12 Dec, 14:42
Prop Cian Healy is expected to miss the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday.
IRELAND TIPPED FOR TITLE: Paddy Power bookmakers, the IRFU's betting partners, have installed Ireland as 6/4 favourites to lift the RBS 6 Nations trophy in the spring.
France, the reigning champions, were the previous market leaders but their capitulation against the All Blacks recently, combined with Ireland's excellent form, has seen Eddie O'Sullivan's men hit the front.
France are priced at 15/8 to regain the title, with Wales (9/2), England (11/2), Scotland (20/1) and Italy (200/1) completing the betting for outright championship winners.
Ireland are rated at 11/4 to pick up the nation's first Grand Slam since 1948, while they are currently 7/4 to repeat their Triple Crown triumph of last season.
ISLANDERS SCRUM DOWN FOR IRB: Pat Lam's Pacific Islanders squad got the video treatment on Wednesday when they helped the International Rugby Board (IRB) film a demonstration on the new scrummaging laws, which are to be implemented next year.
Following a skills and conditioning session at Old Belvedere RFC on Anglesea Road, the Islanders' forwards were filmed going through some set pieces under the tutelage of former whistleblower Paddy O'Brien, who is now the IRB's referees manager.
An IRB representative confirmed that the instructional video is to be "distributed to rugby playing nations all over the world."
...Frankie Sheahan at Wednesday's training session in Bray...
DID YOU KNOW?: That Frankie Sheahan, who this Sunday will make his first start for Ireland since June 2005, was a chess champion during his formative years. The recalled hooker won the Cork Under-10 and Munster Under-16 chess titles.
That Ulster's Paddy Wallace, who will start his first Test match this Sunday, is a cousin of horse racing legend Richard Dunwoody. Wallace, aged 14, watched with glee as his bet on Dunwoody to win the Grand National on Minnehoma in 1994 came up trumps.
That the 19-year-old Luke Fitzgerald will have to miss out on attending his girlfriend's debs on Saturday night in order to prepare for his Test debut against the Pacific Islanders.
NUMBERS GAME: 78 - It was 78 Test matches ago that an out-half other than Ronan O'Gara or David Humphreys started an international for Ireland. It was Eric Elwood back then against Romania at the 1999 World Cup, this Sunday it is Paddy Wallace's turn.
0 - The number of penalties the Pacific Islanders kicked in the five matches they played in their debut international season of 2004. The Islanders ran in a total of 28 tries in wins over a Queensland XV and the NSW Waratahs, and Test defeats to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
14 - The number of players in the Pacific Islanders' matchday 22, from last weekend's 34-22 loss at the hands of Scotland, who ply their trade with European clubs. Eight are with English sides, including the Saracens-based captain Simon Raiwalui.
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