Sexton set for Wales showdown

first_img British and Irish Lion Sexton has been widely hailed as the world’s form fly-half as Ireland have swept to a record-equalling run of 10 consecutive Test victories. The 29-year-old limped out of the closing stages of Ireland’s 19-9 victory over England in Dublin on March 1, with Irish bosses admitting only on Monday that he still had to prove his fitness. Joe Schmidt’s side can take a giant leap towards a first Grand Slam in six years with victory over Warren Gatland’s Wales in Cardiff this weekend. Sexton’s return to fitness hands Ireland a huge boost in the quest for back-to-back Six Nations titles for the first time since 1949. Ireland skills coach Murphy admitted Sexton is yet to go through goal-kicking drills at full tilt, but backed the peerless playmaker to ease through the rest of the week. “He’s dealing with the rehab guys really, so they have him on a programme bringing him through that,” said Murphy. “He kicked a couple of balls on Sunday, did a little bit more yesterday and more again today. “So he’s in a good place, he trained fully and was running at 100 per cent today. “He will be ready for the weekend. “His kicking drills, he’s probably not hitting them 100 per cent yet, but today’s Tuesday, Saturday is a long way away. “And he’ll be ready to go.” Gordon D’Arcy has been overlooked for Ireland’s 36-man training squad to close the Six Nations, but Murphy backed the stalwart centre to force his way back into the World Cup reckoning. The 35-year-old Leinster centre chose to press on when long-term partner Brian O’Driscoll retired last summer, in a clear bid to feature in the 2015 global battle in England. Ireland coach Murphy insisted Schmidt would continue to monitor the 81-cap midfielder’s form with Leinster closely, leaving an open route back into the Test squad. “I think Gordon has had a little bit of a broken season through the odd injury and this and that,” said Murphy. “He’s a fantastic player and he’s been brilliant for Ireland and Leinster over something like 15 years, so the door is definitely not closed. “He’s a class act and a guy that we’re going to keep a very close eye on towards the end of the season to see where he’s at.” Number eight Heaslip has been on the comeback trail after suffering a fractured vertebrae in his back, while O’Brien and Payne have both proved their fitness after concussion. “Johnny took full part in training this morning, he has done all the team stuff and trained well,” said Murphy. “Everyone else has come through, Jamie trained Monday and Tuesday so he’s fit and healthy and ready to go. “And the two boys, Jared and Sean O’Brien both passed their return to play protocols. “They have done contact today so as long as there’s no reaction over the next 24 hours they are both fit and ready to go. “It looks like a full deck to pick from, and everyone is very upbeat. Everyone enjoyed that session this morning, the intensity was right up there. “Having everyone fit and healthy is a massive thing for the squad because it puts pressure on everyone. “The environment gets a nice little buzz off that.” Johnny Sexton has been passed fit for Ireland’s pivotal RBS 6 Nations clash against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday. Assistant coach Richie Murphy confirmed that Ireland’s lynchpin fly-half trained fully on Tuesday, after recovering from hamstring trouble. Murphy said Ireland now have “a full deck to pick from” with Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien and Jared Payne all cleared to face Wales this weekend. Press Associationlast_img read more


Moore has Dundalk ride for O’Brien

first_img It was thought Joseph, who had a ride over hurdles at Limerick on Sunday instead of opening the turf season at the Curragh and was described as a “little heavy” by his father, would return to the fold at the County Louth venue. However, he will not be in action and it is Moore who will be aboard War Envoy for the Ballydoyle yard in the Patton Stakes. Press Association Aidan O’Brien has called on the services of Ryan Moore for the feature race at Dundalk on Wednesday as his son Joseph O’Brien misses his second successive Flat meeting in Ireland. center_img Moore rode the colt in his last three starts last season – the Champagne Stakes, the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. O’Brien’s younger son Donnacha will be on Song Of Love, the stable’s other runner in the Listed contest. Michael O’Callaghan is expecting a bold display from Rapid Applause, who made a winning debut last April and was in the first four in Group company in his three subsequent races. “I’m delighted with the way the horse has wintered. He’s a good bit heavier this year. He’s a lot stronger and lot more mature,” said the Curragh handler. “I think he has improved over the winter quite significantly and I couldn’t be happier with him the way he’s gone and the way he’s thrived. “He’s carrying plenty of condition and will come on a lot for the race, but I expect him to give a really good account of himself. “He was crying out for seven furlongs last year. Seven around Dundalk is similar to six up the Curragh.” Shane Donohoe believes Sparklingsovereign may not be seen at her best when she returns to the scene of her course and distance success on her debut in October. “She’s not come in her coat yet. She’s in the middle of changing her coat so it’s not ideal running a filly, but I’m sure whatever she does she will improve for the run,” said the Cavan trainer. “She’s a decent filly, but I’m not sure everything is in her favour. She’s a spring filly and will get better as the season goes on.” last_img read more


Debuchy glad to be back

first_img Press Association Arsenal defender Mathieu Debuchy is delighted to be off the treatment table and back on the pitch but believes it will take time for the Gunners to see his best form. Debuchy has endured a nightmare first season in North London, having sat out two separate three-month spells through injury. The France full-back was forced to undergo ankle ligament surgery in September and his comeback was then halted by a shoulder injury that has kept him out since January. He is also pleased for fellow Arsenal right-back Hector Bellerin, who has enjoyed an excellent run of form in his absence. “Hector played very well,” Debuchy said. “He’s a very good player and I’m so happy for him. “It’s so important that we have two or three players in each position.” The two full-backs will now be vying for a place in Arsene Wenger’s starting XI, particularly with an FA Cup final against Aston Villa on the horizon. The Gunners are one victory away from defending their crown and becoming the most successful FA Cup team of all time, as they currently sit level on 11 titles with Manchester United. “It was so important to reach the final,” Debuchy said. “We did and now we are focused on the final. “We want to win the final like last year. “It’s important for us to keep the trophy and for the club.” Debuchy returned to the Arsenal starting line-up for Saturday’s 2-1 win over Reading in the FA Cup semi-final and impressed with a dynamic display down the right flank. “I’m so happy because it’s so important to be back on the pitch,” Debuchy said. “It was hard for me after my second surgery this year but now it’s behind me and I’m so happy to play for Arsenal. “It’s been difficult for me. Two surgeries in the same season is difficult but now I’m okay and I want to play a lot. “I want to help the team and I am focused on the end of the season. “Am I 100 per cent? No, I need to work hard again but I hope to be ready and 100 per cent soon. “I need to play some games. I hope to play for the rest of the season. I need to try again, again and again.” Debuchy insists he harbours no ill-feeling towards Stoke midfielder Marko Arnautovic, who caused the shoulder injury by pushing the Frenchman into advertising hoardings surround the pitch. last_img read more


We won’t change our game – Giroud

first_img The Blues battled to a goalless draw at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday afternoon to take a step closer to the Barclays Premier League title, which they can secure later this week with victories over Leicester and then Crystal Palace. Both manager Jose Mourinho and captain John Terry rejected chants of “boring boring Chelsea” from sections of the home supporters during the closing stages of the match as the west London club edged towards their goal of being crowned the best side in England. Press Association “Yes, I think we can (be closer with Chelsea in the title race next season),” the France forward said. “Hopefully we will have less injuries and if we keep this group, with maybe one or two new players coming in, we can have a great season. “I know we can still improve as we have been doing since I signed. I am proud about it and pleased with that. “I just want to carry on like that and I know if we keep our best players, this determination and team spirit, I am sure we are going to join the championship race.” Henry suggested Arsenal need to bring in a “top-quality striker” if they are to become title contenders. Giroud has scored 18 goals this term, despite missing three months with a broken leg. “Mental strength is hugely important when you are a football player and even more as a striker. You have people who doubt your abilities and you have to believe that you can always come back,” the former Montpellier frontman said. “If you miss chances in one game, it is not because you have lost your talent or your belief. You have to be faithful to your qualities. That is part of being a player, being strong in your head. “In football you have to question yourself every week, be ready in your head and you have to be 100 per cent determined if you want to keep going in the games.” Arsenal are in third place following Manchester City’s win over Aston Villa on Saturday, but do have a game in hand. The Gunners are not in action again until the trip to Hull on Bank Holiday Monday. Giroud added: “It has been a few years since Arsenal finished second and, if we can do it, we can see an improvement. “But the championship is not finished, which is why we need to focus in the last five games. “We need to finish in second and win the FA Cup, and then it will be a great season.” Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud believes Chelsea are “pleased” with the way they play – and reckons neither club will be ready to change their football philosophy in the quest for success again next season. Giroud accepts, given Chelsea’s healthy 10-point lead, that the end looks to have justified the means – even if it is an approach which Arsene Wenger’s squad would not embrace. “I did not hear (the fans’ chants), because I do not understand most of the time, so I ask my English team-mates. Boring? I don’t know, but there is the table who speaks for them,” the 28-year-old said. “It is true maybe they are not (playing) the same game as us, but we are not going to change our game and I think they are not going to change their game. “I think they are pleased with that and, if they are champions, what can you say?” Despite a superb run of form in the second half of the campaign, Arsenal are left paying a heavy price for their slow start which returned just two victories from the first eight league matches. Former Gunners captain Thierry Henry used his post-match media pundit role to speak about the need to “buy four players” in the summer to improve the “spine” of the team. Wenger, however, reckons there is “not a lot” between the two sides. Giroud echoed Wenger’s belief Arsenal can challenge for the championship in 2016. last_img read more


Paris pounces to thwart the Irish

first_img “He’s a mile-and-a-half to a two-mile horse. He quickens, and I think that’s made the difference. “I’ve always wanted to win this race. It’s very hard to do it, so it’s a great day.” Connections could now consider supplementing Trip To Paris for the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot. “This is a similar type of horse to Red Cadeaux and he’s improving all the time,” said Dunlop. “We might supplement him for the Gold Cup, but I think we’ll wait and see. “This horse relaxes. He wore blinkers as a colt (now a gelding) because he was lazy, but he can stay this far and he’s got a good turn of foot. “We don’t have to do anything with him at home now as he’s got a wonderful temperament. He’s become a man this year.” On a possible trip to Australia for the Melbourne Cup in the autumn, the Newmarket handler said: “He’s got to rise in the weights to get into the Melbourne Cup this year. “Maybe we’ll take two (Trip To Paris and Red Cadeaux) to halve the expense.” Press Association Lee said: “He was hanging badly left, and I ended up dropping the reins along the straight. “He’s always travelled well and he showed at Ripon he’s got a turn of foot.” The landscape of the race did not alter too much until the final five furlongs when the front-running Buthelezi faded out of the picture. John Reel was always to the fore and gained a slight advantage, but the Irish duo were hot on his heels and ended up jousting for top honours two furlongs out. Just when it looked like the versatile Quick Jack had the edge over Zafayan, Trip To Paris suddenly darted into contention and ended up scoring by three-quarters of a length on his first try at beyond two miles. Gabrial’s King completed the minor positions in fourth place. Dunlop, whose inmate was bringing up a hat-trick following victories at Lingfield and Ripon, said: “The horse was amazing. “It’s the first time he’s run at that trip – he’s been a revelation. I made the strange entry and he’s won. Trained by Ed Dunlop and ridden by Graham Lee, the four-year-old (10-1) arrived with a last-gasp charge from the outside of the field. Tony Martin’s Quick Jack finished second as the 4-1 favourite, while the Dermot Weld-trained Zafayan was third. Trip To Paris denied the Irish raiders when coming with a power-packed late run to claim the Betway Chester Cup.last_img read more


Delph defends City U-turn

first_img Delph called off a proposed moved to the Etihad Stadium last weekend and issued a statement in which he insisted: “I’m not leaving. I’m staying at the football club and I can’t wait for the start of the season and captaining this great football club.” But the 25-year-old had a change of heart on Friday and, after completing a medical at City, he prepared to fly to Australia to join his new team-mates on their pre-season tour. In a statement issued to Press Association Sport, Delph maintained his initial decision to stay at Villa was an emotional rather than career decision and quickly became one he began to regret. Delph said: ” My decision to stay initially was purely based on the emotion and feelings that I hold for the club and the people there that I would be walking away from – rather than looking at the football opportunity that had been placed in front of me. “I’ve experienced some incredible low times in my career with injuries and at one point even questioned whether I would even return to Premiership level. Despite that, I’ve always been 100 per cent committed to improving my game and developing as a player and a person. “As a kid watching the game on TV and then as a young footballer you dream about testing yourself against the best in the world, to compete for major trophies and to play in the Champions League. I’ve proved that I can play at the very top level with England and believe I owe it to myself to take the challenge of playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world in Manchester City.” Delph added that he was “immensely proud” to have been granted the honour of wearing the captain’s armband by Villa boss Tim Sherwood earlier this season – but he is set to a face a stormy reception on his first trip back to Villa Park. In a further twist, Delph later cited the opinions of Micah Richards – who left City to go in the opposite direction to Villa last month – as one of the reasons for his change of heart. In an interview on City’s official website, Delph said: “I spoke with Joe Hart when I was with him for England and he was always been telling me how the club has come on and what City are trying to achieve – and Micah Richards told me that as far as he is concerned, this is the best club in the world and he had the time of his life here.” Former Villa striker Stan Collymore told talkSport’s Drive programme shortly before the deal was officially confirmed: “He (Delph) said twice now that he wants to stay at the club – nobody put a gun to his head. Fabian Delph has defended his decision to sign a five-year deal with Manchester City less than a week after publicly committing his future to Aston Villa. Press Association “He said twice that he believes Villa is a great club that he wants to stay at…if he signs for Manchester City or any other club in the next few days then he’s an absolute disgrace.” Delph made 128 appearances for Villa, scoring eight goals, and received the first of his six England caps against Norway in September 2014. And City boss Manuel Pellegrini was delighted with the signing, telling City’s official website: “Fabian Delph is an excellent player and I am looking forward to working with him. “He has made a huge impact in recent seasons at Aston Villa and is now one of the brightest young midfielders in the Premier League. “Fabian has tremendous skill and energy, and the fact that he has become a regular member of the England squad is further evidence of his progress over the past few seasons. At just 25 years old, he still has his best years ahead of him.” Villa had reacted with joy last week to the news that Delph was apparently staying, with assistant boss Ray Wilkins hailing him for rejecting City’s millions in favour of “700 games and a good career” at Villa. Frank Lampard, who had himself angered some at his former club Chelsea by joining City on loan shortly after signing for New York City FC, tweeted: “Congratulations and good luck to Fabian Delph, the new number 18 @MCFC. Enjoy wearing the shirt for City and England!” last_img read more


Fernando lined up for Manchester City return with Fabian Delph facing layoff

first_img It was the second time he has had trouble in the area since making his £8million move from Aston Villa to the Etihad Stadium. The former Villa man reported to City’s training ground on Wednesday to have a scan on the area. England manager Roy Hodgson had said the night before: “He pulled his hamstring. He trained every session with us and felt good, and he played in San Marino. “It was just a burst, that acceleration (that caused it). He felt it was a definite pull. A scan will have to show us how serious it is.” If Delph is ruled out for a matter of weeks, as has been reported, Pellegrini has a ready-made replacement for him in the form of Fernando. “I’m feeling much better and in a couple of days I will be stepping up my training programme,” said the Brazilian, who has not played this season because of a long-standing groin injury. “I went back to Porto for treatment, rest and to recover and now I’m feeling much better.” The midfielder is now training with the City first team and will be available for selection – after a frustrating spell on the sidelines – in around a fortnight. Delph was struck by yet another hamstring injury on Tuesday night during England’s 2-0 win over Switzerland. The 25-year-old midfielder lasted around 10 seconds of the Euro 2016 qualifier at Wembley before hobbling off having pulled his hamstring. Press Association “On one hand, it’s been great to see the lads playing so well, but on the other you are frustrated at not being involved,” he told the club’s official website. “Obviously I want to help my team and play my part but I needed to be clear of this injury first. “I’ve been working hard to recover, I’m feeling much better now with no pain so I will resume normal training this week and hopefully be available at some point within the next fortnight. “I can’t wait to get my season finally up and running and being pain free at last will be a huge relief.” Fabian Delph may be facing an injury layoff, but Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has been handed a boost with the news that fellow midfielder Fernando is nearing a return to fitness.last_img read more


Mauricio Pochettino tells Tottenham to keep calm after Manchester City win

first_img Eric Dier drew parity on the stroke of half-time by hammering home at the end of a move started by the clearly offside Kyle Walker – a strike added to after the break by Toby Alderweireld and Harry Kane’s first club goal in 748 minutes. Erik Lamela coolly rounded the goalkeeper to add extra gloss to a win secured by the Premier League’s youngest line-up this season. “We are very pleased and very happy,” Spurs head coach Pochettino said. “We have big potential, we are very young. I think that today was the (our) youngest team and this is important. “The potential is massive but we need to keep the feet on the grass because you know always after a big win you need to keep your feet on the grass. “Now, this is our tough job but I am very pleased with the result. We can discuss different things but in the end I think we fully deserved the victory.” The result moved Spurs within three points of Man City and afterwards talk quickly turned to a top-four tilt. “We need to keep calm, like the shirt,” Pochettino said. “In Spain, a lot of the kids have ‘keep calm’, ‘keep calm’ on their t-shirts. Press Association Tottenham underlined their “massive” potential by comprehensively beating table-topping Manchester City, but head coach Mauricio Pochettino has told his players to keep calm and carry on. “This is true because we are very young. Now after three victories in a row in the Premier League, it is very important for us. “It is important for them to believe in the way that we play and our philosophy of how we do our job, b ut remain calm because it is only the beginning of the season and nothing has happened yet. “We have a long way ahead. We are very young and sometimes we can confuse quick.” As well as joy, there was a palpable air of relief around White Hart Lane when fans’ favourite Kane netted. The England international has struggled to scale the heights he achieved during his exquisite breakthrough season, but his reaction strike after Christian Eriksen hit the bar ended a long, frustrating drought. “It is very important for him, very important for us to help the team,” Pochettino said. “I think it was great for him to take off the pressure.” Pressure is something that is building at City after a third loss in four matches in all competitions, especially with injury problems mounting. Joe Hart and Yaya Toure are doubts for this week’s Champions League tie at Borussia Monchengladbach, which captain Vincent Kompany will almost certainly miss with a calf complaint. Things could have been so different for City had they maintained their lead, which would have been easier had offside been called when Dier and Kane scored. “It is difficult to stay despite those two goals, but I think we played very well in the first half,” City boss Pellegrini said. “We played very well but we just scored one goal and had two or three clear chances. “Really, Tottenham only had one shot on our goal in the first 40 minutes and after that they scored that clear offside goal. “And the second half, two set pieces – one of them was also offside – that decided the game. “After that they played very well, we looked very bad.” Spurs have endured a wretched recent run against Manuel Pellegrini’s side and looked like they may fall to a fifth consecutive defeat to them when Kevin de Bruyne netted. However, an impressive comeback – thanks in part to a dollop of luck – saw the north Londoners secure a surprise 4-1 victory at White Hart Lane. last_img read more


Trump, Pence Pay Respects To Florida Soldiers Killed In Afghanistan

first_img(Dover AFB, DE) — President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence paid their respects last night to two soldiers from Eglin Air Force Base in Destin, Florida who were killed in Afghanistan over the weekend. Trump saluted and Pence put his hand over his heart as the flag-draped transfer cases were carried off the plane and loaded into a vehicle. Twenty-eight-year old Sergeant Javier Gutierrez of San Antonio and 28-year-old Sergeant Antonio Rodriguez of Las Cruces, New Mexico were killed Saturday when an Afghan soldier opened fire with a machine gun. Gutierrez and Rodriguez were stationed at Eglin Air Force Base in the panhandle.last_img read more