Clan Des Obeaux set for Gold Cup glory; Tadhg Beirne in Irish XV

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

The Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup at Cheltenham Racecourse. Photograph: Alex Davidson/Getty Images

The Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup at Cheltenham Racecourse. Photograph: Alex Davidson/Getty Images

 

It’s Gold Cup day at the Cheltenham festival and Brian O’Connor is backing Clan Des Obeaux for the main event - “the best horse in the race though may well be Presenting Percy. The suspicion remains that the most logical winner could be Clan Des Obeaux.” Read our all you need to know guide ahead of Friday’s racing right here. It was an emotional afternoon in Prestbury Park yesterday, as Paisley Park, the 11-8 favourite owned by Andrew Gemmell, a former trade union official who has been blind since birth, ran out a superb winner of the Sun Racing Stayers Hurdle.

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has named his matchday 23 to take on Wales in Saturday’s Six Nations finale - and he has restored Rob Kearney and Seán O’Brien, while promoting Tadhg Beirne for his Six Nations debut in a move which is sure to heighten the breakdown battle. A debate over the Principality stadium roof - to open or to close - has broken out between the two teams and Gavin Cummiskey explains that Ireland are wary of Wales’ sprinkler stroke.

In Europa League action last night, Arsenal made light of their 3-1 first leg deficit to beat Rennes 3-0 at the Emirates and progress to the quarter-finals. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored two before celebrating with the mask he’s been promising for the last couple of games. Chelsea put five goals passed Dynamo Kyiv, winning 8-0 on aggregate.

Meanwhile Rory McIlroy enjoyed a bogey-free opening round 67 at the Players Championship yesterday at Sawgrass. He’s two shots behind Tommy Fleetwood. He birdied six of his last nine holes in an inward half of 30, just one shot outside the tournament record, to set an imposing clubhouse target of seven under par which was matched only by former US PGA champion Keegan Bradley.

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