Alan Quinlan: 'Ireland need to be fast and furious - Furlong, O'Brien and O'Mahony must lead the way'
Those outside the bubble of professional sport often find it difficult to comprehend how a team fails to reach the right emotional pitch for a fixture of...
Alan Quinlan: 'Return of Vunipola could cause plenty of problems - but Irish back row have the solutions'
Declan Kidney never used to tire of reminding us that "forwards win matches and backs decide by how much".
Alan Quinlan: 'Sexton and Carbery mirroring Carter/Barrett succession plan - and it bodes well for Ireland'
If the building of Irish out-half depth were to be the focus of a 'Grand Designs' episode, presenter Kevin McCloud, for once, would surely declare that...
Alan Quinlan: 'English clubs take Irish lessons'
Ten months ago, ahead of Ireland's Grand Slam decider in London, there was something very different in the air.
Alan Quinlan: 'Has the shine gone off the Champions Cup?'
A clean sweep in Europe last weekend; Munster, Leinster and Ulster are well in contention to make the knockout stages of the Champions Cup. Everything is hunky-dory, right? Wrong.
Alan Quinlan: 'Back-to-back matches a cause for double-trouble with knowledge that there will be perfect chance to exact revenge'
We were seething. It was a great opportunity to win in France and we had blown it. Another promising European campaign was in jeopardy.
Alan Quinlan: 'Andy Farrell deserves this opportunity - but I'd like to see him call on ROG as his right-hand man'
I used to love watching Wigan Warriors in the early to mid-'90s; the frightening footwork and speed of Jason Robinson and Martin Offiah, and the magical skills of Henry Paul, complemented perfectly by the astute game management and sheer quality of Shaun Edwards and Andy Farrell.
Alan Quinlan: 'Peter the Great'
Sixteen minutes of ferocity, intensity and an unwillingness to give in. Sixteen minutes that ultimately ensured this Ireland team would climb another rung on a daunting ladder. Sixteen minutes that summed up the relentlessness of Peter O'Mahony.
Alan Quinlan: 'Referee Barnes needs to be alert to cynical All Black tactics designed to push game's laws to their limits'
Before I put the boot into the All Blacks, figuratively on this occasion, in the interest of balance I need to first dig up some old, unpleasant incidents that certainly don't rank alongside my finest on a rugby field.
Alan Quinlan: Exeter have become the Munster of English rugby
It will be 10 years next month since Munster last hosted the All Blacks at Thomond Park, 10 years since history threatened to repeat itself until a late Joe Rokocoko score saved the blushes of the...
'The show can finish quickly... I just want to enjoy it' - Rob Kearney sits down and talks to his former Ireland team-mate Alan Quinlan
Ahead of today’s eagerly-awaited PRO14 derby with Munster at the Aviva Stadium, Rob Kearney sits...
Alan Quinlan: A Friend in deed - engaging Aussie seems an excellent fit for Connacht
'It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when...
Alan Quinlan: Versatility to be crucial point of difference when Schmidt makes tight calls for Japan
The experimentation is all but complete, trophies have been accumulated along the way, and new depth has been developed - so all seems bright...
Versatility to be crucial point of difference when Schmidt makes tight calls for Japan
The experimentation is all but complete, trophies have been accumulated along the way, and new depth has been developed - so all seems bright...
The Daily Digest
Alan Quinlan: 'Renaissance of French giants has been impressive but today we will find out where they really stand'
In the grand scheme of sporting revivals, Toulouse supporters appear to have gotten off relatively lightly; the doldrums have passed and one of the world's most esteemed clubs are nearly back to where they feel they belong.
Alan Quinlan: 'There's a feel-good factor back at Ulster - but cold reality is that results are behind last season'
It doesn’t need to be said; you can see it in the heightened tension on their faces, sense it from their rigid body language. When players face their native province, while they may not admit it publicly, they always have a point to prove.
Alan Quinlan: 'Van Graan’s men must tackle mental block to kick on at crossroads of season'
“Few scouts can go into the mind of a young man and determine whether he’s really confident about what he can do. So you can sign him based on his ability, but then he’s got to be successful to be confident. And once he becomes confident, that’s when you’ve got something.” ‘Moneyball’
Alan Quinlan: 'Munster could pay dearly for Barnes' off day'
Some people may say it's a bit rich for me to be so uneasy by the punishment handed down to Rory Kockott, but as far as I'm concerned he has been very lucky to just receive a three-week suspension.
Alan Quinlan: 'If we can shatter glass ceiling at the World Cup and get to the last four with our key men intact, then anything is possible'
It has been quite a year for Irish rugby, one that has delivered beyond what we realistically would have expected this time 12 months ago.
Alan Quinlan: 'Breakdown is not to blame for back-rowers finishing early'
I had never felt pain like it, every cell in my body wanted to scream. The agony was so overwhelming I thought I would never play rugby again.
Alan Quinlan: 'Ruthless approach, tighter defence and reserve No 9 to make step up - my November wish list'
A lot has changed in the international game since 2002 but this time of year continues to revolve around one word for players on the fringes of the first team: opportunity.
Bad sportsmanship is becoming a blight on our game - Nigel Owens is right to protect rugby's image
I am a product of an era where letting the players sort out their differences on the field was seen as best practice - it allowed for a form of natural justice. And that laissez-faire attitude has been difficult to shake, at times clouding my judgment of the modern game.
Alan Quinlan: Bad sportsmanship is becoming a blight on our game – Nigel Owens is right to protect rugby's image
I am a product of an era where letting the players sort out their differences on the field was seen as best practice – it allowed for a form of natural justice. And that laissez-faire attitude has been difficult to shake, at times clouding my judgment of the modern game.
Alan Quinlan: Irish players can learn a lot from James Lowe - on and off the field
There are times when I watch James Lowe that it seems like he is from a different planet, never mind a different hemisphere.
Alan Quinlan: High-tackle laws must be enforced to reduce risk of concussion
"World Rugby has further strengthened its commitment to injury prevention by announcing details of a zero-tolerance approach to reckless and accidental head contact in the sport.
Alan Quinlan: Felipe Contepomi the perfect fit as young Leinster fly-halves learn on their feet
DESPITE the much-lauded depth at Leinster, when Ross Byrne went down injured in the first half of last week’s season-opening win against Cardiff, the bottom of the talent pool was thrust into view.
Alan Quinlan: Fearless O'Mahony epitomises the strength of ground-breaking group
It was the spring of 2011 and while the finish line for my playing career was in sight, I found myself in the all-too-familiar position of working my way back from injury - a dislocated elbow the affliction on this particular occasion.
Alan Quinlan: Ireland must be more cynical if they are to avoid dead rubber in Sydney
There is no hiding place in Test rugby and the margins between success and failure are so fine that if a team are operating even slightly below-par, coming out on the right side of the result is exponentially more difficult.
Alan Quinlan: Michael Cheika will relish chance to take Joe Schmidt's side down a peg or two
A couple of years ago Eddie Jones was asked to describe Michael Cheika in five words, and with very little hesitation, and a wide grin, he said: "Passionate, aggressive, cunning… good bloke".
Alan Quinlan: Irish lock stocks are in rude health thanks to the emergence of two all-action second-rows
It's easy to forget it wasn't long ago that our lock stocks were a genuine concern following the international retirements of stalwarts such as Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan, and more recently the departure of Donnacha Ryan.
Alan Quinlan: Jealous Reds can use the lessons of the past to stun Leinster
There was fire in their eyes, an intensity, a collective will, and a ferocity in the tackle that we just couldn't match. We were emotionally drained and caught slightly below-par, and that makes all the difference at this level.
Alan Quinlan: Humble Tipp man Donnacha Ryan has become a giant among Galacticos
Donnacha Ryan doesn't do stealthy first impressions. Granted, when you're 6ft 7ins, it can be difficult to fade into the background, but it's not his sheer size that draws you in; it's his engaging personality, his inquisitive nature and his relentless drive to improve.
Alan Quinlan: Connacht must learn from mistakes to avoid freefall
At the start of the season, when covering a Connacht game, as common courtesy I made a beeline for Kieran Keane - to introduce myself, welcome him to Irish rugby and wish him well for the season.
Alan Quinlan: You could kick him, punch him or drive him into the turf – John Muldoon would always come back for more
Alan Quinlan: The rivalry between Leinster and Scarlets has been simmering nicely but could reach boiling point today
Familiarity breeds contempt and it doesn't take long for frequent showdowns on the rugby pitch to develop into fully-fledged rivalries.
Alan Quinlan: Ulster have been on a downward curve since handing their homegrown head coach his P45
Among the Titanic's prodigious on-board facilities were a swimming pool, gym, squash court, two libraries, a kennel for first-class dogs, and a Turkish bath, but the bells and whistles mattered little once the ill-fated ship started to go under.
Alan Quinlan: People may not like Munster's recruitment strategy but it's vital if they want to keep up with Leinster
It was fitting that Andrew Conway played the starring role at Thomond Park last weekend.
Alan Quinlan: Ire of comic-book villain will matter little if famous win is delivered
Having made his personal fortune from publishing comic books, it is perhaps not surprising that Mourad Boudjellal seems to be so comfortable playing the role of the eccentric villain.
Alan Quinlan reveals his Six Nations Award winners with Conor Murray landing top player gong
It's always that bit sweeter reflecting on a Six Nations when Ireland have not only finished on top of the pile, but have beaten all-comers.
Alan Quinlan: This achievement surpasses the 2009 Grand Slam
We wondered where to turn after Argentina dumped us out of the World Cup, but the work that Joe Schmidt has done in building this level of strength in depth in the two-and-a-half years since has been nothing short of remarkable.
Alan Quinlan: Iconic trio keep class of 2009 in front of 2018 vintage - for now
Comparing teams from different times is always a complex assignment, and one thing is obvious when you try to hang the current crop alongside the 2009 brigade - the game has moved on so much over the past nine years.
Alan Quinlan: Garry Ringrose must find his feet early as Scotland will be gunning for talented centre on his return from injury
The doubts were always there. Am I good enough? Do I really belong at this level? Has my preparation been on point?
Alan Quinlan: Communication issues could derail our Grand plans
"What the f*** were you doing shooting out of the line? I told you to sit tight. You left me f**king caught two-on-one and it has given them a f**cking lifeline."
Alan Quinlan: Write calculating Gatland off at your peril because then he has you exactly where he wants you
Alan Quinlan: Teams need to put bums on seats and they can't do that without the media
Having worked on both sides of the fence, it is obvious that there needs to be division between the two parties but frosty exchanges or radio silences will ultimately have a negative impact on supporters
Alan Quinlan: Italy will feel wrath as Schmidt's astute selection should keep Ireland's foot on the gas
The manner of last weekend's victory, the inaccuracies as much as the character-building finish, should be ringing alarm bells for Italy this afternoon.
Alan Quinlan preview France v Ireland: Les Bleus may be in the doldrums but they could still break our hearts
It takes a lot to dampen the vibrant spirit of rugby addict Thomas Castaignede at any time of year, never mind on the eve of the Six Nations.
Humbling Kenya trip delivers perspective in abundance
Sport can often feel like one of life's great levellers - an opportunity to escape day-to-day troubles; to release competitive energies in a healthy environment; to build social skills; and learn life lessons in one satisfying swoop.
Alan Quinlan: Munster must play Gerbrandt Grobler, they can't shove issue into touch
It feels like Munster have been fighting off-field fires since the season began in September but the delayed furore over the signing of Gerbrandt Grobler will continue to generate toxic fumes until the player is given the opportunity to speak out about his cheating - to talk about what happened, how it happened and where he sourced the banned substance.
History lesson can unlock winning formula for Reds in Paris
Barely anyone gave us a chance before we got on the plane. We were over the hill, according to Stuart Barnes - a bunch of weary men blinded by past glories and heading straight into a French ambush.
Alan Quinlan: Quality abounds to restore faith in interpros
It wasn't long ago that the interprovincial matches needed a bit of nastiness, one-on-one sideshows, and plenty of needle to capture the imagination. I had fears that these fixtures were losing their relevance. Not any more.
'It was eight years ago that I had fallen to a very low ebb' - Alan Quinlan on vital role sport plays in mental health
While this time of year is dominated by celebrations for the majority of us, it is easy to forget there are many who find themselves struggling against the tide of festive cheer.
Alan Quinlan: It's impossible to put a price on playing for your province
You never had to explain what it meant - one look around the dressing-room told you everything you needed to know. Impassioned faces from across the province, from Cashel to Clonlara, were well prepared for another huge encounter.
Alan Quinlan: The Joe Schmidt show has permeated into all four provinces and they are reaping the rewards
Many hands contributed to a memorable European clean sweep for the provinces last weekend but one man's fingerprints were all over the success - those of Joe Schmidt.
Alan Quinlan: Peter O'Mahony and CJ Stander must set tone and fire Munster in Champions Cup crunch
The heavy burden of history hangs around the necks of both sets of players and while expectations may not match those from their dizzying days at the top of the European game, the Munster-Leicester rivalry remains as testy as ever.
Alan Quinlan - The timing of the Peter O'Mahony contract story couldn't be worse for Munster
It's starting to feel like one thing after another for Munster, and the prospect of losing Peter O'Mahony and CJ Stander would be a kick in the teeth for everyone associated with the province.
Alan Quinlan: I'll never forget the shock and disappointment in the dressing room. We were expected to win
Eddie calls me aside. My heart is beating that bit faster, palms sweating. The team announcement had been delayed by a day. Tensions were already running high and that was before we knocked lumps out of each other in Monday's training session.
Alan Quinlan: Unflappable next generation can lift Ireland to new heights
We might only be playing Romania but as I scan the dressing-room containing Irish rugby royalty, my feelings of inferiority start to simmer.
Stander's evolution highlights contrast with Boks
If you ever find yourself needing to prove the difference in rugby attitudes between Ireland and South Africa, the transformation of CJ Stander since his move to the northern hemisphere makes for a pretty convincing 'Exhibit A'.
Alan Quinlan - Fears for safety and of empty stadia in South Africa should have given Ireland the edge
There are no two ways about it, yesterday's recommendation was a kick in the teeth. However, it's not just a setback for rugby on this island but in my opinion, for the game as a whole.
Alan Quinlan on Zebo move: As far as representing your country goes, you can't put a price on that
It's October, 2005 and if there was ever a time I needed support during my career, this is it. I'm 31 and still chasing that elusive Heineken Cup medal - but I can't walk.
Alan Quinlan: Ronan O'Gara will know the three areas where Munster are vulnerable
It doesn’t matter how many times Ronan O’Gara travels to Thomond Park as a coach, as long as he is in the away dressing-room he will feel like a stranger in his own home.
Alan Quinlan - It's hard to believe it's been a year since we lost our leader
Anthony Foley is never far from my mind but the nature of anniversaries and the scheduling of the rugby season is bound to bring his memory to front and centre at this time of year.
Alan Quinlan: Derby clash can set tone for entire season
It is occasions like this that make you really miss your playing days. Going up against your bitter rivals in front of more than 45,000 passionate fans, on the turf you dreamed of playing on as a kid.
Alan Quinlan: I can see US president's issue but sport will always trump politics
Read Alan Quinlan every week in the Irish Independent.
Alan Quinlan: Winning bid for 2023 Rugby World Cup wouldn't just be victory for rugby
Seeing the 2023 Rugby World Cup bid heading down the home straight, I can't help but feel a victory for Ireland would be a win on so many levels.
Alan Quinlan: Pat Geraghty was a wonderful Munster man through thick and thin
Pat Geraghty might have arrived at Thomond Park a Leinster man but there was no doubting his loyalty when he was with us, and by the time he left he was Munster through and through.
Alan Quinlan: Mayo must learn to be ruthless like we did at Munster
As we sat there together, yet also feeling eerily alone, trying to digest that unmistakable hollow feeling of another Heineken Cup defeat, we knew something needed to change.
Alan Quinlan: The Irish Lions did us proud but you have to feel for Peter O'Mahony
Playing in New Zealand is an incredibly pressurised environment and that can often get to referees as well as players. You need some decisions to go your way but you have to earn your luck and the Lions certainly did that over the last couple of weeks.
Alan Quinlan: The Lions may have made one crucial mistake this week - and I'm not talking about a few beers
It was 20 to ten on a winter's evening in Wellington. The sun had long since slipped down, the clouds had emptied and so had the 'Cake Tin' stadium.
Alan Quinlan: Showing Sonny Bill Williams a red saved rugby's integrity
The easy decision for Jerome Garces would have been to give Sonny Bill Williams a yellow card, but if the referee hadn't brandished the red, the integrity of the game would have been seriously damaged.
Alan Quinlan: All Blacks hell-bent on nullifying the Lions's threat at all costs and not always legally
While the whole country was basking in the glory of Ireland's famous win over the All Blacks in Chicago, the soul-searching that was done back in New Zealand was such that they were adamant they wouldn't take their eye off the ball for this Lions series.
Numbers add up to give Lions hope
After arriving in New Zealand last night, a reality quickly dawned.
Alan Quinlan: Gatland's selfish decision totally devalues what it should mean to play for the Lions
When I got picked for the Lions tour in 2009, it was going to be the biggest honour of my career. Everyone knows what happened after that but, for me, it would have been the ultimate accolade.
Alan Quinlan: The Kiwis' laughable criticism early on has only added fuel to the Lions' fire
Touring New Zealand is the ultimate test for any player.
Alan Quinlan: Munster's lack of creativity and attacking prowess is a concern
When Munster left the Aviva last month after being handed a sobering defeat by Saracens, they did so promising to take the lessons from it.
Alan Quinlan: Five areas Munster need to nail to end drought
It is hard to believe that when these two teams met in the final game of last season, the prize for Munster was to avoid humiliation.
Alan Quinlan: Rising stars must be let off leash in Land of Rising Sun
The last time Gordon D'Arcy played a Six Nations match for Ireland, a floodlight failure at the Stade de France left him stranded in the middle of the pitch with the Six Nations trophy in his hands and a tiny spotlight shining on him.
Alan Quinlan: Mixed season for the provinces but the future is bright for Irish Rugby
As another season draws to a close, the landscape for the four provinces has a more familiar look to it after Connacht stunned everybody to upset the odds last year.
Alan Quinlan: Three superstars who could help Munster recapture former glories
If, in a parallel universe, you were able to parachute Roman Abramovich and his big chequebook into Thomond Park, then I'd be the first to approach him with some free advice.
Irish sides not far from top despite these losses
Based on their respective performances over the weekend, people will say that Leinster are closer to getting back to the top than Munster but there was a difference in the standard of opposition that both provinces faced and Saracens are certainly, in my opinion, stronger than Clermont.
Alan Quinlan: Time has come and destiny is calling for Axel's boys
There was always a moment, in every single game I played, when this raging debate would go on inside my head. More often than not, it would come in the second half, when fatigue would kick in, and if it didn't happen then when your concentration had a tendency to waver, then it occurred whenever you were under the cosh, frantically defending as a team pummelled away at your defensive line.
Alan Quinlan: If players don't get mind games right, they will soon be found out
I used to hate these weeks. And at the same time love them. Sandwiched between the extraordinary high of a Heineken Cup quarter-final victory and the anticipation of a semi-final showdown, the battle I constantly faced was not with any opponent but with myself.
Alan Quinlan: Money always talks but Leinster and Munster prove that passion counts too
Cast your mind back to last season when there was a lot of panic throughout the country that money was taking over European rugby.
Alan Quinlan: Ryan is the sort of hard b***ard every team needs and losing him makes no sense
They are stuck between a lock and a hard place. Aware that Donnacha Ryan will not given a new central contract by the IRFU, and unable to match the financial package Racing 92 have offered him, the last thing Munster needed this week was to contemplate the idea of replacing their stalwart and hard-man.
Alan Quinlan: This may seem like a lost weekend in the calendar but Big Brother's watching - and the players know it
Seán O'Brien walked into the Ireland dressing room at the Aviva Stadium last Saturday evening shortly before seven o'clock.
Alan Quinlan: Is this the beginning of the end for Heaslip?
Four into three doesn't go and the performance of the back-row on Saturday has left Joe Schmidt with a most welcome headache.
Alan Quinlan: Special One Schmidt needs to silence Eddie Jones - the poor man's Jose Mourinho
It's just over a year ago - in the immediate aftermath of the insults he directed at Johnny Sexton - since Eddie Jones was dubbed a "poor man's Jose Mourinho".
Alan Quinlan: Sloppy Ireland pay price for poor execution
When you are playing away from home and you make as many unforced errors as Ireland did last night, you are never going to win a Test.
Alan Quinlan: It looked like Howley used Father Ted logic to pick his team - but his smart call could trouble Ireland
Even the priests in Father Ted, gathered around the sitting room in Craggy Island's parochial house, seemed to be searching harder for new ideas.
Alan Quinlan: Where the war will be won in Cardiff
Remember Lawrence Taylor? There are players in the NFL who'll never forget him, opponents who freely admit they spent the weeks leading up to matches against Taylor's New York Giants in a state of absolute fear.
Alan Quinlan: Andy Farrell deserves credit for keeping his first clean sheet
With expectation comes an added pressure but if players step onto the pitch expecting to win, that can only be a good thing.
Alan Quinlan: Sexton primed to rescue Ireland's season and end the French renaissance
If you were employed as a number cruncher rather than an international rugby coach then you'd be looking at the Six Nations table this morning and applying fairly simple maths to the problem staring back up at you.
'You were too f*****g lazy to get your big arse off the floor' - Alan Quinlan reflects with John 'Bull' Hayes
Mid-afternoon in Cappamore, and the man standing in front of me flashes a cheeky grin. "Oh Lord," he says, in mock outrage. "What have I done to deserve this?"
Alan Quinlan: IRFU can take share of credit for Scannell's development into an international hooker
The easy thing for people to say is that 'Italy were very poor and it wasn't a real test' but, in my opinion, that isn't the case.
Alan Quinlan: Last week's loss reminded me of Argentina in 1999 - but Ireland can bounce back with a bonus point
I open a door and then close my eyes. Never before has anything felt so awkward. But there's nowhere else to go even if there are a million other places I'd rather be. And that's the price you pay when you're deemed good enough to be called up to a World Cup squad but not quite ready to have a place in the match-day 22.
Alan Quinlan: More vocal leaders must now emerge for Ireland
The review session at Carton House this morning will make for uncomfortable viewing, but sometimes a few home truths are needed in order to wipe the slate clean.
Alan Quinlan: Great Scots? Don't believe the hype because Ireland's record gives us clear edge
All eyes are on Scotland today. All the hype surrounds them, too. As the Six Nations Championship kicks off in Murrayfield, the forecasters are studying the weather as much as the form, wondering if a typical wet Edinburgh February afternoon will play into the hosts' hands.
Alan Quinlan: Joe Schmidt has some tough selection calls to make - I expect three star forwards will miss out
When Ireland beat France at the 2015 World Cup, it’s unlikely that Tadhg Furlong, Garry Ringrose, Donnacha Ryan, CJ Stander or Josh van der Flier’s names were in too many people’s thoughts.
Alan Quinlan: Naive Connacht will be judged by their reaction to crushing blow
When you're in a cup situation, it's all about winning, and finding a way to do so is what separates the best teams from the rest.
Alan Quinlan: Connacht have nothing to lose and can have a real cut
The dressing room was unusually small. Normally - for a game of this importance - you had plenty of space.
Alan Quinlan: You always target players but what Glasgow did to Conor Murray was cynical and dangerous
First and foremost, the treatment Conor Murray received from the Glasgow players throughout Saturday's game was an absolute disgrace.
Alan Quinlan: Work still to be done ahead of the Six Nations
There is so much rugby to be played between now and then, that April may seem like a long way away, but these weeks building up to the Six Nations are when players are really focused on ensuring that when they return to their provinces, it is with a view to preparing for a Champions Cup quarter-final.
Alan Quinlan: The new Munster remind me so much of the old Munster - but today's challenge is their toughest yet
I wake up shortly after eight. Hearing a door slam from somewhere down the corridor, I get out of bed and move silently to the balcony, determined not to wake Ronan O'Gara, my room-mate.
Alan Quinlan: One incident in Saturday's emotional win summed up where Munster are at the moment
I'm not sure there will ever be complete closure on Anthony Foley's passing, but certainly because of how it happened in Paris, everyone involved will be relieved that Saturday's game is finally over.
O'Gara will not stand for Racing's lack of passion and fight
As a player, everyone knows that ROG always wore his heart on his sleeve and he is no different now in his role as a coach.
Alan Quinlan: Munster won't fear Paris rivals but rather their return to a city that evokes such pain
Pride is the overriding emotion that I feel as Munster return to the city where so many hearts were broken. I'm proud of how the players have responded since Anthony's passing. I'm proud of how the rugby community has rallied around the Foley family. I'm proud to be a Munster man.
Alan Quinlan: Provinces shouldn't cry foul about the IRFU giving Munster permission to keep Taute in the country
The more successful the four provinces are, the more successful Ireland will be - and that is ultimately what it all boils down to for the IRFU.
Alan Quinlan: This Leinster team can't beat Munster at Thomond Park
They'd lost to Connacht at home. Then away to Dragons. Back-to-back defeats to Leicester followed - before, on December 27 last year - Munster watched Leinster rock up in Thomond Park intent on taking their scalp.
Alan Quinlan - Merry Christmas? Not for pro rugby players because despite temptations, they can't sample festive spirit
It was Christmas Eve … but I wasn't in the drunk tank. Instead I was at the parents' house, watching television in the sitting room, far too sober for a man my age.
Alan Quinlan: Sportsground scenes reminded me of Thomond Park glory days
After the shock announcement that Pat Lam will leave Connacht, Saturday's stunning win over Wasps couldn't have come at a better time. The whole province needed a lift and they got it in spades.
Alan Quinlan: A forgotten game last season was a watershed moment that got Leinster back on track
It was a Friday night in Cardiff and I had just returned from six months out after dislocating my shoulder in the 2003 World Cup.
Alan Quinlan: What a difference a year makes for Irish
It's 12 months on from the European doom and gloom and the landscape looks a lot brighter for the Irish provinces.
Alan Quinlan on the Leicester-Munster rivalry and Ronan O'Gara being the bravest man he ever played with
Joel Jutge says the words ‘crouch, touch, pause, engage’ – before walking slowly to his right.