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Beirne can’t believe meteoric rise; Can Conte bring out the best of Kane once more?

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

He's become such an integral part of Ireland's matchday 23 in the last two years that it is easy to forget just how meteoric Tadhg Beirne's rise has been. It wasn't that long ago that he was contemplating retirement due to a lack of opportunities with Leinster. He was then forced into an exile of sorts in order to resurrect his career with Scarlets. Today, he builds into Ireland's clash with Italy having just been awarded a central contract for the first time in his career. Even Beirne himself finds the speed at which so many doors have opened for him hard to believe. In terms of provincial action, Leinster got themselves back up at the top of the URC table with a bonus point win over Ospreys, though the performance itself still left a lot to be desired as far as Leo Cullen is concerned. Joining them on the same points total at the top is Ulster after their win over the Dragons on Sunday.

Whisper it quietly, but Antonio Conte may be unlocking the best version of Harry Kane once again. After a self-inflicted tough period caused by an ill-judged Sky Italia interview, Conte needed Saturday's shock win over title favourites Manchester City, and Ken Early has spotted the Italian manager's fingerprints all over certain aspects of the game that were crucial to victory. On Sunday, the other Manchester side, United, secured a comfortable win over Leeds at Elland Road to move closer to the top four Champions League places.

Rory McIlroy had a solid finish to the Genesis Invitational, ending up in a tie for 10th, nine strokes behind wire-to-wire winner Joquin Niemann. Arguably more interestingly though, McIlroy was vocal after his round once again on the issue of the breakaway Saudi Arabia tour. It emerged late on Sunday evening that both Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau had committed their futures to the PGA Tour. As McIlroy stated after his round, "Who's left? Who's left to go? I mean, there's no one. It's dead in the water in my opinion. I just can't see any reason why anyone would go."

Storm Franklin had an impact on virtually all of the weekend's GAA action, with those matches that did still go ahead played in filthy conditions. Tyrone saw off another impressive Kildare performance to hold on for the win, while Kerry maintained their lead at the top of Division One, but the undoubted story of the weekend was London's win over Leitrim. After three consecutive victories to start the campaign, the UK side must now be dreaming of promotion out of Division Four. Elsewhere in racing action, the IHRB has firmly stood by its decision to suspend Stephen Mahon, rejecting any claims that he has been singled out for his role in attempting to shine light on suspected doping in the sport.