Morning Sports Update

RUGBY

Munster and Leinster renew rivalries at a sold out Thomond Park in the Guinness PRO-14 this afternoon.

The hosts enjoyed a 29-17 victory in the fixture last season in what was their only win over the Blues since 2015.

Tommy O’Donnell gets a start in the Munster back-row and is hoping to stake a claim for a more regular place in the starting 15

Jordan Larmour starts at full-back for Leinster and he’s relishing the chance to start in the derby for the first time in his career

Kick-off is at 3.15.


SOCCER

With Manchester City not in action today the chasing pack will be trying to close the gap on the runaway leaders.

In the lunchtime game Tottenham Hotspur take on Southampton at Wembley at half-twelve.

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino says it’s important his team maintain their standards through a busy run of festive fixtures

Manchester United host Burnley in one of six fixtures at 3.

Reigning champions Chelsea are at home to Brighton, Stoke go to Huddersfield on the back of their weekend win over West Brom, out-of-form Watford host Leicester, unbeaten in six games Everton make the trip to West Brom and Bournemouth take on West Ham.

Liverpool welcome basement side Swansea in the evening game at half-five.

Scottish Premiership leaders Celtic can stretch their lead to 11-points with a win at Dundee this lunchtime.

That’s at 12-30.


HORSE RACING

The Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase is the feature race at Leopardstown on St Stephen’s Day and Willie Mullins will be bidding to continue his fine record in the race. Judged on his spectacular performance on chasing debut at Navan last month, Footpad has excellent prospects of making it three in a row for Ireland’s champion trainer. A dual Grade 1-winner over hurdles, who competed creditably in both the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown last season, the five-year-old never put a foot wrong at Navan when storming to an 11-length win. Death Duty carries an unbeaten chasing record into the race having won his three starts and will be dropping down in trip when he takes on Footpad. The Gigginstown House Stud-owned chaser was last seen winning the Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse at the beginning of the month under Davy Russell, who retains the ride. The powerful owners are also represented by recent winner Avenir D’Une Vie, trained by Henry de Bromhead, while Ted Walsh has decided to run maiden Any Second Now. Jessica Harrington’s Jett completes the five-runner field. The Gavin Cromwell-trained Espoir D’Allen will be bidding to keep his unbeaten record over hurdles intact and stretch his winning sequence to five in the Grade 2 Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle. It is worth noting that Cromwell came agonisingly close to winning this race two years ago, when Jer’s Girl was narrowly reeled in by Apple’s Jade in a pulsating finish. The Meath-based handler has strong claims of redemption as Espoir D’Allen has improved with each run and was last seen when demolishing a decent Grade 3 field at Fairyhouse earlier this month. On the other end of that comprehensive defeat was Mitchouka, and the Gordon Elliott-trained and Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding reoposses today under Davy Russell. Elliott and Gigginstown are also represented by French recruit, Farclas, who will be making his debut over hurdles under teenage sensation Jack Kennedy.

The first race at Leopardstown is underway at 12.15.

There are not many big races over the Christmas period in Ireland where Willie Mullins does not have a good record and the champion trainer will be bidding to continue his fine run in the feature McMahons Builders Providers – New Online Store Just Launched Novice Chase at Limerick. Al Boum Photo, a most impressive winner of a beginners’ chase at Navan last month, leads the attack for Mullins, who is chasing his sixth win since 2008 in the Grade 2. This contest has been a handy launchpad for subsequent Grade 1 performers in recent times. Sir Des Champs ran out a good winner for the Mullins stable in 2011, while Gilgamboa scored for Enda Bolger in 2014. Gordon Elliott has yet to land a blow in this contest but is strongly represented by last-time-out winners Tombstone and Dounikos, both owned by Gigginstown. Rachael Blackmore will be reunited with Ex Patriot, last season’s Triumph Hurdle fourth, in the 2m4f hurdle (1.05). The Ellmarie Holden-trained four-year-old was last seen running on the level in October and has the highest rating in the field off a mark of 144. The racing at Limerick is underway at 12.35 and the ground is heavy.

Gilgamboa, a Grade 1 winner in 2015, is the star attraction at Down Royal on St Stephen’s Day as the Enda Bolger-trained gelding bids to get back to winning ways in the Toals Bookmakers Hunters Chase. The JP McManus-owned nine-year-old will be partnered by Nina Carberry. Gordon Elliott is well-represented throughout the card and has strong claims of taking the opening Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase with Sutton Manor. The Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding bumped into stablemate The Storyteller at Fairyhouse last time and will be well-fancied to open his account over fences under Jamie Codd. Elliott also has strong claims in the concluding Down Royal Racecourse of the year 2017 bumper with Dorydalis, who will also be partnered by Codd.

The hugely popular seven-race card is underway at 12.10.

The big race of the day in the U-K is the King George VI Chase at Kempton. Defending champion Thistlecrack will be opposed by R-S-A chase winner Might Bite in the 3.05.

GREYHOUNDS

The evens priced Dumas won race 8 at Shelbourne Park by 2 and a half lengths in 28-74 for Tralee’s Des Grace.