Ireland step up preparations in Portugal; Shane Lowry’s Abu Dhabi diary

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

Ian Keatley arrives at Munster training yesterday. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Ian Keatley arrives at Munster training yesterday. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

The Six Nations is ticking ever closer and preparations are being ramped up in the Irish training camp in Portugal. One of Ireland’s injury concerns is Johnny Sexton who has been out since picking up a knock to the knee in Leinster’s loss to Munster on December 19th. However, the Ireland outhalf has travelled to Portugal and will step up his comeback this week with Leinster coach Felipe Contepomi yesterday saying that he would not be concerned about the player’s lack of game time. “When you speak about a guy like Johnny Sexton with so much experience and so many games under his belt, I think the crucial thing is to see how fit he is rather than game time,” Contepomi said. Two players definitely out of Ireland’s opening two fixtures against England and Scotland are Tadhg Beirne and Iain Henderson – both of whom were named man of the match in their respective province’s Champions Cup wins over the weekend. Speaking of the Champions Cup, Gerry Thornley writes in his column this morning that there must be a lot of soul-searching going on in English rugby once again after yet more failings in Europe. “Every time the Premiership clubs underperform, the removal of relegation is presented as the panacea for all ills, or at any rate the only solution they can come up with,” he writes. We have plenty of rugby coverage for you today including Leinster starlet Conor O’Brien speaking about how he hopes to follow in the footsteps of Robbie Henshaw, Johann van Graan on injuries to Beirne and Andrew Conway and you can also sign up to our new fantasy rugby competition ahead of the Six Nations to be in with a chance to win €3,000.

On to golf and, as Shane Lowry heads about an hour and a half up the road to Dubai for his second tournament of the season, he reflects on just how special his win in Abu Dhabi was in a guest column in The Irish Times today. Lowry got back into the winner’s circle for the first time since 2015 and for the first time since his daughter Iris was born – something that made it extra special for him. “I’ll be honest. As soon as we had Iris, that’s what I’d dreamed about. To have both Wendy and Iris in Abu Dhabi as I won was just dream stuff,” he writes.

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