...Trimble Enjoying Spell In Midfield...All Roads Lead To Athlone...France In Ireland's Sights...Say What?...Numbers Game...
TRIMBLE ENJOYING SPELL IN MIDFIELD: Although Saturday's Six Nations encounter with Wales will mark his 23rd cap, Andrew Trimble will only be starting his sixth game at centre for Ireland.
Moved into midfield after Gordon D'Arcy broke his arm last month against Italy, the Coleraine man has done admirably well in the position over the last two-and-a-half games.
Reflecting on his re-positioning and his role in the Irish squad, Trimble said: "Learning from the guys around me like Rog (Ronan O'Gara), Darce (Gordon D'Arcy) and Drico (Brian O'Driscoll), I've learnt a lot from them in the last couple of years.
"I think I've started to come through a bit more - it's not something I want to force. Just a little bit of flair, just a little bit more than what's probably expected from me. But at the same time I want to stick to what I do well.
"That's what my game's built upon - solid defence and straight running - and as much as I hate the sound of that, that's my strength.
"I'm athletic and powerful and that's something I enjoy doing. If I can build on that, that's great but certainly that's something where I want to put my main emphasis."
Trimble, who is in his fourth season with Ulster, will be up against two tough tacklers in Wales' Tom Shanklin and Gavin Henson this weekend.
Asked his opinions of the enigmatic Henson, he said: "Henson is defending extremely well at the minute. He reads the game very well - who is an option, who's a passing option, who's an offload option - he reads that very well and cuts down a lot of options for a back-line.
"We've got to look at that and say: 'if he's doing that, there's got to be weaknesses else and so on.' We'll wait and see how it goes.
"Certainly he's an exceptional player. If you just take him for what he is, he's a brilliant rugby player. Defensively, as I said, he's performing very well and we all know what he's like with ball in hand," added the 23-year-old, who has played twice previously against Wales in 2006 and 2007.
To listen to Andrew Trimble's interview in full, please click here.
ALL ROADS LEAD TO ATHLONE: The Ireland Under-20s face Wales at Dubarry Park in Athlone tomorrow night in the RBS U-20 Six Nations championship - with the action getting under way at 7.30pm.
This is a pivotal one in deciding the outcome of this season's championship. Defending champions Ireland have lost just one game, away to France, but are striving to retain their title and also keen to extend their winning sequence at the midlands stadium for another season.
Victories over Italy and Scotland keep Ireland in with a fighting chance of keeping their grip on the crown and they simply must win this game which is being covered live by RTE TV.
Coach Eric Elwood and manager Phil Orr watched a much improved showing by their side in the recent 17-12 win over the Scots and they will be hoping to further build on that performance.
Left winger Chris Cochrane is a most exciting player who creates a buzz amongst the crowd every time he runs the ball.
Eoin O'Malley and David Kearney are two other quality backs while Martin Dufficy is settling in to the out-half role, helped no doubt by the mentoring of Elwood.
In the pack, prop Paul Karayiannis has proved a rock to build on and lock James Sandford made the most of his chance when starting against Scotland.
Captain Paul Ryan leads by example for the compact, mobile PricewaterhouseCoopers-sponsored Ireland.
Wales were strongly fancied last season - Ireland upset their plans in the opening game - and they are going very nicely this year also.
Tickets for the game are on sale at the usual outlets for the final part of this trilogy of games, but tickets will also be on sale at the box office on match night.
However, it is advised to purchase stand tickets early. Family tickets admit two adults and two children to the terraces and are really the best value at only ?20 - discounted by five euro from last season!
Pre-match entertainment is again being provided by the Band of the Western Command under the baton of Cpt. Declan Whitson.
FRANCE IN IRELAND'S SIGHTS: Ireland could narrow the gap on sixth-placed France in the IRB World Rankings if they beat Wales this weekend in the Triple Crown decider at Croke Park.
A win for Eddie O'Sullivan's side, currently in seventh position on 78.81 rating points, would edge them closer to France as Les Bleus are unlikely to alter their rating with any margin of victory over Italy on Sunday.
This is because Italy, who have never beaten France since they joined the Six Nations in 2000, are ranked 11th and 8.48 rating points behind their hosts going into the Stade de France encounter.
Wales, who are currently eighth in the rankings, know that a victory over the Irish would not only secure the Triple Crown and improve their chances of a coveted Grand Slam, but also improve their ranking.
They are 1.54 rating points behind Ireland so a win for Warren Gatland's charges, regardless of the winning margin, should see them continue their climb in the rankings.
"He's a top coach and he was great coup for Wales. England were probably a bit silly to let him go. The thing with Shaun (Edwards) is that no matter how hard he's been on you, you have to realise that he's trying to make you better player.
"That's the key with working with him. If you're the kind of guy who doesn't react well to criticism, then you won't react well to Shaun.
"But he does try to make every player he works with better and I think that's his little secret really."
- Ireland scrum half Eoin Reddan on the coaching qualities of Shaun Edwards, his head coach at London Wasps, who has taken on a part-time role with Wales
"I think as an all-round player, I'm playing the best rugby of my career. I love scoring tries, at the end of the day it's my job. I'm seen as the team's striker.
"The record is at the back of my mind. I'm not worrying too much about it. I'll wait for it to come my way and take the chance.
"It's not a bad record to have though and it would be a honour to surpass Gareth Thomas, who is a great player, a great friend and a true legend."
- Wales winger Shane Williams on his current form and chasing Gareth Thomas' all-time Welsh try-scoring record of 40 tries. Williams is currently on 39
"I would say Wales' defence, unlike previous years, is a real strength...unfortunately! Opposition back-lines haven't got any time on the ball and they've really taken to that very well.
"The blitz defence, I know from Ulster our transition from turf wedge to blitz is very difficult to get your head around at the start and the Welsh taken to it extremely well.
"It's probably helped that the Ospreys do it now and again and I think Cardiff have done it occasionally as well.
"I don't know if that's something we'll look to exploit but I'm sure there's small areas of it we can look at."
- Ireland centre Andrew Trimble on the Welsh defensive system which has been altered this season by Wasps head coach Shaun Edwards
426 - The number of points Ronan O'Gara has scored in the Six Nations championships to date. The Ireland out-half is second on the all-time list behind England's Jonny Wilkinson (470) and ahead of retired Welsh number 10 Neil Jenkins (406)
2 - Two players in the Ireland starting line-up for Saturday's game made their debuts against Wales. Paul O'Connell scored on his debut in 2002 in the 54-10 victory over Wales, while his second row partner Donncha O'Callaghan made his international bow a year later in Ireland's 25-24 win in Cardiff
3 - Wales out-half Stephen Jones has scored six Test tries to date. Notably, his first three touchdowns were all against Ireland - in 2000, 2002 and 2003
The Ireland Under-18 and Under-19 squads had a busy Easter period with seven matches played in Ashbourne, Cardiff, Llanelli, Caerphilly and Bordeaux. Check out some of the tries scored. Full match reports are available on www.irishrugby.ie.
Speaking to RTE Radio rugby correspondent Michael Corcoran, Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt was asked about prioritising players playing in Ireland when it comes to national selection over those who are based overseas.
In an interview broadcast on RTE Radio 1's 'Sunday Sport' programme, Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt discussed the challenges and opportunities presented by the summer tour to the USA and Japan, and also looked ahead to next month's Rugby World Cup Pool Draw.
Speaking about working with the provinces and monitoring players' progress, Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt told RTE Radio 1: "For us, having the best quality of performance within the provinces, getting some really good coaching from the provincial coaches, which we know is happening at the moment, that's the foundation that we need because in the end we get the players in a match week pretty much."
In an interview with RTE Radio rugby correspondent Michael Corcoran, Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt confirmed that Girvan Dempsey, Felix Jones and Ronan O'Gara will be incorporated into the coaching group for the upcoming summer tour to the USA and Japan.
IRFU National Talent Development Manager Hendrik Kruger says the Easter age-grade internationals give the Ireland Under-18 and Under-19 players 'the chance to represent their country and experience international rugby' and are 'the highlight of their season'.
The Ireland Under-18 Clubs & Schools team (sponsored by PwC) played the England U-18 Counties side in the first of two matches at Ashbourne RFC this week. Check out the highlights from Wednesday's entertaining clash.
Four of our stadiums through the eyes of four Irish sporting legends. O'Driscoll on Aviva Stadium, Brogan on Croke Park, Matthews on Kingspan Stadium and O'Connell on Thomond Park. The world is invited #Ireland2023.
Irish Rugby TV caught up with flanker Sean O'Brien to get his reaction following Ireland's hard-earned 13-9 victory over RBS 6 Nations champions England. He singled out man-of-the-match Peter O'Mahony for special praise.
Peter O'Mahony reflects on what went wrong for Ireland in Cardiff and tells Irish Rugby TV that he is focusing on the squad and their work this week ahead of the final Six Nations game against England.
The Ireland squad paid a visit to Monaghan last week and held an open training session in Monaghan RFC. We spoke to Andrew Trimble after the session which was attended by over 2,000 cheering supporters.