Tag Archives: restaurant

Darren Barker proposes at Wembley Stadium

Knocked off her feet! Boxer Barker proposes via Wembley scoreboard… but did he get the answer he was looking for

By
Martin Domin

PUBLISHED:

00:57 GMT, 14 February 2013

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UPDATED:

01:32 GMT, 14 February 2013

Roses Check. Chocolates Check. Dinner at a fancy restaurant Check.

As Valentine's Day dawns, men up and down the country will be hoping they’ve finally got it right.

But they will have to go some to beat the efforts of boxer Darren Barker who proposed to his girlfriend Gemma at Wembley Stadium.

The big question: Darren Barker proposed to girlfriend Gemma at Wembley Stadium

The big question: Darren Barker proposed to girlfriend Gemma at Wembley Stadium

The middleweight, who was at the ground
to promote his next fight at Wembley Arena on March 9, used the giant scoreboard to ask the all-important question – and the answer was a
resounding 'Yes'.

'It was short notice; I knew someone at Wembley and they said I could do it on the scoreboard,' Barker told Sportsmail. 'I’ve wanted to do it for a while, I’ve been with Gemma for 12 years so it was overdue; she’s been long suffering but she's over the moon.

'She didn’t think I had it in me; she’s a happy woman thankfully.'

Having pulled out all the stops for his proposal, Barker expects to get off lightly today.

'She’ll get a nice card from Hallmark and that will be her lot,' he joked. 'It’s what she’ll do for me, that’s the question!'

Darren Barker

Darren Barker

Sealed with a kiss: Barker got the answer he was looking for when he proposed at Wembley

With his next fight on the horizon, Barker has put the engagement party on hold.

'We went out for a bit of lunch, she had a glass of wine but I was on the mineral water! We’ll wait until after the fight.'

Gemma later tweeted: 'I was at
Wembley Stadium earlier where Darren was having a photo shoot and doing a
bit for the press…..I said yes!

'I'm
over the moon to be engaged was so lovely and we were lucky to have
some amazing photos taken on the pitch under the sign xxx'

The 30-year-old Chelsea fan, who expects to tie the knot next year, also got his hands on the FA Cup ahead of the Blue's replay against Brentford on Sunday.

Up for the cup: Chelsea fan Barker

Up for the cup: Chelsea fan Barker

'It was good getting hold of the FA
Cup,' he said. 'Brentford had their bit of glory getting a replay at
Stamford Bridge but I think you’ll see the true professionalism come
through now.'

Chelsea have struggled this season and the FA Cup is their only realistic chance of domestic silverware.

'In some respects I would rather have
gone right out of Europe,' Barker admitted.

'The Europa League is a bit
of a nightmare with the added fixtures and travelling. It’s second best
to the Champions League and we only want the best at Chelsea. I’d
rather win the FA Cup.'

After a long lay-off with injury, Barker returned to the ring in December when he stopped Kerry Hope inside four rounds.

With just over three weeks to go until the first bell, Barker's opponent has yet to be confirmed but he revealed to Sportsmail that a deal is close.

'It looks like being Simone Rotolo who I
was supposed to fight in September when I pulled out injured so I
suppose there’s a bit of unfinished business there,' he said.

'We won’t take him lightly as he’s a good
fighter and an experienced opponent. We were looking for a top 10
opponent but everyone’s either busy or holding out for a world title
shot.

'The next fight after this will be huge, either a big domestic dust-up or a world title shot.'

And when his big moment arrives, Barker would love nothing more than to fight at Stamford Bridge.

'It would be a real honour to fight at the Bridge,' he said. 'I’ve been going there for years and years as a kid and to fight there, I’d really have to pinch myself.

'It would have to be a big world title fight to fill a stadium like that.'

Manchester City ace Samir Nasri shows off his lavish lifestyle in Twitter pic

Giving fans food for thought: City gent Nasri enjoys night out at London restaurant

By
Graeme Yorke

PUBLISHED:

14:24 GMT, 9 January 2013

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UPDATED:

15:53 GMT, 9 January 2013

He probably thought it was a bit of harmless fun.

Clearly enjoying the fruits of his
labour, Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasri could not resist posting a
picture of him on a night out at a trendy London restaurant.

Picture this: Samir Nasri posted this picture of him enjoying a night out in London

Picture this: Samir Nasri posted this picture of him enjoying a night out in London

Dressed in ripped jeans, a casual T-shirt and slouched on a comfy chair, the 25-year-old Frenchman was clearly enjoying a night out with a female companion.

Nasri is currently on an enforced break after was sent off in controversial circumstances for squaring up with his head to Norwich’s Sebastien Bassong in the 4-3 win at Carrow Road in December.

City manager Roberto Mancini was angry at the decision at the time but said that the club had not decided whether to appeal the card and the three-match ban that will come with it.

However, the club finally decided to accept the charge and Nasri missed the game at home to Stoke, the weekend’s FA Cup tie with Watford and the game at Nasri's old club Arsenal on January 13.

Seeing red: Nasri was handed his marching orders after clashing with Bassong

Seeing red: Nasri was handed his marching orders after clashing with Bassong

Seeing red: Nasri was handed his marching orders after clashing with Bassong

The timing was a little unfortunate at it appeared amid criticism of the evils of football.

Reverend Bob Jones, 67, a minister at three methodist churches in Mansfield, spoke out about about the excess money in football and to question
the values of the modern game following Luis Suarez's controversial goal on Sunday.

Maybe next time Nasri should keep his photos for the family album

Waiting game: Nasri will miss the match with his former club Arsenal

Waiting game: Nasri will miss the match with his former club Arsenal

Bradley Wiggins in McDonald"s after winning Sports Personality of the Year

Ace racer to rockstar! Wiggins swaps gold medals for golden arches as SPOTY winner ends night of partying in McDonald's

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UPDATED:

09:11 GMT, 18 December 2012

Asked how he would celebrate being voted the nation’s Sports Personality of the Year, Bradley Wiggins winked.

‘I will go home and have a cup of tea,’ he said before breaking into a smile. ‘It’s a free bar so it would be rude not to give it a hiding.’ That sounds more like it.

Seven hours later a bleary-eyed Wiggins was photographed in a McDonald’s; his blue velvet double-breasted suit from a Soho tailor looking more than a tad dishevelled.

I'll have a Wig Mac! Bradley Wiggins was getting a late-night snack in McDonald's at 5am after winning SPOTY

I'll have a Wig Mac! Bradley Wiggins was getting a late-night snack in McDonald's at 5am after winning SPOTY

The party never stops: Bradley clearly didn't want his night to end as he left Mahiki and headed to the fast-food restaurant

The party never stops: Bradley clearly didn't want his night to end as he left Mahiki and headed to the fast-food restaurant

Wiggins reportedly ordered the establishment's signature Big Mac after a long night of celebration.

He had already treated the guests at
the BBC’s after-show party to a rendition of The Jam’s That’s
Entertainment and Wonderwall by Oasis and then carried on celebrating
with his wife, Cath, at a central London nightclub. Not bad for Great
Britain’s first winner of the Tour de France, surely one of the fittest
athletes on the planet.

But then Wiggins, as Lord Coe put it on Sunday night, has ‘that rock star quality’.

He
manages to be the last man standing after five hours of cycling on
brutal terrain or a long drinking session in the pub; looking equally at
home in his racing Lycra or with a bottle of wine in one hand and a
cigarette in the other.

King of swing: Bradley Wiggins celebrated in his own special style after winning SPOTY

King of swing: Bradley Wiggins celebrated in his own special style after winning SPOTY

King of swing: Bradley Wiggins celebrated in his own special style after winning SPOTY

King of swing: Bradley Wiggins celebrated in his own special style after winning SPOTY

‘He just cuts it,’ said Coe. ‘Bradley is where it is at the moment. I think it is an unbelievable year that he has had but he is just edgy, isn’t he Sporting characters have got to capture the public imagination and he does that.’

Wiggins might have a penchant for Paul Weller but he was certainly not buying into the suggestion he has reached rock-star status by wearing the yellow jersey and winning seven Olympic medals, four of them gold.

Winner of Sports Personality of the Year 2012, Bradley Wiggins

Bradley Wiggins during the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards 2012 at ExCeL London

Pub talk: Bradley Wiggins kisses the iconic trophy last night (left) and (right) thanks his nan in his speech

Over to you, Sue: Sue Barker (left) chats to Bradley Wiggins during the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards 2012 at ExCeL London last night

Over to you, Sue: Sue Barker (left) chats to Bradley Wiggins during the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards 2012 at ExCeL London last night

the Farmers Arms in Heskin

The Farmers Arms in Heskin will be the first pub that the Tour de France winner takes his award to

‘I won the Tour de France,’ said
Wiggins. ‘Without this award I would still be me. I am just very
grateful to everyone who has helped me. There’s only the knighthood to
come, isn’t there, really’

Few knights of the realm, though, would give their Sports Personality of the Year award to their nan for safekeeping.

Even fewer would then take it on a
tour of the pubs near their home in Lancashire: the Farmers Arms in
Heskin and the Original Farmers Arms in Eccleston. Their hosts told
Sportsmail yesterday they would be delighted to look after the famous
trophy.

‘It would be
absolutely great,’ said Ann Rothwell, landlady of the Farmers Arms. ‘He
lives in between the two pubs and he does pop in here now and again, but
he’s an athlete, isn’t he He doesn’t frequent the pub that often.’

When he does, you imagine Wiggins might indulge in more than one glass of his favourite tipple: vodka and tonic.

Dave Brailsford, performance director
of British Cycling, recognised Wiggins’s talent as soon as he saw his
body shape and the ‘fluid’ way he pedals, but there was something else
that showed ‘this young lad was special’.

Support: Barry Newton, landlord of the Original Farmers Arms, said that Wiggo had a lot of support in the pub

Support: Barry Newton, landlord of the Original Farmers Arms, said that Wiggo had a lot of support in the pub

‘Once he decides he wants to do something — like all the greats — he really does make it,’ said Brailsford.

‘There’s something reminiscent of
David Beckham practising free-kicks, of Jonny Wilkinson (practising his
kicking) in Brad. It’s that type of obsession he has.’

The desire to achieve remains, too.
Wiggins has repeatedly stated he wants to win another Tour de France,
forcing Team Sky into a difficult decision as to whether the defending
champion, Chris Froome or both lead the team next year.

But the ‘obsession’ remains for
Wiggins, who needed a search party to track him down during a training
camp in Majorca last week, such was his eagerness to do ‘just that
little bit more’.

Suits you: Winner of Sports Personality of the Year 2012, Bradley Wiggins shows off the trophy

Suits you: Winner of Sports Personality of the Year 2012, Bradley Wiggins shows off the trophy

‘Bradley’s capacity to work hard is
unbelievable,’ said Brailsford. ‘It’s off the scale. But he’s learnt how
to manage himself and his sport and he’s become an extremely coachable
rider.

'He was up at 7.30 in the gym in
Majorca. He did five hours (on the bike) then went out on his own and
did another couple of hours.

‘Two days ago we actually sent
somebody out to look for him because it was starting to get dark and we
thought, “Where’s Brad” He had gone just that bit more.’

Perhaps we should all raise a glass to that.

David Beckham: Beckham: I wear No 23 because Michael Jordan was my hero… now he gives me restaurant tips

Beckham: I wear No 23 because Jordan was my hero… now he gives me restaurant tips

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UPDATED:

00:15 GMT, 30 November 2012

David Beckham has revealed one of the perks of being famous in America: Getting restaurant tips from Michael Jordan.

About to leave the MLS after six
seasons, Beckham has always worn the 23 shirt that Jordan wore for the
Chicago Bulls basketball team.

Ready for action: Galaxy team-mates David Beckham and Robbie Keane

Ready for action: Galaxy team-mates David Beckham and Robbie Keane

Leading the way: David Beckham in training for the 2012 MLS Cup

Leading the way: David Beckham in training for the 2012 MLS Cup

Now – in an interview with ESPN – the former England captain has admitted that he has begun to use the friendship to his advantage.

'I actually spoke to him the other day,' said Beckham.

'I was at their party and he said: “You know let’s just exchange numbers and we’ll speak to each other”.

'And then I called him up, I think I was in Washington, and I said: ‘I know you’ve spent a bit of time here, I need a restaurant. Can you tell me a nice Italian restaurant’

'And he told me a great Italian restaurant.

'My friend was like: “C’mon really Really Usually you call a directory for a restaurant. Now you are calling Michael Jordan”.

'It’s funny.'

Beckham wore the number seven for many years at Manchester United but switched to the number 23 when he moved to Real.

Plenty to ponder: Beckham has had many offers

Plenty to ponder: Beckham has had many offers

David Beckham at a LA Galaxy

David Beckham at a LA Galaxy

'I chose the number 23 because of Michael Jordan,' Beckham admitted.

'When I first joined Real Madrid, I’d worn number 7 for many years for Manchester United.

'And when I moved to Real Madrid, Raul wore number 7 so there was no way that I was even think about taking it off of him and I don’t think it would have been accepted very well if I had even asked that question.

'So 23 was available and I’d always been a huge fan of Michael Jordan and I’ve loved him as a player and a person.

'Everything that he represented. Everything that he did in his career. I was a huge fan so yeah it was a no brainer. And then when I moved over here…it was just kind of a number that I wanted to keep because I’ve been successful with it with Real Madrid, and like I said being a fan of Michael Jordan.'

As he prepares to move his family back from America and accept a new football challenge, Beckham has paid tribute to his wife Victoria.

He said: 'My wife’s amazing.

'She’s really understanding.

'The other halves always go through difficult times because we’re always away, we’re always playing in different countries and different parts of the world and it’s difficult, so my wife she just wants what makes me happy and she knows that playing this game makes me happy.

'And she’s always left those playing decisions down to me.

'Family decisions we’ve done as a couple always.

'Whatever’s the best for our children, you know that’s always our first priority.

'But with my playing side, she’s always helped me out with the decision but it’s always down to me.'

ESPN will have live coverage of the MLS Cup on Saturday at 9:45pm. The full interview with Beckham will air on ESPNFC Press Pass: Beckham’s Goodbye to Hollywood on Friday at 10pm

Alex Corbisiero hungry for England return v South Africa

Alex wants pizza the action! New diet means England prop is hungry for return (let's hope he'll eat Springbok forwards for breakfast!)

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UPDATED:

23:14 GMT, 21 November 2012

They have named a pizza after Alex Corbisiero at his favourite Italian restaurant, where his strict gluten-and wheat-free diet is catered for. The owners would be well advised to stock up with the necessary ingredients before Saturday evening.

After a match, the prop heads there for a slap-up meal and Saturday's opponents are sure to leave him with a major appetite. Corbisiero will return to the England front row, charged with galvanising the scrum and playing his part in quelling the might of imposing – and famously carnivorous – Springbok forwards.

The 24-year-old, who was born in New York, says he is in prime condition after overcoming a knee injury, thanks to the benefits of his regulated eating habits. The pizza named in his honour conforms to his precise requirements.

Using his crust: Alex Corbisiero is back to take on the Springboks

Using his crust: Alex Corbisiero is back to take on the Springboks

'There's a restaurant in Kingston called Bruschetta – it's a gluten-and wheat-free Italian restaurant,' said Corbisiero. 'A few of the boys go there now. After a game, when I want to have my “bad” meal, there are not many options so I usually go there. That's the pizza I always get and they've put it on the menu.

'It has a gluten-free base, with buffalo mozzarella which is free of cow's milk, Italian sausage, chicken and pepperoni. It's a nice one.'

Explaining the circumstances behind his healthy eating, he said: 'It's been a year-and-a-half now. I had a blood test – recommended by the nutritionist at London Irish – and it said I was highly intolerant to wheat and gluten. I cut them out and I feel so much better. It's been a massive gain for me and it's helped me keep strict with it rather than breaking it. I've lost a lot of body fat. I'm still heavy, but I've definitely lost excess fat.

'I don't eat wheat or dairy so that cuts out a lot of bad stuff. It keeps me on the straight and narrow. I always felt a bit uncomfortable on game days, especially my stomach. It took a few months, but I'm feeling better, not as lethargic. Digestion, gas, things like that are a lot more comfortable.'

Lifting his game: The prop is on a strict diet

Lifting his game: The prop is on a strict diet

Corbisiero's return to the England team is a big plus for head coach Stuart Lancaster, who needed some encouragement in light of the defeat against Australia last week.

Injury restricted the loosehead to one replacement appearance on tour in South Africa in June. He was forced to pull out of the last Test – which England drew in Port Elizabeth – at the 11th hour, so he harbours a hunger to confront the Boks at Twickenham.

Insisting that he is ready for the ordeal, after two LV Cup games for his club, Corbisiero said: 'When you come into Test rugby you're always going to have to get certain things right as a pack – scrum and lineout, breakdown, physicality. That's especially relevant when you're playing South Africa. We need to make sure we give ourselves the best platform to win.'

His international recall comes at the expense of Joe Marler, who suffered an injury and a few indignities last weekby end, when England's scrum was trumped by an unheralded Australian pack. Corbisiero understands the scrutiny that he and the rest of the home forwards will be under. He knows there is pressure to make amends.

'We have a point to prove,' he said. 'That's going to spur us on. We're going to focus on our attention to detail and our mindset to make sure we rectify that.

Point to prove: England want to make amends for defeat to the Wallabies

Point to prove: England want to make amends for defeat to the Wallabies

'It's not going to be easy against South Africa but we've got to prove that we are a good scrum. Hopefully we'll show that. The boys were a little beaten up but we've got our sleeves rolled up and we know we've got to put a lot of things right. Everyone's really positive and motivated and we're back on the horse.

'South Africa have a heavy pack. They're physical, they're strong, they work together and they work hard. They're very efficient, very confrontational and direct. They're one of the bigger-sized packs in world rugby and you need to meet that challenge.'

Corbisiero will set about putting his words into action, knowing that when he's done and whatever the outcome, a few miles down the road there is a pizza with his name on it.

Bradford Bulls given Super League go ahead for 12 months

Super League give Bradford 12 month lifeline but coach Potter leaves

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UPDATED:

15:07 GMT, 14 September 2012

Bradford Bulls have been given the green light to continue in Super League but coach Mick Potter will not be part of the new-look club.

Uncertainty over the future of the four-times Super League champions was finally ended when the takeover by local restaurant owner Omar Khan was ratified by the Rugby Football League.

And the good news continued on Friday when the Bulls were told by the RFL's board of directors they will not be relegated to the part-time Championship and will not have to compete with the leading Championship clubs in a mini-round of licensing.

One more year: Bradford Bulls have been given the go ahead

One more year: Bradford Bulls have been given the go ahead

Instead the new owners have been
awarded a 12-month probationary Super League licence, effectively
putting them on trial throughout 2013.

Bradford's honorary chairman Gerry Sutcliffe, a former Sports Minister and local MP, welcomed the announcement.

'It's good news for the fans and for
Bradford and now it's all systems go,' he said. 'We can start to
implement our business plan and sell season tickets.'

Bradford effectively forfeited their
top-flight status in June when, unable to pay the bills after the bank
withdrew their overdraft, they went into administration.

That resulted in a six-point
deduction, which ultimately cost the Bulls a place in the play-offs, and
the threat of liquidation hung over the club right up to the last day
of August when Khan announced he had agreed a deal to buy the club from
the administrators.

RFL chief executive Nigel Wood said:
'The board deliberated long and hard and took into consideration the
many views of the sport's various constituents before reaching a
decision which we believe is in the best interests of the whole game.

'A probationary licence allows us to
closely monitor the performance of Bradford Bulls next season and
develop a view on what direction we take in future years.

'The probationary licence also
precludes the need for a mini-licensing round, which the overwhelming
majority of clubs accept was impractical given the timeframes involved.'

The next round of licences are due to be awarded in the summer of 2014 and take effect from the start of the 2015 season.

The announcement brings to an end five
months of anguish and adversity but it came too late for Potter who,
after working unpaid for the last 10 weeks, has decided to return to
Australia.

The 48-year-old former Catalan Dragons
and St Helens boss opted not to take up the offer of a new contract
from the club's new owners and instead recommended his assistant Francis
Cummins be appointed as his successor.

That announcement will be made on Monday.

'I was always going to return to
Australia and I feel that now is the right time for me to go,' Potter
said. 'I have enjoyed my time at the Bulls and the supporters and people
at the club are second to none.

'I feel, too, that despite
circumstances out of our control the team, through the rugby league we
played, showed a lot of character in the midst of terrible adversity.

'Omar Khan and Gerry Sutcliffe have
come in and rescued the club and were very keen for me to stay for a
longer tenure and I made it clear to them that my decision has nothing
to do with their purchase of the club.

'It has been the things that have happened over the previous five months that have caused my decision.'

Potter, who was Super League Coach of
the Year after guiding the Catalans to a third-place finish in 2008,
endured a difficult first season at Odsal but his reputation soared
after guiding Bradford to the brink of their first play-off spot for
four years in the face of adversity.

Khan said: 'We are sorry Mick has
chosen to leave because we wanted him to stay longer with us after the
tremendous job he has done in difficult circumstances.

'He leaves with the best wishes of everyone at the club and we wish him well in the future.'

Cummins, who looks set to be handed
the job, will be faced with a major rebuilding task, with no fewer than
17 players out of contract, and will be well behind coaches of other
Super League clubs who have virtually completed their recruitment for
2013.

Tom Burgess and Olivier Elima have
already secured new clubs, Ian Sibbit and Ben Jeffries have announced
their departures and Craig Kopczak terminated his contract which had 12
months to run.

Manchester City players hit the town as Blues close in on Premier League title

City get the party started: Stars hit the town as Blues close in on Premier League title

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UPDATED:

10:20 GMT, 7 May 2012

Manchester City are just one game away from winning their first top-flight title since 1968, but judging by these pictures, you'd be forgiven for thinking the Barclays Premier League crown is already safely tucked up in the trophy cabinet.

Roberto Mancini's side moved to within touching distance of beating rivals Manchester United to the title with a 2-0 win over Newcastle on Sunday.

Sami Nasri

Joleon Lescott

Play it again, Sam: A cheerful Nasri and Lescott hit the town after the 2-0 win over Newcastle

And a number of first-team stars (and Edin Dzeko) hit the town in celebratory mood.

Samir Nasri, Joleon Lescott., Alexander Kolarov and Dzeko spent the evening at popular haunt Panacea for a night which is described on the club's website as one of 'exorcism, devilry and mayhem'.

Eden Dzeko

Alexandar Kolarov

Eden out: Dzeko and Kolarov joined Nasri and Lescott at Panacea

But Mancini will be hoping his stars were on their best behaviour with a potentially history-making clash against Queens Park Rangers on Sunday.

City, who are level on points with rivals United but with a better goal difference, know a win over the London club, will be enough to seal the title.

Entourage: Balotelli, who didn't make the squad for Sunday's win over Newcastle, dined out at his favourite restaurant

Entourage: Balotelli, who didn't make the squad for Sunday's win over Newcastle, dined out at his favourite restaurant

It wouldn't be a City night out without
Mario Balotelli, but the controversial striker opted for the more
refined surroundings of the San Carlo restaurant with his brother and
two pals.

Maybe Balotelli is trying to show off a new side to Mancini. The Italian star hasn't played since he was sent off in the 1-0 defeat at Arsenal in April, and didn't even make the squad for yesterday's game at Newcastle.

Brace yourself: Yaya Toure netted twice yesterday to leave City on the brink of the title

Brace yourself: Yaya Toure netted twice yesterday to leave City on the brink of the title

Brace yourself: Yaya Toure netted twice yesterday to leave City on the brink of the title

Six Nations 2012: Wales get the taste for French food ahead of slowdown

Wales get a taste for it ahead of Six Nations showdown with France

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UPDATED:

22:47 GMT, 12 March 2012

Warren Gatland treated Wales to some fine French dining on Monday night in an Hors d’oeuvre to Saturday’s Six Nations Grand Slam showdown with Les Bleus.

The Dragons can roar to a third Slam in eight seasons by beating France at the Millennium Stadium — and they have already munched on frogs’ legs.

Gatland gave his stars a taste of things to come by taking them for a meal at a French Brasserie in Cardiff Bay.

Fine dining: Wales coach Warren Gatland treated his squad to some of the best food France had to offer

Fine dining: Wales coach Warren Gatland treated his squad to some of the best food France had to offer

FRANCE LINE-UP:

Forwards: D Attoub, V Debaty, N Mas, J-B Poux, W Servat, D
Szarzewski, Y Maestri, P Pape, J Pierre, J Bonnaire, T Dusautoir, I
Harinordoquy, F Ouedraogo, L Picamoles.

Backs: M Parra, D Yachvili, L Beauxis, F Trinh-Duc, J-M Buttin, F Fritz, W Fofana, A Rougerie, A Palisson, C Poitrenaud.

His assistant Robin McBryde said: ‘We went out as a squad for a meal in a nice restaurant. We’re not going overboard but we want to show everyone how much we appreciate their efforts so far.’

Wales’ hopes are set to receive a major boost with the return of Sam Warburton, who missed Saturday’s victory over Italy after suffering a knee injury against England. He returns to training today.

Grand Slam fever is already gripping Wales and the pre-match hype has been intensified by the painful memories of the World Cup, when the Dragons were beaten by France in semi-final.

Up for the challenge: Wales stand-in skipper believes his side can stand up to the pressure

Up for the challenge: Wales stand-in skipper believes his side can stand up to the pressure

But stand-in skipper Gethin Jenkins is confident Wales will handle the pressure.

He said: ‘There’s going to be massive expectation. It’s a big chance for us to make history. ‘It’s been a tough campaign but everything we have put in leads up to the game on Saturday. Training will be intense and geared towards France.’

If Gatland is successful in steering Wales to glory, theNew Zealander will be nailed on to lead the British & Irish Lions in Australia next year.

Team manager Andy Irvine will announce the appointment following the Championship and Gatland, forwards coach in 2008, is the favourite.

Jenkins added: ‘Gats has got the credentials to do it. He’s a great coach, did really well on the last tour and it would be brilliant if he got the job.’

Making the changes: Philippe Saint-Andre has tinkered with his side ahead of the weekend

Making the changes: Philippe Saint-Andre has tinkered with his side ahead of the weekend

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre has recalled scrum half Dimitri Yachvili in one of five changes to his squad. Winger Vincent Clerc is injured and Saint-Andre has dropped scrum half Julien Dupuy, lock Lionel Nallet, Maxime Mermoz and winger Julien Malzieu.

Flanker Fulgence Ouedragaogo, lock Julien Pierre, winger Alexis Palisson, centre Florian Fritz and full back Jean-Marcellin Buttin come in.

Martin O"Neill"s search for Sunderland"s soul

Martin O'Neill, a late-night drive and his search for… the soul of Sunderland

Roker Park. They were two of the most evocative words in British football for a century. These nine red and white letters welcomed visitors to a cramped stadium with wooden seats and a unique atmosphere.

Behind the goal, the low roof of the Fulwell End housed Mackems who stood, swayed, sang and celebrated. The Roker Roar, the Clock Stand and the bearpit in front of the main stand. Put simply, it was a great place to watch football.

In the mind's eye of a small boy in Northern Ireland, Charlie Hurley would proudly emerge from the mini-tunnel within the main stand. Ball tucked under his arm, he would run up the embankment to the pristine turf. Roker Park will always be home to Sunderland supporters like Martin O'Neill.

Mad for the Mackems: O'Neill has been a lifelong fan of Sunderland

Mad for the Mackems: O'Neill has been a lifelong fan of Sunderland

Restless a few weeks ago, after a full day at the club training ground and another evening with his 'boring' (his word) coaching staff at the local Italian restaurant, O'Neill had the sudden urge to find Roker Park.

This was the Aston Villa manager who walked in the footsteps of Brian Clough, leaving the team hotel in Middlesbrough to find Cloughie's old house and the housing estate which was once Ayresome Park.

'That was sentimental because of the connection with Brian Clough,' he says. 'He would have come out of that house and walked across the park to Ayresome Park for training.'

He was also the Wycombe Wanderers manager who visited the house that was used for the exterior shots of Fawlty Towers which was in Oxfordshire not, in fact, Torquay.

'When I found out I had to find it.' But this was different. O'Neill was searching for Sunderland's soul. 'Exactly that,' he said. 'It felt like searching for Sunderland's soul. You consider they had almost a 100-year history there. And all the things that have happened in that century there. It's amazing.'

The car journey with reserve team coach and former Norwich teammate Keith Bertschin to the football heartland of Wearside is evidence that Sunderland AFC isn't just under O'Neill's skin, it pulses through his football body. He takes up the story.

The way they were: Massed crowds standing on packed terraces for a league game against Blackpool in 1953 where neat terraces now stand

The way they were: Massed crowds standing on packed terraces for a league game against Blackpool in 1953 where neat terraces now stand

The way they were: Massed crowds standing on packed terraces for a league game against Blackpool in 1953 where neat terraces now stand

'We were in Romanos, Bertsch and I –
Keith played for Sunderland for a little while himself – so I just said,
“Come on, let's go and drive and see where Roker is”. I knew it was a
housing estate now, but I'd never been. Whenever I'd visited Roker Park
as a player, we'd just come up on the bus, park outside, in, play the
game and home again. I wasn't even aware it was that close to the
seafront. I didn't know.

'Keith
was all on for it. We're in the car, he's driving and we've got to a
place where we think we know where it is. I said, “Well, Bertsch, you
played here. You should have an idea”. He replied, “Er, I think I've
lost my bearings a wee bit”.

'So we were driving around the area once or twice and, remarkably, kept missing the spot. We had to ask this fella, rolled down the windows and stopped him.

'I knew it was going to be one of those moments. I wanted Bertsch to lean across and speak to him. “What is it” the fella said. “You couldn't tell us where Roker Park was, could you” And the minute Keith said that, of course, he's interested, because this boy happened to be a big Sunderland fan.

'He looked at Bertsch and then looked at myself. And he said, “Forget that, you want to come to the pub with us. We're heading to the bar”. We told him, “No, no, not tonight, thanks, just tell us where Roker is”. He directed us, no problem. “Down this way, back there”.

'We went there but it's not fantastically sign-posted. There's a Midfield Drive, a Promotion Close, Clockstand Close, Turnstile Mews, Roker Park Close. So we stopped again and asked this young fella, who said he lived there.

'I think he just saw two men in a car at half-past-ten at night and thought, “Hmmm, might be a bit dodgy”. But he said, “Yeah, it's all here, this is it.”

'We just drove round a couple of times, to see it, try to get the bearings right. And then, of course, when you see a couple of the wee markings and the new houses against the side of the road, Association Road, you realise all the new part is where the stadium was.

'There's a great aerial picture in here in the Academy of Roker Park and it all comes so clear then. The Fulwell End, the Roker End and stuff like that. I felt something, though, absolutely – the sense that somebody is living in a house where Tommy Harmer scored for Chelsea in a vital promotion match in 1963.

How it looks now: Roker Park has disappeared, but reminders of its famous history remain

How it looks now: Roker Park has disappeared, but reminders of its famous history remain

How it looks now: Roker Park has disappeared, but reminders of its famous history remain (and below)

'It makes you think. Of 1964, when I
listened on radio to an FA Cup quarter-final replay against Man United
which was drawn but which Sunderland eventually lost in the third game.'

O'Neill may have been a Sunderland
fan as a kid in Derry, but he had never visited the famous old ground
with his red and white scarf. He did go one better, though, when, as a
20-year-old, he played there for Nottingham Forest in 1972.

'I just had to see it … to relive my childhood'

'They murdered us,' he recalled. 'Our
scout, Bert Johnson, said they were the first proper side he'd ever
seen. And he had great perception. He once said, “If you are early to
rise, you can lie all day”. One of the great quotes of all time.'

Roker
Park meant something to him back then. The Fulwell End, the Clock
Stand, the mini-tunnel where his hero Charlie Hurley proudly strode out
in his red and white stripes, ball under arm. Before it was all
demolished for houses in 1998, O'Neill did visit the ground as a fan.

At the time, he was manager of the
Leicester City side who fittingly, perhaps, were the visitors for the
opening game of Roker's 100th and final season. He sat among the other
managers and scouts for the penultimate game at home to Southampton.

But it was more than just a scouting
mission. It was a personal homage to one of game's great homes. The
Stadium of Light was a necessity, and a very good one, but Roker Park
oozed history.

Marking the spot: The position of the old centre circle has been remembered

Marking the spot: The position of the old centre circle has been remembered

'I just wanted to see it, because they
were going to be leaving the stadium,' he said. 'I'd have loved to have
gone into one of the ends, but I bottled it and took a safer seat in the
main stand. It meant a lot emotionally to make that trip up. Listen,
it's a fantastic football club and it was probably reliving my
childhood.'

Now he is finally Sunderland manager,
he is fulfilling the wishes of fans who have clamoured for his
appointment since Peter Reid was forced to leave the club's new home
after three years. The fact he has made such an impact comes as no
surprise to them.

Seven
victories from 11 games have them back in the Premier League top 10 and
a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals for the first time in eight years
have backed owner Ellis Short's decision to sack Steve Bruce and bring
in O'Neill.

One
striker very happy with life under O'Neill is Fraizer Campbell – fresh
from the birth of his first child, Isla Rose, on the night he won his
first England cap.

The former Manchester United trainee
said: 'Everyone keeps telling me that these things come along in threes,
so hopefully this (victory in the derby) can be the third one.

'I
was gutted to miss the birth of my first child but at the same time if
I'd have left the England squad she might have been born the day
afterwards and I'd have been gutted not to have got the chance to play
for England.'

Sunderland's
preparations were disrupted by Stephane Sessegnon's delayed return from
Africa.

The midfielder was stranded in Paris yesterday after
difficulties coming back from Benin's Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in
Ethiopia. He is expected to be back in time for Sunday's kick-off.

Jose Mourinho tells fans he is not coming back to Chelsea

I'm not coming back to Chelsea, says Mourinho after visit to London

Former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has ruled out making a sensational return to Stamford Bridge next season.

When pictures emerged this week of the Portuguese house-hunting in London some fans took that to mean the Real Madrid boss was returning to the post he held between 2004 and 2007.

But, according to the Daily Mirror, Mourinho has told the owner of his favourite restaurant that he will not be returning to the club.

London visit: Mourinho poses with a fan outside La Famiglia restaurant

London visit: Mourinho poses with a fan outside La Famiglia restaurant

Marietta Maccioni, daughter of Alvaro Maccioni, the owner of La Famiglia, said: 'It was lovely to see him again after so long away.

'He came in with his wife, sister-in-law and her husband. They had a leisurely lunch and enjoyed themselves.

'Jose was speaking to my father for quite a while, just about family and how the business was doing.

'He said he was house-hunting in the area and was looking for a big place for the whole family.

Special One: Mourinho won back-to-back titles at Chelsea

Special One: Mourinho won back-to-back titles at Chelsea

'A lot of the staff are Chelsea fans, including me, and they were asking him if he was coming back to the club.

'Unfortunately he said he wasn’t. We’re all disappointed as he was a great manager for us. I wish he was coming back.

'He didn’t tell us anything else about his plans, and we didn’t pry as he’s a good customer and a friend.'