Lunchtime Sports Update

RUGBY

All four provinces have named their starting sides for tomorrow’s interprovincial derbies in the Guinness PRO14.

Johann van Graan has made 10 changes to his Munster side as they go in search of their first win of the Christmas period.


The five players retained are Simon Zebo, Keith Earls, John Ryan, Darren O’Shea and Jack O’Donoghue.

Chris Farrell, Rhys Marshall and Conor Oliver all return from injury to feature in the starting team.

Their opponents Connacht have made 8 changes in all.

Among the players to keep their places are Matt Healy, Tiernan O’Halloran and captain John Muldoon.

Ultan Dillane, Kieran Marmion and Bundee Aki are among the players rested ahead of their European fixtures.

For the meeting of Leinster and Ulster, Rory Best will captain the visitors after recovering from a month-long ankle injury.

His inclusion is one of nine changes for Ulster, with the likes of Jacob Stockdale, Iain Henderson and Andrew Trimble all returning to the starting 15.

They face a Leinster side who have made 13 changes in all, with Fergus McFadden and Garry Ringrose the only players to keep their place from the win over Connacht.

Jordan Larmour is named at full-back with Jonny Sexton among the substitutes.

SOCCER

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says he’s earned the right to have an opinion about recent decisions he feels have gone against them.

The Football Association have asked him to explain comments he made relating to penalties they’ve conceded in recent games against West Brom and Chelsea.

Wenger’s also facing an FA charge over his behaviour following the Albion match.

He’s not too pleased about that

Arrivals and departures at Anfield have dominated the build-up to tonight’s clash of Liverpool and Everton in the FA Cup.

Philippe Coutinho is believed to be on the verge of joining Barcelona, while there are also reports this morning that Emre Can has agreed to join Juventus in the summer.

However record signing Virgil van Dijk (pron: DYKE) is set to make his debut in tonight’s Merseyside derby.

They face an Everton side who have lost back-to-back games after an encouraging start to life under Sam Allardyce.

Kick off is at 7.55, and then at 8pm Manchester United take on in-form Championship side Derby County.

Derby are up to second in the table after a run of seven games unbeaten.

Ross Barkley is expected to finally complete his transfer from Everton to Chelsea today.

Barkley was close to making the move on the final day of the summer transfer window before the deal fell through at the last minute.

The midfielder is understood to be undergoing a medical today before completing a 15 million pound move.

HORSE RACING

Next Destination, ante post favourite for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in just under nine weeks time, heads the Willie Mullins-trained challenge for Sunday’s Grade 1 Lawlors Of Naas Novice Hurdle.

The champion trainer has landed this valuable Naas contest five times in the last eight years and Next Destination, who opened his hurdling account at the same course last November before landing a Grade 2 event at Navan subsequently, is joined by another Closutton representative and winner on his only previous start, French import Duc Des Genievres.

With Gordon Elliott’s Samcro a notable absentee having scoped dirty during the week, the Cullentra House trainer and Gigginstown House Stud still have a strong representation in the eight-runner field with Cracking Smart, runner-up to Next Destination last time, and Blow By Blow among those declared on Friday morning. Cork maiden winner Athenean is another Gigginstown runner in the line up trained by Noel Meade who also runs Moyross while Speak Easy trained by Joseph O’Brien and the Jessica Harrington-trained Jetz complete the classy octet in the 2m4f contest.

The big race on Sunday is due off at 1.45pm.

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