Ireland face crucial Finland clash; Rassie Erasmus’ punishment must fit the crime

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

Katie McCabe and Megan Connolly in training action ahead of Tuesday’s crucial World Cup qualifier. Photograph: Roni Rekomaa/Inpho

Katie McCabe and Megan Connolly in training action ahead of Tuesday’s crucial World Cup qualifier. Photograph: Roni Rekomaa/Inpho

Tonight’s World Cup qualifier against Finland in Helsinki represents a crucial opportunity for the Irish soccer team to translate recent good form into a positive competitive result. After a friendly victory over Australia and pushing Sweden close last week, Vera Pauw’s side have the public praising their upward trajectory, but victory tonight is still needed to show that they are on track. As Gavin Cummiskey writes this morning, we are witnessing the prime years of the best players to pull on the Irish shirt, a fact which needs to be capitalised on to ensure a successful quest for World Cup qualification. In men’s League of Ireland action, last night saw St. Patrick’s delay Shamrock Rovers’ inevitable title coronation with a victory over Dundalk, a result that plunges the Louth side deeper into relegation trouble. Waterford allayed some of their own relegation issues with a vital win away to Bohs.

In rugby, this morning Gerry Thornley looks at the gap in the schedule that the Irish provinces now have to deal with. Thanks to the November internationals, there will be no URC games for a period of four weeks, meaning there will be a battle to ensure match sharpness ahead of the start of the Champions Cup once Ireland’s autumn campaign concludes. After the social media farce that was the Lions tour, Rassie Erasmus is set for his misconduct hearing later this week. After his carefully considered attack on refereeing, it is vital for the game that Erasmus is punished and shows remorse, writes Owen Doyle, in order to avoid putting referees in an impossible position and setting a dangerous precedent.

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