Gordon D’Arcy on losing to the All Blacks; O’Neill says capping Rice would have been ‘crazy’

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

Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton during training ahead of the Guinness Series clash with Argentina. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton during training ahead of the Guinness Series clash with Argentina. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

It was a day which players and fans alike will never forget. On November 24th, 2013 Ireland very nearly did the impossible and overturned the All Blacks. But it was not to be. To beat the All Blacks you have to do it for 80 minutes and beyond and even then it might not be enough. In 2013 that was the case as the Kiwis snatched victory in Dublin. Gordon D’Arcy was part of the Irish team that day and he writes this morning about just how heartbreaking the experience was. “I’ve cried three times on a rugby pitch,” he writes. “Once due to concussion and having no idea what was going on. Then there were tears of joy at Murrayfield in May 2009 when Leinster finally captured the Heineken Cup and thirdly it was this bloody agonising yet important experience for Irish rugby.” On Saturday week this current Ireland team will have the chance to do what the 2013 team couldn’t but, first, there’s the small matter of Argentina to take on in Dublin. As Gerry Thornley writes this morning “an unbeaten November, a Grand Slam and a comeback series win Down Under was always going to be tough to follow.” However, a win this weekend and then the ultimate victory over the mighty All Blacks might just cap it all off. However, it won’t come easy against the Pumas who are confident of once again beating a familiar foe and spoiling yet another Irish party. Scrumhalf Martin Landajo says Argentina have found right balance and are well primed for clash.

Moving on to football and Martin O’Neill spoke once again yesterday about the Declan Rice debacle, saying he expects the West Ham defender to make a decision on his international future by the end of the year. Rice did appear on the bench for Ireland during a World Cup qualifier against Moldova last year but O’Neill has described as “crazy” the idea that he could have put him on for a few minutes, therefore capping the midfielder in a competitive match and securing him for Ireland. “You have to merit getting into the side for a start. I have no qualms on that whatsoever. I would end up capping 15-year-olds in competitive football just so they will play for Ireland for the next 15 years,” he said. In the Champions League last night Liverpool suffered a surprise defeat to Red Star Belgrade in Serbia, therefore putting their hopes at qualifying for the knockout phases in jeopardy. Jurgen Klopp’s side went down 2-0 while PSG and Napoli drew 1-1, leaving the group wide open. Meanwhile Spurs’ knockout chances hang by a thread despite their 2-1 comeback win over PSV Eindhoven at Wembley. Mauricio Pochettino’s side sit on four points, three behind Inter Milan and six behind Barcelona, both of whom Spurs must play in their last two games. Tonight Manchester United meet Juventus in Turin while Manchester City welcome Shakhtar Donetsk.

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