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Leinster beware of Raymond Rhule; Man United turn the tables on Roma

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

It's Friday morning and a big weekend of European rugby beckons. First, Ulster face Leicester Tigers tonight in the Challenge Cup semi-finals with the northern province knowing that they need a big performance if they're going to take a further steps towards ending a 15-year trophy drought. Leicester will undoubtedly prove a serious test for Ulster but their recent away form in England gives them plenty of cause for hope. Then, on Sunday, it's time for Leinster's meeting with La Rochelle. The French side come into the game fancying their chances and no one would like to get one over on Leinster than Ronan O'Gara. This morning, John O'Sullivan writes that the former Munster man has reaped the rewards of taking a chance on Springbok winger Raymond Rhule - a decision that has turned out to be a masterstroke. Meanwhile, Devin Toner says he is delighted with the opportunity to keep playing at Leinster after recently being offered a new one-year deal.

On to soccer and Manchester United took a huge step towards reaching the Europa League final last night with a 6-2 victory over Roma at Old Trafford. The home side had been on the back foot at half time, trailing 2-1, but flicked the switch in the second half to win 6-2 with Bruno Fernandes and Edinson Cavani both netting twice. Afterwards Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praised his team's fightback but said work must be done to eliminate the "schoolboy errors" seen for the first two goals. Meanwhile, in Spain, Bukayo Saka won a penalty for Arsenal which was converted by Nicolas Pépé for a vital away goal in their 2-1 loss to Villareal. Afterwards Mikel Arteta praised Saka's "moment of magic" as his side kept alive their hopes of reaching the final.

On to GAA and Paul Geaney says the Kerry squad is fully behind their management team despite some rumours circulating of a bust-up. According to the WhatsApp message that did the rounds, the players - with Geaney specifically mentioned - were ready to make a move against manager Peter Keane following their season-ending Munster championship defeat to Cork. However, Geaney yesterday clearly stated that the rumour was "absolute nonsense". Elsewhere, British Open champion Shane Lowry has announced he will be a partner for Offaly GAA. "Apart from financial contributions, his association will also include providing two days annually for possible fundraising activities - one in Ireland, another in the United States - and also meeting with the county's underage squads to provide inspiration and insight into how top sportsmen work to achieve their goals," writes Philip Reid.

In racing, Willie Mullins is threatening his own Punchestown record after a 299-1 five-timer yesterday which saw Klassical Dream and Energumene land the big prizes. Today, however, the focus will be on Honeysuckle as Rachael Blackmore looks to strike in the Champion Hurdle while the Aintree Grand National-winning jockey will also look to victory on the seriously impressive Bob Olinger in the Champion Novice Hurdle.

Finally to boxing and Johnny Watterson writes in his column this morning that Irish boxing hardly seems to be on the front foot in the search for the author of a damning document which emerged last week criticising the high-performance unit and calling for the departure of Bernard Dunne.