4 Dec, 10:19
Grand Slam winners Fiona Coghlan and Nora Stapelton have returned the Women's RBS 6 Nations trophy to Chief Executive John Feehan at the Six Nations offices in Dublin.
BERDOS BACK AT LANSDOWNE: He left Dublin with a sore head on his last visit, and even that had nothing to do with alcohol consumption. Hoping for happier memories this time around, French referee Christophe Berdos will be back at Lansdowne Road this weekend to take charge of the third and final Guinness Autumn Test match.
The 36-year-old's first outing at the home of Irish rugby ended prematurely last month. He was the man in the middle for Leinster's Heineken Cup clash with Gloucester and a nasty collision with former Wallaby Owen Finegan gave him a head wound which required Eric Gauzins to assume whistleblowing duties.
Leinster fans will remember Berdos for sin-binning lock Malcolm O'Kelly during the second half of that game, but some of the Pacific Islanders' contingent will also be familiar with the Gallic official - he refereed Samoa's 36-0 victory over Tonga in Gosforth in July.
Born in the rugby-mad town of Tarbes in the Hautes Pyrinies, Berdos has been refereeing since the age of 18. He gave up playing rugby because of a series of shoulder injuries.
Voted France's Best Young Referee in 1994, he was promoted to the IRB's top panel of 20 referees this year.
O'CONNOR TO FACE THE SPRINGBOKS: Wasps flanker Johnny O'Connor is the only Irish player selected in Bob Dwyer's World XV squad for their one-off fixture against South Africa on Sunday week.
December 3 will see Dwyer's invitational side facing the Springboks at the Walkers Stadium in Leicester (kick-off 3pm). O'Connor's club colleague Lawrence Dallaglio will captain the World XV.
It is the 'Boks' final game on their 2006 European tour, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of South African rugby's first tour to the continent.
Having fought his way back from the nasty neck injury he sustained in last season's Powergen Cup final, O'Connor has played three times for Wasps in recent weeks and his return to fitness only adds to Ireland's current embarrassement of riches in the back row.
The 26-year-old Galway man's last cap for Ireland was as a replacement in March's Triple Crown-clinching win over England.
WORLD XV SQUAD: Backs - Justin Marshall (Ospreys, New Zealand, 81 caps), Gareth Cooper (Newport Gwent Dragons, Wales, 32), Thomas Castaignede (Saracens, France, 52), Andy Farrell (Saracens, (Great Britain/England Rugby League), Ben Tune (Queensland Reds, Australia, 46), Ryan Cross (Western Force, Australia Rugby League), Gomez Cora (Lomas Athletic (URBA, Argentina, 4), Scott Staniforth (Western Force, Australia, 5), Gaffie du Toit (Cheetahs, South Africa, 14), Thinus Delport (Worcester Warriors, South Africa, 18).
Forwards - Nic Henderson (ACT Brumbies, Australia, 3 caps), Dave Hewett (Edinburgh Gunners, Scotland, 22), Cobus Visagie (Saracens, South Africa, 29), Vernet Basualdo (Asociacion Alumni, Argentina, 3), Fabio Ongaro (Saracens, Italy, 44), Simon Shaw (London Wasps, England, 28), Alister Campbell (ACT Brumbies, Australia, 3), Michael Owen (Newport Gwent Dragons, Wales, 34), David Croft (Queensland Reds, Australia, 5), Jonny O'Connor (London Wasps, Ireland, 12), Takuro Miuchi (NEC Rockets, Japan, 30), Lawrence Dallaglio (captain - London Wasps, England, 77).
...Dungannon and Ulster flanker Stephen Ferris throws a pass out at Wednesday's training session in Bray...
SAY WHAT?: "Paul O'Connell came back after a workout in the gym yesterday and said: 'did anyone see the weights that that fella Ferris was lifting?'
"He spoke about Stephen's capacity to lift phenomenal weights, saying that he wasn't even concentrating on weight but more the technique that goes with being able to do it. That shows he has put in the work and that doesn't come overnight.
"He has started young, and he appears to know what he wants around the pitch. He's also quite vocal which is great because it's unusual for a young guy coming into the squad to be like that."
- Team captain Brian O'Driscoll confirms the favourable first impression that debutant flanker Stephen Ferris has made with the Irish squad
"I think they're pretty classical Pacific Islanders. They're very physical and they like playing with the ball in hand, with the ball in front of them.
"If you look at the game against Scotland, they didn't get off to a very good start. Scotland did - the got off to a flyer - and probably relaxed a bit in the second half. Suddenly, Scotland were nearly reeled in. These guys can create tries out of nothing - a soft shoulder here, half an offload there and suddenly there are a few of them through a gap and you're chasing them down from 60 metres."
- Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan on the threat the fast-breaking Pacific Islanders will pose to his team on Sunday
"What we are seeing is an Irish team that is really maturing. A lot of the players have been there for a while now under Eddie (O'Sullivan). They are evolving. They are playing a fantastic game with a solid set piece. They have some world class players.
"They play it wide and they mix it up very well, like we saw against the Aussies in the rain. On form, they are certainly the second best team after New Zealand at the moment."
- Pacific Islanders coach Pat Lam gives his opinion on the current Irish team
PREVIOUS MATCHES AGAINST PACIFIC ISLAND NATIONS:
June 2003 - Samoa 14 Ireland 40, Apia Park
June 2003 - Tonga 19 Ireland 40, Nuku A'lofa, Teufaiva
November 2002 - Ireland 64 Fiji 17, Lansdowne Road
November 2001 - Ireland 35 Samoa 8, Lansdowne Road
November 1996 - Ireland 25 Samoa 40, Lansdowne Road
November 1995 - Ireland 44 Fiji 8, Lansdowne Road
October 1988 - Ireland 49 Samoa 22, Lansdowne Road
June 1987 - RWC - Ireland 32 Tonga 9, Ballymore, Brisbane
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