Dan Leavy returns for Leinster; Ireland ready for artificial bounce in Gibraltar

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

Dan Leavy returns to the Leinster team in Edinburgh this evening. Photograph: Inpho

Dan Leavy returns to the Leinster team in Edinburgh this evening. Photograph: Inpho

Dan Leavy will make his first appearance of the year as Leinster take on Edinburgh this evening in Murrayfield. The Irish backrow hasn’t played since December 22nd because of a calf injury but spent some of the latter part of his rehabilitation period in Ireland camp. Joe Tomane, Luke McGrath and Nick McCarthy also return in a timely fillip ahead of Leinster’s upcoming commitments in the Pro14 and Champions Cup tournaments. Also in action this evening, Connacht host Benetton and they’ve named Ultan Dillane in the secondrow while fellow Irish internationals Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty are included among the replacements.

Ahead of Mick McCarthy’s first match in charge of Ireland (in his second coming), he insists that whatever happens in Gibraltar on Saturday evening, the Victoria Stadium’s artificial pitch won’t be used as an excuse for the team’s first Euro 2020 qualifier. “The pitch is fine,” he explains, “I was on it and it’s fine; it’s just a different bounce.” Yesterday evening, Northern Ireland saw off Estonia 2-0 in their qualifier at Windsor Park, while Scotland suffered one of their most embarrassing defeats losing 3-0 in Kazakhstan. Ahead of a potential England debut tonight, Declan Rice has had to issue a public apology after it emerged the West Ham United player and former Irish player, had posted apparent support for the IRA on social media back in 2015.

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