Tag Archives: cauldron

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

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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

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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.

Scotland fill Wales assistant boss John Hartson with fear

Relaxed Scotland fill Wales No 2 Hartson with fear ahead of crunch derby showdown

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UPDATED:

21:50 GMT, 10 October 2012

John Hartson admitted he fears Scotland could flourish in Cardiff after being released from the Hampden pressure pot.

The Wales assistant manager has plentiful experience of the national stadium from his five years as a Celtic striker.

And he believes the tense atmosphere may have hindered some of Craig Levein's players as they struggled to disappointing draws with Serbia and Macedonia.

Crunch showdown: Hartson says the pressure will be off Scotland

Crunch showdown: Hartson says the pressure will be off Scotland

Scotland face Wales on Friday evening
in their first away tie in Group A, with both sides desperate for three
points to kick-start their campaign.

'We've seen both games and I think Scotland may well feel they'll perform better away from home,' said Hartson.

'I played at Hampden with Celtic and, with 52,000 there, it can be quite hostile. 'Sometimes that sort of pressure can
add to the burden for the home players. Some players can cope with it,
but others struggle.

On target: Adam and Co will be desperate to seal their first win of the qualifying campaign

On target: Adam and Co will be desperate to seal their first win of the qualifying campaign

'Scotland have not been beaten but
drawing the two home games is slightly disappointing from their own
fans' point of view. They would probably have expected to win one of
those two games.

'So playing away from home might lift the pressure off their players, rather than playing in that cauldron in front of their own fans at Hampden.'

Hartson is heavily involved in the planning for Friday night's meeting, as Chris Coleman's side look to bounce back from a 6-1 mauling in Serbia last month.

'I really feel Scotland have a fantastic squad,' he added. 'They have a great pool of players to choose from. They could pick two sides, really, in terms of the size of their squad.

In charge: Levein oversees training ahead of Scotland's tie with Wales

In charge: Levein oversees training ahead of Scotland's tie with Wales

'We'll have to think about what formation they will play. 'Will they play with two front men, with Kenny Miller and Steven Fletcher up front, or will they stick to their usual one up front – and who will that one striker be

'Will Gary Caldwell sit in front of the back four or will he be in defence We have to look at all the things Scotland could throw at us.

'The one good thing about this game is you don't need to get anyone up for it.

'It's going to be a good old-fashioned British-type derby because the players know each other so well and some of them play for the same clubs.

'We expect it to be fast and furious. We know what we have to do, we know the importance of the three points.

'But we're not underestimating Scotland because they are a very strong side. We know we'll need to improve on our last performance to get anywhere near them.'

London 2012 Paralympics: David Weir wins 5,000m gold

Weir confirms status as GB's greatest ever male wheelchair athlete with 5,000m gold

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UPDATED:

00:10 GMT, 3 September 2012

David Weir won a stunning gold medal for Great Britain in the T54 5,000 metres on Sunday night, although the drama of the occasion may have been a little too much for his heavily pregnant fiance.

The 33-year-old was Great Britain’s only gold medallist on the track at the 2008 Paralympic Games, winning both the 800m and 1500m in Beijing, and he added a third gold in London after a thrilling race.

Weir’s wife-to-be, Emily, is expecting
their second child in October and struggled to watch the wheelchair
racer in his 5,000m heat on Friday. Heaven knows how she coped on Sunday
night.

Golden boy: David Weir romped to 5,000m gold at Olympic Park

Golden boy: David Weir romped to 5,000m gold at Olympic Park

Golden boy: David Weir romped to 5,000m gold at Olympic Park

The noise inside the Olympic Stadium was deafening as the race entered
the final lap, providing echoes of the cauldron of sound that
accompanied the last 400 metres of Mo Farah’s Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m
triumphs.

But Weir judged it perfectly; staying in contention and taking care not to get boxed in before striking around the final bend.

He held off stern opposition in the home straight from silver medallist
Kurt Fearnley from Australia and France’s Julien Casoli, who took
bronze, to cross the line first in 11min 7.65 secs.

Unusually for Weir, from Sutton in Surrey, he celebrated wildly,
stretching out his arms and screaming with powerful, raw emotion.

Well done: Weir was congratulated after becoming the greatest ever British male wheelchair athlete

Well done: Weir was congratulated after becoming the greatest ever British male wheelchair athlete

‘I put this down to hard work and determination,’ he said. ‘It is tough
to get motivated at my age. But this was the main one – this was the one
I wanted to win the most.

‘I am a championship racer. I get into the right mindset to try my best. You can’t beat this feeling.

‘The crowd gave me a massive, massive lift. It’s indescribable what it does to you.’

Farah made ‘Super Saturdays’ his own during the Olympics, bringing home
two gold medals seven days apart, but Weir’s trademark could yet be
tagged ‘Sensational Sunday’.

Bringing it home: Weir won in front of the home crowd in style

Bringing it home: Weir won in front of the home crowd in style

The wheelchair racer, who enjoys DJ-ing in his spare time, has yet to
defend his 800m and 1500m titles in London and will also contest the
marathon on the final day of the Games next Sunday.

Weir is back in action at 10.40 on Monday morning in the 1500m heats and
will cover more than 35 miles as he bids to better the two golds,
silver and bronze he won in Beijing.

Britain have already won four gold medals in athletics, meaning the team
have doubled their haul of four years ago after just three days of
competition inside the Olympic Stadium.

Everton team spirit to thank for victory over Manchester United, says Marouane Fellaini

Everton team spirit to thank for victory over Man United, says Fellaini

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UPDATED:

11:38 GMT, 21 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Marouane Fellaini has heaped praise on his team-mates and the Everton fans after his man of the match performance in the victory over Manchester United.

Fellaini was a thorn in United's side all night, he out-muscled their defence as the Toffees took the aerial route against Sir Alex Ferguson's patched-up defence.

The Belgium international headed the winner in the second-half, but says it was the team ethic which helped them vanquish the visitors.

Main man: Fellaini put in a match-winning shift for Everton

Main man: Fellaini put in a match-winning shift for Everton

'It was a great performance from everyone,' said Fellaini.

'Everybody played well and it was a very good start. It's good for me, but most important is the three points. If everybody is happy in the dressing room, that's what counts.

'It's not important for me to be man of the match, what’s important is the three points. Now we need to keep going and work hard in training in order to win next week.'

And he spared special praise for the fans, weho created a cauldron-like atmosphere at Goodison Park.

'The supporters were very good and it’s important for the team,' he added. 'Every week, Everton supporters are the best. It’s a big game and when you score against a big team, you are happy and give everything for the supporters.

'It was a great performance from the team. Everybody played well and it was a very good start.'

Heads up: Fellaini leaps above Carrick to nod the winner at Goodison Park

Heads up: Fellaini leaps above Carrick to nod the winner at Goodison Park

London 2012 Olympics: Athletics – Perri Shakes-Drayton misses out on 400m hurdles final

Perri misses out on a final Shakesdown after Czech runner is reinstated

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UPDATED:

23:37 GMT, 6 August 2012

Olympics 2012

For all the British athletes inspired to great heights by a Games in their own country, there will be a few who combust in the heat of the Olympic cauldron. Perri Shakes-Drayton and Holly Bleasdale crashed and burned on Monday night.

Shakes-Drayton, a local girl made good and a medal contender at 400m hurdles, failed even to qualify for the final because she was too slow in third place in her semi-final to be one of two fastest losers. ‘I am disappointed,’ she said.

For a few wonderful moments she thought a
stroke of good fortune had presented her with a second chance in
Wednesday’s final. Denisa Rosolova, of the Czech Republic, who was
faster, was disqualified for a hurdle infringement.

Failure: Shakes-Drayton missed out on the 400m hurdles final

Failure: Shakes-Drayton missed out on the 400m hurdles final

Shakes-Drayton was a finalist for 30 minutes. Then the track referee decided to reinstate the Czech, turning away British appeals.

No lucky break for another of the Rio generation, pole vaulter Bleasdale, 20. She collapsed under the pressure of expectations after a summer in which she soared to a British record of 4.87m. She – and we – were expecting much of her. Too much, too soon, we discovered.

She made hard work even of her opening height of 4.45. She failed twice and, when she finally cleared the bar, she punched the air as if she had won a medal.

The next height of 4.55 should have been
a walk in the Olympic Park for Bleasdale but she clipped the bar first
time, aborted on lift-off second time and faltered in her approach
fatefully on her final effort.

Sinking feeling: The agony shows on Bleasdale's face as she fails to go over in the pole vault

Sinking feeling: The agony shows on Bleasdale's face as she fails to go over in the pole vault

‘I am so disappointed but I will learn from this. I am only 20. It was my first Olympics. I’m heartbroken but I can still look to the future,’ she said.

Nobody vaulted well, so Bleasdale’s 4.45 made her sixth equal. World record-holder Yelena Isinbayeva, winner in 2004 and 2008, managed only 4.70 for bronze, American Jenn Suhr winning with 4.75.

Lawrence Okoye, another British 20-year-old, had experienced the same pressure earlier in the discus but the big man overcame first Olympic day nerves. For an hour the alternative career in law that a place awaiting him at Oxford offers looked an attractive possibility. His athletics was not going to plan.

His first qualifying throw nearly decapitated two photographers seated outside the throw zone. ‘My first throw was so bad,’ he said. His second dropped more than a metre short of qualifying. The ancient spires of academia seemed to be beckoning.

Job done: Okoye's final throw earned his place in the final

Job done: Okoye's final throw earned his place in the final

One left, and he tossed it 65.28m. Only Gerd Kanter, Robert Harting and Jorge Fernandez had gone further, and Okoye’s fist-pumping celebrations deserved a medal. Lisa Dobriskey, Hannah England and Laura Weightman also qualified for the 1500m semi-finals.

‘Really tough today, it took a lot to get through but tomorrow is bigger,’ Okoye said after he wrapped his massive arms around his veteran coach John Hillier.

Okoye is physically blessed at 6ft 5in with a wing span that would please an albatross but he is a diamond still unpolished. If he can be persuaded to stay in athletics he could become the world’s leading thrower by 2016, when Kanter and Harting are likely to have retired.

Under-performing Russia won their first gold in this stadium when Yuliya Zaripova won the 3,000m steeplechase. More impressively, Kirani James, 19, won tiny Grenada’s first athletics gold medal in Olympic history in the 400m.

London 2012 Olympics: Sir Roger Bannister hype created by bookies – Charles Sale

Charles Sale: Did bookies hype run on Bannister ceremony involvement

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UPDATED:

22:58 GMT, 29 July 2012


Wrong calls: Sir Roger Bannister holding the Olympic Flame

Wrong calls: Sir Roger Bannister holding the Olympic Flame

One of the mysteries of the opening ceremony is why bookmakers William Hill closed their book on the lighting of the cauldron because of bets for Sir Roger Bannister.

It is understood that Bannister, the first sub-four-minute miler, was never considered for the role as his great athletic achievements didn’t include Olympic success.

Yet William Hill have twice earned widespread publicity for themselves by hyping Bannister’s chances of being the last flame-bearer — the second time on the eve of the ceremony when they claimed the amount of support for the 83-year-old had seen his odds cut from 16-1 to evens, making the market no longer viable.

Rival bookmakers have alleged that William Hill hugely exaggerate their betting activity to gain publicity — one such incident being their boast that they expected a 1billion turnover during Grand National week.

But a William Hill spokesman said on Sunday: ‘We had 50,000 worth of bets on the lighting of the Cauldron, which we have refunded. The bets weren’t big — no more than 100 — and 98 per cent were for Bannister. We assumed someone was in the know, but it wasn’t the case.’

Hunt and Moynihan tangle

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Charles Sale: Olympic torch fans craved a Brucie bonus… but they got me!
26/07/12

Charles Sale: Nice seat LOCOG, shame about the restricted view…
25/07/12

Charles Sale: Silverstone jaunt is not the ticket
24/07/12

Charles Sale: Canadian chosen as controversial Olympic Stadium voice
23/07/12

Charles Sale: Has Ernie another steal on his mind
22/07/12

Charles Sale: Southgate's cold feet over top job at the FA
20/07/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

London 2012 organisers are adamant that they have worked out what to do to fill the empty seats without any need for the Government investigation indicated by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to which British Olympic chairman Lord Moynihan made reference on Sunday.

Moynihan, who has a spiky relationship with Hunt, was also quick to make fun of him following the blooper when the end of the bell he was ringing fell off, narrowly missing a passer-by.

Moynihan said tongue-in-cheek that Jeremy should now ring a bell to attract missing spectators into venues. A Government spokesperson said Hunt had meant LOCOG would hold the ticket inquiry but was misinterpreted because he had said ‘We’.

Sponsors, for once, are not to blame for the no-shows, but LOCOG’s threat to name and shame if their tickets are not used is complicated by the contracts which are understood to state that London 2012 do nothing to bring their backers into disrepute.

Put the keyboard down

The incessant tweets, which would have contributed to the jamming of the cycling airways, being posted by BOA chief executive Andy Hunt are genuine enough, although it can’t be long before a rogue account starts parodying them.

Slow down: Andy Hunt has been using Twitter incessantly

Slow down: Andy Hunt has been using Twitter incessantly

A Hunt special from the Opening Ceremony
read: ‘This is madtastic! Totally surreal with wall to wall screaming
and hollering for @TeamGB.’ Before the men’s road race: ‘Wow! You can
feel the tension down here at the Mall. [email protected]’ And after Lizzie
Armitstead’s silver medal: ‘Girl Power! BRILLIANT.’

BOSCO advance

Russian sports manufacturers BOSCO, who have made their first move into the British market with an outlet in Stratford’s Westfield Centre, have made a statement also with their choice of Games HQ — in exclusive Carlton Terrace overlooking The Mall. Many Olympic powerbrokers have already been wined and dined there by the kit firm, whose garish colours are being worn by Russia, Ukraine and Spain and also decorate taxis and buses.

Beeb move up a gear

BBC Sport took their own measures to improve the desperate TV coverage of the men’s cycling road race, which contained little or no information on the distances and times between riders.

Improving: The BBC covered Lizzie Armitstead's race better than the previous day's

Improving: The BBC covered Lizzie Armitstead's race better than the previous day's

The Beeb moved their commentary duo of Hugh Porter and Chris Boardman from their position at the finish in The Mall into the International Broadcast Centre for the women’s race to give them more access to the detail and did their own timing on parts of the course.

The IOC blamed the poor quality of their Olympic Broadcast Service on the scale of Twitter traffic during Mark Cavendish’s race interfering with GPS tracking and yesterday urged spectators not to tweet when riders went past. However, confusingly, IOC spokesman Mark Adams added that the Olympic body remain in favour of promoting social media.

London Olympics 2012 David Beckham says he should not light torch and reveals Team GB heartbreak

Count me out: Beckham says he should not light Olympic torch

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UPDATED:

00:49 GMT, 13 July 2012

David Beckham has said he is not the right man to light the Olympic flame to officially open the Olympics, saying that the honour should go to an Olympian who has won gold medals.

Admitting his disappointment at failing to make Stuart Pearce's squad, Beckham took himself out of the running for one of the greatest honours that can be bestowed on a sportsman or woman but offered no hint as to who should have the job of lighting the cauldron on July 27.

'I've always said, lighting the torch in the stadium is something that should be done by an Olympian… who has done incredible things for our country and won gold medals,' Beckham told reporters during an interview in Los Angeles.

No go: Beckham said he should not light the torch in the Olympic Stadium

No go: Beckham said he should not light the torch in the Olympic Stadium

And Beckham spoke of his disappointment at not joining the likes of former Manchester United team-mate Ryan Giggs in the 23-man squad.

'Obviously, all the talk of me possibly performing in the Olympics, it would have been a very proud moment for me,” said Beckham.

'Everyone knows how proud I am of representing my country and to do it in my home town on such a big stage would have been incredible so, of course, I'm disappointed, but life goes on.

'My family are healthy, I'm pretty healthy, so at the end of the day, I'll be there to support the GB team.

'It's going to be a proud moment to be there and know that I was part of bringing the Olympics to the East End of London.'

Back home: Beckham and wife Victoria were at Wimbledon last week

Back home: Beckham and wife Victoria were at Wimbledon last week

Beckham said support from family, friends and fans around the world had helped him get over the disappointment.

'The support has been incredible, the letters that I've got, phone calls that I've got,' he said. 'Of course, I've had support from my family and friends, they are the ones that care and know how disappointed I am and I was at the time.

'Like I said, life moves on and I hope the GB team go to the Olympics and win as many medals, as many gold medals as possible.'

Gareth Southgate: England should appoint sports psychologist to end penalty pain

Southgate leads the call for England to appoint sports psychologist to end penalty pain

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UPDATED:

11:58 GMT, 30 June 2012

Gareth Southgate has called on England to appoint a sports psychologist in an effort to avoid yet more penalty shoot-out pain at major tournaments.

England's latest failure in the cauldron of a shoot-out came with defeat at the hands of Italy in the Euro 2012 quarter-finals, and former England international Southgate believes the time has come for the Football Association to tackle the issue.

Pain: Ashley Young and Ashley Cole both failed to convert against Italy

Pain: Ashley Young and Ashley Cole both failed to convert against Italy

'I'm a big believer in sports psychology,' said Southgate, who missed a crucial penalty for England in a shoot-out against Germany in the semi-finals of Euro 96.

'Every major tennis player would work with somebody, every major golfer too, then everybody tells me 'football's different' but I can't see why.

'I'm sure it would have benefited me, definitely. It's not about luck. It is about performing a skill under pressure. I wasn't able to do that. I was going into the darkness. We need strategies for dealing with stress.'

History repeating itself: Southgate sees his penalty saved by Andreas Kopke in 1996

History repeating itself: Southgate sees his penalty saved by Andreas Kopke in 1996

England have lost seven of their eight shoot-outs at major tournaments – their only success coming against Spain in the last eight at Euro 96 – and Southgate believes it is no surprise that confidence has suffered.

'Now there is a long history of disappointment and it's in everybody's heads,' he added in quotes reported by several national newspapers. Our penalty history has an impact on the whole nation.'

Euro 2012: Mario Balotelli is a liability – Jamie Redknapp

Super Mario No, he's a bubbling cauldron of fury always looking for the next fight

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UPDATED:

21:40 GMT, 29 June 2012

My friend said to me the other day that Mario Balotelli reminded him of a mixture of Eric Cantona's swagger and Cristiano Ronaldo's power and skill. He went as far as to air the point on the social networking site Twitter.

If I were on Twitter too (and I'm not), I would have used my 140 characters to offer a one-word response. Nonsense.

Balotelli is like a volcano waiting to erupt, a bubbling cauldron of trouble with a giant risk of letting you down.

Looking for a fight: Balotelli is a talent, but also trouble

Looking for a fight: Balotelli is a talent,
but also trouble

Euro 2012 email button

In the stampede to salute his dazzling performance for Italy against Germany, we are forgetting that 83 days ago he was sent off for Manchester City at Arsenal and betrayed his team-mates with an outrageous act of petulance.

If Manchester United had gone about their business in their normal professional manner, that would have been the single most significant moment that cost Manchester City the title.

Instead, he is a champion – thanks mainly to the efforts of his team-mates while he was suspended – and now he may be a European champion, too.

Net gains: Balotelli scored a brace in the 2-1 semi-final victory over Germany

Net gains: Balotelli scored a brace in the 2-1 semi-final victory over Germany

He is playing his part and his goals against Germany took his country through to the final, but it was the maturity and selflessness of his performance that stood out, chasing back after the ball and supporting his team.

It is the first time I can remember him operating as a team player, rather than as an individual with that 'Why always me' rubbish.

I'm told that after the England game he was having a mandatory drugs test and was boasting that he would leave his mark on the tournament, get to the final and score.

Centre of attention: The Manchester City striker is certainly becoming box office

Centre of attention: The Manchester City striker is certainly becoming box office

I admire his confidence, but can we really say with any conviction that he will get safely through tomorrow's game without committing an act of stupidity that will cost his team I wouldn't be surprised if he gets sent off.

Look, he can be an incredible talent. He is lucky to have managers at club level, Roberto Mancini, and at international level, Cesare Prandelli, who want to protect him and tolerate him.

People will say that I don't like mavericks, but I loved playing with Paul Gascoigne, whose mischief often came with a smile. With Balotelli, he wants to do everything with a snarl, like he is seething and looking for the next fight.

Box office: But does Balotelli have the temperament to be a truly world-class player

Box office: But does Balotelli have the temperament to be a truly world-class player

Great players love their time on the training field. Ask the Manchester United players about Cantona's obsession with improving and Sir Alex Ferguson told me that Ronaldo would spend hours on the training ground mastering his art.

Balotelli, by comparison, seems to want a row every day. If he uses the maturity of his performance against Germany – and it's a big if – as the launchpad for his season and the rest of his career, he is an incredible talent.

Mancini talked about him being a world star and I disagreed strongly at the time. I'm still not convinced, although he is having a good tournament. Now all eyes are on him for the final tomorrow and he needs to keep his emotions in check and continue to play his football.

Spain will be wary of him and, if Italy can retain possession, he will get chances. He could end up topping the bill, if he can keep his temper and frustration under control. If not, who knows what will happen

He's certainly becoming box office. But I hope he doesn't waste his talent. I wish him well. Excuse me if I'm not ready yet to put him in the same bracket as Cantona, Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. I will delay my judgment on that, if you don't mind.

Let's see how long he can go without pressing the self-destruct button.

LONDON OLYMPICS 2012: Zara Phillips greeted by huge crowds at Cheltenham

Anyone still think the Olympics won't catch on… Huge crowds turn out to watch Zara Phillips clutching flame at Cheltenham

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UPDATED:

23:26 GMT, 23 May 2012

She is better known as a former world equestrian champion but Zara Phillips rode past one of Britain's most famous national hunt racing finishing posts on Wednesday.

The 31-year-old royal rode the entire length of the finishing straight at Cheltenham.

Miss Phillips was reunited with Toytown – the horse she retired last year after winning the 2006 Eventing World Championships – marking the end of day five of the Olympic torch relay.

Olympic honour: Wearing the white and grey torchbearers' uniform, the Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips took part in the fifth day of the torch relay on her beloved horse Toytown

Olympic honour: Wearing the white and grey torchbearers' uniform, the Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips took part in the fifth day of the torch relay on her beloved horse Toytown

What a sight: Huge crowds greeted Zara Phillips at Cheltenham

What a sight: Huge crowds greeted Zara Phillips at Cheltenham

More than 16,500 people, including her mother the Princess Royal, were at the racecourse to see Miss Phillips trot past the finishing post to the theme from Chariots of Fire carrying the Olympic flame.

After dismounting from Toytown she stepped on to the stage and performed the duty reserved for the last torchbearer of each day – lighting the Olympic cauldron.

From the stage, Miss Phillips, who is married to former England rugby captain Mike Tindall, told the screaming audience: 'It was unbelievable actually, I'm shaking. It was an unbelievable experience and I am massively honoured for doing it.'

Good reason to be smiling: Phillips on Toytown

Good reason to be smiling: Phillips on Toytown

Phillips praised Toytown but said he was a little nervous at first of the noise of the gas-fired torch.

'He's awesome, he done us proud,' she said. 'He loves crowds, he was just a little bit… it makes a noise, so he was worried about that.

'It's unreal the amount of people that are here. Such a massive honour.'

She said that the torch was quite heavy and her biceps were aching at the end. 'It's not too heavy when you pick it up but if you're carrying it for a little while you can feel a little burn,' she said.

Royal footsteps: Her mother, Princess Royal,received the Olympic flame in Athens last week and then carried it off the plane when it arrived in Cornwall

Another day to remember: The torch relay is already proving to be very popular

Another day to remember: The torch relay is already proving to be very popular

The Queen's granddaughter, whose mother received the Olympic flame in Greece last week, is a regular attendee at the four-day Cheltenham Festival, which has long received royal patronage.

Unusually the public were allowed on to the famous Cheltenham turf to watch the evening celebration.

The event marked the end of day five in which 129 people – including footballer Didier Drogba – were torchbearers. Thousands of screaming fans mobbed the 34-year-old striker, who has announced he is quitting Chelsea, as he carried the Olympic Flame through Swindon.

The town's bustling shopping district was turned into a sea of blue, red and white from the hundreds of Union flags, balloons and football shirts.

Man of the moment: Didier Drogba carrying the Olympic Flame on Wednesday

Man of the moment: Didier Drogba carrying the Olympic Flame on Wednesday

Also taking part in the relay was Drogba's midfield team mate Josh McEachran, 19, who ran in Calne, and two Olympic gold medallists from the 1968 Mexico City Games.

David Hemery, 67, who broke a world record when he won gold in the 400 metre hurdles, carried the torch through Royal Wootton Bassett.

Jane Holderness Roddam, 64, from Chippenham in Wiltshire, joined the relay in Shurdington, near Cheltenham. The event rider won team gold for Great Britain in Mexico City.

The 2010 World's Toughest Firefighter, Suzanne Enghed, 33, who serves with Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue, ran her leg in Cheltenham.

The oldest torchbearer of the day was Mary Wixey, 91, a former games mistress who took part in Cheltenham.

David Hemery

Ben Fox

Proud: Former Olympic champion David Hemery (left) and 16-year-old wheelchair basketball player Ben Fox (right) carry the torch on a hot day in the south west of England

All those with their moment in the spotlight had to brave the sweltering temperatures as the mercury reached 25C across Bristol, west Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.

The fifth day started with a mishap when the Olympic torch convoy missed a turning in north Somerset – causing a 10-minute delay to the relay.

Bristol's Clifton Suspension Bridge was lit up with an impressive display of fireworks as Commonwealth Games gold medal winner Rebecca Pantaney stepped on to the Grade I-listed structure.

A total of 8,000 people will carry the flame on its 8,000 mile, 70-day journey to the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on July 27.