The big second row's international career appeared to be all but over when Joe Schmidt cut him loose from the Ireland squad that would travel to Japan for the World Cup but he starts for the first time in six months for his country on Sunday against England in Twickenham.
As shakedown games go, this one ended up being a little more shaky than Ireland might have expected. The final score said 19-12 to Ireland but that didn’t really tell the story of the game so much as gesture vaguely in the direction of the side that took their chances with more efficiency, writes
A pointless cup tie turned into a pointless replay, all of our own making. If the manager wasn’t peeling paint off the walls after that he never will, yet it summed up perfectly the entire club’s attitude to domestic knockout.
Long-suffering Liverpool supporters, for whom the mere mention of the word ‘slip’ can bring on a fit of the vapours, won’t want to hear him say it — but Graeme Souness has ruled out any possibility of a collapse for Jurgen Klopp’s team and so, even with the New Year still only in its infancy, he has no hesitation in calling the 2020 title race in favour of his old club.
When it came, the explanation made perfect sense. “Altior doesn’t look like Altior,” Nicky Henderson said as he explained his decision to rule his stablestar out of the Grade Two Unibet Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton on Saturday, a race which was set to be his first start since surrendering his 19-race unbeaten record over obstacles when beaten by Cyrname in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot in November.