Schmidt to call on experience in Murrayfield; Liverpool knocked off top spot perch

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

Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne embrace after the Premier League win over Everton at Goodison Park. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne embrace after the Premier League win over Everton at Goodison Park. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

It’s time for a response and Ireland are well primed to do so against Scotland this Saturday. After last week’s opening defeat to England, Joe Schmidt’s men know they cannot afford to put another foot wrong if they are to defend their Six Nations crown and even doing so might not be enough. Schmidt will name his side for the Murrayfield showdown later today and Gerry Thornley predicts that the experience of both Sean O’Brien and Rob Kearney will be restored. Kearney is in line to be re-instated at fullback, with Robbie Henshaw reverting to outside centre to renew his old Connacht midfield partnership with Bundee Aki in the absence of the hamstrung Garry Ringrose. However, it might not all be so rosy in the Carton House camp with injuries racking up, as Gavin Cummiskey writes. The enforced promotions of Quinn Roux and John Cooney further illustrate this as do the comments earlier this season of strength and conditioning coach Jason Cowman when he said “they have two weeks off during the Six Nations but they’re goosed. They’ve had two Test matches in a row and they’re absolutely shot in that third week.” The most worrying part is that, in comparison to a World Cup, the Six Nations playing schedule is a doddle. Meanwhile, in his stats column this week John O’Sullivan looks at how Ireland are such impressive frontrunners but also seriously struggle when they go behind. There are 10 occasions since 2014 when Ireland trailed at half-time and each time they were beaten, including last Saturday. Don’t forget you can keep up to date with everything in rugby’s oldest championship from news and reports to analysis and interviews on our dedicated Six Nations website.

Last night Manchester City re-took their place at the top of the Premier League, closing a gap on Liverpool that could have been seven points just one week ago. Goals from Aymeric Laporte and Gabriel Jesus were enough to give Pep Guardiola’s side all three points at Goodison Park as a sorry Everton side fell to yet another defeat. Speaking afterwards, Guardiola said he was proud of the perseverance of his players who have managed to reel Liverpool in, albeit Jurgen Klopp’s side do have a game in hand. In Spain, Real Madrid have the upper hand after the first leg of their Clasico Copa del Rey semi-final after they managed a 1-1 draw in the Nou Camp with Malcom salvaging a second half equaliser for the home side. Meanwhile, a body has been recovered from the wreckage of the plane in which Cardiff striker Emiliano Sala and his pilot were travelling in when it crashed into the English Channel. “In challenging conditions, the AAIB and its specialist contractors successfully recovered the body previously seen amidst the wreckage. The operation was carried out in as dignified a way as possible and the families were kept informed of progress,” a statement said.

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