Morning Sports Update

RUGBY

Ireland remain in serious contention to win the Six Nations title.

They’re top of the table after beating France 19-9 in Dublin.

Joe Schmidt’s side head to Wales for their next game in two weeks.

Today in the 6 Nations Conor O’Shea faces a daunting prospect as Italy head coach as he brings his side to Twickenham to face reigning champions England from 3 o’clock.

In the women’s Six Nations Ireland will be aiming to make it three wins from three when they play host to France.

Kick off in Donnybrook is at 12.45.

Ulster and Connacht both face Italian opposition this lunchtime in the Guinness PRO12.

Ulster take on Zebre with Connacht facing Treviso with kickoff in both games at 12.30.

BADMINTON

Kerry’s Inter-County Grade C & E teams will be in action today in Cork and Waterford, from 10 o’clock.

Also today the Ballyheigue tournament is on for Divisions 3,4,&5.
Divisions 5 starting time is 11.45; Division 4 is 2.30 & Division 3 is 5 o’clock.

GOLF

The Honda Classic is being headed by Rickie Fowler, who’s 13 under and 4 clear of Tyrrell Hatton.

Graeme McDowell is 3 under after a 68.

Honda LPGA Thailand has been won by Amy Yang by 5 shots from So Yeon Ryu.

TENNIS

The Ukranian Elina Svitolina has won the Dubai Duty Free Championship.

She beat the former world number 1 Caroline Wozneeacki 6-4, 6-2.

ATHLETICS

Mo Farah’s coach Alberto Salazar is once again at the centre of doping allegations.

A leaked report by the US Anti-Doping Agency, seen by the Sunday Times, claims he may have broken rules to boost the performance of some of his athletes.

Salazar was first accused of breaching anti-doping regulations in 2015.

Both he and Farah deny they’ve done anything wrong.

BOXING

Gavin McDonnell was unable to join his brother as a British world champion.

He was beaten on points by Mexico’s Rey Vargas in their WBC super-bantamweight title fight in Hull last night.

Jamie McDonnell is the current holder of the WBA bantamweight belt.

HORSE RACING

Barry Geraghty remains hopeful of riding at the Cheltenham Festival in just over two weeks despite suffering a partially collapsed lung and cracked rib after falling from Charli Parcs at Kempton on Saturday.

Although the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle favourite was quickly up – and reported to be fine – Geraghty took a long time to get his feet before being taken by ambulance to St George’s Hospital in Tooting, London for precautionary tests.

The Meathman had three booked rides at Naas this afternoon including the exciting Any Second Now in the Grade 2 Paddy Power Onside App Novice Hurdle at 3.50 but he now faces an uphill battle to make it to the Festival.

Currently second favourite behind Ruby Walsh to be crowned leading rider at the upcoming Cheltenham Festival for the third time in his career, Geraghty said: ” The prognosis is not too bad. I have a slightly collapsed lung and a cracked rib. The doctors are hopeful that I will be back in time for the Cheltenham Festival. I’m hopeful too.”

It’s Paddy Power trials day at Naas and all eyes will be on the Ted Walsh-trained Any Second Now in the Grade 2 Onside App Novice Hurdle at 3.50pm as he bids to confirm himself as a genuinely exciting horse for JP McManus.

A 66-1 winner of his maiden hurdle on debut at Navan, there was no such shock when he beat a decent field in the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown last month.

Just as Labaik had begun to earn himself a reputation of being a reformed character, he reverted to old habits when failing to jump off in the Royal Bond in December before disgracing himself at the start of the Navan Novice Hurdle later that month.

He’s been sent hunting again in a bid to sweeten him up and if he was to play ball this afternoon he would have a serious chance, but that’s a big if.

Noel Meade won this race in 2009 with subsequent Supreme Novices’ winner Go Native and Joey Sasa could chart a similar path towards Cheltenham with a solid display in this.

Willie Mullins, who last won this in 2013 with Annie Power, is represented by Pravalaguna in the first time hood while Forge Meadow is the only other mare in the line-up.

Mullins has a great chance of getting his day off to a flyer as Kolumbus is a short price favourite for the opening Best Odds In You Paddy Power Shop Maiden Hurdle under Ruby Walsh.

The seven-race card at Naas begins at 2.20pm and the going is soft to heavy on the hurdle course while it’s heavy on the chase track.

CYCLING

Racing in the Scratch Race Felix English finished in fourth place in the fourth and final round of the Tissot UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Los Angeles, USA last night. English was leading the charge for silver with 10m to, before being pipped at the post by France and New Zealand. Gold went to Yauheni Karaliok from Belarus, with Thomas Denis (France) and Thomas Sexton (NZ) taking silver and bronze. Having consistently finished in the top five in this event English finished the World Cup series in second place in the overall standings. Also in action yesterday was Eoin Mullen who finished 25th in the Sprint with a time of 10.310. The LA round of the Track World Cup runs over the weekend of the 25th and 26th February 2017.

Speaking after his fourth place English was frustrated to finish within reach of the medal, but is confident with his form:

“I felt really comfortable all through the race. I rode across to the French and New Zealand guys and we took a lap. The last 15 laps were cagey, though, with the Belarussian getting away; he was the eventual winner.”

The Scratch Race is a bunch race with the first three across the line deemed the winners; the result is aggressive and tactical racing in the 15km, 60 lap race with riders keen to lap the field.

“There were lots of small groups getting on the back of us in the closing laps and I made the mistake of thinking the group had got on, which they hadn’t. We were given the notice for 3 laps to go, but also 2 to go when we were on the home straight, so I ended up leading the sprint out from there and got passed by the second and third placed riders with 10m to go. That was super frustrating as I felt I was good enough to do a lot better. The Scratch Race is such a lottery!”

Today English lines out with Mark Downey in the Madison, an event in which they won silver last weekend in the third round of the World Cup Series in Cali:

“It’s positive going in to the Madison, which will hopefully be a harder race.”

Also in action tonight is Anna Turvey who will compete in the Individual Pursuit, an event that netted her a bronze medal at the European Championships last October. This will be Turvey’s first World Cup outing on the track. Eoin Mullen will be racing in the Keirin tonight.

This is the final round of the Tissot UCI Track Cycling World Cup series, with the points from these events counting towards qualification for the Track Cycling World Championships in Hong Kong on Easter Weekend from the 12th – 16th April.