D’Arcy on Ireland’s Cardiff mission, Day Two of Cheltenham goes ahead

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

Jamie Codd and Gordon Elliott at Cheltenham on Wednesday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Jamie Codd and Gordon Elliott at Cheltenham on Wednesday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

A thrilling denouement to the 2019 Six Nations beckons, with Ireland travelling to play a Grand Slam-chasing Wales in Cardiff on Saturday. And in his column this morning Gordon D’Arcy emphasises the scale of the challenge awaiting Joe Schmidt’s men at the Millennium Stadium, he writes: “Something magical occurs when the red jersey goes on in the Six Nations, especially against England or Ireland. They rise to the occasion, surge with belief.” And he believes a victory in the Welsh capital would not only represent a major scalp for the Irish but would provide an ideal finale to a Championship which hasn’t always been plain sailing: “If this Ireland team want to add to established greatness then this, this surge must be snuffed out with ruthlessness we know Ireland possess because we witnessed it in Twickenham last year.” It promises to be tight in Cardiff - but during Cheltenham week, where is D’Arcy’s money? “I’m not calling it. Come back to me after 15 minutes,” he writes. Dan Leavy could be poised to make his comeback in Saturday’s game - he hasn’t played since December, but he is back in training and could be set for a surprise start, writes Gerry Thornley.

And talking of Cheltenham, Day Two of the 2019 Festival will go ahead, despite fears over the weather, with high winds threatening its postponement until Saturday. The ground is currently soft, heavy in places. Today sees the mighty Altior bid to retain his Champion Chase crown (3.30pm), while Gordon Elliott saddles favourites in the RSA Chase (Delta Work, 2.10pm) and in the Cross-Country Chase (Tiger Roll, 4.10pm). Brian O’Connor is in the Cotswolds and he has looked ahead to the Champion Bumper (5.30pm) in which Elliott has another well fancied runner in the form of Envoi Allen. You can read guest tipster Tony Keenan’s picks for the day here, while you will be able to follow all of the action live with Malachy Clerkin from around 12.30pm through the Irish Times liveblog. Yesterday’s opening day saw Willie Mullins pick up winners in the opening two races, with Klassical Dream taking the Supreme under Ruby Walsh and Duc Des Genievres winning the Arkle. There was a surprise, however, in the Champion Hurdle - Gavin Cromwell’s Espoir D’Allen winning at 16-1 with Apple’s Jade, Laurina and Buveur D’Air all failing to make the frame.

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