Kevin Kilbane on Belgium’s failings; Gordon D’Arcy explains Munster improvement

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

All is not well in the Belgium camp, according to Kevin Kilbane. In his column today, he outlines his belief that head coach Roberto Martínez does not have this squad in a good place after their defeat to Morocco, with off-field issues such as a lack of awareness of Kevin De Bruyne’s explosive interview with the Guardian reflecting a general sense of incompetence around the governance of the squad. In the on-field action, there were no upsets last night as Ken Early reports from a USA victory over Iran while Gavin Cummiskey watched England swat aside Wales to nail down the first last-16 ties.

“There is no doubting the improvement in style and substance, of late, under Graham Rowntree – helped by that win over South Africa A in Cork – and his coaching team and the green shoots are visible, illustrating what might be possible through continued development of the playing group.” That is Gordon D’Arcy’s verdict after watching Munster continue their mid-season revival with victory over Connacht last weekend. D’Arcy goes on to explain how Munster need to balance their need to develop a game plan under the still new coaching ticket while also searching for vital results to rescue their campaign after their poor start. From within the Munster camp, Calvin Nash is hoping to use his try from that win - his first for the province at Thomond Park - to propel himself to bigger and better things.

In other player news, Will Connors’ return from a bicep injury for Leinster may be sooner than expected after the Leinster flanker revealed a desire to be back this side of Christmas. The Kildare native was also speaking about his good friend Josh van der Flier winning world player of the year recently, finding time to poke fun at his teammate while showing his admiration: “Everyone jokes about ‘oh he has worked on his carrying,’ but he worked on that a lot. He got to enjoy the fruits of it (the work). He is one of the top carriers in world rugby.” Elsewhere, Handré Pollard, who missed South Africa’s defeat to Ireland through injury, insists the ‘Boks are happy with their November tour despite said result.

We are approaching the 100 year anniversary of the GAA being asked to intervene in the civil war. Seán Moran looks back at the GAA’s outward position of neutrality, one it took with a range of political issues in its history. “Political involvement has always flashed amber lights for the GAA. Taking sides means annoying or even alienating those in disagreement and the association has always been at pains to project political neutrality.” Elsewhere, Eoin Cody spoke to Ian O’Riordan on Ballyhale Shamrocks’ comeback win over Naas last weekend.