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Gerry Thornley says Six Nations is France’s to lose; Champions League returns

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

Name on the trophy? You'd surely think so, and in his column this morning Gerry Thornley has suggested it is hard to see past anything other than a Six Nations title win for France, following their 30-24 win over Ireland in Paris last weekend. He writes: "But this French side owe Scotland one after costly defeats in the last two years and if they do set up a shot at a first Grand Slam and title since 2010 on the final Saturday against les rosbifs, their desire levels will be so through the Stade de France roof that the only thing which might stop them is over-arousal and self-discipline." But he also believes Andy Farrell's side deserve credit for their performance at the Stade de France, as they stuck with the French in front of a baying home crowd. "For Ireland to stay with them in last Saturday's mood, to stay true to their principles, to keep on playing their attacking rugby and to ultimately give themselves a chance of an epic win tells us much about how far this team has travelled and the belief they have in each other and what they are doing."

The Champions League returns tonight, with 13-time European champions Real Madrid travelling to take on Paris Saint-Germain - who are still searching for their first title - in the first leg of their last-16 clash (kick-off 8pm). Manchester City are also looking to win the competition for the first time - they are away to Sporting in Lisbon tonight (8pm). Manchester United meanwhile face Brighton at Old Trafford in an untelevised Premier League fixture which was postponed from December 18th due to a Covid-19 outbreak (8.15pm).

Novak Djokovic has confirmed he will not defend his Wimbledon or French Open titles if either competition requires mandatory vaccination against Covid-19. This follows his deportation from Australia in January, ahead of an ill-fated Australian Open defence. Speaking to the BBC, Djokovic said: "I say that everybody has the right to choose or act or say or feel whatever is appropriate for them. . . the principles of decision making on my body are more important than any title or anything else." However the 34-year-old has distanced himself from the anti-vaccination movement.

The legal team of 15-year-old Russian ice skater Kamila Valieva have claimed that her positive drugs test may have come from a contaminated glass of water that contained traces of her grandfather's heart medication. On Monday CAS ruled Valieva can continue to compete in the Beijing Winter Olympics despite her positive test result.

And the GAA has released its motions list for this year's congress, which includes a proposal to adopt permanently the black card in hurling for cynical play.

Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden is a former sports journalist with The Irish Times