first_imgVERONICA YANKOWSKI MIddletown North shortstop Ryan McCabe awaits a throw as Manalapan’s Kyle St. Angelo slides safely into second during the Lions’ 14-3 home win in the Central Jersey Group IV tournament on Friday. The top-seeded Lions took on Hunterdon Central on Tuesday for the right to advance to Friday’s sectional final.last_img

Holmdel wins double OT thriller to remain undefeated

first_img From the start of the season, the Holmdel High School football team has been talking the talk. Through four games, they’re walking the walk as well. With a thrilling double-overtime win over Barnegat on Friday, the Hornets improved to 4-0 on the young season, and kept pace with Point Borough for first place in the Shore’s National Division. With wins against Manasquan, St. John Vianney and Raritan already under their belts, the Hornets entered Friday night’s matchup with the 3-1 Bengals looking to further cement their newfound status as one of the conference’s top teams, while also getting to 4- 0 for the first time since 1999, when they opened the year 6-0. And it was a battle throughout, as Barnegat came into Bob Roggy field as a much-improved team that was entertaining similar championship aspirations. Holmdel, however, came out ready to put the Bengals away early, jumping up 13-0 on a 5-yard scoring run from senior Chris Gallogly and a 30-yard run from Glenn Grainger. After Barnegat responded by scoring the next 13 points to tie the game, Gallogly found the end zone again to give the Hornets a 20-13 lead with just under three minutes to play. To their credit, the Bengals refused to quit, marching 80 yards in 13 plays to tie the game on a 6-yard scoring strike from Brandon Clarke to Daniel Cintron with under a minute to play. Barnegat then appeared poised to steal the game on its first possession of overtime, as the Bengals lined up for a 27-yard field-goal attempt after Holmdel went three-andout on its first possession of the OT period, and Grainger missed a 35-yard field goal. With the Bengals in position to hand the Hornets their first loss of the year in dramatic fashion, the hometown fans were hoping that some of the magic the Holmdel players have been able to harness so far this year would reappear. And it did, as Holmdel senior Ryan Haslett raced around blockers and blocked the kick to send the game into second overtime. Haslett then scrambled for an 11- yard gain to open the second extra session, and a late hit penalty against Barnegat gave the Hornets a first-andgoal at the Barnegat 7-yard line. On the very next play, Grainger redeemed himself with a scoring run that gave the Hornets the lead once again. From there, it was the Holmdel defense that sealed the deal, forcing four consecutive incompletions to send the hometown crowd into a frenzy. With both teams expecting a close game on Friday, that is exactly what they got. Two solid football teams met in Holmdel hoping to solidify their claim as the team to beat in the National Division. This was the type of game you have to win to secure a championship, and Holmdel proved its mettle by overcoming a spirited effort from a good Barnegat team, and preserving its perfect season. Next up, Holmdel gets a Jackson Liberty team in the midst of its first varsity season, and coming off a 34-6 loss to Middle Township. On paper, the Hornets appear to be the better team, but head coach Andy Carlstrom will be preaching all week that his team needs to bring its “A” game on Friday. Jackson Liberty may be struggling a bit, but there is talent there, and that makes them dangerous regardless of their record. It was a bit of an up-and-down week for the remainder of the local teams, with three teams posting wins, and four suffering losses. The top-ranked Middletown South Eagles weren’t tested by Lakewood, rolling to a 35-0 win in what served as a glimpse of the future. Sophomore Craig Sweeney, whose athleticism has been touted by head coach Steve Antonucci since the summer, put on a show against the Piners, catching two Patrick Campbell touchdown passes and making several impressive plays on special teams. While the Eagle defense put forth its usual dominant effort, Sweeney led the way for the Eagle offense – something Antonucci expects to see a lot of over the next few years. Next up for the Eagles is a Toms River North team that improved to 5-0 over the weekend with an impressive 28-7 win over Jackson Memorial. The Mariners have had this game circled on their calendars from the start of the season and are anxious to prove that they, not the Eagles, are the Shore’s best team. Against Jackson Memorial, TR North quarterback Anthony Penna threw four touchdowns, further cementing his status as one of the best signal-callers in the state. First and foremost, the Eagle defense will need to apply the pressure to Penna to slow down what has been an explosive Mariner offense to date. This game should have a state-championship caliber atmosphere, so get there early for a seat. Friday’s game time is 7 p.m. in Toms River. The Keyport Red Raiders got their first win of the year on Saturday, overwhelming Mater Dei 50-0, led by Aaron Lee’s four-touchdown day. Keyport, which has been more a victim of a brutal schedule than anything else thus far, was clicking on all cylinders against the Seraphs (0-4) and will hope to build off the momentum gained on Saturday when they take on one of the Shore’s very best teams, Red Bank Catholic, on Friday in Red Bank. RBC (4-0) has blown out everyone they’ve faced thus far, but may be looking past the Red Raiders to an Oct. 19 showdown with unbeaten Long Branch. Game time is 7 p.m. at Count Basie Park. Matawan overcame a 19-0 lead by scoring 21 straight points to beat Man- chester on Friday in Manchester to get to 2-3 on the year. Manchester got a late score to get within two, but the Matawan defense came up with a big stop on the two-point-conversion attempt, stopping D’Andre McFadden short of the goal line to preserve the win. Next up for Matawan is another tough one – a Saturday afternoon contest against a 4-1 Asbury Park team coming off a 42-26 upset of previously unbeaten Keansburg on Saturday. Asbury Park is a dangerous team, with some very skilled players on offense, and should give the Huskies as tough a challenge as they’ve faced thus far. Game time is 4 p.m. in Matawan. The rest of the local teams suffered losses over the weekend. St. John Vianney fell, 26-19, in overtime to Monsignor Donovan to fall to 1-4 on the year. Head coach John Amabile’s team is better than its record indicates, and the Lancers will be looking to prove when they return to action on Oct. 19 in Point Beach. Middletown North dropped a 35-19 game to Manalapan on Friday to fall to 0- 4 on the year. The Lions will be seeking that elusive first win on Friday when they host a Toms River South team that is also winless (0-5) thus far. Game time is 7 p.m. Raritan fell to 0-5 with a 20-7 loss to 4- 0 Point Borough, and will try for their first win again on Saturday when they face a Keansburg team that will be hungry to prove that Saturday’s loss to Asbury Park was a fluke. This game is also a bit of a border war, so with bragging rights on the line as well, expect both teams to be hitting hard from the start. Game time is 1 p.m. in Keansburg. BY DOUG McKENZIE Staff Writer Middletown South also keeps its perfect record alive last_img read more

Super sophs lead Holmdel Hornets hoops resurgence

first_img Afterwinning four of its last five games, the Holmdel High School boys basketball team has improved its record to 6-9 heading into the finalmonth of the season. The Hornets have rolled past St. John Vianney, Red Bank Regional, Rumson-Fair Haven andMatawan. Their lone loss during the hot streak came against Middletown North in the Ocean County Challenge. Holmdel has been riddled by injuries throughout the campaign and sophomores Erik Shirvirian and Mike Kelly have both stepped up their games to help compensate. Shirvirian, a shooting guard who averages 13 points to lead the team, scored 17 points to lead the way in the win against Red Bank Regional. In a 50-48 victory over Rumson- Fair Haven, Shirvirian scored seven fourthquarter points, including five from the free throw line. Kelly, a forward, paced the Hornets attack with 20 points to help defeat Matawan and he added 16 points in the Red Bank Regional triumph. He is averaging 10 pointsper game. Kelly and Shirvirian are Holmdel’s top guns fromthree-point range. Another sophomore, 5-7Mike Perillo, has been quietly effective at the point. He leads the team in assists and has proven to be a gritty defender as well. “Our sophomores are really coming into their own right now,” Holmdel coach Sean Devaney said. “Their roles have changed and they’ve adapted. They know we’re shorthanded and that we need them to be contributors and they have been getting the job done for us.” Devaney noted that a pair of seniors, forward Dave Burke and center Brad Domarski, have also been playingwell.Burke is the Hornets top defender so he usually lines up against the opposition’s best scorer. Domarski, at 6 feet 4 inches, gives his team a presence under the hoop where he leads the Hornets in rebounding. Versatile juniorAlexHenry has been solid off the bench as both a forward and a guard depending on the situation. Henry, who occasionally starts, owns an accurate midrange jumpshot. Devaney said that as his team gained more experience playing together, it has begun to gel. Earlier in the season, the Hornets dropped four games by three points or less, including one-point losses against both Wall and Raritan. “Now we’re starting to win the close ones and that has helped our guys gain confidence,” the coach said. “And that confidence has helped them to play harder and the results have showed.” With three games left before the cut-off to qualify for theNJSIAACentral JerseyGroup II tournament, the Hornets still have a chance to reach the .500mark. Holmdel was slated to visit Red Bank Catholic on Monday and will host Manasquan today.On Friday, theHornets are set to visitMiddletown North. In addition,Devaney’s teamis still in contention to qualify for the Shore Conference tourney. Teams must have a .500 or better record at the end of play on Feb. 10 to qualify. “We’re taking things game-by-game,”Devaney said. “That’s what we’ve done all season also we’re not going to change now. We just want to finish as strongly as we can.” BY WARREN RAPPLEYEA Staff Writer Shirvirian and Kelly have paced team to recent 4-1 mark last_img read more

CBA hurdlers win national relay title

first_imgChristian Brothers Academy The 2010-11 school year was one for the ages for Christian Brothers Academy track and field and cross country athletes. They enjoyed unprecedented success in all three sports seasons.It all began back in the fall, when the cross country team set the state record for team average at Holmdel Park while winning the NJSIAA Meet of Champions and captured the Nike Cross Nationals Northeast Qualifier.Indoors, the 4×800 relay team won the Millrose Games; and at the New Balance Indoor Nationals, two CBA teams — the 4×55-meter hurdles and 4×1-mile — brought home national championships.The spring began with the Colts winning the Championship of America Distance Medley at the Penn Relays. The fabulous spring season ended with CBA hurdlers winning another national championship, this one at the New Balance Outdoor Championships held in Greensboro, N.C., June 16-18.Phil Reid, John Engels, Nick Beger and Matt Pozo, competing as the Brothers Track Club, won the 4×110-meter hurdles relay in 59.29, establishing a new school record. The Colt quartet won by more than a second over the East Meadow TC team from New York (1:00.41). That’s a big margin in such a technical and short race.It was Reid, Engels, Berger and Pozo who teamed up to win the New Balance Indoor Nationals in the 4×55 shuttle relay, setting a school record in that event as well (30.37).As seniors, the hurdlers graduate as two-time national champions and helped bring attention to sprinters/hurdlers at a school with a legendary tradition in distance running.CBA’s distance runners were looking to win a second national title themselves in Greensboro. The 4×1-mile relay team was looking to duplicate its indoor national title, albeit minus the injured anchor Mike Mazzaccaro. The Colts finished second in what was a bizarre championship race that was one lap short, costing the team the chance to put down a very fast timeThe quartet of Conrad Lippert, Dan Mykityshyn, Tim Gorman and George Kelly were second to Loyola TC from California, 16:14.32-16:15.14. They were well on their way to breaking the school record of 17:37.01 had the runners on the third leg of the relay not run one less lap. However, they still left Greensboro as All-Americas.Running in the Emerging Elite 4×400 relay, the team of John Turi, Cark Mangini, Zach McDermott and Theo Foster finished first and set a new school record with their 3:19.69.Foster, Mangini and McDermott are all sophomores. CBA sprinting has a bright future indeed.last_img read more

Vettel and Franklin win Laureus awards in sombre Malaysia

first_imgBy Patrick JohnstonFormula One world champion Sebastian Vettel and American swimming sensation Missy Franklin were named Laureus Sportsman and Woman of the Year on Wednesday in a ceremony filled with tributes to those affected by the missing Malaysian Airlines plane.Nearly all of the seven winners at the lavish awards ceremony in Kuala Lumpur remarked on flight MH370, which went missing 18 days ago with 239 passengers and crew on boardafter leaving Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing.Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak opened the ceremony, after a moment’s silence, and talked about the strength his nation could take from the achievements of the nominees. Satellite images have shown possible debris of the missing plane in the southern Indian Ocean, miles off course.“Sport reflects what is happening in the world,” Razak told the audience. “But for millions of people sport is also an escape, from hardship, from poverty, from conflict. In the hardest times we look for heroic feats to inspire us. ForMalaysia this is one such time.“At this difficult moment we draw strength from individual stories of perseverance, of generosity, and endurance. The nominees here tonight display those values.”Malaysia had stepped in to host the ceremony – which featured a performance from Grammy-winning singer and actor Jamie Foxx and was hosted by British actor Benedict Cumberbatch – after Rio de Janeiro was dropped amid local reports that the Brazilian state government owed Laureus money.Franklin, 18, collected the first award of the night in recognition of her stunning efforts in the pool in 2013 as she became the first woman to win six golds at a single world championships in Barcelona in August.The four-time Olympic champion gushed at her surprise in winning the award, presented by compatriot and swimming great Mark Spitz, ahead of five others including American tennis player Serena Williams and Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.Vettel enjoyed similar dominance of his sport by winning 13 of 19 Formula One races, including the last nine, in 2013 as he took a fourth consecutive world championship and constructors’ title for Red Bull.The German, in Kuala Lumpur ahead of Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix, beat athletes Usain Bolt and Mo Farah, Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, American basketball player LeBron James and tennis player Rafa Nadal to the prize.“It’s a big honour. It’s one of the most special trophies I have received,” Vettel said after being selected by the Laureus Academy, featuring 46 sporting greats including former world champion Emerson Fittipaldi, who handed him the award.Spaniard Nadal completed a hat-trick of Laureus awards after he took the Comeback of the Year prize after bouncing back from a seven-month absence to win the 2013 French and U.S. Opens as well as five ATP Masters titles.“How tough the year before with my injury? I never thought I would have the chance to come back as I did so for that reason this Laureus means more,” he said in a recorded message.Bayern Munich were named World Team of The Year after the German side completed a treble by winning the Bundesliga, Champions League and German Cup, while MotoGP champion Marc Marquez took the Breakthrough of the Year prize after taking the title in his rookie season.Marie Bochet, the French paralympic skier, was named sportsperson of the year with a disability, with Jamie Bestwick named World Action Sportsperson of the Year.last_img read more

Sharapova lives to fight another day, Gulbis powers on

first_imgBy Pritha SarkarThere was no Serena Williams standing in her way but the absence of her American nemesis did not stop Maria Sharapova from almost fluffing her lines on Tuesday before she set up a semi-final date at the French Open with Canadian Eugenie Bouchard.At 6-1 5-4 down, the Russian was on the verge of being toppled by the same Spanish gale force that had blown away Williams in the second round.Just when it seemed that Venezuelan-born Garbine Muguruza would pull off a Williams-Sharapova double at Roland Garros, the 2012 champion’s fighting instincts kicked in and she raised the decibel levels to shriek her way to a 1-6 7-5 6-1.It was a performance that led Andy Murray’s mother Judy to tweet: “Sharapova is like a tea bag. Put her into hot water and you’ll find out how strong she is.”While that observation left the Russian seventh seed rather bemused, her own assessment was more straightforward.“If I lost that match, I would be kicking myself in the bottom,” Sharapova said after reaching the Paris semi-finals for the fourth successive year.Blocking the former world number one’s path to a third final in a row is a young Justin Bieber fan who is aiming to become the first Canadian to reach a grand slam final.She may be a ‘Belieber’ but there is nothing immature about Bouchard’s game as she stormed back from behind in both the first and third sets to beat Muguruza’s doubles partner Carla Suarez Navarro 7-6(4) 2-6 7-5 to reach the last four of a second successive grand slam having also done so in Australia.Novak Djokovic prevented a double celebration for Canada when he thwarted big-serving Milos Raonic’s bid to become the first man in 91 years from his country to reach the semis of a major.The Serbian rolled closer to what seems an inevitable final showdown with eight-times champion Rafa Nadal with a 7-5 7-6(5) 6-4 win over eighth seed Raonic.While Bouchard and Raonic are helping put ice hockey-obsessed Canada on the tennis map, Ernests Gulbis is doing the same with tiny Latvia after following up his victory over Roger Federer with a straight sets defeat of Tomas Berdych.Gulbis proved that his win over 17-times major winner Federer was no fluke as reached the last four of a grand slam for the first time, demolishing sixth seed Berdych 6-3 6-2 6-4 to set up a clash with childhood friend Djokovic.“Forget about the money. Forget about fame. It’s just about my inner comfort. That’s it,” Gulbis, who is finally beginning to back up the potential he showed in 2008 by reach the French Open quarter-finals, told reporters explaining his motivation.For almost 90 minutes on Tuesday, it seemed as if Sharapova would go the same way as Williams with Muguruza making light of her heavily strapped left thigh as she romped to a 4-0 lead before taking the first set.While the Spaniard lit up an overcast Philippe Chatrier Court by blazing winners left, right and centre, Sharapova’s misfiring serves were at times so long that it seemed as if she aiming for the Eiffel Tower across town.But she was not ready to leave her day job behind to become a Parisian tourist and reined in the errors at 5-4 down in the second set to win three games on the trot to level the match.Muguruza, who had surrendered just four games in her win over Williams, refused to wave the white flag and had her rival screaming in frustration during the fourth game of the decider.A game that lasted 12 minutes saw Sharapova stretched to six deuces, survive five break points and then let out an almighty roar of ‘Come ooooonnnnn” when Muguruza netted a service return.From then there was no more sightings of Muguruza’s dimpled smile as the Russian rattled through the next three games.last_img read more

Quota rules ‘not to blame for inflated UK transfer fees’

first_imgBy Patrick JohnstonDespite Raheem Sterling’s record transfer to Manchester City, Premier League boss Richard Scudamore said it was a “hard stretch” to suggest home grown quota rules were to blame for the increasing price of English talent.Midfielder Sterling joined City from Liverpool on Tuesday for a reported fee of £49 million, British media said, a record price for an English player, overtaking the £35 million Liverpool paid Newcastle United for striker Andy Carroll in 2011.The fees for players just starting their international careers exceed what Liverpool paid Ajax Amsterdam for Uruguayan thoroughbred Luis Suarez or Arsenal spent to sign renowned Chilean talent Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona.City also spent more on bit-part England midfielder James Milner than they did on established Spaniard David Silva in 2010, while Manchester United recruited England teenage left-back Luke Shaw last season at double the cost of Marcos Rojo, who played in the World Cup final for Argentina.With Premier League squads requiring eight home grown players in the squad of 25, the clamour for top local talent has never been so intense but Scudamore did not feel there was a link to the price hike.“You can’t say it’s a systematic analysis of the cost of home grown talent,” Scudamore told Reuters on the sidelines of the Premier League’s Asian Trophy in Singapore.“Whether that says the cost of English talent across the board is suddenly x is a hard stretch.”The executive chairman said the fee for Sterling was down to Liverpool’s unwillingness to let the 20-year-old winger depart Anfield.“Whether that is a premium on English players or not I don’t know, at the end of the day Manchester City wanted Raheem Sterling,” he said. “Manchester City have the ability to look around the whole world and decide who they want.“They decided they want him, Liverpool didn’t want to sell him… therefore what you are seeing is the competitive tension, you are seeing the price taken to prize Raheem Sterling out of Liverpool. That is all you are seeing.”Scudamore reiterated his objection to plans by Football Association chairman Greg Dyke to increase the quota for home grown players to 12.“We do have a current quota system which says no more than 17 of your squad of 25 can be anything other than home grown, we think that is proportionate, we don’t think we should be increasing that number.”last_img read more

Curry revels in Warriors return

first_imgPhoto Getty Images. Caption: Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry Curry had been out of action since December 4 due to a sprained ankle, but led the scoring with 38 points – including 10 three-pointers – in a 141-128 win for the defending champions on Saturday.The talismanic guard became the only player this season with 35 points entering the fourth quarter while playing fewer than 25 minutes and he revelled in being back on the big stage.”I was excited, it felt like the first day of school again, for real.” said Curry.Stephen Curry IS a highlight reel. #NBAVote— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) December 31, 2017″You go through the mental grind of keeping your body somewhat in shape without being able to play and it’s a different challenge. There’s a monotony to it every day which you have to get through and you know what your goal is when you come back and hopefully it pays off.”When I woke up [on Saturday morning] and knew I was going to play basketball, that’s a great feeling to have.”The injury puts into perspective how blessed we all are to be able to play this game and to not take for granted any opportunity that you get to play the game that you love.”For me, especially, watching our team-mates, I just love playing with every single guy that’s on our team and I just wanted that feeling again. It was pretty special.”last_img read more

Sheikh Mansour’s smart investment key to success, says Pep

first_imgManchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan’s impact on the club has not just been down to his continued financial support but also smart decision-making in bringing success to the Etihad Stadium.City’s annual report this week showed Sheikh Mansour of the Abu Dhabi ruling family spent more than 1.3 billion pounds on the club since he took over in 2008.They have lifted three Premier League titles and the FA Cup over the last decade, and Guardiola insists it was a result of the owner’s trust in the right people to take the club forward.“He’s the most important person to help all of us at Manchester City to make a step in front,” Guardiola told reporters on Friday.“Because not just with the money you can (be successful). The money is so important but after they choose the right people, from the beginning 10 years ago to make a step forward.“He follows us every weekend, every game. I was really impressed when I spoke with him. He knows absolutely everything, what happened here, the team, the way we play, or what happens with the club – he’s involved.”Guardiola added Raheem Sterling is in contention for Saturday’s league visit of Fulham after the English forward missed international games against Spain and Switzerland with a back problem.Sterling’s current contract at City expires in 2020 and British media reports this week said the 23-year-old was seeking a 275,000 pounds a week deal, which would make him one of the club’s highest paid players.Although Guardiola is not part of the negotiations, he wants the player to commit his long-term future to City.“It’s well known that we are delighted about him. We would like to continue,” the Spaniard said.“The club has my opinion about that. Sometimes these kind of thing needs their own time. What’s important is Raheem and his people know how delighted we are with him but after that, maybe it happens, maybe not.”last_img read more

Bonus-point backdrop adds to Six Nations intrigue

first_imgThe Six Nations was a late adopter of bonus points but their presence has added extra intrigue to this weekend’s penultimate round with Wales, England and Ireland jockeying for position going into next week’s Super Saturday finale.Bonus points were introduced into the Six Nations in 2017, having been in place in the southern hemisphere for years and brought into the Rugby World Cup in 2015.Fears that a team with four victories and a potentially maximum six bonus points could top the standings ahead of one winning all five matches but with no bonus points were allayed by the addition of three bonus points for a Grand Slam which would guarantee top spot.That of course is what Wales will be hoping to achieve when, with three wins in the bag, they head to Scotland on Saturday (1415GMT) before what could be a rip-roaring last-day showdown with Ireland in Cardiff.Wales top the standings with 12 points but defeat in either of their last two games would almost certainly end their chances of a first title since 2013 as they have yet to register abonus point.Such a defeat would open the door for England and defending champions Ireland and, despite their loss in Cardiff, England look best placed to cash in.They are on 10 points with two bonus points in the bag. They will expect to collect another for scoring four tries against Italy on Saturday (1645GMT) and would then be in the fortunate position of going into the final game of the championship against Scotland, who have not won at Twickenham since 1983, knowing exactly what they need to finish top.Ireland have nine points, including one bonus, and almost certainly need to rack up some more, beginning at home to France on Sunday (1500GMT) to have any hope of retaining their title.Few players or coaches this week will allow themselves to speculate on the bonus point scenario but organisers, broadcasters and many fans will be hoping the results and scorelines fall right to set up a nail-biting last day to match that of four years ago.SIGNS OF LIFEThe pre-bonus point 2015 championship produced a thrilling, points-fest of a finale which ended with England needing to beat France by a margin of 26 at Twickenham to win the title, but falling just short as they triumphed 55-35.Champions Ireland, England and Wales all ended with four wins, with positions decided by points difference.Remarkably that year was the last time Italy managed a win – over Scotland – and they have lost 20 in a row since then.They showed some signs of life for an hour against Ireland two weeks ago but, as so often, faded away and they are the longest of outsiders to end their losing streak by beating England for the first time.Last time they came to Twickenham they did at least give Eddie Jones’s team a scare with their since-outlawed “no ruck” tactic that helped earn a 10-5 halftime lead before the home side fathomed out a solution. This time, however, England should collect the four-try bonuspoint win with relative ease.Wales will know they cannot drop their guard at Murrayfield, where they lost on their last visit – albeit their only defeat to the Scots in their last 12 meetings.Scotland are still hard-hit by injuries to key players while Wales are brimming with confidence after their late comeback win over England.Ireland are really struggling to find the form that brought a Grand Slam and victory over the All Blacks last year and will be wary of a French team that clicked well at times when beating Scotland. Jacques Brunel took the rare step – for a French coach – of naming an unchanged team and bench for the clash, giving promising young halfback pairing Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack another chance to shine.last_img read more