Injured O'Brien ruled out of RWC

O'Brien did not feature for Leinster as they defeat Glasgow Warriors on Saturday to clinch the Pro14 title, although he did lift the trophy in his final match for the club.

The 32-year-old has agreed a deal to join newly promoted London Irish in the Premiership following the World Cup.

But O'Brien will not be involved in the tournament in Japan, Leinster revealed on Sunday, as he requires an operation to fix his hip.

Ireland keep title hopes alive after demolishing France

After misfiring in an opening loss to England, and stuttering wins over Italy and Scotland, the defending champions completely overwhelmed the French, with tries from Rory Best, Johnny Sexton and Jack Conan opening up a 19-0 halftime lead.   

The bonus point was secured just before the hour, when Keith Earls's 30th international try made him Ireland's joint second-highest tryscorer.

The winning margin would likely have been a record over France, were it not for late tries from Yoann Huget and Camille Chat.   

Manu Tuilagi starts in Six Nations opener

The 27-year-old, who has suffered a string of injuries over the past few seasons, starts at 12 in the absence of injured Ben Te'o.

Elliot Daly is preferred at full-back to Mike Brown, who is left out of the 23-strong matchday squad.

George Kruis partners fellow Saracen Maro Itoje in the second row.

Owen Farrell starts at fly-half, with Henry Slade partnering Tuilagi in midfield and George Ford on the bench, while flankers Tom Curry and Mark Wilson make their first Six Nations appearances.

Ireland star Jacob Stockdale says teams no longer fear NZ

The 22-year-old scored the only try in Ireland's historic 16-9 win over the All Blacks in Dublin last month, when he re-gathered his own kick and fended off several defenders to score in the 49th minute.

The seven-point win was Ireland's second-ever against the All Blacks, but the first on home soil in front of a sold-out Aviva Stadium. The other was at Soldier Field in Chicago two years ago, when the Irish won 40-29.

After the latest win, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said the Irish should be the favourites to win the World Cup.

Ireland dominates World Rugby awards after stellar year

The world number two side won 11 of their 12 tests in 2018, including winning the Grand Slam by going undefeated in the Six Nations and beating the All Blacks for the first time on home soil.

Coach Joe Schmidt, who is set to confirm on Tuesday he'll step down after the World Cup, won coach of the year while the World Rugby Team of the Year also went to Ireland.

They capped off the night with first-five Johnny Sexton beating out All Blacks duo Beauden and Rieko Ioane, along with South African pair Faf de Klerk, and Malcolm Marx for the award. 

Loss to Ireland will be useful for All Blacks

Ireland beat the All Blacks for the first at home, with a 16-9 win in Dublin yesterday morning.

In a low-scoring game, Ireland produced a classic try and kept New Zealand try-less for the first time in more than four years.

Hansen said the players were gutted with the result.

"You don't win as many rugby matches as this All Black team has and then when you get beaten it hurts. So it's very quiet, sombre, people are gutted and that's the way it should be. That's how you should feel when you get beaten," said Hansen.

Rugby: 'If we win we're not top dog' - Ireland

Ireland assistant Andy Farrell insists New Zealand will still be "top of the tree" even if Ireland beat the All Blacks in their Test showdown this week.

The All Blacks will retain the world number one ranking even if world number two Ireland win, though Hansen insists Sunday morning's winner should be viewed as top dog.

But Farrell believes the All Blacks are the best.

"This is a side that has been top of the tree for nine years, and let's be fair, it's been longer than that really," he said about New Zealand.

"There's only one team that is top of the tree.

Hooper relishing Sydney showdown

Six Nations champions Ireland beat the Wallabies 26-21 in Melbourne last weekend to level the series at 1-1.

Australia can replace Wales in third spot in the rankings if they defeat Joe Schmidt's side in the final Test at Allianz Stadium before it is demolished and rebuilt next year.

Captain Hooper is desperate to get his hands on the Lansdowne Trophy after what promises to be a gripping showdown.

"It's certainly a big game. It's going to be a great game. We've talked it up as a grand final. There's a trophy on the line," Hooper said.

Ireland end long wait in Australia

Joe Schmidt's men were beaten 18-9 in last weekend's opening clash but, with Johnny Sexton back in the side as one of eight changes, Ireland controlled proceedings for long spells at AAMI Park.

The Wallabies outscored their visitors by three tries to two but it was the boot of Sexton that proved the difference as the hosts' discipline let them down - the Irish number 10 kicked 16 points to put Ireland out of reach.

Australia took an early lead when Kurtley Beale found a gap to touch down under the posts inside two minutes.

Timu, Paenga-Amosa handed Test debuts

The Reds pair have been named at hooker and No. 8, respectively, with Pete Samu also set to make his debut from the bench.

Timu's inclusion pushes David Pocock to blindside flanker, with captain Michael Hooper to start at openside.

Izack Rodda will pack down alongside Adam Coleman in the second row, with Sekope Kepu earning the nod over Taniela Tupou at tighthead prop.