Gordon D’Arcy says it time to switch off, Baku stage set for Arsenal and Chelsea

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

Chelsea train at Baku’s Olympic Stadium ahead of the Europa League final. Photograph: Francois Nel/Getty

Chelsea train at Baku’s Olympic Stadium ahead of the Europa League final. Photograph: Francois Nel/Getty

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt revealed his initial 44-man training squad for this summer’s Rugby World Cup warm-up fixtures yesterday, with the party selected following predictable lines. There are two uncapped players in the squad - Munster fullback Mike Haley and secondrow Jean Kleyn - while Quinn Roux, Stuart McCloskey, Tom Farrell and Jamison Gibson-Park are among those to miss out. Meanwhile in his column this morning Gordon D’Arcy says it’s time for Schmidt’s players to switch off after a gruelling season, before they set about plotting for glory in Japan. He writes: “Draw breath because the mental attrition of these past 24 months needs to dissolve before the group reunites in a month or so. Press the off button - something that needed to happen after November. That’s why, I think, Ireland struggled during the Six Nations. Can any of us fully comprehend the heights they reached to beat the All Blacks?” And he believes when the time comes, Ireland will be more than equipped for the challenges which await them from September onwards: “The squad that travels to Japan and performance levels they attain will look after themselves because preparation will surpass anything we have ever known. I’m certain about this.”

Tonight Arsenal face Chelsea in the Europa League final in Baku (kick-off 8pm Irish time), as the two London rivals meet roughly 2,500 miles from home. As well as winning a major trophy, victory for Arsenal would see them secure a place in next season’s Champions League - with Chelsea already guaranteed their spot after a third-place finish in the Premier League. Ahead of the match, Arsenal boss Unai Emery said: “I want to help Arsenal to achieve everything in our way. One is Europa League, another is improving to achieve the best position in the football world. Arsenal will be in the 10 best teams of the world. Our objective is to achieve that.” Meanwhile Chelsea look set to be without midfielder N’Golo Kante, who was restricted to gentle running yesterday due to a knee injury and is rated as “50-50” to be available by boss Maurizio Sarri. Sarri stormed out of Chelsea’s training session in Baku yesterday, moments after an altercation between David Luiz and Gonzalo Huguain.

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