Toby Flood fires warning to England rivals

Desperate Flood fires warning to England fly-half rivals Hodgson and Farrell

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UPDATED:

17:25 GMT, 31 May 2012

Tour target: Toby Flood

Tour target: Toby Flood

Toby Flood is 'desperate' to reclaim
the fly-half jersey for England's three-Test series against South Africa
– after initially fearing he would miss the tour.

Flood damaged his ankle against Bath
on May 5 and then suffered a groin problem which forced him to pull out
of Leicester's Aviva Premiership final squad.

Leicester had been so anxious to keep
Flood's condition under wraps that England coach Stuart Lancaster
sparked a club-versus-country row when he commented on the situation.

Flood was 'devastated' to miss the
Premiership final but his focus is now trained on convincing Lancaster
he is the best man to run England's attack against the Springboks.

'It was devastating to miss the final because I had worked so hard to get fit. I'd done 10 or 12 cryotherapy sessions.

'It's great to be going on the tour
but in terms of where I am (in the pecking order) I will just keep my
head down, keep working and keep the dialogue open with Stu.

'I will have to try to impress in training and put my hand up. I'll have to try to scream and shout without acting like a spoiled brat, to try to get that shirt back.

'Every single player in this squad wants to be involved in that first Test match.

'It's an outstanding challenge for us and I'm desperate to put my hand up to be involved.'

Touch down: Head coach Stuart Lancaster and England players arrived in South Africa on Thursday

Touch down: Head coach Stuart Lancaster and England players arrived in South Africa on Thursday

Flood is England's most experienced player with 47 Test caps but he has not featured since the World Cup quarter-final, when he was inexplicably picked at inside centre with no preparation.

Flood had been the starting fly-half in England's 2011 Six Nations title triumph but injury cost him a place in this year's tournament, with Charlie Hodgson and then Owen Farrell filling the void.

When he overcame that knee injury, Flood piloted Leicester on a run of six consecutive bonus point victories as the Tigers charged into the Premiership semi-finals.

That made missing the final all the harder to bear, although England will be acutely aware of the quality of his performances at the back-end of the regular season. 'Before the injury I was really enjoying my rugby and Leicester were going well, playing really good stuff,' Flood said.

'To have that brought to an end so suddenly was quite difficult, it stung a bit.

'I would hope that we're coming here with a fresh slate and that it would be a factor that I played until the end of the (regular) season.

'The frustrating thing about being injured is that you feel like you're always trying to catch up and learn the ropes.

'I don't really know what Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi, Owen and Charlie have been doing because I haven't spent the time with them.

'I've not been involved, so the issue for me is to keep the dialogue going and see what they want.

'The best place to do that is out on the training field. The more time I can spend amongst them the better.'

Wigan No 2 Graeme Jones favourite for vacant Swansea post after bookies suspend betting

Bookies suspend betting on vacant Swansea post with Wigan No 2 Jones favourite

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UPDATED:

17:29 GMT, 31 May 2012

Wigan No 2 Graeme Jones has emerged as the favourite to replace Brendan Rodgers at Swansea after leading bookmakers suspended betting on the identity of the Welsh club's next manager.

Brighton boss Gus Poyet and Blackpool's Ian Holloway had led the betting after Rodgers informed Swansea of his desire to leave and sign a three-year deal at Liverpool. The two clubs are set to agree a compensation deal.

In the running: Graeme Jones (rear) is favourite to take over at the Liberty Stadium

In the running: Graeme Jones (rear) is favourite to take over at the Liberty Stadium

But a surge of bets on Jones saw the 42-year-old's odds come in as far as 1/10.

Jones worked at Swansea as Roberto Martinez's assistant before joining the Spaniard at the DW Stadium in 2009. He was approached by the Swans to take over from Paolo Sousa prior to their appointment of Rodgers in 2010.

But it is understood that Wigan have yet to receive an approach for Jones.

EURO 2012: Portugal in the mood for glory – Pepe

Portugal stars in the mood for Euro glory thanks to extended time off, reveals Pepe

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UPDATED:

17:40 GMT, 31 May 2012

Portugal centre back Pepe says he is feeling rejuvenated for Euro 2012 thanks to the amount of time off that coach Paulo Bento has given his players during their training camp in preparation for next month's tournament.

Portugal's schedule included one full
day and three afternoons off since they started their training camp in
the medieval town of Obidos two weeks ago. Many squads give little or no
time at all outside the training camp.

'Bento knows that it is often preferable to give us a morning or an afternoon off to be with our family and disconnect,' Pepe told reporters on Thursday.

Relaxed: Real Madrid defender Pepe is feeling goof ahead of Euro 2012

Relaxed: Real Madrid defender Pepe is feeling goof ahead of Euro 2012

Euro 2012

The Brazilian-born Real Madrid player said a Wednesday afternoon with his family did wonders to energise him.

'We arrived at the hotel today with enhanced will and spirit to train. It is as if we were arriving to be with the national team for the first time,' he said.

'Paulo (Bento) knows perfectly that this spirit is good. He was once a player and we talked amongst ourselves and reached the common sense that this time off was spectacular to us.'

Training camp or holiday camp (left-right) Fabio Coentrao, Ricardo Qauresma, Cristiano Ronaldo and Hugo Almeida at Praia Del Rey in Portugal

Training camp or holiday camp (left-right) Fabio Coentrao, Ricardo Qauresma, Cristiano Ronaldo and Hugo Almeida at Praia Del Rey in Portugal

Portugal are drawn in Group B for Euro 2012 with former European champions Germany, Netherlands and Denmark. Their first match is against Germany in Ukraine's Lviv on June 9.

They play Turkey in the Luz stadium on Saturday, their last test before flying out to their tournament base in Poland.

England one-day captain Alastair Cook reeling from Kevin Pietersen blow

England one-day captain Cook reeling from Pietersen blow

PUBLISHED:

17:55 GMT, 31 May 2012

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UPDATED:

17:55 GMT, 31 May 2012

England's one-day international
captain Alastair Cook has called on one of the country's young players
to fill the void created by Kevin Pietersen's shock retirement from the
limited-overs cricket.

Pietersen will continue as a Test
specialist after stepping down from both the ODI and Twenty20 forms of
the game on Thursday following discussions with the England and Wales Cricket
Board earlier this month.

Walking away: Kevin Pietersen has retired from limited overs cricket

Walking away: Kevin Pietersen has retired from limited overs cricket

The 31-year-old was man of the tournament when England won the World Twenty20 in the West Indies in 2010 and looked back to his very best in his last two ODI innings, where he struck back-to-back centuries against Pakistan in Dubai.

Cook could not deny the loss of Pietersen would be an initial blow to the England set-up, but claimed there was enough talented players in the country to make the step up to international cricket.

'Clearly when you lose a player of that calibre in a short format where he's proven to be a mighty fine player it is disappointing,' Cook told Sky Sports News.

'In Pakistan when he moved to open the batting we had a really good partnership going on up there.

'The one thing it does is give another person an opportunity to try and get into the one-day team.

'There's a huge number of talented, young players in the county game – people like Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler.

Best foot forward: KP will now focus on the Test form of the game

Best foot forward: KP will now focus on the Test form of the game

'It gives them an opportunity to really push on now.'

Pietersen was willing to help England defend their T20 trophy in Sri Lanka this autumn, but the ECB decided centrally-contracted players must be available for both limited-overs formats or neither.

Hugh Morris, managing director of England cricket, did not hide his frustration at the timing of Pietersen's decision.

Cook said: 'Four months to the Twenty20 World Cup with all the planning gone into it, you can understand that.

'It gives us a limited space to try and change the plans because Kev would have been a huge part of that at the top of the order.

'I can see why they have said that for the timing of that because there's such a short space of time left until we defend Twenty20 World Cup, which is obviously a peak challenge for Broady (Twenty20 captain Stuart Broad) and the lads.

'But it is an opportunity for somebody else to try and step up and the team will always move on.'

Setback: Alastair Cook

Brave face: Captain Alastair Cook

Pietersen's absence for the World Twenty20 is particularly relevant given he was the only England batsman to be selected in the recently-concluded Indian Premier League.

Asked whether he agreed with Pietersen's decision, Cook added: 'He's got a lot to offer the one-day team, but clearly every player's got the right to decide when to retire and Kev chose this moment to do it.

'The schedule is what it is. We do play a lot of cricket but we are very privileged to play for England.

'Not many people can say they have played for England and it's a great position to be in.

'Kev's been playing since 2005, he is slightly older than me, so he knows his own mind and body.

'It's not really fair for me to comment on, you'll have to hear from Kev.'

London 2012 Olympics: Hannah England injury worry for trials

England injury has Van Commenee worried with Olympic trials looming

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UPDATED:

17:56 GMT, 31 May 2012

World silver medallist Hannah England faces an uphill battle to compete at the Olympic trials after suffering an achilles injury.

England, who won a surprise silver in the 1,500 metres in Daegu last year, was spiked during a race in Hengelo on Sunday and will be out for 'several' weeks according to UK Athletics head coach Charles van Commenee.

The Olympic trials in Birmingham are just three weeks away, with the first two athletes in each event qualifying automatically for the Games, providing they hold a current 'A' standard. One other discretionary place is also available to the selectors.

At a price: Hannah England (centre) won in Hengelo on Sunday but was hurt

At a price: Hannah England (centre) won in Hengelo on Sunday but was hurt

Van Commenee said: 'Hannah England got a spike in her achilles tendon. Although she won the race she will be out for a number of weeks, which is not good news. That is a worry.

'She's had no surgery but she had to be in hospital a few days. We're using all the modern technology to get the wound healing quickly. She won't necessarily be running straight away, but cross-training and other things.'

Silver lining: England was a surprise medallist in the 1,500m in Daegu

Silver lining: England was a surprise medallist in the 1,500m in Daegu

Asked if the 25-year-old will be fit for the trials, Van Commenee added: 'She'll try. We're working towards that scenario but it's impossible at this point to predict.'

England sounded slightly more upbeat on her Facebook fan page, adding: 'Glad to get an A qualifier and a win in Hengelo on Sunday. Got some battle scars though from being spiked. No stitches but will have some cool scars! Taking it easy this week to avoid infection and reduce risk of any lingering problems.'

Lee Slattery leads Wales Open at Celtic Manor after first round

Slattery braves stiff winds to take lead at Celtic Manor just days after major bonus

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UPDATED:

18:54 GMT, 31 May 2012

England's Lee Slattery followed one great performance with another at Celtic Manor today.

Three days after shooting 66 at Walton Heath to earn himself a US Open debut, the 33-year-old from Southport took the first round lead in the ISPS Handa Wales Open with a four under par 67.

And if that does not sound special consider this – there were more than 20 scores in the eighties, one in the nineties and a handful of players could not keep a 10 off their cards. Gary Boyd even had two.

Fine form: Lee Slattery putts on the 14th green during the first round of the Wales Open on Thursday

Fine form: Lee Slattery putts on the 14th green during the first round of the Wales Open on Thursday

A stiff wind and fast-running conditions made life tough on the course where Europe beat America two years ago in a Ryder Cup remembered not just for its thrilling finish, but also its torrential rain.

Slattery had already made eight trips to the European Tour qualifying school by then, but his career turned around last October when, on his 183rd start, he captured the Madrid Masters – even with a double bogey seven on the final hole.

Now he is planning for a trip to San Francisco which will include not only his first-ever tournament there, but also a visit to Alcatraz and possibly the baseball game at which Rory McIlroy is throwing the ceremonial first pitch.

Great Scot: Paul Lawrie plays his second shot into the 16th green on the Twenty Ten course

Great Scot: Paul Lawrie plays his second shot into the 16th green on the Twenty Ten course

'I know Olympic Club is going to be difficult, but I'm really looking forward to it,' he said.

'It's more the atmosphere. I remember The Open at Hoylake (his only previous major was there in 2006) and I thrived on it.'

Slattery's round was not without its scary moments. He was an inch from going in the water on the short third and was relieved to find his ball in bounds at the 580-yard ninth.

The hole still cost him his only dropped shot, but he added: 'It was very difficult. The wind was stronger than anticipated and if you get round without a bogey it's an amazing achievement.'

Nobody did.

Scot Paul Lawrie, second on the Ryder Cup points table, needed to birdie two of his last three holes for a 74, the same as 2010 captain Colin Montgomerie, while his successor Jose Maria Olazabal took 76 and holder Alex Noren an 81 before withdrawing with back trouble.

Top grass: Johan Edfors of Sweden plays his second shot into the 14th green at Celtic Manor

Top grass: Johan Edfors of Sweden plays his second shot into the 14th green at Celtic Manor

Slattery finished the day one ahead of German Marcel Siem and Dutchman Tim Sluiter.

While Sluiter closed with four successive birdies Siem bogeyed his last two holes on the same lay-out where he led by three with a round to play two years ago and then fell away after a quadruple bogey seven on the third.

Only four members of the victorious 2010 side are in the field. Ross Fisher, who has dropped to 157th in the world since that memorable week, did best with a 70.

Miguel Angel Jimenez took a double-bogey seven on the last for 76 and Italian brothers Francesco and Edoardo Molinari were 74 and 77 respectively.

The others to break 70 were Spanish duo Pablo Larrazabal and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Ireland's Simon Thornton and Swede Joel Sjoholm.

Shane Williams braced for fond farewell to rugby for Barbarians against his beloved Wales

Williams braced for fond farewell to rugby for Barbarians against his beloved Wales

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UPDATED:

18:00 GMT, 31 May 2012

Shane Williams will make his rugby farewell for the Barbarians against Wales on Saturday.

Ospreys star Williams, Wales' record Test try-scorer with 58 touchdowns, retires from the sport this weekend.

Farewell: Williams

Farewell: Williams

Barbarians team

M Muliaina; I Nacewa, C Laulala, M Tindall, S Williams; S Donald, R
Rees; D Jones, B August, J Smit (capt), M O'Driscoll, M Chisholm, F
Louw, M Gorgodze, J Beattie.

Replacements: A de Malmanche, N Tialata, A van Zyl, A Qera, R Lawson, S Tagicakibau, C

He is among three Wales internationals named in the Baa-baas team, being joined by scrum-half Richie Rees and prop Duncan Jones.

Former South Africa captain John Smit will skipper the invitational side from tighthead prop, while Mike Tindall and Casey Laulala are again paired together in midfield with 35-year-old Williams forging a powerful back-three alongside Mils Muliaina and Isa Nacewa.

The Barbarians lost 57-26 to England at Twickenham last weekend, but they recovered to beat Ireland by a point in Gloucester two days ago and they will arrive at the Millennium Stadium after defeating Wales in last year's corresponding fixture.

EURO 2012: Jordan Henderson called up to replace injured Frank Lampard

Henderson is in! Liverpool flop handed England call after Lampard is ruled out of Euro 2012

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UPDATED:

16:56 GMT, 31 May 2012

Euro 2012 email button

Liverpool flop Jordan Henderson has been called up for Euro 2012 after Frank Lampard was ruled out of the tournament.

The midfielder suffered a serious injury when he collapsed clutching his thigh after running to retrieve a ball during training on Wednesday.

England manager Roy Hodgson has already lost Gareth Barry and he has a further concern that Scott Parker
is only just back from an achilles problem.

He said: 'It’s a huge blow for the team, especially coming after the loss of another senior player in Gareth Barry.

Stepping up: Jordan Henderson is now on his way to Euro 2012

Stepping up: Jordan Henderson is now on his way to Euro 2012

'The fact that the doctor cannot
guarantee Frank could take part in any of the group matches means we
have to replace him in the central midfield area.

'Apart from it being a huge blow to
me and the team, I’m especially disappointed for Frank himself. He has
been in very good form and was looking forward to the tournament.

'He made a huge contribution towards
us qualifying for the Euros so it is cruel to be forced out through
injury just before the tournament.'

Boost: Frank Lampard (third from left) says Chelsea's triumph can help England

Boost: Frank Lampard (third from left) says Chelsea's triumph can help England

Blue boys: John Terry, Lampard and Ashley Cole can bring a winning mentality to the squad

Blue boys: John Terry, Lampard and Ashley Cole can bring a winning mentality to the squad

Only if UEFA are satisfied that it is a new injury will Hodgson be able
to call in a replacement but the FA see that as a formality.
Lampard was not injured when he reported for duty on Tuesday after a
nine-day break.

The loss of the 33-year-old leaves Hodgson seriously short of
central midfielders, having already lost Jack Wilshere and, more
recently, Barry to injury.

While the FA insisted he was never considered because of the call they
received from his agent in January, stating he no longer wanted to be
chosen for England squads, it transpired he is trying to cure a nagging
achilles problem.

Munich men: Gary Cahill (right) and Cole (centre) were outstanding in the Champions League final

Munich men: Gary Cahill (right) and Cole (centre) were outstanding in the Champions League final

Getting ready: Roy Hodgson prepares the troops

Getting ready: Roy Hodgson prepares the troops

Update: Lampard backs goal-line technology installation

Update: Lampard backs goal-line technology installation

Juan Mata says more is to come from him

I'm always getting better! Mata's warning for rivals as he vows to improve with Chelsea

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UPDATED:

12:29 GMT, 31 May 2012

Chelsea midfielder Juan Mata has told Premier League rivals that there is much more to come from him next season.

Mata, 24, moved to Stamford Bridge from Valencia last year and was a pivotal part of the side which ended the season with success in both the FA Cup and Champions League under interim manager Roberto Di Matteo.

The Spain international settled straight into the Chelsea side under previous manager Andre Villas-Boas and picked up the club's Player of the Year award but he told Chelsea Magazine he wants to get even better.

Eye on the ball: Juan Mata has vowed to keep on improving next season

Eye on the ball: Juan Mata has vowed to keep on improving next season

'My focus is to continue improving,' he said. 'I am young as a footballer and I have to improve my game and my statistics over the next year, this is what I will try to do. You cannot rest on what you have achieved, you must look to the future and hope for more success.'

With two winners' medals already in his collection as a Chelsea player Mata is also targeting further success with both club and country if it that means he will be very busy in the next few months.

On the up: Mata with the Champions League trophy

On the up: Mata with the Champions League trophy

He said: 'Lifting the Champions League was an unbelievable experience – the biggest club trophy you can win – and, for me, winning the Player of the Year trophy makes me feel very happy, proud and grateful.

'I could never have expected my first season to go this well. To win the FA Cup, the Champions League and the Chelsea Player of the Year, it is incredible and I am so happy, but I want more. I have the European Championships in the summer and maybe the Olympic Games as well, so, who knows, perhaps I can say that I have won nearly everything I have played in this year.'

Mata and his Chelsea team-mates are still unaware who will be managing the side next season with a permanent replacement for Villas-Boas still not in place.

The club's chief executive Ron Gourlay said last week a new boss could be in place in as little as two weeks.

A new stadium also remains a priority but reports today suggested they will be ultimately unsuccessful in their application for the site of Battersea Power Station.

Knight Frank, the selling agent for the site, refused to comment but there are up to 14 other candidates for the sought-after location.

Paul Lambert in Aston Villa talks after Norwich resignation

Lambert holds talks with Aston Villa despite Norwich rejecting his resignation

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UPDATED:

14:02 GMT, 31 May 2012

Paul Lambert looks set to become Aston Villa’s new boss after he offered to resign from his position as Norwich manager.

It is understood Lambert had a bust-up with the Norwich board after they refused him permission to speak to Villa. They have rejected the Scot's resignation.

A statement on the Canaries' website read: 'The club regrets to confirm that Paul Lambert has offered his resignation from his position as Norwich City manager.

On his way Paul Lambert leaves Norwich's training ground on Thursday morning

On his way Paul Lambert leaves Norwich's training ground on Thursday morning

'We have fought hard to keep Paul at
Norwich City and have not accepted his resignation whilst discussions
with another club are taking place.

'However, whatever happens, we want
to place on record our sincere gratitude for everything Paul has done
for the club over the last three fantastic seasons.

'When Paul joined us in August 2009
we were in 66th position in the English football pyramid and the club
was on the brink of financial meltdown.

'Today we are a Barclays Premier League football club, on a financially sound footing and with a stadium full to capacity.

'Discussions with Paul throughout the
last few days have been professional and amicable. Paul has already
earned his place in Norwich City Football Club history and, no matter
what happens, will always have a friendly welcome at Carrow Road.

On the Paul: Aston Villa have made Lambert their No 1 priority

On the Paul: Aston Villa have made Lambert their No 1 priority

'Meanwhile, contrary to some media
speculation, the club does not need to sell any players and the finances
are in place to substantially strengthen the excellent squad which
helped us finish in 12th position in the Premier League last season.'

'Rest assured that everyone behind the scenes at Carrow Road remains absolutely focused on continuing to help the Club progress.

Lambert has been on the Villa’s
shortlist since Alex McLeish was sacked.Their first choice was Wigan
manager Roberto Martinez and there was a third candidate, believed to be
Brendan Rodgers, but Villa are happy with a choice that has been made
with the blessing of fans.

They have fall-back options, understood to be Brighton’s Gus Poyet and former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez, if they cannot get Lambert.

But he is the top target after it became clear, as outlined in Sportsmail on Wednesday, that Martinez had lost ground when interviewed by Liverpool owner John W Henry last week. Martinez contacted Villa three days ago to say his interest was concrete but chief executive Paul Faulkner told him owner Randy Lerner would not wait.

Talks: Martinez held discussion with Liverpool's owners

Talks: Martinez held discussion with Liverpool's owners

Martinez contacted Villa three days ago to say that his interest in the position was concrete but he was informed by chief executive Paul Faulkner that Randy Lerner was not prepared to wait to get his man and had progressed with alternative plans.

Villa have used an intermediary to smooth a path to the Norfolk club and compensation for the 42-year-old should be agreed swiftly.

Lerner was anxious to re-connect with supporters following the ill-advised decision to appoint McLeish and Lambert appeared the most popular choice on fans' websites.

On Thursday Villa keeper Shay Given said he would welcome Lambert's appointment.

The 36-year-old, who is away in Italy
with the Republic of Ireland squad as they prepare for Euro 2012, said:
'If that's the case – I have no idea, because I am stuck in Italy
somewhere, about what's going on at Aston Villa – but if Paul was to
come in, he would be a great appointment because he is a fantastic
manager.

'Since he took the hot-seat at any club he has been at, he has just gone all the way up all the time, so hopefully if they can get that done, that would be great news for the club.

'The sooner the manager is in place for next season – because he will have targets and players he will want to get in himself – the sooner that's done, the better.'

It means Martinez has missed out on the chance to manage Villa for the second season in succession following his very public snub 12 months ago.

Not that the Wigan boss should worry. He still has two years left to run on his contract with the Lancashire club and Wigan owner Dave Whelan may even look to improve it.

Moving on: Rodgers is set to join Liverpool

Moving on: Rodgers is set to join Liverpool

He said: 'Roberto is staying at Wigan and, of course, I am absolutely delighted.

'He was never offered the job at Liverpool because he was not happy with the way that it was presented to him. He has had some talks with Villa but he's not going to go there either. Villa are a fantastic club with great supporters but I never thought they were big enough for him.

'I've said all along that I never thought he would end up there and, fortunately for us, that's how it has turned out.

'If Roberto is to go anywhere, it will be to one of the top clubs in Europe. We're just so pleased he's staying with us.'

Whelan added: 'During the course of our meeting, we discussed a lot of things and it was very productive. I've agreed to his request to up our spending on youth development and training facilities. That's going to be pretty costly as I've agreed to a full-sized indoor pitch – that will cost 1.5million. 'I have also agreed to bring in three or four new players.

'We want Roberto to be happy at Wigan and we will be aiming to make sure that we do everything we can to keep him.'