Morning Sports Update

RUGBY

It’s Irish derby day in the Guinness PRO14 will all four provinces in action to ring in the new year.

The meeting of Leinster and Connacht is the first game of the day, with both sides hoping to build on wins over Munster and Ulster in the last week.


Kick off at the RDS is at 3.15.

That’s followed by the meeting of Ulster and Munster at Kingspan Stadium.

Both sides have made 11 changes to their starting 15s as they look to spready the workload over the Christmas period.

That one gets going at 5.35.

Munster head coach Johann van Graan says he’s not looking too much into Ulster’s recent below-par performance in Galway


SOCCER

The Premier League marks the start of the new year with five games today – three of which kick off at 3.

Liverpool will be hoping to keep their impressive win going with a tough tie away to Burnley.

Elsewhere Leicester face Huddersfield and Stoke meet Newcastle.

The evening game sees two sides hoping to get back to winning ways after disappointing results on Saturday.

Everton lost their first game under Sam Allardyce with defeat at Bournemouth, while Manchester United are on a run of three straight draws.

Kick off at Goodison Park is at 5.30.

The day’s action kicks off at 12.30 with the meeting of relegation strugglers Brighton and Bournemouth.

Arsenal are up to fifth but manager Arsene Wenger’s record 811th top-flight game in charge was spoilt by a 1-1 draw away to West Brom.

Virgil van Dijk says Liverpool’s the “perfect match” for him – after formally completing his 75-million-pound move from Southampton.

No club’s ever spent so much money on a defender.

Van Dijk’s signed a “long-term contract” at Anfield – but the length of the deal hasn’t been revealed.

An agreement between the sides was confirmed on Wednesday – but he couldn’t officially join until today, now the transfer window’s open.

Leicester have finally been able to complete the registration of Adrien Silva – but he’s not eligible to play in this afternoon’s Premier League game with Huddersfield.

They missed the deadline to register the Portugal midfielder by 14 seconds at the end of August – after buying him from Sporting Lisbon.

Silva’s been training without being able to play ever since.

Now the transfer window’s open again, the issue’s been sorted – and he could make his debut in Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Fleetwood.


DARTS

It’s PDC World Championship Final day as Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor takes on Rob Cross for the right to be crowned this year’s champion.

It’s been a contrasting journey to this stage for the players – Taylor is playing in his last World Championship game before retirement while Cross only turned professional 12 months ago.

Victory for Taylor would give him an incredible 17th world title.

Play gets underway at Alexandra Palace at 8.

HORSE RACING

The BoyleSports €500,000 Irish Grand National April 2nd Handicap Chase (3.15) is the richest race on a seven-race New Years Day card at Fairyhouse with 13 runners declared.

Gordon Elliott, who sent out 11 winners including three Grade 1s over the Christmas period, previously won this race in 2013 with Tarquinius. The leading trainer in Ireland this season is double-handed with Fire In His Eyes ridden by 7lb claimer Liam McKenna and previous course winner Swingbridge, the mount of in-form Davy Russell.

Capture The Drama won this event 12 months ago for Newmarket-on-Fergus trainer Aengus King and the Clare representative also figures in the field with 5lb claimer Barry Browne taking the mount.

Ireland’s champion trainer Willie Mullins is surprisingly without a runner in the 3m 1f stamina test but he is represented in several other races and has a total of six runners on the card.

The first race is due off at 12.20pm and the official going is heavy.

Tramore gets the 2018 domestic racing action underway at noon today with the four-runner €30,000 Savills ‘A Different Outlook’ Listed Chase the highlight on a seven-race card.

Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud enjoyed a spectacular 1-2-3 in last Thursday’s Leopardstown Christmas Chase when Noel Meade’s Road To Respect saluted the judge and the famous maroon and white star silks are responsible for half of the field here with A Toi Phil and Lord Scoundrel, both runners trained by Gordon Elliott.

Gigginstown won this race three years ago with the Elliott-trained Roi Du Mee who also obliged in 2013 while One Cool Cookie under the care of former trainer Charlie Swan was victorious in the 2m5f contest back in 2009.

Last year’s winner Champagne West is also among the quartet for local trainer Henry de Bromhead, representing Warwickshire, England-based owner Roger Brookhouse. He is partnered by Dylan Robinson who has ridden five winners this month, all for his boss de Bromhead.

Ireland’s champion trainer Willie Mullins has also won this race several times before including with Marito in 2014 and he has claims again with the Edward O’Connell-owned Bachasson in the hands of Paul Townend.

The going at Tramore is currently heavy.