Schmidt keeps upbeat air in Ireland camp; British racing in turmoil

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

Andrew Porter, Sean Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, Rory Best, Cian Healy and Sean O’Brien during Ireland training ahead of the Six Nations meeting with Scotland at Murrayfield. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Andrew Porter, Sean Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, Rory Best, Cian Healy and Sean O’Brien during Ireland training ahead of the Six Nations meeting with Scotland at Murrayfield. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

It’s been a tough week but Joe Schmidt is remaining positive. After defeat to England and yet more players falling to injury it’s fair to say that the atmosphere around this Ireland team has changed quite a bit in a week but, against Scotland tomorrow (2.15pm – you can follow via The Irish Times liveblog from 1.30pm), they have the chance to answer back. And, as Gerry Thornley writes, Schmidt has kept an upbeat air around Carton House in this trying week. Ireland have made five changes for the Murrayfield clash with Robbie Henshaw yesterday becoming the latest injury victim. He’s been replaced by Chris Farrell and you can get to know him and the rest of the Ireland team with our player profiles. According to Liam Toland the faults last week lay with Ireland’s scrum and it is that which has to improve this week. Writing in his column Toland says “most scoff at the idea of scrumming and in fact poo poo the entire process, but the value of a scrum that performs and at crucial times prevents the opposition to perform is monstrously important.” For Scotland, Saturday’s match represents a major opportunity to lay down a marker and put themselves in the frame for some unexpected Championship glory. This morning John O’Sullivan speaks to Dan McFarland about Gregor Townsend and how he allows his players to express themselves while also sticking to a process. “Gregor loves an offload, he loves the ability to move the ball and play with opportunity, or have players looking for opportunity; all of it is part of the process,” McFarland says. Despite his hat-trick of tries last week against Italy, Blair Kinghorn is demoted to the bench for the clash with Ireland to be replaced by Sean Maitland. You can find out more about the Scotland squad with our player profiles and you can get all of the information you need ahead of the big game here.

Moving on and the big news yesterday was that of the equine flu outbreak which has thrown the British racing industry into turmoil with no meetings to take place until Wednesday at least. Three horses, who had been vaccinated for the highly contagious virus, as is required for all racehorses in training, tested positive for the flu at the stables of Grand National-winning trainer Donald McCain, in Cheshire and the fear now is that it may impact on the Cheltenham Festival which is in four weeks time. Officials there are confident the week won’t be put under threat but this does represent the biggest blow to British racing since the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2001. Irish racing continues as normal with one meeting today at Dundalk where the first is off at 5pm.

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