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Rugby World Cup 2015A popular topic of debate heading into the Rugby World Cup is that of eligibility, particularly that resulting from the residency method. We take a look at the foreign-born players in each squad, where they were born and how they are eligible.

An interesting fact – only Argentina can claim that all 31 players in their squad are native to their country. The other 19 teams all have players born abroad, including significant numbers in some of rugby’s most powerful nations.

All told, Rugby World Cup 2015 will have a grand total of 33 countries involved in the tournament. Players born in various African countries –  Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and Zimbabwe join the participating Namibia and South Africa. Zimbabwe has players representing 4 countries, more than any other non-competitor.

Spain is another country not present at the Rugby World Cup who have players representing multiple countries while other countries include Belgium, Israel, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, and the Netherlands are also all represented.

Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa lead the way in terms of players representing others at the Rugby World Cup.

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World RugbySouth Africa moved up to 3rd place in the World Rankings without even kicking a ball.

It means the Springboks have climbed 2 places in the World Rankings since their last match – a win over Argentina in Buenos Aires, last month.

Their rise, despite the team’s inactivity, is the result of Ireland’s dramatic slump – the men from the Emerald Isle having lost to Wales (10 / 16) and England (13 / 21) in the past fortnight.

As a result, Rugby Championship heavyweights New Zealand, Australia and South Africa will go into the Rugby World Cup as the Top 3 nations in the rankings.

Ireland’s rating fell by 0.79 points and resulted in a 3-place drop to 6 for the Six Nations Champions, placing them below the Springboks.

England gained the same amount of points to leapfrog their Pool A opponents Wales into 4th.

Long-time leaders New Zealand remain untouchable – for a fortnight at least – on 92.89 points, with Australia 6.22 points behind in 2nd and South Africa a further 1.52 points back in 3rd.

Australia were unable to make up any ground on their arch rivals, despite being the only one of the 3 in action over the weekend.

Their 47 / 10 win over the USA Eagles in Chicago did not come with any ratings points, given the double-figure difference in rankings positions and rating points between the nations.

Serious injuries to star fullback Leigh Halfpenny and scrumhalf Rhys Webb, made it a day to forget for Wales, who scraped home 23 / 19 against Italy at the Millennium Stadium.

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IrelandIreland have left out prop Cian Healy and fullback Rob Kearney from the side to play England in their final World Cup warm-up match.

The 2 sides will go head-to-head at Twickenham on Saturday.

Joe Schmidt, the Ireland coach, has decided to give Healy more time to recover following the loosehead’s long-standing neck problems.

Healy only returned to full training this week, following neck surgery in May, and at one stage, was doubtful even to make Ireland’s final 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup.

Jack McGrath starts in his place.

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World RugbyAs the Rugby World Cup looms, the Springboks this week remain 4th on World Rugby’s official rankings.

Heyneke Meyer’s charges currently boast 85.15 ratings points, trailing Ireland Australia and New Zealand.

Ireland’s 16 / 10 home loss to Wales at the weekend saw them slip to 3rd, with Australia moving into 2nd spot.

Ireland’s defeat cost them 1.7 ratings points, leaving them on 85.19 points, 1.48 adrift of the Wallabies.

The All Blacks (92.89) remain comfortably atop the rankings – a position they have occupied since November 2009.

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IrelandIreland’s 2014 Player of the Year Andrew Trimble has been omitted from coach Joe Schmidt’s 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup, announced on Tuesday.

The 30-year-old had missed this years’ Six Nations through injury but had returned to action this year and was available for the global showpiece.

Trimble has played just once for Ireland in the past 12 months, in a 35 / 12 victory over Wales in a World Cup warm-up match on 8 August, but a flare-up of his toe injury meant he played only 33 minutes of that game.

Wings Keith Earls and Luke Fitzgerald, who were injured during Saturday’s Dublin defeat by Wales, are included the squad.

Trimble, Gordan D’Arcy, Kieran Marmion were notably the most high profile players to miss out on the plane.

D’Arcy’s omission could signal the end of his illustrious international career.

The squad is made up of 17 Forwards and 14 Backs and will be captained by Paul O’Connell who is the most capped player in the Ireland group with 103 caps.

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Joe Schmidt & Warren Gatland

Joe Schmidt (left) and Warren Gatland

Wales coach Warren Gatland has revealed he and Ireland counterpart Joe Schmidt discussed team selection before naming their sides for Saturday’s World Cup warm-up match in Cardiff.

Gatland has handed debuts to four players in an experimental Welsh side.

Wales host Ireland on Saturday, before playing them in Dublin on 29 August and hosting Italy on 5 September.

“Joe rang me last week to talk about what we were looking at in the squad,” Gatland said.

“I said we were going to have a mixed squad with an opportunity for some younger players.

“He sort of indicated that they were probably going to do the same thing.

“I think they will experiment with the squad too.”

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Scott Williams

Scott Williams

Scott Williams will captain Wales against Ireland on Saturday, leading a team that contains 4 uncapped players.

The Scarlets centre will become Wales’ 131st captain on his 30th Test appearance and will be joined in the centre by uncapped Tyler Morgan.

Ross Moriarty, a double Under 20 World Cup-winner with England, was 1 of 4 uncapped players selected by Wales to face Ireland in this World Cup warm-up match in Cardiff.

The Gloucester flank, 21, was joined by wing Eli Walker, centre Tyler Morgan and lock Dominic Day in the team announced by head coach Warren Gatland on Tuesday.

The fixture at the Millennium Stadium follows intensive training camps in Switzerland and Qatar and is the 1st of 3 warm-up games building up to Wales’s opening World Cup game against Uruguay on 20 September.

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Joe Schmidt

Joe Schmidt

Joe Schmidt has signed a contract extension that will see the New Zealander remain as head coach of Ireland until at least June 2017, the Irish Rugby Football Union announced on Wednesday.

Schmidt was appointed to the job in 2013 and Ireland have since won back-to-back Six Nations titles, as well as climbing to 3rd place in rugby union’s official world rankings.

The 49-year-old also oversaw wins against South Africa and Australia last season and came within a last-minute score of beating his native New Zealand in 2013 – something no Ireland side has managed in more than a hundred years of trying.

In all, Ireland have won 14 of their 18 Tests under Schmidt and their form has made them 1 of Europe’s standard-bearers at this year’s World Cup in England, which starts in September.

Anything less than a semi-final spot – something Ireland have yet to achieve at a World Cup – would be regarded as a disappointment for an Ireland side whose pool also features France, Italy, Canada and Romania.

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Jamie Hagen

Jamie Hagen

The Melbourne Rebels have signed Irish international prop Jamie Hagan for 2 Super Rugby seasons.

Hagan, 28, a tighthead prop who has made more than 100 appearances for Leinster, Connacht and London Irish, made his full international debut for Ireland against the United States of America in 2013.

Hagan becomes only the 2nd fully capped Irish international to sign for an Australian Super Rugby team, after front-rower Peter Clohessy spent the 1997 season with the Reds.

Hagan said he was looking forward to testing himself in the Southern Hemisphere’s renowned provincial competition.

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Rugby World Cup 2023France, Ireland, Italy and South Africa have been confirmed as the 4 nations who will bid for the right to stage the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

The quartet all submitted formal expressions of interest before last month’s deadline.

A decision on which country will stage the 2023 Rugby World Cup will be made in May 2017 after a tender deadline in June next year.

South Africa staged the World Cup in 1995, when the Springboks won the tournament on home soil, while France played host to the 2007 edition.

However, neither Ireland nor Italy, 2 of Europe’s elite Six Nations along with France, have been the main hosts of a World Cup.

“The candidate hosts now have a year to benefit from detailed knowledge-sharing and preparation, including digesting the detailed tender requirements and observing World Cup 2015 hosting, before the confirmation to tender deadline of June 2016,” said World Cup tournament director Alan Gilpin in a statement.

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Shane Jennings

Shane Jennings

Leinster’s Shane Jennings will captain the Barbarians against Ireland at Thomond Park on Thursday.

The Leinster and Ireland flank retires from the professional game in June after a distinguished career in which he has won 13 caps for Ireland, Pro12 and European Cup titles for Leinster and a Premiership title with Leicester Tigers.

He captains a starting side containing 9 different nationalities with 466 international appearances between them for the game in Limerick on 28 May.

It includes his Leinster teammates Zane Kirchner and Jimmy Gopperth with Ulster scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar also starting for the famous invitation club celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.

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Gordon D'Arcy

Gordon D’Arcy

Irish centre Gordon D’Arcy has called time on his illustrious career, making himself available for the World Cup 1 last time.

In a statement released personally by D’Arcy he said he will leave rugby entirely from October this year.

D’Arcy was a promising fullback for schools side Clongowes Wood in the late 1990’s, and on the eve of his Leaving Certificate was called into the Irish squad for the tour of South Africa by coach Warren Gatland.

However, because of his studies he declined the opportunity.

On leaving school he joined the Lansdowne Football Club and made his Ireland debut on 15 October 1999 as a substitute against Romania during the World Cup.

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Declan Fitzpatrick

Declan Fitzpatrick

Ulster and Ireland prop Declan Fitzpatrick, who played in the 2012 European Cup Final at Twickenham Stadium, has been forced to retire on medical grounds.

The 31-year-old, who counted 27 European Cup ties in the 98 games he played for Ulster, experienced a number of concussion episodes in recent seasons.

His symptoms were progressively slower to resolve and he was referred to a leading neurologist by the medical team at Ulster.

Following tests it was recommended that it would be in the best long-term interests of the player who won 7 international caps, and played 9 times for the Ireland Wolfhounds (B-Team), to stop playing altogether.

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SIX-NationsSomewhere, shaking his cauliflower ears in dismay, a grizzled old retired prop was probably secretly wishing someone would just stick the ball up his jumper and make a cautious 3 inches.

For everyone else watching this was surely the most thrilling day that 5 or 6 Nations rugby has seen: a fantasy finale, a chest-squeezer and knee-knocker, a day to fall back in love.

There are the stats: 221 points scored across the 3 matches, the most in a single weekend – 27 tries, run in from deep and wide and everywhere in between.

There was England’s record score against France, Ireland’s biggest away win, the most tries Wales have scored in 1 championship half.

Then there was the style. This was rugby we thought had died and been laid to rest, killed by detailed analysis and the professional urge to be sensible.

Sensible? This was glorious chaos, March madness to put a spring in every watcher’s step and an ulcer in the stomach of every defence coach.

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Ireland ruthlessly wore down Scotland in a commanding 40 / 10 victory at Murrayfield on Saturday to win the Six Nations title on points difference from England.

England needed to beat France by 26 points at Twickenham in the final game of the tournament but only managed a 55 / 35 victory to leave Ireland as champions.

“It’s going to be the death of me, it was pretty tough viewing but all of this makes it worth while. The people that have stayed here represent a fantastic support base that we have,” Ireland coach Joe Schmidt told Irish television.

“We were only just glued together towards the end there because the English really put the pressure on, I’d certainly sympathise with them a little bit. I though their performance today was superb.

“Thankfully France rebounded each time England did get a bit of a differential and that allowed us to hang in and hang on to the silverwear,” Schmidt added.

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SIX NationsIt should be a 3-way fight between England, Ireland and Wales for the Six Nations title on Saturday, although France still have an outside chance.

The Top 3 are locked on 6 Points with 3 wins apiece, while England’s points difference of +37 puts them 1st, ahead of Ireland’s +33 and Wales’ +12.

France are 4th with 4 Points and a points difference of +22.

Philippe Saint-Andre’s side could still steal the title if Wales and Ireland lose and Les Bleus then beat England by a margin of 8 points or more, but it looks a remote possibility.

If teams are level on points, and match-points difference, then England are likely to win the Championship on tries scored, having crossed 11 times to Ireland’s 4 and Wales’ 5. In the highly unlikely event this was also level come Saturday night, the trophy would be shared.

Wales are in action 1st away to Italy in Rome (14:30 SA Time, 12:30 GMT), before Ireland take on Scotland at Murrayfield (16:30 SA Time, 14:30 GMT), ahead of England’s home match against France at Twickenham (19:00 SA Time, 17:00 GMT).

With the Six Nations wide open, we assess the 4 teams’ chances.

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WalesA resilient Wales side withstood a 2nd half battering to blow the RBS 6 Nations wide open and end holders Ireland’s grand slam hopes with a 23 / 16 victory on Saturday.

After an opening home defeat by England, Wales have hit back with 3 successive wins and by defeating previously undefeated Ireland they have a shot at the title, heading into the final round next week.

Despite losing both props to injury in the 1st half, Wales wobbled but did not wilt in the face of fierce Irish pressure and even a late Penalty Try, which set up a grandstand finale proved insufficient.

“An absolutely unbelievable effort,” Sam Warburton, captaining Wales for a record 34th time, said.

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Danie Poolman

Danie Poolman

Connacht and the Irish Rugby Football Union revealed that 25-year-old back Danie Poolman has signed a new deal that will keep him at the Sportsground until at least 2017.

Poolman joined Connacht in 2012 from South African franchise the Stormers and since then the former Paul Roos schoolboy from Pretoria has established himself as a key component in Connacht’s backline.

Poolman’s attacking prowess has come to the fore again this season with seven tries making him the province’s top try scorer so far this season.

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Ireland’s victory over England in the Six Nations means they are once again the leading northern hemisphere nation in the latest World Rankings.

Ireland reclaimed the mantle after a 19 / 9 victory, in the battle of the unbeaten sides in Dublin on Sunday.

The victory turns what was a 0.17 rating point deficit into a 1.27 cushion for Ireland over the 2015 World Cup hosts. Joe Schmidt’s side are now less than 2 rating points behind South Africa in 2nd spot.

Wales have increased their margin over France to almost 4 points after a 20 / 13 victory over Les Bleus at the Stade de France on Saturday, although the margin was not enough to improve their position of 6th.

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IrelandIreland have called in loose forward Roger Wilson and lock Billy Holland to their training squad ahead of the game against England at the Aviva Stadium.

The Ulster and Munster players complete Joe Schmidt’s 36-man group that will prepare for Sunday’s critical Six Nations Championship showdown in Dublin.

Only prop James Cronin, flank Robbie Diack, scrumhalf Kieran Marmion and prop Nathan White are unavailable due to injury as Ireland prepare for Sunday.

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Jamie Heaslip

Jamie Heaslip

Irish No 8 Jamie Heaslip has 3 fractured vertebrae and will miss at least 4 weeks including the potential Grand Slam decider between Six Nations champions Ireland and England in a fortnight it was announced by the IRFU on Monday.

The 31-year-old British and Irish Lions star suffered the injury after being kneed in the back by France lock Pascal Pape in Ireland’s 18 / 11 victory over the French on Saturday.

“Scans have revealed fractures of the transverse process of 3 vertebrae in Jamie’s back,” read a statement from the Irish Rugby Football Union.

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Jonathan Sexton

Jonathan Sexton

Ireland flyhalf Jonathan Sexton will play his first game in 12 weeks, after coach Joe Schmidt took a gamble to start him in the defending champion’s Six Nations clash with France at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.

The 29-year-old – who has not played since the victory over Australia on 22 November after suffering a third concussion in a calendar year – replaces Ian Keatley, who played in the opening 26 / 3 victory over Italy last Saturday.

Fellow veterans, No 8 Jamie Heaslip and flank Sean O’Brien, also return to the starting fifteen – the former after recovering from shoulder and knee injuries and the latter will play his first Test since the heroic loss to world champions New Zealand in November 2013.

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FranceProp Eddy Ben Arous’s inclusion in place of injured Alexandre Menini is France’s only change from the win over Scotland for Saturday’s Six Nations game against Ireland in Dublin.

Menini was replaced by Racing Metro’s Ben Arous early in the second half in Saturday’s game in Paris after sustaining a foot injury.

Ben Arous, 24, will be making his 1st start after winning 2 previous caps.

Camille Lopez’s 5 penalties helped France edge out Scotland 15 / 8.

With Brice Dulin still hampered by an arm injury, Scott Spedding will again start at fullback.

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World RugbyA strong second half saw Rugby World Cup 2015 hosts England storm back to beat Wales 21 / 16 in their Six Nations opener in Cardiff, a result which lifted them above Ireland back to 3rd in the latest World Rugby rankings.

According to the World Rugby (previously IRB), the victory sees England regain the mantle as the leading northern hemisphere nation in the rankings behind New Zealand and South Africa and they now sit 0.35 points above Ireland after their 26 / 3 victory over Italy in Rome had no impact due to the 11 places separating the teams.

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SIX Nations 2015 Launch

The World Cup countdown is officially on, as the Six Nations sides get the first opportunity in the spotlight.

xThe Northern Hemisphere teams will look to sharpen up on their game plans, test out combinations and look to see who to cut from their World Cup plans.

With England hosting the global showpiece this year, the onus is on the Northern Hemisphere sides to fully challenge and grab the opportunity of a World Cup on their turf.

The conditions, referees and schedule seems to favour them.

The Six Nations in 2014 saw a tournament only decided on the final day – with three teams still able to win it. Eventually Ireland won it, a perfect swan song for arguably the greatest No.13 in the modern era – Brian O’Driscoll.

England won the triple crown, beating all the other Home Nations, but failed to win the Six Nations. Italy was also in the record books for the most tackles in a Test match as they made 208!

What do we expect in the 2015 edition of the Six Nations?

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IrelandSix Nations champions Ireland on Sunday trimmed their squad to 38 players for the opening two games against Italy and France.

Joe Schmidt’s side open their campaign in Rome on Saturday, before hosting France in Dublin the following weekend.

“Jack Conan and Michael Bent did well (on Friday night for the Wolfhounds) against the Saxons but will return to Leinster, as will Noel Reid who was restricted to a brief cameo as he was covering a number of positions,” said Schmidt.

“Rob Herring returns to Ulster and will look forward to having an opportunity for further game-time.

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IrelandLeinster loose forward Jack Conan and Connacht prop Nathan White were the only uncapped players picked in Ireland’s 46-man training squad for the Six Nations on Thursday.

Conan has impressed for his region in the absence of the injured Sean O’Brien and the rested Jamie Heaslip.

The New Zealand-born White was set to become Ireland’s fourth-oldest debutant at 33 in the November tests, but ruptured an arm tendon in camp. He’s expected to make his comeback to action on Saturday for his province in the European Challenge Cup.

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Rugby World Cup 2015 - EnglandThe Wales squad will face temperatures ranging from 42 degrees to minus 150 degrees, will sleep in normobaric hypoxic chambers and will train in surroundings ranging from the deserts of Qatar to the peaks of the Swiss Alps as part of their gruelling preparation for next year’s Rugby World Cup.

Wales’ full schedule for 2015 will see Warren Gatland’s squad undergo intensive training camps in Switzerland, Qatar and Poland as well as face home and away ties against Ireland before concluding their preparations against Italy at the Millennium Stadium.

The rigorous schedule has left no stone unturned in order to ensure Wales arrive at the world’s showpiece tournament in peak condition with leading facilities at home in Wales and across the world utilized.

The programme is the culmination of months of research and planning and WRU head of physical performance, Adam Beard, who also designed the 2011 schedule, is delighted to formally announce the squad’s plans.

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IrelandBoth parts of Ireland have united to bid for the World Cup in 2023, promising on Friday to rally Catholics and Protestants behind the event.

The Irish Rugby Football Union made the announcement alongside leaders of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom where only the Protestant majority plays rugby.

Underscoring the all-Ireland appeal of their plans, they spoke at a mainly Protestant school in the Northern Ireland city of Armagh, the ecclesiastical capital of the island.

World Rugby plans to unveil the winner in mid-2017, with South Africa considered the early favourite.

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End Of Year ToursOnce again the four Rugby Championship teams have been and gone but this time they did not have it all their own way on their annual visit to the British Isles as it ended five wins apiece from the 10 Tests.

Ireland beat both South Africa and Australia, Wales downed the former and England the latter, and Scotland defeated Argentina.

Admittedly, the Pumas are not part of rugby union’s traditional southern hemisphere big three, and the incomparable All Blacks sailed through their Tests unbeaten, but even discounting the Scottish win over Argentina the matches against the three giants from the south only ended 5-4 to the visitors.

Former England and Lions great Jeremy Guscott has been out and about  during November and here he selects a XV for both the home nations and the Rugby Championship sides.

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All BlacksReigning champions New Zealand remained the team to beat less than a year out from the World Cup in England after yet another successful November campaign in Europe.

There’s nothing new in the All Blacks being the yardstick for the global game and their rivals will take some comfort in knowing New Zealand have yet to win the World Cup on foreign soil.

So the fact they were pushed close by both England (24-21) and Wales (34-16) this month before emerging victorious won’t have done the All Blacks any harm, nor will the success of a virtual second-choice side in preserving their unbeaten record against Scotland.

However, all these matches demonstrated how no team goes for the full 80 minutes quite like New Zealand, who have enviable depth.

England found themselves needing two scores in the closing stages against the All Blacks and managed one while Wales conceded 24 points in the final 17 minutes.

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Chris Henry

Chris Henry

Ireland flank Chris Henry has had an operation to repair a defect on his heart wall after a temporary blockage was discovered in a small blood vessel in his brain.

The defect was found to be related to the blockage, which was discovered before Ireland’s victory over South Africa on 8 November.

Henry was withdrawn from the starting lineup on the morning of the South Africa match with a suspected viral illness that was initially diagnosed as a severe migraine.

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