Ireland see off France in Dublin thriller

Sexton toasts another Irish victory

Sexton toasts another Irish victory

Johnny Sexton negotiated two bloody clashes of heads with Mathieu Bastareaud to mastermind Ireland’s stubborn 18-11 6 Nations victory over France in Dublin.

Sexton fired 15 points in Ireland's ninth consecutive victory on his return from a 12-week concussion lay-off to set up a potential Six Nations title decider with England on March 1.

Fit-again Sexton fully vindicated Ireland's decision to throw him into action after an enforced three-month absence, leaving Joe Schmidt's men and England the only unbeaten teams in the tournament after the English beat Italy 47-17 earlier in the day.

France lock Romain Taofifenua bundled in for a late try to set up a frenetic finish, but reigning champions Ireland held firm to keep their title defence on track.

Read full reports and analysis, as well as Roy Curtis's verdict on Ireland's Aviva Stadium win in this weekend's Sunday World newspaper.

Sexton and Heaslip back for Ireland to face the French

Johnny Sexton makes his return

Johnny Sexton makes his return

Johnny Sexton and Jamie Heaslip return to the Irish rugby team to face France in the Six Nations on Saturday, with the pair now fully recovered from injuries that saw them miss the opening-day win over Italy last Saturday.

Flanker Sean O'Brien is also in the starting XV named today by coach Joe Schmidt. O'Brien had been chosen to face Italy, but strained a hamstring during the warm-up.

The return of Sexton and O'Brien means there is no room in the match-day squad for out-half Ian Keatley and flanker Tommy O'Donnell even though the pair scored all but seven of Ireland's 26 points in Rome last weekend.

Keatley is replaced as stand-in out-half by Ian Madigan because Madigan can cover the centre and full-back positions while on the bench. 

Ireland XV to face France:

Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Simon Zebo, Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray, Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony, Paul O’Connell (captain), Devin Toner, Mike Ross, Rory Best, Jack McGrath.

Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Iain Henderson 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Ian Madigan 23 Felix Jones.

Tiger Woods takes ‘indefinite’ break from golf

Yet another lay-off for Woods

Yet another lay-off for Woods

Tiger Woods has announced he will take an indefinite break from golf as he bids to overcome his latest injury scare and poor form.

The 14-time major champion withdrew midway through his first round at last week's Farmers Insurance Open in California due to back pain although he has allayed fears over the setback.

Of more pressing concern for the 39-year-old is his recent struggles on the course, with his injury coming six days after recording the worst round of his career – an 11-over-par 82 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

"Right now, I need a lot of work on my game, and to still spend time with the people that are important to me," Woods wrote in a statement on his official website.

"My play, and scores, are not acceptable for tournament golf. Like I've said, I enter a tournament to compete at the highest level, and when I think I'm ready, I'll be back."

While Woods does not feel his game is yet up to scratch, he hopes to be ready to play The Honda Classic, which gets under way on February 26.

"Next week I will practice at Medalist and at home getting ready for the rest of the year. I am committed to getting back to the pinnacle of my game," he said.

"I'd like to play The Honda Classic – it's a tournament in my hometown and it's important to me – but I won't be there unless my game is tournament-ready. That's not fair to anyone.

"I do, however, expect to be playing again very soon."

The American withdrew from last year's event in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, after 13 holes with back pain and would eventually have to undergo surgery in April on a pinched nerve which forced him to miss the Masters and the US Open.

Yet any thoughts that he has aggravated the problem were dismissed.

"The last two weeks have been very disappointing to me, especially Torrey, because I never want to withdraw. Unfortunately, lately injuries have made that happen too often," he said.

"This latest injury is not related to my previous surgery. I am having daily physical therapy and I am feeling better every day."

Since his return from last year's injury, Woods has struggled to recapture the form that saw him become one of the greatest players of all-time and his latest lay-off will raise fresh doubts over his long-term future in the sport.

Johnny Sexton ready to make Ireland return

Sexton set for international comeback

Sexton set for international comeback

Johnny Sexton is “in a really good spot” and “itching to go” for Ireland’s RBS 6 Nations clash against France, according to coach Richie Murphy.

British and Irish Lions fly-half Sexton is fit after an enforced 12-week concussion lay-off, and Ireland skills coach Murphy hailed the 29-year-old's work in training.

Sexton completed his mandatory stand-down period after four concussions in 12 months as Ireland saw off Italy 26-3 in Rome on Saturday.

The Racing Metro playmaker is primed to replace Ian Keatley at 10 for Joe Schmidt's side, with Murphy admitting Sexton has looked sharp.

"Johnny's fine: he took a full part in training and did contact work today and is raring to go for the weekend," said Murphy.

"He's just itching to go. The last few weeks probably have been a little bit frustrating but he understood that he couldn't play until he got the all clear. He's got that now and he's ready to go."

Sexton's French club Racing took the lead on the decision to stand their star man down for three months, but while Ireland were not integral in the call they have refused to fight it at any point.

Despite his enforced absence however, Murphy believes Sexton will be capable of finding form quickly against the French, especially on the goal-kicking front.

Sexton has been able to take part in non-contact training for the last fortnight – a factor which Murphy believes could accelerate his reintegration.

"His kicking is going fine: we did some work today and yesterday and he seems to be in a good spot.

"Obviously he hasn't taken any competitive kicks for a while so we will see how he gets on at the weekend.

"It's a pretty big test for him but the great benefit he has is that he has been training so he has had his eye in doing a lot of skill work and non-contact stuff that we have been doing.

"It's not as bad as somebody coming from injury where they haven't been able to touch the ball. He'll be ready to go."

Aside from hooker Rory Best, Murphy confirmed Ireland had a clean bill of health in Tuesday's training session at their Carton House base.

Retiring McCoy takes Hennessy Gold

Tony McCoy celebrates on Carlingford Lough, after winning the Hennessy Gold Cup

Tony McCoy celebrates on Carlingford Lough, after winning the Hennessy Gold Cup

A little over 24 hours after Tony McCoy stunned the racing world in announcing he would retire at the end of the season, the irrepressible jockey roared to a fairytale success in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown.

McCoy had already ridden his first winner since his bombshell when Sort It Out scored in the famous silks of his boss JP McManus, but that was to prove simply a taster for what was to come.

Again in the green and gold of McManus and this time for trainer John Kiely, McCoy produced 4-1 chance Carlingford Lough to perfection to get the better of a battle with Foxrock by three-quarters of a length.

McCoy said: "You can't fight fate and it was obviously meant to be the way things happened.

"Fair play to John Kiely. Every day I've been on this horse he's produced the goods.

"JP's family are here and my family are here. It's brilliant. It's what's meant to be.

"It's amazing the people here at Leopardstown today. I have to be careful I don't get too emotional, it's not good for the image."

Carlingford Lough was halved in price for the Betfred Gold Cup at Cheltenham next month, and McCoy said: "I might just get to steer him around on Gold Cup day at Cheltenham, which is probably the most important day of the whole jumping year and, on today's performance, he's got a live chance.

"He didn't really perform great there last year, but he just didn't get into a rhythm. He feels in great shape and look, it's a very open Gold Cup and he's definitely going to go there with a chance, hopefully."

Reflecting on his decision to retire, McCoy, who was afforded a hero's welcome on his return to the winner's enclosure, said: "At the beginning of the season, after Jezki won at Punchestown, I was at home with JP and his son John and I mentioned that there was a possibility this could be my last year because I've been lucky enough to win 19 jockeys' championships and if I could win 20, it would be a great number.

"I wanted to start the season and give it everything I had and I was lucky I rode my fastest 50th winner, my fastest 100th winner, my fastest 150th winner and I genuinely believed I was going to ride 300 winners, I had no doubt it was going to happen.

"Then I got injured at Worcester one day – I dislocated my collarbone, I punctured my lung and I broke a couple of ribs – and the crazy thing about it was I went back racing three days later thinking I could get through it.

"Then I got another fall not long afterwards and managed to break the collarbone that I dislocated. For those three weeks I probably struggled a lot mentally because I had thought that something I wasn't able to achieve for 20 years was going to happen and then it was taken away and that was probably the only thing in racing, in terms of achievement, that really broke my heart.

"So then it was just about trying to get the most out of it as I could.

"My wife Chanelle had no idea what was happening and I asked my agent Dave Roberts, who has been looking after me for 20 years, to come down on Monday night. I had the conversation with him – Chanelle had no idea, the only other person in the world that had any idea, I think, was JP and I told Dave in front of Chanelle and they were both a bit gobsmacked.

"I said I was thinking about retiring at the end of the season and I was wondering what way to go about it, whether I just leave it until after Aintree and then I was very aware that people might speculate because hopefully it was going to be my 20th year – I wanted it to come out on my terms.

"I wanted it to be me that said 'this is the time' and I decided that I was lucky to be close enough to ride my 200th winner and I hoped that if I rode my 200th winner, then that would be the time.

"It was a good achievement, it was on a high and it was going to be on my terms. Then I hoped that I could enjoy my last few months riding, which I'm going to do."

McCoy said he intends to get Cheltenham and Aintree behind him and decide then whether to go out on a winner or ride until the last day of the season at Sandown on April 25.

Ireland cruise to victory against Italy in 6 Nations opener

Tommy O'Donnell scored one of Ireland's tries

Tommy O’Donnell scored one of Ireland’s tries

Ireland started the defence of their 6 Nations crown with a comfortable 26-6 victory against Italy, but Joe Schmidt’s men were not convincing in their display in Rome.

Conor Murray and Tommy O'Donnell scored the Ireland tires in tricky wet conditions, yet improvements will be needed from Ireland if they are to make it two wins from two against France in Dublin next week. 

Just after Italy hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini had been sin-binned, scrum-half Murray got the first try in the 65th minute. That was quickly followed when late replacement flanker O'Donnell ran through for his touchdown.

It was Ireland's eighth victory in a row and represented a promising start as they attempt to retain the Six Nations for the first time.

Get a full report on Ireland's win in Rome in this weekend's Sunday World newspaper.

Broken middle and lower vertebrae, both shoulder blades, both collarbones, ribs, ankle, cheekbones, wrist, ankle and leg plus a dislocated thumb and chipped teeth…A.P McCoy’s extraordinary career and injury list

Tony McCoy

Tony McCoy

Tony McCoy

Tony McCoy

Tony McCoy has enjoyed one of the most extraordinary careers in jump racing. Here’s a snapshot.

Father: Peadar McCoy, bred County Hurdle winner Thumbs Up.

Apprenticeship: Four years with Jim Bolger – rode work on horses such as Irish Derby winner St Jovite and Oaks winner Jet Ski Lady.

First winner: Legal Steps at Thurles on March 26, 1992.

Joined Toby Balding at start of 1994-5 season after riding 13 winners (six on the Flat) in Ireland.

Joins Martin Pipe in 1996 – an association which lasted eight years.

Appointed retained rider for millionaire owner, JP McManus, at the end of the 2003-04 campaign.

First winner in Britain: Chickabiddy at Exeter on September 7, 1994.

Champion conditional jockey: 1994-5 with 74 winners – at the time a record for the number of wins by a conditional jockey (he finished seventh in the full jockeys' championship).
Lost right to claim when won on Romany Creek at Nottingham on February 28, 1995.

Beat Sir Gordon Richards' all-time record total of 269 winners in a season on Valfonic at Warwick on April 2, 2002.

Became all-time winning-most jumps jockey, beating Richard Dunwoody's record of 1,699, when winning on Mighty Montefalco at Uttoxeter on August 27, 2002.

Champion jockey: 1995-6, 1996-7, 1997-8, 1998-9, 1999-2000, 2000-1, 2001-2, 2002-3, 2003-4, 2004-5, 2005-6, 2006-7, 2007-8, 2008-9, 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14

Best season: 289 winners in 2001-2

1,000th winner: Majadou, Cheltenham, December 11, 1999.

1,500th winner: Celtic Native, Exeter, December, 2001.

1,700th winner (new record): Mighty Montefalco, Uttoxeter, August 27, 2002.

Awarded MBE in 2003.

2,000th winner: Magical Bailiwick, Wincanton, January 17, 2004.

3,000th winner over jumps in Britain and Ireland: Restless D'Artaix, Plumpton, February 9, 2009.

4,000th winner over jumps in Britain and Ireland: Mountain Tunes, Towcester, November 7, 2013.

4,192nd winner over jumps in Britain and Ireland: It's A Gimme, Market Rasen, July 19, 2014. This took him past his old ally Martin Pipe's career total of winners.

Champion Hurdle winners: Make A Stand 1997, Brave Inca 2006, Binocular 2010.

Cheltenham Gold Cup winner: Mr Mulligan 1997, Synchronised 2012

Champion Chase winner: Edredon Bleu 2000.

King George VI Chase winner: Best Mate 2002.

Grand National winner: Don't Push It 2010.

Rode 150th winner at Cheltenham on Hills Of Aran January 1, 2008.

Awarded an OBE in June 2010.

Named BBC Sports Personality of the Year in December 2010.

McCoy’s riding injuries have included: broken middle and lower vertebrae, both shoulder blades, both collarbones, ribs, ankle, cheekbones, wrist, ankle and leg plus a dislocated thumb and chipped teeth.

 

Champion jockey Tony McCoy to quit racing at end of season

Tony McCoy

Tony McCoy

Tony McCoy today announced he is to retire from racing at the end of the season.

Just minutes after Mr Mole gave McCoy his 200th winner of the season as Sire De Grugy unseated three out in an incident-packed Betfair Price Rush Chase at Newbury. the champion jockey told Channel 4 Racing of his intention to stop riding.

Not seen since following up his Champion Chase success at Sandown last April, the Gary Moore-trained Sire De Grugy was sent off at odds-on but made a bad mistake four from home before parting company with Jamie Moore at the next.

That left a simple task for Mr Mole, who will test his credentials at the top level in the two-mile championship next month.

All that was overshadowed, however, when McCoy revealed his retirement plan.

"It's going to be the last time I ride 200 winners," he said.

"Having spoken to Dave (Roberts, agent) and JP McManus, I am going to be retiring at the end of the season."

Career of a racing legend

:: McCoy started working with horses at the age of 13, working full-time from leaving school at 15. His weight rocketed after some time off with a broken leg following a fall whilst employed at Jim Bolger's and this was the deciding factor which drove McCoy from Flat to jumps racing.

: :: McCoy's riding injuries have included: broken middle and lower vertebrae, both shoulder blades, both collarbones, ribs, ankle, cheekbones, wrist, ankle and leg plus a dislocated thumb and chipped teeth.

:: It took McCoy 15 attempts before sealing an elusive first victory in the Grand National aboard the gambled-on Don't Push It in 2010. Bookmakers recorded a loss of around #50million on the race.

:: McCoy has been the retained jockey for owner JP McManus for 10 years.

:: In 2003 McCoy was awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours and an OBE in 2010.

:: He became BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2010, beating Phil Taylor and Jessica Ennis-Hill to the coveted trophy. It was the first time a jockey had been awarded the honour.

:: His first novel, 'Taking the Fall' was published in November 2013 by Orion. Its central character is Duncan Claymore, a super-talented conditional jockey who is nonetheless struggling. 

:: AP spends 2 – 2.5 hours, six days a week sweating in the bath or sauna (equivalent of 1.3 years of his life). On average AP sweats 2-4Ib per session.

:: McCoy was crowned champion conditional jockey at 21 after riding 74 winners in the 1994/1995 season, when attached to the yard of trainer Toby Balding.

:: McCoy has been crowned champion jockey 19 times.

:: McCoy was 17 when riding his first winner, Legal Steps, to victory for Jim Bolger at Thurles in 1992.

:: McCoy rode his first winner in England aboard the Gordon Edwards-trained Chickabiddy at Exeter on September 7, 1994.

:: McCoy has won two Cheltenham Gold Cups, the first aboard Mr Mulligan in 1997 and the second on Synchronised in 2012.

:: McCoy's riding weight can get as low as 10st 3lb, although he feels his natural body weight is around 12st.
ends