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Stuart Lancaster to speak to Racing 92; opportunity knocks for Ireland under 21s

The Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team

Racing 92 have confirmed that the club has been in contact with Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster. The former England head coach, as reported in The Irish Times on Wednesday, is due to speak to the Paris outfit this week with a view to taking up a coaching role next season. “The transitional phase is always there,” Leinster head coach Leo maintained on Thursday when declining to comment on “speculation” regarding Lancaster’s future. “The big thing for me is always the people part, so you get the good people in place and great things can happen then.”

Meanwhile, Friday evening against Benetton in the RDS Arena will be the next step Michael Ala’alatoa takes in his World Cup courtship with Samoa. His home nation has been drawn in Pool D of next year’s competition in France along with England, Japan, Argentina and Chile, the South American team their opening match in Bordeaux next September. Previewing the URC game against Benetton tonight, Gerry Thornley writes the bookies’ spread is harsh on Italians despite return of Irish big guns as the Italian visitors have been tricky opponents on their last two visits to the RDS. On the Munster front, Paddy Patterson is happy to embrace tweaks in playing style under Mike Prendergast as the 23-year-old scrumhalf is looking to push Conor Murray and Craig Casey for game time in the nine jersey.

Ireland have potential to defeat Israel and book ticket to the under 21 Euros, writes Lisa Fallon, as they play their first leg against Israel tonight in Tallaght stadium. “They won’t be easy fixtures against Israel, but Ireland still possess the quality to cause an upset and secure that elusive qualification. It would be a scintillating achievement if they can do it,” writes Fallon. The quality of Evan Ferguson and Aaron Connolly is needed as injuries stack up for Jim Crawford’s under-21s. Historic barriers can be torn asunder by doing what no Irish under-21 side has managed to do before — qualify for a major tournament. For the senior team, playing Scotland on Saturday, their revival will test Stephen Kenny’s philosophy. Ireland’s Josh Cullen says about Ireland’s new style: “We have to be brave and play out from the back; and if mistakes happen, they happen”.

Sex toys, cheating and Elon Musk — Chess but not as you know it, writes Johnny Watterson in today’s subscriber only piece, writing about the cheating controversy that broke out this week at the elite end of chess, then the world’s richest man got involved. Earlier this week in a stunning attention-seeking move, while playing American Hans Niemann, Magnus Carlsen resigned from a game after one push of a pawn. Elsewhere, in GAA, Leinster tapping into Dublin’s fountain of knowledge is no surprise to Philly McMahon. He says about the quality of coaching in Gaelic football: “If GAA was better known around the world, you could probably be working in England and the US and maybe New Zealand.” Vinny Corey has been confirmed as the new Monaghan manager as the former captain agrees to a three-year term.