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O’Driscoll says Italy game gives Farrell the chance to experiment

Brian O’Driscoll would know.

“It’s tricky to not play your captain if he’s fit, particularly if you are looking at being ready for the England game,” he says.

That’s from one Irish captain to another.

Across a mini generation of about seven years, the gulf between the two iconic players is not so vast. Sexton, once fit and healthy, might give Farrell the same look he gave two years ago when he was taken off 10 minutes from the end against France in 2020, if it is suggested he sits out Italy. We will know today.

O’Driscoll would have put up staunch reasons for being picked when he was Irish captain and he believes if Farrell wants to see how Joey Carbery might cope from the beginning this weekend, then the player who occupies the position will not be holding the door open for the Munster outhalf.

Nor will the outside centre in O’Driscoll’s old shirt, Garry Ringrose, be inviting Ulster’s James Hume into his larder for a raid.

“It’s a tough one,” says O’Driscoll. “I would love to see Joey get a bit more game-time, not necessarily just this weekend, but over the course of the year. They have got to find a way because you cannot rely, going into a World Cup, on a guy of Sexton’s senior years. You just can’t put all your eggs into one basket.

“He has picked up a soft tissue injury last week. It does naturally happen. The older you get, you have more of them.

“We just have to be mindful that we give enough game-time to our perceived second-string players and make sure that they are equipped and ready to go with the necessary game experience to take on World Cup matches.”

But O’Driscoll the pundit is no longer O’Driscoll the player. As a 13, whose position was never threatened, almost throughout his career, there is a striking difference to how both, 43-year-old pundit, 23-year-old player, see it.

The television analyst O’Driscoll sees merit in Farrell’s choice to pick players such as Carbery or Hume as well as others. With a World Cup on the horizon there has to be realistic squad depth. But as a competitive and ambitious back, it is not something he would have personally entertained.

“The player is always going to put themselves first in the pecking order, try to get the coach to select them,” he says. “The last thing you want to do is ever give an opportunity to somebody else. Unless you have total comfort and you are the number one, even still, to give someone the chance to impress, to get game time under their belt is never a nice feeling.

Cash cow

“I wouldn’t imagine Garry Ringrose is going to be encouraging James Hume into the team at any point. He might be generous at training and share his knowledge. But ultimately I think he’ll be trying to hold on to the 13 jersey for as many Test matches in a row as he can to cement his position as the number one and not give any incumbent an opportunity to impress the coach.”

Italy are one of the teams that give Ireland some limited experimental opportunity that sides such as France and England do not. Ireland’s reliance on the Six Nations to compete well and maintain interest has always been wrapped up in the financial prudence of the IRFU and competition. It is Irish rugby’s cash cow.

But the other imperative has to be looking beyond centre Bundee Aki, Robbie Henshaw and Ringrose; looking beyond fullback Hugo Keenan and at Mack Hansen or Michael Lowry, who also sees himself as an outhalf; looking beyond Sexton and Tadhg Furlong and Andrew Porter. Would O’Driscoll the pundit, not the player, make changes for Italy?

“I would to be honest with you,” he says. “This is one of the few Six Nations games where you feel as though you can have the ability to change things up and take whatever Italy throws at you, particularly playing at home.

“So I do feel as though you could throw three or four players in there and not lose a huge amount and give invaluable game time to those players and a confidence boost for them. We are all confidence players and particularly if you perform well it gives you confidence. It also gives the coaching ticket the confidence to be able to rely on you.”

The outhalf issue, he says, revolves around whether Farrell wants to bring two or three to France for the 2023 World Cup. Time wise, Farrell doesn’t really have that much, to properly bed in another player such as Carbery, a player who with secured game time would not be seen to weaken the team if Sexton were injured.

With a tour to New Zealand this summer and internationals in the autumn as well as the 2023 Six Nations, there is not much wriggle room to stack up the caps for non-starting players.

Conor Murray is another who could potentially fill in at outhalf] and play against an opposition if push came to shove, so whether there is enough confidence . . .” says O’Driscoll, who is speaking as a Guinness Ambassador.

“In most times you only want to be carrying two [outhalves] but with the reality that Johnny is a little bit older maybe you have to err on the side of caution and bring a third one. It just depends on who that is.

Balancing act

“Is it an out-and-out 10? Does he see Joey as being a viable 15 option as well, which covers a few positions, and let Johnny and Jack [Carty] be the out-and-out 10s?”

The beauty now of New Zealand this summer is Sexton could travel, play one match or two and then come home and maintain the balancing act between game time and possible injury. So far in the Six Nations, he has shown more than ever how pivotal he remains.

“I don’t know whether Johnny will travel down there. Maybe he’ll get two or three Tests,” says O’Driscoll. “But I think over the course of the coming months, he [Carbery] needs more starts.

“I would definitely encourage that Joey does get more game-time and maybe the time for him will be down in New Zealand.”

For now, it is Italy and a Farrell tapestry of players or an artisan drive for Six Nations table position.

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Britain’s most expensive and cheapest places to buy or rent a home revealed

The most expensive and cheapest places to buy or to rent in Britain have been revealed.

Aberdeen tops the list of the cheapest cities for first-time buyers, while the most expensive is perhaps no surprise, London, where average prices tend to be higher than the rest of the country.

It is a similar picture for the most expensive places to rent, with the capital ranked top of that list too.

On the flipside, tenants are also required to head north if they want to live in the cheapest city to rent, Carlisle, in Cumbria.

The cheapest cities for first-time buyers and tenants have been identified by Rightmove

The cheapest cities for first-time buyers and tenants have been identified by Rightmove

The figures were based on monthly mortgage and rent costs.

Home purchase figures calculated by Rightmove assumed that first-time buyers in Scotland and Wales have a 20 per cent deposit, and first-time buyers in England have a 25 per cent deposit.

The size of deposit was based on averages from UK Finance, which revealed that more first-time buyers are choosing longer repayment terms to improve their affordability.

As such, the repayment term used in the Rightmove calculations was 35 years. Rightmove also assumed that the typical first-time buyer property had two bedrooms or less.

Aberdeen tops the list compiled by Rightmove of the cheapest cities for first-time buyers

Aberdeen tops the list compiled by Rightmove of the cheapest cities for first-time buyers

THE CHEAPEST CITIES TO BUY A TYPICAL FIRST-TIME BUYER PROPERTY
Cities Average asking price for a first-time buyer type property (2 bedrooms and fewer) Average monthly mortgage payment (per month)* Average monthly rental payment (per month) Mortgage versus Rent
Aberdeen £102,601 £406 £775 -£369
Bradford £107,929 £400 £714 -£314
Sunderland £111,263 £413 £648 -£235
Carlisle £111,268 £413 £607 -£194
Preston £112,273 £416 £787 -£371
Hull £113,920 £423 £638 -£215
Dundee £116,191 £460 £821 -£361
Stoke-On-Trent £117,113 £434 £701 -£266
Durham £125,957 £467 £796 -£328
Doncaster £128,062 £475 £707 -£232
Source: Rightmove       
THE MOST EXPENSIVE CITIES TO BUY A TYPICAL FIRST-TIME BUYER PROPERTY
Cities Average asking price for a first-time buyer type property (2 bedrooms and fewer) Average monthly mortgage payment (per month) Average monthly rental payment (per month) Mortgage versus Rent
London £501,934 £1,862 £2,264 -£402
St. Albans £391,964 £1,454 £1,509 -£55
Cambridge £361,429 £1,341 £1,533 -£193
Winchester £344,638 £1,278 £1,332 -£53
Oxford £338,085 £1,254 £1,561 -£307
Brighton £335,402 £1,244 £1,468 -£224
Bristol £280,112 £1,039 £1,336 -£297
Chelmsford £262,522 £974 £1,300 -£326
York £244,834 £908 £1,145 -£237
Edinburgh £239,028 £946 £1,310 -£365
Source: Rightmove       

The average asking price in Aberdeen is £102,601, with the average monthly mortgage payment at £406 a month.

The most expensive city is followed by Bradford with an average asking price of £107,929 and Sunderland, which is ranked third with an asking price of £111,263.

For those in the rental market, the most expensive place to rent outside of London is Oxford, where an average two-bedroom or small home costs £1,561 a month.

At the other end of the scale, the cheapest city for a tenant who is looking for a two-bedroom or smaller property is Carlisle where such rents are £607 a month.

Mortgage rates are slightly higher than a year ago, but have stabilised since the peak in July 2023.

Rightmove explained that this has helped those looking to move at the start of this year.

The average mortgage payment for a typical first-time buyer looking at a property with two bedrooms or less is £53 more than a year ago, compared to £81 for tenants.

It means that those who can afford to save a good sized deposit of at least 20 per cent, it is cheaper to pay a monthly mortgage than rent in each of the largest cities in Britain.

Winchester is among the most expensive cities for first-time buyers looking for a property with two bedrooms or fewer

Winchester is among the most expensive cities for first-time buyers looking for a property with two bedrooms or fewer

Mark Harris, of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: ‘We remain a nation of aspirational homeowners, despite higher mortgage rates and the difficulty in raising a deposit. 

‘Renting may give more flexibility but also less security and crucially ends up costing more than buying your own place.

‘However, the high cost of home ownership, particularly in London and the south east means that it’s practically impossible to get on the housing ladder without financial assistance from family members. 

‘Longer mortgage terms are inevitable as borrowers try to make the monthly costs more affordable but of course they will end up making many more payments over an extended period of time. 

‘It is worth opting for a longer term to help with the affordability calculations and then trying to overpay to reduce the term and interest, as and when you can afford to do so.’

Carlisle in the country of Cumbria is the cheapest city for those looking to rent

Carlisle in the country of Cumbria is the cheapest city for those looking to rent

THE CHEAPEST CITIES FOR TENANTS
Cities Average monthly rental payment (per month) Average asking price for a first-time buyer type property (2 bedrooms and fewer) Average monthly mortgage payment (per month)* Rent versus mortgage
Carlisle £607 £111,268 £413 £194
Hull £638 £113,920 £423 £215
Sunderland £648 £111,263 £413 £235
Stoke-On-Trent £701 £117,113 £434 £266
Doncaster £707 £128,062 £475 £232
Bradford £714 £107,929 £400 £314
Wrexham £754 £129,649 £513 £241
Lancaster £764 £152,062 £564 £200
Aberdeen £775 £102,601 £406 £369
Preston £787 £112,273 £416 £371
Source: Rightmove       
THE MOST EXPENSIVE CITIES FOR TENANTS
Cities Average monthly rental payment (per month) Average asking price for a first-time buyer type property (2 bedrooms and fewer) Average monthly mortgage payment (per month)* Rent versus mortgage
London £2,264 £501,934 £1,862 £402
Oxford £1,561 £338,085 £1,254 £307
Cambridge £1,533 £361,429 £1,341 £193
St. Albans £1,509 £391,964 £1,454 £55
Brighton £1,468 £335,402 £1,244 £224
Bristol £1,336 £280,112 £1,039 £297
Winchester £1,332 £344,638 £1,278 £53
Edinburgh £1,310 £239,028 £946 £365
Chelmsford £1,300 £262,522 £974 £326
Milton Keynes £1,239 £233,320 £865 £373
Source: Rightmove       

Meanwhile, soaring rents across Britain mean that the cost of renting a two-bedroom or small home has increased by 39 per cent in the last five years.

This compares to a jump of 19 per cent in the cost of buying a similar type of property.

Rightmove claimed that even if a first-time buyer had a smaller deposit of 15 per cent and sought to repay their mortgage over a shorter mortgage term of 25 years, it would still be cheaper to pay a mortgage than rent in 39 out of Britain’s 50 largest cities outside of London.

Rightmove’s Tim Bannister said: ‘These latest figures highlight why so many people remain determined to get onto the ladder, as the soaring costs of renting has meant buying has remained attractive even with higher mortgage rates.

‘Longer mortgage-terms are becoming more common as a way to improve overall affordability and reduce monthly payments, though first-time buyers should be aware of what they are paying in interest compared with their actual mortgage.

‘Without improvements to the supply of good quality, affordable rental homes in Great Britain, owning your own home is likely to continue to be the end-goal for those that can get their deposit together, and borrow what they need to from a mortgage lender.’

Best mortgage rates and how to find them

Mortgage rates have risen substantially after the Bank of England’s raised base rate rapidly.

The Bank is now holding rates and expected to cut – leading to mortgage costs coming down – but deals remain far more expensive than two or five years ago. 

If you are looking to buy your first home, move or remortgage, or are a buy-to-let landlord, it’s important to get good independent mortgage advice from a broker who can help you find the best deal. 

To help our readers find the best mortgage, This is Money has partnered with independent fee-free broker L&C.

Our mortgage calculator powered by L&C can let you filter deals to see which ones suit your home’s value and level of deposit.

You can also compare different mortgage fixed rate lengths, from two-year fixes, to five-year fixes and ten-year fixes, with monthly and total costs shown.

Use the tool at the link below to compare the best deals, factoring in both fees and rates. You can also start an application online in your own time and save it as you go along.

> Compare the best mortgage deals available now

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Aviation and Telecom Industries Reach Compromise on 5G Deployment

The Voice Of EU | In a significant development, AT&T and Verizon, the two largest mobile network operators in the United States, have agreed to delay the deployment of 5G services following requests from the aviation industry and the Biden administration. This decision marks a crucial compromise in the long-standing dispute between the two industries, which had raised concerns over the potential interference of 5G with flight signals.
The aviation industry, led by United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, had been vocal about the risks of 5G deployment, citing concerns over the safety of flight operations. Kirby had urged AT&T and Verizon to delay their plans, warning that proceeding with the deployment would be a “catastrophic failure of government.” The US Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the issue further highlighted the need for a solution.
In response, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) head Steve Dickson sent a letter to the mobile networks, requesting a two-week delay to reassess the potential risks. Initially, AT&T and Verizon were hesitant, citing the aviation industry’s two-year preparation window. However, they eventually agreed to the short delay, pushing the deployment to January 19.
The crux of the issue lies in the potential interference between 5G signals and flight equipment, particularly radar altimeters. The C-Band spectrum used by 5G networks is close to the frequencies employed by these critical safety devices. The FAA requires accurate and reliable radar altimeters to ensure safe flight operations.

Airlines in the US have been at loggerheads with mobile networks over the deployment of 5G and its potential impact on flight safety.

Despite the concerns, both the FAA and the telecoms industry agree that 5G mobile networks and airline travel can coexist safely. In fact, they already do in nearly 40 countries where US airlines operate regularly. The key lies in reducing power levels around airports and fostering cross-industry collaboration prior to deployment.
The FAA has been working to find a solution in the United States, and the additional two-week delay will allow for further assessment and preparation. AT&T and Verizon have also agreed to not operate 5G base stations along runways for six months, similar to restrictions imposed in France.
President Joe Biden hailed the decision to delay as “a significant step in the right direction.” The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and South Korea have also reported no unsafe interference with radio waves since the deployment of 5G in their regions.
As the aviation and telecom industries continue to work together, it is clear that safe coexistence is possible. The delay in 5G deployment is a crucial step towards finding a solution that prioritizes both safety and innovation. With ongoing collaboration and technical assessments, the United States can join the growing list of countries where 5G and airlines coexist without issue.

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How Much Have House Prices Changed In Your Area?

UK Home Prices

UK homeowners saw the value of their homes rise for the third month in a row, according to analysis by online estate agent Purplebricks.

The North East and North West of England were the biggest winners in average value rises in the UK, the latest figures show.

And now a new online calculator can show how much house prices have changed in your area in the last year.

The interactive tool below has been updated to include the latest House Price Index data, released by the Office for National Statistics today.

To use the Purplebricks calculator, simply search for YOUR local area and find out how house prices have changed over the last 12 months:

UK homeowners saw the value of their homes rise for the third month in a row, according to analysis by online estate agent Purplebricks

UK homeowners saw the value of their homes rise for the third month in a row, according to analysis by online estate agent Purplebricks

This three-bedroom semi flat in Stroud, where prices rose 9.8%, is on the market for £360,000

This three-bedroom semi flat in Stroud, where prices rose 9.8%, is on the market for £360,000

Average UK house prices increased by 0.4% or £1,000 from January to February, making the average property now valued at £281,000, according to today’s House Price Index (HPI).

Over the 12-month period to February, average prices fell just 0.2%, which is an improvement from the 1.3% decline in the 12 months to January this year.

In England, house prices were also on the increase, with a 0.6% monthly rise, making average property now valued at £298,000 – despite a 1.1% fall over the last year.

The North East of England saw the biggest monthly increase, with property prices soaring 3.2%, and 2.9% over the year. Average homes there are now worth £160,000.

And, homeowners in the North West saw the greatest annual price rise, up by 1%, meaning the average property there is now worth £214,000.

London is once again the hardest-hit UK region, with 4.8% annual decline, but a fall of just 0.7% from January to February – pricing the average home in the capital at £503,000 today.

Homeowners in The City of London were the surprise property-price winners, after a six-figure decline last month.

Homes in the capital’s famous banking district rose more than £73,000 or 9.1% – more than anywhere else in the UK – meaning the average property is now worth around £808,000.

But that was far from the picture across the rest of London, which saw six-figure price plunges in four areas and declines in a total of 29 areas.

The City of Westminster was hardest hit by the price drop, with properties shedding an eye-watering £190,000 over the last year.

This three-bed semi in South Hams, where prices rose 7.9%, is on the market for £490,000

This three-bed semi in South Hams, where prices rose 7.9%, is on the market for £490,000

Average UK house prices increased by 0.4% or £1,000 from January to February, making the average property now valued at £281,000

Average UK house prices increased by 0.4% or £1,000 from January to February, making the average property now valued at £281,000

Elsewhere in the capital, the exclusive borough of Kensington and Chelsea saw prices sink by more than £160,000 in a year, with Camden homes losing nearly £130,000 and Hammersmith and Fulham homes losing just over £100,000.

Outside London, the commuter town of St Albans saw nearly a £25,000 year-on-year price rise, making the average home now worth £589,270.

And, the picturesque North East district of Ribble Valley saw house prices increase by just over £20,000 in the last year, making the average property now worth £284,355.

House prices in Wales increased by 0.4% over the last month, despite an annual 1.2% fall – making the average property worth £211,000.

And, property prices continue to climb in Scotland, with the average home now priced at £188,000 after a 5.6% increase over the last year.

And, prices in Northern Ireland increased by 1.4% to £178,000 in the year to Quarter 4 of 2023.

Purplebricks CEO Sam Mitchell said: ‘Britain has now seen its third consecutive month-on-month increase in property prices – fantastic news for homeowners.

‘This three-month increase is evidence of a reinvigorated property market that will continue to go from strength to strength.’

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