Ireland

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.

Ireland's Payne forced to retire

The 32-year-old was hurt in a tour match against the Chiefs on June 20 and has been struggling with headache-related problems ever since.

Consequently, Payne – who earned 20 Ireland caps – will end his playing career and take up a role as defence coach with Ulster, the Pro14 side have confirmed.

"It's been a good ride but unfortunately every good thing has to come to an end," he told Ulster's official website.

"Playing rugby has taken me to places I never thought I'd see and allowed me to meet people I never thought I'd meet. 

Ireland claim historic grand slam

The Irish made light of sleet and biting wind and an England team desperate to avoid a third successive defeat as they deservedly led 21-5 at halftime with tries by Garry Ringrose, CJ Stander and the prolific Jacob Stockdale.

England, unbeaten at home in the Six Nations since 2012, managed tries by Elliot Daly in each half, but were unable to gain a foothold in the face of ferocious Irish defence.