Ireland make move for La Rochelle’s Waterford-born wing Ike Anagu

What does the future hold for the exciting teenager who could play for Ireland, South Africa or even France?

The IRFU’s IQ programme - designed to find Irish-qualified talent based overseas - has its latest catch. Step forward Ike Anagu.

The 19-year-old winger lined out on Irish soil for the first time in a long time on Friday, playing for the Ireland U20s in their fixture against a Munster development XV. He currently plays his club rugby under Ronan O’Gara at La Rochelle. One of that club’s “espoirs”, or academy players, Anagu is yet to feature in a Top14 or Champions Cup match for the reigning European champions.

Listed at 6ft 3in, Anagu was born in Waterford before moving with his family to South Africa when he was seven-years-old. He went to school in Johannesburg, standing out at both basketball and rugby for St John’s College. He was snapped up by the French club in December 2021 after they saw footage of him playing in school.

Anagu could have opted to stay in South Africa - a contract from the Lions, now of course a URC side, was on the table - but quickly decided to take up Ronan O’Gara’s side on their offer.


As well as wing, he has lined out at centre and fullback in the past. Given such experience, it appears that Anagu has the handling skills required to be a versatile back, while his power game seems to match up with his size. During Friday’s match, Anagu finished strongly through defensive traffic from close range only for the try to be chalked off.

As an underage friendly, Friday’s match does not commit Anagu’s international future to Ireland. He is eligible for South Africa having represented them at U18 level in 2021 and could qualify for France if he stays at La Rochelle for long enough. However, the former St John’s College pupil has expressed an interest in playing for Ireland to his coaches back in South Africa for a number of years now.

If, as appears likely, the Waterford man goes down the Irish path, there is a precedent for him to follow. Chay Mullins played in an U20s Six Nations campaign before signing for Connacht from Bristol the following summer. The example suggests Anagu could well be involved in this season’s Six Nations before moving to a province next season.

Which one might snap him up is another question altogether.

Mouthy Marler’s ban leaves questionable taste

Not for the first time, Joe Marler has got himself in hot water thanks to his on-field behaviour. The Harlequins prop was handed a two-week ban for his comments to Bristol flanker Jake Heenan during a recent Premiership match.

Marler allegedly referenced Heenan’s mother - subsequent footage of the incident suggests the unsavoury comment was repeated multiple times -, leading to a mini-brawl as players had to be separated.

The ‘Quins prop later apologised to the former Connacht backrow on social media.

Unsurprisingly, a familiar debate on sledging and how “the game’s gone soft” has raged since Marler was disciplined. The majority seems to be of the opinion that comments about family members have no place in the game.

Sadly and once again to no one’s surprise, the length of the ban has called rugby’s disciplinary system into question. For what seems like the umpteenth time in recent months, disciplinarians have taken certain considerations, put them together and come out with an answer resembling two plus two equals five.

Marler has previous on this front; he called Samson Lee “gypsy boy” in 2016 and two years ago grabbed Alun Wyn Jones by his genitals in the middle of the match. Yet despite the RFU publicly acknowledging that they took into account his previous poor record, which is not supposed to lead to a mitigated ban, Marler’s slap on the wrist was brought down from six weeks to two due to remorse.

Marler may not have known that Heenan’s personal circumstances caused the remarks on his mother to hit home particularly strongly, and apologies were made and accepted. Regardless, the result is that a sexist slur appears to have resulted in just a two-week punishment simply because Marler was sound about it after the fact.

Marler now has to give a presentation to a local club or school, and to a Premiership academy, on the core values of the game. Painting such community engagement as a punishment rather than an activity to be encouraged is merely the bitter cherry on top of an all-round farce.

Leinster and Ulster sharpen up for Intrepro series start

Interprovincial women’s action is starting to gain momentum as Leinster and Ulster squared off in a training game before the competitive interpro series that starts next week.

The game took the shape of four 20-minute sections to give coaches more control over strategy and personnel, something that is badly needed in order to speed up the process of finding cohesion before the return to competitive rugby.

While Leinster have been training semi-regularly in previous months, it is a massive task to put together a squad of this size as players come from different clubs just weeks after the conclusion of the All-Ireland League.

“It was vital to give them game time before the interpros,” said Leinster coach Tania Rosser to It is Rosser’s first stretch of game time since taking over as head coach.

“We haven’t actually had a game in 12 months. It takes time to get comfortable in a new system and there is a new way we want to play.

“We want to play the Leinster way, keeping the ball alive and favouring running rugby. This was our first opportunity to do that as a squad.”

By the Numbers: 14

The combined points tally of Gloucester and London Irish during their New Year’s Eve clash. Santiago Carerras’ last-gasp penalty secured the Cherry and Whites a narrow 8-6 victory at home.

Word of Mouth

“If you know anything about rugby you realise what an unbelievable, special talent we have had for this generation.” Saracens head coach Joe Shaw on Owen Farrell following a 35-3 demolition of Exeter. Farrell stole the show with an audacious assist for an Alex Lewington try.

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns is an Irish Times journalist