Morning Sports Update

RUGBY

Ireland open their 2018 Six Nations campaign today with a trip to France.

The boys in green will be looking to record their first win in Paris since 2014, when the sides meet at 4:45 Irish time at the Stade de France.


Head coach Joe Schmidt has included three six nations debutants for the clash – with Jacob Stockdale, Bundee Aki and James Ryan named to start.

Wales host Scotland in the first game of the competition from 2:15.

At 3, defending champions England go to Italy.

Ireland’s women’s side open their 2018 Six Nations account against France this evening.

The side, led by Kerry’s Ciara Griffin, kick off against the 2016 champions at 8 o’clock in Toulouse.

Wales are off to a winning start in the Women’s Six Nations.

They beat Scotland 18-17 at Colwyn Bay.

Last night a new-look Ireland under-20’s side lost 34-24 to their French counterparts in Bordeaux.

Hugh Farrelly from the Irish Daily Mail previews the action.

SOCCER

Manchester City and Burnley get the days Premier League action underway at Turf Moor.

Five games kick off at 3, as Manchester United play host to Huddersfield, Stoke travel to Bournemouth, Brighton entertain West Ham, Swansea will look to build on their midweek win over Arsenal when they go to Leicester, and at the Hawthornes West Brom face Southampton.

The late game could see Theo Walcott face his former club Arsenal, as Everton go to the Emerates.

Bristol City have missed the chance to pull level on points with the SkyBet Championship’s automatic promotion spots.

They lost 1-nil at Bolton – who’re now out of the relegation zone.

Wolves have an 11-point lead at the top of the table ahead of their home game with Sheffield United later.

Before that, Derby can cut that advantage to eight points by beating Brentford.

Aston Villa look to continue putting pressure on the automatic promotion places when they host bottom side Burton.

Of the other teams in action currently in the play-off spots, Cardiff are at Leeds and Fulham face Nottingham Forest.

Struggling Sunderland have a home fixture with Ipswich.

Middlesbrough go to Norwich, Hull are at Preston, QPR play Barnsley, Reading meet Millwall and it’s Sheffield Wednesday against Birmingham.

Champions Celtic have the chance to extend their Scottish Premiership lead to 14 points this lunchtime.

Brendan Rodgers’ side are at Kilmarnock – ahead of second-placed Aberdeen hosting Hamilton at 3.

GAELIC GAMES

There’s second round action in the Allianz Football and Hurling League’s today.

At 7, Tyrone and Dublin meet in a repeat of last years All-Ireland Football semi-final.

Waterford and Tipperary’s hurlers will each look for their first win of the league.

The sides meet in Semple Stadium at 7 o’clock.

It’s A-I-B All-Ireland Club Junior and Intermediate Football Final day at Croke Park.

The junior decider pits Cork’s Knocknagree against Westmeath’s Multyfarnham at 2.

A Moy side, featuring Tyrone legend Sean Kavanagh, face Michael Glavey’s of Roscommon the Intermediate Final at a quarter-to-four.

HORSE RACING

Eight-times Grade 1 winner Faugheen today bids to make amends for a below-par effort last time when he faces seven rivals in the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle (3.30), one of three Grade 1 races down for decision on the opening day of the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.

The Willie Mullins-trained 2015 Cheltenham Champion Hurdler, who flopped at the Dublin track over Christmas after going off the 2/11 favourite, is joined by his two stable companions’ Melon and Bapaume and is ridden again by Paul Townend.

The 2m race has added interest as the JP McManus-owned Defi Du Seuil, winner of the 2017 Triumph Hurdle and beaten just once in eight starts, has also been declared representing Somerset trainer Philip Hobbs. The last British-trained winner of the race was Collier Bay trained by Jim Old in 1996 and British champion rider Richard Johnson, successful three times before aboard Defi Du Seuil, travels over to take the ride again.

The field is completed by the Gordon Elliott-trained Mick Jazz, the surprise winner of the Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas when Faugheen was dramatically pulled up, along with the Jessica Harrington-trained pair, Supasundae and Jezki, and Identity Thief from the Henry de Bromhead stable.

Mullins also has two runners among the five declared for the Grade 1 Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase (2.20). Footpad, ante post favourite for the Racing Post Arkle at Cheltenham next month, is joined by the unbeaten Demi Sang whose owner JP McManus is also represented with Any Second Now partnered by Mark Walsh.
The Henry de Bromhead-trained Petit Mouchoir, who won the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle 12 months ago, is also unbeaten over fences and could rubber stamp his Cheltenham prospects here under Davy Russell.

Racing gets underway with the Grade 1 Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle (1.10) which has attracted a field of seven including the Gordon Elliott-trained dual winner Dortmund Park, ridden again by Davy Russell. Willie Mullins is doubly represented with Fabulous Saga, the mount of Paul Townend while his nephew David Mullins is booked for stable companion Carter Mckay.

Min and Simply New renew rivalry in the seven-runner Grade 2 Coral Dublin Chase. A stewards enquiry here last time saw the Nicky Richards-trained British raider promoted to first place at the expense of the Willie Mullins-trained Min who should be a lot sharper this time but his stable companion Yorkhill may well have the final say in the hands of Paul Townend.

The going at Leopardstown is soft, yielding in places.

GOLF

Rickie Fowler and Bryson Dechambeau are the halfway leaders at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

The American duo both carded rounds of 66 overnight to move to 10-under par after 36-holes.

Shane Lowry just made the weekend at one-under but defending champion Hideki Matsuyama was forced to withdraw due to a wrist injury.

Darren Clarke props up the leaderboard after three rounds of the Maybank Championship on the European Tour.

Having made his first cut in 18 tournaments yesterday, the former Ryder Cup shot 79 this morning to fall back to three-over par.

He’s 18 shots behind the joint leaders Jorge Campillo and Dylan Frittelli heading into tomorrow’s final round.

DARTS

Two-time world champion Adrian Lewis has been suspended by the P-D-C.

He had to be led away by security following a clash with Spain’s Jose Justicia (pron: ho-zay jus-tees-ee-ah) after their quarter-final at the UK Open qualifiers.

Lewis had won the match – but was unhappy with his opponent’s behaviour during it.

The PDC says they’re now investigating the incident.