Inside Lines: Ireland to return to Soldier Field
The IRFU have confirmed that Ireland will return to Chicago in November to take on Italy.
As exclusively revealed in the Irish Independent, Soldier Field will welcome Ireland back after their historic win over the All Blacks in 2016. Joe Schmidt (above) will lead his side against Conor O'Shea's men on November 3, with tickets set to go on sale on Monday next, May 21.
The clash will be part of a triple-header with the USA men's and women's Eagles taking on the Maori All Blacks and Women's Rugby World Cup Champions, the Black Ferns.
Ireland will later play a three-game series on home soil in the same month.
Massa to race for DiCaprio’s FE team
Ex-Formula One driver Felipe Massa will race in the Formula E electric motor racing series next season after signing a three-year deal with the Monaco-based Venturi team co-founded by Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio.
Massa was Formula One runner-up with Ferrari in 2008, a single point behind Britain’s Lewis Hamilton, and most recently raced for Williams before retiring at the end of last year. The Brazilian won 11 races, all with Ferrari.
Formula E’s 2018/’19 season, the fifth since the series launched, will see the debut of the Gen2 car that can hit a top speed of 280kph and will have sufficient battery power to last an entire race. Drivers have to switch cars mid-race at present.
Russia qualify after point deduction
Russia will be part of Ireland’s group for next year’s World Cup after World Rugby handed down points deductions to Romania, Spain and Belgium for fielding ineligible players during qualification matches.
Romania had previously qualified as ‘Europe 1’ for next year’s tournament, having finished above Spain in the Rugby Europe Championship following Spain’s controversial defeat against Belgium on the final weekend.
Subsequent complaints from the federations to World Rugby over potential player eligibility breaches led to a full independent review.
The outcome of that review has led to Romania, Belgium and Spain all being deducted five tournament points for each fixture in which they fielded an ineligible player, under Regulation 8, resulting in Russia moving up into first place and winning Rugby World Cup qualification as Europe 1.
The points deductions also means that Germany have replaced Spain as the second-ranked side in Rugby Europe Championship. They will now face Portugal for the right to go on to play Samoa. The winner of that contest with Samoa will then qualify for the World Cup in the ‘Play-off Winner’ spot in Pool A alongside Ireland, Scotland, Japan and Russia.
Belgium were found to have fielded five ineligible players across six matches and were subsequently deducted 30 points, and given a suspended fine of £125,000. Mathieu Belie and Bastien Fuster were both ruled as ineligible for Spain, having represented France U-20s.
Mehaffey misses out on US Open by a shot
Royal County Down Ladies’ Olivia Mehaffey was gutted to miss out on a place in next month’s US Women’s Open by a single shot.
With just two places up for grabs in her Sectional Qualifier at Arizona Country Club, the Arizona State and Ireland star (20) fired a five-under 67 to take the first-round lead.
But she could only manage a 72 in the afternoon and ended up tied for third with South Korea’s Heeyoung Park, one stroke behind Tiger Woods’ niece Cheyenne Woods, who shot two 69s, and Italy’s Guilia Molinaro who stormed past with a second round 66.
“Pretty gutting missing the US Open by one stroke but I’m proud of how I played today taking low Am and 1st alternate spot,” Mehaffey said on social media.
Weld’s tribute to ‘gifted’ Burns
The funeral of TP Burns, described as a “gifted horseman” by trainer Dermot Weld, will take place this morning following his death on Monday.
The 94-year-old was a hugely respected Classic-winning jockey on the Flat during a successful partnership for the legendary Vincent O’Brien and Burns also enjoyed success over jumps, riding nine winners at the Cheltenham Festival.
Burns died peacefully at his home in the Curragh and Weld, for whom he worked as an assistant after he held a similar position with O’Brien following his retirement from riding, led the tributes.
“He was a brilliant rider and a wonderful man,” he said. Burns, who won a Flat race on Arkle, rode his first Irish Classic winner on Ballymoss in the 1957 Irish Derby and the same horse gave him his sole British Classic in the St Leger.