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Pumas the perfect audition for under pressure O’Brien

Saturday's game is a big test for Sean O'Brien, a key moment in his career.

Is he the first-choice openside on form in that back row?

I'd say Josh van der Flier and Dan Leavy might have something to say about that, even Rhys Ruddock to an extent.

He hasn't been firing on all cylinders for Leinster, he's not the same barnstorming player we saw on the Lions tour in 2017.

His injury problems this year have been well documented and he needs to get back up to speed, starting with Argentina at the Aviva in the first of the Guinness Series games (Live on RTÉ2, kick-off 6.30pm).

Joe Schmidt is saying to him, "okay, you've had a few games for Leinster, let's see your mettle when it comes to a big international game".

Having two very experienced lads beside him in Peter O'Mahony and CJ Stander doesn't hurt. They'll share the workload but I'm expecting a huge game from Sean.

When Joe picks guys like this, they tend to perform, and Sean, as much as anyone, knows how to turn it on on the big stage.

And if he turns in a 'Sean O'Brien Performance' then I expect him to keep his place for the All Blacks next weekend.

New Zealand actually hold him in high regard. Argentina is a big game for Sean because those guys behind him are young and enthusiastic, have lots of ability and are not going to roll over just because it's Sean O'Brien.

I'm surprised Tadhg Beirne didn't get his name somewhere on the sheet.

I know Jordan Larmour got man of the match against Italy but, speaking as a forward, Beirne's work-rate, his carries, his offloads were really good and I thought that would get him onto the bench ahead of Devin Toner, who also played well off the bench in that game.

Many people would have expected Luke McGrath perhaps – based on his Leinster form and his try-scoring – to start this game.

However, his box-kicking was very average against Italy, he knocked one on in the backfield, and missed a tackle.

A lot of Ulster fans won't be happy that John Cooney didn't make the cut this time but Kieran Marmion has served his time behind probably the best scrum-half in the world in Conor Murray and deserves his shot.

Even though he has 22 caps, everyone remembers him for jumping on to the wing against Australia in 2016 and doing a really good job – the head coach certainly hasn't forgotten that.

I know Joe said at today's press conference that Rob Kearney and Larmour will be fighting for the 15 shirt next week but if Rob is fit next week I don't think that it's between him and anyone, it's his place.

Joe always goes back to the tried and tested for the big games. Against the All Blacks he needs people he can trust and Kearney has earned Joe's trust.

He just makes the right decisions at the right times.

If you ask people what's your favourite back row, they'll say the best three ball-carriers; if you ask what's your favourite back three, they'll say the three fastest flashiest guys but you've got to have balance.

That's what O'Mahony brings to the back row, and what Kearney brings to the back field. You can't just put 15 ball-carrying players into a team and hope that it works. There has to be a strategy behind the selection.

Argy bargy

Whenever I've played against Argentina, the cornerstone of their game plan was a really strong scrum, a strong maul. Very, very physical. I won't say dirty but they were very physical and made life difficult.

Now they seem to have gone away from that and their biggest threat comes from out wide through Ramiro Moyano and Emiliano Boffelli. They have a great out-half in Nicolas Sanchez, with his kicking game. You are going to see some more wide play.

They scored an average of 25 points per game in the Rugby Championship, however, they conceded 33 points per game. In years gone by they were happy to stick it up the jumper and grind teams down but that's changed.

They are very passionate and never lie down.

It's going to be a thrilling Test match but any team that concedes like that against the big teams, of which Ireland are one, are in trouble.

If the weather brightens up, I can see Ireland notching up 35-40 points and restricting the Pumas to a couple of tries.

Stephen Ferris is an analyst on RTÉ's coverage of Ireland v Argentina. Follow via our liveblog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the News Now app, watch live on RTÉ2 and the RTÉ Player or listen to live commentary on RTÉ Radio 1 this Saturday (kick-off 6.30pm)

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Caitlin Foord scores a hat-trick as Matildas thump Chile

Email Matildas thump Chile 5-0 as Sam Kerr scores goal, Caitlin Foord nets hat-trick

Updated November 13, 2018 22:05:58

Photo: Caitlin Foord bagged a hat-trick in the Matildas' 5-0 win. (AAP: Darren Pateman) Map: Newcastle 2300

Australia's women have turned on a stunning second half to earn a 5-0 win over Chile in Newcastle, firmly putting their recent woes behind them.

After a tight and hard-fought opening half, the Matildas belatedly found their rhythm with a four-goal salvo inside 17 minutes in front of a bumper 12,649 mid-week crowd.

Caitlin Foord stole the show, setting up Sam Kerr for the opener seven minutes after the break, before scoring two of her own.

External Link: Matildas v Chile summary

Substitute Emily Gielnik netted with a superb finish, before Foord completed her hat-trick in the dying minutes.

Seeking to end a three-match winless run following their unexpected 3-2 loss to Chile on Saturday, Matildas coach Alen Stajcic made three changes.

First-choice central defender Alanna Kennedy replaced Laura Alleway, after some recent defensive woes.

Matildas striker Sam Kerr points her finger after scoring a goal Photo: Star attacker Sam Kerr opened the scoring for the Matildas on 52 minutes. (AAP: Darren Pateman)

Newcastle Jets' fullback Gema Simon also started allowing Chloe Logarzo to play in a more forward role, leaving veteran Lisa De Vanna rotated to the bench.

Reserve goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold, who came in for regular No.1 Lydia Williams, kept scores level after denying Chile forward Daniela Zamora with an important block.

Australia began with their usual high tempo approach but, unlike in Saturday's match at Penrith, they had little to show for their endeavours.

Any hopes Australia had of steamrolling their opponents early as they did to Brazil at this venue last year soon dissipated as the well-organised Chile once again belied their lowly world ranking of 39.

External Link: Matildas v Chile match stats

Logarzo could have broken the deadlock only to head over, while Kennedy directed a header onto the base of the post four minutes before halftime.

The second half was a different story.

Tameka Butt had two half-chances in quick succession and then the floodgates opened.

Foord picked up the ball in midfield and ran with trademark pace at the defence before releasing Kerr for a comfortable finish past exposed goalkeeper Christiane Endler.

External Link: Matildas v Chile chalkboard

Two minutes later Foord deservedly had a goal of her own, firing home impressively from an acute angle after Logarzo's square ball caused havoc.

The pressure valve had well and truly been released.

Midway through the half Foord took advantage of some hesitancy to pounce on a poor touch from Endler to finish coolly from outside the penalty area.

External Link: Matildas v Chile heatmap

Gielnik made it two goals in two minutes as she finished a sweeping move with a perfect left-foot finish.

Chile created a couple of late half-chances but the night was all about the Matildas.

Foord completed her hat trick two minutes from time and could have had another but for a scrambling save from Endler.

AAP

Topics: soccer, sport, newcastle-2300, nsw, australia, chile

First posted November 13, 2018 19:01:31

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Mepham ruled out for Wales decider with Denmark

Chris Mepham has withdrawn from the Wales squad for the Nations League clash against Denmark on Friday.

Sheffield United's Kieron Freeman has been called up to replace him for the Denmark game at Cardiff and next Tuesday's friendly with Albania in Elbasan.

Wales can secure top spot in League B's Group D with victory over Denmark, which would qualify Ryan Giggs' side for the Nations League play-offs in March 2020.

A Welsh victory would also hand Ireland an outside chance of avoiding relegation from the group ahead of their must-win encounter in Aarhus.

Brentford defender Mepham pulled out of last month's high-profile friendly against Spain and the Nations League tie with the Republic of Ireland after picking up a knock in training.

Mepham has played four times for the Bees since the last international break, but it is understood he has suffered a recurrence of the unspecified injury that ruled him out last month.

Press Association Sport understands Mepham was ruled out after having the injury scanned and has returned to Brentford for treatment.

Mepham, 20, has impressed since making his international debut at the China Cup in March.

The London-born centre-back started both Nations League games against the Republic and Denmark in September.

Blades defender Freeman was drafted into the Wales squad for the Dublin clash last month.

The Nottingham-born 26-year-old has played at under-17, under-19 and under-21 level for Wales but has yet to make an appearance for the senior team.

Meanwhile, the Football Association of Wales have declared that Friday's potential group decider at the Cardiff City Stadium is a 33,000 sell-out.

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Award-winning wheelchair racer Kurt Fearnley to focus on life off the track

Email Kurt Fearnley to focus on teaching career after being named NSW Australian of the Year By Chloe Hart

Posted November 13, 2018 14:57:02

Photo: Three-time Paralympic gold medallist Kurt Fearnley, named 2019 NSW Australian of the Year in Sydney. (ABC News: Jean Kennedy) Related Story: Last turn of the wheel brings Kurt Fearnley's career to a fairytale close Related Story: 'We don't live and die around an election': Kurt Fearnley wants funding certainty Related Story: 'Our sport was born out of hope': Kurt Fearnley's inspirational Don Award speech Map: Carcoar 2791

Capping an extraordinary year of accomplishments, Kurt Fearnley has been named NSW Australian of the Year for 2019. But now, Australia's most famous wheelchair racer says his focus is on regaining balance in his life and his passion for teaching.

Over his 25-year career, Fearnley has earnt three Paralympic gold medals, seven world titles and an astonishing 35 marathon triumphs across 10 countries.

"I graduated from teaching in 2005 and for the past 25 years it's been nothing but racing, for the next couple of years I want to focus on my family and continuing supporting and advocating for people with a disability," Fearnley told the ABC.

He is qualified as a PDHPE — Personal development, health and physical education teacher — but is yet to decide whether to work around Australia or locally in Newcastle.

The humble 37-year-old was shocked to receive the award at a ceremony in Sydney last night.

Fearnley's fairytale finish


For nearly 20 years, Kurt Fearnley gave it his all as one of Australia's most revered wheelchair athletes. In his last representative race, he showed all his most important qualities as he finished with marathon gold.

"Although I feel unworthy, I feel absolutely overwhelmed to represent my state down in Canberra and I will do everything I can to justify this moment whatever lies ahead," Fearnley said in his acceptance speech.

Born with lumbar sacral agenesis — missing parts of his spine and sacrum — did not hinder Kurt, who would crawl around paddocks and race his wheelchair with his siblings growing up in Carcoar in the NSW central west.

He dreamed of one day representing Australia in rugby or cricket.

"Dad saw me crawling around the fields playing footy while he watched the Oz Day 10K and saw these gladiators in wheelchairs and he picked me up ran me inside and he showed me what was out there for me," Fearnley said.

He describes himself as a product of a culmination of the kindnesses given by many people over many years.

Now he wants to share that positive message with others.

"When I look back you don't see the race wins, you don't see the medals, the medals are sitting in a huggies box in my kid's room.

"I see a principal who demanded that I received public education and fought for me and my family when we didn't even know a fight was there," he said.

"I see a teacher that told me I was more than a HSC mark and a coach that told me I thought I could be the best in the world and was willing to take those steps with me."

Australian Kurt Fearnley win's the men's marathon T54 at the Athens Paralympics in 2004. Photo: Kurt Fearnley refused to let a flat tyre ruin his chances at the Athens Paralympics – he won the T54 marathon gold medal. (REUTERS: John Kolesidis)

He has won 13 medals over five Paralympic Games, the Sydney Marathon 11 times, the New York Marathon five times and is a strong believer that sport offers opportunity for people with a disability.

The Novocastrian retired from international wheelchair racing this year, winning gold in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games marathon, silver in the 1500m and carrying the Australian flag at the closing ceremony.

Kurt Fearnley crosses the finish line at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast Photo: Kurt Fearnley crosses the line to cap the perfect end to his representative career. (AAP: Dean Lewins)

His achievements off the racing track include crawling the entire 96km length of the Kokoda Track, raising awareness for men's health, crewing the winning yacht in the 2011 Sydney to Hobart race and being awarded Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2005.

This year he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for distinguished service to people with a disability and for his fundraising achievements for Indigenous athletics and charitable organisations, as well as his Paralympic achievements.

The wheelchair racer also became the first athlete with a disability to win The Don Award in October and his acceptance speech advocating for greater opportunities for people with disability went viral.

Kurt Fearnley gives powerful Don award acceptance speech Video: Kurt Fearnley gives powerful Don award acceptance speech (ABC News)

Where to from here

The champion athlete is now looking forward to some down time with his two young children — aged four and one — and to return to teaching.

"From here I have the next few months to contemplate what being NSW Australian of the Year means, but foremost my goal is teaching," Fearnley said.

"Not only sport, but education is a pathway to improve people's lives all over the world."

His work with the Kurt Fearnley Centre in Nairobi, which provides education opportunities for African children, is also on his agenda.

He wants to continue as a board member of the Australian Paralympic Committee, describing the games as a jewel within the sporting crown, and will consider entering sports administration in the years to come.

"I will always strive to strengthen the movement for people with a disability," he said.

Topics: paralympics, sport, disabilities, education, carcoar-2791, sydney-2000, nsw, australia

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McIlroy’s Stateside focus to get back to his best

Rory McIlroy has revealed that he may not fulfil the requirements for European Tour membership next season as he looks to move back to the top of the world rankings and concentrate on winning more majors.

McIlroy said that he was taking the decision to play more PGA Tour golf throughout the 2018-19 season as it is non-Ryder Cup year.

To maintain his European Tour card, McIlroy needs to play four European Tour tournaments outside the majors and World Golf Championship events, but currently only has two on his schedule.

Players must be a member of the European Tour to be eligible to play in the Ryder Cup and, under new regulations introduced in January 2017, "players cannot be a European Ryder Cup captain or a vice-captain if they decline membership of the European Tour or fail to fulfil their minimum event obligation in any season, from 2018 onwards."

"I am starting my year off in the States and that will be the big focus of mine up until the end of August and then we will assess from there," McIlroy said ahead of the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

"If it were to be that I don't fulfil my membership next year, it's not a Ryder Cup year so it's not the end of the world"

"I guess my thing is that I want to play against the strongest fields week-in and week-out and for the most part of the season that is in America. If I want to continue to contend in the majors and to continue my journey back towards the top of the game, then that's what I want to do.

"Right now that is all sort of up in the air, but if it were to be that I don't fulfil my membership next year, it's not a Ryder Cup year so it's not the end of the world.

"I am always going to want to play the Ryder Cup, so if that does happen so be it and I will try and make the Ryder Cup team the year after."

McIlroy's decision will be a major blow to European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley, who launched the Rolex Series last year in an effort to prevent Europe's star names from flocking to the lucrative PGA Tour.

The eight events each have a prize fund of at least £5.4million, with the BMW PGA Championship moving to September and the Italian Open to October following the US PGA Championship switching from August to May.

"It is a big shift but I think it's good for a lot of reasons," McIlroy added. "It is good for the European Tour because they have events to shine.

"Wentworth is going to be in September, the Italian Open and a lot of the big events are going to be after the PGA Tour season, so they are going to be the biggest events and strongest events in the world that week which is a good thing."

47 events down. One to go. https://t.co/SXjtlxJmt1

— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) November 13, 2018

McIlroy's slim chance to win the Race to Dubai for the fourth time disappeared when he was unable to win last week's Nedbank Golf Challenge, but the Holywood native hopes a new driver can help maintain his incredible form at Jumeirah Golf Estates where he has recorded finishes of 3-5-11-1-5-2-1-9.

"I think back to the first tee shot at Augusta on Sunday; Wentworth on the final day; Akron, final day; Tour Championship, final day. The reason I didn't play better was because I didn't put the ball in the fairway, and the reason I didn't put the ball in the fairway is because I have this miss to the right with the driver," the 29-year-old added.

"Unfortunately, the new driver is only going to last a week because I have to get a new one next year again, but at least it gives me a better chance to win this week, I guess."

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Samcro and Faugheen could meet in Morgiana

Samcro and Faugheen could potentially clash in a high-class renewal of the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday.

Gordon Elliott has already confirmed his intention to send Samcro to the Grade One contest – in which he will bid to restore his lofty reputation, having surprisingly been beaten on his return to action at Down Royal.

Winner of this race 12 months ago, former Champion Hurdle hero Faugheen was last seen producing something like his brilliant best over three miles at the Punchestown Festival in April.

He is one of five possibles for trainer Willie Mullins – with Melon, Sharjah, Wicklow Brave and high-class mare Laurina all in the mix.

Punchestown Champion Hurdle victor Supasundae represents Jessica Harrington, with Samcro's stablemate Tombstone completing the eight entries.

Ruby Walsh will have the pick of the Mullins runners, and told Racing UK: "Samcro is going to run – we've left Melon, Faugheen and Laurina in, and I'm sure Willie will finalise plans in the week as to what we are going to take on Samcro with.

"The three of them worked this morning. They all seem to be in good form, and I imagine they'll work again on Thursday and see how they are on Friday morning.

"But they all seem to be in good old order. They're coming along and improving by the week, so hopefully this weekend will be a bit better than last weekend."

Asked about Melon, Walsh said: "He improved throughout the season last year. Obviously he fell at the same hurdle as Samcro at Punchestown, but he looks really well and is a fine, big horse. We're really pleased with him.

"Faugheen is in good order, too. I know he went to three miles last year, but he's in really good order at the moment. Willie said he was leaving him in, and I didn't ask any more questions."

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