Lions Win First Test With Second Half Fight Back

Trailing 12-3 at half time the British & Irish Lions seized control of the match in the 2nd half to take victory and set up the test series for more of the same. A try from Luke Cowan Dickie and the boots of Dan Biggar and Owen Farrell sealed the win but it was a team performance with Ireland’s Jack Conan, Tadhg Furlong and Robbie Henshaw featuring strongly and Conor Murray and Tadhg Beirne coming off the bench.

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Lions Turn Screw In Second Half To Overcome Springboks

Stringing together 19 points in a superior second-half display, the British & Irish Lions came from behind to beat South Africa 22-17 in a bruising and intense first Test in Cape Town.

CASTLE LAGER LIONS TEST SERIES – FIRST TEST: Saturday, July 24

SOUTH AFRICA 17 BRITISH & IRISH LIONS 22, Cape Town Stadium
Scorers: South Africa: Try: Faf de Klerk; Pens: Handré Pollard 4
British & Irish Lions: Try: Luke Cowan-Dickie; Con: Dan Biggar; Pens: Dan Biggar 4, Owen Farrell
HT: South Africa 12 British & Irish Lions 3

Lions Test debutants Robbie Henshaw and Jack Conan joined 2017 star Tadhg Furlong in the starting XV, and Conor Murray and Tadhg Beirne both came off the bench to bring the Irish contribution to five.

Handré Pollard’s right boot was the key weapon for South Africa as they built a 12-3 lead, by the end of a cagey, defence-dominated first half.

Dan Biggar had opened the Lions’ account midway through, but both he and Elliot Daly missed efforts from the tee approaching half-time.

However, Luke Cowan-Dickie’s maul try in the 43rd minute lit the touch paper for a much-improved closing 40 minutes from Warren Gatland’s men.

Revelling in the physical exchanges, Courtney Lawes and player-of-the-match Maro Itoje starred up front as the Lions wrestled back momentum with sharper kicking and set-piece grunt.

An opportunist Faf de Klerk try briefly opened up a seven-point gap, but three more Biggar penalties – and a closing one from replacement Owen Farrell – made it a night to remember for the tourists.

A feverish opening few minutes saw both teams produce testing kicks, with the impressive Duhan van der Merwe and Cheslin Kolbe showing their ability in the air.

South Africa gained the greater attacking platform in the opening quarter, laying down an early marker with a big ball-dislodging tackle by Lukhanyo Am on Daly, his opposite number.

Lively scrum half de Klerk’s clever use of the boot got them into decent positions, and with Tom Curry slow to roll away, Pollard stepped up in the 13th minute to fire over his first penalty.

His second one followed four minutes later, with Itoje well tackled and coughing up a scrum before openside Curry was guilty of a late tackle on de Klerk.

Biggar cancelled out those three points with a surefooted long-range strike, but the ‘Boks continued to look the more dangerous side, their captain Siya Kolisi using a lineout maul to wriggle through up to just a few metres out.

Itoje’s vital penalty-winning intervention prevented the score on this occasion, yet further territory for the hosts led to centre Daly infringing and Pollard mopped up with three more points.

The penalties were really beginning to hurt the Lions, with Henshaw turned in a tackle and Trevor Nyakane getting his hands over the ball to win the decision. Pollard again was bang on target, from outside the 10-metre line, for 12-3.

A strong surge by Conan, during a penalty advantage, showed what the Lions could do when they attacked at pace in the wide channels. Anthony Watson also did some damage when it came his way on the right.

After the ‘Boks were guilty of standing up in a scrum under pressure from Furlong, Biggar narrowly missed his kick on the near side.

The gap remained at nine points up to the break, as Daly dropped a monster penalty short from just outside the halfway line and Henshaw, having cut inside Am on a brilliant break, was felled by Willie le Roux in a crucial tackle that produced a knock on.

Nonetheless, the Lions got the start to the second half that they craved. Le Roux’s hesitancy led to a penalty, and another one – this time Henshaw was caught high in a tackle – brought the tourists even closer.

The maul duly did the damage, snaking through for England’s Cowan-Dickie to reach out and score. Biggar added the conversion to cut the gap to just two points.

The Lions had a big let-off, though, when the ‘Boks countered swiftly from a Lions kick, Am was fed by Munster’s Damian de Allende but le Roux, who went on to ground the ball for a possible try, was adjudged to be ahead of Am when he kicked through.

There was no denying the ‘Boks in the 49th minute as a vital TMO decision went their way. Again, they caused big problems in a kick chase, Pieter-Steph du Toit showing his running ability and avoiding a knock-on before Makazole Mapimpi did well to set up de Klerk to touch down.

There was no panicking from the Lions as, following Pollard’s missed conversion, Kwagga Smith infringed at the breakdown and Biggar landed the kick for a 17-13 scoreline.

The ‘Boks were now leaking penalties with increased regularity, the Lions taking them through 11 phases with Lawes twice carrying forcefully. It all led to a third successful penalty from Biggar and a one-point game.

Heading into the final quarter, a slight knock-on from Henshaw in the air counted against van der Merwe as the big Scotland winger hunted down an elusive try.

The Lions took the lead for the first time in the 62nd minute when Biggar splits the posts from wide on the left, rewarding a strong lineout drive from his pack.

As the tension grew, the freshly-introduced Hamish Watson was pinged for lifting le Roux in a tackle. It gave Pollard a sight of goal from out wide, but he slipped his kick away to the left.

The Lions’ strength in depth grew in importance, a nicely-won scrum penalty coming after Henshaw did really well to tackle Am as the ‘Boks gained big ground up towards the 22.

Luck was on the Lions’ side when de Allende had a scrappy 71st-minute try ruled out from a prior knock-on in the air from Kolbe.

With Murray and Farrell at half-back, the Lions squeezed South Africa for territory, hanging up a number of contestable kicks and keeping play in the hosts’ half.

Their well-drilled maul produced the goods once more, securing the penalty that Farrell swept home from the right. The result was not safe until Itoje grabbed a last-minute turnover to end the ‘Boks’ hopes.

With his charges taking a 1-0 lead in what is set to be an engrossing Test series, Gatland said: “The message at half-time was that we were still in the arm wrestle.

If Dan Biggar had kicked that penalty (before half-time), 12-6. We were down 12-3 and had given away a few soft penalties to allow them opportunities.

“The message was, ‘keep our patience, stay in the arm wrestle, we will get chances, don’t try and force things’. As that second half went on, we got stronger and stronger and got ourselves back into the game.

“It was a really tough, tight Test match and the bounce of a ball, it could have gone any way. Thankfully, we’ve come from behind and finished really strongly. I thought we were excellent in the last few minutes.”

The Lions head coach added: “South Africa will be hurt from this because they’re a very proud nation and world champions. Next week is going to be even bigger and tougher, I would expect.

“From our point of view, you know that no matter what happens you’re going to the last weekend of the series. That keeps everyone engaged and really interested.

“This is a really tight group of players and our non-23 did a really brilliant job this week in helping the Test 23 prepare. The victory was as much about the whole squad as the guys who took to the field.

“We feel like there is a lot more in us. From a conditioning side, we look like we’re just getting stronger and stronger. That shows how hard we’ve worked over the last six weeks or so.”

TIME LINE: 13 minutes – South Africa penalty: Handré Pollard – 3-0; 17 mins – South Africa penalty: Handré Pollard – 6-0; 19 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: Dan Biggar – 6-3; 26 mins – South Africa penalty: Handré Pollard – 9-3; 30 mins – South Africa penalty: Handré Pollard – 12-3; 35 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: missed by Dan Biggar – 12-3; 39 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: missed by Elliot Daly – 12-3; Half-time – South Africa 12 British & Irish Lions 3; 43 mins – British & Irish Lions try: Luke Cowan-Dickie – 12-8; conversion: Dan Biggar – 12-10; 49 mins – South Africa try: Faf de Klerk – 17-10; conversion: missed by Handré Pollard – 17-10; 52 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: Dan Biggar – 17-13; 55 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: Dan Biggar – 17-16; 62 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: Dan Biggar – 17-19; 64 mins – South Africa penalty: missed by Handré Pollard – 17-19; 78 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: Owen Farrell – 17-22; Full-time – South Africa 17 British & Irish Lions 22

SOUTH AFRICA: Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz); Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse), Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks), Damian de Allende (Munster), Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks); Handré Pollard (Montpellier), Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks); Ox Nché (Cell C Sharks), Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers), Trevor Nyakane (Vodacom Bulls), Eben Etzebeth (Toulon), Franco Mostert (Honda Heat), Siya Kolisi (Cell C Sharks) (capt), Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers), Kwagga Smith (Yamaha Júbilo)

Replacements used: Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) for Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers) for Nche, Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) for Nyakane (all half-time), Lood de Jager (Sale Sharks) for Mostert (62), Rynhardt Elstadt (Toulouse) for Smith (63), Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) for le Roux (66), Elton Jantjies (Pau) for Pollard (70), Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers) for de Klerk (73).

BRITISH & IRISH LIONS: Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs/Scotland); Anthony Watson (Bath/England), Elliot Daly (Saracens/England), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Ireland), Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester Warriors/Scotland); Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints/Wales), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors/Scotland); Rory Sutherland (Worcester Warriors/Scotland), Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs/England), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Ireland), Maro Itoje (Saracens/England), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys/Wales) (capt), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints/England), Tom Curry (Sale Sharks/England), Jack Conan (Leinster/Ireland).

Replacements used: Ken Owens (Scarlets/Wales) for Cowan-Dickie, Mako Vunipola (Saracens/England) for Sutherland, Hamish Watson (Edinburgh/Scotland) for Curry (all 56 mins), Conor Murray (Munster/Ireland) for Price (63), Owen Farrell (Saracens/England) for Daly (64), Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears/England) for Furlong, Daly for Biggar (both 66), Liam Williams (Scarlets/Wales) for van der Merwe (70), Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Ireland) for Lawes (72).

Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)

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“We’re The Number One Team In The Club” – #NothingLikeIt

Last week’s announcement of fixtures has brought the start of the Energia Women’s All-Ireland League a step closer for the 2021/22 season. It all kicks off on September 25th and Ballincollig and Wicklow are looking forward to it perhaps more than most – it will their first time competing at this level, having hoped to make their debuts in the 2020/21 season.

Click here for Energia Women’s All-Ireland League Fixtures

Ballincollig are preparing well for the upcoming campaign. Former international player and UL Bohemian Head Coach Fiona Hayes is at the helm and the club are ambitious about their growth and their sustainability.

“We’ve been a long time waiting to get out on the pitch to prepare for the Energia AIL,” Hayes told IrishRugby.ie. I It was supposed to be in 2020 and it didn’t happen so people were training hard at home.

“It’s that test that we’re excited about. I’ve been involved in the AIL as a player and a coach and now it’s about trying to show these players what it takes to survive and thrive at that level. We’re excited to test ourselves and see what it’s like playing 80 minutes of non-stop rugby.

“I’ve been living in Cork for the past 12 years and I’ve seen the standard of player who’s has had to travel elsewhere because there hasn’t been an AIL club here in recent years.

Ballincollig want to be a leading club in Cork and play competitive rugby and the club have given our squad their full backing.

“I got a great welcome and asked straight away what I felt we needed to get the team up to that high level. As the AIL team here, we’re the number one team in the club.

“It’s going to be a process. Obviously a number of the girls are very very young. We’ve been able to chat and agree where we want to go together as a group. We’ve about 10 weeks to get ready in pre-season and excited to see where we can go from September onwards.”

Fiona also welcome this week’s launch of the #NothingLikeIt movement.

“When I saw #NothingLikeIt, I knew what it meant.

“UL Bohs was always my club and I wasn’t sure what that would mean when I took on a new challenge with a new club in Cork.”

“Then last month, the bohs girls threw me a surprise gathering. It was really really special. Rugby is my life and even though I’ve moved on, those friendships are still there. That’s rugby.”

“We sat around and we talked about times gone by and it really showed me that those people will be there for the rest of my life.”

“People will move on and do different things but we all still talk and if anyone needs something we’ll be there. When I say there’s #nothinglikeit, there really isn’t. It’s the friend you make. Rugby is what binds people.”

 

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Furlong Ready To Fire In First Test

Tadhg Furlong made the number 3 jersey his own during the 2017 Test series. Now, facing the might of World champions South Africa, he remains a key cog for the British & Irish Lions.

The 28-year-old tighthead spoke to the media ahead of Saturday’s first Test in Cape Town.

ON THE BATTLE UP FRONT WITH SOUTH AFRICA:

It’s a huge challenge for us. It’s so ingrained in their DNA, that kind of scrum dominance, the maul dominance.

It’s a huge, huge challenge for the forward pack and the subs that get to play.

It’s one of the great things about playing a Test series in South Africa. The lads are hugely up for it. Who wouldn’t be?

ON ALUN WYN JONES’ INFLUENCE:

He brings presence. He hasn’t spoken a massive amount, but he has played so many games of rugby, over 150 Test caps.

He’s been around the game a long time, it’s his fourth Lions tour. He knows what it’s about, and his presence around the place has been a huge lift.

It’s some story to be fair to him, to do what he’s after doing (coming back from a dislocated shoulder). Fair dinkum to him.

ON SCRUMMAGING SO FAR DURING THE TOUR:

You’re coming up against a passionate crew that take pride in their work and their art at scrum time.

Yes, we’re not playing the Springboks, we’re playing the provincial teams or franchises. But they still take massive pride in their scrum and they’re still big men.

It’s been tough, it’s been a good workout for us and been a good challenge.

As I said, it’s trying to get on the same page very, very quickly and getting the feel of the scrum right really, would be a big thing for me. Because it does take time to create a bit of partnership.

ON THE SPRINGBOKS’ FRONT ROW:

You look at their squad, I know they had a few issues with Covid or self-isolation there. But you have the bones of a World Cup-winning front row.

We all know what they did at the World Cup (in 2019). They’ve some players that haven’t played against us in the ‘A’ game that will be coming back in.

They’re very, very dangerous operators.

ON THE BUILD-UP TO THE FIRST TEST:

It’s a Test match, we’re back to a full week’s prep which feels a lot more normal to all the players here.

We’ve just gotten on with our work. When it was time to switch off and enjoy each other’s company, we’ve done that too.

It’s ‘big boy’ rugby (this week), it’s top-end rugby. As a front five, it’s a very good barometer of where we’re at.

It’s on a big stage and you can feel it around the place. You can feel that it’s a big week and it has a lot of importance on it.

I think as rugby players, people generally rise to those occasions. Just that internal ‘want’ to win and do well.

ON PARTS OF HIS GAME HE’S WORKED ON:

I remember during lockdown there, there were a lot of Lions games on (television) and a lot of 2017 stuff on.

You kind of look back and think, ‘I’m not doing a whole lot in the game’. Working hard, yes, you’re kick-chasing, and working hard on the inside in defence.

But there’s a not whole much more going on other than set piece and trying to hit rucks hard. I’d like to think I’ve added a bit more to my game there.

I’m certainly not where I can be with some aspects of my game. But that’s part of being a rugby player, you’re always trying to push it on, drive on and get that little bit better.

ON WHAT IT MEANS TO BE PLAYING IN THE FIRST TEST:

I’ve been through a rough enough year with injury. I suppose there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Why are you doing it? You’re doing it to try go on a Lions tour and try to do something special as a group of players. That means a lot.

ON HIS IMPROVEMENTS SINCE HIS FIRST START FOR IRELAND AGAINST SOUTH AFRICA IN 2016:

At that point you’re probably a deer in the headlights a small bit, in terms of Test rugby and what it meant. I was probably fairly green.

And from a personal point of view as well. What was I? Around 23 or 24.

I suppose you obviously mature a lot as well as a person since then. I’d like to think I’ve developed a good bit since then.

ON HIS ‘SCRUM & BASS’ DJ SIDELINE WITH TOM CURRY:

Tom Curry found decks. They brought a lot of stuff over here for us just to keep us entertained, obviously with the hotel and that.

So Tom found decks and decided he wanted to be a DJ. I was just like look, ‘let’s have a go’. Bit of craic, try to learn a new skill or what have you.

It went terribly! And then we found out Josh Navidi – or ‘Navicii’ as we’re calling him – he actually is a DJ. He does a bit of DJing in clubs.

So we tried to learn a little bit off him. We’ve done a coffee morning, heavily helped by ‘Navicii’. And that’s about it.

We’re terrible. I wouldn’t be trying to sell any tickets anytime soon!

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‘I Took A Lot From 2017 And Used It As A Springboard’ – Henshaw

Four years on from having his tour cut short through injury, Robbie Henshaw is back to his best form this season to earn his first British & Irish Lions Test cap against South Africa.

ON GETTING HIS OPPORTUNITY IN THE FIRST TEST:

It feels great. I suppose I spoke (before) about the last Lions tour in 2017 being a massive learning for me personally, and I took a lot from it.

I’ve used it as a springboard to get it here, so yeah, it’s a great feeling being involved in the starting Test team.

It’s where you want to be as a player. Very exciting times for everyone. Obviously making the team is huge, but then you need to go out and back it up and perform.

There’s huge pressure and expectation on us to get the win. We’ve worked well during the week in training, we have the preparation done.

It’s about being mentally ready and emotionally ready for what’s to come. Everyone’s excited for the challenge ahead.

ON HIS EMOTIONS WHERE HEARING THAT HE WOULD START:

Obviously there’s nerves and then not knowing what was going to happen. Personally I wasn’t sure, with the quality of players here. Anyone could take the jersey.

It was a great feeling hearing my name. Just really looking forward to the challenge. It’s been a great tour to date. It’s building up nicely.

ON PLAYING IN THE CENTRE WITH ELLIOT DALY:

It’s a really exciting partnership with Elliot. His game knowledge and attacking skill-set are second to none in the game, he’s a top class player.

His defensive reads are also quality. I’ve only played with him probably twice or three times, throughout the last couple of tours.

It’s great to be partnered up with him. He’s a quality player. We roomed together in 2017 and played a bit together.

We do have a bit of craic together off the pitch and he’s a great lad. It’s building, it’s building nicely.

ON THE INTENSITY AND PHYSICALITY OF TRAINING:

We probably need that full buy-in from the full squad. It’s huge. To bring that intensity early on in the week, it really gets us ready for what’s to come on Saturday.

We did have a tough blowout on Monday and Tuesday, and hopefully that will have us primed and ready to rock on Saturday.

ON WHAT HE EXPECTS FROM THE SPRINGBOKS:

It’s going to be a huge test for us. I think they’re going to ramp up the intensity further.

They’ve got an extra game under their belts and they’ll probably be better again from what we saw when we played them a few weeks ago, the South Africa ‘A’ team.

They’ll be well up for it and there’ll be huge intensity to the game.

We’ve done a lot of contact work, we’ve had a lot of games down here against tough opposition and big men. There’ll be a big kicking battle as well, and big men running at us up front.

ON GETTING THE TEST SERIES UNDERWAY:

It feels great. It’s been a while, with Covid, etc. People not knowing what was on the horizon, whether it would happen or not.

It’s great to be finally here and to have everyone behind the scenes, management and people managing things just to get it over the line.

Everyone on tour and behind the scenes have put a lot of work to make this happen, so thank you to them.

ON GETTING BACK FIT AFTER HIS RECENT HAMSTRING INJURY:

I wasn’t too concerned. I knew from previous history with hamstrings that it wasn’t major. After a few days I was back up running and doing a lot of movement on it, so it was only very minor.

Thankfully that was okay. It was good to get the game in last week (against the Stormers) and to get a couple of weeks of training under the belt as well. So, all good.

ON PLAYING 12 OR 13 AGAINST SOUTH AFRICA:

I wouldn’t say there’s too much difference. It’s going to be a physical challenge wherever you play.
Both centres for the Springboks are very experienced and very physical.

So, I think we’ve a big challenge on our hands and one we’re really looking forward to. I’ve played Damian (de Allende) about five times already this year! Just within the PRO14.

It’s solely Lions versus South Africa tomorrow, it’s going to be a huge test. Obviously I’ll have a chat after with him as always – he’s a great player and a great guy.

ON GETTING TO THE STAGE OF WINNING A LIONS TEST CAP:

It’s huge for me, particularly following on from four years ago when my tour was ended prematurely (through injury).

It was definitely a big goal for me to try and achieve a starting spot. It’s great that the hard work put in on and off the pitch for the last four years has helped me get to this point.

I just need to go out and enjoy it, play my regular game, and hopefully be on the winning side. It’s a great moment for my family back home and all the messages of support have been great as well.

ON HIS IMPRESSIVE SEASON LEADING INTO THE LIONS TOUR:

It’s a great year, considering what’s went on. Coming in here, I just need to be myself and keep that momentum going.

I really enjoyed the Japan game, it was a real test. Then obviously a small bit of a setback (with the injury), but good to be back on my feet the last week, getting to play and get the minutes in.

Hopefully bounce into Saturday now. It’s going to be a tough battle up front, the battle of the gain-line will be huge as well.

We’ll have to dominate the gain-line in the centre and get good go-forward ball for the lads.

ON BUNDEE AKI’S SUPPORTIVE ROLE THIS WEEK:

He’s been great. I’ve been asking him to give me a hand wherever he can, just in training. He trained the house down on Tuesday and was unbelievable.

Just bringing that physicality that we’re going to expect from the Springboks.

He’s been brilliant off the pitch as well, just looking at video and helping me out where he can. Bundee’s been brilliant.

ON HIS FAMILY AND FRIENDS WATCHING ON FROM HOME:

I think there’s a gathering in Buccaneers Rugby Club. I think they have an outdoor set-up out the back.
There’s a good set-up there for all the (Lions) games, so everyone’s looking forward to that.

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Conan: I’m Enjoying It More And It’s Paid Dividends

Jack Conan will pack down at the base of the scrum for the British & Irish Lions’ first Test against South Africa on Saturday. We hear from the Wicklow man about what it means to wear the number 8 jersey for the Lions.

ON BEING NAMED IN THE TEAM:

It was absolutely fantastic to hear my name being called out. it’s one of those things, I think everyone just naturally doubts themselves.

It was an anxious time on Monday when he (Warren Gatland) was announcing the team, for everyone, and obviously myself included. Hearing my name being read out was surreal and something I’ll never forget.

ON THE PRESSURE TO HOLD ONTO THE STARTING JERSEY:

To be honest, I’ve not looked past this weekend. I’m obviously delighted to get the nod for this weekend. I’m not looking more forward than that.

It’s all about just putting in the performance now – kind of backing up what I’ve done the last few weeks, and making the most of the opportunity that the coaches have given me.

That’s been my mindset since the outset of the tour, to just grab every chance I’ve been given. I’ve been very fortunate that they’ve given us a massive opportunity at the weekend.

ON COMING BACK FROM INJURY:

I’ve come back a different player the last few months, after that injury, after kind of a few injuries. When I got back in, I’ve just been kind of taking it day by day and game by game.

I’ve been enjoying it more and I think it’s paid dividends. It shows in my performances that I’ve been playing better than I ever have been before. I’m very fortunate to be in the position I’m in.

There’s been a lot of ups and downs (the last two years). The road to here hasn’t always been easy but it’s definitely been worth it.

Obviously I had a bad (fractured foot) injury in 2019 at the World Cup and didn’t get to lay down the marker that I would have liked to in that campaign.

I didn’t get the chance to play until late August 2020 because of the pandemic and everything else. It was a bit of a disrupted route back into the game, and even since then I’ve had a few knocks and niggles and setbacks.

Thankfully the last few months, and hopefully the next few weeks will go all injury free and will help me play some good rugby.

ON WHAT WARREN GATLAND EXPECTS OF HIM:

I had a quick word on Tuesday morning. He just said, ‘don’t go into yourself, keep on doing what you’ve been doing, enjoy it, stay calm, stay relaxed’. And that’s kind of been my mindset the last while, the last few months, every time I’ve gotten an opportunity to play.

Just kind of stay in the moment and stay calm. To back myself. And even if I do go out and make a mistake, that these things happen and it’s just about getting on with the game.

It was nice to have those words echoed by ‘Gats’ earlier on in the week.

ON PLAYING WITH COURTNEY LAWES AND TOM CURRY IN THE BACK ROW:

We’ve bonded well as a back row. Not just myself and the two lads, but everyone who plays in a similar position. We’re out there helping each other every day to get better.

The South African lads have obviously played a good bit more together, but I don’t think that’s something that we’ll worry about or that it’s going to detract from our game.

Tom and Courtney have gone fantastically well in the few games that they’ve played. I’m excited to play with the two of them for the first time as a starting back row. We know what the two lads bring so it’s going to be very exciting.

ON PLAYING SOUTH AFRICA FOR THE FIRST TIME:

I don’t think we’re under any illusions about how difficult it’s going to be in the physicality that they bring. How much they pride themselves on their set piece, maul and scrum, the aerial battles.

Look, it’s going to be a massive challenge for everyone, myself included. I think it’s been a good taste the last few weeks, playing against the South African teams. But obviously it’s going to be a step up.

It’s just about going toe-to-toe with them and taking that strength away from them. I look forward to it.

ON ALUN WYN JONES’ RECOVERY AND RETURN AS CAPTAIN:

It’s not bad for an old fella, to be fair to him! The way I recover from things, I’d still be in a sling! Fair play to him, it’s a testament to how professional he is and how well he looks after himself.

I think any doubts anyone would have had were quickly put to bed when he came off the bench the other day against the Stormers, and the physical impact that he had straight off the bat.

So there’s no doubt that he’s just going to bring that again on the weekend. He’s a man that leads from the front – both with his actions and his words – so I think everyone’s excited to see what he brings.

ON THE BELIEF WITHIN THE LIONS CAMP:

The belief is high, the mood is great. Everyone’s in great form and I think everyone’s massively enjoyed the last few weeks. Enjoyed the company that we bring to each other.

It’s obviously a strange old time, but to be fair to everyone, there hasn’t been a single person that’s moaned or complained about it. Everyone just gets on with their job.

I think everyone’s enjoying the environment and it’s brought the best out in people. And I think that’s going to come to fruition on Saturday.

ON THE SIMILARITIES BETWEEN SOUTH AFRICA AND MUNSTER UNDER RASSIE ERASMUS AND JACQUES NIENABER:

The pragmatic style of rugby that they play is echoed from Munster into South Africa. I think Rassie, and even Johann van Graan who is there (at Munster) at the moment, it’s not too dissimilar the style that they want to play.

Obviously speaking to Murr (Conor Murray) and Tadhg (Beirne) about that style and their mindset is about as good an insight into it all.

We know how important set piece and the aerial battle is going to be. I think that’s the same when you’re playing Munster as playing South Africa as well.

ON SUPPORT FROM FAMILY AND FRIENDS BACK HOME:

I’m actually housing James Lowe and his missus for a few days in my house while, I don’t know whether he’s got kicked out of his house or he’s sold it and waiting to move into his new one!

So he’s staying at my house back in Carrickmines. My missus is going to watch with him and his girlfriend.

And then there’ll be a bit of a party, I imagine, in Bray with my parents and the rest of the family.

By the sounds of it, they have a few people coming over – with Covid protocols and socially distanced!

ON WHO HAS HELPED GET HIM TO PLAYING ‘THE BIGGEST GAME OF HIS LIFE’:

That’s a long old list. Firstly, my missus. To be fair to her, she’s probably had to put up with me in dark times and a lot of low moments. She’s always there with positive attitude and a smiling face.

She’s stood by me in a lot of tough times over the last three or four years. Between her and my family, obviously my mates.

The physios and all the S&C staff in Leinster have put so much time into me. They’ve had to stay patient, along with myself, with all the setbacks.

They’re the people in my head that I owe the most to. It means a lot to be here now and to look back and see all the hard work that they’ve put in, and how much they’ve helped me and how much I owe it to them.

The post Conan: I’m Enjoying It More And It’s Paid Dividends appeared first on Irish Rugby.

#NothingLikeIt – Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial Championship Fixtures Confirmed

Fixtures have been announced for the 2021 Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial Championship.

The format returns to a round-robin format over three weekends for this year. First up, on August 28th, reigning champions Leinster travel to the Sportsground to face Connacht in a repeat of the 2019 Championship decider. Kingspan Stadium will host Ulster’s home game against Munster on the same day.

Munster’s home tie is against Connacht at Musgrave Park while Leinster return to Energia Park to face Ulster in Round 2 on September 4th.

The Championship trophy will be lifted for the first time since 2019 on Saturday September 11th’s final round with Connacht hosting Ulster and Leinster welcoming Munster to Donnybrook.

IRFU Women’s Development Manager Amanda Greensmith commented:

“Preparations are in full swing across the provinces and we’re really looking forward to seeing the return of what is a blue riband event for Irish Rugby.

“There’s a full cohort of players who missed on the chance to represent their province last year. It’s a priority for us to get players back onto the performance pathway and on the back of the #NothingLikeIt launch and some additional plans in the works, we’re on our way to ensuring an all-time high for visibility of this event.”

Anne O’Leary, CEO of Vodafone Ireland commented:

‘Vodafone has been the proud sponsor of Irish Rugby since 2016 and our #TeamOfUs campaign is aimed at growing the game of rugby and promoting inclusion for all.  With that in mind we are delighted this year to support the Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial Championship. Everyone In!’

Saturday August 28th 2021 (Kick Off Times TBC)

Connacht v Leinster, The Sportsground, 14:30

Ulster v Munster, Kingspan Stadium, 17:00

Saturday September 4th 2021(Kick Off Times TBC)

Munster v Connacht, Musgrave Park, 14:30

Leinster v Ulster, Energia Park, 16:00

Saturday September 11th 2021(Kick Off Times TBC)

Connacht v Ulster, The Sportsground, 14:30

Leinster v Munster, Energia Park, 19:00

There are new coaching setups for all four provinces in 2021.

Neill Alcorn has been appointed Head Coach in Ulster, with former Ulster scrum-half, Paul Marshall taking up the Backs Coach role. Paul Heasley will be the Athletic Development Lead for the squad, while Emily Millar has been appointed Team Manager.

Click here for Ulster Women’s squad training gallery.

Munster Rugby Senior Women’s Head Coach for the campaign is Old Crescent and Crescent College Comprehensive coach Matt Brown. Former Ireland captain and current UL Bohs Women’s Head Coach Niamh Briggs is the Backs Coach with ex-Munster prop Mike Storey assuming the position of Forwards Coach. Munster Rugby Women’s Development Officer Willie Shubart is the side’s Technical Coach with UL Bohs forward Sara Hartigan taking the position of Team Manager having previously held that role with the U18s.

Click here for Extended Munster Senior Women’s Squad

In Leinster, Phil de Barra replaces outgoing head coach Ben Armstrong, and is joined for 2021 by forwards coach Tom McKeown, backs coach Stephen Maher and skills coach Ben Watson. Lorna Quinn and Marie Louise Reilly will look after team management.

Click here for 2021 Extended Leinster Women’s Rugby Squad

Former Sligo RFC Head Coach Ross Mannion has been appointed Head Coach of the Connacht Rugby Senior Women’s Team, accompanied by Lyndon Jones as Backs Coach.

Click here for Connacht Women’s Rugby Coaching & Management announcement.

Connacht Senior Women

Head Coach: Ross Mannion

Backs Coach: Lyndon Jones

Team Manager: Mark Moran

Leinster Senior Women

Head Coach: Phil De Barra

Assistant Coach: Tom McKeown

Team Manager: Lorna Quinn  Manager

Assistant Team Manager: Marie Louise Reilly

Munster Senior Women

Head Coach: Matt Brown

Forwards Coach: Mike Storey

Backs Coach: Niamh Briggs

Technical Coach: Willie Shubart

Team Manager: Sara Hartigan

Ulster Senior Women:

Head Coach: Neill Alcorn

Backs Coach: Paul Marshall

Team Manager: Emily Millar

Athletic Development Lead: Paul Heasley

The post #NothingLikeIt – Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial Championship Fixtures Confirmed appeared first on Irish Rugby.

Conan, Furlong And Henshaw Start For Lions First Test

British & Irish Lions Head Coach, Warren Gatland, has named his side for the first Test against the Springboks at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday 24 July (kick off 5pm BST). There are three Ireland players in the starting XV and two more in the replacements.

Robbie Henshaw is named in the centre, Tadhg Furlong starts in the front row and Jack Conan is named at 8.

Conor Murray and Tadhg Beirne are named in the replacements.

Tour captain Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys, Wales) will skipper the Lions having recovered from a dislocated shoulder sustained in the tourists 28-10 win over Japan at Murrayfield Stadium just 24 days ago.

In doing so, the Welsh lock will win his tenth-successive Test cap for the Lions in Cape Town, moving him into an illustrious list of Lions legends to have made 10 Test appearances or more, including Gareth Edwards (10), Graham Price (12), Mike Gibson (12) Dickie Jeeps (13) and Willie-John McBride (17). Jones is the first however to play 10 Tests for the famous touring side in the professional era.

Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales), Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England) and Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) make up the front row.

British & Irish Lions – Tadhg Furlong in action Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England) packs down on the blind side flank to win his third Lions test appearance, having won his previous two from the bench in the second and third Tests in New Zealand in 2017. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, England) is named on the open side, with Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) filling the No.8 shirt.

After impressing against the DHL Stormers last Saturday, scrum-half Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland) joins No.10 Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales) in the half back berths.

Henshaw (Leinster Rugby, Ireland), who made his comeback from a hamstring injury last weekend, partners Elliot Daly (Saracens, England) in midfield.

Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, England) wins his fourth Lions Test cap as he takes his spot on the wing opposite Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester Warriors, Scotland), with fellow Scot, Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs, Scotland), rounding off the side at fullback.

Athlone man Robbie Henshaw is pictured during a recent training session with the British & Irish Lions squad ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

“In my four Tours as a Lions coach, this was by far the hardest Test selection I have been involved in,” said Gatland.

“We couldn’t have asked for more from the players so far; they’ve all put their hands up and made picking a starting XV incredibly difficult. In truth, we would have been happy with any number of different combinations across the 23, however, we’re very pleased with the side we’ve settled on.

“We know what we’re coming up against on Saturday. It’s going to be an arm wrestle, there’s no doubt about it. We’ll need to front up physically and be ready to go from the first whistle. When we played SA ‘A’ last week we probably took a bit too long to get into the game, something we can’t afford to do that again this weekend.

“We need to make sure we play in the right areas of the field, not give them easy territory and take our chances when they come.

“While the stands will be empty in Cape Town Stadium, we know Lions fans from across the home nations will be cheering us on back home. We’ll do our best to get the win.”

The much-anticipated clash against the reigning World Champions is the first of three Tests matches in the Castle Lager Lions Series to be shown live and exclusively on Sky Sports

British & Ireland Lions v South Africa (Cape Town Stadium, Saturday, July 24, 5pm)

15. Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs, Scotland) #783
14. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, England) #816
13. Elliot Daly (Saracens, England) #822
12. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #824
11. Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester Warriors, Scotland) #841
10. Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales) #821
9. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland) #843
1. Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales) #842
2. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England) #851
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #818
4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, England) #825
5. Alun Wyn Jones – captain (Ospreys, Wales) #761
6. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England) #826
7. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, England) #853
8.Jack Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #839

Replacements:

16. Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales) #829
17. Rory Sutherland (Worcester Warriors, Scotland) #840
18. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, England) #814
19. Tadhg Beirne (Munster Rugby, Ireland) #838
20. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland) #847
21. Conor Murray (Munster Rugby, Ireland) #790
22. Owen Farrell (Saracens, England) #780
23. Liam Williams (Scarlets, Wales) #833

 

 

The post Conan, Furlong And Henshaw Start For Lions First Test appeared first on Irish Rugby.

#NothingLikeIt – Dolphin Dive Into Canterbury Give It A Try

Click here for a full list of participating Canterbury Give It A Try Clubs.

“Give It A Try is so important in getting that pathway going,” says Dolphin Women’s Team Manager Sorcha Healy.

“It’s not even just bringing in the players. Give It A Try brings in parents, volunteers and ex-players who are really interested in having their daughters play and being part of the community. We try to be really proactive in reaching out to every parent who shows an interest.

You can learn more about Dolphin RFC’s commitment to women’s rugby in the above video. #NothingLikeIt

The post #NothingLikeIt – Dolphin Dive Into Canterbury Give It A Try appeared first on Irish Rugby.

Give It A Try – There’s #NothingLikeIt

The Canterbury Give It A Try programme for girls aged 8-14 is kicking off at a club near you soon. For a summer of fun, friendship and learning new skills there’s #NothingLikeIt.

95 clubs all over Ireland are running a Give It A Try camp this summer – you can find the full list by clicking here.

Ireland international Dorothy Wall told IrishRugby.ie she’s been really impressed by how Canterbury Give It A Try is run in her native Fethard.

“For these girls to be having fun with their friends, for it to be inclusive and for them to be developing those skills at such a young age, is going to be so important for their growth.

“The next international team that you’re going to see are going to have that skill. I think that’s so exciting for the future of Women’s rugby in Ireland and just in general.”

The Canterbury Give It A Try programme is just the first in a long list of events that form part of the Women’s Rugby season calendar that was announced on Monday as part of the new #NothingLikeIt campaign to highlight the values of the game.

Speaking about the launch yesterday, Amanda Greensmith, IRFU Women’s Development Manager, said,

“I’m excited to see how we can develop Women’s Rugby at every level. With over 90 clubs offering young girls a chance to Give It A Try this summer it’s a wonderful opportunity for girls to try a new sport or develop their skills while they have fun with their friends.”

Canterbury Give It A Try – Find A Club near you – click here

#NothingLikeIt

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