Lunchtime Sports Update

RUGBY

After a three week break Guinness PRO12 action returns this weekend with Munster taking on Zebre in Parma on Saturday at 3(2pm Irish).

In naming his match-day 23 Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus makes fives changes to the side that defeated Cardiff Blues in round 17.

Returning are the international trio of Niall Scannell, John Ryan and Peter O’Mahony as they all start in a pack that also sees the return of Jack O’Donoghue at number 8 after rehabbing an ankle injury sustained against Ospreys.

In a positional switch, on making his 70th appearance for the province, Dave O’Callaghan makes his first start at lock for the province, joining Billy Holland in the second row partnership.

Tyler Bleyendaal is the only change to the backline as the Kiwi 10 resumes his half back pairing with Duncan Williams, while there is additional international honours at fullback this week after Andrew Conway’s debut against England at the Aviva last Saturday.

Prop James Cronin is included in the replacements after successfully rehabbing a finger injury sustained against Racing 92 at the end of January, and David Johnston is named in his first match-day squad of the season.

Munster: Andrew Conway; Darren Sweetnam, Jaco Taute, Rory Scannell, Ronan O’Mahony; Tyler Bleyendaal, Duncan Williams; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Dave O’Callaghan, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony Capt., Tommy O’Donnell, Jack O’Donoghue.

Replacements: Rhys Marshall, James Cronin, Stephen Archer, Darren O’Shea, Conor Oliver, Angus Lloyd, David Johnston, Dan Goggin.

Isa Nacewa has overcome his recent injury concern to captain Leinster for the visit of Cardiff to the RDS.

A large number of Irish internationals have been rested for the tie, meaning Ross Byrne and Luke McGrath form a half-back partnership.

Dan Leavy starts at blindside after making his Six Nations debut last weekend, while Cian Healy is named in the front row.

Meanwhile Pat Lam has made 10 changes for Connacht’s trip to Scotland to take on Glasgow.

Kieran Marmion returns from Ireland duty to start at scrum-half, while Tiernan O’Halloran, Jack Carty and Craig Ronaldson are among the backs.

Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham have been restored to the front row.

SOCCER

The Ireland women’s national team have climbed two places to 32nd in the latest FIFA world rankings.

Colin Bell’s side enjoyed a relatively successful Cyprus Cup campaign last month, finished the tournament in 4th place.

Dele Alli has been handed a three-match European suspension by UEFA.

The Tottenham attacking midfielder was given a straight red card during his side’s Europa League draw with Gent last month.

He will now miss Tottenham’s next three games in European competition.

Arsenal have been fined 4-thousand-300 pounds by UEFA after a supporter ran onto the pitch in their Champions League loss to Bayern Munich.

They were beaten 5-1 in north London earlier this month, to seal a 10-2 aggregate defeat in their last-16 tie.

BASKETBALL

The Irish Senior Men’s and Women’s teams will take part in two tournaments this summer as part of their preparations for the Small Nations 2018.

Both squads will travel to Luxembourg for a two-day friendly in May, where they will play off against the host country in a series of games on May 19th and 20th.

The following month, Pete Strickland’s senior men’s team will travel to Scotland on June 9th and 10th where they will compete in the Celtic Clash tournament which sees them play against Scotland and Wales. The Irish Senior Women’s team will host Iceland for two international friendlies on the same weekend. They will play the first game on Friday, June 9th at the Mardyke Arena in Cork before travelling to Dublin for the second game, which will be played at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght on Saturday, June 10th.

CRICKET

Ireland’s cricketers have lost their one-day international series with Afghanistan.

They were beaten by 7 wickets in the deciding match – to go down 3-2 overall.

Having been bowled out for just 229 – their opponents passed the target with 8 balls of their innings remaining.