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O'Connell announces retirement from rugby

Paul O'Connell has ended his career. Credit: PA

Paul O'Connell has been forced to retire without playing a game for new club Toulon, unable to beat the hamstring injury that ended his World Cup prematurely.

The 36-year-old retired from Test rugby after Ireland's World Cup quarter-final defeat to Argentina, but had missed the last-eight clash after tearing his hamstring in the pool-stage victory over France.

O'Connell had always planned to trade home province Munster for Toulon and retire from international rugby after the World Cup, but that autumn injury has now denied him a club swansong with the French giants.

Six Nations: Ireland 16-16 Wales

Murray scored Ireland's try Credit: PA

Johnny Sexton kicked a penalty six minutes from time to preserve injury-hit Ireland's unbeaten RBS 6 Nations home record under Joe Schmidt and stall Wales' stirring fightback.

A 16-16 draw - the first between Ireland and Wales since 1991 - meant that both sides' Grand Slam hopes floundered at the first hurdle, yet they played with such fearsome commitment and intensity to still suggest strong title ambitions.

Read a full match report and watch highlights on our dedicated Six Nations website.


England win Calcutta Cup with powerful display in Scotland

Winning England captain Dylan Hartley poses with the Calcutta Cup at Murrayfield. Credit: PA

England opened the Eddie Jones/Dylan Hartley era by emerging from a tricky RBS 6 Nations opener against Scotland at Murrayfield with a 15-9 victory founded on a dominant second-half performance.

Jones has had only two weeks to stamp his mark on England. On the evidence of today's match, his team has orders to attack from all areas of the pitch and take quick line-outs whenever viable.

However, after reaching the break 7-6 up, the team took a more conservative - or "pragmatic" in Jones' words - after the interval.

Though they were never able to stretch clear, a second try by Jack Nowell and an increasingly dominant set piece ensured they always had their noses in front.

We wanted to play some positive rugby, the attitude was to try to move the ball, but we were a bit off our game. It became a set-piece, defence game and we excelled in that and in the second half I thought we were commanding.

– Eddie Jones

Team captain Dylan Hartley added: “We stuck at it and when it mattered we got some dividends."

Winger Ashton has ban appeal rejected

Chris Ashton is out. Credit: PA

Saracens winger Chris Ashton has had his appeal against a ten-week ban rejected, European Professional Club Rugby has announced.

Ashton will next be available to play on Monday 28 March, meaning he will miss the whole of the Six Nations.

An independent appeal committee has today (Thursday) announced its decision not to allow an appeal by the Saracens player, Chris Ashton, against the 10-week suspension imposed on him as a result of a citing complaint arising from his club's European Rugby Champions Cup round five match against Ulster Rugby on Saturday, January 16.

Ashton's suspension therefore remains in place, and he is free to play on Monday, 28 March, 2016.

The appeal committee consisting of Lorne Crerar (Scotland), chairman, Rod McKenzie (Scotland) and Roger Morris (Wales), heard the player's appeal in London yesterday before adjourning to give the matter further consideration. At last month's disciplinary hearing, the independent judicial officer, Jean-Noel Couraud (France), found that Ashton had committed an act of foul play that warranted a red card in that the player had made contact with the eye(s) and/or eye area of the Ulster Rugby centre, Luke Marshall, during the match at Allianz Park in contravention of Law 10.4 (m).

– European Professional Club Rugby statement


Duncan Taylor agrees new Saracens contract

Scotland international Duncan Taylor has agreed a new contract with reigning Aviva Premiership champions Saracens.

Taylor is in Scotland's 2016 Six Nations squad. Credit: PA

The London club said 12 times-capped Taylor had signed a "multi-year" deal.

Taylor, a 26-year-old centre, is in the Scotland squad for this season's RBS 6 Nations Championship and could be involved in next week's Murrayfield opener against England.

He joined Saracens from Bedford in 2011 and has featured for them at centre, wing and full-back.

Saracens rugby director Mark McCall said:

Duncan is one of the game's most underrated players. He can cover so many positions, and I don't think he gets the credit for the wonderful work he can do with and without the ball. His work-rate and contribution to this team is enormous.

He's a brilliant player who will only get better and better, so we are delighted that he has committed his future to the club.

– Saracens rugby director Mark McCall
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