading the charge.”

Posted in International Rugby | Comments Off on Post-Match Reaction: Six Nations Championship – Ireland V Italy – Jonathan Sexton – Irishrugby.ie – February 28 2021

Post-Match Reaction: Six Nations Championship – Ireland V Italy – Andy Farrell – Irishrugby.ie – February 28 2021

Farrell Praises Henshaw And Debutant Duo Following Bonus Point Win

By Daire Walsh

They made be at very different stages of their international careers, but Craig Casey, Ryan Baird and Robbie Henshaw were at the forefront of Andy Farrell’s mind during his post-match press conference in Rome.

The Ireland head coach had just watched his side record a convincing 48-10 bonus point win Italy in the third round of the Guinness Six Nations Championship.

With a healthy cushion on the scoreboard, Farrell was able to introduce 21-year-old pair Casey and Baird off the bench for their senior international debuts.

Meanwhile, it was a landmark day for Henshaw. He led the team out on the occasion of his 50th Ireland cap, having made his own bow against the USA back in June 2013 – just four days shy of his 20th birthday.

Speaking after the six-try showing against the Azzurri, Farrell said: “I’ve just said to them there, the two guys (Casey and Baird), I was waiting for their nerves to kick in all week. They were absolutely nerveless and an absolute credit to themselves and to their families.

“In these Covid times, I feel for the families not to be able to come out to Rome and see that experience. Because their sons were outstanding. They became men today.

“Again, they got about their jobs quietly all week and their nerves never really set in at all. The only thing that I asked of them today was to be themselves and they were that in spades. I thought they were outstanding and Robbie Henshaw, I don’t know what else we can say about Robbie.

“Other than he was top class, top drawer, today. Some players put pressure on themselves when they reach milestones and the other players just grab the occasion by their own hands and embrace the pressure.

“Embrace the occasion and take the game to the opposition. From minute one, that was an outstanding performance from Robbie in that first 40 minutes. Well done to the three of them.”

In an overall context, Farrell was pleased with the application of his players against Italy. In spite of earlier defeats to Wales and France, morale has remained high within the squad and enabled them to deliver a strong performance in Rome.

“First of all, I’m really proud of the players. They’ve shown real character over the last couple of weeks. It’s not nice coming after two losses and waiting a couple of weeks to try and put that right.

“We talked about a test of character and they’ve stayed strong. They’ve stayed very united together. As a group I think they’ve all pulled together and showed their leadership in different ways.

“I thought we earned the right to score some points with the way that we approached the game in the first half. I thought our attitude was top class. We approached the game in the right manner.

“We paid the game the right respect and Italy the right respect. I thought we punched away really well in the first half and the game opened up in the end.”

Already without the likes of Caelan Doris, Quinn Roux and Conor Murray because of injury, there was some concern over Jordan Larmour, Dave Kilcoyne, Ronan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong due to knocks picked up yesterday.

The quartet will be further assessed on their return to Dublin, and with another rest week ahead in the tournament, they will be given every opportunity to prove their fitness ahead of the Scotland match.

“There’s a few niggles that we need to assess in the morning. Especially after the flight home this evening. We’ll see how people pull up,” explained Farrell.

“Jordan had a little bit of a tightness in his hip flexor, so we had Earlsy (Keith Earls) on early enough because we didn’t want to take a risk there.

“Tadhg has just gone over his ankle, but he seemed to walk off pretty well. Ronan has just got a dead calf, so he’s going to be good and David Kilcoyne failed his HIA,  but he’s in good spirits in the changing room as well.”

Next up for Ireland is a trip to BT Murrayfield on Sunday, March 14, with Farrell hoping that his charges can make it back-to-back victories.

Even though CJ Stander’s try early in the second half effectively put the outcome beyond doubt yesterday, Farrell insisted Ireland will be well primed for their upcoming showdown with the Scots. He added:

“We know that if we don’t get our own intensity right, that we don’t earn the right to score the tries that we have today. I thought that’s what we did, first and foremost, and we approached the game in the right manner.

“We earned the right to score the tries. Does that prepare us well for Murrayfield? We take a break now. We’ve got a weekend off and we dust ourselves down. We prepare as best we can for Murrayfield.

“We had two weeks off leading into this game and the question being asked during the week is are you on a hiding to nothing? Not for us, because we judge our own performance. Our performance and our attitude was good today.”

Posted in International Rugby | Comments Off on Post-Match Reaction: Six Nations Championship – Ireland V Italy – Andy Farrell – Irishrugby.ie – February 28 2021

Post-Match Reaction: Six Nations Championship – Ireland V Italy – Craig Casey – Irishrugby.ie – February 28 2021

Casey Determined To ‘Push On’ After Earning First Cap

By Daire Walsh

Having enjoyed his first taste of senior international rugby at the tender age of 21, Craig Casey is hungry for more opportunities in an Ireland jersey.

After missing out on a debut against France when he was an unused replacement, Casey was handed his chance at scrum half yesterday during the final quarter of Ireland’s 48-10 bonus point win over Italy.

The Munster youngster made his presence felt during his time on the Stadio Olimpico pitch, making 14 metres from three carries and crisply throwing 21 passes.

While there is intense competition for the number 9 shirt from his provincial colleague Conor Murray, who is recovering from a hamstring injury, and Jamison Gibson-Park, Casey is a driven and ambitious individual who is not prepared to settle for second or even third best.

“Of course I want to be playing games for Ireland, that’s definitely the goal,” insisted the Limerick native in the aftermath of his Ireland debut. “I don’t want to sit back and be happy with being third choice. Not at all. I want to push on now.

“When you’ve got players of Murr’s calibre and Jamo’s calibre as well, it’s obviously tough to break in, but I’m definitely not going to be sitting back and be happy with being third choice. I want to push on now.”

Joining Casey in making his senior international debut was Leinster forward Ryan Baird. The pair were part of the successful Ireland Under-20 squad that won a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2019.

Saturday was effectively the culmination of a journey they have been on together for a number of years and this made the moment extra special for Casey.

“I actually came across Bairdo very early. We’re the same age obviously. I played against him at Under-18 Schools (level). I remember we played Leinster in the opening game of the Interpros.

“He was quality back then and then obviously went on to play with him in the Ireland Under-18 Schools and then with the Ireland U-20s. He’s been class throughout.

“He’s absolutely unreal. He’s a freak athlete, obviously you can tell that. He’s ran over 10 metres per second, which is terrifying for some fella that is so big! He’s all the capabilities of pushing on now and even going further.

“We’re both pretty motivated fellas anyway. It’s pretty cool that we played against each other at U-18s, with each other at U-18s, with each other at U-20s, and obviously making our debuts today. To be on the same side and make your debut together.”

As well as Shannon RFC in his native Limerick, Casey also has his secondary school Ardscoil Rís to thank for developing his skills with a rugby ball. In 2017, he captained the latter all the way to the semi-finals of the Munster Schools Senior Cup.

He was contacted by some of his club and school team-mates in the build-up to Ireland’s last two games and, additionally, by a famous international of the recent past.

“The phone was buzzing, especially in the lead-in to the France week. I got a hell of a lot of texts, that I had to turn the phone off until after the game.

“I had to go back through the messages obviously not after playing. That was a bit awkward. Everyone from Shannon has been on to me. The support there is unreal, same with Ardscoil. Loads of texts there.

Peter Stringer, in fairness, texted me before the France game. That was cool. He just said, ‘best of luck and be yourself. Don’t try and do anything out of the ordinary’. Everyone is so supportive and I can’t thank everyone enough.”

In his capacity as co-commentator on Virgin Media’s live broadcast of the game, former Shannon, Munster and Ireland flanker Alan Quinlan recalled meeting Casey when he was just a young child.

Indeed, Quinlan was not the only player to cross paths with Casey in his formative years.

“I don’t actually remember that! There’s been a photo going around of Stringer holding me as well. Hopefully they don’t keep flooding out now,” he added.

Posted in International Rugby | Comments Off on Post-Match Reaction: Six Nations Championship – Ireland V Italy – Craig Casey – Irishrugby.ie – February 28 2021

Post-Match Reaction: Six Nations Championship – Ireland V Italy – Jamison Gibson-Park – Irishrugby.ie – February 28 2021

‘It’s A Step In The Right Direction For Us’ – Gibson-Park

By Daire Walsh

Following the disappointment of losses to Wales and France in the opening two rounds of the Guinness Six Nations, Jamison Gibson-Park was delighted to see Ireland return to winning ways against Italy yesterday.

In unison with captain Jonathan Sexton at half-back, Gibson-Park played his part in a commanding 48-10 bonus point victory over the Azzurri in Rome.

This puts them in a good place for their impending encounter with Scotland in Edinburgh on March 14 and the visit of England to the Aviva Stadium six days later.

Speaking after the third round tie, Gibson-Park said: “Obviously off the back of a couple of difficult weeks, it was nice to put out a performance that I think we can be proud of. A step in the right direction.

“We’ve worked pretty hard over the last couple of weeks to display a bit more intent. That was a massive part of it. Showing our intent and our ability to play good football.

“I think in patches we certainly showed that today. We set ourselves very high expectations at the start of the campaign. We had a couple of difficult weeks to begin with.

“We felt as a group we weren’t a million miles away. We certainly feel as though it’s a step in the right direction and a path to better performances over the next few weeks.”

Having had to wait until week three of the tournament to get their first victory, you might be forgiven for thinking this would come as a weight off the shoulders of the Ireland squad.

While Gibson-Park acknowledged there was a little bit of this at play, he said that they had remained in good spirits despite falling narrowly to both Wales and France.

“There’s a small bit of relief amongst the group, but in the same breath there’s a lot of confidence among us and we know how good we can be. We look forward to hopefully bringing that on the park in the next few weeks.

“Obviously we’re without a crowd here, but Italy is not an easy place to come and they often perform pretty well at home. Relatively happy with how it all went today.”

Already having to contend with the presence of long-time first-choice scrum half Conor Murray, Gibson-Park has fresh competition for the number 9 jersey in the form of Munster starlet Craig Casey.

The Limerick youngster made his Ireland debut off the bench in the final quarter yesterday, and he has left a strong impression on Gibson-Park in the few short weeks they have spent together.

“Craig’s a great young lad. One of the best work-rates I’ve seen in a young footballer in forever, probably,” admitted the Leinster half-back.

“I’ve played with some good ones obviously. I’ve played with some good guys back in New Zealand and I don’t think they were ever as dedicated as he is. He’s going to go a long way, there’s no doubt about that.”

What is also without question in Gibson-Park’s mind is the continued worth of Robbie Henshaw to the Ireland cause. The Athlone man is a team-mate of his at Leinster, and he was able to share the pitch for Henshaw’s 50th cap for Ireland.

“Robbie’s world class. He’s one of those guys that just you love to have in your team, because you know he’s always going to give his 100% every single week.

“Throws his body into the tough stuff and that’s what you want in a team-mate. He’s a brilliant team-mate. I love playing with him.”

A debutant in Ireland’s last clash with Italy at the Aviva Stadium last October, Gibson-Park picked up his eighth international cap in Rome. It was also his second consecutive Six Nations start, having played the full 80 minutes of the France match.

He clocked up an additional 62 minutes in the Italian capital and while he accepts he still has a lot to learn, the 29-year-old is steadily getting a handle on what Test rugby is all about.

“I’m obviously still very early on in an international career, but I feel like I’m coming to grips with things. That’s the feeling in the whole team. We’re training unbelievably well and it’s nice to see a little bit of that on the park today.”

Posted in International Rugby | Comments Off on Post-Match Reaction: Six Nations Championship – Ireland V Italy – Jamison Gibson-Park – Irishrugby.ie – February 28 2021

Six Nations Championship Build-Up To Italy Away: John Fogarty – Irishrugby.ie – February 26 2021

Fogarty: Killer And Tadhg ‘Delighted To Be Back’

By Daire Walsh

Ireland scrum coach John Fogarty is excited to see what Dave Kilcoyne and Tadhg Furlong can bring as starting props against Italy in Rome tomorrow.

The experienced pair make their long-awaited return to the Ireland starting XV in the third round of this year’s Guinness Six Nations Championship.

Wexford man Furlong last featured from the start for Ireland on February 23 of last year, when England got the better of Andy Farrell’s men at Twickenham.

Back, calf and hamstring injuries subsequently ruled him out of action for several months, but he did make a brace of cameos in Ireland’s recent Championship defeats to Wales and France.

Munster loosehead Kilcoyne has made four appearances off the bench to date under Farrell. His most recent international start came in the 2019 Rugby World Cup pool win over Russia.

Speaking at the Captain’s Run in the Stadio Olimpico, Fogarty told Irish Rugby TV: “I’m delighted to see the lads back. They’re delighted to be back, ‘Killer’ and Tadhg in a starting jersey for Ireland.

“It has been brilliant to see during the week their prep. How much focus they have put into what they need to get done during the week, so that they can perform tomorrow.

“In general, the pride they have of getting back into a starting Irish jersey. We’ll expect huge energy from that group of props to start. Cian (Healy) and Andrew (Porter) have gone so well in the previous games.

“They’re never too happy not to be in a starting jersey, but they’re looking forward to coming off the bench and really stressing what Italy have. We’re looking forward to seeing that.”

Speaking in the aftermath of his team announcement on Thursday, head coach Farrell acknowledged that Ireland need to start showing more of a clinical edge in attack.

Fogarty is of a similar mind and said that the Ireland squad have been working towards this particular goal throughout the week.

“So much of it has been really, really good. The last few pieces, which sometimes is a focus thing, which sometimes is a little bit of a detail thing, these are the things during the week that we’ve spoken about as a group.

“That the players have led in how they’re prepping during the week and finishing off those last pieces. We’d expect to put ourselves in good positions to start with and that’s going to be a battle against Italy.

“When we do put ourselves in good positions, have that focus. Have that clarity in our heads to just get after it and get it done.”

Tomorrow’s clash with Italy could mark the beginning of the respective Test careers of Ryan Baird and Craig Casey. The two youngsters are named on the bench and in line to make their senior international debuts.

As a coach, Fogarty helped to oversee the development of 21-year-old lock Baird during his four-year stint as Leinster scrum coach.

As a player, he lined out alongside Casey’s uncle, Mossy Lawler, in the red of Munster before becoming a familiar opponent to the Limerick native following his switch to Leinster in 2002.

Baird and Casey were part of the Grand Slam-winning Ireland Under-20 squad of 2019, and Fogarty is eager for them to show that they are capable of stepping up to the senior grade. He added:

“It’s brilliant, two young guys that have yet to be capped. So much excitement again. You talk about Tadhg (Furlong) getting cap number whatever it is (47) and the pride he has, but those two lads again have acquitted themselves unbelievably well during the week.

“Unbelievably proud to come out tomorrow afternoon and put on the green jersey, and hoping to get on the field. Again, lots of energy.

“They’re two young athletes and you’d expect to see lots of energy tomorrow from them. Looking forward to seeing that.”

Posted in International Rugby | Comments Off on Six Nations Championship Build-Up To Italy Away: John Fogarty – Irishrugby.ie – February 26 2021

Six Nations Championship Build-Up To Italy Away: Andy Farrell (Part Two) – Irishrugby.ie – February 26 2021

‘It All Comes Down To Having A Clinical Edge’ – Farrell

By Daire Walsh

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell is hopeful that tomorrow’s Guinness Six Nations encounter with Italy in Rome will be the start of his side adding a ruthless streak to their game.

Ireland will be gunning for their first win of this year’s Championship in the Italian capital, following two close defeats at the hands of Wales and France.

Certain elements of their performances in 2021 have provided Farrell with encouragement, but he feels they need to take that next step in order to challenge for silverware once again.

“There’s quite a lot right within our game, but it all comes down to having a clinical edge at this level,” he said, after announcing the team to play Italy. “Our fight, our want, our will to impose ourselves against the opposition has been top class.

“The finishing clinical edge is obviously always the missing part of any ingredient of a side that wants to be world class. That’s what we’re striving for and hopefully we can make a jump in that direction this weekend.

“Obviously you’ve got to get your basics right as well. Your set piece again has to be strong, which it has been. That will give us a good front-foot ball.

“We need to be a little bit more connected in our attack, our breakdown work has to be ferocious for the quick ball. We want to play at the tempo that we want to play at. That isn’t just quick. It’s being able to slow it down and speed it up at the appropriate manner.”

Ireland’s lone try scorer in the recent 15-13 loss to France was Leinster hooker Ronan Kelleher. He is now rewarded for his busy displays off the bench with a first Six Nations start.

While his ability on the ball is undeniable – he has nine tries in just 19 games for his province – Farrell believes the 23-year-old’s defensive attributes will be every bit as crucial to Ireland’s quest for a first victory of the calendar year.

“In Ronan’s couple of cameos coming off the bench, his carrying has been really tough and explosive. He’s certainly a specimen in that regard.

“I’m hoping to see that, on the other side of the ball, that he can be a nuisance regarding his defence and his breakdown work.

“Obviously (he has) a solid set piece. We’ve seen his confidence really come on over the last few weeks. Hopefully that transpires into a good performance at the weekend.”

Kelleher is one of several players to be handed their international debut during the early part of Farrell’s tenure. Craig Casey and Ryan Baird will join that group tomorrow if they are sent on from the bench.

Only for injuries, the 21-year-old Baird may well have earned his first cap before now. Farrell has had his eye on the versatile forward and is excited to see what he can offer.

“Ryan has been on our radar for quite some time. He’s been in camp a number of times. His first time that he came into camp was Portugal last year, in January. He’s been in a number of times since then,” explained the Ireland boss.

“We’ve seen the progress because of the exposure of coming into the camp. What we’ve seen in the past when we’ve done that with a number of kids, is that the hunger burns inside them to want to get back in this camp in their own right.

“It has been a little bit stop-start for Ryan because of a few injuries along the way, but he’s had a couple of big months under his belt now.

“Obviously Quinn Roux dropped out of the squad and Tadhg (Beirne) going to number six opens the door for Ryan to grab his chance. We feel he’s ready. It’s up to him now to go out there, along with his team-mates, and give the best version of himself.”

You can never have too many options as an international coach and that is part of the reason why Farrell was so thrilled with the news that long-term absentee Joey Carbery has been included on the Munster bench for tonight’s Guinness PRO14 clash with Cardiff Blues.

Farrell worked closely with Carbery in his previous capacity as assistant coach to Joe Schmidt, but he has been sidelined for over a year after undergoing wrist and ankle surgery in the early part of 2020.

Farrell looks forward to the day he can call on the talented 25-year-old out-half’s services once again, although he did urge caution as Carbery looks to get back up to speed in Munster red.

“First of all, I’m absolutely delighted for Joey. I know first hand of what he’s been through over these last couple of years. He has worked hard to try and get back.

“On a few occasions it hasn’t happened for him and I’d just like to praise all the medical team that’s looked after him down in Munster, obviously, and along with the IRFU at the same time as well.

“Because we’ve got him to a place now where he’s comfortable and super excited about getting back out there on the field. I think what we need to be cautious about is giving Joey the time.

“He’s been out for so long, so he’s keen to get back in there to do well. If we give him the room and the time, and let him get a number of games under his belt, I’m sure Joey will come back to the player that we all know he’s going to be.”

Posted in International Rugby | Comments Off on Six Nations Championship Build-Up To Italy Away: Andy Farrell (Part Two) – Irishrugby.ie – February 26 2021

Six Nations Championship Build-Up To Italy Away: Andy Farrell (Part One) – Irishrugby.ie – February 26 2021

Farrell On The Changes Made For Italy Match

By Daire Walsh

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has insisted his side’s attitude will need to be spot on when they face Italy in the third round of the Guinness Six Nations Championship tomorrow.

In Rome two years ago, the Azzurri – under the stewardship of former Ireland international Conor O’Shea – were four points in front at half-time, before Ireland subsequently got to grips with their challenge and earned a 26-16 victory.

The Italians are currently at the foot of the Championship table, following defeats to France and England in the opening two rounds. Nonetheless, they have produced patches of good play to date and Farrell is not taking Franco Smith’s men for granted.

Speaking from the squad’s base at Carton House, he said: “When you hear some reports, you look at a couple of scorelines and you can make it out to be something that it’s completely not.

“In the French game (against Italy), I thought the French were very clinical. In the first game of the competition, Italy tried to show their brand of rugby, an expansive game.

“France doing what they do. Good set piece, good territory, good kicking territory-type game and then trying to hit them on the counter. They had quite a few chances, but they converted most of them.

“They were very clinical. I thought Italy certainly improved the week after. I thought the English found it tough for them to break down. They’ve got some really dangerous backs.

“Strong, fast, dangerous backs who like to play in an expansive way. Again, we have to go over there with the right attitude.

“A couple of years ago, I didn’t feel we got the blend right over there and it came across as sloppy at times. Last year at the Aviva, I thought our attitude was spot on and hopefully we can do the same in Rome on Saturday.”

The teams’ 2020 meeting at the Aviva Stadium was originally set to take place in early March, only for it to be postponed due to the rising profile of Covid-19 within Italy.

The spread of the Coronavirus throughout the globe placed the Six Nations on a lengthy hiatus, before the two side finally clashed in Dublin on October 24.

The return of provincial rugby two months earlier had enabled a number of players to force their way into Farrell’s plans. The Leinster quartet of Ed Byrne, Will Connors, Jamison Gibson-Park and Hugo Keenan all won their first Ireland caps against Italy last October.

Another couple of players are now also in line to make their Test bows, with the uncapped duo of Craig Casey and Ryan Baird listed amongst the replacements for tomorrow’s game.

Casey, the 21-year-old Munster scrum half, was the one unused replacement for Ireland’s second round defeat to France on February 14, but this has done little to dim his enthusiasm.

“He’s been great, he’s like a sponge,” Farrell said of Casey. “He’s at the front of the class with his notepad the whole time, taking absolutely everything in. His attitude, like I’ve been saying over the last couple of weeks, is infectious.

“I was very impressed with his mature attitude in the sense that he obviously would have been upset, and rightly so, for not getting any minutes, in what he thought was going to be his debut against France.

“Then he goes back to Munster, dusts himself down and plays really well in poor conditions in Edinburgh in their Guinness PRO14 game.

“Obviously you can’t promise anything in this world, can you? Certainly in international sport, but if he gets his chance, he’ll certainly be ready.”

In total, Farrell has made seven changes to the side that lost narrowly to France. Having featured prominently off the bench, Ronan Kelleher and Jordan Larmour will both start on this occasion, with Rob Herring and Keith Earls the ones to make way.

While acknowledging it was no reflection on those who missed out on the starting XV, Farrell has full confidence in what Kelleher and Larmour can bring to the side.

“Obviously the front row has changed, but the three that come in, they’ve been working together in training for the last three and-a-half weeks. There’s some continuity in that regard there. We feel that Ronan deserves a start.

“His attitude has been first class in training, etc. He’s played well when he’s come on and this is the game for him to start. It’s not to say Rob Herring has not been playing well.

“As coaches, for as much as you try and put a plan together, or give them little bits of different intricacies within the play, I’ve been around long enough to realise good players and dangerous players can make something out of nothing as well. Certainly Jordan is one of those.”

There is a positional switch for Tadhg Beirne who moves to the back row this week, filling the blindside flanker berth alongside fellow Kildare man Will Connors and CJ Stander.

Farrell said this is just reward for Beirne’s performances to date in 2021, while he is also intrigued by the triple set piece threat that himself, James Ryan and Iain Henderson have the potential to offer.

“Tadhg’s been playing really well. Whether it be in the second row or at 6, he’s been playing well and deserves his chance again in the starting side.

“He adds on both sides of the ball, but set piece wise, along with James Ryan and Iain Henderson, the three of them have been pretty strong in the lineout as well.”

Posted in International Rugby | Comments Off on Six Nations Championship Build-Up To Italy Away: Andy Farrell (Part One) – Irishrugby.ie – February 26 2021

Richie Towell Set For Move To Shamrock Rovers: The Tallaght Echo (Online) – February 25 2021

Towell on the brink of move to Hoops

By Daire Walsh

SSE Airtricity League Premier Division champions Shamrock Rovers look set to strengthen their hand for 2021 with the impending signing of Richie Towell on a pre-contract agreement.

Towell had been linked with both Rovers and his former club Dundalk in recent weeks, but has seemingly chosen Tallaght Stadium as his next destination.

According to a report on Independent.ie, the Inchicore native is expected to join The Hoops in the summer upon the expiration of his current deal at English League Two outfit Salford City.

This will be a major boost for Hoops’ boss Stephen Bradley, following the recent departures of Jack Byrne and Aaron McEneff to APOEL Nicosia (Cyprus) and Heart of Midlothian (Scotland) respectively.

During his three-year stint at Dundalk (2013-15), Towell enjoyed a remarkable level of success. He won a total of six trophies with the Lilywhites, including two Premier Division titles, an FAI Cup and a League of Ireland Cup.

Under the management of Stephen Kenny, he was named PFAI Young Player of the Year in 2013 and PFAI Players’ Player of the Year in 2015. The move to Dundalk helped to reignite the career of the ex-Crumlin United youth star, who had previously spent four years at Glasgow Celtic and enjoyed two loan spells at their SPL rivals Hibernian.

He later secured a transfer to Brighton & Hove Albion, but opportunities were limited with the Seagulls, and he was subsequently loaned out to Rotherham United in August 2017. After playing a key role in their march towards promotion from EFL League One, he sealed a permanent transfer to the Millers ahead of their 2018/19 Championship campaign.

After Rotherham suffered relegation from the English second-tier, Towell was snapped up by Salford – a club partly-owned by Manchester United’s famed ‘Class of 92’.

He remains a key part of their plans in the current term (he featured off the bench in a 2-1 defeat to Morecambe on Tuesday), but is set to bring his latest spell in the UK to a close in the coming months.

Posted in League Of Ireland | Comments Off on Richie Towell Set For Move To Shamrock Rovers: The Tallaght Echo (Online) – February 25 2021

Six Nations Championship Build-Up To Italy Away: Iain Henderson – Irishrugby.ie – February 24 2021

Henderson Praises Coaches For Set Piece Improvements

By Daire Walsh

Hot on the heels of captaining Ireland for the first time, there was further good news for Iain Henderson this week with the announcement that he has extended his contract with the IRFU for another two years.

His current deal was due to expire at the end of the current season, but he is now set to remain at his home province of Ulster until at least July 2023.

Covid-19 has made contract negotiations somewhat tricky for Ireland’s players, and Henderson was thrilled to come away with his desired outcome.

“It has been a long process and (I’m) delighted to get to the end of it,” he said, speaking today from the Ireland team hotel at Carton House.

“Looking forward to having that put to bed now, don’t have to worry about that. Maybe a week or so ago, I was able to check that box off my list. Delighted to be able to finally announce that we’re back on for another two years.

“Looking forward to it and everything that could entail, be it down here or be it back up at home. I would say the initial period was probably more stressful in terms of speaking as a general player in the wider group.

“The contract negotiations were later than we would have initially anticipated or where they would be in a usual year. That was probably something that anyone in any profession would find stressful. Pushing out their security going forward.

“Once they got underway, the discussions that we had with my agent and David Nucifora, and other members of his team, they weren’t painful at all. They were understanding and from both sides of the table, we knew where we had to get to.”

Last Sunday week’s Guinness Six Nations clash with France at the Aviva Stadium was somewhat bittersweet in the end for Henderson. While he did get to lead the side out into battle, Ireland suffered a 15-13 defeat to les Bleus – their second of the Championship to date.

Nonetheless, the Craigavon native found captaining his country to be a hugely memorable experience, and it is something he would like to sample again in the future.

“I’d love to do it again. I really enjoyed it (the captaincy). Obviously the result wasn’t what we had wanted, but I really enjoyed the build-up to it and during the game.

“Obviously there’s a pecking order of leaders, if you like, ahead of me. This team has leaders the whole way through it.

“That’s probably one thing that made it feel more seamless for me or made it more easy for me to step into that role. The team that I was put in charge of had leaders right the way through it.

“The experienced and inexperienced, who were equally capable with leading each other. I think that’s probably part of the reason why I was able to step in down that pecking order.”

Henderson has played under a number of high-profile captains in both the white of Ulster and the green of Ireland. Two of these are currently in the Ireland camp and offered him some much-needed guidance ahead of his own big day at the Aviva.

“I had a good chat with my family, they were all delighted,” explained the 29-year-old. “Frustrated they couldn’t be there. I chatted with Johnny (Sexton) prior to a couple of meetings and had a chat with Paulie (Paul O’Connell) as well around it.

“And I had a good chat with Rory Best as well. Obviously I’m naming there three captains who I have been captained by.

“They’re three people who always have set an incredibly good example in any team they’ve ever captained. With moving into the Ulster captaincy, I didn’t want to just fall into the exact shoes of one of them.

“I wanted to try and get a feel, and do it slightly differently in my own way. Which I felt I tried to do, but it was an enjoyable experience nonetheless.”

Over the past few weeks, Henderson and other members of the Ireland squad have praised O’Connell for the impact he has made in his first few weeks as forwards coach.

However, the towering lock also extolled the virtues of John Fogarty, who was appointed to the role of Ireland scrum coach following the conclusion of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

“Paulie hasn’t come in and tried to reinvent anything, he hasn’t tried to take everything away of what we had learnt before. What he has done is let us continue to work with what we were doing,” acknowledged Henderson.

“Adding small tweaks to make us better and better. Session by session. Adding bits of detail that we might be missing. Ensuring that we are getting as consistent a lineout as possible.

“Be it the hookers, the jumpers and the lifters, to make sure that ultimately we can have as smooth a week running into the game as possible. The same with ‘Fogs’.

“Fogs has been incredible with the insight that he has brought into the scrum and again he’s making the scrum feel not only about front row, but it’s about the eight players that are in the scrum.

“Because very often what happens in scrum meetings is the front rows just sit and talk, more or less in a different language to everyone else. Our second rows, we just stuck our heads in and pushed.

“Whereas Fogs has brought a whole new dimension to it, if you like, and really encapsulating the ‘eight as one’. That’s how he likes to put it, to ensure we’re getting those performances throughout the week, building for the weekend. Same as the lineout.”

Posted in International Rugby | Comments Off on Six Nations Championship Build-Up To Italy Away: Iain Henderson – Irishrugby.ie – February 24 2021