Donal Lenihan - Columnist - IRISH EXAMINER

Ireland's Jared Payne gets to grips with England's Alex Goode during the Six Nations clash at the Aviva Stadium. Picture: Stephen McCarthy

DONAL LENIHAN: Time to pause for breath. And then the hard part.

In the context of where Irish rugby is heading over the next nine months, this Six Nations triumph was a hugely significant result, writes Donal Linehan.


DONAL LENIHAN: Ronan O’Gara: ‘JJ Hanrahan? I think he has the capability to be really special’

Ronan O’Gara chats about Dan Carter, George Ford and JJ Hanrahan with Donal Lenihan at yesterday’s Irish Examiner Rog and Ruby Breakfast in Cork city.

KEY ROLE: The loss of Mike Brown, who is an  outstanding in the air, is a massive blow.

DONAL LENIHAN: England’s hungry pack presents massive threat to Ireland tomorrow

England won’t lack for confidence when they arrive in the Aviva Stadium tomorrow, says Donal Lenihan.

Johnny Sexton: Checked for concussion against France.

DONAL LENIHAN: High intensity game takes heavy toll rugby players

We used to have a call amongst the forwards long ago, in the heat of an international battle, when we needed to slow the pace down a bit, says Donal Lenihan.

Simon Zebo is tackled by Guilhen Guirado, left, and Pascal Pape, France. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

DONAL LENIHAN: Size and scale of Ireland’s next challenge self-evident

After only two rounds of action, this year’s Six Nations championship has already taken on the appearance of a two-horse race — notwithstanding Wales’ right to dispute that.

Ireland's Jonathan Sexton, centre, watches team-mate Paul O'Connell in action during squad training.

DONAL LENIHAN: England emerge as greatest threat to Ireland in Six Nations championship

England appear to have stumbled on the missing ingredient of a cutting edge that has eluded them for years.


DONAL LENIHAN: A good day for those looking to prove themselves

GAMES Against Italy tend to go exactly to type, especially when you play them in Rome. Always dogged and difficult to break down, they excel in dragging teams down to their level.

Ian Keatley's  tactical kicking game allied to his more fluid relationship with Conor Murray helped him get the nod at out-half.

DONAL LENIHAN: Joe Schmidt will have Ian Keatley well versed for opener in Rome

1 Authority at half-back.

After those confidence-boosting wins over South Africa and Australia last November, Ireland’s half-back combination of Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray was correctly lauded as best in class.

PEAK PERFORMANCE: Isaac Boss lets out a pass during Ireland squad training at Carton House.

DONAL LENIHAN: Six Nations will be decided at 10

You suspect Schmidt wants Sexton back as soon as possible and will throw him inat the deep end against the French, says Donal Lenihan.


DONAL LENIHAN: Champions Cup a qualified success

News last week the appointment of a chairman and a director general have had to be put on hold for the time being offered a timely reminder of the difficulties faced in satisfying the diverse interests of the stakeholders on the board of European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR), says Donal Lenihan.

Munster's Paul O'Connell in action against Sale Sharks. Pic: Inpho.

DONAL LENIHAN: Munster would be delighted to have Leinster’s problems

There were different agendas at play for Leinster, Munster and Ulster approaching their final pool games in the inaugural Champions Cup over the weekend, writes Donal Lenihan.

Gerhard van den Heever: Could have star potential for Munster.

DONAL LENIHAN: Reality check for Munster rugby

IT’S difficult to escape the feeling that Munster’s comprehensive defeat at the hands of Saracens was an accident waiting to happen, says Donal Lenihan.


DONAL LENIHAN: A long way back to the top for Munster

As if things weren’t bad enough, Saracens finished on a high with their third try of the day accompanied by that despicable Chris Ashton swan dive.

JJ Hanrahan

DONAL LENIHAN: The system has failed JJ Hanrahan

IT’S been a testing week for the Munster set-up despite that bonus point win over Zebre, writes Donal Lenihan. 

LEADING ROLE: Beating Munster is another significant step in the right direction for Connacht under the leadership of coach Pat Lam, given that it has only happened twice in the last 42 encounters. Picture: Inpho

DONAL LENIHAN: Connacht going in right direction

Nothing ever comes easy for Connacht. Their constant battle for recognition and the right to sit as an equal partner with the other three provinces in the eyes of the IRFU has raged for over a century.


DONAL LENIHAN: Ireland ready to prove the perfect host for World Cup

Sitting in the stand in Semple Stadium as Cork and Tipperary contested a wondrous draw in an electric atmosphere back in 1987, I couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like if rugby was the number one sport in Ireland, writes Donal Lenihan.


DONAL LENIHAN: Munster’s unsung heroes rise to the challenge

The international contingent get all the breaks. With Joe Schmidt hosting a pre-Christmas camp in Carton House early in the week, the onus fell on the supporting cast in the provinces with Gordon D’Arcy the only player who started in Ireland’s last outing against Australia asked to play in the festive derbies in Limerick and Belfast yesterday.


DONAL LENIHAN: Huge year ahead for Connacht rugby

If you needed any more confirmation that the rugby landscape has changed immeasurably with the advent of professionalism, then look at the demands placed on our provincial squads over the festive period.


DONAL LENIHAN: Tries hold key to Munster’s rugby destiny

The difference in the perceived challenges facing Munster and Leinster over the weekend is reflected in the fact that Leinster find themselves roundly criticised despite their win over Harlequins, while Munster have received a very positive response for their achievement in rescuing a bonus point in defeat from a game that could have run away from them at one stage, writes Donal Lenihan.


DONAL LENIHAN: Monumental Munster effort secures Euro rugby lifeline

Munster have built a reputation on delivering big performances when they’re least expected, and to survive the type of examination they were to get yesterday at the Stade Marcel Michelin, nothing less than a season’s best would suffice, writes Donal Lenihan.

A dejected Johne Murphy following Munster's loss to Clermont Auvergne. The Reds must get something out of their return trip to France next weekend.

DONAL LENIHAN: Time for another Munster rugby miracle

WITH home games against Munster and Saracens to come, Clermont Auvergne have grabbed Pool 1 by the throat and are firmly in control of their destiny, writes Donal Lenihan.


DONAL LENIHAN: Mighty Clermont pack a deadly punch as Irish rugby gets a dose of reality

After the high of the autumn international series and the feel good factor attaching to the confirmation during the week that Ireland will bid to host a World Cup in 2023, it was inevitable that Irish rugby would be dealt a dose of reality some time soon, writes Donal Lenihan.


DONAL LENIHAN: Munster rugby is facing a stiff Clermont challenge

I’m not sure how long it’s been since Munster sat on top of the Pro 12, but there must be a feeling of quiet satisfaction within the squad as they head back into European action, writes Donal Lenihan.