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Lions face ‘fourth Test’ as big guns to lead South Africa ‘A’ side

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British & Irish lions tour preview 
Venue:
Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town 
Kick-off: 7pm 
On TV: Live on Sky Sports

Necessity being the mother of invention after being restricted to just one outing together in 21 months, Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber have had to dip heavily into their front-line World Cup-winning team tonight. Hence to call them their previous incarnation, Emerging Springboks, would be a misnomer.

A dozen of the players who played against England in the World Cup final feature for the “As”, including nine of the starting line-up that night in Tokyo: Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Faf de Klerk, Steven Kitshoff, Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert and Pieter-Steph du Toit, as well as Morne Steyn, who kicked the winning penalty to seal the series 12 years ago.

The pre-Test series mind games having started, “bring it on” was the gist of Warren Gatland’s response, while at the same time rejecting Erasmus’ entreaties for a sequel next Saturday as the Lions fulfil their obligations to play the Stormers.

Instead, a match against the Bulls this Saturday is being lined up for the Springboks in order to afford them some more match preparation when others, such as Handre Pollard, can be given a badly needed run-out. However, Siya Kolisi appears to be in a race against time for the first Test following a lengthy period in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19.

Meaningful game

That first Test is but 10 days away and so, for the vast majority of this Lions team and possibly all, this is their last chance to state their Test credentials. At least it will be the most meaningful game of the tour to date, and how.

As well as drawing 13-all with the Emerging Boks 12 years ago, the Lions won all six provincial games, and a fat lot of good it did them come the first Test.

So far the tourists have racked up 26 tries and 181 points, while conceding eight tries, in three wins. But this will be no romp, and it is the generous sprinkling of spice which the tour probably needed.

The level of physicality will likely make it look like a different sport and with the additional risk of injuries Gatland was assuredly correct in rejecting another meeting on Saturday. Two of these in advance of a three-Test series would be bordering on reckless for it will be widely felt Boks would like nothing more than to soften up the tourists.

“Emm, yeah, who knows,” said Lions kicking coach Neil Jenkins when that was put to him yesterday. “At the end of the day the games are tough anyway, no matter which country you are touring.

“There was the Maori All Blacks four years ago and there’s been Aussie ‘As’ and different things on other tours, the Emerging Springboks in ’09 and South Africa ‘A’ tomorrow.”

Conor Murray was quick to label this game the unofficial fourth Test before finally leading out the Lions for the first time since being named tour captain. With Finn Russell’s tour in doubt, alongside the skipper Dan Biggar, he has another chance to nail down the “10” Test spot.

Big game

For the other two Irish starters, Bundee Aki can offer compelling evidence for his inclusion in the first Test matchday squad, and should it come to pass that Alun Wyn Jones does rejoin the squad, Iain Henderson needs a big game here against Etzebeth and Mostert.

Then again that’s true to varying extents for most of these Lions.

“I think the game will be very tight and very tough, and could go either way,” ventured Jenkins. “We will do our utmost to win and perform to the level we need to and give ourselves a good understanding of where we are at. It’s not the be-all and end-all. It’s all about the Test series. That’s what you generally get remembered for on Lions tours. Tomorrow is important, so is Saturday. We’ll be doing our utmost to win.”

In the heel of the hunt the Lions may have enough cohesion to shade it, although perhaps the Springboks will get more from it.

SOUTH AFRICA ‘A’: Willie le Roux; Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am (captain), Damian de Allende, Sbu Nkosi; Morné Steyn, Faf de Klerk; Steven Kitshoff, Joseph Dweba, Trevor Nyakane; Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert; Marco van Staden, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jasper Wiese.

Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Coenie Oosthuizen, Vincent Koch, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Rynhardt Elstadt, Herschel Jantjies, Jesse Kriel, Damian Willemse, Kwagga Smith, Elton Jantjies.

BRITISH & IRISH LIONS: Anthony Watson (Bath, England); Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester, Wales), Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby, Scotland), Bundee Aki (Connacht, Ireland), Josh Adams (Cardiff, Wales); Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales), Conor Murray – captain (Munster, Ireland); Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales), Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales), Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, England); Maro Itoje (Saracens, England), Iain Henderson (Ulster, Ireland); Josh Navidi (Cardiff, Wales), Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, England), Taulupe Faletau (Bath, Wales). Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England), Mako Vunipola (Saracens, England), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland), Adam Beard (Ospreys, Wales), Tadhg Beirne (Munster, Ireland), Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, England), Gareth Davies (Scarlets, Wales), Elliot Daly (Saracens, England).

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa).

Betting (Paddy Power): 5/4 South Africa ‘A’, 19/1 Draw, 4/6 Lions. Handicap odds (South Africa A + 3pts) 10/11 South Africa A, 22/1 Draw, 10/11 Lions.

Forecast: Lions to win.

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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

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Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.

But what it is it all about?

At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.

The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.

Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.

Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.

And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.

In this episode of In The News, the head of census administration Eileen Murphy and statistician Kevin Cunningham about what it all means for us.

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Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture

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Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.

At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.

During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.

When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”

He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”

“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.

The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”

On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.



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House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022

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House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.

Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.

The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites myhome.ie and daft.ie, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.

Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.

Price

This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.

MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.

“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.

“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.

Soure: MyHome.ie

“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.

“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.

He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.

Homes

Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.

Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.

The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.

“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”


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