Donal Lenihan - Columnist - IRISH EXAMINER

EADING ROLE: Munster will have to be vigilant of the attacking threat posed by Toulon's Delon Armitage, centre,  in Sunday's Heineken Cup semi-final. Picture: Getty Images

DONAL LENIHAN: Life to get tougher for Irish raiders

In a market that is set to become even more competitive given increased revenues from their domestic and European broadcast deals, the English and French clubs are set to make life a lot more difficult for the Irish provinces.

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Simon Zebo

DONAL LENIHAN: Penney must keep his stars under wraps

Having already lost inspirational captain Peter O’Mahony for the business end of the season, Rob Penney will be mindful of making sure his key personnel are fresh and raring to go when Munster set out to upset the odds once again by toppling Heineken Cup champions Toulon in Marseille on Sunday week.

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DRIVING PASSION:  Barry O'Mahony, Tommy O'Donnell, James Coughlan and Sean Dougall dig in during Munster squad training at University of Limerick. The province's academy graduates are now proving their worth.  Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

DONAL LENIHAN: Munster must learn from Leinster’s mistakes to crack mighty Toulon

A fairytale finish to what has been an amazing season for Irish rugby was blown off course on a weekend from which Munster are the sole survivor on the European front.

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DONAL LENIHAN: One French giant is felled, another looms in Marseille

After Munster’s heroics on Saturday, all eyes were firmly focused on the Stade Felix Mayol yesterday to see if Leinster could seal the dream semi-final for Dublin.

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DONAL LENIHAN: Munster will need to be on red alert against talented Toulouse

The Heineken Cup as we know it has just seven games to run. When it is consigned to history at the end of the season in favour of its successor, the proposed new European Champions Cup, we will look back with fond memories on the last 19 seasons of memorable European action and the joy the tournament brought for rugby supporters across the competing nations.

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DONAL LENIHAN: Grunt in abundance, but Munster guile still missing

When news filtered into the press room 30 minutes before kick-off that Peter O’Mahony was a Munster absentee, the odds on a visitors’ success dropped a fathom.

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DONAL LENIHAN: Revealed: The road forward for European club rugby

While Irish rugby is entitled to bask in the afterglow of our Six Nations success, I suspect each of the respective unions are more than pleased with developments off the field over the course of the championship.

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DONAL LENIHAN: Back row bonanza presents ‘lovely’ headache for Schmidt

Just imagine for a second if Ireland had managed to close out that agonising end game against New Zealand last November.

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KEY MAN: Rob Kearney could take advantage of Italy's suspect defensive shape around the ruck.

DONAL LENIHAN: Ireland will quell all fire and fury

Three potential areas for Ireland to exploit

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DONAL LENIHAN: Ireland’s main job is to make sure title still up for grabs in Paris

Ireland have already featured in two of the best games in the Six Nations — their demolition of 2013 champions Wales followed by that narrow defeat to England in a classic at Twickenham last time out. This story is enriched with multi-media content

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DONAL LENIHAN: Should Schmidt rest Johnny against Italy?

Disappointing yes, but not the end of the world.

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DONAL LENIHAN: Ireland will find it impossible to win unless the front five deliver

It’s funny the things you remember.

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DONAL LENIHAN: Outsiders give Schmidt a reminder

Quite a week then. I must admit I didn’t see Rob Penney’s departure from Munster coming down the track nor, for that matter, that Ireland would beat Wales by a margin of 23 points.

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KEY MAN: Cian Healy is in outstanding form and will be well suited by today's heavy surface. Picture: Inpho/Dan Sheridan

DONAL LENIHAN: Irish can turn Welsh strengths into weaknesses

Three battles Ireland must shade to beat Wales

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DONAL LENIHAN: Gattygate shrouds real battleground

DONAL LENIHAN: Let’s get this one out of the way early, given that you are going to be subjected to a diatribe of Gattygate over the next five days. I promise not to refer to it again... at least until Monday morning.

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DONAL LENIHAN: Front-row strength the key

Irish Examiner rugby columnist, Donal Lenihan, throws his eyes over the key areas in this afternoon's Six Nations clash with Scotland.

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DONAL LENIHAN: Caught between a rock and a hard place

In the ever-changing world of professional rugby, very little can be taken for granted. With just four months left in the European club season, no side can say with any degree of certainty who and in what tournament they will be playing in next season.

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DONAL LENIHAN: Schmidt provides crucial ‘X factor’ for Ireland

A fresh start, a new beginning. That is the beauty of a Six Nations campaign. Regardless of what has happened in the recent past — in Ireland’s case, that heartbreaking defeat to New Zealand in November, following on from our lowest finish in a Six Nations last season — the next seven weeks is full of opportunity.

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