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Mary Hannigan: Look away Leinster fans, but La Rochelle are now even better

Rumours of Limerick’s demise greatly exaggerated; The latest from the US PGA Championship

Leinster fans? Look away now. Munster old boy James Coughlan reckons La Rochelle are “actually even better than last year”. And as a member of Toulon’s coaching team, who are in Dublin for this evening’s Challenge Cup final against Glasgow, he should know.

“I experienced them two weeks ago,” he told Gerry Thornley. Toulon’s lineout was, he said, “94 per cent”, their scrum “92 per cent”, their ruck retention “96 per cent” – and they lost 23-8. “You’re scratching your head going: ‘How the hell did that happen?’”

John O’Sullivan travelled to France to talk to the man whose charges left Coughlan bewildered. “C’est Ronan O’Gara, le titulaire du rugby Rochelais,” as one fellow customer in a restaurant noted as he walked by.

While O’Gara doesn’t believe that playing in Dublin gives Leinster “a huge advantage”, Josh van der Flier is hopeful that it can give them an edge this time around. Their hunger might too – by Johnny Watterson’s reckoning, around half of Leinster’s likely starting line-up have yet to win a Champions Cup medal.


Having gorged on All Ireland medals the last few years, is Limerick hurling’s appetite now sated? Joe Canning suspects not, and has a notion they’ll show they’re hungry for more when they meet Tipperary at the weekend, rumours of their demise greatly exaggerated.

Seán Moran, meanwhile, talks to Galway’s Tomás Meehan in advance of his county’s first football championship meeting with Tyrone since 2004, while Joanne O’Riordan writes about the “no-brainer” that is the holding of men’s and women’s double-headers as part of the effort to promote the women’s game.

In golf, Philip Reid reports from New York where the unlikeliest of par saves helped revive Rory McIlroy’s fortunes in the opening round of the US PGA Championship. World number one Jon Rahm’s 76, though, left him “an exasperated soul”.

In his America At Large column, Dave Hannigan looks at the remarkable career of LeBron James, “a Broadway show that remains too box office to think about closing”, a description you could also apply to Katie Taylor’s story, Johnny Watterson hearing from the world champion in advance of her fight on Saturday against Chantelle Cameron.

In athletics, Sonia O’Sullivan doffs her cap to Rob Heffernan’s new initiative with Cork City AC which, she believes, could yet provide a national blueprint for the effort to get more young people into sport.

Gavin Cummiskey brings news of the Republic of Ireland squad named for a four-day training camp in Bristol next week, while Michael Walker takes a look at Manchester United’s “decade of sideways failure”, the club in desperate need of “a flash of Fergusonian ambition” if they are to relight their fire.

Telly watch: Sky Sports Golf brings you round two of the US PGA Championship today (1.0 – midnight). If you want to limber up for tomorrow’s Champions Cup final, Toulon and Glasgow meet in the Challenge Cup final at the Aviva (BT Sport 1, 8.0). And Virgin Media Two have live coverage of the league meeting between Shelbourne and St Pat’s (7.45).