Thursday Lunchtime Sports Update

GOLF

Rory McIlroy’s hoping that ‘focussing on the small things’ can help him claim a first Masters title.

The Down man heads to Augusta in great form, having registered seven top-10 finishes this year and a victory at the Players’ Championship.

McIlory’s been working on his putting with Brad Faxon and has taken up meditation in a bid to try and complete the career Grand Slam.

He feels little tweaks are now starting to show results

McIlroy will tee off at a quarter-past-four while Shane Lowry gets his opening-round underway just before 2pm Irish time.

RUGBY

Iain Henderson returns to captain Ulster against Edinburgh at Murrayfield tomorrow evening.

Flanker Nick Timoney comes into the back-row while there’s a start on the wing for Robert Baloucoune (pron: Bal-ah-coon).

Victory for Dan McFarland’s side would see them secure a place in the playoffs.

Former Ireland captain Keith Wood is anticipating a ‘cracking game’ between Connacht and Cardiff this Saturday.

Victory for Connnacht at the Sportsground would seal qualification for next season’s Heienken Champions Cup.

Wood’s been impressed by the job coach Andy Friend’s been doing in Galway this year

Rugby’s governing body in Australia plans to terminate Israel Folau’s ((pron: fuh-l’ow)) contract after he made homophobic comments on social media again.

Officials say they’ve made attempts to contact him – and he’s failed to communicate.

They say “whilst Israel is entitled to his religious beliefs, the way in which he has expressed these” “is inconsistent with the values of the sport”.

SOCCER

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri says he’ll make a decision this morning on whether Eden Hazard will play in their Europa League quarter-final away to Slavia Prague.

The Italian plans to rest five or six players for this evening’s first leg.

Sarri says it won’t be an easy tie.

Arsenal host Italian side Napoli at the Emirates as they look to qualify for the semi-finals for the second successive season.

The Gunners boss says the tie could go either way.

Unai ((pron: oo-nye)) Emery says they are coming up against a tough opponent.

ATHLETICS

Sebastian Coe, the president of international athletics, has been cleared of misleading British lawmakers about his knowledge of a Russian doping scandal.

A British parliamentary panel that questioned Coe reported last year “it stretches credibility” he was unaware of the detailed allegations.

The IAAF’s (pron: I-double-A-F’s) ethics board says it closed the investigation because no evidence showed “any realistic prospect that any disciplinary case could be established”.

RACING

The Willie Mullins-trained Al Boum Photo will bid for a Cheltenham and Punchestown Gold Cup double.

He’s likely to meet stable companion and recent Aintree winner Kemboy in the big race at the Punchestown Festival.

Henry de Bromhead has entered Monalee, who was third in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham while Aso, Definitily Red and Sizing Granite head up the English challenge.