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Gerry Thornley on a Paris clash for the ages; FAI part of bid for Euro 2028

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

It would be premature to frame Saturday's Six Nations clash between France and Ireland in Paris as a title decider, but it is likely to go a long way towards deciding the outcome of the Championship. Both sides won their opening round fixtures with bonus points, and in his column this morning Gerry Thornley has suggested last weekend's run out will stand to them - particularly Les Bleus and their star Antoine Dupont. He writes: "This was Dupont's most influential contribution on a relatively off-colour day for the great man. But the French scrumhalf, talisman and captain had only played once for Toulouse since his star-of-the-match display away to Cardiff on December 11th, having suffered a leg infection and Covid in the interim. Like his team-mates, Dupont will be better for that game." However while France remain Six Nations favourites, there is a lot of pressure on them to win a first title in over a decade. "However, France haven't won a Championship title since 2010, their longest wait since their first outright triumph in 1959. After the last two near-misses under Galthié, this team desperately needs to end that drought. The weight of expectation on them is huge."

The FAI will be part of a joint-bid to host the 2028 European Championships along with England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, it was confirmed yesterday. This means a potential bid for the 2030 World Cup has been abandoned following a feasibility study, with attention instead switching to the Euros in six years' time. The Aviva Stadium would be a major venue, with Croke Park and a redeveloped Casement Park also potentially involved. The full list of bidders will be announced on April 5th before it is whittled down to a shortlist on April 12th, 2023 with Uefa announcing the winners in September 2023. Meanwhile the FAI released its 2022-25 strategy report last night. Among 'six pillars' for the association is a transformation of football facilities and infrastructure, and ensuring the Ireland men's and women's teams qualify for Euro 2024 and the 2023 World Cup/2025 Euros respectively.

Manchester United travel to play Burnley at Turf Moor tonight (8pm), and Ralf Rangnick has insisted there is no rift between himself and Jesse Lingard after the England midfielder was absent for last Friday's FA Cup penalty shootout defeat to Middlesbrough. Elsewhere, Newcastle welcome Frank Lampard's Everton to St James' Park and Roy Hodgson's Watford travel to West Ham.

What next for Leona Maguire? The 27-year-old secured her maiden LPGA Tour title last weekend and has moved to number 20 in the world rankings. But she is unlikely to rest on her laurels - especially with an exemption for all five of the year's Majors, writes Philip Reid.

And it has been another quiet day for Ireland in the Winter Olympics with Jack Gower the only athlete in action so far today in Beijing. He was a DNF in the Super-G skiing. Later, Else Desmond will be looking to improve on her current standing of 34th in the luge.

Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden is a former sports journalist with The Irish Times

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