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Ireland priming for All Blacks challenge; United need to remember the value of wins

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

On to the next challenge then, which clearly is an altogether different beast. As important as it was to appreciate one of the best Ireland performances of the Andy Farrell era, everyone knows what is looming on the horizon when it comes to next Saturday's All Blacks test. As Gerry Thornley writes this morning, Japan's Brave Blossoms brought negligible line speed to their defence or oomph to their tackling; this most certainly will not be the case next week. Should Farrell pick largely the same starting XV again, the New Zealand game represents a welcome opportunity for two of Ireland's Kiwi-born stars to reacquaint themselves with some old pals on the pitch. James Lowe was everywhere against Japan, something which may have been helped by his offseason conditioning. As ever, the Leinster wing was cracking jokes when he heard his boss' comments about his performance. Another man who came in for praise from Farrell was Jamison Gibson-Park. Saturday was Gibson-Park's 11th test, and it was arguably his most assured and complete to date.

Manchester United continue to struggle on the pitch after Saturday's defeat to rivals Manchester City, but in his column this morning, Ken Early takes a look at the club's priorities off the pitch. A commercialising strategy exposed by fake player social media posts and staff having titles such as 'CEO of media' demonstrates a loss of focus; winning on the pitch is far more valuable than any marketing ploys off it. It's high time that the club remembers its status as a competitive sporting entity, rather than an entertainment brand. One club whose on-pitch fortunes sharply contrast those of United is West Ham. The extent of their rise under a rejuvenated David Moyes is impossible to predict. Elsewhere in League of Ireland action, Bohs moved into the top four after their win over Drogheda at Dalymount while Dundalk kept alive their slim European hopes by seeing off Longford last night.

Sunday saw a raft of county championships decided up and down the country. Colin Fennelly confirmed his intercounty retirement after helping to steer Ballyhale Shamrocks to the Kilkenny hurling crown, while Eoin Doyle and Naas ended a 31-year wait for glory in the Kildare football championship.  Wolfe Tones also secured only their second ever Meath title as they saw off Dunboyne. You can find a full round-up of the rest of the finals action throughout the country here.

Viktor Hovland defended his World Wide Technology Championship title in Mexico with a four shot victory.  Ireland's Séamus Power finished in a tie for 11th.  Aaron Rodgers was Malachy Clerkin's favourite NFL quarterback, but perhaps not any more after the Green Bay Packer's star dragged himself through the culture wars mud when it comes to his vaccination status. In MMA action, the weekend's Bellator event in the 3Arena brought mixed fortunes for the Irish involved.