Tag Archives: firing

Team GB"s cyclists win gold and silver medals in Rio Olympics 2018 preparations

Team GB's cyclists make a promising start to Rio preparations with bronze and silver medals

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Two of the London Olympic-winning quartet – Ed Clancy and Steven Burke – were present in the squad which lost the world champion rainbow jerseys to Australia.

Over the moon: Great Britain's Becky James (left) and Vicky Williamson celebrate Bronze in the team sprint

Over the moon: Great Britain's Becky James (left) and Vicky Williamson celebrate Bronze in the team sprint

Silver service: The men's team pursuit pick up a second place

Silver service: The men's team pursuit pick up a second place

Clancy, Burke, 2012 world champion Andy Tennant and Sam Harrison, who won world bronze in 2011, qualified second fastest and were unable to overturn their seeding, finishing in four minutes 00.967 seconds, to their rivals' 3mins 56.751secs.

Australia led throughout the 16-lap final, even though Glenn O'Shea dropped out entering the final kilometre, leaving Alex Edmondson, Michael Hepburn and Alex Morgan to hold off Britain in the finale.

Clancy, who experimented with the team sprint earlier this winter before reverting to his usual discipline, said: 'It does hurt to lose to the Aussies, but it's an Olympic programme. It's bike racing, you can't win all the time.

'It's disappointing, but if you don't look at it so black and white there's a lot of positives.'

Clancy pointed to the absences of Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh, focusing on their road careers with Team Sky after their Olympic glory, and the fact Britain finished fourth in Pruszkow in 2009, a year after winning gold in Beijing.

Vicky Williamson (bottom) and Becky James (top) pick up the bronze medal during the women's team sprint event

Vicky Williamson (bottom) and Becky James (top) pick up the bronze medal during the women's team sprint event

The quartet were not quite firing on all cylinders.

'We had at least one set of legs in there that weren't quite on it,' Clancy said.

'I'm not saying we're happy about coming second, but we're not in a bad place, that's for sure. If you look at where we were in Poland, we've done a hell of a lot better than we did there.'

While there was a sense of disappointment for Clancy and co, for James and Williamson there was joy.

The 19-year-old Williamson was a late replacement for Jess Varnish, who has a back injury, while James was fulfilling second-lap duties previously occupied by the now-retired Victoria Pendleton.

Sprint coach Iain Dyer says 21-year-old James, who pushed Olympic champion Anna Meares close for Commonwealth gold in 2010, is in the form of her life.

Warm up: After a magnificent medal haul at London 2012, Team GB will be hoping to show similar form at the Rio Olympics

Warm up: After a magnificent medal haul at London 2012, Team GB will be hoping to show similar form at the Rio Olympics

As if to prove it, James allowed a gap to open up by going up the banking coming into the changeover to allow her to accelerate into her lap.

The technique was devised in the last session of the Newport training camp ahead of travelling to Minsk.

James, who made up deficits in each of her rides, said: 'We just thought we'd try something new and because my form's come through quite nicely we wanted to get as much speed as possible off the lap.

'I'm just absolutely buzzing. I'm so shocked. I can't believe it, my first world medal.'

Williamson, who received text messages of support from Varnish in the build-up to Minsk, said: 'I'm gobsmacked. To come out with a bronze medal is just amazing.'

James will now ride in the 500 metres
time-trial tomorrow, the first of three individual events in which she
is targeting further success.

She added: 'Seeing the form I've got I'd really like to be up there this week. I'll give it my best shot.'

Pedal power: The Danish team competes during mens team pursuit qualifying race of the event in Minsk

Pedal power: The Danish team competes during mens team pursuit qualifying race of the event in Minsk

Kian Emadi competed in the corresponding men's event, the one-kilometre time-trial, placing an impressive fourth on his debut.

In an event removed from the Olympic programme following Sir Chris Hoy's win in Athens in 2004, Emadi clocked 1:01.756, with Francois Pervis of France winning in 1:00.221, New Zealand's Simon Van Velthooven second in 1.00.869 and Germany's Joachim Eilers third in 1:01.450.

Emadi's time was short of his personal best, set at altitude in Colombia, but he was content with his display.

The 20-year-old will now ride in the men's team sprint on day two alongside Philip Hindes and Jason Kenny, taking Hoy's man three slot in the three-lap event.

Emadi is confident of combining well with the Olympic champions.
He said: 'There's good signs in training. Everyone's stepping up and getting faster as the competition has come closer.'

Three more events take place tomorrow, including the women's team pursuit, featuring Olympic champions Laura Trott and Dani King, with Elinor Barker making up the trio.

Owain Doull is entered into the men's scratch race, with Burke entered in the 4km men's individual pursuit.

MS Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher in the firing line and defeat will prompt some awkward questions

India's big guns are in the firing line… and defeat will prompt some awkward questions

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UPDATED:

23:29 GMT, 11 December 2012

A little over three weeks after handing Alastair Cook’s team a nine-wicket thrashing in the first Test at Ahmedabad, India’s cricket team can barely move for recriminations.

A series that was billed as their chance for revenge following the 4-0 defeat in England in 2011 has turned into a potential disaster.

Fail to win the fourth Test at Nagpur and India will have suffered their first home defeat in 15 series since losing to Australia in 2004-05 — and only their fifth out of 41 since David Gower’s England side won nearly 28 years ago. It is that bad.

Victory, on the other hand, and India
will be able to save at least some face, although plenty of local
observers feel a drawn series would merely delay the blood-letting they
believe is necessary for India’s Test side to move forward.

Uncertain future: Duncan Fletcher (left) and MS Dhoni have come under fire in the Indian Press

Uncertain future: Duncan Fletcher (left) and MS Dhoni have come under fire in the Indian Press (FILE IMAGE)

A testing time

India's Test record since winning the World Cup:

2011: 2-0 v West Indies (away)

2011: 0-4 v England (away)

2011: 2-0 v West Indies (home)

2011-12: 0-4 v Australia (away)

2012-13: 2-0 v NZ (home)

Central to the debate about their future are three men: Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher — celebrity batsman, captain and coach.
As England took charge of the third Test at Kolkata, the Times of India ran a front page picking its team for Nagpur. Dhoni was not in it, while Fletcher has been widely castigated for failing to halt a run of bad results.

That may be unfair on the former England coach, who took over from South African Gary Kirsten just after India lifted the 2011 World Cup at home and Kirsten was conscious he would soon be losing the services of middle-order legends Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. And it is unclear exactly how much power Fletcher has to change India’s cricket culture, which has traditionally been in thrall to the cult of stardom. ]

The manner in which Tendulkar, who turns
40 in April, has clung on has been all too typical. It was a year
between his 99th and 100th international hundreds, and his 76 at Eden
Gardens was his first half-century in 11 Test innings.

The end of an ear The glittering career of Sachin Tendulkar is reaching its close

The end of an ear The glittering career of Sachin Tendulkar is reaching its close (FILE IMAGE)

Dhoni, meanwhile, has lost his lustre after presiding over 10 defeats and only six wins — five against West Indies and New Zealand — since he lifted the World Cup in April 2011. That includes 4-0 whitewashes in England and Australia. A 3-1 defeat now would do little for his career prospects.

Indian hopes of a pitch-induced victory in Nagpur were not helped by a good-looking track at the VCA. But it was hard to be certain: the local groundsman, Pravin Hinganikar, has been instructed by the Indian board not to speak to the media following the outbursts of the Eden Gardens curator Prabir Mukherjee, who refused to do the BCCI’s bidding.

The board’s paranoia reflects the fragile state of their Test team. If India’s away form has been a bone of contention over the years, they have usually been able to take refuge in their near-invincibility at home.

The defeats in Mumbai and Kolkata have come as quite a shock. Another in Nagpur, and Indian cricket will have to answer some very awkward questions.

Gareth Barry charged over foul and abusive language after Manchester derby

Manchester mayhem goes on as Barry is charged for abusing referee during controversial derby… and is Clattenburg back at centre of another storm

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UPDATED:

12:07 GMT, 11 December 2012

Gareth Barry has been charged by the FA with verbally abusing a match official as the after-shock of Sunday’s tempestuous Manchester derby continues to rumble on.

It is understood that the Manchester City midfielder aimed his comments at one of referee Martin Atkinson’s assistants or fourth official Mark Clattenburg as he left the pitch after Robin van Persie’s injury-time strike gave United a dramatic 3-2 victory. The goal came from a free-kick controversially awarded by Atkinson when Carlos Tevez was adjudged to have fouled Rafael Da Silva.

At first it was thought that Barry had clashed with his manager Roberto Mancini as he left the pitch at full-time, but the City boss confirmed that his player was unhappy with the officials.

Blue Sunday: Gareth Barry (left) reflects on the Manchester derby defeat to rivals United

Blue Sunday: Gareth Barry (left) reflects on the Manchester derby defeat to rivals United

In the firing line: Fourth official Mark Clattenburg (right) with United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

In the firing line: Fourth official Mark Clattenburg (right) with United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

‘The referee and linesmen made some mistakes today,’ remarked Mancini after the game. ‘I don’t know what Gareth said.’

Barry
now faces a one-match ban if he is found guilty of the offence or accepts the charge. The 31-year-old
England midfielder has until 4pm on Thursday to respond to the charge.

An
FA statement read: ‘Manchester City’s Gareth Barry has been charged by
The FA for a breach of its Rule E3 in that he used abusive and/or
insulting words towards a match official following the Manchester City v
Manchester United game on Sunday 9 December 2012.’

Rio Ferdinand in training at Carrington on Tuesday

Robin van Persie (left) and Rio Ferdinand in training

No scar, Rio Ferdinand's face looked in far better shape during United's training session at their Carrington headquarters on Tuesday morning after he was last seen bleeding at the end of the Manchester derby

No scar Rio Ferdinand

Shocking: Ferdinand was left bloodied after being hit by a coin thrown from the crowd at the Etihad

Shocking: Ferdinand was left bloodied after being hit by a coin thrown from the crowd at the Etihad

Barry's charge is the latest episode in the fall-out from a controversial encounter which saw United score an added-time winner after their 2-0 lead had been pegged back in the second half.

Red Devils' defender Rio Ferdinand was hit with a coin as he celebrated his side's late goal and a fan had to be restrained by City goalkeeper Joe Hart after encroaching onto the pitch.

City have confirmed Matthew Stott, 21, has had his season ticket removed for the rest of the season and faces a lifetime ban if found guilty in court of a charge of pitch encroachment.

In a statement released by his solicitors Stott, a landscape gardener from Knutsford, said: 'I would like to apologise to all those affected by my actions, particularly Mr Ferdinand and the other players.

'I am extremely ashamed of my actions. I have let myself down, my family down, my fellow fans down and Manchester City Football Club.

'I intend to write personally to Mr Ferdinand to express my extreme regret and apologies and also apologise to Manchester United and their fans.'

Stott is now facing a possible banning order but his solicitor said he had never been in trouble before and was not the 'stereotypical drunken football fan'.

Police also charged eight other people, including for a racially aggravated public order offence, pitch encroachment, breach of football banning orders and other public offences.

Football Association chairman David Bernstein described the incidents as 'deplorable'.

'To see Rio Ferdinand with blood on his face is absolutely terrible,” he told Sky Sports News.

'I think it's disturbing that we're seeing a recurrence of these types of incidents.

'It's very unacceptable and has to be dealt with severely… in the strongest way we can.

'To my mind it's for the FA, the whole game of football and the authorities to work together to deal with this most severe matter.'

Duncan Fletcher could pay the price as India search for a scapegoat

Fletcher could pay the price as India search for a scapegoat

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UPDATED:

22:38 GMT, 8 December 2012

If England had any doubt whatsoever they had brought Indian cricket to its knees over the course of the past two Tests, they only had to listen to the words of Virender Sehwag after a momentous day’s play at Eden Gardens.

It ended with the home side just 32 runs ahead on 239 for nine, with just the lone tail-end resistance of Ravichandran Ashwin keeping them alive.

Sehwag, one of a number of ageing ‘galacticos’ in the India dressing room, summed up the mood perfectly when he said: ‘It’s disappointing. I hope something can happen but only God can help us now.’

When the opposition are praying for divine intervention, you know you have them exactly where you want them. Acts of God permitting, England will have wrapped up victory early this morning to take a 2-1 lead in the series and open up the mother of all inquests into the state of a cricketing dynasty in decline.

Serious question: Duncan Fletcher's record as India coach is underwhelming

Serious question: Duncan Fletcher's record as India coach is underwhelming

First in the firing line will be Duncan Fletcher, the Zimbabwean who coached England for eight years and who is almost certain to find himself out of a job when his contract with the Board of Control for Cricket in India expires in April.

Back-to-back 4-0 whitewashes in England and Australia when he was new to the role were overlooked. Losing a first home series since 2004, or even the threat of such an occurrence, is enough for the BCCI to pull the lever on the guillotine.

Whipping boys: India could lose a home series for the fist time in eight years

Whipping boys: India could lose a home series for the fist time in eight years

That it is England who will tap the executioner on the shoulder will no doubt irk Fletcher, who left his post at the ECB after the twin humiliations of a 5-0 Ashes whitewash in Australia and an abject World Cup campaign in the Caribbean.

As well as Fletcher, the groundsman at Eden Gardens, 83-year-old Prabir Mukherjee, is also in the BCCI’s crosshairs after they lodged an official complaint to the Cricket Association of Bengal over the pitch.

Never mind the fact the hosts won the toss and had first use of a wicket made for batting, India are looking for scapegoats. Last weekend, Mukherjee branded India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s request for a pitch which turns from day one as ‘immoral’.

Yesterday, it emerged the BCCI have asked the CAB to tell Mukherjee to fall in line in future or face the sack. That, though, did not stop the outspoken octogenarian criticising the most influential man in world cricket, BCCI president N Srinivasan. ‘Let him say whatever he wants to,’ said Mukherjee. ‘I don’t listen to him.’
He might also have done well to advise Srinivasan that India’s problems run far deeper than just the state of a pitch.

Andy Carroll not worth 35million, says Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Fergie: He'll be a handful but I'd never pay 35m for Carroll like Liverpool did

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UPDATED:

07:29 GMT, 28 November 2012

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Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted he would never have paid 35million for Andy Carroll.

The much-maligned England forward heads to Manchester United with West Ham tonight fresh from scoring the first goal of his loan stint at Upton Park.

For a team who have made a habit of conceding the first goal this season, Carroll is an obvious threat.

In the firing line: Manchester United manager has said he would never pay 35million for Andy Carroll like Liverpool did

In the firing line: Manchester United manager has said he would never pay 35million for Andy Carroll like Liverpool did

Yet Carroll continues to struggle to live up to his billing as England's most expensive player thanks to that extraordinary move from Newcastle to Liverpool in January 2011.

'He has only played something like a dozen games for Newcastle and then he had to deal with a 35million transfer to a club like Liverpool. That's quite a big jump,' Ferguson told United's official website.

'I'd certainly not sign that kind of player for that kind of money.

'We've gambled on young players in the past, maybe a couple of million or whatever, but when you get that level you really have to do a bit more homework and see how he is in his second season maybe.

Head scratching: Ferguson admits Carroll will cause his defence some problems at Old Trafford

Head scratching: Ferguson admits Carroll will cause his defence some problems at Old Trafford

'He's still not had a lot of games but he is a big lad, aggressive and a great header of the ball.

'He'll be a handful for our defenders.'

After working alongside the 23-year-old at close quarters during Euro 2012, Wayne Rooney knows the reality of Carroll's performances is nowhere near the perception many have of him.

He said: 'That type of player doesn't always get all the goals but they can cause trouble up front and create problems.

'I am sure that is what Sam Allardyce wants him to do.'

Rather like Rooney, Carroll demands attention. It seems he cannot have a quiet game, when he blends into the background.

Head start: Carroll opened his account for West Ham during their 3-1 defeat at Tottenham

Head start: Carroll opened his account for West Ham during their 3-1 defeat at Tottenham

He has to either be brilliant or awful, with the brutal assessment often falling on the latter.

Rooney knows from personal experience such situations are never quite so black and white.
However, he accepts they come with the territory.

'It is something you get used to,' he said.

'In the Premier League, you are there to be judged, whether that is good or bad. You just have to deal with it.'

With Paul Scholes suspended, Ferguson has already confirmed Anderson will start for only the second time in the Premier League this season.

It is also possible either Phil Jones or Chris Smalling will replace Rafael at right-back, whilst David de Gea might also come in for Anders Lindegaard.

Jack Wilshere says he did have doubts he would return during injury lay-off

Wilshere admits he had doubts over return during the dark days of his recovery

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UPDATED:

14:17 GMT, 28 October 2012

Jack Wilshere admits there were times during his 14 months on the treatment table he did not want to even think about football, but now hopes Arsenal can 'push on' after getting back to winning ways against QPR.

Wilshere last played a competitive first-team game for the Gunners in May 2011 and was forced to sit out the whole of last season because of niggling ankle and knee problems, which also dashed any hopes of featuring for England at Euro 2012 or representing Team GB at the London Olympics.

The 20-year-old came through more than an hour of Saturday's battling 1-0 win over QPR, which was secured by a late goal from Mikel Arteta after full-back Stephane Mbia had been shown a straight red card for kicking out at Gunners captain Thomas Vermaelen.

Jack's back: Wilshere made his first appearance for Arsenal in over a season

Jack's back: Wilshere made his first appearance for Arsenal in over a season

Wilshere was relieved to be finally playing again, having only been told he would start by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on Saturday morning.

'There are some days when you came into the physio room and the lads were going out, you just do not want to be there because after 10 or 11 months it gets to you,' Wilshere said.

'I am happy to be back now, so hopefully we can push on.'

Wilshere accepts it will take a while for him to be firing on all cylinders, and could now be rested for next week's Capital One Cup tie at Reading with Arsenal away to Manchester United on Saturday.

'This is my first long-term injury, so I am not really used to it. After 60 minutes, my legs were going, so maybe next time after 70 or 80 then so on,' he added on BBC Sport.

Getting stuck in: Wilshere vies with Shaun Wright-Phillips during Arsenal's win over QPR

Getting stuck in: Wilshere vies with Shaun Wright-Phillips during Arsenal's win over QPR

Wilshere had to deal with plenty of robust challenges from a hard-working QPR midfield of Samba Diakite and Esteban Granero, and the England international would not have it any other way.

'It is all part and parcel of football, there are going to be challenges on both of my ankles and my knees, it is part of my game and I am going to have to get used to it,” he said.

Relief swept around Emirates Stadium as Arteta bundled the ball home when inspired QPR keeper Julio Cesar was finally beaten six minutes from time, albeit from what looked an offside position.

QPR, though, still had time to mount a couple of counter-attacks, with substitute Jamie Mackie waltzing his way through the Arsenal defence only to see his shot blocked at the near post by keeper Vito Mannone.

Wenger felt his side's desperation to secure a victory following the disappointments of defeat at Norwich and Schalke – which led to a heated atmosphere at the annual general meeting on Thursday – was behind their late lapse in concentration.

'It was psychological. You could see that as soon as we scored we just wanted to protect the result and we were 11 against 10,' he said.

'If the team is full of confidence maybe we give a chance away, but we would continue to flow forward. However, here we just wanted to protect the result – it shows you how quickly the confidence goes in the team.'

For QPR manager Mark Hughes, it was another negative return from a performance of great industry.

The Hoops remain bottom of the table on just three points, but not yet cut adrift.
Hughes remains confident things can turn around with matches coming up against fellow strugglers Reading and Southampton.

Welcome return: Wilshere was playing in an all new midfield to the one he last played in

Welcome return: Wilshere was playing in an all new midfield to the one he last played in

Boost for club and country: Wilshere's return is good for Arsenal and England

Boost for club and country: Wilshere's return is good for Arsenal and England

'We are building in terms of performances. The guys are getting used to playing together. We are looking for continuity,' said Hughes, who berated referee Anthony Taylor and his officials for not ruling out Arteta's late winner.

'In terms of preparations for games I wouldn't question what we are doing. We just need to cut out the individual errors at key stages.

'We have played nine games, the majority against teams in the top 10.

'We have got a run of games coming up that hopefully will allow us to get maximum points.'

Hughes added: “We weren't expected to win at Arsenal, but we have had a real go and given a good account of ourselves, so we will draw belief from that.'

Mathew Tait"s return is like a new player for Leicester: World of Rugby

Tait's style is a welcome change from big hitters

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UPDATED:

22:02 GMT, 4 October 2012

For Leicester, it must be like having an exciting new signing — a dangerous attacking talent, young and English. For Mathew Tait, it surely feels like the start of a whole new career.

On Monday, the 26-year-old took part in a match again, which would have been a joyous novelty. And he scored a try too, which undoubtedly stirred distant memories of better days gone by.

It is almost a year since Tait last played. Soon after joining the Tigers from Sale, he was struck down by a groin injury and condemned to a prolonged spell of inactivity.

To hell and back: Mathew Tait has been out injured for almost a year

To hell and back: Mathew Tait has been out injured for almost a year

Learning to fly provided an outlet for his frustration and quite possibly saved his sanity.

Now, at long last, the one-time Newcastle prodigy has made his comeback, in an ‘A’-team game against Worcester, at Welford Road.

One burst of his fabled pace on a familiar outside break led to his second-half try, soon followed by removal from the firing line.

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For the time being, the aim is to steadily coax his body back into the rigours of regular, high-intensity action. But in time, the Tigers must hope that Tait can add a different dimension to their game.

The same goes for England, for this is a rare talent who had seemed in grave danger of going to waste.

Tait was 18 when he made a Test debut in Cardiff in 2005. But after being brutally tossed around by Gavin Henson, he was cruelly tossed aside by the then national coach, Andy Robinson. That led to positional shifts, and a loss of form and self-belief.

Yet along the way he has won 38 caps and despite the rough treatment, crises of confidence and injuries, he has caught the eye.

New Zealand’s acclaimed Sevens coach, Gordon Tietjens, saw Tait running amok during the 2006 Commonwealth Games and pronounced that had he been a Kiwi, he would have played 50 Tests for the All Blacks by then.

In the 2007 World Cup final, which England lost to South Africa, it was Tait’s scorching break which led to Mark Cueto’s famous, ruled-out ‘try’. In that instant, he showed a glimpse of his class as a high-octane strike runner.

These days, so much emphasis is on bulk and off-loading prowess, yet if Tait can hit his stride again, he is too good for England to ignore.

While the game is dominated by the crash-bash-release routine, there still must be scope for guile and nimble, elusive qualities.

It would be a wondrous sight to observe this faded, almost lost star shining anew.

Pumas go in search of historic win over Wallabies

It could be a perfect storm. Australia face Argentina in Rosario on Saturday, decimated by injuries and with their head coach under siege following last weekend’s abject 31-8 defeat by the Springboks.

Quade Cooper’s public trashing of the regime has been an unwelcome circus sideshow and the Pumas are on the rebound after being thrashed by New Zealand, which will make them even more dangerous.

Side show: Quade Cooper has caused unwelcome pressure on the Australians after his outburst

Side show: Quade Cooper has caused unwelcome pressure on the Australians after his outburst

It would be no surprise if this Rugby Championship decider culminated in an historic home win.

And if so, it would be no surprise if Robbie Deans is sacked, leaving the Wallabies on the look-out for a new coach just nine months before they confront the Lions.

O’Shea could give us Rome comfort

At The Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup launch on Monday, politics dominated discussions.

With the next meeting of ERC stakeholders looming in Rome three days from now, when the TV rights war which is threatening the future of European competition will top the agenda, it became apparent that Conor O’Shea should be sent in to mediate.

As an Irishman working in England, Harlequins’ director of rugby has ample perspective and a knack for diplomacy from his previous role in high-level sports administration.

Send him to Rome: Harlequins Director of Rugby Conor O'Shea proved himself to be a perfect diplomat

Send him to Rome: Harlequins Director of Rugby Conor O'Shea proved himself to be a perfect diplomat

He offered a robust argument in favour of the salary cap — citing Arsenal’s book-balancing act in football and the collapse of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy in his own country.

Send him to Rome and there could be a way out of this mess. Instead, it is destined to rumble on for months, although, when asked about the prospect of continental events going ahead without the mutinous English, ERC chief executive Derek McGrath said: ‘It is almost unthinkable that could happen.’

There appears to be an increasing willingness to consider reform of the divisive qualification format, but as for the rival TV deals — that thorny issue will be much harder to unravel.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK 1

'My home life is wrecked by this s**t' – Jonny Wilkinson concedes that
the ongoing 'battle' in his mind, stemming from a fervent dedication to
his profession, does not always lead to domestic bliss in the south of
France.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK 2

'I was awe-struck by the Olympics. I got the spikes out and started
running on the track. I had the high knee-lift and saw myself as Usain
Bolt. I was like a little kid again' – Wilkinson on his personal Olympic
legacy.

The Last Word

Someone must convince Mike Phillips to go teetotal for a while. Warren Gatland, the Lions head coach, should demand that he steers clear of alcohol for 10 months.

That way, the troubled Bayonne scrum-half could concentrate on playing rugby, which he’s rather good at when his heart and soul are in it. In fact, he’s world class when he’s on-song and off the booze.

But his short, sharp suspension and public rebuke from his French club over another late-night outing, following a recent Top 14 defeat, shone a light on his failings.

Keep off the booze: Bayonne's scrum-half Mike Phillips should stop drinking to keep his British Lions chances alive

Keep off the booze: Bayonne's scrum-half Mike Phillips should stop drinking to keep his British Lions chances alive

Phillips has been in far more than his fair share of nocturnal scrapes in Cardiff and now he’s exporting his bad habits, but at 30 he should have learned to clean up his act by now. And in this Lions year he should be on his toes rather than on the tiles.

He may have been the first-choice Test scrum-half in 2009 but this time he will need to be at the peak of his powers to see off the dual English challenge from Ben Youngs and Danny Care.

Manchester City almost back to their best – Roberto Mancini

We are almost back to our best, City boss Mancini warns title rivals

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UPDATED:

13:17 GMT, 30 September 2012

Roberto Mancini believes Manchester City are getting close to their best and will be back firing on all cylinders after the international break.

The reigning Barclays Premier League champions picked up a 2-1 victory at Fulham on Saturday thanks to substitute Edin Dzeko's late effort.

Had the Bosnian not found the net, though, the draw would have seen City go five matches without a win in all competitions for the first time in nearly four years.

Leaving it late: Edin Dzeko (left) scored Manchester City's winner at Fulham

Leaving it late: Edin Dzeko (left) scored Manchester City's winner at Fulham

Mancini admits his team are yet to find the form they showed last season but believes they are moving in the right direction.

'I was worried because we continued to play well and had chances,' Mancini said.

'We didn't score for 87 minutes and I am very pleased for Edin because he scored an important goal.

'It is also difficult for me to choose 11 players because I have 17, 18, 20 players that are really good.

'We play every three days so we need all of these players. Fulham is a difficult pitch so it was really important to have all these good players.

'I think that we were very close to the same we played last year.

'The problem we had was we didn't have all the players in pre-season. Twelve players started their pre-season 10 days before the championship began, which is difficult.

'I think, in my opinion, maybe after the international break we will be OK.'

Catch me if you can: City celebrate their narrow win against Fulham

Catch me if you can: City celebrate their narrow win against Fulham

Saturday's win stopped the rot and propelled City up to fourth, keeping them within touching distance of Manchester United and Chelsea.

'We were unlucky for three or four weeks and we deserved to win,' Mancini said.

'Against Fulham we had a lot of possession, a lot more chances to score and I think we played very well.

'I am happy with that and if we had lost you could say it was a bad moment, but we wanted this victory and we got it.'

Mancini's attention now turns to the Champions League tie with Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday for which the Italian says he has no new knocks after Saturday's victory.

Fulham, meanwhile, will be looking for a return to winning ways when they travel to Southampton next weekend.

The Cottagers have enjoyed a bright start to the season and began well against City, with Mladen Petric netting from the penalty spot 10 minutes in.

Back to our best: Roberto Mancini believes City have rediscovered their form

Back to our best: Roberto Mancini believes City have rediscovered their form

However, Sergio Aguero's leveller and Dzeko's late goal saw Martin Jol's side lose out on a point the Dutchman believes would have been fortuitous.

'Everybody saw before the game they changed their team,' Jol said.
“Normally they play with Aguero and striker Dzeko, but they left him out and played 4-3-3.

'They don't do that all the time and that was good for us because they showed us respect.

'Scoring the goal after 10 minutes gave us a good cushion but we need a bit more to score the second one.

'To score the winner at 1-1 we had one good chance through Bryan Ruiz and Alex Kacaniklic, but it was just not enough for me to say we probably deserved the point.

'On the other hand, I feel if you work that hard and concede a goal just before the end through our own mistake it's a bit frustrating.'

Alan Pardew backs Papiss Cisse to break scoring duck soon

Pardew backs Cisse to end drought and rediscover goalscoring form

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UPDATED:

09:23 GMT, 24 September 2012

Alan Pardew believes Papiss Cisse needs to find the back of the net just once before the goals start to flow.

The Senegal international made a major impact when he joined Newcastle in January, scoring 13 goals in 14 games, but he is yet to score this season.

On Sunday he missed a number of chances on Sunday against Norwich, including a penalty which he blasted over the bar.

Firing blanks: Papiss Cisse fired his penalty over the bar

Firing blanks: Papiss Cisse fired his penalty over the bar

But Pardew has no fears that his striker will come good and start to put away the chances.

Pardew said: ‘He is one of those players who doesn’t really carry too much baggage, if I am honest.

'I don’t see an overriding problem there. I just know with Papiss that one goal, one moment will get him back into the groove.

'He’s a great player, and like all great players you have got to stand by them.

'We stood by Hatem when he was not at his best and look at him now. In a kind of forgettable game, I am guessing for most people, especially neutrals, there were four or five moments from Hatem that you could put in a World Cup.

'They were really special and that’s where he is at the minute, he really is playing well.'

Liverpool 0 Arsenal 2 match report: Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla on target

Liverpool 0 Arsenal 2: Podolski and Cazorla fire Gunners as Rodgers' woe continues

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UPDATED:

14:55 GMT, 2 September 2012

Liverpool were condemned to their worst start to a season for half a century as Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla gave Arsenal victory at Anfield.

On what would have been Bill Shankly's 99th birthday, the Reds equalled the record of his newly-promoted side in 1962-63 by collecting just one point from their opening three games.

Coming on the back of Friday's deadline-day transfer debacle, when they failed to secure a replacement for Andy Carroll who had joined West Ham 24 hours earlier, the situation has provided huge cause for concern on Merseyside, with both owner John Henry and manager Brendan Rodgers in the firing line.

Deadly duo: Lukas Podolski (right) and Santi Cazorla inspired Arsenal to victory over Liverpool at Anfield

Deadly duo: Lukas Podolski (right) and Santi Cazorla inspired Arsenal to victory over Liverpool at Anfield

Match facts

Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Jose Enrique, Gerrard, Allen, Sahin (Shelvey 67), Borini (Downing 55), Suarez, Sterling.

Subs not used: Jones, Henderson, Coates, Carragher, Kelly.

Booked: Skrtel, Shelvey.

Arsenal: Mannone, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen (Koscielny 90+1), Gibbs, Diaby, Arteta, Oxlade Chamberlain (Ramsey 73), Cazorla, Podolski (Andre Santos 82), Giroud.

Subs not used: Martinez, Walcott, Coquelin, Gervinho.

Goals: Podolski 31, Cazorla 68.

Booked: Arteta, Mertesacker.

Referee: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire)

Attendance:

Arsene Wenger will reflect that he could easily have been in the same position had Arsenal lost.

However, with Cazorla capping an
excellent display by profiting from a Jose Reina blunder after summer
recruit Podolski had opened their account for the season before
half-time, the Gunners chief can start looking forward with confidence.

A summer of optimism has given way to a sobering reality at Anfield.

Henry did spend big in his backing of
Kenny Dalglish but as only Luis Suarez of those expensive purchases
started against Arsenal, the wisdom of Dalglish's work has to be
questioned.

So much now rests on Suarez and for the first half at least, he almost seemed to be trying too hard.

Fabio Borini and Raheem Sterling had Liverpool's best chances before the break.

The latter continues to catch the eye
and his excellent turn onto Steven Gerrard's knockdown created the
half-chance he belted against the outside of a post.

Breaking the deadlock: Podolski (left) opens the scoring by firing past Reds goalkeeper Pepe Reina (right)

Breaking the deadlock: Podolski (left) opens the scoring by firing past Reds goalkeeper Pepe Reina (right)

Relief: Germany forward Podolski celebrates his first goal for Arsenal - and the Gunners' first of the season

Relief: Germany forward Podolski celebrates his first goal for Arsenal – and the Gunners' first of the season

Borini was rather more rash with his openings, two of which he sent sailing over the bar.

Worst of all, Daniel Agger failed to head home a Gerrard corner when he had been left completely unmarked.

The impression Liverpool were in control was a misleading one.

With Cazorla continuing to impress and
Abou Diaby thriving in the space Nuri Sahin failed to fill, Arsenal
looked capable of opening their opponents up on the counter.

On target: Cazorla opened his goal-scoring account for Arsenal with a second-half blast at Anfield

On target: Cazorla opened his goal-scoring account for Arsenal with a second-half blast at Anfield

Provider turns scorer: Cazorla (centre left) celebrates with Podolski after scoring Arsenal's second goal

Provider turns scorer: Cazorla (centre left) celebrates with Podolski after scoring Arsenal's second goal

That worrying statistic of potentially
becoming the first side to start the season with three successive
scoreless games hung heavy for a while.

But after Cazorla's shot had been
saved by Reina, the Spain midfielder was instrumental in Arsenal
breaking their duck for the campaign.

A wayward Gerrard pass allowed Thomas
Vermaelen to set up a break from the edge of his own box. Podolski fed
Cazorla, then kept motoring. /09/02/article-2197063-14CD1FBB000005DC-778_634x288.jpg” width=”634″ height=”288″ alt=”Lonely place: Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers (right) watches his side's defeat” class=”blkBorder” />

Lonely place: Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers (right) watches his side's defeat

Dejected: (left-right) Liverpool's Steven Gerrard, Jonjo Shelvey, Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger

Dejected: (left-right) Liverpool's Steven Gerrard, Jonjo Shelvey, Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger

Just look at his face: Liverpool striker Luis Suarez can't hide his frustration on a bad afternoon for his side

Just look at his face: Liverpool striker Luis Suarez can't hide his frustration on a bad afternoon for his side

The visitors should have doubled their advantage almost immediately.

Diaby's surging run out of his own
half was reminiscent of Patrick Vieira in his pomp. He released Olivier
Giroud inside the Liverpool box, but the finish was poor and Reina
watched it fly wide.

Liverpool emerged with more purpose after the break, and once Stewart Downing was introduced they had more penetration too.

The winger had a shot deflected wide
by Vermaelen not long after Per Mertesacker, who had been booked very
early on, had sent Suarez to the deck with a clumsy challenge that could
easily have brought Liverpool a penalty.

Missed chance: Suarez blasts over the Arsenal crossbar under pressure from Thomas Vermalen (bottom right)

Missed chance: Suarez blasts over the Arsenal crossbar under pressure from Thomas Vermalen (bottom right)

Debut to forget: Nuri Sahin (right) joined Liverpool over Arsenal last week but may be regretting his choice now

Debut to forget: Nuri Sahin (right) joined Liverpool over Arsenal last week but may be regretting his choice now

On the ball: Sahin plays a pass at Anfield

On the ball: Sahin plays a pass at Anfield

As it turned out, Arsenal were merely softening their opponents up for another body blow.

Just on in place of the ineffective
Sahin, Jonjo Shelvey failed to track Cazorla's arcing run around the
corner of the Liverpool area.

After an excellent one-two with
Podolski, Cazorla also left Downing standing before firing a shot
goalwards from an acute angle which Reina was unable to keep out.

The goal merely heightened growing
worries about Reina, whose form has dipped below the high standards he
set a couple of years ago.

At the other end, Vito Mannone twice denied Shelvey and Suarez lifted his shot over after turning onto Gerrard's pass.

'You're getting sacked in the morning,' taunted the visiting supporters to Rodgers before the final whistle.

He isn't. But with the squad at his
disposal, the Northern Irishman will do well to preside over any
substantial improvement on last term's eighth-placed finish.