O’Brien set for starting berth on the wing; Haaland-less Norway gear up for Aviva clash

The Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team

For the last time in this November Test window, we await Andy Farrell’s announcement of his 23 today. Gerry Thornley has made his prediction for who will line out against Australia, with the headline being Jimmy O’Brien’s likely inclusion on the wing at the expense of Robert Baloucoune. It caps a stellar autumn campaign for the Leinsterman who wasn’t even supposed to be in the squad originally, injuries forcing his call-up from the Ireland A set-up on the eve of the South Africa Test. Ahead of Saturday’s clash, Johnny Sexton has allayed concerns over hits fitness, saying he is good to go. Speaking to media yesterday, Ireland’s captain acknowledged that frustration at having been omitted from the 2021 Lions tour still drives him on to this day.

Erling Haaland may have been the main reason 45,000 Irish fans bought tickets to watch Ireland play Norway tonight at the Aviva Stadium, but he will not be lining out in Dublin in order to be rested for an upcoming home clash with Finland. Nevertheless, led presumably by Martin Odegaard, the Norwegians will provide a stern challenge of Stephen Kenny’s Ireland 3,500 miles away from the Doha desert. Speaking of the tournament that must not be named, Norway manager Ståle Solbakken has spoken out against the staging of the World Cup in Qatar and says his country’s football association will continue to make its feelings known during the tournament.

Michael Murphy’s days with Donegal are no more. The legendary footballer revealed yesterday that he is hanging up his intercounty boots. “It is hard to fathom Michael Murphy in the rear-view mirror of Donegal football. It is hard to imagine him as a former intercounty player. But here we are, watching a man of so many summers ushering in an endless winter,” writes Gordon Manning. In other GAA news, the GPA and the GAA are inching towards an agreement on a new charter that would prevent the sort of player protests we will see this year. In his Thursday column, Ciarán Murphy cautions against reading too much into Moycullen’s victory over Westport last weekend when making conclusions about the standard of the Galway and Mayo championships.

This Saturday sees the NCAA cross-country championships take place. Hosted in Stillwater, home of Oklahoma State university, it’s been the long-time breeding ground for some of the most talented Irish athletes. Sonia O’Sullivan - the only Irishwoman to have ever won the event - reflects on her experiences of the iconic race.