Tag Archives: ashton

Fernando Torres is staying at Chelsea despite interest from Fiorentina

Torres: I’m STAYING at Chelsea and will fight for my place with Falcao, despite interest from Fiorentina

By
Neil Ashton

PUBLISHED:

16:28 GMT, 24 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

01:19 GMT, 25 April 2013

With Radamel Falcao at the top of Chelsea’s list of summer transfer targets, Fernando Torres insists he will not be the fall-guy for another big-name centre forward.

Atletico Madrid are selling Falcao, who has scored 25 goals in La Liga this season, for 50million.

Chelsea are front of the queue of clubs for the Colombian, with reports on Wednesday night claiming that he could be Jose Mourinho’s marquee signing if, as expected, the Portuguese returns to Stamford Bridge this summer.

However, Torres is determined to see out the three years left on his contract.

Staying put: Torres talks to the media on Wednesday ahead of the Europa League semi-final

Staying put: Torres talks to the media on Wednesday ahead of the Europa League semi-final

Staying put: Torres talks to the media on Wednesday ahead of the Europa League semi-final

Torres said: ‘When you play for Chelsea you’re always hoping big names come, and the big names are always related with Chelsea.

‘You cannot stop that, especially when the summer comes, and every top player is welcome at Chelsea. Since I came we have only signed top players, so it would not be a surprise if we signed Falcao.’

Torres scored seven goals in Europe this season and will lead the line in this evening’s Europa League semi-final first leg in Basle. Demba Ba is cup-tied.

On the way: Falcao is expected to arrive from Atletico Madrid in the summer

On the way: Falcao is expected to arrive from Atletico Madrid in the summer

Man in the mask: Torres trains with his team-mates in Basle on Wednesday

Man in the mask: Torres trains with his team-mates in Basle on Wednesday

The Spaniard’s last Barclays Premier League goal was in the 8-0 victory over Aston Villa on December 23, but despite his indifferent form for Chelsea since a 50m move from Liverpool in 2011, Torres claims his long-term future is in London.

The 29-year-old added: ‘I’m happy at the moment, but I’d be happier if we won the Europa League. I’ve always felt part of this club. Things change, but you can see this season I have been the main striker.

‘This season has been better for me, but it’s not been at the level I want to be. I really think this club has told me the truth. They have hopes for me and they trust me — they don’t say the opposite.

‘I know I want to stay. If they change their minds it’s a different question, but the relationship between me and the club is very straight. It’s not a problem at all.’

Torres scored against Rubin Kazan in the quarter-final second leg in Moscow and is keen to add the Europa League trophy to last season’s Champions League.

Torres added: ‘I hope there’s more to come as I’m still young. We can win the Europa League this season, but we can still win much more. The squad and players are young — we can do great things. I would like to be involved for the next few years because we can become one of the best teams in Europe, not just England.’

Forward thinking: Torres is optimistic about the future at Chelsea

Forward thinking: Torres is optimistic about the future at Chelsea

Fiorentina, however, have expressed interest in signing Torres.

The
29-year-old has grown increasingly frustrated over his form and playing
time at Stamford Bridge and is expected to be pushed further down the
pecking order this summer as Chelsea look to add another two strikers.

Highly rated: Stevan Jovetic could be heading to the Premier League

Highly rated: Stevan Jovetic could be heading to the Premier League

Fiorentina want someone to replace Stevan Jovetic who they anticipate joining either Arsenal or Manchester City.

Their chief scout Eduardo Macia played a role in taking Torres to Liverpool in 2007.

Chris Ashton backed by Saracens coach Paul Gustard

Ashton backed by Saracens coach Gustard after poor Six Nations

By
Rob Wildman

PUBLISHED:

21:49 GMT, 2 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

07:14 GMT, 3 April 2013

Chris Ashton, the under-fire England wing, has received the backing of Saracens defence coach Paul Gustard.

The club head into Saturday’s Heineken Cup quarter-final against Ulster at Twickenham believing Ashton is in excellent form despite his poor Six Nations campaign that led to an inquest into his tackling.

Ashton scored his first try in almost two months last Saturday, against Wasps, and Gustard expects more in the Heineken Cup.

Out of sorts: Ashton scored just one try in the Six Nations

Out of sorts: Ashton scored just one try in the Six Nations

Jumping for joy: Chris Ashton celebrates after scoring against Wasps

Jumping for joy: Ashton celebrates after scoring against Wasps last weekend

‘Even if Chris had not scored a try, it does not mean he’s not played well,’ Gustard said. ‘He’s done really, really well for us in the last two weeks and is in a good place after a good show at Wasps.

The problem of being a wing in rugby is that it’s a bit like being a goalkeeper in football. You are the last line in defence; a mistake can cost you.

‘Chris is not a bad defender. Sometimes, he misses a tackle but so what Everyone misses a tackle,’ Gustard added.

On the run: Ashton charges upfield playing for Saracens

On the run: Ashton charges upfield playing for Saracens

He could also be Ashton’s coach on England’s summer tour of Argentina if he does not make the Lions trip to Australia.

Gustard is taking over temporarily because Andy Farrell will help coach the Lions with Warren Gatland.

‘I’m not going to change the way England defend,’ he said. ‘The system has worked well over the last season. It’s a matter of learning and developing as a coach.’

Sir Clive Woodward: England must use intimidation as inspiration

England must use intimidation as inspiration in the cauldron of the Millennium Stadium

PUBLISHED:

22:49 GMT, 15 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

08:13 GMT, 16 March 2013

The Millennium Stadium is a unique
ground. Sitting bang in the middle of the city of Cardiff, the stadium
feels like the beating heart of Wales on match days.

There are few venues around the world
where supporters can finish their pints with five minutes to spare,
pour out of the pubs and take their seats in time for kick-off.

As a coach, when you have said your
final few words to the team in the relative peace of the dressing room
and walk out to hear the crowd singing under that roof, it can feel like
you are emerging into the Colosseum in Rome.

Not intimidated: Chris Ashton dives over to score at the Millennium Stadium in 2011 when England beat Wales 26-19

Not intimidated: Chris Ashton dives over to score at the Millennium Stadium in 2011 when England beat Wales 26-19

More from Sir Clive Woodward…

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: It's time to pile on the pressure and use Cardiff cauldron to test mettle of England's players
14/03/13

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: 2013 v 2003 – how my Grand Slam heroes compare to today’s side gunning for Six Nations glory
14/03/13

EXCLUSIVE: Sir Clive Woodward talks Grand Slams with George North… Training has been brutal and we're ready to do battle
13/03/13

Sir Clive Woodward: This is the last England game for six months with everyone available and Ashton has a point to prove
11/03/13

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: It's time for England to wake up and smell the roses
10/03/13

Sir Clive Woodward: England must fear the Italians if they are to prevent the biggest Six Nations shock ever
08/03/13

Sir Clive Woodward: Just like no-nonsense Johnno, Robshaw is a natural born leader
07/03/13

Sir Clive Woodward: Ranting Rafa He's far too shrewd for that
28/02/13

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Stuart Lancaster and his players will
sense that fever with a welcome like no other. Despite the fierce
rivalry, you get better looked after in Wales than anywhere else – they
want to thrash you, but they want it to be a fair fight.

There are no silly games – nobody rushes you off the pitch or limits the number of balls you have for the warm-up.

Hostility is manifest in the passionate support, not stupid mind games.

In 2001, when I took England to
Wales for our first ever match at the Millennium Stadium, I decided we
should stay in Cardiff Bay because I wanted to be near town and a part
of the build-up, not stuck on the outskirts and excluded from the buzz.

You want to be in the thick of it so you're not overwhelmed when you come in on match day, particularly for a 5pm kick-off.

From the Monday morning of the build-up to that Test almost every press conference question was about the stadium.

'Intimidation' was clearly the theme but I made it clear that we were playing the Welsh team, not the stadium. I held a meeting that night and told the players to turn the word 'intimidation' into 'inspiration'.

Players prepare in different ways. Hooker Steve Thompson, for example, braced himself for the Cardiff cacophony by practising his lineout throwing with white noise blasting through his headphones. It paid off as on the day his set-piece was as accurate as ever.

The players had never been inside the ground until we were given a tour of the stadium the day before the game.

Time to shine: Ben Youngs goes through the motions under the Millennium Stadium roof

Time to shine: Ben Youngs goes through the motions under the Millennium Stadium roof

Ready for battle: Manu Tuilagi passes the ball during the England captain's run at the Millennium Stadium

Ready for battle: Manu Tuilagi passes the ball during the England captain's run at the Millennium Stadium

One game from glory: Stuart Lancaster hopes England can win their final game of the Six Nations and secure the Grand Slam

One game from glory: Stuart Lancaster hopes England can win their final game of the Six Nations and secure the Grand Slam

RBS 6 NATIONS TITLE – PERMUTATIONS

England's victory over Italy means a win against Wales in Cardiff would seal a first Grand Slam in a decade.

However, Wales have everything to play for because a victory for them could be enough to retain the RBS 6 Nations title and leave England empty-handed.

England are currently two points ahead of Wales in the table and with a points-difference advantage of 14.

Under tournament rules, if the points and points difference end level then the championship would be decided on tries scored.

Wales hold the advantage 7-5 going into the final round. If tries scored is also level, the title is shared.

Here, we examine the permutations:

ENGLAND WIN GRAND SLAM

An England victory by any margin would secure a first Grand Slam triumph in a decade.

ENGLAND WIN TITLE

An England defeat by six points or fewer would still be enough to seal the title.

If England lose by seven points but outscore Wales by three tries or more then Stuart Lancaster's men would win the title.

WALES WIN TITLE

A Wales victory by seven points, providing they stay ahead of England on tournament tries, would see Rob Howley's men retain the title.

TITLE SHARED

If Wales win by seven points but England score two more tries then the title would be shared.

I wanted my team, particularly the back three, to get used to catching high balls under the lights and watching the flight of balls against the closed roof.

We walked into the away dressing room to find giant cardboard cutouts of the entire Welsh team – bigger than life size.

You've never heard such laughter in your life. It turned out they were there for tourists as part of the stadium tour, but the stadium officials had genuinely forgotten to move them.

The facilities in the stadium are second to none.

The away dressing room is big and spacious, unlike at Murrayfield where there is a giant pillar in the middle.

When we arrived on match day, I walked on to the pitch with Martin Johnson and we were booed by the supporters.

Johnno walked into the centre of the pitch and held his hands in the air – making it very clear this was exactly where he wanted to be.

The home and away dressing rooms are about 50 metres apart in a long corridor, so you are kept well away from your opponents.

While football players tend to hang out in the tunnel before coming out together that doesn't happen in rugby.

You come out separately – England to subdued cheers, Wales to pyrotechnics, blasting music and booming choirs.

The first time you see your opponents is when you line up for the anthems. It is all part of the magic.

One of the few things I miss from my coaching days is the dressing-room atmosphere on days like today.

It is the most electric place in the world with 20 minutes to go before
kickoff – a mix of adrenaline, fear and anticipation.

Ten players in
Lancaster's starting XV have never experienced that atmosphere and I
hope they are inspired, not intimidated.

Real champions thrive in enemy
territory. The dressing room against Wales was always noisier than at
home. Guys such as Lawrence Dallaglio, Will Greenwood and Matt Dawson
would come into their own.

All white on the night: Steve Thompson prepared by blasting white noise into his headphones

All white on the night: Steve Thompson prepared by blasting white noise into his headphones

Glorying in the rivalry: Martin Johnston was never one to be intimidated

Glorying in the rivalry: Martin Johnston was never one to be intimidated

Glorying in the rivalry: Martin Johnston was never one to be intimidated

I expect Brad Barritt, Owen Farrell, Tom
Youngs and Geoff Parling to do the same, supporting captain Chris
Robshaw to deliver the final key messages and get everybody focused on
kick-off.

We won comfortably on that first trip – but that doesn't mean it wasn't a dramatic day.

After
the game we returned to the hotel to change for the post-match dinner
but travelling back to the stadium was a nightmare.

A
lot of supporters had been drinking all day and we were stuck in a sea
of red shirts, crawling through the crowds at three or four mph with a
giant red rose on the side of the coach.

Man alive: Lawrence Dallaglio came into his own in the dressing room

Man alive: Lawrence Dallaglio came into his own in the dressing room

I had a superstition and would sit front left in the coach. A man in the crowds caught my eye because he had obviously had a big day out but was running straight towards us as if he was planning to tackle the coach.

At the last minute, he sidestepped to his right in Gerald Davies-style but was promptly knocked out cold by the large wing mirror.

I stopped the coach and got out, followed by a few players and our doctor, who rushed to help while we radioed for the police.

Suddenly I realised there was me and most of the England team in the middle of a crowd of drunk fans standing over a prostrate Welshman. It looked like we had run him over!

People started pointing fingers and it all got a little tense.

Then a crowd of equally well-oiled England fans pushed their way to the front and it really started to get a bit tasty. The police arrived just in time and sense prevailed.

That was more than 10 years ago, when England had a far stronger team than Wales.

Since then, Wales have become something of a nation of experts in this tournament – to win three Grand Slams in the last eight years is an amazing achievement.

I had a great team and we only did it once. But Lancaster's team are winners and I believe they will be inspired by playing in Cardiff.

They have only ever been beaten by single figures so this game will be close.

If England keep their cool in the Cardiff cauldron, they are good enough to win.

I truly hope they do. It is time a new generation of Englishmen stepped up to the plate and won the Grand Slam.

MY SIX KEY BATTLE AREAS…

1. KEEP COOL IN THE CAULDRON

Show respect: Referee Steve Walsh (left) has a chat with France captain Thierry Dusautoir

Show respect: Referee Steve Walsh (left) has a chat with France captain Thierry Dusautoir

This England team have an abundance of testosterone flowing through them and Wales will target the players who have a history of reacting.

Joe Marler, Owen Farrell, Chris Ashton and Mike Brown have had their moments and this can be a good thing – the 2003 team were at their best when there was a bit of sulphur in the air.

But you have to tread the line between never taking a step backwards and not getting distracted or involved in anything that puts you or your team-mates off their game.

England have recieved two yellow cards in this tournament, another today could cost them the Grand Slam. Let the score do the talking and silence the crowd.

The message from Stuart Lancaster must be about finding the crucial balance – you have to compete for the ball at the breakdown, but needless penalties will kill your team.

Referee Steve Walsh was extremely strict at the contact zone in Dublin last weekend.

Listen to him, repeat his calls, react and adapt to how he is marshalling that breakdown.

If he starts penalising the tackler for not rolling away, then make a show of releasing the player early and doing what he asks.

Be smart – get the wrong side of Walsh and you're in trouble.

2. GO FORWARD BEFORE YOU GO WIDE

England have not scored a try against Wales for 196 minutes but it will be almost impossible for them to win without doing so in a game as tight as this, so they must sort out their attacking strategies.

The ambition was there against Italy, the failure was in execution.

There is no point passing the ball out wide if the opposition have more defenders in the line than you have attackers, as was often the case against Italy.

Please release me: Ben Youngs will be key to getting the ball out wide

Please release me: Ben Youngs will be key to getting the ball out wide

Use the early phases to charge directly forward and suck more defenders into the ruck and the narrow channels.

Then, when there is space out wide, release the ball.

Ben Youngs has to lead this, ordering the forwards to use their firepower and go 'route one' very early in the game.

3. OPTIONS ARE KEY TO ATTACK

Talisman Owen Farrell returns and England will take confidence in having their best half-back pairing in the spine of the side, but full back Alex Goode is key to offering a second option in attack.

The clash of the centres will be monstrous in midfield but I hope Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi have the confidence not just to run into contact but to pass the ball before contact.

Use Tuilagi as a decoy and out-think the Welsh. This is where Goode is key.

Goode idea: Alex Goode can be used to out-think Wales

Goode idea: Alex Goode can be used to out-think Wales

He has gone quiet in games, so he needs to come into the attack as a second receiver to create plays and get the side playing more expansively.

Barritt and Tuilagi can become a great pairing but they need Goode to give Farrell more options in the inside centre role.

4. IT'S A MISTAKE TO FOCUS ONLY ON THE DANGERMEN

Alex Cuthbert and George North are giant dangers on the wing – I couldn't believe just how big George was when I met him!

He is such an intelligent player, too, so Chris Ashton has his work cut out. Both wingers come looking for crash balls either inside or outside the fly-half.

But Wales' back line have the footballing ability to miss the winger out and if England focus on one player they can get caught out.

England just need to keep their defensive shape. If the big guys come at you hard it is about technique – hit them hard and low.

North star: Wales winger George North could cause all sorts of problems for England

North star: Wales winger George North could cause all sorts of problems for England

If your technique is sloppy – and England have been guilty of going in too high recently – then you will look stupid.

I expect a big step up in England's tackling today, Ashton included.

Both defensive coaches, Andy Farrell and Shaun Edwards, have brought huge rugby league influences into these sides.

League is fundamentally a simpler game with a bigger emphasis on defence, especially the blitz defence where players rush up and 'get in the face' of attackers.

Wales have gone 277 minutes without conceding a try (they could beat my team's tournament record of 319 minutes).

The challenge is keeping your shape when your lungs are burning and your brain is starved of oxygen.

This game will be won in the last 10 minutes and that is when the fitness of these two teams will be tested.

Power play: Stopping Sam Warburton in his tracks will be one of England's big challenges

Power play: Stopping Sam Warburton
in his tracks will be one of England's big
challenges

5. TARGET WARBURTON

It is less than 100 days to the first Lions Test and the backrow battle will be fascinating – but the turnover contest is not a question of Chris Robshaw v Sam Warburton.

Whichever England player arrives at the breakdown first has to target Warburton. Against a player of his strength, you have to decide – attack the ball or attack him.

You need to try to get him off the ball before he sets up in that 'crouched jackal' position over it.

Once he is set up, you won't be able to move him, so hit him as early as you can within the laws of the game.

6. GET THE BALL IN AND OUT OF THE SCRUM

The bigger the game, the bigger the basics. Basics are the scrum, the lineout and the restart.

For all the attacking flair in these teams out wide, if you do not nail those three foundations then you cannot create real momentum.

In the front row, Joe Marler and Dan Cole must deal with Adam Jones and Gethin Jenkins, who have been the cornerstone of Wales' three Grand Slams, so England have to be clever.

The stadium turf has a tendency to cut up so you want to get the ball in, out and away.

Win the engagement and use the scrum as a platform to restart your attack quickly.

If you leave the ball in and the scrum collapses you give the referee an opportunity to penalise you.

At restarts, England must be aware of the aerial threat of North and Cuthbert, who can out-jump forwards. Do not let them get to the ball first.

Paul Taylor charged with grievous bodily harm for alleged pub brawl

Ipswich striker Taylor charged with GBH after alleged pub brawl in Suffolk

By
John Fahey, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

13:36 GMT, 2 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

13:36 GMT, 2 March 2013

Ipswich striker Paul Taylor has been charged over an alleged pub brawl.

The 25-year-old was charged with causing grievous bodily harm (GBH) following the incident at a pub in the Suffolk town in October last year.

The alleged victim, a 30-year-old man, sustained two broken fingers and a fractured eye socket, Norfolk Police said.

Charged: Paul Taylor is alleged to have been involved in a pub brawl

Charged: Paul Taylor is alleged to have been involved in a pub brawl

The forward, who broke his ankle last September during a match, will appear at Ipswich Magistrates' Court on March 18.

A force spokesman said Taylor, of Ashton Close, Rendlesham, was charged alongside Olatunde Ademuyiwa, 24, of Beechway, Liverpool, who was also charged with GBH.

Ademuyiwa was also charged with assault by beating, along with Jodie Twitchett, 24, of Ashton Close, Rendlesham, during which a 42-year-old man sustained a broken rib and a cut to the head in the same incident.

Roberto Di Matteo airbushed from Chelsea history – club remove Champions League picture

Di Matteo airbrushed from Chelsea history as club remove Champions League picture featuring former boss

By
Neil Ashton

PUBLISHED:

22:58 GMT, 26 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

02:13 GMT, 27 February 2013

Before: This picture featuring Roberto Di Matteo has been replaced

Before: This picture featuring Roberto Di Matteo has been replaced

Roberto di Matteo has been airbrushed out of Chelsea’s Champions League history after the club replaced his image on an iconic wall at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea’s history-making manager, sacked last November by owner Roman Abramovich, was pictured on the West Stand wall with the rest of the squad and their trophies at the start of the season.

Di Matteo has now been replaced by a huge image of Chelsea’s players and coaching staff — minus the manager — celebrating the club’s first European Cup triumph in the Allianz Arena.

And Chelsea supporters, who often take souvenir pictures next to the giant poster, have been left stunned by the decision.

The
new image is one of the few in existence with the team and coaching
staff celebrating their triumph without Di Matteo present.

The
popular Italian led Chelsea to their first European Cup last May, but
was brutally axed following a 3-0 defeat at Juventus in November.

The original picture of the squad was in
place at the start of the season, but Di Matteo has only just been
removed.

After: This is the picture which you can find at Stamford Bridge now, not featuring the former manager

After: This is the picture which you can find at Stamford Bridge now, not featuring the former manager

Gone and forgotten: Di Matteo led the Blues to double cup success before being ousted

Gone and forgotten: Di Matteo led the Blues to double cup success before being ousted

Gone and forgotten: Di Matteo led the Blues to double cup success before being ousted

He was still in place when Chelsea played Wigan at Stamford
Bridge on February 9, but had gone by the time they faced Brentford in
an FA Cup fourth-round replay on February 17.

Although the club insist the change was made because Di Matteo is no longer Chelsea manager, they are still using pictures of other departed stars in the new image outside Stamford Bridge.

Didier Drogba, who struck the winning penalty against Bayern Munich last May, is in the front row with Chelsea’s players.

Troubled times: Interim boss Benitez has failed to lift the gloom at Stamford Bridge

Troubled times: Interim boss Benitez has failed to lift the gloom at Stamford Bridge

Troubled times: Interim boss Benitez has failed to lift the gloom at Stamford Bridge

Florent Malouda, banished to training with the academy players in his final year and told he will never play for Chelsea again, is also in the frame.

Jose Bosingwa, who joined QPR in the summer on a free transfer, is another former player captured on the image, which has a prominent place just by the stadium’s entrance.

Chelsea last night pointed out that Di Matteo is pictured with the FA Cup in another area of the concourse.

SIX NATIONS 2013: England XV to play France

Tuilagi recalled by Lancaster in one of three changes made by England for Le Crunch

By
Rob Wildman

PUBLISHED:

10:45 GMT, 21 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

12:15 GMT, 21 February 2013

Stuart Lancaster has urged England to vary their attack against France after confirming his team for Saturday’s RBS Six Nations match at Twickenham.

As predicted by Sportsmail this week England’s head coach has decided to make three changes for the third match en route to a possible Grand Slam.

Following the win over Ireland, Lancaster this morning announced he had recalled centre Manu Tuilagi, hooker Dylan Hartley and flanker Courtney Lawes.

Centre of attention: Manu Tuilagi runs with the ball during England training at Pennyhill Park on Tuesday

Centre of attention: Manu Tuilagi runs with the ball during England training at Pennyhill Park on Tuesday

ENGLAND TEAM TO FACE FRANCE:

15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Mike Brown, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Joe Marler, 2 Dylan Hartley, 3 Dan Cole, 4 Joe Launchbury, 5 Geoff Parling, 6 Courtney Lawes, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain).

Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 David Wilson, 19 James Haskell, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 Danny Care, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Billy Twelvetrees.

All three were substitutes in the win
in Dublin and replace Billy Twelvetrees, Tom Youngs and James Haskell
who are all on the bench this time.

Lancaster is looking to use the
firepower of the trio to tackle a French team who have had endure a
disastrous Six Nations so far in losing to Italy and Wales.

Lancaster explained: ‘We thought long and hard about changing a winning team which did so well against Ireland.

‘But we believe that Dylan, Courtney
and Manu are ready for the opportunity and allow us to vary our play,
while the bench will add impact and energy as the game unfolds in the
second half.

‘The players are really looking
forward to getting back to Twickenham. The atmosphere in the stadium is
fantastic and hopefully the crowd can get behind us in what is sure to
be a great challenge against a motivated and physical French team.’

Meanwhile, France coach Philippe Saint-Andre has made eight changes to his starting line-up for Saturday's match.

Making way: Billy Twelvetrees will be on the bench at Twickenham despite his superb show against Scotland

Making way: Billy Twelvetrees will be on the bench at Twickenham despite his superb show against Scotland

FRANCE TEAM TO FACE ENGLAND:

15 Yoann Huget, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Benjamin Fall, 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Morgan Parra;
1 Thomas Domingo, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 3 Nicolas Mas, 4 Christophe Samson, 5 Yoann Maestri, 6 Yannick Nyanga, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Thierry Dusautoir (captain).

Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski,
17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Luc Ducalcon,
19 Jocelino Suta, 20 Antonie Claassen,
21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Frederic Michalak, 23 Florian Fritz.

Saint-Andre has opted for a new half-back pairing, with Morgan Parra and Francois Trinh-Duc replacing Maxime Machenaud and Frederic Michalak following Les Bleus' 16-6 defeat against Wales at the Stade de France 12 days ago.

Vincent Clerc returns on the right wing, with Wesley Fofana switching to his preferred role of centre for the Twickenham encounter.

Saint-Andre's team head to England after losing their opening two Five or Six Nations games for the first time since 1982.

Wales' success in Paris followed a 23-18 loss in Italy six days previously, meaning the wooden spoon has now become a distinct possibility for the pre-tournament favourites.

'After two defeats in the tournament, we wanted competition and freshness in the squad,' Saint-Andre said. 'We have to have the freshness and enthusiasm.

'We will prepare a lot of fight in Twickenham.'

Arsene Wenger press conference full transcript – Arsenal v Bayern Munich

'Do you think I'm a complete idiot': The FULL transcript of Wenger's angry press conference (plus his bizarre exchange with Sportsmail's Neil Ashton)

PUBLISHED:

10:22 GMT, 19 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

13:51 GMT, 19 February 2013

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger lost his cool at Monday’s press conference ahead of the match with Bayern Munich when he was questioned over his future.

The Gunners manager finds himself in the spotlight again after they were dumped out of the FA Cup by Championship side Blackburn Rovers.

Wenger was in a fiery mood at the club’s training ground – and started with an exchange with Sportsmail’s Neil Ashton.

Scroll down to watch Neil Ashton's verdict on Arsene Wenger

Glare: Arsene Wenger was in a fiery mood as he faced the media ahead of Arsenal's clash with Bayern Munich

Glare: Arsene Wenger was in a fiery mood as he faced the media ahead of Arsenal's clash with Bayern Munich

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

The first question put to the Arsenal boss is about claims of new two-year deal – reported by another newspaper – to remain at the Emirates.

Arsene Wenger: That is the wrong information. I think I work for 16 years in England and I think I deserve a bit more credit than wrong information, that has only one intention, which is to harm.

AW: (to Neil Ashton) I look at you not because you give the information. I do not know if it is you. I do not know where the information comes from.

Neil Ashton: Me

AW: Yeah, why do you look at me

NA: Because it’s your press conference.

AW: OK, thank you. I just thought you had given this information out.

NA: No, I’m looking at you because it’s your press conference.

AW: OK, thank you very much.

Question from another journalist: The fans were very upset at going out of the Cup at the weekend.

AW: Look, here is a pre-match conference for the Champions League. If you want to talk about Saturday, that press conference has been made after the game. Can we get some questions about tomorrow’s game That would be very nice.

Plenty to ponder: Wenger cuts a lonely figure during Arsenal's training session on Monday

Plenty to ponder: Wenger cuts a lonely figure during Arsenal's training session on Monday

Q: Mr Wenger, Bayern Munich has not only a good offence but also a good defence. Can you tell me about the quality of the defence from Bayern Munich and especially (cut off)

AW: I don’t talk about Bayern Munich today.

Q: If everybody is saying you have no opportunity to go through, could that help the team in a way to play with freedom

AW: We know well what is going on here. What is important is to forget what people say and focus on our strengths. We play for Arsenal in the last 16 of the Champions League, we have qualified for a long, long time. We know what is important. It’s not what people say, it’s what we produce on the football pitch. We live in a democracy of experts and opinions, but we have to live with that and cope with that and show we have the mental strength to deal with any opinion. There are a lot of experts who are not necessarily always right.

Q: If this is your last chance to win a trophy this season…

AW: Thank you very much for that question. It’s a long time that we didn’t answer it.

Q: But can you talk about your desire to bring back trophies to the club

AW: Look, I have been accused of not taking seriously the FA Cup on Saturday. I have won four times the FA Cup. Who has won it more Give me one name.

Over and out: Arsenal were dumped out of the FA Cup by Blackburn Rovers at the Emirates on Saturday

Over and out: Arsenal were dumped out of the FA Cup by Blackburn Rovers at the Emirates on Saturday

Over and out: Arsenal were dumped out of the FA Cup by Blackburn Rovers at the Emirates on Saturday

Q: I haven’t accused you of not taking it seriously, I am just asking you…

AW: OK. Then, the second thing is we have been accused of not putting out a strong team. That is an insult to the players who started the game because we had 11 internationals on the pitch. I would like to tell you as well that we did not lose the game with the players who started. We lost it in the last 20 minutes so there are a lot of superficial analyses that you cannot accept. Because one guy says something, everybody goes the same way.

Q: The question is about your desire to win the Champions League. It is there, isn’t it

AW: No, no. I want to lose it and I want to lose the game tomorrow, so you can all be happy. Of course we want to win it but in Europe, recently, you face as well some other teams who have quality. Barcelona has some qualities, Real Madrid has some qualities and they don’t win it every year. We have been consistently there. And now we want to break through. We have been in the final and consistently in the quarter-final, semi-finals, for years. People will say it is not the best opportunity now to do it, I think it is a fantastic opportunity because I feel I have a strong team. And I am sure they will prove me right.

Wenger breaks to talk to the daily newspapers. Here are the main points.

Q: The story (about a new contract) was a positive one

AW: Why does it just come out when we lose a big game In your opinion You think I am so naive that I don’t see what is behind that You think I am a complete idiot

Shock: Colin Kazim-Richards scored the only goal as Blackburn stunned their Premier League opponents

Shock: Colin Kazim-Richards scored the only goal as Blackburn stunned their Premier League opponents

Shock: Colin Kazim Richards scored the only goal as Blackburn stunned their Premier League opponents

Q: Do you feel that there is unfinished business with the Champions League

AW: Of course, it is unfinished business as long as we don’t win it. But if I say to you we will win it this season, you will laugh at me because we just lost against Blackburn. But it can happen. Unfortunately, in football, it is less predictable than that. It is not mathematical.

Q: Tell us why a team that has lost to Blackburn and Bradford can beat Bayern Munich

AW: Do you think really that Bayern Munich has never lost against a smaller club in Germany Man United, against Division Three, they have lost. It can happen. What I find is absolutely unbelievable is that when it happens to me, it is a complete storm. You know why Because in 16 years, it never happened.

Q: Will it suit Arsenal to be the underdogs

AW: We are underdogs, yes. You just have to read the English press and you understand that.

Q: You have beaten some fantastic teams over the years

AW: In Europe, we have beaten everybody, which is what people forget. And we are the only team that has gone into a (Champions League) final without conceding a goal, despite the fact that we have never had a good defensive record.

Next up: Arsenal take on a formidable Bayern Munich side in London in the Champions League last 16

Next up: Arsenal take on a formidable Bayern Munich side in London in the Champions League last 16

Q: What do you need to improve on from these last few weeks

AW: We are champions of England in the second half, and in the first half, no. For psychological reasons. Because we fight the whole season against everybody hunting here (in press conferences) … ‘The players are not good enough, buy players and all that’, but one day, you will realise that this team has fantastic qualities.

Q: What do you put that first-half, second-half contrast down to

AW: Psychological.

Q: But what exactly

AW: I do not necessarily want to come out on that.

Q: You’ve been very passionate here today. You seem to be suggesting that you don’t get the respect you deserve Any theories about why

AW: I don’t take that personally. I’m more worried about the players. I will go into the Champions League tomorrow night in a difficult situation. On top of that, they have to fight against everybody and I want to protect the players to make sure they go into the game in good conditions.

Q: You seem angry

AW: I’m angry because when you give wrong information like that. There’s not only wrong information behind that. See what I mean

Raring to go: Arsenal are determined to bounce back against Bayern as they seek to progress in Europe

Raring to go: Arsenal are determined to bounce back against Bayern as they seek to progress in Europe

Q: It’s aimed to hurt you

AW: The lie is targeted to hurt. It’s easy to say people are not happy and on top of that say he’s extending the contract. That’s what I mean. I’ve worked here for 16 years and when I say I deserve more credit, that’s not about respect and everybody saying: ‘He’s doing well.’ It is morally. I think that’s right. You can criticise me and say I’m a bad manager. I’d never come back to you on that. But I think when you work like that … you will never find any story behind me that I’ve taken money anywhere, or things like that. So I think morally that is wrong.

Q: But the story is a positive one saying that they want to keep you.

AW: Come on.

Q: Do you not think that some of the criticism is justified You’re 21 points off the top of the table. You’re going to get criticised …

AW: We are, of course, criticised for that. But we are not the only ones. You have some clubs that have invested more money than us for years and they are behind as well. We accept this kind of criticism. But it’s not what I am talking about. It’s about some other things that I talk about that have come out. They are lies. But when you criticise (about being too far behind), on that, then it is true. I can only say I am sorry. You are right, we are far too far away from Manchester United.

Q: Are you under more pressure than ever We don’t normally see you like this

AW: I reacted this way to the lie.

Last chance: The Champions League is Arsenal's final opportunity to end an eight-year trophy drought

Last chance: The Champions League is Arsenal's final opportunity to end an eight-year trophy drought

Q: Is it just to the lie or it is deeper than that

AW: To the intention that is behind the lie. Honestly, do you really think I take all that personally What I don’t accept is lies and when the target behind it is to manipulate people.

Q: Do you think you’ve misread this The story does say that despite everything they want you to stay. So that’s good rather than bad but you seem to see a conspiracy theory.

AW: I am not a conspiracy theorist. I am 30 years in this job and if I was paranoid, you would know it already. I just think that when I worked for 16 years in the country I expect a certain respect. You can criticise me and say I am doing a bad job, I will never come back to you. But this kind of thing that is a bit manipulative. And then when they are wrong, I don’t accept it.

Q: What is your current contractual situation

AW: My contract ends in 2014. I will have completed 30 years without interruption at top-level football and that demands at least a lot of commitment. Maybe no quality but commitment, for sure.

Q: What will happen beyond 2014

AW: I am not completely sure that you are really interested. When we lost at home to Blackburn, I am not sure that is your first worry.

Q: We would miss you!

AW: I am sure you would miss me when I am gone.

VIDEO Neil Ashton on Arsene Wenger's future

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VIDEO Arsene Wenger talks to the press

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VIDEO Wenger at training with the squad a day after his angry outbursts

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VIDEO Bayern's Schweinsteiger and Neuer talk about the Arsenal game

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Rio Ferdinand: I"m not losing any sleep over England snub

I'm not losing any sleep over England snub! Ferdinand focused on Man United's title challenge

qualifying match with Switzerland at Wembley.

Return Rio Ferdinand (left) has been offered a bizarre lifeline by England

Return Rio Ferdinand (left) has been offered a bizarre lifeline by England

That came under Fabio Capello, but
with the race row between John Terry and his brother Anton still
unresolved at the time Roy Hodgson took over, Ferdinand has remained
unselected by the current boss.

Hodgson insists the 81-cap man's
omission is for football reasons alone, while the player himself refuses
to even think about anything beyond his achievements at club level.

'I'm not sitting there thinking about trying to get back into the England team,' he told the Manchester Evening News.

'I'm just playing football for Manchester United. That's what I love doing and that is what's at the forefront of my mind.

'If that, in time, it ends up in me
getting a call-up for England, then great and fantastic. If it doesn't, I
won't really lose any sleep over it,' he added.

Commanding: Ferdinand has had a solid season at the back for Manchester United

Commanding: Ferdinand has had a solid season at the back for Manchester United

Inconclusive: England manager Roy Hodgson said England have 'moved on' from the centre-back pairing of Ferdinand and John Terry

Inconclusive: England manager Roy Hodgson said England have 'moved on' from the centre-back pairing of Ferdinand and John Terry

Ferdinand appeared to have been
thrown a bizarre international lifeline after the FA insisted he could
still return to Roy Hodgson's England squad.

Ferdinand,
who has not played for his country since a 2-2 draw with Switzerland in
June 2011, insists he will always be available to play international
football.

The 34-year-old has started 19 games in the Barclays Premier League for Manchester United this season and Sportsmail's Neil Ashton wrote this week about how England should recall the defender.

Although England sealed an impressive
2-1 win over Brazil on Wednesday, Ferdinand's absence from England duty
was highlighted at Wembley when Gary Cahill's mistake allowed Fred to
equalise.

After the game Hodgson seemed to
claim England had moved on from the Ferdinand era and were looking to
younger players for the 2014 World Cup.

Blunder: Gary Cahill's error led to Brazil's equaliser on Wednesday night

Blunder: Gary Cahill's error led to Brazil's equaliser on Wednesday night

'For
years England had a centre-back pairing (John Terry and Ferdinand)
everyone was satisfied with and they were two very good players,'
England's manager said.

'For
various reasons we've moved on from that and we have to try to solve
the problem. I'm not going to talk about Rio. It seems that every other
day I have to answer questions about Rio.

'We've just beaten Brazil for the first time in God knows how many years, the first time I've played against Brazil.

'We're
talking international football, England against Brazil and some of the
so-called very, very best players in the world. I think that whoever you
would play at centre back would have problems against that quality of
opposition.'

However,
despite Hodgson's comments the FA attempted to clarify the situation
yesterday and insisted the door will never be closed on any player.

Rio Ferdinand must be recalled by England – Neil Ashton

Neil Ashton: Cahill's slip against Brazil shows Hodgson needs Ferdinand at the heart of England's defence

By
Neil Ashton

PUBLISHED:

00:07 GMT, 7 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

01:39 GMT, 7 February 2013

High up in the stands at Wembley, the best available central defender in the country left his calling card. Rio Ferdinand is itching to play for England again, tweeting in advance of Brazil’s visit that he was on his way to north-west London.

Ferdinand will never give up hope, and Gary Cahill’s elementary mistake at the start of the second half is the reason why.

This is the scenario unfolding for England’s head coach Roy Hodgson as he continues to hide behind the ‘footballing reasons’ for Ferdinand’s continued exclusion. Cahill is a good defender, but not good enough at the very highest level.

Rio Ferdinand

Rio Ferdinand

Out in the cold: Rio Ferdinand has not played for England since the draw with Switzerland last June

He was brutally exposed when his failure to complete a pass allowed Fred, on as a substitute, to equalise at the start of the second half.

There will have been reminders from Hodgson at half-time for England to keep their composure after Wayne Rooney’s sweetly taken goal put them in front. Instead the mistake by Cahill is a cause for concern, an alarming moment for a player with a Champions League winner’s medal.

Until that moment he had done well enough, twice snuffing out the threat of Neymar in the first half as the Brazilian worried England’s defence.

At 34, Ferdinand is still good enough to represent his country. Frank Lampard, who scored after coming on in the second half, is the same age. Lampard has been assured that he will be part of Hodgson’s squad if England get through Group H and board the plane to Brazil next summer.

By then he will be nearly 36 and the assumption is that the remaining members of the Golden Generation will call it a day after the World Cup.

Gutted: Gary Cahill is dejected after his mistake allowed Fred to equalise for Brazil against England (below)

Gutted: Gary Cahill is dejected after his mistake allowed Fred to equalise for Brazil against England (below)

Fred scores against England

Lampard has made 17 Barclays Premier League appearances for Chelsea this season, but if Hodgson is number crunching then Ferdinand represents full value as well. The Manchester United defender has started 19 games for the club in the Premier League and come on as a substitute in one other.

He is playing, unquestionably, for the best team in the country and his selection, fitness permitting, against Real Madrid next week is automatic.

That is a Champions League tie, a second-round first-leg clash in the Bernabeu where Cristiano Ronaldo and Co will take some beating.

Fergie always turns to Ferdinand in big games, just as he has against Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea.

In command: Ferdinand has impressed in defence for Manchester United this season

In command: Ferdinand has impressed in defence for Manchester United this season

After his injury just days before the start of the 2010 World Cup, Ferdinand made only a handful of appearances under Fabio Capello the following season.

Hodgson has never picked him in a squad, preferring John Terry at the heart of his defence until he made the surprise decision to retire.

Recalling Ferdinand would provide some mild embarrassment for Hodgson, but ending the defender’s international career on the Tube is way out in front when it comes to wincing.

England have important games next month, particularly when they travel to Montenegro for a vital World Cup qualifier.

Those are the games that really count at international level, true tests for the top players.

Italy's Franco Baresi

Paolo Maldini

Examples: Franco Baresi (left) and Paolo Maldini both continued into their thirties at international level

Some of the great defenders, Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi among them, have been to World Cups when they were well past their prime.

Simply because they were 34 at the time didn’t make them bad players and that is something Hodgson should consider carefully when he selects his squad next month.

Beyond that, Hodgson hopes this team will be heading for Brazil and the World Cup finals.
To do well, he will need England’s best players with him.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich orders Rafa Benitez to deliver top-four finish

Abramovich gives up on cups and orders Benitez to deliver top-four finish

By
Neil Ashton

PUBLISHED:

22:28 GMT, 29 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

08:11 GMT, 30 January 2013

Roman Abramovich has written off Chelsea's chances of winning silverware this season and told Rafa Benitez to finish in the top four.

Chelsea's technical director Michael Emenalo met with Benitez at the club's training ground on Tuesday morning and passed on the message from their billionaire benefactor.

It means Chelsea – who started the season with the chance to win seven trophies – must finish strongly in the Barclays Premier League to guarantee Champions League football.

Mind the gap: Rafa Benitez is under instruction from Roman Abramovich to guide Chelsea to a top-four finish

Mind the gap: Rafa Benitez is under instruction from Roman Abramovich to guide Chelsea to a top-four finish

Although Abramovich and various Chelsea executives are furious with the manner of the team's performance in the 2-2 draw at Brentford in the FA Cup, finishing in the top four is all that counts.

Benitez met Emenalo before training on Tuesday for the latest inquest into Chelsea's failing season. The interim Chelsea coach said: 'All I can say is what I know. I have had meetings. We were talking about the situation and it's clear for me the priority is the top four and progressing as much as we can in the other competitions.

'In the last 10 days, we had a fantastic game against Arsenal, not such a good game against Swansea, and 50:50 the other day against Brentford. 'We still have the FA Cup and the Europa League, and we can still finish in the top four.'

All smiles: Demba Ba in training on Tuesday as Fernando Torres (below) bears the brunt of a tough challenge

All smiles: Demba Ba in training on Tuesday as Fernando Torres (below) bears the brunt of a tough challenge

Fernando Torres

Chelsea began the campaign with the chance to win seven trophies, but the only competitions they can win now are the Europa League and to defend the FA Cup.

Although Benitez insists he still wants to win the Cups, he has been in left in no uncertain terms about the priority of the owner.

Chelsea finished sixth in the Barclays Premier League last season and only qualified for the Champions League as winners.

Despite increasing pressure from Abramovich over the club's results in recent weeks, Benitez is working with a squad restricted by injury, fatigue and the Africa Cup of Nations.

Benitez, who has the support of the majority of Chelsea players under difficult circumstances, takes the team to Reading this evening in the Premier League.

They will be without keeper Petr Cech again, who is out with a calf injury, and they will have to rely on error prone Ross Turnbull at the Madejski Stadium.

Benitez is short of attacking options and Chelsea confirmed that they had offered Didier Drogba the chance of an emotional return to the club.

Drogba began training at Cobham to keep fit after the end of the Chinese football season and he was offered a six month deal with the option of another year. Despite the temptation to relive the glory years, Drogba has opted to join Turkish club Galatasaray on an 18 month deal.

Benitez will rotate Fernando Torres and Demba Ba, who cannot play three games a week because of a chronic knee condition, to get them across the finishing line this season.

The Chelsea chief came under severe criticism from supporters on Sunday when he replaced Branislav Ivanovic with Cesar Azpilicueta when the team were losing at Griffin Park.

They forced a replay when Torres scored the equaliser, but it's clear that the players are being affected by the mood around the club.

The Chelsea chief added: 'I talk to the players, that's my way. Some managers like to put their arms around their shoulders.

'I talk to the players every day. I talk with the injured players in the physio room. 'With the players in training. Or with senior players, why this, why that, and what we need to improve and what the game-plan will be.'