Rugby World Cup Pool B: South Africa v Ireland

The eyes of the rugby world will be on the Stade de France tonight as Ireland aim to take a giant step towards the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals by beating reigning champions South Africa.


Saturday, September 23 –

SOUTH AFRICA (2nd) v IRELAND (1st), Stade de France, 9pm local time/8pm Irish time (live RTÉ 2/RTÉ Player/UTV/ITV 1/RTÉ Radio 1/BBC Radio 5 Live/BBC Radio Ulster/IRFU Live Blog)

Team News: After back-to-back bonus point wins over Romania and Tonga, table toppers Ireland continue their Pool B campaign against South Africa, who are close behind them in second place in the World Rugby rankings.

In-form centre Bundee Aki, who made his Ireland debut against the Springboks in November 2017, will win his 50th cap in Paris. He partners Garry Ringrose in midfield for the third consecutive match.

Hugo KeenanMack Hansen and James Lowe continue together in the back-three, with Jamison Gibson-Park, the only change from the Tonga game, partnering captain and record points scorer Jonathan Sexton at half-back.

Head coach Andy Farrell has selected an unchanged pack from last week’s outing in Nantes. Ronan Kelleher packs down again with Andrew Porter and Tadhg Furlong in the front row. Tadhg Beirne and James Ryan complete the tight five.

The back row trio is made up of Leinster pair Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris, and Peter O’Mahony who will make his 100th international appearance, including his one British & Irish Lions Test cap from 2017.

Having recovered from his foot injury, Dan Sheehan is set to make his World Cup debut off the bench. Dave Kilcoyne, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson and Ryan Baird are the other forward options, while Conor Murray, Jack Crowley and Robbie Henshaw are the replacement backs.

Speaking ahead of the heavyweight encounter, Farrell said: “We just want Jamo being himself and producing the form he has produced for us throughout his time as an international. The pace and skill-set he brings to our game is something we all enjoy watching.

“Dan is obviously fit and raring to go and in fine condition. He’s a world-class hooker in my opinion and he gets his chance to get his tournament under way.

“There are plenty (of tough selection decisions), constantly. The conversations I have to have during the week are difficult ones because they all want to play and deservedly so because they are good players in their own right.

“We have got to make the right decision for the team for this particular game and those conversations are never easy, but the players make them easier because they understand the team always comes first.”

He added: “It’s a big game, there will be over 30,000 Irish supporters in a stadium we know well. We want to get back to winning ways there (after losing to France in 2022), so it is a challenge we are ready for, looking forward to and it is coming soon.”

Meanwhile, for their Saint-Denis showdown with Ireland, South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber has made 13 personnel changes and one position switch, as well as opting for a seven-one split on the bench.

In a team led by 78-times capped flanker Siya Kolisi, nine players who sat out last Sunday’s 76-0 victory over Romania return to the starting line-up. Four others move up from the bench for this pivotal contest in the tournament’s ‘group of death’.

Hooker Bongi Mbonambi and Damian Willemse, who shifts to full-back to accommodate Manie Libbok’s inclusion at out-half, are the only two players retained. It is the same starting side from the 18-3 first round defeat of Scotland, apart from the absence of the injured Malcolm Marx (knee).

The Springboks’ forward-laden bench features Munster second row duo Jean Kleyn and RG Snyman, along with Deon Fourie, Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane, Marco van Staden and the versatile Kwagga Smith. Cobus Reinach is the only specialist back.

South Africa will wear their third kit (white jerseys and ‘hyper-jade’ shorts) to avoid a clash with Ireland under World Rugby’s initiative to make the match more accessible to the estimated one in 12 males and one in 200 females who have colour vision deficiency (CVD).

The Ireland team to play South Africa in Pool B of Rugby World Cup 2023

SOUTH AFRICA: Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers); Kurt-Lee Arendse (Vodacom Bulls), Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles), Damian de Allende (Wild Knights), Cheslin Kolbe (Suntory Sungoliath); Manie Libbok (DHL Stormers), Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles); Steven Kitshoff (Ulster), Bongi Mbonambi (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers), Eben Etzebeth (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Franco Mostert (Honda Heat), Siya Kolisi (Racing 92) (capt), Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz), Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers).

Replacements: Deon Fourie (DHL Stormers), Ox Nche (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Trevor Nyakane (Racing 92), Jean Kleyn (Munster), RG Snyman (Munster), Marco van Staden (Vodacom Bulls), Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs), Cobus Reinach (Montpellier).

IRELAND: Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster); Mack Hansen (Galway Corinthians/Connacht), Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster), Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht), James Lowe (Leinster); Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) (capt), Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster); Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster), Ronan Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster), Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster), Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster), James Ryan (UCD/Leinster), Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster), Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster), Caelan Doris (St. Mary’s College/Leinster).

Replacements: Dan Sheehan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster), Finlay Bealham (Buccaneers/Connacht), Iain Henderson (Academy/Ulster), Ryan Baird (Dublin University/Leinster), Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster), Jack Crowley (Cork Constitution/Munster), Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster).

Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), James Doleman (New Zealand)
Television Match Official: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)

Pre-Match Quotes: Paul O’Connell (Ireland) –

It’s going to take a big performance for sure. They are an excellent side, they have been together a long time as a group and a coaching group, they understand how they want to play and deal with certain situations in a game.

“They have developed their game since the last World Cup and a lot since last November in particular. Our boys are under no doubt about how big a challenge it is.

“They obviously present a big physical challenge – I think we present a big physical challenge as well – but also a really technical challenge. They are a very smart side. That is probably one of the things you admire the most, the smarts they can bring along with their physicality.

“It’s a strength of our side as well. We speak about this Irish team and what they stand for. They have got to bring everything they have brought to big occasions over the last few years – a Test series decider down in New Zealand in Wellington, a Grand Slam decider, a tough autumn series against some very tricky opposition.

“We have always found a way and figured it out and it is a real strength of the players. They are going to have play super well (on Saturday) but also figure things out, which is something I really enjoy watching them do when they have a challenge in front of them.”

Jacques Nienaber (South Africa) –

Ireland are a quality team with a strong pack of forwards and talented backs, and they play with a lot of speed, so we know what we have to do to deliver a top-drawer performance for things to go our way.

“We faced them late last year and we’ve been keeping an eye on their performances this year, so everyone knows what we have to do this weekend.

“We’re fortunate to have a match-fit squad and have been building depth and versatility for a while and believe this is the best combination for this match.

“For many of these players this is their second or third World Cup, so they know what it takes to perform at this level, and we believe this team has the right balance of players to achieve what we would like to achieve in this match.

“We know it’s going to be a grind of a match and we know we need to pitch up physically and mentally. We also need to start with intensity and stay focused until the final whistle.

“This is a massive game for both sides with an eye to progressing out of our pool, so we need to be extremely accurate in all areas of our game.”

Pre-Match Videos –

Recent Meetings –

2016: Summer Tour First Test: South Africa 20 Ireland 26, Newlands Stadium, Cape Town; Summer Tour Second Test: South Africa 32 Ireland 26, Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg; Summer Tour Third Test: South Africa 19 Ireland 13, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth

2017: Guinness Series: Ireland 38 South Africa 3, Aviva Stadium

2022: Bank of Ireland Nations Series: Ireland 19 South Africa 16, Aviva Stadium

Support Ireland on or search #RSAvIRE, #ShouldertoShoulder and #TeamOfUs on

Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division: Round 2 Previews

Cooke, Suttonians and last year’s beaten finalists Railway Union get their first taste of Energia All-Ireland League action this season as round 2 serves up some mouth-watering matches.


Saturday, September 23 –

Kick-off 5pm unless stated:

OLD BELVEDERE (4th) v WICKLOW (9th), Ollie Campbell Park, 4pm

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Belvedere: L; Wicklow: L
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Jess Keating, Elise O’Byrne-White, Lesley Ring 5 each; Tries: Jess Keating, Elise O’Byrne-White, Lesley Ring 1 each; Wicklow: Points: Jessica Griffey 5; Tries: Jessica Griffey 1

Preview: Lisa Callan, Minonna Nunstedt and Katie Corrigan have been promoted from the Old Belvedere bench to start against Wicklow. Donard teenager Corrigan, who starred for the Ireland Under-18 Sevens team in the summer, joins Swedish international Nunstedt in a new-look centre pairing.

Following their 20-point defeat to UL Bohemians, Wicklow head coach Jason Moreton has moved captain Caoimhe Molloy to tighthead prop. Erin McConnell reverts to scrum half, and there are also starts for Robyn Johnston, who features in midfield, last week’s try scorer Jessica Griffey and Loretta Gilbert.

A first win of the All-Ireland League campaign is the prize on offer for both teams. With home advantage and buoyed by their strong showing against title holders Blackrock College, Old Belvedere should be able to gain some revenge for last season’s AIL Shield final defeat to Wicklow.

Recent League Meetings – Friday, September 24, 2021: Wicklow 0 Old Belvedere 63, Ashtown Lane; Saturday, November 12, 2022: Old Belvedere 17 Wicklow 8, Ollie Campbell Park Prediction: Old Belvedere to win

BALLINCOLLIG (2nd) v SUTTONIANS (7th), Tanner Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Ballincollig: W; Suttonians:
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Ballincollig: Points: Heather Kennedy 10; Tries: Heather Kennedy 2; Suttonians: Points: -; Tries: 

Preview: Ballincollig are aiming to bring the momentum of last week’s four-try second half salvo against Galwegians into their first home game of the season. Versatile back Kelly Griffin and prop Ciara Fleming come into the starting XV, the latter packing down alongside her twin sister Aoife.

The Flemings won the Munster Under-18 Girls Cup with Carrick-Thurles in April and have promising futures ahead of them. It is a tough start for Suttonians with this weekend’s trip to Cork quickly followed by their rescheduled clash with Railway Union next Thursday night.

Fresh from ending Ulster’s win drought in the Interpros, Rachael McIlroy has linked up with Sutts and will start at scrum half. Her provincial colleague, Brenda Barr, captains the visitors from number 8. Kiwi lock Leomie Kloppers, a new addition to the squad, should make an impact.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 12, 2022: Ballincollig 22 Suttonians 34, Tanner Park; Saturday, November 12, 2022: Suttonians 24 Ballincollig 12, JJ McDowell Memorial Grounds Prediction: Suttonians to win

RAILWAY UNION (6th) v COOKE (5th), Park Avenue

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Railway Union: -; Cooke: –
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Railway Union: Points: -; Tries: -; Cooke: Points: -; Tries: 

Preview: Railway Union begin life under new head coach Stephen Costelloe with a home match against Cooke. There is quite a Connacht flavour to their selected team, with Ava Ryder, Rhiann Heery, Grainne O’Loughlin, Emily Gavin and Faith Oviawe all having represented the westerners.

Amanda Morton and Harriet Ravenscroft lead the Cooke back-line, with captain Aishling O’Connell, who impressed recently for Ulster, saying: “Last year we had a lot of changes, new players and coaches. This year we are settled and there’s no more excuses. Really looking forward to a competitive year.”

Nikki Caughey and Deirdre Roberts remain key cogs in Railway’s back-line, and with Munster’s Stephane Carroll a significant threat out wide, they have the firepower, despite a long list of absentees, to make a strong start on home soil.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 27, 2021: Cooke 0 Railway Union 63, Shaw’s Bridge; Saturday, October 15, 2022: Railway Union 88 Cooke 0, Park Avenue Prediction: Railway Union to win

UL BOHEMIANS (1st) v GALWEGIANS (8th), Annacotty

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UL Bohemians: W; Galwegians: L
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UL Bohemians: Points: Alana McInerney, Muirne Wall, Lily Brady, Laoise McGonagle 5 each; Tries: Alana McInerney, Muirne Wall, Lily Brady, Laoise McGonagle 1 each; Galwegians: Points: Evanna Finn, Orla Fenton 5 each; Tries: Evanna Finn, Orla Fenton 1 each

Preview: Contrasting fortunes for these teams last week. UL Bohemians shot straight to the top of the table after dispatching Wicklow in a five-tries-to-one victory. Galwegians, with Dave Clarke now in the head coach role, struggled in the second half as they fell short at home to Ballincollig.

French recruit Zorya Surguet will make her AIL debut in the ‘Wegians midfield, partnering captain Orla Dixon, while front rowers Ruth Whittle and Katherine Mahon are two of four changes up front as they come up against a powerful Bohs pack.

Vice-captain Stephanie Nunan slots back in at inside centre for the Red Robins, who have talented 19-year-old Kate Flannery at out-half this week. Brianna Heylmann joins forces with Clodagh O’Halloran at lock, and recent Munster new cap Jane Clohessy starts at blindside flanker.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 2, 2021: Galwegians 7 UL Bohemians 43, Crowley Park; Saturday, November 19, 2022: UL Bohemians 13 Galwegians 7, Annacotty Prediction: UL Bohemians to win

‘We Want To Deliver On What We Stand For As A Group’ – O’Connell

Paul O’Connell, Mack Hansen and Josh van der Flier were on media duty after Captain’s Run in Paris this afternoon as Ireland enjoyed one las run out ahead of the clash with the Springboks on Saturday night.

O’Connell said, “They’re one of the best sides in the world, they’ve developed their game since four years ago and from when we played them last November. Our boys are under no doubt about how big a challenge it is. They’re obviously present a big physical challenge but we present a big physical challenge as well. They present a real tactical challenge as well, that’s one of the things you admire about them”.

Asked about the sense of occasion on Saturday night Hansen said, “It’s great. This is what we’ve been working for for the last three years I’ve been in the squad. We’re super excited. It’s a big step up from the previous games but like I said, it’s what we’ve been working for.”

Josh van der Flier commented, “Andy and the coaches have been great. They trust everyone in the squad. The way we play is that anyone can come in and do the job. Everyone trusts the other players to get the job done.”



‘It’s A Huge Honour But I’m Preparing As I Always Do’ – Aki

Bundee Aki will win his 50th cap against World Champions South Africa on Saturday. Aki and centre partner Garry Ringrose spoke to the media this week about the occasion, their partnership, and how South Africa are much more than just a ‘physical’ team.

Speaking about his 50th cap Aki said, “Fifty is a big number. I’m just quite lucky to be able to put on this jersey for the 50th time so I’m looking forward to it. It’s a huge occasion but I’ll try not to treat it as a big occasion, just try to treat it as a game and do the things I do every week.

“Obviously, we’re going up against the world champions. For myself and my family, it’s a huge honour to be able to pull on the jersey 50 times. Every time you pull on that jersey, you try to play as best you can and put your best foot forward.

“I’m trying to keep the emotion out of it and just focus on what I need to do as a player, to being the best player I can to my team-mates and do what I need to do week in, week out.



‘We’re Unbelievably Happy To See Bundee Get To 50’ – Ringrose

A fascinating aspect of Saturday’s Pool B top of the table clash is how Ireland try to get the better of South Africa’s rush defence. Two key men in that regard are centres Garry Ringrose and Bundee Aki, who start together for the third week running.

Ringrose can draw on his experience of facing the Springboks in Dublin last November, when he played in both centre positions – due to Stuart McCloskey’s first half injury – and helped debutant Jimmy O’Brien come through a real baptism of fire.

Aki and Robbie Henshaw were suspended and injured respectively for that 19-16 win over the ‘Boks, but both are set to be involved this weekend in Paris, with Aki winning his 50th Ireland cap from the start and his former Connacht team-mate selected on the bench.

As a combination, Ringrose and Aki have proven to be a formidable duo at international level. Ireland have won 18 of the 22 Tests that the pair have started together in midfield.

With four tries and a total of five try involvements, Aki is the Rugby World Cup’s joint-leading try scorer currently. Ringrose has also impressed in attack with five try assists and the same amount of try involvements.

Beating a path to the try-line will be much more difficult against South Africa, who pride themselves on their physicality and their smothering defence. Notably, they have prevented the opposition from scoring a try against them in the first half of their last six matches.

“Incredibly difficult (to break down),” Ringrose said of Jacques Nienaber’s men. “They pride themselves on their defence, they are really well organised. Maybe from the outside it looks chaotic but you can see they’re all on the same page and have players who can make a massive impact defensively.

“It will put our attack under huge stress and the challenge is to try to deal with that. Hopefully we can perform to the level we want to and expect.

“On the other side, attacking-wise they have some of the most dangerous individuals in world rugby, on top, top form, so when we don’t have the ball, there is no room to switch off concentration-wise, otherwise you concede.

“That is not even mentioning the physical challenge. So it is a concoction of everything and we need to be on it.”

Aki, the Mastercard player-of-the-match against Tonga last week, had a memorable Ireland debut when they beat the ‘Boks at the Aviva Stadium in 2017, and he also played against them in the final Test of the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour.

It will be an emotional moment for the 33-year-old to reach the half-century mark, something he felt he did not have a hope of achieving when he initially moved to Galway to play for Connacht back in 2014.

“It’s a huge occasion but I’m trying not to treat it as a big occasion but just what I’d do in a normal week,” admitted Aki, who will join Ringrose in taking on South African centres Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel.

“Obviously it’s the world champions but for myself and my family, it’s a huge honour to pull on the jersey 50 times. I don’t take it lightly. Every time you put on that the jersey, you try to play the best you can and put your best foot forward.

“To be able to get to 50 is probably like getting to 100 (for someone else). Fifty is a big number and I know how hard it is to get to 100. I’m just quite lucky to be able to put on this jersey for a 50th time and I’ll look forward to it.”

Ringrose has enjoyed some of the best moments of his career playing alongside Aki, including the 2018 Grand Slam triumph in London, the 2018 and 2021 home wins over New Zealand, and more recently extending Ireland’s current winning streak to 15 games.

The Leinster star’s own 50th appearance for Ireland was sadly cut short last March, with a head injury ending his involvement against Scotland. He hopes that his centre partner gets to enjoy his big day in the best possible way by contributing to another Irish win.

I consider myself lucky to play alongside Bundee. Everyone in the group is unbelievably happy to see him get to 50, for him and his family.

“When he first came over (to Ireland), he captured everyone’s hearts at Connacht but he has also done that from the moment he put on the Irish jersey.

“It couldn’t be more deserved and I consider myself lucky to play alongside him and I know the other centres (in the squad) would say the exact same thing.”

Negotiating a way past South Africa’s rush defence will be vital to Ireland’s hopes of winning in the French capital. They are also keen to right some wrongs from their last performance at the Stade de France in February 2022 when they lost 30-24 to France.

Ringrose saw from the ‘Boks’ World Cup opener against Scotland how they were able to contain the Scottish attack and keep them try-less across the full 80 minutes in Marseille. He says Ireland will need to get a number of things right in order to break their defensive line.

“It’s really tough (the rush defence). It’s not by chance they get it, it’s coached well and it’s a nightmare for a lot of teams to play against.

“Sometimes you get blindsided and you don’t see it, so the challenge is to be scanning as much as possible and read body language and cues, but that’s hard to do.

“If the ball has gone away from you, it is about getting connected with your own players to hopefully try to make them make decisions.

“But they are so many good defenders in the team, they usually make the right decisions. There is a whole host of things you need to get right.”

Ireland’s showdown with South Africa at the Saint-Denis cauldron is shaping up to be an intriguing battle, on both sides of the ball. It is a real contrast of styles and one that should hopefully bring the best out of both teams as the quarter-finals loom large on the horizon.

Former Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll heaped praise on Ringrose as a defensive leader during the Grand Slam-winning run earlier this year, for how his game has ‘consistently elevated’ and how ‘all the cramming and constant workload is coming to fruition where it is real strategy to what he is doing’.

The player himself said it is a very much a team effort when defending at 13, with a reliance on his team-mates either side of him to ensure they curb the influence of the ‘Boks big ball carriers, shut down the space for kicking and limit the opportunities for their danger men out wide.

A lot of the time I rely on guys around me to pick up guys when I have missed tackles. With the pace South Africa have out wide and the counter-attack threat they have, you can’t really defend on your own against some of their individuals,” insisted Ringrose.

“They have the physical ability to keep winning the gain-line with their centres, but also their speed and footwork and kicking ability as well.

“You just have to be concentrated and a step ahead, try to read body language, certain cues you might have picked up from watching them. That is the challenge of it. I’m sure we’ll get it wrong sometimes, but hopefully we’ll get more right than wrong.”

Farrell: It’s A Challenge We’re Ready For

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell said he had some ‘difficult conversations’ with players who did not make the squad for Saturday night’s eagerly-awaited Rugby World Cup encounter with South Africa.

Ireland have used 29 players across the opening two rounds of the tournament, fielding a mostly settled team with 15 World Cup debuts – eight forwards and seven backs – handed out so far.

Jamison Gibson-Park slots back in at scrum half in the only change to the team that won 59-16 against Tonga. Dan Sheehan has recovered from his foot injury and is poised for his World Cup bow as replacement hooker.

For the Pool B top of the table clash in Paris, eleven members of Ireland’s starting XV from last November’s 19-16 win over the Springboks are retained. Ronan Kelleher continues at hooker on the back on his first start since last season’s Six Nations.

Asked about the toughest selection calls he had to make, Farrell said: “There are plenty, constantly. The conversations I have to have during the week are difficult ones because they all want to play and deservedly so because they are good players in their own right.

“We have got to make the right decision for the team for this particular game and those conversations are never easy, but the players make them easier because they understand the team always comes first.”

When the teams last met, Gibson-Park replaced the injured Conor Murray before half-time, and it was his clever dummy and sniping run that helped to set up a try out wide for Mack Hansen which gave Ireland a crucial 10-point lead.

Looking forward to the rematch, the Leinster half-back commented: “I suppose as a squad we feel our start to the World Cup has gone pretty well. Obviously two from two and we seem to be improving with each game.

“It’s going to be a tough challenge against South Africa no doubt. I think everybody knows what to expect from them at this stage. They’re big and physical with rapid outside backs.

“You give those guys a hint of space and they’re going to punish you and score tries. Then a big, physical pack and ball-carrying centres. A very good team all round.”

A hamstring injury limited Gibson-Park’s involvement in the 2023 Grand Slam-winning run to two appearances, and with Conor Murray and Craig Casey snapping at his heels, he knows he needs to be firing on all cylinders in order to retain the number 9 jersey.

Farrell reckons the 31-year-old will rise to the occasion again, saying: “We just want Jamo being himself and producing the form he has produced for us throughout his time as an international. The pace and skill-set he brings to our game is something we all enjoy watching.”

It is also a big boost to get a player of the calibre of Sheehan back in the matchday squad. He was ever-present during the New Zealand series, started against South Africa and Australia last November, and scored two tries in March’s Grand Slam decider against England.

Ireland are blessed with strength in depth in the hooker position, especially when you consider that Rob Herring misses out this weekend despite scoring three tries in his last three appearances.

“Dan is obviously fit and raring to go and in fine condition,” confirmed Farrell. “He’s a world-class hooker in my opinion and he gets his chance to get his tournament under way.”

The overall picture in Pool B will become somewhat clearer after Ireland’s meeting with South Africa, and the Sunday fixture between Scotland and Tonga. The Scots are without a point after their only outing so far, while Ireland (10 points) and the ‘Boks (9) currently lead the way.

That could all change over the course of the next week, but Farrell acknowledges that Ireland’s quarter-final hopes do not fully hinge on Saturday’s result. They still have Scotland to play at the same venue on Saturday, October 7.

“It’s not a must-win, it is not a do-or-die game but it is pretty important to both teams, let’s put it that way,” he said of the showdown with the ‘Boks. “It’s always nice to win but we have always looked at ourselves mainly in terms of performance.

“It’s a big game, there will be over 30,000 Irish supporters in a stadium we know well. We want to get back to winning ways there (after losing to France in 2022), so it is a challenge we are ready for, looking forward to and it is coming soon.”

Despite having to field numerous questions from the media about it, the Wigan man was not getting too caught up in South Africa’s 7-1 split for their replacement options. Cobus Reinach is the only specialist back on their forward-heavy bench.

Ireland have gone with the tried-and-trusted 5-3 split, which has served them well even on their most injury-disrupted days. They lost Stuart McCloskey, Murray and Tadhg Furlong to injury in their last meeting with the ‘Boks but still managed to emerge victorious.

The Grand Slam bid could have been derailed in Edinburgh last March, with both hookers forced off along with Iain Henderson and Garry Ringrose. However, Josh van der Flier and Cian Healy showed their versatility, throwing into the lineout and scrummaging at hooker respectively.

Farrell added: “There are all sort of different permutations. Even with a five-three split, you can’t cover everything. But you need to be adaptable, which is something we have worked hard at with our planning over the last few years.

“I suppose South Africa have done exactly the same with the seven-one split. I love it, I respect it. I like the fact they know their squad and brought four scrum-halves over, a hooker who has not really played in that specialist position before.

“It shows they know their players and which direction they want to go. Hopefully they think the same about us as well.”

‘We’ve Picked A Side To Take On The World Champions’ – Farrell

Andy Farrell and Jonathan Sexton on the Ireland team to play South Africa, what it will take to beat the Springboks, the 7/1 split and all things Rugby World Cup at their team announcement press conference in Paris today.

Speaking about the team selection Farrell joke, “I did pose the question to our forwards coaches as to whether we should go with 7 backs & one forward, but they weren’t up for that. It shows they (South Africa) know exactly where they want to go with their game plan and we do the same with the subs we pick as well”

Ireland Team Announcement


Bundee Aki Set For 50th Cap

Bundee Aki will win his 50th international cap on Saturday night in Paris as Ireland face South Africa in Stade de France. His first cap came against the same opposition in 2017 in Aviva Stadium.

The Connacht and Ireland centre has started 45 of his 49 appearances to date for Ireland and has scored 75 points with 15 tries. Take a look back at his career so far in our gallery.

Farrell Names Ireland Team To Face Springboks In Paris

Head Coach Andy Farrell has named his Ireland Match Day Squad for Saturday’s Rugby World Cup showdown against South Africa at the Stade de France (Kick-off 9pm local time/8pm Irish time).

After opening wins over Romania and Tonga, Ireland continue their Pool B campaign against the defending champions in Paris on Saturday night.

Bundee Aki is set to win his 50th Test cap for Ireland as he partners Garry Ringrose in midfield for the third consecutive match. Aki made his Ireland debut against South Africa in November 2017.

Hugo Keenan, Mack Hansen and James Lowe continue in the back three, with captain Jonathan Sexton and Jamison Gibson-Park named at out-half and scrum-half respectively.

Farrell has named an unchanged pack from last weekend’s defeat of Tonga in Nantes. Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong pack down in the front row, with Tadhg Beirne and James Ryan in the second row. Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris complete the starting XV.

Dan Sheehan has returned to fitness to be named on the replacements bench alongside forwards David Kilcoyne, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson and Ryan Baird, while Conor Murray, Jack Crowley and Robbie Henshaw provide the backline reinforcements.

Ireland Team (v South Africa, Rugby World Cup 2023, Stade de France, Saturday, September 23, 9pm local time/8pm Irish time)

15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD)(33)
14. Mack Hansen (Connacht/Corinthians)(18)
13. Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD)(54)
12. Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians)(49)
11. James Lowe (Leinster)(23)
10. Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College)(115)
9. Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster)(27)

1. Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD)(56)
2. Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne)(23)
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf)(69)
4. Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne)(43)
5. James Ryan (Leinster/UCD)(57)
6. Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution)(98)
7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD)(54)
8. Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College)(33)


16. Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne)(18)
17. David Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians)(53)
18. Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers)(33)
19. Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy)(76)
20. Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University)(14)
21. Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen)(109)
22. Jack Crowley (Munster/Cork Constitution)(7)
23. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers)(66).

Ryan: The Support Is Just Crazy, People Come From All Corners

James Ryan has been blown away by the level of support that Ireland have received at the Rugby World Cup, from their team base in Tours to Bordeaux, Nantes and now on to Paris.

Ireland fans have travelled in huge numbers to France, from both home and abroad, bringing an infectious mix of colour, noise and passion to the team’s opening two pool matches against Romania and Tonga.

60,000 Irish households registered with World Rugby for RWC 2023 tickets, and with an anticipated 30,000 supporters set to back Andy Farrell’s men at the Stade de France on Saturday, Ryan cannot wait to play in such an atmosphere.

“The support is just crazy. The colour as well, walking around. I mean…the expectation and level of support this weekend is going to be unbelievable,” said the Ireland second row, who is looking forward to locking horns with Pool B rivals South Africa.

“It feels different from a lot of Six Nations games, not all Six Nations games because we do get great atmospheres there as well, but it does feel different.

“I think the colour is a big thing. Everyone is wearing green, I think that contributes to the atmosphere. Nobody leaves. You’re walking around after and nobody has left their seats. It’s cool.

“People seem to come from all corners of the globe for a World Cup. It’s just something Irish people do. We were walking around after the Tonga game and we were like, ‘this is mad stuff!’

“It’s unbelievable. I’ve been watching the World Cup on TV and Wales get good support as well, but I think there are very few countries that match the level of support we get.”

It is never lost on the Ireland players and coaches the many sacrifices that the fans make to follow the team at away matches or a big tournament like the World Cup. It makes them even more eager to give those in the stands something to cheer about.

The crowd at the Saint-Denis ground should be in for a treat as the world’s top two ranked teams go head to head. No matter the result, history will be made as this is the first ever World Cup meeting of Ireland and South Africa, and the first time they have played each other at a neutral venue.

It is a stadium that Ireland captain Jonathan Sexton has some fond memories of, most notably when kicking the match-winning drop goal against France at the start of the 2018 Grand Slam-winning run. He also won the Six Nations title there four years previously.

Acknowledging what a boost it is to have the supporters in full voice in the French capital, Sexton said: “It’s usually the French fans that make the atmosphere there, but hopefully we’ll have the majority of the support on Saturday.

“It’s rumoured there will be 30,000 Irish fans there and the support we get for World Cups in particular is incredible. Last week there was Irish green everywhere and the same the week before.

“I’m sure it will be the same again. Hats off to the people who put their hands in their pockets and come over. It means a lot to us and hopefully we’ll give them something to cheer about.”

Ryan and Sexton are two of the 11 players retained from the team that beat the Springboks 19-16 at the Aviva Stadium last November. Ronan Kelleher, Jamison-Gibson Park, Bundee Aki and James Lowe come into the starting XV this time.

Going from playing two of the World Cup’s lower-ranked sides to tackling the reigning champions is ‘obviously a big step up’ according to Ryan, but it is one that the group is relishing as the battle for quarter-final places intensifies.

We have a huge amount of respect for them and we know we’ve got to really step it up this week. So there’s that added little pressure that comes with the week but we’re very excited.

“Getting to play the world champions in Paris, Stade de France, World Cup week, 30,000 Irish supporters in the stadium, it is very exciting.

“It’s a cool week to be involved in. Yes, there’s an added bit of edge all week but at the same time it’s just an amazing opportunity.”

Something that the 27-year-old Dubliner has been getting more accustomed to is later kick-off times. Ireland have the 9pm (local time) slot for their games against Tonga, South Africa and Scotland, and it will be the same start time if they reach the quarter-finals and beyond.

He gave an insight into how he copes with the longer lead-in time, saying: “I actually didn’t mind it (the later kick-off against Tonga) at all. I tried to sleep in for as long as I could. I probably go to bed a little bit later on the Friday night, just because you know the game is so late on Saturday night.

“Then I did a little bit of prep mid-morning. Went back to bed and there was some rugby on to distract myself a bit. So I didn’t mind it too much, to be honest.

“Some lads kind of split it into two days almost, so they got up early, had breakfast and stuff and then went back to bed for a good few hours.

“But I was okay with it. I think the Samoan (warm-up) game probably helped as well. So, hopefully this week, it will be a bit easier for us as a group to get around it.”

Having passed the 50-cap mark earlier this year and captained his country eight times to date, Ryan knows exactly what works best for him in terms of preparation and managing himself during the build-up to such a crunch clash.

He tries to stay as relaxed as possible, with The 1975 a popular choice on his pre-match playlist as they are ‘nice and mellow’ and do not tip him ‘overboard’. ‘Match mode’ is a gradual process, and in the words of Paul O’Connell, ‘Trust in our good habits. A lot of the work is done’.

“When we get on the bus, around seven o’clock I’d say, I kind of switch into match mode. But even so, I try to stay nice and calm and chill out. Not get revved up too early,” explained Ryan.

“When you get to the stadium, that’s when you properly get in the zone. I think it’s just sticking to what works for you. For me, it’s kind of managing that emotion and energy as well as you can.

“Nervous energy can be kind of wasted energy so you want to get the balance right but making sure you are conserving that energy. So do your preparation but try and kind of chill out as much as you can so you can get to the stadium and then you feel you’re in match mode then.”

The Leinster star added: “My preparation for me, the early part of the week, a big part of the week is about giving me confidence so I like to prepare very thoroughly on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and prepare as well as I can in terms of all the detail.

“And then I feel like in the run-in to the game on Thursday and Friday, that gives me the confidence to go in and be able to enjoy the game and build maybe the emotional energy that you need.

“So that’s the way I’ve always kind of structured my week and I feel like it works for me, but there probably was a stage where there was a sense of working out what works best for me.”

As Ireland’s chief lineout caller, Ryan was pleased with a much-improved performance in that area against Tonga. They brought their lineout success rate at this World Cup up to 82.9%, with the Springboks on 89.7% after two rounds.

Ireland hold the better scrum success rate (100%) and gain-line forward percentage (55.4%), whereas the ‘Boks stand at 84.6% and 51.4% respectively, in those two categories.

Jacques Nienaber’s men welcome back lynchpin lock Eben Etzebeth from the shoulder injury he sustained during their 18-3 victory over Scotland. Ryan knows all about the Sharks enforcer and how important a player he is for the ‘Boks.

“He’s one of the best locks in the world, definitely, without doubt. He’s pretty much the complete second row,” said the man known as ‘Cheese’ to his team-mates. Ryan’s nickname, started by Max Deegan, comes from a character called ‘Big Cheese’ in the movie, ‘Why Him?’.

“He (Etzebeth) has got a good work-rate, (he’s) a good set-piece player, very good in the air in terms of lineout defence, a great feel for the game. A huge player for them.

“You’ve obviously got huge respect for them but I think big games are about making sure you impose yourself on the game.

“Respect them and understand their strengths and everything, but you’ve got to bring it back to yourself and making sure you get all your bits right so that you can put in a good account of yourself.”

Energia All-Ireland League Fixtures This Week

There’s a full round of fixtures in the Energia AIL Women’s Division this weekend and with all the matches kicking off on Saturday evening it’s the perfect chance to support your local club before watching Ireland take on South Africa in the clubhouse.

The action kicks off at 4pm as Belvo welcome Wicklow to Ollie Campbell Park, with both sides aiming to bounce back from last week’s opening day losses. Elsewhere in Dublin, Railway Union and Cooke will open their league campaign when they face off at 5pm in Willow Lodge.

Suttonians also get their campaign underway this weekend when they travel to Tanner Park to play Ballincollig. The Cork club secured a winning bonus point against in Galway last Saturday against Galwegians. The Galway side travel to Limerick to face UL Bohs, who also secured an opening day bonus point win in Round 1.

Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division

 Saturday, September 23 – 

Old Belvedere v Wicklow, Ollie Campbell Park, 4pm

Ballincollig v Suttonians, Tanner Park, 5pm

Railway Union v Cooke, Willow Lodge, 5pm

UL Bohemian v Galwegians, Annacotty, 5pm

Energia AIL Women's Division Fixtures



Doris: There’s So Much Belief That We Can Get A Lot Better

The importance of Caelan Doris to this Ireland team can be summed up by the fact that he is the only player who has featured in every one of their games so far in 2023.

He is set to keep that run going when Andy Farrell’s men face South Africa in Saturday’s mouth-watering Pool B contest in Paris. The result could have a huge bearing on the outcome of the group and the likely quarter-final match-ups.

Ireland return to the Stade de France for the first time since their most recent Six Nations defeat, a 30-24 loss to France in February 2022. They have won 18 out of 19 Tests since then, including last November’s 19-16 victory at home to South Africa.

The selected South African team for this weekend contains 11 players who started in Dublin just under ten months ago. Half-backs Manie Libbok and Faf de Klerk, hooker Mbongeni Mbonambi and lock Franco Mostert come in for the rematch.

The try-less first half of that Autumn Nations Series clash was a brutal battle, with Ireland having to make 78 tackles to South Africa’s 36 during the opening 30 minutes. Tries from player-of-the-match Josh van der Flier and Mack Hansen then gave the hosts a lead they never surrendered.

“I think looking back on that game we knew we had to be on it in terms of our defence, in terms of our physicality,” said Doris, speaking from the squad’s Rugby World Cup base in Tours.

“I know it’s a bit of a buzzword but there’s a bit of a mindset that goes with that. That week in Dublin, we took a step up and we know we’ll require the same this week.

“I think if we match them there we’ve a lot of belief in what we can do in terms of our attack. We’ve shown some of that over the last couple of weeks, but it’s a definitely a test and a big step up from what we’ve seen so far.”

Doris and his team-mates will come up against the same back row from the November Test, with South African captain Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Jasper Wiese making up a formidable trio.

They will be aiming to gain the upper hand at the breakdown, and in the process slow down Ireland’s tournament-high average ruck speed of 2.92 seconds. Last November the Springboks won two turnovers and conceded 13, while Farrell’s charges won five turnovers and conceded ten.

It will be a key battleground and Doris is expecting to face an improved ‘Boks outfit, buoyed by last month’s 35-7 triumph over New Zealand at Twickenham. They have won nine of their last 10 Tests, including their last six in a row.

“South Africa have definitely evolved quite a bit (since last year). They were missing a few players back then as well. That game against the All Blacks a few weeks ago, some of their attack was very impressive,” acknowledged the Lacken-born number 8.

“They still have the physical edge, which is in their DNA really, going years back, but they have definitely added layers on top of it. Some of the threats they have out wide with their backs.

“Their forwards, the likes of du Toit and (RG) Snyman, their ability to keep the ball alive and offload after having won dominant collisions.

“Going hard at the breakdown is something we have seen from them over the last while as well. We reckon they will try and disrupt there quite a bit.”

As much as there is a feeling that the ‘Boks have hit a rich vein of form, the same is very much true for Ireland. They come into the middle round of the World Cup’s pool stages as Grand Slam champions and on a record 15-match winning streak.

There have been signs of the evolution of Ireland’s game along the way, and they will undoubtedly have a few tricks up their sleeve for Saturday night. It might take a moment or two of magic as eight of the teams’ last 11 meetings have been decided by six points or fewer.

“I think there’s so much belief amongst this group – and there’s belief that we can still get a lot better,” insisted Doris, who was voted both the Leinster and Rugby Players Ireland Players’ Player of the Year for 2023.

There are two parts to our evolution. Some of it is adding extra bits and new layers like the goal-line drop outs, and then the other part is just getting better at the basics.

“There is a lot of belief in our attack and when we deliver on it, it can cause damage to teams. So, it’s just being more consistent and delivering on that.

Delivering on that in such a big game in Paris in front of 80,000 people – hopefully there will be a lot of Irish there – is just about constantly getting better as a group and believing that we can improve quite a bit. We are always striving for the perfect performance.”

As much as they will have to match South Africa’s famed physicality up front (and deal with the unloading of their forward-heavy bench), Doris reckons the Irish pack have the variety and skills to cause problems for a ‘Boks side that is only eighth for collision success (42%) at this World Cup so far.

“We have good ball-playing forwards. We have multiple threats in that we have good carriers. We also have people who are capable of tipping the ball on, giving passes, giving wider passes.

“So it is not just tuck and carry. There is footwork, passes and the carry threat. (In defence) things like two-man tackles, getting our tackle height right, our tackle entry, all those areas are going to be pretty big this weekend.

“(Their 7-1 bench split) doesn’t actually change too much. We talk about delivering an 80-minute performance, regardless of who we are playing and knowing that some teams target the last 20 minutes.

“We also speak about our bench coming off and not just fitting in but actually taking it up a level, so that will be important this weekend.

“I think it’s been a great pre-season for us, and the lads are probably in pretty optimal shape I would say – some of our best conditioning we’ve seen over the last few years. We back our fitness against most teams and back our smarts as well, so we’re pretty confident in that area.”

Three turnovers won and seven defenders beaten have been some of the highlights of the 25-year-old back rower’s maiden World Cup campaign to date. With Paris calling, he is ready to ramp up his performance levels against the 2019 winners.

At that time four years ago, Doris had spent his first season with Leinster’s senior squad having been promoted early from the Academy due to his impressive displays when captaining the Ireland Under-20s.

He had two seasons with the Ireland U-20s, the second one seeing him work with Paul O’Connell as a coach for the first time. O’Connell’s experience and influence is clearly a huge asset in camp during big weeks such as this.

“It’s interesting because Paulie actually spoke to us earlier and said, ‘On these weeks, you can feel like you need to do way more, but trust in what we have done over the last while. Trust in our good habits, in our training, in our drills’,” explained Doris.

“It’s not that we are just building this week, but what we have built over the last few years. But having said that then, there is a special feeling to the week.

“We know we need to deliver our best and what comes with that is maybe little extra conversations or an extra walk-through in the evening or a bit of extra video, extra visualisation, things like that, just to make sure you are fully across the board.

“But Paulie’s point was, ‘Enjoy the week and when you’re off, you’re off, don’t get over stressed about thinking you have to do way too much this week. A lot of the work is done’.”

National Female Referee Day Continues To Empower Women In Rugby

The 2nd IRFU National Female Referee day took place in early September with sixteen referees from all four provinces enjoying a full day of education, training and development at the IRFU High Performance Centre.

Building on the success of last season, this year included more practical pitch work with U16 teams from Connacht, Leinster and Ulster who played a series of games.

This format gave the referees the opportunity to work as a team of 3 in each game, developing and expanding on various elements of their refereeing. For those not on the pitch, the games allowed live debate and discussion around refereeing principles and philosophy.

Having recently run a World Rugby Female Educator Course, the afternoon session included IRFU World Rugby Educator Glenda Mellon delivering a workshop addressing game and referee specific issues, facilitating debate and sharing of knowledge which added further value to the day.