Tag Archives: storm

Zak Hardaker out of World Club Challenge with injury

Leeds face challenge after injury rules full back Hardaker out of Melbourne clash

By
Ian Laybourn, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

21:08 GMT, 18 February 2013

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UPDATED:

21:08 GMT, 18 February 2013

Leeds will have to find a new full-back for Friday's World Club Challenge against Melbourne Storm after ruling out England international Zak Hardaker with a broken thumb.

The 21-year-old is expected to be sidelined for a month with the injury he sustained in last Friday's 42-14 Super League win over Salford.

Rhinos coach Brian McDermott also confirmed at a press conference at Headingley that prop Ryan Bailey will be out after undergoing minor knee surgery, but that second rower Brett Delaney and prop Jamie Peacock will return after missing the Salford game through injury.

Crocked: Hardaker (centre) has a broken thumb

Crocked: Hardaker (centre) has a broken thumb

Centre Kallum Watkins, who switched to full-back against the City Reds, and Australian recruit Joe Vickery are among the list of possible alternatives for the full-back role.

Vickery, 23, who was born in Exeter but raised in Australia, earned a 12-month contract with the champions after impressing in pre-season trials but damaged ankle ligaments on his debut in the opening game.

'We've a few options,' McDermott said. 'Kallum Watkins is one of them and Joe Vickery is in the mix after making a remarkable recovery.'

Rory McIlroy signs Nike deal in Abu Dhabi to set him on way to billion dollar prize

Billion dollar Rory! Nike deal sets McIlroy on his way to UK record haul… but Ryder Cup storm clouds threaten his Abu Dhabi party

By
Derek Lawrenson

PUBLISHED:

22:48 GMT, 14 January 2013

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UPDATED:

23:09 GMT, 14 January 2013

Dude, is that your real hair

Watch the first Nike advert featuring both new signing Rory McIlroy and original superstar Tiger Woods.

Rory McIlroy took a major step to becoming the United Kingdom's first billion-dollar sportsman after he was officially unveiled as a Nike athlete.

At a press conference in Abu Dhabi filled with glitz and glamour, the Northern Irishman, 23, signed a $25million-a-year (about 15.5m) contract that, alongside tournament earnings and appearance fees of similar magnitude, could see him break the 10-figure earnings barrier before he finishes his glittering career.

Jack Nicklaus was 46 when he won his last major and the legendary Arnold Palmer is still raking in $20m (about 12.4m) a year in sponsorship despite now being in his eighties.

Just done it: Rory McIlroy has signed a sponsorship deal with Nike that will see him net 155m

Just done it: Rory McIlroy has signed a sponsorship deal with Nike that will see him net 155m

Just done it: Rory McIlroy has signed a sponsorship deal with Nike that will see him net 155m

If McIlroy can avoid the scandals that have affected other Nike athletes such as Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong and keep his form, that gargantuan billion-dollar figure is clearly within range.

McIlroy was welcomed into the fold by fellow Nike superstars Wayne Rooney, Roger Federer and Woods himself. Messages of support from the trio were played on a big screen behind where McIlroy and Cindy Davis, president of Nike Golf, were sitting.

Spectacular: McIlroy's image was projected onto water at a glitzy ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Monday

Spectacular: McIlroy's image was projected onto water at a glitzy ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Monday

Spectacular: McIlroy's image was projected onto water at a glitzy ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Monday

No details of the Nike deal have been revealed but the initial contract is believed to be worth up to $25m a year and could run for a decade. That equates to around $68,000 (over 42,000) a day but McIlroy vowed not to let the staggering sums of money distract him from his game.

Rory the cleaner's son mops up

Read Derek Lawrenson's verdict on the sponsorship deal that everyone is talking about…

'I don't play golf for money, I am well past that,' he said. 'I am a major champion and world No 1, which I have always dreamed of being, and I want to keep on living the dream. If I haven't won another major by the end of this year I am going to be very disappointed.'

McIIroy's megabucks deal heralded what promises to be a momentous week in Abu Dhabi, with Europe's Ryder Cup captain due to be announced on Tuesday.

The Holywood star reiterated his backing for Paul McGinley but there are plenty of whispers that the 15-man Tournament Players' Committee, who have the vote, might go for Scot Colin Montgomerie on home soil at Gleneagles next year.

If that happens, McIlroy might find himself leading a revolt among the men who were at Medinah.

Welcome to the big time: McIlroy joins Tiger Woods in earning a huge sum as the face of Nike's golf division

Welcome to the big time: McIlroy joins Tiger Woods in earning a huge sum as the face of Nike's golf division

Blackpool have not yet received any firm bids for starlet Thomas Ince

No bids yet from Liverpool or United as fight for Ince moves into January

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UPDATED:

14:34 GMT, 15 December 2012

Blackpool are yet to receive any bids for Thomas Ince but are in talks with several clubs confirmed their manager, Michael Appleton.

The England U21 starlet has been in red-hot form for Blackpool this season, scoring 13 goals in the Championship as his side sit just four points outside the play-off places.

Ince, who was hit with a controversial one game ban for his part in the England U21 race storm against Serbia, has been heavily linked with re-joining former club Liverpool.

Speculation: Blackpool's Thomas Ince will likely join a Premier League club this January, with Liverpool and Manchester United leading the race for his signature

Speculation: Blackpool's Thomas Ince will likely join a Premier League club this January, with Liverpool and Manchester United leading the race for his signature

Blackpool's Thomas Ince

Liverpool let Ince leave just 18 months ago for 250,000 but have been rumoured to be preparing a 6million bid, with reports stating Blackpool are holding out for 7m.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rogers is planning to unveil a new strikeforce in January with Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge his other main target.

However, the Reds face stiff competition for Ince with Manchester United and at least one other club interested in his signing.

Michael Appleton has been pleased with how Ince has handled the speculation

Michael Appleton is pleased with the way Ince has handled speculation

'There have been no bids as far as I'm aware,' Appleton told Sky Sports.

'I think there have been conversations with a couple of clubs and the chairman, but nothing concrete.

'No-one has come in yet and set the marker in terms of price.'

Appleton has been pleased with the way Ince has handled the speculation.

'To be fair to Tom, he's put it all to one side,' added Appleton.

'He's just got on with his game and not let it affect him.

'He just has to keep on playing well for Blackpool.

'If he's got anything about him, he'll keep playing well and scoring for us.

'It's only fair for him and everyone else that he ignores the speculation.

'If the worst did happen in January, and we did lose Tom, then we have to make sure we have replacements ready.

'They will have to fill some very big shoes.'

Mark Clattenburg race-row latest: Referee unlikely to be charged with FA to finally make announcement tomorrow

Clattenburg race-row D-day: Referee unlikely to be charged with FA to finally make announcement tomorrow
Delay due to lawyers pouring over draft documentFA spend significant sum on legal adviceChelsea stand by 'monkey' allegationsClub's reputation to be left in tatters

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UPDATED:

12:45 GMT, 14 November 2012

The Football Association will tomorrow make their announcement on the action they will take over Mark Clattenburg race-row allegations — Sportsmail understands they are unlikely to charge the referee.

FA officials have spent a significant sum on legal advice and taken their time in order to come to the right decision.

The announcement will come 18 days after Clattenburg was accused of calling Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel a ‘monkey’.

Referee Mark Clattenburg (centre) in an exchange with John Obi Mikel (right) as Juan Mata looks on during the home league match against Manchester United

Eye of the storm: Referee Mark Clattenburg (centre) in an exchange with John Obi Mikel (right) as Juan Mata looks on during the home league match against Manchester United. The official has been accused of racially abusing Mikel

The police yesterday shelved their race abuse investigation into referee Mark Clattenburg after receiving no complaint from Chelsea.

The Metropolitan Police have confirmed they are no longer investigating a complaint, made by the Society of Black Lawyers, regarding Clattenburg’s conduct.

The FA inquiry finished on Friday and they have since been receiving legal opinion on a draft document.

It has been delayed due to the vast amount of paperwork involved.

Chelsea submitted 1,250 pages of evidence delivered by bike courier to the FA’s three-man compliance unit when John Terry was accused of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand — a charge he was later found guilty of by the FA.

Poster boys: United fans poke fun at the famous Chelsea banner, which reads 'JT, captain, leader, legend', during the Capital One Cup tie

Poster boys: United fans poke fun at the famous Chelsea banner, which reads 'JT, captain, leader, legend', during the Capital One Cup tie

They have a full-time QC amongst their employees and it is believed the club will have been equally as thorough with this case.

If, as expected, Clattenburg, 37, is cleared by the FA it will leave Chelsea's reputation in tatters after their captain John Terry was banned for four matches and
fined 220,000 after being found guilty of racially abusing QPR's Anton
Ferdinand by a Football Association independent regulatory commission.

Hours after reporting Clattenburg to the FA, a spectator in the Chelsea end was pictured directing a 'monkey' gesture at Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck during a Capital One Cup tie.

Gavin Kirkham, 28, is on police bail pending a further investigation following his arrest on suspicion of a racially aggravated Section 4A Public Order Act offence.

Chelsea have banned him from Stamford Bridge until the police investigation is concluded and he faces a life-ban if found guilty.

Whistleblower: Chelsea have stood by their allegation that Clattenburg (right) used inappropriate language in an exchange with Mikel

Whistleblower: Chelsea have stood by their allegation that Clattenburg (right) used inappropriate language in an exchange with Mikel

Mr Kirkham is due back in police custody on November 29 where he will either be charged and will go to court, re-bailed pending further investigation or released without charge.

Clattenburg has not officiated in a match since the incident. But some refereeing experts have suggested he will be handed a last-minute match in the lower leagues this weekend in an under-the-radar bid to assimilate the Durham official back into officiating.

Chelsea chairman: Bruce Buck

Chelsea chairman: Bruce Buck

The incident occurred in Chelsea’s 3-2 Barclays Premier League loss to Manchester United on October 28. Chelsea came from two goals behind to level at 2-2 before having Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres sent off.

Afterwards Chelsea accused Clattenburg of the racial slur on Mikel – who angrily stormed into his dressing room and confronted him after the match – and of calling Juan Mata a ‘Spanish t***’.

The club later dropped the accusation against Mata but pressed ahead and reported the comment about Mikel to the FA.

Yesterday, in an interview with the Evening Standard, Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck stood by the club's allegation levelled at Clattenburg.

'We
were guided by obligations that are imposed by the Football Association
and also as an employer. FA rule E14 basically says a participant shall
immediately report to the association any incident or matter which may
be considered to be a misconduct.

'Misconduct
is a defined term under the FA regulations and includes such racial
behaviour. We also had to consider the Equality Act 2010, which imposes
an obligation on an employer to take certain actions if an employee is
subject to discrimination by third parties.

'Suppose
we had tried to sweep this under the rug and said to the various
players, “Look, it's not a big deal and the press are going to be all
over us, maybe you want to reconsider”. If that had leaked out, we
would've really been crucified.'

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New York marathon takes place despite Hurricane Sandy wreckage

New York marathon to go ahead despite devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy

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UPDATED:

11:41 GMT, 2 November 2012

The New York City Marathon will go ahead as planned on Sunday despite the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy which swept up the East coast at the beginning of the week.

The monstrous storm has left the lower half of Manhattan without power and there are plenty of logistical questions yet to be answered, but New York Road Runners president Mary Wittenberg has confirmed the race will go ahead.

If anything, she argued, the race was more important now than before. 'To us the marathon really epitomizes the spirit of New York City, the vitality, the tenacity, the determination of New Yorkers,' she said.

Marathon clear-up: Damage in the New York City borough of Queens, where fire destroyed around 100 houses and many more were flooded

Marathon clear-up: Damage in the New York City borough of Queens, where fire destroyed around 100 houses and many more were flooded

It will be great news for the near 50,000 men and women who have spent up to nine months training for the race, but the event will be undoubtedly tinged with sadness after so many have lost their life.

Organisers are still assessing the damage left by Superstorm Sandy and how it will affect logistical plans, such as getting runners into the city and transporting them to the start line on Staten Island.

Most of the city's 23 subway lines are operational or near-operational – though none below 34th Street, an area that includes the terminal for the ferries that go to Staten Island.

High winds: The superstorm threatened to wreck the 2012 edition of the New York marathon

High winds: The superstorm threatened to wreck the 2012 edition of the New York marathon

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg wants the race to go ahead, as many small business depend on the influx of tourists and runners, but some athletes feel torn over whether to attend the race – or even if it is right that the race goes ahead.

Some fun runners are concerned that the race will pull resources away from where it is really needed.

Wittenberg said she expected the field would be smaller than the 47,500 who ran last year because some entrants would not be able to make it to New York, but added that so far organizers had received no more cancellations than normal.

Flashback: The runners cross Verrazano Narrows Bridge in last year's race

Flashback: The runners cross Verrazano Narrows Bridge in last year's race

In 2001, the race took place only seven weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks that shook the entire country.

The 43rd marathon is set to include three Olympic medalists and the women's world champion.

Kenya's Wilson Kipsang won bronze in the Olympic men's marathon; his challengers will include 2011 Chicago Marathon champion, Moses Mosop of Kenya, and 2010 New York winner, Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia.

Picking up the pieces: Workers assemble the finish line for the marathon in Central Park

Picking up the pieces: Workers assemble the finish line for the marathon in Central Park

Ethiopia's Tiki Gelana won gold and Russia's Tatyana Arkhipova was third in the women's race in London. Edna Kiplagat of Kenya won the world title a year earlier.

Martin O"Neill stayed at Tony Pulis" house after last season"s game

O'Neill sleeping with the enemy: Pulis gave Sunderland boss a room for the night during snow storm

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UPDATED:

22:03 GMT, 26 October 2012

Martin O’Neill and Tony Pulis make very unlikely flatmates.

But Sunderland boss O'Neill has revealed that the managerial pair were forced to share the Stoke manager’s house after last season’s clash at the Britannia Stadium because snowstorms blocked his route to his family in London.

Sunderland won the game thanks to James McClean’s winner, so perhaps it is no wonder Pulis refused to watched Match of the Day with his opposite number. The pair had also clashed on their different interpretations of a David Meyler tackle in Sunderland’s 1-0 win.

Looking for a win: Martin O'Neill is hoping Sunderland can repeat last season's result and beat Stoke

Looking for a win: Martin O'Neill is hoping Sunderland can repeat last season's result and beat Stoke

O’Neill said: 'I didn't mean to stay at
his house. Do you really think I wanted to, particularly after we’d won
the game If it wasn’t for my dodgy knee, I’d have walked home.

'I was heading to London to see my daughters and I was getting a lift with his coach Gerry Francis his coach, who said he would take me to the station, but we couldn't get out of the snow and were stuck for about two hours so we trudged back to the ground and Gerry and I stayed with Tony. We didn’t get there until late because of the snow.

'We didn't entertain ourselves very well. Tony's not a great loser so we didn't watch Match of the Day together. Would I be sat there shouting at the TV as we won the game as McClean skipped in and put the ball in the net No. The TV was conveniently switched off.

Come in: Tony Pulis put a roof over O'Neill's head last season

Come in: Tony Pulis put a roof over O'Neill's head last season

'Tony's ok but that length of time with him is too much for me, however much I like him. I do have a lot of time for him because he's done very well at Stoke.

'It's a tough old job. He got them promoted and they were expected to struggle but he kept them up and got them to a cup final and the Europa League. It's been a great time for them in the last couple of years, and they'll be ok regardless of the set of results they get.’

O’Neill would take a repeat of that scoreline as he looks for his side to find some form and momentum after an unconvincing start to the season which has seen them lose only one game, to champions Manchester City, but score just six goals – five from Steven Fletcher.

Battle: James McClean and Sunderland fought back from a goal down to earn a draw against Newcastle in their last game

Battle: James McClean and Sunderland fought back from a goal down to earn a draw against Newcastle in their last game

He has a full strength squad for the first time this season and automatic choices Adam Johnson, Stephane Sessegnon and James McClean are under pressure to start producing after an unexpectedly quiet start to the season.

The form of 10million England winger Johnson is the biggest mystery but O’ Neill is certain the 25-year-old will start to find his feet and his form on Wearside soon.

The Sunderland manager added: `When he arrived his opening game against Morecambe was fantastic then we travelled down to Swansea and he couldn't really get into it. Since then he's been away with England, got injured, came back with a niggling thigh injury and missed games.

'There's nothing more annoying to have those kind of injuries and that's had some sort of effect but once he has a run of games, he'll be fine.

'Coming here and maybe feeling that he's expected to win games on his own could have affected him. That's a thought, it's not necessarily something he'd believe but that's something he should concern himself less with if it is.

'You come here and you want to do well for yourself and the club and prove that he's a really good player. I'll always want to have flair players in my side if I can.

'Trevor Francis did it when he arrived at Forest for 1m. He was a great player but still very anxious when he arrived to prove to everybody that he was worth the money and he just turned out to be brilliant.

'I think all of those things will happen. I genuinely don't have a major problem with it. When I'm talking about anxiety I'm talking about the fact he wants to please and do well. He's a favourite here with the fans.'

Kevin Mitchell and Ricky Burns weigh in

Mitchell and Burns weigh in as Dagenham Destroyer plots to grab title from Scot

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UPDATED:

15:02 GMT, 21 September 2012

Ricky Burns and Kevin Mitchell both weighed-in spot on the 135lb limit ahead of their lightweight showdown on Saturday.

The pair clash at Glasgow's SECC in a highly-anticipated 'Battle of Britain' with Burns looking to make a second successful defence of his WBO title.

Mitchell meanwhile is relishing the prospect of fighting Burns in front of the world champion's home crowd.

Calm before the storm: Ricky Burns (right) and Kevin Mitchell weigh in ahead of their fight

Calm before the storm: Ricky Burns (right) and Kevin Mitchell weigh in ahead of their fight

Calm before the storm: Ricky Burns (right) and Kevin Mitchell weigh in ahead of their fight

'I'll love it,' the Essex fighter said. “Once the fight has happened and I'm in there fighting and I've won, the crowd will respect me for being a fighter.

'I've been in big fights before, (Breidis) Prescott and (John) Murray, Katsidis when I wasn't on form.
'I was in front of 20,000 fans when I fought Carl Johanneson at the O2 when I was 22 or 23.

'I've been in big, big fights, but this is the biggest. This is everything. I've prepared well and I have no worries.'

Mitchell, whose only defeat came against Katsidis at Upton Park, added: “I've always been happy to go in with anyone. Chuck me in with any big name, when I'm fit I'll be confident. That's the way I am.

On the money: Burns makes the second defence of his WBO world title

On the money: Burns makes the second defence of his WBO world title

'I've been fighting since I was a 10-year-old and it doesn't really bother me who I fight, where I fight.

'When I'm fit and prepared for something, I have no worries.'

Burns is looking for his seventh win in a world title fight having previously held the WBO super-featherweight belt, which he relinquished to take on and beat Katsidis.

Mitchell admitted he did not prepare properly for his own title fight with the Australian, who took him out in three rounds, but he has not looked on with envy as his friend Burns' career went from strength to strength.

Covering up: Mitchell is believed to be in the shape of his life ahead of Saturday's fight

Covering up: Mitchell is believed to be in the shape of his life ahead of Saturday's fight

'I believe there are patterns in life and things happen for certain reasons,' the 27-year-old said.

'Ricky has done very well and come through his career very well. I believe this is my chance and I want to take this one.'

The pair showed little sign of friendship when they squared up at the weigh-in but they had greeted each other warmly and spoken at length at the previous day's head-to-head press conference.

'We are friends but we get in there and fight, it's a job,' Mitchell said.

'After, we'll have a kiss and a cuddle and have a beer together, it's only a job.'

Storm lets five shot lead slip after back-to-back bogeys at KLM Open

Storm lets five shot lead slip after back-to-back bogeys at KLM Open

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UPDATED:

16:30 GMT, 8 September 2012

Graeme Storm let a five-shot advantage leak away and will embark on the final round of the KLM Open in a four-man tie at the top of the leaderboard.

The 34-year-old Englishman had negotiated his first two rounds and the first 12 holes of his third without dropping a shot, and at 14 under he held a handsome advantage over a cluster of rivals.

But back-to-back bogeys after poor tee shots at 13 and 14 began to undo his good work, and with the field closing in Storm found himself sharing first place on 12 under with Spaniards Pablo Larrazabal and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Scotland's Scott Jamieson.

Graeme Storm of England plays a shot during the second round of the KLM Open

Quieter day: England's Graeme Storm now shares the lead with Pablo Larrazabal, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Scott Jamieson

Storm signed for a one-under-par 69 on a day when low scoring was widespread, Larrazabal, Richie Ramsay and Henrik Stenson all posting 64s.

'I had two bad swings on 13 and 14,' Storm told europeantour.com.

'I had the tournament in the palm of my hand before that, but it should be a good day. I've only had two bogeys in 54 holes, which is quite impressive.

'It's difficult leading like I was. I have a lot of things on my mind at the moment with keeping my card, so I'm just looking at getting the best result I can.

'Tomorrow, keeping my card will be in the back of my mind, but I have given myself the chance to win and if I am in there with six holes to go I will go for it.'

Graeme Storm of England ponders during the second round of the KLM Open at Hilversumsche Golf Club

Losing steam: Back-to-back bogeys from Storm allowed his rivals to catch up

Larrazabal produced an inspired finish, with five birdies in his final six holes, while both Jamieson and Fernandez-Castano played the back nine impressively in posting rounds of 66.

Of the leading quartet, Storm is arguably the player needing the high finish most of all, given he stands 114th on the Race to Dubai money list, needing to stay in the top 115 to guarantee his place on tour next year.

The Hartlepool man probably needs to win another 100,000 euros (80,000) to safeguard his playing rights and a top-three finish in Holland could bring him a six-figure sum. First prize is 300,000 euros (240,000).

At the start of the day, Storm led by three from Fernandez-Castano, Jamieson and Sweden's Peter Hanson.

And when he picked up shots at the seventh, 10th and 12th to move to three under for the day and 14 under overall, he was pulling away and looked sure to lead by the end of the day.

Storm dropped his first shot of the week at the 13th, after failing to find the green off the tee.

Rather than a risky chip over a bunker on the direct line to the flag, he played safe and went wide of the potential hazard, leaving himself a long putt for par. It did not drop, meaning it was a bogey for Storm, his lead cut to four.

Then he crunched a wayward drive off the 14th tee and was in trouble that resulted in another dropped shot.

Henrik Stenson of Sweden plays a shot during the second round of the KLM Open at Hilversumsche Golf Club

In with a shout: Sweden's Henrik Stenson is in the runningt on eight-under

As his pursuers picked up shots over the closing holes, Storm could only manage four straight pars.

Hanson, heading for the Ryder Cup later in the month, birdied the 17th and 18th for a 67 which left him one off the pace on 11-under 199.

Ramsay missed out over the closing holes, but his six-under round lifted him into contention, a further two shots behind. Fresh from claiming the second European Tour victory of his career at the Omega European Masters last weekend, a third could still arrive this weekend for the 29-year-old former US Amateur champion.

He was stationed alongside England's Danny Willett, who had a 66, and Henrik Stenson was on eight-under 202 together with Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts who had a 67 as he continued to build towards his Ryder Cup debut in Medinah.

Germany's former world number one Martin Kaymer, also heading Stateside with Jose Maria Olazabal's Europe team, rolled in a long eagle putt at the last to atone for bogeys at the previous two holes as he finished the day six under for the tournament.

The British and Irish Lions can fill the void left by the Olympics: World of Rugby

Thanks for the warm-up, now the Lions must roar

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UPDATED:

22:27 GMT, 30 August 2012

The glorious success of London 2012 has created a renewed fervour for high-class sport around the country and an appetite to acclaim more heroes under the Team GB banner.

There is a void to be filled and rugby is ready to oblige — with significant Irish input. In hindsight, the timing might be seen as a masterstroke.

With the Paralympics topping up the euphoria in the UK, the Lions will belatedly announce on Tuesday that Wales coach Warren Gatland will lead the tour party to Australia next summer.

Leading the way: Wales coach Warren Gatland is expected to lead the British and Irish Lions on the tour of Australia

Leading the way: Wales coach Warren Gatland is expected to lead the British and Irish Lions on the tour of Australia

Meanwhile, Down Under, his fellow Kiwi in charge of the Wallabies, Robbie Deans, is under fire following his team’s stuttering start to the new Rugby Championship.

It’s a perfect storm to grab public attention. The Lions bandwagon will begin to gather momentum now that someone is in charge and the vision of vulnerable rivals will heighten the anticipation.

There will be more than the usual feelings of hope and expectation to go with the fantasy rugby predictions about the make-up of the Test team for the three-match series.

As was so apparent from the Olympics, the ability to engross the nation — or (home) nations — is dependent on success. Gold was the currency in London, but in Sydney it boils down to a final scoreline; 3-0 is the dream, but 2-1 will do, anything less is not good enough. The prestige of the Lions is unquestioned, yet victories are too sporadic.

Part of the team: Gatland was part of Ian McGeechan Lions coaching team in South Africa in 2009

Part of the team: Gatland was part of Ian McGeechan Lions coaching team in South Africa in 2009

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For rugby here to imprint itself on the wider public psyche for more than a fleeting few weeks, it needs the spin-offs of triumph; the ticker-tape welcome home, the awards and New Year’s gongs, the Downing Street reception, the chat show appearances — everything that the athletes and cyclists and rowers are savouring at present.

If the Lions prevail, rugby can hold the attention of new fans in a way that those sports cannot.

Ideally, the feel-good buzz would roll on into the home World Cup in 2015, with those separate factors enhancing the game as never before.

Part of the Olympic appeal was the ability to revel in personal glory for decent, hard-working competitors, well, rugby can offer that joy too — with those involved, even at Test level, largely polite and approachable and grounded.

Between now and departure in late May there will be injuries and suspensions. Britain and Ireland’s finest will be battered and patched up and undoubtedly not at full strength, but they can still win.

So don’t pack away the Team GB flag. Grab an Irish one too and stand by for the next big sporting fix.

World Cup aim: Stuart Lancaster is expected to guide England into the top seeds for the World Cup

World Cup aim: Stuart Lancaster is expected to guide England into the top seeds for the World Cup

Lancaster's modest target set to increase

While Deans is being savaged in Australia because his Wallabies, ranked No 2 in the IRB charts, can’t beat New Zealand, England head coach Stuart Lancaster will be judged on more modest terms for the remainder of 2012.

He has to maintain the country’s current fourth place in the rankings to claim top-seed status for the World Cup draw in December.

Yet, in time the demands will grow and Lancaster concedes that by 2015, he will need seven to 10 ‘world-class’ players in his squad; classified as among the top three in their position globally.

At present, perhaps only prop Dan Cole could be placed in that category. Chris Ashton scaled those heights when he was scoring tries for fun but has dropped back since, while either Danny Care or Ben Youngs could fulfil Lancaster’s stringent criteria when at their peak.

Others such as Courtney Lawes have the raw credentials, but as yet lack a gold-plated Test c.v. No wonder the coach said: ‘We need to give a few diamonds a good polish.’

Time for stars to add some sparkle

The Aviva Premiership swings back into action on Saturday with all the fanfare of a glamour occasion at Twickenham. Following a spring and summer of upheaval at so many clubs, it promises to be an intriguing campaign.

Once again, the authorities will trumpet the competitive edge provided by 12 clubs bound by the leveller of a modest salary cap, focusing on the high proportion of single-digit margins of victory. Yet it is time for the Premiership to alter the way it judges itself.

Tight finishes should not be the only barometer. There has been a distinct lack of stardust, so the arrival of stellar names such as Danny Cipriani, Gavin Henson, James Haskell, Richie Gray and Jimmy Cowan is timely.

Star quality: Danny Cipriani is back in the Aviva Premiership and looking to shine for Sale

Star quality: Danny Cipriani is back in the Aviva Premiership and looking to shine for Sale

Relegation and innate conservatism have created a dearth of attacking sparkle, so the hope must be that more coaches follow the tone set by Leicester, who were run-away top try-scorers last season, and champions Harlequins, who prospered with a high-octane, bold approach.

Let’s banish the safety-first cycle of kick-and-chase-and-pressurise, and hopefully the new scrum and ruck laws will help by enforcing greater tempo and purpose.

But the Premiership needs substance too, not just greater style — it cannot afford another season of European failures, or the prospect of a Lions squad overwhelming dominated by Celts from the RaboDirect PRO12 league.

The last word

The consensus view is that a grim fate awaits London Welsh in the Premiership. Whatever ordeals they suffer, there can be no doubt their promotion from the Championship was absolutely the right outcome from their appeal.

That was a question of principles, fairness and the need to foster ambition in the second tier. Yet having their entry confirmed so late has surely condemned the Exiles to a series of thumping defeats and relegation.

Their predicament should serve to hasten efforts by the RFU and Professional Game Board to sort out the injustices contained within the Minimum Standards Criteria governing entry to the Premiership — primarily concerning the primacy of tenure issue.

Officials have pledged to tidy up the mess by the end of September and that deadline must be adhered to, so that clubs have clarity and the spectre of a non-promotion or survival-by-technicality are averted.

Graham Westley texts eight players not to turn up for Preston training

Don't turn up for training, boss Westley texts Preston eight

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UPDATED:

22:43 GMT, 6 July 2012

A bizarre text message from a league manager telling eight of his players to stay away from pre-season training has created a huge storm.

Players at League One side Preston North End have called in the PFA following manager Graham Westley’s latest attempt to push them out of the club.

Sportsmail can reveal that Westley sent the text to eight of the players he wants out, telling them to stay away from first team training and that he expects them to be gone by the start of the season.

Players at League One side Preston North End have called in the PFA following manager Graham Westleys latest attempt to push them out of the club.

Odd: Graham Westley sent his players the message

The players are understood to include midfielders Barry Nicholson, Paul Coutts and striker Iain Hume while another, German forward Juvhel Tsoumou, had his contract cancelled by mutual consent this week. Coutts and Hume are considered to be two of the club’s best players.

The text is blunt in its delivery. Westley, who released 14 players at the end of the season and transfer-listed seven, has continually clashed with his squad since being appointed manager in January, even declaring: ‘I’ve had to tread carefully around some of the most mediocre standards I’ve ever seen in my life.’

Enlarge

Here it is: Westley's text message in full

Here it is: Westley's text message in full

In April he claimed four of his squad leaked his team and tactics to Sheffield Wednesday ahead of their 2-0 defeat at Hillsborough and threatened disciplinary action backed by chairman Peter Ridsdale. No action was taken after intervention from the PFA and the accusation was vehemently denied by the players.

Hume later said on Twitter: ‘Can’t see [it], and hopefully [I’m] proven right, that any of my team mates would divulge info[rmation] like that.’ Westley said: ‘It’s a difficult place, our club and our dressing room. If they’d have seen the real me, we probably would have had a big fall-out and there could have been a real problem at the club.’

Not needed: Barry Nicholson (centre) is supposedly one of the players

Not needed: Barry Nicholson (centre) is supposedly one of the players

Westley, 44, who won successive promotions from the Blue Square Bet Premier to League One with Stevenage, has managed Preston for 21 games, winning just three, drawing 10 and losing eight.

He has recruited 12 new players since the
end of the season and this week pointedly said: ‘The players I’ve
brought in have the hunger, thirst and desire to win. Their attitude
towards the team and club is positive and professional.’

Mediocre standards: Westley is not impressed by some of his current players

Mediocre standards: Westley is not impressed by some of his current players

A Preston spokesman said: ‘We have a number of players who have indicated that they wish to move to another club and a number who have been transfer listed by the club.

‘These players have been given an extra week off before returning for training to see if they find new clubs. Once they return they will be partaking in an organised pre-season training regime organised by the manager and his coaching staff, which was communicated to all players affected by way of the club’s usual means of contacting its players.’