There will be a sharp intake of breath from the whole of Ireland when Brian O'Driscoll, still the best player in the British Isles and indisputably the finest outside centre of his generation, makes his first tackle on a Frenchman in Dublin this evening.
Martin Johnson and the rest of the England management were relieved to get through yesterday without a fresh calamity on the injury front, although they would not have been wholly surprised if, having granted their players a short holiday ahead of the next week's World Cup squad announcement and final warm-up game in Dublin, one of them suffered third-degree burns while barbecuing a chicken leg. Wales? They were not so lucky – they have lost Matthew Rees, Gavin Henson and Morgan Stoddart already and must now be wondering if their fortunes will ever change.
Echoes of 2007 crisis as injury to the Quins scrum-half leaves Johnson with dilemma ahead of World Cup squad announcement
England coach unsure over midfield combination due to players' lack of inventiveness – so why won't he try Flood?
Captain's prospects for the World Cup clouded in doubt but concerns also hang over Hape and Sheridan
Not so very long ago, there were three certainties about Lewis Moody: that he would always generate more joules of energy than any other player on the field; that he would, at some stage during a season, find himself on the painful end of an orthopaedic calamity; and that he would lead England at the World Cup in New Zealand.
Jonny Wilkinson has been playing second fiddle to Toby Flood for more than a year now – a fact that has led many observers to conclude that next month's World Cup in New Zealand will signal the end of the injury-ravaged horizontalist's extraordinary international career. If this comes to pass, it will not be of Wilkinson's choosing. He intends to keep on keeping on, despite the England hierarchy's hard-line stance on players committing to club rugby abroad.
Warm-up games will hold lots of clues for hopes in New Zealand
Rugby's public image, comprehensively wrecked by disciplinary issues involving leading Test players and vicious outbreaks of boardroom politics, took another dent yesterday when the Welsh hierarchy suspended Mike Phillips, their Lions scrum-half, from national squad duties pending an inquiry into a small-hours incident outside a burger joint in Cardiff city centre. Oh, the glamour of it.
Less than three weeks after the International Rugby Board introduced new guidelines on the diagnosis and treatment of concussion – one of the principal scourges of modern-day union – the brilliant Wallaby midfielder Berrick Barnes has decided to take an indefinite break from the game after suffering a number of "footballers' migraines", as the Australians describe it.
Martyn Thomas, the Rugby Football Union management board chairman whose role in the trouserless farce currently being played out at Twickenham is likely to come under serious scrutiny over the next few weeks, yesterday ruled out any prospect of Sir Clive Woodward returning to the fold on a part-time basis, splitting his hours between oval-ball affairs and the broad spectrum of sports he oversees in his current role with the British Olympic Association.
Anger grows at chief executive's exit with chairman Martyn Thomas in the firing line
Disciplinary issues and talented misfits played central roles in another memorable season
Twelve months after banning Brendan Venter from Twickenham "and its environs" – truly, sports administrators are a law unto themselves – the Rugby Football Union will open their ornamental gates to the World Cup-winning South African ahead of this afternoon's Aviva Premiership final. By way of making life even more interesting, they are letting in Richard Cockerill too. There are many reasons to relish this contest, a repeat of last year's classic encounter, and one of the prospect of these two coaches screaming their heads off within whispering distance of each other.
Saracens and Leicester have history – both on and off the pitch – which should make today's match compelling viewing
Each Premiership side will be able to have one player over and above the £4.3m salary cap