10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
SHEAHAN "GOOD TO GO": Munster and Ireland hooker Frankie Sheahan is back fighting fit and ready to play his first Heineken Cup game since last October, when he sustained a serious neck injury against Sale Sharks.
The 30-year-old is six games short of making his 50th appearance in the competition, and is itching for his European return.
Speaking at this week's Heineken Cup launch in Cork, Sheahan said: "The recovery's been excellent - my neck is probably stronger than it was ever before. I worked very hard on the rehab, and played the first four games of the season. Unfortunately my hamstring pulled up so I missed the Ulster game last week - but I'm good to go again."
Sunday, October 22 will see reigning champions Munster visit Welford Road to take on Leicester Tigers for a match which will rekindle memories of the men in red's 2003 victory at the venue.
"It's going to be an extremely difficult task to play Leicester away in the first game on Sunday two weeks. But there's a good squad here and I think the fact that we won it last year will hopefully give us the bit of belief to go on and win it again," added Sheahan, who has scored eight tries in the past six seasons of the tournament.
ONE FOOT IN THE CRYOTHERAPY CHAMBER: The Ireland squad's pre-season trip to the Cryotherapy chambers in Spala holds many memories, and Dr. Liam Hennessy and Isaac Boss have given a little insight into what is like to answer Ireland's Call in temperatures of -120 degrees celsius.
Dr. Hennessy, the IRFU's Director of Fitness, reported that the Irish players got through two-and-a-half week's worth of training in the space of one week in Poland. And it turns out they had a constant companion throughout their visit, even in the dreaded chambers!
Dr. Hennessy said: "Our Polish translator is 90 years of age and the guys get a great buzz off him because he is with us for the whole time and even comes into the Cryotherapy chamber with us.
"The lads get a good kick out of it and it's not only about improving their physical strength, it is also to do with bonding the players together."
The Irish squad have been using the facilities in Spala, which include a track and field complex, an indoor arena, a rugby pitch, swimming pools, weight lifting rooms and the famous Cryotherapy chambers, since 2000.
For Ulster scrum half Boss, who made his Ireland debut on the 2006 summer tour, the Polish trip was a new but rewarding experience.
Describing the what it was like in a chamber, he said: "It doesn't feel as cold as it sounds. You are only in the chamber for three minutes and don't have a chill factor with wind.
"We wear woolly socks with clogs and a head band, a mask, gloves and a pair of trunks. You come out and your hair has got icicles on it and frost patches but it is not too bad. We sit there and play word association games."
ACROSS THE WATER - TRY-TIME FOR THE IRISH: The past few days have seen plenty of Irish players scoring for their English clubs.
...Four Irish players got on the scoresheet in Leicester Tigers' 41-17 dismissal of the Dragons in the EDF Energy Cup last Saturday.
Naas youngster Johnny Murphy (1 try), Ireland 'A' captain Shane Jennings (1 try), former Ireland out-half Paul Burke (3 conversions and 2 penalties) and Ireland Sevens international Ian Humphreys (1 try and 2 conversions) all figured prominently. It was full-back Murphy's first try in only his second senior appearance for the club.
Ireland lock Leo Cullen and former Munster scrum half Frank Murphy were also involved in the Welford Road win. The only member of the Tigers' Irish contingent to miss the match was Ireland and Lions full-back Geordan Murphy, who is recovering from an early season injury...
...Brian Tuohy opened his try account for Rotherham Earth Titans in emphatic style last Saturday, scoring three times as Andre Bester's men demolished Waterloo 66-17 in England's National Division 1.
Tuohy and his fellow Ireland Sevens international Michael McComish, a noted number eight, both touched down with former Ireland Under-21 captain Gareth Steenson kicking six conversions out of seven.
Tuohy, who operated on the right wing and at outside centre, has recently moved in with his former Shannon team-mate Nigel Conroy in Rotherham...
...Ireland 'A' lock Damien Browne and former Ulster centre Seamus Mallon scored a try apiece as the Northampton Wanderers, the Guinness Premiership club's second team, claimed a 24-6 victory over the NSW Waratahs Development side on Monday night...
HENDO "TRHS BIEN" IN TOULON: Former Munster, Ireland and Lions centre Rob Henderson has settled in just fine with his new club RC Toulon.
The 33-year-old has played three times for the French side in the Pro Division 2 championship so far, adding a try to boot. Hendo touched down in Toulon's 32-12 win over Colomiers on September 16, and despite complaining of a thigh injury afterwards, he had enough energy and local lingo to describe his try to the French media afterwards.
He said: "My try...it came from 60 metres out, I went past, em, how many...ten defenders, and put it down to the left of the posts. My team-mates and supporters were superb." The yard of pace may be gone, but the dry wit is still there!
...The Dublin University front row, with hooker Matt Crockett at the head...
TRINITY'S AMERICAN TRIP A SUCCESS: Dublin University, ahead of the start of their AIB League Division Two campaign, jetted back home on Monday after a nine-day training camp at Penn State University.
The visit also saw Trinity participating in the prestigious Remembrance (9/11) Tournament in Travers Island in New York. A total of 33 players, who trained three times a day at Penn State, worked their proverbial socks off.
Trinity played against three of US Rugby's Super League club sides in New York, beating the hosts New York Athletic Club (NYAC) in the semi-final, and getting the better of a Boston Irish side which included former UCD and Ireland U-19 captain Shane Moore, in the decider. The Dubliners ran out 26-12 winners.
Both President David Duffy and Chairman of Rugby Gerry Kelly flew over for the weekend to support "The Trin."