The Breakdown | Concentration of Ireland rugby talent leaves English trailing in Europe

22-01-2019

Leinster – and the fast-rising Scottish sides – are packed full of internationals while Test players are spread more thinly across their Premiership and Top 14 rivalsThe Premiership goes into the final round of the European Champions Cup group stage this weekend hunting a first victory over an Irish province in this season’s tournament. Its clubs have three opportunities: Ulster travel to Leicester, Leinster are away to Wasps and, in the one contest that has an outcome for both teams, Exeter have to become the fourth team to topple Munster at Thomond Park in the competition.The Chiefs’ task is even more demanding because of the bonus point Munster secured at Gloucester last Friday. It means Exeter not only have to win but deny their opponents a bonus point, unless they score at least four tries. For all the impact they have made in the Premiership in recent seasons, reaching the last three finals, they have yet to find the formula in Europe where a gameplan based on retaining possession is more hazardous because of the extra latitude given to the defending side at the breakdown. Continue reading...



Emiliano Sala was 'so ready' to join us, says Cardiff City chief executive – video

22-01-2019

Cardiff City chief executive Ken Choo has said that the club is in shock over new signing Emiliano Sala's disappearance. The 28-year-old striker was aboard a small passenger plane that lost contact on Monday night off the coast of Guernsey as he was flying to Wales from Nantes, French authorities have said.The Channel Islands air search chief officer, John Fitzgerald, told the Associated Press: 'After all this time the weather’s quite cold, the water is very cold out there ... I am not expecting anyone to be alive.'Sala completed his move from Nantes to Cardiff for a club-record fee over the weekend, but had returned to France to say goodbye to his teammates. He was set to train with Cardiff for the first time on Tuesday morning and expected to make his debut against Arsenal next week. Emiliano Sala: Cardiff's new striker who was on missing plane – video report Continue reading...



'They were happy tears,' says Kvitova after beating Barty – video

22-01-2019

Petra Kvitova has advanced to her first grand slam semi-final since surviving a brutal knife attack by a burglar in her home town in the Czech Republic two years ago. The World No 6 beat Ashleigh Barty 6-1, 6-4 in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open - ending home hopes of quelling a 41-year singles title drought.Following her win, Kvitova said: 'It wasn't really easy to see myself in the semi-final of a grand slam' after everything she has been through. The two-time Wimbledon champion was told she would likely never play again after having her left playing hand seriously injured.Reigning US Open champion Naomi Osaka and sixth seed Elina Svitolina, who clash in the quarter-finals and fellow Czech Karolina Pliskova, who faces Serena Williams in the last eight, are the only players who can stop Kvitova from climbing to world No 1 for the first time.Kvitova sets up Australian Open last four clash with unseeded Danielle Collins Continue reading...



Saints fans file lawsuit to replay NFC championship game after missed call

22-01-2019

Hearing is set for Monday over end to Saints’ loss to RamsNew Orleans businessman rents billboards critical of NFLIn the legal equivalent of a Hail Mary pass, two New Orleans Saints season ticket holders have asked a judge to reverse the result of the NFC championship game that sent the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl, or order a replay.Tuesday’s state court filing says the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, should implement a league rule governing “extraordinarily unfair acts.” Continue reading...



Super Bowl: Los Angeles Rams beat New Orleans Saints to NFC title after controversial call

22-01-2019

Watch highlights as the Los Angeles Rams clinch the NFC title and a place in the Super Bowl with a controversial 26-23 overtime victory at the New Orleans Saints.



How did Barcelona end up signing Kevin-Prince Boateng? | Sid Lowe

22-01-2019

The arrival of the former Milan forward makes some sense, but also hints at a certain improvisation in Barça’s planningBarcelona’s latest signing is football royalty, just not the way they expected. Late on Monday night, in the club store just across the concourse from the Camp Nou, closed to the public, he stood smiling and holding up his new shirt: “Prince, 19”. From Hertha to Tottenham, from Dortmund to Portsmouth and, five clubs and nine years later, from Sassuolo to Barcelona, Kevin-Prince Boateng’s 10th club is the biggest of them all. It was also the biggest surprise; their new centre-forward comes from leftfield, unforeseen by anyone.Boateng described this as a huge “opportunity”. It is one he did not expect, echoes of the day that his agent told him he was going to Milan and Boateng thought he was joking. Some in Spain reacted similarly when the news broke with the deal already done. Boateng joins on loan, with an €8m optional purchase clause in the summer. The headlines in the Catalan papers came with exclamation marks. Boateng, the “hidden option”, “the surprise”, ran the front pages. Continue reading...



Simon Zebo abuse: Ulster fan handed lifetime ban

22-01-2019

The Racing 92 player said he was abused during his side's game in Belfast earlier in January.



Football transfer rumours: Bayern Munich to move for Rabbi Matondo?

22-01-2019

Today’s rumours are taking the strainRumours of players staying put are never that exciting, we know that. You come here for big-money talk, hot gossip of signings emerging from the leftfield. But we can’t just play to the gallery, and the top line today concerns Eden Hazard, who is now thinking of signing a new contract at Chelsea, perhaps buoyed by the impending arrival of Gonzalo Higuaín.Manchester United won’t satisfy your crazed lust for fresh meat either. They’re mainly concerned with tying down both Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial to new deals, you see, with the pair willing to talk now the gaff has been decontaminated. Scott McTominay has already put pen to paper on a spanking new contract as well, upping the current feelgood factor at Old Trafford to 11. Continue reading...



The Spin | Alastair Cook should follow tone set by CMJ in the commentary box

22-01-2019

Former England captain says he will refrain from personal criticism of players, but even a broadcaster as fair-minded as Christopher Martin-Jenkins could not always avoid controversyWhen Test Match Special announced that Alastair Cook would be lending his services to its non-ball-by-ball-coverage for two of the upcoming Caribbean Tests, the Spin thought immediately of another tall, reserved man whose gentle touch and warm voice anchored TMS for four decades.It seems unbelievable that it was just over six years ago (1 January 2013), that Christopher Martin-Jenkins slipped quietly away to his celestial Lord’s, at the age of 67, after suffering from cancer. His presence was always such a reassuring one that it wouldn’t be a surprise, even now, to switch on TMS and hear his sensible tones expressing some surprise at an outrageous choice of shot or an outre hairstyle. Something of the world at least would be back in its rightful place. Continue reading...



'Rugby's like a chessboard with 120kg pieces' - how virtual reality could transform training

22-01-2019

Painstaking research, virtual reality and holding the tackle bags in training... an insight into how a top rugby analyst operates.



Five West Indies players to watch against England

22-01-2019

From Roston Chase to Shimron Hetmyer, the players who could give England problems during the forthcoming Test seriesSpin-bowling all-rounder who has been outscored by only Kraigg Brathwaite over the 30 months since his Test debut. He disappointed on the tour of England in 2017, when he averaged 13.33 in six innings, but stood out in last year’s trip to India, where he averaged 46.25, scored a century – the only one in his last 30 Test innings – in Hyderabad and was his team’s most consistent player. “He’s a quality player,” says the former West Indies head coach, Stuart Law. “I think he understands spin. They face a lot of spin back in the Caribbean. He has a long reach and he’s a clean striker of the ball. He has worked hard against pace and it’s not a weakness any more, it has started becoming a strength.” The 26-year-old is increasingly unlikely to be seen with the ball in his hand, though: Chase bowled at least 30 overs in four of his first five Tests, but has not done so since Headingley in 2017 and these days rarely gets into double figures. Continue reading...



The goalscoring streaks of the season: Rashford, Messi and ... Quagliarella

22-01-2019

Marcus Rashford has scored in his last four league games but no one in Europe can compete with Fabio QuagliarellaBy Martin Laurence for WhoScoredWhen Marcus Rashford curled in Manchester United’s winner against Brighton at the weekend, he stretched his scoring streak to four league games in a row. Prior to this run of goals, Rashford had only ever scored in two straight league games but now he has a chance to do something Harry Kane has never managed: score in five consecutive league games. Eleven players have done just that in Europe’s big leagues this season – with one even scoring in 10 straight games. Continue reading...



Masters Snooker 2019: Watch five great flukes

22-01-2019

Watch five great flukes from the 2019 Masters, including shots from Ding Junhui, Judd Trump and Luca Brecel.



David Squires on … football spying and Neil Warnock's Brexit views

22-01-2019

Our cartoonist looks at the off-field stories dominating the headlines at Leeds, Derby, Cardiff … and NewcastleTake a look through David’s archive of cartoons Continue reading...



'Humble and generous, but a private enigma' - who was Leicester City's owner?

22-01-2019

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha is revered in Leicester as the man who presided over one of sport's great triumphs - but who was the billionaire Thai businessman?



Megavalanche, footballers dancing badly and a perfect 10 | Classic YouTube

22-01-2019

Also featuring a full-court buzzer beater, some dire defending and a 1956 lap round Le Mans (including oncoming traffic)1) Clear some time in your day, strap in and relive the 40 minutes of mayhem that was Megavalanche 2018 from the point of view of the winning rider, Damien Oton, who somehow stayed upright while whizzing down the French Alps on a bike … in the snow.2) There have been plenty of dancing footballers down the years but not many quite so enthusiastic as Raul Meireles in Lip Sync Portugal. Just look at those shoulders go. He’s got form from his playing days, mind. But spare a thought for poor Mo Salah. He would have probably preferred Sadio Mané to win African Footballer of the Year had he known he was going to be forced to dance on stage by Youssou N’Dour. And we’re not sure about Carlos Tevez’s moves in this video when he was in a band called Piola Vago. He looks as if he’s having much more fun than he ever had in the Chinese Super League, though. Sergio Agüero is another South American footballer whose body moves better on a pitch than in time to music. Here he is self consciously fronting a song about himself by the band Los Leales. Youri Djorkaeff takes his dancing far too seriously in this R&B effort. And Jürgen Klopp did a bit of dad-dancing recently too. We’ve seen worse. Continue reading...