Lunchtime Sports Update

RUGBY

The Munster team to face Zebre at Thomond Park tomorrow night in the Guinness PRO14 has been named by Head Coach Johann van Graan.

There are 12 changes to the starting XV that overcame Castres Olympique 48-3 in the Champions Cup last time out with captain Billy Holland maintaining his place along with Simon Zebo and Jean Kleyn.


Scrum-half Duncan Williams makes his 150th Munster appearance and is partnered in the half-backs by JJ Hanrahan.

Seventeen of the 23-man squad are products of the Munster system with all but two of the squad Irish-qualified.

The back three is made up of Zebo, Darren Sweetnam and Alex Wootton – the province’s top try-scorer so far this season with seven tries.

Dan Goggin makes his first start of the season after recovering from a knee injury with Sammy Arnold also back in the side for his first appearance since New Year’s Day.

James Cronin returns from international duty to start at loosehead prop with Niall Scannell at hooker and Brian Scott at tighthead.

Holland is named in the second row alongside Kleyn as Jack O’Donoghue, Conor Oliver and Robin Copeland make up the back row.

John Ryan is among the replacements having featured in Ireland’s dramatic win over France in the 6 Nations last week with Ian Keatley and Rory Scannell also back from international duty.

Gerbrandt Grobler and John Poland are both in line to make their Guinness PRO14 debuts off the bench with Kevin O’Byrne, Jeremy Loughman and Dave O’Callaghan completing the replacements.

O’Callaghan is named in a Munster squad for the first time this season having recovered from a knee injury sustained last April.

Munster: Simon Zebo; Darren Sweetnam, Sammy Arnold, Dan Goggin, Alex Wootton; JJ Hanrahan, Duncan Williams; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, Brian Scott; Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland (C); Jack O’Donoghue, Conor Oliver, Robin Copeland.

Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Jeremy Loughman, John Ryan, Gerbrandt Grobler, Dave O’Callaghan, John Poland, Ian Keatley, Rory Scannell.

In relation to Gerbrandt Grobler’s selection for the province, Munster Rugby and the IRFU wish to reiterate that Gerbrandt, as a member of the Munster squad and living by our values, will continue to be considered for selection during his time with the province, once deemed fit.

While some hold the view that rugby should provide no road-back for those that have taken a banned substance in the past, it would not be within the spirit and values of rugby to turn its back on every person that ever made a bad decision, having made restitution.

Irish Rugby is recognised as operating one of the most stringent testing environments of any rugby nation with a zero tolerance approach to doping in the sport. The province and Irish Rugby are fully supportive of all WADA and World Rugby anti-doping policies.

Gerbrandt Grobler served a two-year ban from rugby and returned to play for Racing 92 in November 2016 as per the process set out by World Rugby.

SOCCER

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill has signed a new 4 year deal.

The former Shamrock Rovers boss has put pen to paper after turning down the vacant Scotland job.

The lucrative contract extension runs until 2024.

Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez has turned up for training this morning for the first time since failing to get a deadline day move to Manchester City.

The Premier League leaders made bids for the winger, but eventually pulled out as he was too expensive.

It’s not yet known if Mahrez will play in tomorrow’s game – which coincidentally, is at City.

HORSE RACING

Gordon Elliott has declared four runners for the stamina-sapping BoyleSports National Trial Handicap Chase at Punchestown on Sunday, the richest race taking place in Ireland this weekend.

The extended 3m4f contest has attracted a field of 20 headed by the Noel Meade-trained Road To Riches while Elliott has declared Folsom Blue, Space Cadet, Out Sam and Woods Well.

The Cullentra House trainer is still €254,470 clear at the top of the Irish title race heading into the weekend from multiple champion Willie Mullins who is doubly represented with Childrens List and Isleofhopendreams.

The big race on Sunday is due off at 4.20pm.

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