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Andy Carroll defended by Kevin Nolan over alleged attack of photographer

Nolan jumps to defence of team-mate Carroll as West Ham captain dismisses claims striker attacked photographerStriker has been accused of gouging and attempting to bite Paddy Cummins
West Ham are standing by the on-loan star amid the allegationsPolice in Dublin made no arrests after probing players

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UPDATED:

20:01 GMT, 4 December 2012

West Ham players have leapt to the defence of Andy Carroll after the striker was accused of assaulting a photographer during the squad’s Christmas party.

The 35million England star, on loan at Upton Park from Liverpool, has found himself in hot-water after the incident outside a nightclub in Dublin in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Christmas Carroll: Hammers skipper Kevin Nolan, striker Carroll, Carlton Cole and Matt Taylor pose with a female fan at a pub in Dublin dressed all in fancy dress white

Christmas Carroll: Hammers skipper Kevin Nolan, striker Carroll, Carlton Cole and Matt Taylor pose with a female fan at a pub in Dublin dressed all in fancy dress white

Meal deal: Carroll - seemingly without his protective leg brace on - is pictured ordering food from Burger King at the end of his night out

Meal deal: Carroll – seemingly without his protective leg brace on – is pictured ordering food from Burger King at the end of his night out

Carroll is said to have lashed out at
33-year-old snapper Paddy Cummins, who was trying to take a shot of him
without his leg-brace.

The centre-forward is expected to miss the next two months with a knee injury and is required to wear the brace.

But in a show of team solidarity,
Carroll's team-mates will vouch for the 23-year-old when questioned by
club officials about the incident. The players will insist the striker
was provoked and showed no aggression towards the photographer.

Team-mate Kevin Nolan, who joined
Carroll on a trip to Whipps Cross Hospital in Essex on Tuesday to hand
out presents to sick children, said: ‘Someone is trying to fabricate a
story and that is the disappointing thing. It is part and parcel of what
we do and we understand that.

'We have had a fantastic weekend away
and you think you have come back with no problems but someone has made
something which was nothing as far as I was aware.'

Photographer Cummins alleges he was eye-gouged, pushed to the floor and that Carroll attempted to bite him during fracas.

Garda – Ireland’s police force – have launched an investigation into the incident, which is said to have taken place at 2.30am.

Carroll and a number of his team-mates have been interviewed by police but no arrests have been made.

Happy Hammers: Carroll and Nolan were put of a group to visit Whipps Cross Hospital in Essex

Happy Hammers: Carroll and Nolan were put of a group to visit Whipps Cross Hospital in Essex

West Ham players visit hospital in Essex

Injured: Carroll was wearing a protective knee brace on Saturday at Upton Park

Injured: Carroll was wearing a protective knee brace on Saturday at Upton Park

On Tuesday West Ham released a statement backing Carroll.

It read: 'Andy Carroll was in Dublin as part of a social trip with full permission of the management team.

'Andy agreed to have a number of pictures taken at the request of a photographer who was waiting on the street.

'Despite this, the photographer then
carried on taking photos in the close proximity of Andy and was politely
asked to stop by the private security team working on the trip.

'When he then continued taking more
photos he was restrained by the security team for Andy’s
safety. Eyewitnesses state at no point was there any physical contact
between Andy and the photographer.

'The Garda took statements from the group back at the hotel and no further action was taken.'

Speaking about the disappearance of
the leg brace, Carroll’s agent Mark Curtis added: 'The leg brace was
outside his trousers inside the club because he wanted people to see it
so they wouldn’t knock into him. When he left he put it under the
trousers.'

'He can’t walk without it. He isn’t a daft lad and he wouldn’t be able to put weight on his leg without it.'

Carroll now looks likely to escape recrimination from police and West Ham over the incident.

Night out: Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan were part of West Ham's Christmas party weekend tour to Dublin, where they were pictured with Irish fans

Night out: Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan were part of West Ham's Christmas party weekend tour to Dublin, where they were pictured with Irish fans

Spell on the sidelines: Carroll is out for eight weeks with a knee injury

Spell on the sidelines: Carroll is out for eight weeks with a knee injury

2012 Open diary: Andres Romero and Miguel Angel Jimenez fluff shots

Ian Ladyman's Open all hours: Hope for us all as Romero and Jimenez fluff their lines

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 17 July 2012

Given how frustrating and difficult this game is, it's reassuring to know that even the very best can make fools of themselves.

Early contenders for worst shot of the week here include Argentine Andres Romero who hit two drives 50 yards straight left into a bush on the 13th on Monday and dear old Miguel Angel Jimenez, who shanked a bunker shot straight right into another trap on the 16th.

Making his point: The Spaniard encountered trouble on the 16th

Making his point: The Spaniard encountered trouble on the 16th

When it rains…

The Open wouldn't take place without hordes of volunteers. Pity them as the rain teemed down yesterday as not only are they not allowed to use umbrellas but the blue jackets given to them by the organisers here are not even waterproof.

At least they were allowed home one hour early as most of the players had abandoned the course. If you see one, say thanks.

Sign this please

We reported how Lancashire lad Matthew Baldwin was taking souvenir photos on his way round the course. Well the former England Boys captain was at it again yesterday, taking a yellow '18th' flag from his bag and asking practice partners Lee Westwood and Keegan Bradley to sign it. Roles could be reversed in future years as Baldwin is said to be a serious talent.

Autograph hunter: Baldwin practiced with Westwood on Tuesday

Autograph hunter: Baldwin practiced with Westwood on Tuesday

Thumbs up for..

Big Spaniard Alvaro Quiros who thrilled the crowds by becoming the first player this week to thump his drive all the way through the green at the 336-yard 16th hole.

For those wondering, the car park made famous by Seve Ballesteros in 1979 is now a catering area. Anyone hitting it over there will be playing their second from in between the burger vans.

Thumbs down for…

The hordes of swing gurus, mind coaches and Bible salesmen (I made the last one up) who like to huddle round the players as they do their stuff on the driving range at these tournaments. Stand back please, chaps, the paying public can't see a darned thing.

Anyone for pizza: Ishikawa enjoyed a takeaway on Tuesday

Anyone for pizza: Ishikawa enjoyed a takeaway on Tuesday

Sight of the day on the range yesterday, by the way, was Ryo Ishikawa and pals sitting on the grass eating takeaway pizza.

Quote of the day

'Rory McIlroy said he shot minus four on the back nine in practice. If he keeps that up, he certainly will be in the hunt next week.'

The Open's official Twitter feed gets its days mixed up.

South Africa name team to face England in first Test

Meyer picks uncapped pack trio as Springboks name XV for first Test against England

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UPDATED:

11:52 GMT, 6 June 2012

Despite naming three new caps, South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer has picked a somewhat conservative XV to tackle England in the first match of a three-Test series on Saturday in Durban.

Meyer named nine uncapped players in his 32-man squad for the series last week, but of those only locks Juandre Kruger and Eben Etzebeth and flanker Marcell Coetzee start. A fourth newcomer, prop Coenie Oosthuizen, could make his first appearance off the bench.

Many had tipped Lwazi Mvovo and Bjorn Basson – who have both scored eight tries in Super Rugby this year – to be given starts, but tried and tested wings Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen wear the No 11 and No 14 jerseys respectively despite having played at outside centre for most of the season for their franchises.

Keeping the faith: Heyneke Meyer has named his first Springbok XV

Keeping the faith: Heyneke Meyer has named his first Springbok XV

SOUTH AFRICA TEAM TO FACE ENGLAND IN DURBAN ON JUNE 9:

Z Kirchener; JP Pietersen, J de Villiers (capt), F Steyn, B Habana; M Steyn, F Hougaard; T Mtawarira, B du Plessis, J du Plessis; E Etzebeth, J Kruger, M Coetzee, W Alberts, P Spies.

Replacements: A Strauss, C Oosthuizen, F van der Merwe, K Daniel, R Pienaar, P Lambie, W Olivier.

Kruger, 26, and Etzebeth, 21, are given
their chance with Bakkies Botha and Andries Bekker both out injured.
Coetzee, 21, starts at openside with Schalk Burger also sidelined.

The starting 15 still boasts a combined total of 458 Test caps with nine of the players that featured in last year's World Cup quarter-final against Australia retained.

Meyer said: 'Eben, Juandre, Marcell and Coenie have all put their hands up this season and I know they can succeed at Test level.

New men: Eben Etzebeth (left) and Marcell Coetzee (right)

New men: Eben Etzebeth (left) and Marcell Coetzee (right)

'It is quite a new thing in South African rugby to have two uncapped locks starting. It is a huge step up but I am confident in them.

'I am very happy for them and their families and know they will make South Africa proud.

'Although the team is quite young, we still have some experience across the starting 15.

'The balance in the team is right in the way we want to play against England and we're looking forward to the first Test.'

The other main issue in the team was the decision to hand the vice-captaincy to hooker Bismarck du Plessis.

Skipper: Jean de Villiers leads South Africa

Skipper: Jean de Villiers leads South Africa

Du Plessis is one of the world's best No 2s but has still faced a battle for that position and the vice-captain's role from Adriaan Strauss, who will be on the bench.

Strauss will take over as vice-captain if and when he replaces Du Plessis during the game.

Meyer announced earlier in the week that the side would be captained by centre Jean de Villiers throughout the three-Test series.

Meyer said: 'We're fortunate to have a strong leadership core in Jean, Bismarck and – if he gets replaced – Adriaan.'

Zane Kirchner was chosen at full-back in a back line that also features JP Pietersen, De Villiers, Frans Steyn and Bryan Habana.

Geoff Parling says England are ready to fight South Africa head on

Parling says England are ready to fight 'fire with fire' against the Boks

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UPDATED:

21:54 GMT, 5 June 2012

The last time England faced South Africa, they were pounded into submission by a brutal onslaught from the visiting pack and on Saturday at King’s Park, Heyneke Meyer’s new team will aim to take the same direct route to victory.

Despite the loss of such luminaries as John Smit, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha and Schalk Burger to retirement and injury, there remains an aura around the Springbok forwards. They expect to crush opponents with sheer ferocity and physicality, particularly at home.

But England also have a proud tradition of imposing, abrasive packs and Geoff Parling believes they can stay true to that heritage by ‘fighting fire with fire’ in the first Test here.

Crunch time: The England team prepare for the first Test against South Africa

Crunch time: The England team prepare for the first Test against South Africa

The script in these parts dictates that Stuart Lancaster’s tourists will
compete gamely but eventually succumb to the hosts’ power up front.
There is a general assumption that the Boks will prevail in an arm-
wrestle contest which suits them, but the Leicester lock who will plot
their lineout downfall is not so sure.

Not backing down: Geoff Parling says England will take South Africa on head on

Not backing down: Geoff Parling says England will take South Africa on head on

‘If that’s what people want to say, that’s fine, it’s up to us to shut
them up,’ said Parling.

‘Over the years, the South
Africans have had a very good pack. But in terms of this Test series,
that doesn’t affect us. The last game we played was against Ireland and
we were pretty good up front then.

‘If people say it’s a Springbok pack we’re facing I just think, “Yeah,
but we’re England and that’s a pretty proud thing to say as well”,’ he
said. ‘So let’s go and make a statement. If we sit back and let the
South Africans get into the game, they will be very difficult to stop.
But we can also be very direct and we want to meet fire with fire and
have a go at them.’

While refusing to be awe-struck by the prospect of taking on a Springbok
pack in South Africa, Parling acknowledged it must be considered among
the most arduous tasks in Test rugby, adding: ‘We want to move on and
improve, and there’s no better opportunity as a pack than to come and
try to do it here.

Full on: Joe Marler runs with the ball during the England training session in Durban

Full on: Joe Marler runs with the ball during the England training session in Durban

‘South African teams are consistently the most physical. I’m sure if
Scottish players or Welsh or Kiwis heard that they would say, “Hang on,
we’re pretty physical up front too”. But South Africans have been that
way consistently for years.’

England will attempt to nullify the threat posed up front with a
relatively callow set of forwards, certainly in Test terms. They will
need to show great character and play on the line of legal physicality.

If they are at all intimidated, they will be beaten, but Parling was
adamant that the young Red Rose squad will not bend the knee.Asked if
this young pack can handle the onslaught which will surely come their
way, he said: ‘Without doubt. We’re still quite a young pack in terms of
experience of playing together, but you see the character; the way
Chris Robshaw has led this season, someone like Dan Cole and the way he
trains, I’m sure we’ve got more than enough character.’

Ready for action: Dan Cole scrummages during training

Ready for action: Dan Cole scrummages during training

South Africa (probable):

Z Kirchner; JP Pietersen, J de Villiers (capt), F Steyn, B Habana; M Steyn, F Hougaard; T Mtawarira, B du Plessis, J du Plessis; J Kruger, E Etzebeth; M Coetzee, P Spies, W Alberts.

Among the Bok forward unit, hooker Bismarck du Plessis is the sort of
hard-edged figure who typifies his country’s approach to the game. He
will not take a backward step at his home ground on Saturday, but is
bracing himself for an almighty collision. He is sure the tourists will
be true to Parling’s pledge by meeting fire with fire.

‘I would like a street-fight to be honest,’ he quipped, when asked if
that is how the match will pan out. ‘England are a very physical side —
they play a forward-orientated game and set the challenge. We would
like to accept that challenge and give them what they are not
expecting.’

Meyer is expected to include three uncapped forwards in his line-up, to
be announced today: locks Juandre Kruger and Eben Etzebeth, and flanker
Marcell Coetzee. The much-heralded fly-half-cum-full-back Patrick Lambie
is likely to start as a replacement, with Zane Kirchner set to take the
No 15 shirt.

England ready to take on South Africa

Rowntree's men ready to face the Bok juggernaut as England's tour begins

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UPDATED:

23:20 GMT, 3 June 2012

England forwards coach Graham Rowntree was the Lions’ scrum guru in South Africa in 2009 and when asked recently if he knew what to expect from the Springboks this month, he said: ‘We know what’s coming alright, it’s pretty clear what’s coming.’

His certainty was based on tradition, personal experience and the make-up of the Boks’ new coaching team, led by Heyneke Meyer, who was briefly in charge at Leicester.

Sure enough, Meyer has confirmed Rowntree’s predictions by naming a 32-man squad on Saturday dominated by players from the Pretoria-based Blue Bulls — where he made his name — to work with a management team laden with ex-Bulls coaches.

Helping hand: George Robson issues tactics to local children in South Africa

Helping hand: George Robson issues tactics to local children in South Africa

Rugby tests summer 2012

With 13 players coming from the Super 15 franchise renowned for forward ferocity and a tight, physical, kicking-led, territorial game, England have at least had the benefit of being prepared for the juggernaut’s impact. When they face South Africa in Durban on Saturday for the first of three Tests, they will have to withstand an onslaught on a level far beyond anything they experienced in the Six Nations.

Meyer will not prepare his team to play with any real creativity; they will be true to their history by attempting to grind the inexperienced tourists into submission.

Yet the new coach’s first squad has generated division already. He had earmarked Fourie du Preez as a captaincy candidate in the absence of the injured Schalk Burger, but the veteran scrum-half — now playing in Japan — has ruled himself out.

Just three members of the Stormers from Cape Town have been picked, despite the fact that they are top of the South African Super Rugby conference and beat the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday night.

Amid murmurs of dissent about various omissions, the non-selection of Cheetahs flanker Heinrich Brussow is most puzzling, given his reputation as a master poacher at the breakdown.

Asked about Du Preez, Meyer said: ‘He said he hasn’t played for almost three months, and doesn’t believe he will be 100 per cent.’

Tough task: England train ahead of facing South Africa

Tough task: England train ahead of facing South Africa

The coach went on to justify
Rowntree’s pre-conceptions by indicating the approach his Bok team will
adopt against England, adding: ‘This is a team that can play winning
Test rugby — brutal defence, big forwards running at each other,
tactical kicking and direct rugby.

‘This team can play to our typical
South African strengths and the side that plays best to their pattern is
normally the one that wins. I would have loved to go with a more
experienced squad but I have gone with players who have a desire to
play for their country and who have shown in Super Rugby that they won’t
stand back. These are form players. I am proud of them.’

There are nine uncapped players in the Springboks squad for the series which also features Tests in Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth — Marcell Coetzee, JJ Engelbrecht, Eben Etzebeth, Elton Jantjies, Juandre Kruger, Coenie Oosthuizen, Jacques Potgieter, Franco van der Merwe and Jano Vermaak.

Leading by example: Chris Robshaw, the England captain runs with the ball

Leading by example: Chris Robshaw, the England captain runs with the ball

In the second row, Meyer has the arduous task of filling the void left by the retirement of Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha’s move to France, but Etzebeth is highly rated and Kruger impressed in two seasons at Northampton.

While there are several rookies in contention to face England, there are also 15 players who appeared at last year’s World Cup and nine who were part of the triumphant campaign in 2007.

Meyer emphasised the balance between experience and fresh talent in his chosen squad and added: ‘We realise that it is impossible to please everyone when it comes to selecting squads like these, but we would really like to see the entire country stand behind us as we take on England.’

Such unity is unlikely, but the Boks will nonetheless pose a menacing threat.

Scott Parker England captain in 1993 McDonald"s World Cup advert

From McDonald's kid to England captain… re-live Parker's 1993 advert

As a 13-year-old in 1993, Scott Parker captured the nation's imagination as he showcased his skills on the small screen to launch McDonald's World Cup '94 advertising campaign.

Now, 19 years on, the Tottenham midfielder has the chance the make the country fall in love with with his footballing talent all over again as he prepares to lead England out as captain for the first time in the friendly against Holland at Wembley.

Click on the video below to re-live the former Charlton, Chelsea and West Ham star's memorable television advert for the burger chain giants.

Six Nations 2012: Mike Brown targets England spot

Harlequins full back Brown relishing battle with Foden for England spot

Harlequins full-back Mike Brown came
through a baptism of fire with England and now insists nothing will faze
him as he targets a starting role for his country in the RBS 6 Nations.

Brown was recalled to the senior
England squad for the first time in over three years this week as part
of Stuart Lancaster's red rose revolution.

On the charge: Mike Brown is relishing England chance

On the charge: Mike Brown is relishing England chance

Ben Foden is England's incumbent full-back but Brown is gunning for his jersey and thrilled by the prospect of playing in a competition he has watched since he was seven.

But it has not been a simple journey for the 25-year-old.

Brown won his first two caps against South Africa in 2007, when a third-string squad England received back-to-back hammerings from the Springboks, months before they were crowned world champions.

A year later, Brown won his third cap against the All Blacks in Auckland and subsequent off-field incidents left him questioning whether he even wanted an international future.

But Brown was not willing to let go of his dream. He set about improving both his game and his reputation, with the help of sprint coach Margot Wells and Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea.

'I am a completely different player from when I played against South Africa and New Zealand,' Brown said.

'They are two of the best teams in the world and I have had to learn a lot of lessons from that.

'I have no reason to be worried about any other teams now because I have played against two of the best in the world.'

Impressive: Brown was named Aviva Premiership player of the month

Impressive: Brown was named Aviva Premiership player of the month

Brown recalls one double-tackle from Schalk Burger and Jean de Villiers as the moment he realised exactly what it would require to make it in Test match rugby.

'It has been a long time. I have had to work really hard over the last three years on my game. I can't wait to get started with England,' Brown said.

'My attacking game has completely changed since I was last in the England squad.

'Margot has helped me out massively. Conor coming in has worked on my decision-making and positional play. I think that has really helped me on the pitch.'

Brown was named the Aviva Premiership player of the month and his next aim is to establish himself of the Test stage.

'It will mean everything to play in the Six Nations. I have been watching that tournament since I was about seven years old. That is why I have been working so hard over the last three years, to be a part of something like this,' Brown said.

'It is going to be a tough ask (to dislodge Foden) but that is why I have been working so hard and I will continue to do that and reach my goal of getting a starting position.'

Lancaster is intent on revolutionising the way England play, shifting the focus onto attack. He will want his players to outwit their opponents rather than simply hammer them.

Brown has worked under Lancaster and Andy Farrell with the Saxons so he is aware of what is required and that attacking intent should suit him down to the ground.

The 25-year-old has one of the biggest boots in the Premiership but he is a running full-back, just as Foden is, and Lancaster is sure to give them both a chance to make an impact.

That would be a radical change from the World Cup, where Foden was left a frustrated onlooker as England opted for a more regimented style.

'Stuart will keep it the same as in the Saxons. I have been part of that and so I know what he wants,' Brown said.

'I am lucky enough to play in a Quins team that is very attack-minded. Hopefully England can do the same.

'There is no reason why he would want to change what he has been doing in the Saxons for the main squad because it has worked so well.'