European rugby is back; good news for Ireland ahead of Wales meeting

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

A view of Leinster training ahead of their Champions Cup Pool 1 match against Wasps at the RDS. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

A view of Leinster training ahead of their Champions Cup Pool 1 match against Wasps at the RDS. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

European rugby is back and it’s back with a bang. At 7.45 tonight Leinster will meet Wasps in their opening pool one match of the Heineken Champions Cup with the defence of their title very much at the front of their minds. Leo Cullen has made nine changes from the team that beat Munster in the Pro14 last weekend with a host of big names coming back in and, as Gerry Thornley writes, little about the season’s early skirmishes will have generated doubt about Leinster beginning their opening defence of the Champions Cup on anything other than a winning note. However, they do come up against an imposing Wasps side who have been in fine form who also have All Black Lima Sopoaga in their ranks. The Wasps playmaker may yet come to regret his phrase “the [ALL BLACK]jersey is no longer enough,” but, for now, that is how he feels after he a two-year deal worth €1.7m proved lucrative enough for the outhalf to give up his international place. Johnny Watterson has more. Tomorrow Munster and Ulster will both get their campaigns underway with Munster squaring off against high-flying Exeter Chiefs while Ulster meet Leicester Tigers.

On to football and the next few days could potentially be decisive for the Martin O’Neill/Roy Keane management pairing at Ireland with the pressure on to produce results against Denmark and Wales in the Nations League. The Danes are first up in Dublin on Saturday night for a repeat of last year’s World Cup playoff encounter which saw the visitors run out 5-1 winners. Shane Duffy was the man to get Ireland off the mark that night and he feels he is quite the goalscoring threat for his team, something he has already proved on a number of occasions. Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting with Wales there was some good news for Ireland last night as Ryan Giggs, after watching his side get heavily beaten 4-1 by Spain in Cardiff, told reporters that Gareth Bale looks all but certain to miss Tuesday’s trip to Dublin.

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