Rugby union looking more like league in Australia; Jack Byrne enjoying change of attitude in Cyprus

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West Ham United’s Jesse Lingard celebrates scoring their side’s first goal of the game during the Premier League win over Leeds United at the London Stadium. Photo: Ian Walton/PA Wire

West Ham United’s Jesse Lingard celebrates scoring their side’s first goal of the game during the Premier League win over Leeds United at the London Stadium. Photo: Ian Walton/PA Wire

When Ireland take to the pitch at Murrayfield on Sunday it will be ion the knowledge that a loss would leave them staring at a fifth place finish for the first time since 2013 and a likely place below Scotland for just the second time in 21 editions of the Six Nations. In his column this morning Gerry Thornley writes that the home side will be very confident of inflicting both of those things on Ireland with some generational talents in Gregor Townsend’s side capable of tipping the balance of this rivalry. One man who has risen up the Irish pecking order and could feature on Sunday is Jamison Gibson-Park. The Kiwi has been impressive in a green jersey since making his Test debut and yesterday his coach at Leinster, Stuart Lancaster, was full of praise for him. Elsewhere, writing this morning Owen Doyle says the new laws on show in Australia could turn rugby union into a much closer representation of rugby league. “In Australia, union is far down the pecking order in popularity, and is having a very hard time competing with other sports. As a result, proposals are put forward aimed at solving their problems, but these actually tear at the very fabric of the game,” he writes.

Moving to soccer and West Ham’s Champions League hopes took another positive turn last night as they saw off Leeds United to move within two points of Chelsea in fourth place with a game in hand. Jesse Lingard and Craig Dawson did the damage for the Hammers but afterwards David Moyes said that, such is the level of performance lately, that his team was “very disappointed” with how they’d played. Earlier on in the evening Chelsea did their part to hold on to that fourth place for now with a 2-0 win at home to Everton. Meanwhile, Emmet Malone has been speaking to Jack Byrne about his experience so far of playing in Cyprus where the Dubliner says the attitude to the game is all so different to this part of the world. The aim is to “try to get as many Jack Byrnes in as you can. It’s technical football, they want to play, get the ball down and play. Maybe that’s why they wanted to make the change with Mick, they want to play and knock the ball around; they take risks.”

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