All to play for in final pool games; Mourinho hits out at United

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

Shane Lowry takes a one shot lead into the third round of the Abu Dhabi Championship on Friday. Photo: Neville Hopwood/EPA

Shane Lowry takes a one shot lead into the third round of the Abu Dhabi Championship on Friday. Photo: Neville Hopwood/EPA

We’re nearly there now. The knockout stages of the Champions Cup beckons but how many irish provinces will be there? Three? Two? One? Or, as is still a possibility, none? Granted, no Irish representative in the knockout stages would be a shock, particularly given that all three have their fate in their own hands. Wins for Leinster, Munster and Ulster would see them all advance but, as Gerry Thornley writes, top class European rugby doesn’t always work out as expected. Indeed, it is three years since Leinster went to Coventry to take on Wasps and came away with their heaviest ever defeat in European competition when the English side put up 51 points to an answer of just 10. Leo Cullen’s side will look to avenge that defeat this weekend, the memories of which are still raw even for Josh van der Flier who was a half-time replacement in that game and still making his way on the big stage. “I don’t have too good memories of that game. It was tough. They were very, very good and I remember they scored a lot of very good backs’ tries,” van der Flier said yesterday. On the Wasps’ sideline on Sunday afternoon will be a familiar face to those in GAA circles –namely former Limerick and Na Piarsaigh hurler David Breen. Yesterday the Irishman spoke of hanging up his hurl and moving across to the UK where he is now the Wasps chief physio.

Moving on to football and yesterday José Mourinho gave his first major interview since his sacking as Manchester United manager when he was a guest pundit on beIN Sport. The Portuguese was far from complimentary about his former club and laid the blame for United’s failings squarely at the feet of those in the background and the inadequate structures in place at the club. “A club must be very well organised to cope with all these kind of situations where the manager is only the manager and not the man that is trying to keep the discipline or is trying to educate the players, ” Mourinho said. Elsewhere, the Marcelo Bielsa ‘spygate’ saga rumbles on as the Leeds manager prepares for their trip to Stoke tomorrow. Writing yesterday, Jonathan Wilson says that the Argentine coach emerges from all of the drama as a man of great humility and integrity.

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