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Séamus Power almost certain of Masters ticket; Italy miss out on World Cup

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

Séamus Power is almost certain to make his Masters debut in a fortnight's time after thrashing world number four Patrick Cantlay 5 and 4 on day two of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. The victory – maintaining Power's 100 per cent record, following his first day win over Sungjae Im – moved him to the top of Group Four and in pole position to advance to the last-16 knockout phase. Philip Reid explains, "it is also virtually certain to keep him inside the world's top-50 and so earn an invitation to the Masters, the cut-off for exemptions coming on Monday."

European champions Italy missed out on the World Cup finals again after losing 1-0 at home to North Macedonia in their playoff semi-final on Thursday as Aleksandar Trajkovski's last-gasp strike earned the visitors a famous win. Italy did not qualify for the World Cup four years ago, their first failure to reach soccer's global showpiece tournament since 1958. Wales however are one step away from qualification after Gareth Bale's double edged them past Austria and into a World Cup playoff final.

Despite a six-day turnaround from their trip to South Africa, Munster's need for a maximum return against Benetton in tonight's URC clash at Musgrave Park is acute (kick-off 7.35pm). Back-to-back losses on their South African safari, which at least were played, has left them fourth in the table, a point behind Glasgow and seven and eight adrift of Ulster and Leinster. Aoibheann Reilly will make her debut for Ireland in their opening Women's Six Nations game against Wales at the RDS on Saturday after impressing during the All-Ireland League season.

Meanwhile, world No 1 Ash Barty has said she would "never say never" about returning to professional tennis following her shock retirement. Barty stunned the tennis world on Wednesday when she announced her retirement from the sport at the age of 25 and as the reigning Wimbledon and Australian Open champion.