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SAM TOMKINS: This is the biggest year in our sporting history and I can"t wait to give the Aussies a beating

This is the biggest year in our sport's history and I can't wait to give the arrogant Aussies a World Cup beating

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Well
even though Leeds just came up short losing 14-18, Kevin still gets my
vote. When you see him train he’s utterly ruthless, he’s one of this
country’s finest sporting leaders and is so important to Leeds and
England.

Cameron Smith of Melbourne Storm poses with the trophy

Kevin Sinfield of Leeds Rhinos

Winners: Cameron Smith (left) may have held the World Club Challenge trophy aloft last Friday but Kevin Sinfield (right) gets Sam's vote as deserved player of the year

Away from rugby league and I was immensely proud to see my brother Joel selected for a Six Nations squad last week, although he didn’t make the match-day squad against France.

Joel and I are really close and when
he moved down to London I found it quite hard. We used to train together
every day and even though he’s only two hours away on the train it was
weird not seeing him.

I’m
delighted that he’s taken to life down south so quickly and hopefully in
the not too distant future will get a place in the full England team.
I’ll definitely be down there cheering him on should he
make it.

Pride of a Lion: Sam's brother Joel (left) was called into the England rugby union squad for the Six Nations game against France

Pride of a Lion: Sam's brother Joel (left) was called into the England rugby union squad for the Six Nations game against France

Also, I was shocked to read about the awful racist abuse Mario Balotelli got in football's Milan derby at the weekend.

There is absolutely no place for racism in any sport and the worst part is generally its a minority that spoil it and damage the reputation of a club.

Shocking: Balotelli (foreground) was racially taunted by Inter Milan fans at the wekeend

Shocking: Balotelli (foreground) was racially taunted by Inter Milan fans at the wekeend

Arsenal target David Villa scores two great goals

Are you watching, Arsene Villa shows Arsenal what they are missing with two great goals in 5-0 Barca romp

By
Tom Sheen

PUBLISHED:

00:06 GMT, 11 January 2013

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UPDATED:

13:46 GMT, 11 January 2013

David Villa showed Arsene Wenger exactly what he was missing as he scored two goals of real quality in Barcelona's 5-0 Copa del Rey win over Cordoba on Thursday night.

Arsenal have been heavily linked with the 31-year-old forward, but Wenger is believed to have reservations over a move for the Spaniard, as Villa is likely to be costly in both transfer fee and wages.

See what your missing: Arsenal target David Villa (foreground) scored two excellent goals in the 5-0 Copa del Rey win over Cordoba

See what you're missing: Arsenal target David Villa (foreground) scored two excellent goals in the 5-0 Copa del Rey win over Cordoba

Earlier this month Arsenal were quoted a price of 16million to bring Villa to the Emirates but Wenger does not usually spend big on players over 30, and has added concerns over Villa's long-term fitness as he suffered a broken leg last season.

Villa would also likely expect wages of at least 130,00-per week, which could be another stumbling block in any potential deal for the player.

His first goal tonight saw him beat two players on the byline before a neat chip over the Cordoba keeper, while his second was a very smart low drive down to the keeper's left.

One: Villa's first saw him beat two men before cheekily dinking the ball over the goalkeeper

One: Villa's first saw him beat two men before cheekily dinking the ball over the goalkeeper

Despite his high price tag and injury concerns, bringing Villa to England may not be as risky as it sounds.

In limited playing time this season he has seven goals in all competitions, while he has 53 in 85 appearances for Spain and 28 league goals in 61 games for Barcelona.

Villa himself is reported to be desperate for the move to go ahead, but Barca president Sandro Rosell ruled out a move just this week.

Two: The Barcelona striker's second was an expertly driven low shot into the corner

Two: The Barcelona striker's second was an expertly driven low shot into the corner

Speaking to Catalan radio station RAC1 on Tuesday, Rosell said: 'I completely rule out the transfer of Villa during the winter market.

'He is ours and we need him, there is a lot of the season left.'

Villa's two goals, as well as goals from Thiago Alcantara and two from Alexis Sanchez, sealed a 7-0 aggregate win over Second division Cordoba that sent Barcelona into the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey.

Reservations: Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger (pictured) has concerns about paying a reported 16m for a 31-year-old

Reservations: Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger (pictured) has concerns about paying a reported 16m for a 31-year-old

Felipe Massa admits he must improve to earn new contract

My Ferrari future depends on results in second half of season, admits Massa

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UPDATED:

10:38 GMT, 23 August 2012

Under pressure: Massa talks in Sao Paulo on Wednesday

Under pressure: Massa talks in Sao Paulo on Wednesday

Felipe Massa remains confident he will stay at Ferrari next year even though he admits he needs to significantly improve his results in the second half of the Formula One season to have a real shot at renewing his contract.

Massa feels he has performed better in recent races but acknowledges that only good results in the second half of the season will help him in his attempt to stay with the Italian team after his contract expires at the end of the year.

'In the end the result is what matters the most. That's what's crucial for every driver,' Massa said after participating in a road safety seminar sponsored by international motorsport governing body FIA in Sao Paulo.

'I'll need to stay prepared and finish the races well to try to have better results in the second half of the year.'

Massa revealed he has already been talking to Ferrari about renewing his contract but doesn't expect a decision to happen any time soon.

'The discussions began a long time ago,' he said. 'But until there is a deal finalized, nothing changes.'

Massa has struggled since the beginning of the season and is only 14th in the drivers' championship, 139 points behind leader Fernando Alonso, his teammate at Ferrari.

While Alonso has won three races, Massa's best finish so far has been a fourth place at the British Grand Prix in July. He finished outside the top 10 in six of the first 11 races, and his best staring position so far was fifth at the British GP.

Off track: Massa (foreground) has not won a race in four years

Off track: Massa (foreground) has not won a race in four years

'I've had problems in the first races and the performance wasn't there, I suffered a lot,' Massa said. 'But the car is good right now and I'm much more confident driving it, that's very important. It's important we just focus on the next races.'

Massa hasn't managed a podium since the Korean GP in October 2010, and his last win was at the Brazilian GP in 2008.

There has been pressure from Ferrari fans and Italian media to replace the Brazilian, but Massa enters the final part of the season boosted by improved performances in recent races.

'I'm confident,' Massa said. 'Even though the results have not been good, the performances were better. Now we need to have a clean race so the result can be positive in the end.'

The Brazilian said the fact Alonso is fighting for the title won't make it more difficult for him to improve his results and try to get his contract renewed.

'It won't hurt me,' Massa said. 'If I'm near Alonso or in front of him I'll do what I can to help him win the championship, that's obvious. He is in a completely different position than I am in the championship.'

The next F1 race is the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa on September 2.

Aston Villa trio "let down club"

A slur on our club! McLeish condemns Villa trio Herd, Collins and Delph after brawl

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UPDATED:

14:49 GMT, 4 May 2012

Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish believes the behaviour of Fabian Delph, Chris Herd and James Collins in an incident at a nightclub earlier this week is a 'slur on the club'.

The trio have been disciplined by the club for their part in a nightclub fracas during the early hours of Tuesday morning which followed Villa's annual awards dinner.

Scroll down for video
Tempers flare: Video footage shows Chris Herd (white shirt) being held back while James Collins stands in the background

Tempers flare: Video footage shows Chris Herd (white shirt) being held back while James Collins stands in the background

Herd then moves back while Fabian Delph (foreground) tries to calm the situation down

Herd then moves back while Fabian Delph (foreground) tries to calm the situation down

The players have apologised for their
actions, but McLeish is clearly still very unhappy about the unwelcome
attention it has brought.

He said: 'It's a slur on the club. I
feel for (club owner) Randy Lerner and the fans of Aston Villa Football
Club but the players need to show some respect for themselves and the
football club.'

The trio were fined for their
conduct, although it is understood Delph was treated more leniently
after acting as peacemaker in the incident.

McLeish added: 'We knew about it on
Tuesday and some players broke the rules so we acted very swiftly on
Tuesday.

'We're very disappointed. We won't tolerate that kind of
behaviour.'

Drama: James Collins (below left) and Chris Herd (above) were involved in a stand-off with members of the club's staff, while team-mate Fabian Delph is said to have acted as peacemaker in the incident

Drama: James Collins (below left) and Chris Herd (above) were involved in a stand-off with members of the club's staff, while team-mate Fabian Delph is said to have acted as peacemaker in the incident

Drama: James Collins (right) and Chris Herd (left) were involved in a stand-off with members of the club's staff, while team-mate Fabien Delph is said to have acted as peacemaker in the incident

Drama: James Collins (right) and Chris Herd (left) were involved in a stand-off with members of the club's staff, while team-mate Fabien Delph is said to have acted as peacemaker in the incident

Speaking about Herd and Collins,
McLeish added: 'If selected I think the most important thing is that
they've been punished.

'They've shown a bit of humility which is the
least we can expect.

'It happens at every club. It happens at even the top clubs. It's the culture of one pint too many.

'I think it reflects badly on Randy
Lerner, the club, myself and most importantly the players themselves.

'They owe us. They have to give us a performance that we will be proud
of.'

All three players issued apologetic statements earlier today.

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SORRY ISN'T THE HARDEST WORD

JAMES COLLINS APOLOGY

'I'm sorry for what has happened and I take responsibility for my actions.

'It does not show me in a very good light and does not put the club in a very good light.

'I know I should not have been out in
a club with my wife after the end-of-season dinner at that time in the
morning and I was wrong to be in that position.

'It was a misunderstanding and was resolved quickly but I understand how it looks and I apologise for that.

'As a senior, experienced player, I understand I am in a position of responsibility.

'I let myself get into a position in which I didn’t act responsibly and I apologise for this.

'It was Monday night, it was early in the week, six days before we next play and I didn’t have training the next day.

'But I know I’ve let myself down,
I’ve let the club down, I’ve let the manager down and most of all I’ve
let down the fans of Aston Villa who have been great to me.

'We have a very important game of
football on Sunday at Villa Park against Tottenham and I’m looking
forward to giving my full commitment, as always, and securing three
points.'

CHRIS HERD APOLOGY

'I would like to apologise for what
happened on Monday night and I apologise for being out at that time. We
had gone to a club after the end-of-season dinner with girlfriends and
wives accompanying us.

'It was no one’s intention to get involved in any trouble but I realise that my actions on the night were not acceptable.

'Even if I felt at the time that the
prior situation inside the nightclub had not been dealt with properly, I
still should not have acted in the manner in which I did. I’m sorry to
the fans and I’ll do everything I can to make it up to them as they have
been fantastic since I’ve come into the team.

'I would also like to apologise to
the club and my immediate aim is to help the team to finish the season
strongly and to secure our position in the Premier League.'

FABIAN DELPH APOLOGY

'I'm sorry for being out on Monday
night, the early hours of Tuesday morning and I apologise to the club,
the fans, the chairman, the manager and my colleagues.

'I am injured, I won’t be fit again until pre-season and I probably thought that going out would not carry any consequences.

'I was sober, I was in control of my actions and I did try to calm down the situation. I didn’t hit out or strike anyone but I should not have been there and I was wrong to be in this position.'

Six Nations 2012: Shaun Edwards say pressure is on England rookies

The heat is on England's rookies, says Wales coach Edwards

Wales defensive coach Shaun Edwards has told his players to put England’s rookie combinations under pressure at Twickenham on Saturday afternoon.

Owen Farrell plays his first game at fly-half in a new-look midfield axis alongside Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi, while coach Stuart Lancaster has also selected Scarlets No 8 Ben Morgan to form a new back-row trio.

Rookie: Farrell (foreground) plays his first game at fly-half for England

Rookie: Farrell (foreground) plays his first game at fly-half for England

Stoking the fire: Wales' English defence coach Shaun Edwards

Stoking the fire: Wales' English defence coach Shaun Edwards

‘Farrell’s in a position where you have a lot of say in the running of the team,’ said Edwards. ‘But it’s his first game as England fly-half and we will obviously try to pressure him with our defence.

‘It’s also the first time England’s axis of eight, nine, 10 (Ben Morgan, Lee Dickson and Farrell) have played together and, like any axis, you’re going to try to put pressure on it.

‘Let’s hope we can upset them. That’s our job as a defensive unit, to make life as difficult as possible for our opponents.’

The return of mighty Samoan Tuilagi offers its own challenges for a man who takes as much pride in not conceding tries as he does in scoring them.

‘He’s probably the best ball-carrying centre in England and he adds a lot of size and power to the backline, which is going to counteract something we have a lot of.

‘It certainly makes the backline bigger and I’m sure whoever’s doing the defence for them will be pleased about that.’