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Rashford an injury doubt for Liverpool clash; Johnny Sexton named as Ireland captain

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

Juan Mata's second-half strike saw Manchester United advance to the FA Cup fourth round but their 1-0 victory over Wolves was soured by an injury scare to Marcus Rashford at Old Trafford. Four days before a visit to Premier League leaders and European champions Liverpool, Rashford hobbled off barely 15 minutes after coming off the bench. In domestic news, the Government is prepared to pay up to €5 million per year as part of an emerging deal (being discussed by Government, FAI lenders and Uefa) to safeguard the future of Irish football and the Football Association of Ireland.

As expected, Johnny Sexton has been appointed captain of Ireland for the upcoming Six Nations with the 35-man squad named yesterday including five uncapped players – Ronán Kelleher, Max Deegan, Caelan Doris, Billy Burns and Ulster prop Tom O'Toole – in an otherwise established group of internationals. Gerry Thornley believes Andy Farrell's first squad hints at a more fluid selection policy. John O'Sullivan explains in his column why Connacht's Gavin Thornbury has attributes to join the Ireland ranks - his tackle count against Toulouse was the highest of any player across the 10 matches in the tournament last weekend.

Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie wants his side to push on and claim a historic series victory over the West Indies after they put the T20 world champions to the sword in a thrilling four-run victory in the first game of the three-match series in Grenada last night. "That's the message I'm going to say to the group, it's great to get a win obviously but you want to win a series and make history so if we can do that in the next two games, we'll go home very happy."

Meanwhile Sonia O'Sullivan's column comes from Melbourne where "as a result of the bushfires raging throughout the state of Victoria for the last number of weeks, we are now experiencing days where the entire city and suburbs are shrouded in a smoky haze." How did Melbourne become the world's most polluted city? "It's a global problem, but every country has to look at its carbon footprint and what it can do to pull back and slow down the global warming. It's impossible to back-track now, and maybe the best we can hope for is a slow down."