Andy Farrell will unveil his starting XV and matchday 23 today for the Six Nations game against France on Saturday. Previously he had been expected to name an unchanged team for the clash, but Gerry Thornley reports Dan Sheehan and Conor Murray have emerged as doubts. In which case, Craig Casey at scrumhalf and Rob Herring at hooker are tipped to take places in the team. Announcement due at about 2pm. Ireland centre Garry Ringrose has broken down the big defensive moments against Wales as he looks to continue his partnership with Stuart McCloskey. Ringrose left an indelible mark on Wales outhalf Dan Biggar, both literally and figuratively, in the form of a couple of tackles during Ireland’s 34-10 victory at the Principality stadium.
Meanwhile, Johnny Sexton is looking forward to renewing acquaintances with the formidable France. Outside of Ireland, French rugby has been the biggest part of Johnny Sexton’s career. He retains many fond memories of his two seasons with Racing 92 in Paris and playing all over France, yet it’s been an often difficult, fractious relationship. “I also learned a lot culturally, like what not to do. I learned a lot about myself in terms of leadership, more so in what not to do,” Sexton said. If you want all the angles on this year’s Six Nations, sign up for The Counter Ruck, our new weekly rugby newsletter from Gerry Thornley.
The return of the League of Ireland is just around the corner. Another season awaits for Shelbourne manager Damien Duff who plots a new season without the anticipated fresh investment in the Drumcondra club. “Usually at 27, 28, 29-years-old, a player with a lot of experience in the league, that has a bit of quality costs €1,200 a week – I ain’t got that,” said Duff at the Airtricity sponsored league launch. In the women’s League of Ireland, the “pressure’s now on Shamrock Rovers’ as all eyes are on the new upstarts after picking rivals’ pockets. Shelbourne and Peamount have seen a raft of players move across town to their Tallaght rivals.
Speaking of Shamrock Rovers, one famous former follower was playwright Brendan Behan, who would have been 100 years old today. In 1961, he was among a crowd of more than 12,000 that saw a Shamrock Rovers selection, including Frank O’Neill, Liam Tuohy and Tommy Farrell (uncle of Colin), draw 2-2 with Petah Tikva from Israel in the International Soccer League, a short-lived summer competition run over several weeks in the US. In GAA, Ciarán Murphy writes the case of Galway minors is to test if hurling counties can see beyond own self-interest. The county’s minor hurlers aiming to be included in either Leinster or Munster championship. Finally, Joanne O’Riordan writes the Meath women’s story continues to capture the imagination of the public as we head into a new season