Tag Archives: dangerous

Neil Lennon tells his Celtic side to be fearless against Spartak Moscow

Show no fear: Lennon tells his Bhoys to be bold in bid for glory

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UPDATED:

00:25 GMT, 5 December 2012

Neil Lennon has urged his Celtic side to show no fear in their quest to march into the last 16 of the Champions League.

Scotland’s champions must beat a Spartak Moscow side in turmoil at Parkhead, whilst trusting Barcelona to take care of business against Benfica at the Nou Camp.

No Scottish side have ever qualified for the knock-out stages with 10 points.

Task is clear: Neil Lennon oversees training at Lennoxtown ahead of his side's final group game against Spartak Moscow

Task is clear: Neil Lennon oversees training at Lennoxtown ahead of his side's final group game against Spartak Moscow

Desperate to avoid being only the eighth club in the competition’s history to crash out with of the group stages with such a high points tally, however, Lennon will urge his players to put their insipid domestic form behind them and embrace a bold approach.

'I think we’ve got to go for it,' said the Celtic boss.

'This is their moment and they might never get this opportunity again.

'I am not going to put any extra pressure on them, I just want them to go and play as we can at home on a European night. Aggressively and with a good tempo to the game.

'We have got players who can score goals. We’ve got flare players in the team who can rise to the occasion.

Final preparations: The Celtic squad train ahead of their Champions League match against Spartak Moscow

Final preparations: The Celtic squad train ahead of their Champions League match against Spartak Moscow

'So you are hoping that will all encompass itself on the one night.

'They are capable of doing it.

'Spartak are a dangerous team, but they haven’t got the calibre of Barcelona. I’m not too sure they have the structure of Benfica, either, or the way they play.

'But they do have a lot of flare in their team as well.'

Missing the suspended Victor Wanyama Lennon seems certain to gamble on the fitness of captain Scott Brown, with Beram Kayal and Joe Ledley also fit.

Celtic know that their efforts will all be in vein if Benfica pull off a shock win in Barcelona against a home side already safely through to the knock-out stages.

Job to do: Celtic captain Scott Brown (right) speaks to team-mate Kris Commons at training

Job to do: Celtic captain Scott Brown (right) speaks to team-mate Kris Commons at training

With a shrug, however, Lennon admits he can do nothing to affect events elsewhere.

After winning just two of their last six Celtic have enough to contend with getting their own form right.

'I just have to try and make sure we win our game. I have to focus on that. If Benfica win in Barcelona, so be it. We would have to congratulate them on doing that.

'That would be a magnificent effort from their point of view. We have to make them win, so the onus is on us to win at home.

'Of course Benfica could win. There is always that scenario with the unpredictability of football. While that is at the back of mind, right at the forefront of it is winning our game.

'It will be difficult, it will be tense. We are playing a team who are coming here with nothing to really play for but their pride. They are very dangerous coming forward, but they do concede goals. So it is there for us.

'I'm not saying we will win it, but if we play as well as we can we have a good chance.

'If we don’t we would still have made progress in Europe this season and we would have the Europa League in the New Year anyway. But we all want the big one.'

Rugby World Cup 2015: Dan Carter assesses the teams

Now that England have beaten us, they must use home advantage in 2015

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 2 December 2012

One thing is certain when the draw for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, to be held in England, is made on Monday— defending champions New Zealand are already the favourites.

Here the All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter gives his assessment of the teams most likely to challenge his country.

AUSTRALIA

They are always a dangerous side. Australia do not have the depth of some of the other top teams, but they always produce their share of very talented players.

Given they do not have quite that depth, it is going to be important they do not get too many injuries. At the moment they have a young side who are only going to get better.

Flying high: Australia will be contenders at the next World Cup

Flying high: Australia will be contenders at the next World Cup

Australia are going to learn a lot from the Lions series next year and I am sure that when the World Cup comes around they are going to be a genuine threat. Their back line are especially talented, and can break open any team in the world.

SOUTH AFRICA

I have watched them a lot lately. It has been a long season for South Africa and they are in something of a transition.

They have a new coach and lost some key players after the last World Cup and are looking towards the future as well, but you can already see some younger guys coming through. They will have learned a lot this year.

Traditionally South Africa are a very strong side physically, with immense power, and you always know that it is going to be a huge battle with them. There are very big men up front who can really take it to the opposition, and they service their backs very well.

FRANCE

The French have really impressed me. We all know what happened at the last World Cup and once they got to the knockout stages they played fantastically well. We saw in this autumn series, with that big win over Australia, what they are capable of and that will have been great for French confidence.

In with a shout: France can blow hot and cold at major tournaments

In with a shout: France can blow hot and cold at major tournaments

Of course there is always this thing about them that you are never quite sure what you are going to get, but they are able to beat any side on their day and are another nation who always produce their share of very talented players.

When everything comes together France are very strong.

ARGENTINA

They are genuine outside contenders and have always shown what they can do at World Cups. They have had a history of catching teams by surprise, maybe because people have seen them less than other sides.

Now that they are playing Australia, New Zealand and South Africa on a regular basis they might lose some surprise, but that will be outweighed by the experience it gives them. Argentina beat Wales convincingly the other week and by the time the competition comes round you would fully expect them to be better. I’m impressed by their loose forwards, workaholics who love the rough stuff.

They scrummage well and the backs are skilful.

ENGLAND

When you are hosting the World Cup it is important to see it as wholly a positive thing and not a burden. Some people can feel the pressure because of the expectation — we know about that in New Zealand. But as an individual player you have to think that it does not get any better than this, playing at home in familiar surroundings, and that you are going to use it to your advantage and embrace the challenge.

On form: England impressed in beating New Zealand on Saturday

On form: England impressed in beating New Zealand on Saturday

If England do that then they are going to be very difficult to beat. They are still experimenting a little bit at the moment and developing a lot of players. The World Cup is three years away so they have plenty of time. I am sure they will develop more consistency in the next couple of years.

WALES

I know they have had some disappointing results, but I would not worry too much. The form they showed at the last World Cup suggested they can be real contenders. I would say the last month has been more of a hiccup that they will have learned from. You always feel this sense of pride they have when you play Wales.

Some of the younger guys like Sam Warburton have put their hands up and it is important that those guys who have already shown they can do it at the highest level now push on in their careers so others can follow. It looks to me like they have quite a few good young players who will emerge.

SCOTLAND

They have had their struggles in the last few years, but they love their rugby and are a very proud nation. I am sure they will be working hard to turn things around. The new coach will have quite a bit to work with, although they are never going to have quite the depth of England, which makes it even more important that they properly develop their best players.

IRELAND

A quality side with world-class players. I always find it a tough match playing against Ireland. They have a strong mental edge and are the kind of team who, if they get on a roll with some confidence, are a hard team to play against.

Tough: Ireland are hard to beat when they're on top form

Tough: Ireland are hard to beat when they're on top form

You have to start well against them and they are a try-scoring team, so you have to stop them getting that momentum. At the moment Ireland have got some fantastic players with a lot of experience and I guess there is going to be a job over the next few years blending the experience with younger players who are going to come through. I really enjoyed watching their recent game with Argentina.

An outsider to watch out for

If you look at the Pacific Island nations there are some great individuals now playing all around the world. These are tough teams to play against, as Samoa and Tonga have shown recently. They seem to love playing against the bigger nations and never hold back. They love the physical side of the game, so if any bigger team has a bad day against them they are likely to be in trouble.

Interview: Mike Dickson

Carly Booth trying to end golf"s old school traditions

Booth and Co aim to end golf's old school traditions

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UPDATED:

23:56 GMT, 2 December 2012

Carly Booth is a 20-year-old Scottish golfer who is third on the European Ladies’ Tour order of merit, having earned around 130,000 in prize money and won two tournaments in 2012.

We spoke on the phone last week, as Booth was playing in the Hero Women’s Indian Open, and talk turned to the future of the women’s game.

After all, golf will be an Olympic sport — for men and women — in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, one in four regular golfers in Europe are female and prize money on the European Ladies’ Tour has risen 7,700 per cent in three decades.

Success: Carly Booth celebrates winning the Scottish Open earlier this year

Success: Carly Booth celebrates winning the Scottish Open earlier this year

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But, despite the guff on the R&A’s website about golf being the game of ‘honesty, integrity and courtesy’, Booth is not allowed to be a member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. ‘Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden’: isn’t that how it goes Although, silly me, that’s an old wives’ tale.

The Augusta National Golf Club admitted two female members last year but Muirfield, which will host the 2013 Open, is still a male-only organisation — ‘although ladies can play as guests or visitors every day of the week’. There is also a ‘small’ ladies’ locker room. How thoughtful of them.

‘Some courses will always have that old school tradition,’ said Booth. ‘But Augusta even had two lady members, so I’m sure they will change.

‘It’s not just Muirfield. Lots of places have separate male and female clubhouses. I don’t see why. It just isn’t right.’

There are ladies-only clubs as well, of course, but they will not host one of the greatest tournaments in sport. That is why we should get our knickers in a twist over this one: not because it’s the whim of a private club or because male golfers particularly care, but because it suggests, once again, that sportswomen are second-class citizens.

It’s against this backdrop that Booth took up the game, looking up to Annika Sorenstam but immersing herself in the men’s game and playing, even as a junior, with men ‘because there weren’t any girls to play with’. Things, however, are improving all the time.

‘The ladies’ game is definitely developing,’ says Booth. ‘There are so many lady golfers now. It’s things like how we dress; trying to get out there.

‘We want as much support as we can in the future so hopefully we can have more sponsorship, tournaments and money.’

Mission: Booth hopes to help bring an end to the male dominance of golf

Mission: Booth hopes to help bring an end to the male dominance of golf

Wait a minute: ‘How we dress’ Booth
is a beautiful young woman and I understand her desire to wear what she
wants to work (Ian Poulter has made a very nice sideline out of it), but
the phrase instantly jarred. Why should that matter ‘I make an effort
to look nice,’ she replies. ‘Match your shoes with your earrings,
something like that. You dress nice, you putt nice.

‘It all helps to make it more appealing. It might help to get more younger girls involved in the game, too.’

More appealing to whom, I wonder. Sex sells, but it does not always lead to a long-term commitment. Saying female athletes must be ‘feminine’ — in the stereotypical sense of the word — is a dangerous game.

But then I cannot help but smile at the idea of a lady golfer one day strolling into the clubhouse at Muirfield head to toe in pink, a fully-fledged member of the old boys’ club. Just because she wants to — and just because she can. And that’s the ultimate aim, after all.

Sky Sports HD has live coverage of the Dubai Ladies Masters between December 6-8 as part of the year-round schedule of women’s golf.

Tweet of the week

Former Australia international David Campese on the Sydney Morning
Herald’s new female rugby writer. ‘Why does the smh get a girl to write
about rugby….now we have someone who has no idea about the game!’ he
wrote, before deleting his tweet. It just shows you the danger of making
assumptions. Anyone would think he was a bloke who always thought he
was right and did not have a clue about journalism.

Main man: Bradley Wiggins

Main man: Bradley Wiggins

This is what I've been doing this week

Watching A Year in Yellow, a documentary about Bradley Wiggins’ last 12 months. I struggled with the claims that he is a staunchly private individual (delivered, with apparently no hint of irony, while being filmed in his garden shed or at his nan’s house), but it was impossible not to warm to him. Great Britain’s head cycling coach, Shane Sutton, was the star of the show.

Listening to a podcast of London 2012: What Now a BBC Radio 5 Live show about how athletes deal with the comedown after an Olympic Games. It was fascinating. Whether athletes’ dedication to their sport produces glory or devastation, what happens next Either way, they must be impossible to live with.

Pleased to see Nicola Adams included on the shortlist for BBC Sports Personality of the Year. The ‘personality’ bit seems to stand for the athlete who conjured up a moment that was the most personal to you and Adams’ history-making fight was right up there for me. So were David Weir’s four Paralympic golds, which totally transformed my view on disability sport.

Performance of the week

The men’s thrilling win at Twickenham on Saturday was a wonderful warm-up but England’s women then went on to complete a 3-0 series win against New Zealand with a 32-23 victory. Stop thinking ‘but it’s only the women’ and read that again: a 3-0 series win against the world champions, New Zealand. That is phenomenal.

England v New Zealand preview with Jonathan Poff, Bryn Evans and Ben Botica

A foot in both camps: Kiwi Premiership stars give their verdict on England v New Zealand

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UPDATED:

15:21 GMT, 29 November 2012

Ahead of England's final QBE autumn international series fixture against New Zealand at Twickenham this Saturday, Sportsmail caught up with three men in the know to discuss the chances of both sides.

Kiwi trio Jonathan Poff, Bryn Evans and Ben Botica all ply their trade in the Aviva Premiership for London Wasps, London Irish and Harlequins respectively, and as such they have a vast knowledge of the game in both countries.

With the help of Aviva, we managed to track them down in the Turks Head pub in Twickenham to hear their views on the mammoth task that England face against the world champions, while also discussing the wider issues facing English rugby.

Here's how it went…

Pub grub: (left to right) Botica, Evans and Poff share their views ahead of Saturday's game

Pub grub: (left to right) Botica, Evans and Poff share their views ahead of Saturday's game

FACTFILES

Name: Jonathan Poff
Age: 29
Club: London Wasps
Position: Openside flanker
Previous clubs: Tasman, Crusaders

Name: Bryn Evans
Age: 28
Club: London Irish
Position: Lock
Previous clubs: Hawke's Bay, Blues, Hurricanes
New Zealand caps: 2

Name: Ben Botica
Age: 23
Club: Harlequins
Position: Fly-half
Previous clubs: North Harbour, Perigueux

The All Blacks have beaten Scotland, Italy and Wales so far this autumn, but what have you made of the quality of their performances on tour

Poff: I think they haven't quite hit full throttle yet, but they have definitely shown glimpses of what they can do. To not play particularly well and still record comfortable victories shows just how good they are though.

Evans: There is definitely a bit more in the tank. They have had to switch the team up quite a bit, but the boys coming in have taken their chances and are playing well, they still look full of fitness and full of running and they look like a dangerous side with nothing to lose.

Botica: The scorelines might not reflect it but Scotland tested the All Blacks for a while and so did Italy. They won't be happy with how they have started their games but they have finished them strongly.

Is it the sheer strength in depth that New Zealand possess what sets them apart from other international sides

Evans: The Super Rugby competition creates a platform to bring these young guys in. People that are straight out of school – 18, 19 – have the chance to show what they can do and often they are straight into a Super Rugby contract. So with the competition and the challenges coming up it's great to know that there are a lot of them back home waiting to step in.

Botica: At first receiver (fly-half) it is ridiculous to see how much talent is coming through. You have got Beauden Barrett there and Aaron Cruden stepping into Dan Carter's shoes, which is not an easy task, but they are both playing great rugby and kicking well and doing everything you are supposed to be doing well. The depth of the squad is just amazing.

Evans: In my position at lock you've got guys like Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano and Brodie Retallick all coming through and performing at a level which at their age is pretty special. They can only get stronger from there.

Formidable: The All Blacks have won three from three so far this autumn

Formidable: The All Blacks have won three from three so far this autumn

Formidable: The All Blacks have won three from three so far this autumn

Formidable: The All Blacks have won three from three so far this autumn

Can you see any side being able to challenge New Zealand in the immediate future

Evans: Being based here in the UK you can definitely see that England have the young guys coming through as well and there is a lot of talent there. You have got Joe Launchbury coming through who played at the weekend against South Africa and did well. You have got guys on the bench coming through like my team-mate Jonathan Joseph, so there are exciting players there. If England can keep those players together, get that core and build on that, there is no reason why they can't challenge the All Blacks in years to come.

The All Blacks only select players based in New Zealand, but are the RFU right in insisting that players must play their club rugby in the Premiership if they want to play in England

Poff: South Africa have all their players playing all over the world and it doesn't seem to hurt them, so I think someone like Steffon Armitage, who is playing incredibly well over in France, should have the opportunity to play for England.

Evans: New Zealand have stuck to that policy quite strongly but I suppose it is quite a unique situation for England because you have got France in such close proximity. It could be quite easy to allow it, whereas in New Zealand I can see the problems with trying to get players to travel the length of the world to try and and get them to go back and play. It is definitely something that England need to look at.

High hopes: Evans gathers lineout ball for London Irish as Poff (left) prepares to pounce

High hopes: Evans gathers lineout ball for London Irish as Poff (left) prepares to pounce

What do England need to do to win on Saturday

Botica: England just have to make sure they capitalise on every opportunity they get, which is the same for the All Blacks. The All Blacks are the best side in the world at capitalising on opportunities, that is why they are so good, so England need to do the same. Every time they get a chance they need to turn it into points. When the pressure is on it is the little things that count. England have got to throw caution to the wind and just go for it I reckon. Don't kick away unnecessary ball and don't wait for the All Blacks to make a mistake, because they rarely do. Kicking the ball away is not going to do them any favours so I think they just need to hold on to it and go for it.

Poff: As Ben said, they really need to take their opportunities. They might only get two or three opportunities in the game. Turnover ball is going to be very important in how they use it, whether they kick it away or attack wide and attack the space.

Bryn, in terms of the set-piece, how do you think England are going to fare against the All Blacks

Evans: The scrum has always been a strong area for England. In the Premiership a lot of people pride themselves on the scrum, so I think that is where they will try and have a crack, and obviously they have got to win their lineout ball as well. They have definitely got the players capable of troubling New Zealand in those areas.

Key area: (left to right) Dan Cole, Tom Youngs and Alex Corbisiero will have to be at their best at the scrum

Key area: (left to right) Dan Cole, Tom Youngs and Alex Corbisiero will have to be at their best at the scrum

A lot has been said about England not having a natural openside. It is your position Jonathan, would you agree with that sentiment

Poff: The game has changed. You see a lot of teams instead of having experts just having three big guys in the back row. I guess it is down to the coach's preference but every team has got to have scavenger in their team, whether it be starting or on the bench. Modern day loose forwards are usually able to operate in all three positions, but that is one area I am really looking forward to at the weekend, seeing how the No 7 battle turns out around the breakdown and the tackle area.

Is Chris Robshaw a natural openside flanker

Poff: That is where he has been playing and he is strong around the ball and around the tackle area. He is probably one of those forwards who can play any position in the back row, which is a good a card to have in your back pocket as well. If you are a specialist No 7 it obviously helps but personally I think it is good to have players who can play a number of positions.

Robshaw has come under a lot of criticism in recent weeks for his decision-making as captain. Ben, he is your skipper at Harlequins, do you think the public have been a bit harsh on him

Botica: As a captain it is not the easiest thing making those tough decisions. You get help from your team but at the end of the day it is your decision and whatever you say is final. In the pressure moments it can either go one way or the other and unfortunately it didn't quite work out for England on Saturday, but there is no doubt that Chris is a great leader.

Under pressure: Robshaw's decision-making against South Africa was criticised

Under pressure: Robshaw's decision-making against South Africa was criticised

What needs to change in this country if England are ever to challenge the southern hemisphere sides

Evans: Coming over here it seems to me that a lot of the teams do a lot of the stuff that we do back home as well. I think it is more about developing skill sets, especially in forwards where they can be uncomfortable being caught out wide, they need to be able to use their ball skills. The All Blacks can go through five or six pairs of hands and it doesn't matter what number is on their back, they are all capable of scoring a try in the corner. Growing up in New Zealand, that is what all players try and go out there and do, so it's just about honing those skills from a young age.

Bryn, you have picked up a couple of caps for the All Blacks, do you feel a foot taller when you are wearing that black shirt

Evans: It is special to put on that jersey and it definitely gives you a bit of a lift, but at the end of the day, if you are playing against that team they have still got two arms and two legs, so you have just got to go out there and just play rugby. If you don't have that belief, there is no point taking the field.

Ben, do you think Owen Farrell and Freddie Burns have the ability to challenge the All Blacks and control the game from fly-half

Botica: Definitely. Especially Freddie Burns, his kicking is dead accurate and the way he controls the game is great. He is always taking the line on which is a big thing at international level. Attacking the line and being able to distribute is a great talent, so it will be interesting to see if Freddie gets a go. They will start with Owen, but it would be good to see Freddie get a go from the bench.

Starting role: Owen Farrell (centre) will wear the No 10 jersey on Saturday

Starting role: Owen Farrell (centre) will wear the No 10 jersey on Saturday

What are your predictions for Saturday

Poff: All Blacks by 35.

Evans: All Blacks by 10.

Botica: All Blacks by 25.

Aviva is the proud sponsor of Aviva Premiership Rugby. For more information, visit www.avivapremiershiprugby.com

Laura Williamson tries taekwondo

I won't be fighting in Rio but you could as taekwondo seeks new stars

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UPDATED:

22:09 GMT, 25 November 2012

Sarah Stevenson, the first British athlete to win an Olympic medal in taekwondo, is trying to teach me how to kick.

This is no mean feat, considering I am about as flexible as the tin man from The Wizard of Oz, but she offers a kind appraisal of my efforts with my right leg.

My left leg, however, is ‘crap’. She doesn’t mince her words, Stevenson, though they are delivered with a smile.

Scroll down to watch a video of Laura in training

Full stretch: Laura Williamson tries out taekwondo with Sarah Stevenson at the UK centre in Manchester

Full stretch: Laura Williamson tries out taekwondo with Sarah Stevenson at the UK centre in Manchester

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Laura Williamson: It was just great, and thank you for putting sport first
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VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

‘You can be the best kicker in the
world,’ she adds, more encouragingly, ‘but if you haven’t got the bottle
in this sport there’s no point doing it.

‘I’ve
seen lots of champions in the gym. They’re amazing with their kicking
but they can’t fight. You’ve got do what needs to be done in the ring.’

This, I quickly realise, is part of the ‘hardcore attitude’ that got Stevenson to the Olympics despite a 12-month ordeal nobody should ever have to endure. After becoming world champion in May 2011 she lost her father Roy to a brain tumour in July and then her mother, Diana, to cancer in October.

It almost seems insignificant in comparison, but Stevenson then had surgery to repair cruciate ligament damage in February this year – and yet still made it onto the mat at London 2012. The 29-year-old from Doncaster lost in the first round, but just getting there represented a quite remarkable achievement.

It is this kind of extraordinary ‘bottle’ GB Taekwondo want as they aim to recruit the next wave of Sarah Stevensons in the run up to the Rio Olympics in 2016. Keen to build on the success of the London Games, where Jade Jones won gold in the -57kg category and Lutalo Muhammad – who came through the Talent 2012 scheme – a bronze at -87kg, they are looking for males and females aged between 16 and 26 who have enjoyed national success in a kick-based martial art to transfer to Olympic taekwondo. The only criteria I fit is being female, before you ask.

‘I’d want to see a decent amount of technique,’ said Stevenson, ‘but if they’ve got a good attitude with some all right kicking skills, you can’t teach that.

‘I never really saw any (girls) with that fighting spirit, like I thought I had, until little Jade Jones came along.

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‘Just because you’re a girl doesn’t mean you can’t do this sport. We need to get more girls and we need more depth.

‘Imagine if the girls had the depth as well as the talent we’ve already got We would be smashing it, wouldn’t we’

Stevenson and Jones are used to training with the boys. They believe it has contributed to their success, but it can be demoralising winning only occasionally in sparring sessions, while the timing is different to fighting a girl.

They accept there are stigmas attached to taekwondo that could be off-putting for female athletes – ‘little Jade Jones’ rolls her eyes at the fact people always expect her to be ‘this big, hulk-looking type person’ – but extol the impact it has had on their confidence and self-belief.

Potential: Laura worked with London Olympian Stevenson as part of taekwondo's drive for Rio

Potential: Laura worked with London Olympian Stevenson as part of taekwondo's drive for Rio

Potential: Laura worked with London Olympian Stevenson

‘You do change,’ says Stevenson. ‘You’re not this girl, you’re an athlete. You don’t think about being a girl. You think: “Come on. We’re having a fight.”

‘If you’re going to sign up then you’ve got to know that this is not easy. This is the hardest thing you’re ever going to do.

‘But hopefully it’s going to help other girls to get involved and to be that other person they want to be, rather than sitting at home in pink putting make up on.’

Stevenson pauses and smiles again.

‘You can do that at a weekend,’ she adds.

If you are involved in martial arts and want to find out more about Fighting Chance:Battle4Brazil go to www.uksport.gov.uk/talent.

WHAT I’VE BEEN DOING THIS WEEK…

Visiting Barcelona for the IAAF Athlete of the Year awards, won by Usain Bolt and Allyson Felix. Bolt’s ‘double double’ – becoming the first man to win the Olympic 100-metre and 200m titles at consecutive Olympics – was incredible, but David Rudisha would have got my vote. The Kenyan’s world record-breaking 800m run in London was an extraordinary sporting performance in a stellar year for athletics.

Listening to Arsene Wenger talk about the ‘completely emotional’ world of football on Tuesday.

Winners: Usain Bolt and Allyson Felix were named athletes of the year

Winners: Usain Bolt and Allyson Felix were named athletes of the year

Now they speak of (Roberto) Di Matteo (getting sacked),’ said the Arsenal boss, with incredulity in his voice. ‘He’s just won the Champions League and the FA Cup!’ Some 16 hours later, Di Matteo was out of a job.

Emotional Football this week been more like someone eating their body weight in chocolate and sobbing uncontrollably over a series of rom-coms: completely irrational.

Noting QPR’s decision to announce Mark Hughes’ dismissal via Twitter on Friday. There’s more than a hint of irony there, given the Welshman’s obvious – and understandable – unease with Joey Barton and Tony Fernandes’ propensity to express their opinions in 140 characters.

THEY SAID WHAT

A chap called AJ McArthur is the commissioner of the – wait for it – Bikini Basketball Association, an eight-team league of players (wearing sports bras and tight shorts) with ‘looks, personality and playing ability’, which is slated to start in America next spring.

‘The main point,’ said McArthur, ‘is that this is a sport everyone loves.’ No, I definitely don’t think that’s the main point of this particular endeavour.

PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK

The England women’s rugby union team came back from 13-3 down to defeat the world champions, New Zealand, 16-13 on Friday. England are now unbeaten in four matches against the Black Ferns. Roll on the next clash on Tuesday.

Carlo Cudicini wants UEFA to punish Lazio after Tottenham fans attacked

Appalled Cudicini wants UEFA to act after Italian fans attack Spurs supporters

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UPDATED:

00:40 GMT, 24 November 2012

Carlo Cudicini has called on UEFA to consider drastic action to end Italy’s football-related violence after the attack on Tottenham fans in city he once called home.

Fans were stabbed and one seriously hurt during a terrifying attack on a pub by a masked gang ahead of Thursday’s game between Lazio and Spurs.

Tottenham’s Italian goalkeeper told his Twitter followers that he felt 'ashamed' and, as arrests were made in Rome, urged the authorities to act.

Scroll down for video

Stop this: Carlo Cudicini is appalled at the behaviour of his countrymen

Stop this: Carlo Cudicini is appalled at the behaviour of his countrymen

Overshadowed: Ultras ran amok in Rome's Drunken Ship pub on Wednesday night, injuring several Spurs fans

Overshadowed: Ultras ran amok in Rome's Drunken Ship pub on Wednesday night, injuring several Spurs fans

BLATTER'S CONCERN

FIFA president showed his concern for Tottenham fans on twitter.

@SeppBlatter: 'Distressed to read about attack on THFC fans in Rome. Fans should be able to watch their team safely & not end up in hospital.'

'If this is keeping happening, UEFA
has to do something,' said Cudicini. 'I can’t think about Italy as a
dangerous place to come. If this keeps happening then something has to
be done.'

English football was once a by-word
for violence and English teams were banned by UEFA from European
competitions until these issues were tackled.

'England can become a role model for
all nations,' said Cudicini. 'It’s a country that should be looked at in
terms of how to solve the hooligan problems.

'Now there are not a lot of incidents
in England and the English stadiums have places for families to go and
for children to come and watch matches.” Spurs fan Ashley Mills needed
emergency surgery after suffering stab wounds to his groin and head
injuries during the attack on the Drunken Ship pub in Campo de’ Fiori.
Ten others were hurt.

'I can’t really understand it,' said
Cudicini. 'Italy has never been a violent place to come, even when lots
of Italian teams were in Europe and lots of away supporters were going
everywhere.

'It is a general moment of economic difficulties but that’s not an excuse. I don’t know why they did that.

Furious: Andre Villas-Boas greets Lazio counterpart Vladimir Petkovic after the match - but the Portuguese was livid with the home fans

Furious: Andre Villas-Boas (left) greets Lazio counterpart Vladimir Petkovic after the match – but the Portuguese was livid with the home fans

'When I was playing in Italy we looked
at England like it was a very dangerous place to go and I’ve found it
quite strange that now it’s the opposite.

'I imagine people travelling to Rome
to look at the city and watch the game and suddenly they find out other
people out there are trying to almost kill them.

'It’s shocking. Hopefully the people are better and the family is OK. That is the main thing.'

Rome police and Lazio claimed the
attack was the work of a neo-Nazi group unconnected to football with
anti-Semitic motives, targeting Spurs because of their Jewish links.
Among those arrested yesterday were two known Roma fans.

Spelling it out: Lazio fans display a banner and Palestine flags at the Stadio Olympico

Spelling it out: Lazio fans display a banner and Palestine flags at the Stadio Olympico

'Whether they are from right or left
it’s not been a problem before,' said Cudicini. 'Every supporter has
different political views but that doesn’t mean they have to go around
trying to kill people.'

UEFA are also investigating reports of
anti-Semitic chants during the Europa League tie in the Olympic
Stadium. The FA, who sent a crowd control advisor to the match, will
submit a report to UEFA.

Italian football federation president
Giancarlo Abete has apologised to Tottenham, its fans and the families
of those injured in a letter to his British counterpart, David
Bernstein. Abete pledged to follow the investigation personally.

'Unfortunately once again, football
has been the occasion for a group of delinquents to vent their racist
and anti-Semitic rage, given that this was undoubtedly the motive of an
assault that damaged Italian football’s image and doesn’t correspond
with Rome’s tradition of hospitality,' Abete wrote.

No way through: Lazio and Spurs conjured a goalless draw

No way through: Lazio and Spurs conjured a goalless draw

VIDEO: Eyewitness describes the horrific scene…

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Michael Carrick urges United to tighten up and not to rely on fabled powers of comeback

Carrick urges United to tighten up and not to rely on fabled powers of comeback

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UPDATED:

23:57 GMT, 22 November 2012

Michael Carrick has warned that Manchester United cannot rely on their fabled powers of recovery if they want to regain the Premier League title and progress in Europe this season.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have conceded the first goal in a staggering 12 of their 19 games so far. They have come back to win on eight of those occasions, but successive 1-0 defeats to Norwich and Galatasaray have proved what a dangerous habit it can be.

Tuesday’s defeat in Istanbul was the fourth time in five Champions League ties that United have fallen behind in a relatively easy Group H that includes CFR Cluj and SC Braga.

Comeback kings: But Michael Carrick (left) has warned Manchester United about falling behind so frequently

Comeback kings: But Michael Carrick (left) has warned Manchester United about falling behind so frequently

They have already qualified for the knockout stages but Carrick knows that Europe’s bigger clubs will not be quite so easy to peg back if the trend continues.

‘Over the season we have managed to come back but it’s not ideal and you can’t do it all the time,’ said the England midfielder, who was used as a centre-back in the Ali Sami Yen Stadium.

‘We need to make things a lot easier for ourselves by scoring the first goal and play from there.

‘It showed at Norwich on Saturday when we conceded the first goal and it was difficult to come back, and again against Galatasaray.

‘It’s not ideal. It’s just a phase we’re going through. The positive is that we have come back and we have scored enough goals, although not on Saturday, so we have got things to improve upon.’

Losing streak: United have lost their last two games by a single-goal margin with Anthony Pilkington securing three Premier League points for Norwich

Losing streak: United have lost their last two games by a single-goal margin with Anthony Pilkington securing three Premier League points for Norwich

Losing captain Nemanja Vidic until after Christmas has undoubtedly hit United hard, and the return of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones – who made his first appearance of the season in Istanbul – have so far failed to solve the problems.

Ferguson has blamed his players’ lack of concentration but otherwise United are baffled as to why they are conceding from so many different situations.

‘It’s hard to say, to be honest,’ added Carrick. ‘I’ll agree with the boss and say concentration but it’s hard to put your finger on it.

‘It’s different things, different types of goals we’re conceding, so it’s not as if there is one particular problem.

‘But I’m sure we can put it right. We’ve had issues in the past and put them right, and overall we’re not in bad shape.’

Wounded tigers: Carrick is determined that United get back to winning ways at Old Trafford

Wounded tigers: Carrick is determined that United get back to winning ways at Old Trafford

It is almost unthinkable that United should lose a third game in a row considering Saturday’s visitors to Old Trafford are bottom club QPR who are still without a Premier League win after 12 games.

‘It’s massively important for us to bounce back,’ said Carrick. ‘We are normally very good at that and after losing back-to-back games we will look to do that.

‘QPR have got a good squad of players and hopefully Mark Hughes can turn it round – although not starting on Saturday.

‘I’ve been there myself with West Ham and I know how difficult it can be. We had a good squad of players but for whatever reason it just didn’t work for us.

‘It’s a hard league and sometimes when you buy players and a couple of results don’t go for you early in the season, it suddenly becomes harder to win a game.’

Bradley Wiggins and Shane Sutton road accidents lead calls for government safety drive

Wiggins and Sutton road accidents lead calls for government safety drive

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UPDATED:

08:38 GMT, 9 November 2012

Two separate road accidents involving Bradley Wiggins and the Tour de France winner’s mentor Shane Sutton have prompted British Cycling to call for a new Government-led safety drive.

Wiggins’ accident was followed less than 24 hours later by a serious injury to British Cycling’s head coach Sutton, right-hand man to performance director Dave Brailsford.

Wiggins has been released from hospital after a vehicle collided with him on Wednesday evening but Sutton suffered bleeding on the brain following a road accident while on his bike in Manchester on Thursday morning.

Released: Wiggins was hit by a vehicle on Wednesday evening

Released: Wiggins was hit by a vehicle on Wednesday evening

Released: Wiggins was hit by a vehicle on Wednesday evening

A British Cycling spokeswoman said: 'It is extremely rare that our riders and coaches are hurt while out cycling on the road, even rarer that two incidents should occur in a short space of time, and we wish Shane and Bradley a speedy recovery.

'Cycling is not an intrinsically dangerous activity but there is much more to be done to improve conditions for cyclists on the roads.

'British Cycling is calling on the government to put cycling at the heart of transport policy to ensure that cycle safety is built into the design of all new roads, junctions and transport projects, rather than being an afterthought.'

Sutton was wearing a helmet when he was in collision with a Peugeot 206 being driven by a 61-year-old man in Levenshulme.

The British Cyclist spokeswoman added: 'Shane was taken into hospital where it was identified he has suffered bruising and bleeding on the brain.

'Shane was wearing a helmet. He is set to undergo more tests, and is likely to stay in hospital for the next few days.'

Hospitalised: Sutton (left) suffered bruising and bleeding on the brain

Hospitalised: Sutton (left) suffered bruising and bleeding on the brain

After the unfortunate coincidence Brailsford said a greater awareness of cycle safety should be a 'legacy' of the Olympic Games.

Brailsford told the BBC that drivers must understand how vulnerable cyclists can be on the roads.

He said: 'It’s very rare that we have too many accidents … on a day to day basis, but we’ve got to put safety first and I think we would encourage our riders to ride as safely as possible.

'Maybe a legacy of the Games could be a greater awareness and understanding of cycle safety and just how vulnerable they can be on the roads.'

Wiggins, 32, was thrown off his bike when a white Vauxhall Astra Envoy is thought to have pulled out of a petrol station and collided with him.

A police source said his injuries from the crash were thought to be very serious at first, but later it appeared he suffered a number of broken ribs and cuts and bruises.

He was released from hospital on Thursday afternoon.

Awareness: Brailsford (left) has called for increased road safety

Awareness: Brailsford (left) has called for increased road safety

The accident happened at about 6pm on Wednesday in Wrightington, Lancashire, which is near to his family home in Eccleston.

Father-of-two Wiggins is known to regularly embark on training rides around the area’s rural roads.

British Cycling director of policy and legal affairs Martin Gibbs believes Britain has a lot to learn from abroad where there is greater provision on the roads for cyclists.

He told BBC Radio Five Live: 'These incidents do remind you that we’ve got a long way to go we need to look to our cousins abroad and [Denmark capital] Copenhagen and see what they’ve done.

'Around 30 per cent of people making journeys there do so on their bike. We need the department of transport to stop thinking of cycling as an add-on.'

Australian Sutton, 55, has worked with the GB Cycling team since 2002 and has been credited with playing a major role in transforming the fortunes of the sport in this country.

He was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2010 for his services to sport.

Liam Gallagher in the bad books: Etihad Stadium match zone

Etihad Stadium match zone: Liam Gallagher in the bad books

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UPDATED:

08:52 GMT, 7 November 2012

GALLAGHER IN THE DOGHOUSE

Liam Gallagher's priorities are 'City, kids, wife' if a chance meeting with Mike Summerbee is anything to go by.

The singer-songwriter was sent out to fetch some late-night apple pie by his wife when he chanced upon City's club ambassador.

'Before long I'd forgotten about the apple pie I'd gone out for and ended up in the pub with him having a few drinks,' revealed Gallagher.

'I ended up in the doghouse with the missus after that.'

A man's man: Liam Gallagher loves Manchester City... and his missus

A man's man: Liam Gallagher loves Manchester City… and his missus

A controversial call

Roberto Mancini made a controversial selection by putting Courtney Meppen-Walter on the bench.

Meppen-Walter was arrested in September on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving after a man and a woman died in a collision with his Mercedes.

The England Under 17 defender has been bailed as policecontinue their enquiries.

No joke

Ajax's early goal was no laughing matter for the Manchester City supporters who were crammed into the Etihad Stadium but manager Roberto Mancini appeared to see things a little differently.

As Siem de Jong started celebrating his opening goal in the 10th minute, Mancini began grinning towards his players for the defensive blunder.

Bizarre.

Ref rant: Roberto Mancini complained to the officials after City drew with Ajax

Ref rant: Roberto Mancini complained to the officials after City drew with Ajax

A tale of two philosophies

Manchester City's new training academy will soon house up to 400 players and staff, but they didn't have a single homegrown player in the team on Tuesday night.

Ajax, who fielded seven academy graduates for the 3-1 victory over City at the Amsterdam ArenA last month, had another seven on the field at the Etihad.

Despite the vastly different philosophies, City are second in the Barclays Premier League.

Ajax, after defeat at the weekend, are fifth in Eredivisie.

Value for money

The entire Ajax team, including the seven players they had on the substitutes' bench, cost less than 10million to put together.

That's approximately how much Manchester City pay to striker Carlos Tevez in wages over the course of a year.

Yours for 10m... and we'll even throw in the subs: The Ajax squad

Yours for 10m… and we'll even throw in the subs: The Ajax squad

Freddie Flintoff boxing debut is TV stunt, blasts Frank Maloney

Maloney accuses Flintoff of TV stunt saying bout will 'shame fight game'

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UPDATED:

10:27 GMT, 6 November 2012

Andrew Flintoff posed for photos with a real heavyweight on Monday but then left the media conference when he learned that his attempt to become a boxer was about to be ridiculed.

The former England cricket captain was pictured with David Price, the British champion and world-title contender, as part of his build-up for a professional debut in the ring.

But Price’s promoter, Frank Maloney, poured scorn on what he described as a ‘stunt which should never be allowed to happen’.

Not boxing clever: Flintoff will just be a punch bag, says Frank Maloney

Not boxing clever: Flintoff will just be a punch bag, says Frank Maloney

Maloney went on: ‘Giving Flintoff a professional licence with no experience of boxing is a joke. It gives our sport a bad name.’

Price and Flintoff appear on separate bills in the north of England on the same night, November 30. Price defends his British and Commonwealth titles against Matt Skelton at Aintree. Flintoff makes his bow in Manchester as the climax of a TV reality show.

Flintoff is being trained by Irish legend Barry McGuigan, who insists it is a serious exercise but Maloney says: ‘They asked if we could be on the same bill but I would never be involved in promoting something like this. This is nonsense but in our sport it’s dangerous nonsense.

Behind the ropes: Flintoff has been training to be a professional boxer

Behind the ropes: Flintoff has been training to be a professional boxer

‘Olympic rower James Cracknell did something similar, went into a pro heavyweight fight and was knocked out in seconds. They haven’t named an opponent for Flintoff yet but even if they find some guy who’s lost his first four pro fights, he will still be in against someone with amateur experience. It will be a terrible shock when he gets hit on the chin by a heavyweight.’

Both the November 30 bouts are to be screened live on BoxNation but Maloney is insisting that Price goes on air first, saying: ‘If the evening starts with Flintoff’s fiasco the viewers would be switching off.’

The real deal: Frank Maloney (centre) promotes the David Price and Matt Skelton fight which is on the same night as Flintoff's debut

The real deal: Frank Maloney (centre) promotes the David Price and Matt Skelton fight which is on the same night as Flintoff's debut

Flintoff was due to share the media podium with Price and Maloney but left quickly with McGuigan when he sensed the mood.

Maloney was also deeply critical of the British Boxing Board of Control, saying: ‘It is a disgrace they have given Flintoff a licence. I told the chairman, Charles Giles, that he should be sacked for approving this scandal.’

Price expects to come through a tough physical test against the aging fitness-fanatic Skelton and move closer to a world heavyweight title shot against one of the Klitschko brothers in autumn next year.