Alun Wyn Jones Provinces show there’s plenty of life in Irish rugby yet

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Well now, the system cannot be broken.

Irish rugby, seemingly battered and bruised after being so badly exposed at the World Cup in Japan, returns to European fields to instantly show what the players are capable of doing in the cold of winter.

A provincial clean sweep is rare enough, but how on earth Connacht managed to edge Montpellier when shorn 10 frontliners amidst a full-blown injury crisis will be examined by archaeologists centuries from now.

That’s not all.

Ulster were expected to struggle away to Bath but, similar to Andy Friend in Galway, Dan McFarland has been quietly designing a successful blueprint in Belfast.

Jacob Stockdale, shelving his poor defensive form, returned to hero status with his last-second intercept denying Semesa Rokoduguni a certain match-winning try.

“We dogged that out and nearly tried to beat ourselves at the end but we dogged it out,” said McFarland following the 17-16 result, offering praise and criticism in equal measure, perhaps on the premise that the next challenge for Ulster is one of the most daunting of them all.

“If we give Clermont that much ball next week they will torture us.”

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