Hopelessly lopsided World Cup draw raises questions for World Rugby

Remembering Ireland women’s rugby Grand Slam; Sexton concern for Leinster; ongoing crisis in Donegal GAA

On the eve of the start of the Irish women’s Six Nations campaign, Louise Lawless takes us on a trip down memory lane, back to 10 years ago on that Baltic day in Milan when the team made history by winning its first - and, so far, only - Grand Slam.

Johnny Sexton achieved the feat somewhat more recently, but after hobbling out of the England game last weekend there’s a doubt over whether he’ll be able to play again for Leinster this season. Johnny Watterson hears Leo Cullen’s thoughts on the matter as Leinster prepare for tonight’s United Rugby Championship game at the RDS against a formidable Stormers team sprinkled with Springboks.

Johnny also looks at the impact of World Rugby making the draw for this year’s World Cup as far back as December 2020, the changes in the rankings since then leaving that draw looking hopelessly lopsided. Ireland’s pool, of course, contains the first, fourth and fifth-ranked teams in the world, meaning at least one big gun will make an early exit.

Gavin Cummiskey, meanwhile, continues the countdown to Monday’s Euro 2024 qualifier against France in Dublin, taking a look at Stephen Kenny’s options ahead of the meeting with the World Cup runners-up. They start their campaign against the Netherlands in Paris tonight. Hopefully the Dutch will run them ragged.


In Gaelic Games, Sean Moran brings us the latest on the ongoing crisis in Donegal in the week that saw their football manager Paddy Carr resign after just five months in the job. The current situation is, said one former All-Ireland winner, “an all-time low for the county”.

Philip Reid updates us on the progress - or otherwise - of our golfers in action this week, among them Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, Seamus Power and Leona Maguire, while Brian O’Connor looks at what plans the trainer and owner might have for Constitution Hill, the Kylian Mbappé of horse racing.

Telly choice: TG4 and Premier Sports 2 have live coverage of Leinster’s United Rugby Championship game against Stormers (kick-off 7.35), while Virgin Media Two and Premier Sports will bring us the clash of France and the Netherlands (kick-off 7.45), the top seeds in the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2024 qualifying group.

Keep an eye on: The reaction to World Athletics’ decision to ban transgender women from elite female competitions if they have undergone male puberty. Very little about this debate has been measured thus far, and that’s unlikely to change.