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Bumper weekend ahead for Irish rugby; Qatar paying for fan silence

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

“I’m fluttering. No honestly, it doesn’t get any bigger. I have said this to the players. This is called living properly. There is no better time to be an Irish rugby player.” No prizes for guessing how excited Andy Farrell is for Saturday’s clash with Springboks as the world champions take on the world’s number one ranked side at the Aviva. Ireland have picked a settled team with just three changes made to the line-up that beat New Zealand in the third Test in July. Conor Murray starts at scrumhalf to earn his 100th cap, while in the backthree Robert Baloucoune is an exciting selection to replace the injured James Lowe. South Africa have picked an “all-singing, all-dancing” side, according to Farrell, with Cheslin Kolbe’s inclusion at fullback standing out. Of course, before the main event on Saturday, Ireland A take on an All Blacks XV on Friday night at the RDS. You can read John O’Sullivan’s preview here. Elsewhere, rugby may be hovering on the cusp of something it must avoid, according to Owen Doyle. After Banbridge rugby club was ordered by the IRFU to play its home match against UCC behind closed doors with no spectators allowed to attend, the rise in spectator referee abuse is addressed in Friday’s column.

When the prospect of a World Cup in Qatar was controversial enough, news has emerged that fans from certain countries are being given free trips to the tournament, but with a catch. As Johnny Watterson explains, fans will be asked to post information on social media that will be screened and filtered for unsuitable broadcast material. “Like any decent paid-for service, the handpicked group have also been asked to welch on others, who are not so moved towards total positivity about Qatar running the greatest show on earth.” You can’t help but feel this won’t be the last we hear of ludicrous ongoings surrounding the upcoming tournament. Closer to home, after Shamrock Rovers secured another league title, Lisa Fallon praises the Tallaght outfit’s ability to undergo a European campaign while remaining so dominant on the domestic scene. Rovers finished their European season last night with a defeat away to Djurgardens.

In GAA news, Damien Cahalane does not foresee a return by him to the Cork senior football squad. Cahalane last lined out as a dual intercounty player in 2014 but decided in November of that year to focus solely on hurling with the Rebels. Speaking to Gordon Manning, the Corkman said: “I went down the hurling route and have loved every minute of it. There have been tough times but better times than the tough times. I’ve loved every minute of it and I’m still trying to improve as a hurler and looking forward to next year.”

At the T20 World Cup, Josh Little signed off on what has been a stellar individual campaign with a hat-trick against New Zealand on Friday morning, becoming just the second Irishman to do so after Curtis Campher took four wickets in as many balls in 2021. Despite his heroics, Ireland could not secure another upset victory as their tournament came to an end with defeat in Adelaide.