Don’t be blasé about this year’s Six Nations; Decision on 16-man gate expected today

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

“Sod the World Cup for a minute, imagine the feel-good factor were Ireland to be crowned Six Nations champions after beating England on St Patrick’s weekend?” Gerry Thornley is unequivocal in his view that we should not be of the opinion there is bigger fish to fry this year. In his column today, yes he acknowledges that there is a World Cup quarter-final glass ceiling to be shattered next autumn, but that shouldn’t detract from this year’s Six Nations. Ireland have never won a grand slam at Lansdowne Road, the last home title coming in 1985. With England visiting the Aviva on March 18th, the opportunity to do so this year is too good to forego just because there is one eye already on France 2023. Speaking of the old enemy, Johnny Watterson runs the rule over England now they are under new management with Eddie Jones gone: “Enter Steve Borthwick with a puncture repair kit and a World Cup in six months, and this year’s tournament turns into an episode of rugby speed dating, with Borthwick looking for a competitive mix that will bring back England’s bulldog spirit.”

A decision on what is likely to already be the GAA story of the year is expected today. 16-man gate - when Kilmacud Crokes had 16 players on the pitch when defending a late 45 in their All-Ireland club final win over Glen - will finally see its conclusion after a meeting last night. The CCCC listened to all sides but did not give a decision on the night, instead telling the clubs they would return on Tuesday having considered all the points raised at the summit. Ahead of the start of the hurling leagues this weekend, Patrick Horgan has been speaking candidly about his surprise omission during last year’s All-Ireland. The Corkman’s omission for their All-Ireland SHC preliminary quarter-final against Antrim last June was the obvious talking point, one which he himself struggled to fathom: “I suppose anybody who doesn’t play thinks they’re being treated unfairly, but I was one of them and I thought I was being treated unfairly.”

Bad weather ensured a rare Monday finish on the DP World Tour yesterday, Rory McIlroy securing a dramatic first win of the year with a birdie on the last to beat pantomime villain Patrick Reed by a single stroke. You can catch up on Philip Reid’s report on the events in Dubai here. Also in action in the desert was Padraig Harrington, though his first round 81 rendered a scintillating second round 65 moot. He reflected on a chaotic, up-and-down couple of days that saw him miss the cut at the Dubai Desert Classic.

It had been rumoured, but Ireland’s first World Cup match this summer against the hosts Australia has been moved to a bigger venue. Originally fixed for the 42,500 capacity Allianz Stadium in Sydney, the game will now take place at the old Olympic Stadium, now known as Accor Stadium, the tournament’s largest venue with a capacity of 83,500. After initial controversy over a paltry ticket allocation for Irish fans, Vera Pauw’s side will no doubt hope the move will allow more of those in green to attend.