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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Liverpool Striker Luis Suarez Confirms He Will Appeal Against Eight Match Ban

Anfield star’s confirms intention to fight FA punishment.

Liverpool striker Luis Suarez will appeal against his Football Association punishment for racially abusing Patrice Evra, according to his lawyer.

Alejandro Balbi, who is also Suarez’s agent, said his player was “convinced” the punishment would be reversed.

Suarez was handed an eight-game ban and £40,000 fine after he used “insulting words in reference to Manchester United defender Evra’s colour”.

“It seems to us absolutely out of proportion,” Balbi said.

“He [Suarez] is firmly convinced this hard sanction can be reversed.”

Speaking at a news conference in Uruguay capital Montevideo, Balbi said that it would be Liverpool’s lawyers who made the appeal to the FA.

Suarez, who denied the allegations, has 14 days to launch his appeal against the decision. Should he do so, there is a possibility length of the ban could be increased.

Liverpool will have to think long and hard about the option to appeal, not least as to do so could well entail an increased ban for their top-scorer and whilst the eight match ban Luis Suarez has been handed is considered a fairly hefty punishment the idea that this could be further expanded is a very real fear for the Merseyside club.

The Anfield side will almost certainly look to strengthen their attack next month after seeing Liverpool manage just 20 goals in 17 matches, a poor return that would already have left Kenny Dalglish considering such an options before the FA slapped a lengthy ban on his main attacking threat.

Sports News: Aguero fires City to festive summit

Sergio Aguero scored twice as Manchester City beat Stoke 3-0 to claim top spot in the league on Christmas Day for the first time since 1929.

Aguero, signed for a club record £38million from Atletico Madrid in the summer, bagged a goal either side of the interval to take his seasonal tally to 15.

Adam Johnson completed his first full 90 minutes in the Premier League since the middle of October and marked the occasion with a powerful first-half strike.

Stoke were made to pay before the half hour after Samir Nasri and David Silva worked a short corner routine that allowed the Spain star to race forward unopposed after his team-mate's dummy run had fooled two defenders.

Silva exploited the opportunity by slipping a pass through to Yaya Toure, who in turn squared into the six-yard area.

Thomas Sorensen was equal to Vincent Kompany's close-range effort but the Dane could only push the ball into the path of Aguero, who bundled home from barely a yard.

City doubled their lead 10 minutes later when Johnson picked up a loose ball and smashed a brutal effort through a packed penalty area into the corner.

The former Middlesbrough man was having a productive evening, although he was matched in that by Aguero, who after forcing Sorensen into another save, bagged his second.

It was a goal clinical in its efficiency as Gareth Barry slipped a pass out to Nasri, whose low cross from the right split the Stoke defenders and allowed Aguero to finish at the far post.

Aguero was 90 seconds too late to claim the Premier League's 20,000th goal but he nearly completed his hat-trick shortly afterwards, but only succeeded in flicking his shot wide of the far post.

Sports News: Arsenal game put back

Arsenal's planned Boxing Day home match against Wolves has been put back 24 hours to December 27 because of proposed industrial action by London Underground drivers.

Although a strike could still be averted, the north London club said the Barclays Premier League game would have to be moved "due to the preparation period needed to safely operate Emirates Stadium by all the relevant agencies".

Chelsea announced on Wednesday their London derby with Fulham would go ahead despite the possible disruption.

A statement regarding the match postponement from Arsenal read: "This decision has had to be made now, before the result of the legal challenge to the proposed industrial action is finally known, due to the preparation period needed to safely operate Emirates Stadium by all the relevant agencies.

"The club has been liaising closely in order to make this decision with all the relevant agencies, including the Metropolitan Police, Transport for London, London Underground, the FA Premier League, Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Islington Council.

"The paramount concern was always the duty of care towards the Arsenal supporters, Wolverhampton Wanderers supporters, matchday employees, workers and indeed everyone who was planning to attend the match on Boxing Day.

"In addition to the proposed industrial action on London Underground on Boxing Day, there would also have been no services operating on overground train services into London on this day.

"Also, normal parking restrictions close to the stadium would have still applied. This would have caused severe disruption, or at worst, inability for supporters or matchday employees and workers to get to Emirates Stadium.

"We apologise for the inconvenience this may have caused supporters, but we feel that the right decision has been made based on a duty of care.

"All tickets purchased for this match are still valid for Tuesday, December 27."

Sports News: AVB admits interest in Cahill

Andre Villas-Boas has admitted Chelsea's interest in Gary Cahill but insisted they had yet to make a bid for the Bolton defender.

Reports on Wednesday morning claimed Wanderers had accepted a £7million offer from the Blues for the England star, who has long been linked with a move to Stamford Bridge.

Cahill, who turned 26 on Monday, is out of contract in the summer and the January transfer window is the last chance for struggling Bolton to cash in on one of their prize assets. Villas-Boas said: "We are aware of Gary's contractual situation. He's an interesting player for the club."

Chelsea are short of cover in central defence, with Alex having been banished from the first-team squad after handing in a transfer request.

Villas-Boas added: "You know that we have taken a decision this season regarding the central defenders, regarding Alex.

"We haven't decided yet what we are going to do with the Alex situation.

"We have to make the wisest decision, be it Alex, be it Cahill."

Sports News: Chelsea match to go ahead

Chelsea have confirmed their home game with Fulham on Boxing Day will go ahead as planned, despite the possibility of industrial action by Tube drivers.

The start of legal action aimed at halting the strike - which could affect several sporting fixtures - in a row over pay was delayed at the High Court on Wednesday. London Underground (LU) is challenging the validity of the strike called by the Aslef union's leadership over its claims for additional Boxing Day pay.

A hearing had been set for 10:30am at the High Court in London but was rescheduled for 2pm. However, before that hearing could take place, Chelsea released a statement saying: "Following careful consideration, Chelsea Football Club's match against Fulham will take place as planned at 1pm on 26th December."

The statement continued: "Due to the increased difficulty in getting to Stamford Bridge because of the tube strike we wanted to give fans as much notice as possible that the game will go ahead as scheduled.

"The club has examined the implications presented by the planned strike and has consulted with the Local Authority, Metropolitan Police and transport authorities. We recognise the duty of care we have to both sets of supporters and are confident we will provide a safe environment for fans to enjoy the local derby.

"We are conscious there were existing and publicised travel restrictions on this day and that many supporters will have made long-standing plans to attend the match over this holiday period.

"Supporters are advised to monitor transport websites and to allow plenty of time for their journeys.

"Buses will be operating a Sunday service throughout London and parking is free in resident/business permit and pay-and-display bays to the south of Hammersmith and Fulham Borough and in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

"However, supporters are warned that yellow-line restrictions still apply in both boroughs despite it being a Bank Holiday."

Arsenal are considering moving their game with Wolves.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sports News: City must have regrets - Pulis

Manchester City are top of the table on Christmas Day for the first time since 1929 - but Stoke boss Tony Pulis feels Roberto Mancini will still be kicking himself over the one that got away.

Sergio Aguero's double, either side of an Adam Johnson effort secured a 3-0 win for the Blues on Wednesday evening but despite their form in the Barclays Premier League they were knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage.

And Pulis believes that is a cause for regret, saying: "They must be distraught they are out of the Champions League. I thought they would have run that very close this year, never mind the Premier League. They are real contenders for every competition they are in."

He added: "The depth of their squad and the quality they have got is what you would expect after spending £240million, or whatever it is."

Overcoming the side that beat Stoke in last season's FA Cup final was too much for Pulis' men on Wednesday night.

Aguero was named man of the match for another outstanding contribution, taking his seasonal goal tally to 15. However, there were plenty of other contenders too.

"Sergio scored two goals but all the players did very well," said Mancini.

"I am happy to be at the top at Christmas. I am happy for our supporters. They can have a good Christmas Day.

"But as I have said many times, it is important to stay there for the rest of the season. For this, it is difficult. United continue to win every game, the other teams continue to win; Arsenal, Tottenham.

"But it is better to stay on the top than second."

Sports News: Dalglish: Reds should have won

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish could not criticise the performance of his side after they were held to a frustrating goalless draw away at Wigan.

The focus on striker Luis Suarez, who received an eight-match ban on Tuesday after being found guilty of misconduct for using insulting words to Patrice Evra which included a reference to the Manchester United defender's colour, deflected from what was an entertaining game in which Charlie Adam missed a 50th-minute penalty.

"We were not disappointed with the performance but were disappointed with not coming away with three points," said Dalglish.

"We started really well for 20 minutes but they got back into it.

"We made a few chances and so did they. We would love to put them all away with a higher percentage than we do but it was a hard-fought draw."

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez was delighted with a second successive draw at home to a 'big' club, having held Chelsea at the weekend.

"When you are playing against sides of the quality of Liverpool or Chelsea you want to see your team performing well," he said.

"We are not expected to win these games but after the first 15 minutes we stretched the game and created our own chances.

"It would have been catastrophic to have lost that game."

Sports News: Ford and Wells exit RFU

Former England assistant coaches Mike Ford and John Wells are to leave the Rugby Football Union with immediate effect.

The pair have reached an agreement with the RFU after losing their roles with the national team in the wake of England's quarter-final exit at the World Cup.

Earlier this month, Stuart Lancaster was selected to head up a new-look interim England coaching team for the Six Nations campaign which also includes Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell. Ford and Wells had respectively taken charge of England's defence and forward play since 2006, coaching the team on two World Cup campaigns.

Acting RFU chief executive Stephen Brown said: "John and Mike have given great service to England and rugby in this country over many years and their contribution is appreciated. As well as his role with the senior team, John has played a major part in developing players as a national academy coach since he joined the RFU in 2005.

"In his five-and-a-half years with the senior team Mike created one of the best defences in world rugby, and while the World Cup was obviously disappointing overall, it should be noted that England conceded just three tries in their five matches - the joint lowest in the tournament.

"On behalf of the RFU I would like to wish them well in the next stages of their careers."

Ford and Wells coached England to the 2007 World Cup final and they leave at the end of a rollercoaster year.

England began 2011 in positive fashion, having beaten Australia home and away in 2010, and went on to win the RBS 6 Nations title, but the year finished in disappointment at the World Cup, which led to team manager Martin Johnson and attack coach Brian Smith standing down.

It became clear when Lancaster's interim was announced that Ford, who coached with the 2005 Lions, and ex-Leicester boss Wells had also reached the end of the road with England.

Ford said: "To be England's defence coach over the last five-and-a-half years has been an absolute honour and I have worked with some great players and management. The World Cup was a watershed and it is time for a new environment. I wish Stuart and everyone the very best for the Six Nations and I firmly believe that England can win it."

Sports News: Gunners win but Albrighton stars

Aston Villa winger Marc Albrighton scored the 20,000th goal in the Premier League but a late header from Arsenal substitute Yossi Benayoun earned the visitors a 2-1 victory at Villa Park.

Albrighton's milestone effort came nine minutes into the second half after a mistake by Gunners defender Thomas Vermaelen.

Arsenal striker Robin van Persie equalled Thierry Henry's club record - 34 - for the most Premier League goals in a calendar year before Benayoun's 87th-minute decider before Villa defender Alan Hutton was sent off in stoppage time for two bookable offences.

Villa have donated the 20,000 cheque from Barclays for the 20,000th goal to their official charity partner, the Acorns children's hospice.

The home side were the first to threaten and it needed a fine save from Wojciech Szczesny to prevent Gabriel Agbonlahor giving them a sixth-minute lead.

Indeed, it was against the run of play when Van Persie put Arsenal ahead. Ciaran Clark tugged at the short of Theo Walcott inside the box and referee Jonathan Moss pointed to the penalty spot. Up stepped Van Persie to hammer the spot kick into the roof of the net.

Walcott could have made it 2-0 after running onto Van Persie's pass, but Brad Guzan was alert and raced out of his box to block the shot with his chest.

Villa continued to do most of the pressing at the start of the second period. And, after 54 minutes, a mistake by Vermaelen allowed Albrighton to score the 20,000th goal since the Premier League began nearly 20 years ago.

The Villa winger kept his cool before sliding the ball wide of Szczesny.

Richard Dunne produced a vital interception to block a shot from Tomas Rosicky, but Benayoun broke Villa's hearts as he was left with a free header inside the box from Van Persie's corner.

Sports News: Hodgson impressed by Farrell

Charlie Hodgson rates his Saracens team-mate Owen Farrell as a chip off the old block and believes he is destined to play for England.

The 20-year-old's father is the legendary dual international Andy Farrell, who is the Saracens head coach and a newly-appointed member of Stuart Lancaster's interim England management set-up.

"When I came here (Saracens director of rugby) Mark McCall talked to me about passing on advice to him but the more time I have spent with him the more I have realised that he probably doesn't need to listen to me that much," Hodgson said.

"He is very mature and you can definitely see his dad in him. You can see the competitive streak in him straight away and he understands the game very well.

"He is not afraid to stand up and say what he thinks. He likes to take control of things, he is very good at feeding information to me during game time.

"He has definitely got the potential to play for England. He doesn't seem to be fazed by anything and seems to be in control of everything he is doing."

Farrell played at fly-half in Saracens' Aviva Premiership title-winning campaign last season and it will be his long-term position. But Saracens have shifted him into the centre this season with great success, partly to accommodate Hodgson's arrival at the club and partly to aid his own development.

Jonny Wilkinson learned his trade at inside centre before settling at fly-half and Farrell is doing the same now, although the Saracens structure means he actually wears the 13 jersey.

"He has built on massively from what he achieved last year, coming in halfway through the season and winning the championship," Hodgson said.

"Playing at centre gives him that bit more time on the ball, he has got the bigger picture of seeing what goes on and he has not always got that chaos in front of him playing at 10. Playing in any other position you get to appreciate your own position as well. He's playing very well at the minute, he's kicking his goals and doing everything that is required of him."

Sports News: IBF to investigate Khan fight

The IBF have confirmed they will investigate Amir Khan's defeat by Lamont Peterson after receiving a request for a formal appeal from Golden Boy Promotions.

One of the areas of the appeal will be "miscalculation of scoring" after Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer on Tuesday night claimed there were irregularities in the way the scorecards were compiled and collected.

Khan was relieved of his WBA and IBF world titles by Peterson, the home-town fighter, in a decision that continues to be bitterly disputed by the 25-year-old.

The performance of referee Joe Cooper, who deducted two points from Khan for pushing, has also aroused the suspicions of Golden Boy.

An IBF statement read: "On the evening of December 19, the IBF/USBA received a request for a formal appeal procedure from Golden Boy Promotions for the bout between Amir Khan and Lamont Peterson.

"The grounds for such an appeal include miscalculation of the scoring, inappropriate conduct by officials which may affect the outcome of the bout and any alleged violation of the rules of the IBF/USBA that may have a detrimental effect on the rights of the complainant.

"The complaint by Golden Boy Promotions has been accepted by the IBF/USBA and a panel of three boxing officials will be assembled to hear the appeal and review the bout.

"After completion, the panel will present its findings to the President, who after consulting with the Championships Committee, shall take that action deemed appropriate based upon the panel's findings."

The appeal is expected to be heard in New York on January 18 and 19.

Schaefer has alleged that the IBF's master scorecard disappeared immediately after the fight, only for a different version to be produced two days later. Schaefer claims the different version was clearly made subsequently.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sports News: Kean abuse unacceptable

Blackburn manager Steve Kean has received the full backing of the League Managers' Association, who have released a strongly-worded statement condemning the unprecedented attacks on the Scot from his own fans at Ewood Park on Tuesday night.

A large section of the Rovers support have been agitating against Kean for some time and the ill-feeling spilled over completely once Mark Davies had scored Bolton's opener in Tuesday's defeat. It continued throughout the game and long after the final whistle as hundreds attended a demonstration outside the stadium calling for immediate action.

"When results continue to be bad on the field fans who give up their hard-earned money to support their club have a right to voice their opinion," said the LMA. "However, the aggression and abuse levelled at Steve over recent weeks has stepped well beyond the mark and is as unacceptable in football as it would be in any other profession."

The statement continued: "It is to Steve's significant credit that he has shouldered this continued onslaught with dignity and professionalism and has continued to work with his players to try and improve results on the pitch."

The club's controversial Indian owners, Venky's, were still digesting the latest downturn in a sorry season on Wednesday afternoon. Their absence from Ewood Park on Tuesday night was noted with some alarm and Kean himself rejected talk of a board meeting, insisting he would be "100% shocked" if he was sacked.

Former Rovers striker Kevin Gallacher is among those who believe the visual absence of a figurehead at Blackburn since the departure of former chief executive John Williams has contributed to the ire being directed at Kean.

And it seems the LMA share those sentiments.

"It is very sad to witness the continued demonstrations by Rovers fans towards their manager," said the organisation.

"Blackburn Rovers is one of the country's oldest clubs. It was a founding member of the Football League and is rightly proud of its long-standing history and tradition. It has been and continues to be a central part of a close-knit Lancastrian community.

"However, owners of clubs such as Blackburn Rovers rely on the support and the relationships they build with their fans and their local community. As new owners, the Venky's should build relationships, develop trust with their fans and communicate their vision on a regular basis in an open and visible way."

Sports News: Lawes signs new Northampton deal

England lock Courtney Lawes has signed a new deal with Northampton that will keep him at Franklin's Gardens until 2015.

Lawes, who has 13 England caps, helped Northampton win the European Challenge Cup in 2009 and last year's LV= Cup after making his debut against Esher four years ago. They also runners-up in the Heineken Cup last season.

"Securing the signatures of players like Courtney for three years is very important for us as we look to make the next step up as a club," said director of rugby Jim Mallinder.

"We have been at the right end of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table and playing in the latter stages of cup competitions in the past few years, but we want to be in the mix for the major pieces of silverware every year and to do that we need top players at Franklin's Gardens.

"Courtney is still maturing and learning as a player, but he has shown, even at just 22 years of age, that he has all the things you need to succeed.

"He is still learning and we believe that he will continue to improve over the next few years. We're certainly delighted that he will be doing so at Franklin's Gardens."

Lawes also believes his best rugby still lies ahead and that Northampton is the best place for him to achieve that.

"It means a lot to sign a new contract with the Saints because I've grown up around here," Lawes said.

"It's good to sign on again and see myself with a future at the club. I enjoy playing here and working with the coaches and want to stay here for as long as I can.

"I think I've improved a lot as a player in recent years, which has all come from playing here and being coached here. The coaches keep us grounded off the field and I've still got a lot to learn from them on the field."

Sports News: Man Utd hammer sorry Fulham

Manchester United kept up the pressure on Barclays Premier League leaders Manchester City by flattening Fulham 5-0 at Craven Cottage.

Danny Welbeck, Nani and Ryan Giggs were on target in a first half which was dominated by United with Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov completing the rout after the interval.

The only disappointment from the evening was Phil Jones' exit in the 20th minute after the England defender was caught by Clint Dempsey's arm while duelling for the ball.

It took just five minutes for the visitors to break the deadlock. Nani burst down the left flank, galloping the length of the Fulham half before producing a superb low cross that unmarked Welbeck tucked away with ease.

United continued to dominate thereafter and deservedly grabbed a second in the 28th minute. Giggs played a short corner to Antonio Valencia and, after receiving a return pass, floated in a superbly weighted cross, which Nani directed past David Stockdale.

United continued to press forward in numbers as the Cottagers struggled to cope, with Phillipe Senderos looking particularly out-of-sorts and almost giving away a penalty for a mistimed challenge on Welbeck.

The former Arsenal defender was guilty of leaving Welbeck free for the opener and saw a first half to forget compounded two minutes before the break.

Nani was given acres of space to deliver the ball to Giggs, who became the first player to net in every Premier League season when his low drive deflected off Senderos' legs and looped over the backpedalling Stockdale.

After being booed at half-time, the Cottagers improved, epitomised by Mousa Dembele and John Arne Riise coming close.

However, their misery was compounded when Rooney added a fourth with a 35-yard piledriver before a typically nonchalant Berbatov backheel completed the rout.

Sports News: Mayweather given jail term

Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr has been sentenced to 90 days in jail after pleading guilty to reduced battery domestic violence and harassment charges.

Las Vegas judge Melissa Saragosa also ordered the 34-year-old, who has held world championship titles in five divisions, to complete 100 hours of community service and pay a (£1,600) fine.

The plea deal avoids trial on felony allegations that he hit his former girlfriend and threatened two of their children during an argument at her home in September last year.

Mayweather, currently the WBC world welterweight champion, was told to report to jail on January 6.

Sports News: O'Hara to miss 'at least a month'

Wolves midfielder Jamie O'Hara is facing "at least a month" on the sidelines after undergoing surgery on a double hernia, the club have confirmed.

Manager Mick McCarthy had initially ruled O'Hara out for a week, meaning the former Tottenham player missed Tuesday night's draw with Norwich and was set to sit out the Boxing Day game at Arsenal.

But the decision was then taken for the 25-year-old to undergo surgery, which was carried out in Manchester on Tuesday.

Steve Kemp, the head of Wolves' medical department, told the club's official website: "Jamie has been complaining of some groin pain for the last couple of months, which we have managed conservatively.

"We were able to manage it with treatment and he was able to play, but it got to a stage where a specialist decided that surgery would be needed.

"The decision was taken to have the surgery and get Jamie at 100% rather than continue to try to manage him through it. He's had a double hernia repair which was performed yesterday in Manchester and was successful.

"We hope he will be back in training within four to six weeks' time."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Sports News: Paterson calls it a day for Scots

Chris Paterson has announced his retirement from international rugby following a distinguished 12-year career with Scotland.

The 33-year-old won 109 caps, scoring 809 points - both records - and is the only Scot to have appeared in four Rugby World Cup tournaments.

Paterson has been hampered by a groin injury of late, impacting on his world renowned place-kicking, and now Scotland will enter an RBS 6 Nations Championship next spring without the Edinburgh full-back for the first time.

Paterson is one of Scotland's most celebrated internationals after a long and distinguished career.

He appeared at fly-half, wing and full-back for Scotland during an international career which began with a debut during the 1999 World Cup against Spain, before he became a regular in the inaugural Six Nations tournament in 2000.

He began his career with Gala, before two spells with Edinburgh, either side of a short stint at Gloucester.

Paterson surpassed Gavin Hastings as Scotland's leading points scorer and Scott Murray's cap record on the 2008 tour to Argentina.

He won his 100th cap against Wales in Cardiff in 2010 but suffered a lacerated kidney in the match.

Paterson, who captained Scotland on 12 occasions between 2004 and 2007, demonstrated his resilience, returning in the November 2010 win over South Africa and forcing his way into the starting line-up during the 2011 Six Nations.

He was first-choice full-back during the disappointing World Cup campaign in New Zealand, but has now opted to give way to the next generation of talent.

Sports News: Paterson set to retire

Chris Paterson is set to announce his retirement from international rugby following a 12-year career with Scotland.

The 33-year-old won 109 caps, scoring 809 points - both records - and is the only Scot to have appeared in four Rugby World Cup tournaments.

Paterson has been hampered by a groin injury of late, impacting on his place-kicking, and now Scotland are set to enter an RBS 6 Nations Championship next spring without the Edinburgh full-back for the first time. He is poised to formally end his international career at a media conference this afternoon.

Paterson is one of Scotland's most celebrated internationals after a long and distinguished career.

He appeared at fly-half, wing and full-back for Scotland during an international career which began with a debut during the 1999 World Cup against Spain, before he became a regular in the inaugural Six Nations tournament in 2000.

He began his career with Gala, before two spells with Edinburgh, either side of a short stint at Gloucester.

Paterson surpassed Gavin Hastings as Scotland's leading points scorer and Scott Murray's cap record on the 2008 tour to Argentina.

He won his 100th cap against Wales in Cardiff in 2010 but suffered a lacerated kidney in the match.

Paterson, who captained Scotland on 12 occasions between 2004 and 2007, demonstrated his resilience, returning in the November 2010 win over South Africa and forcing his way into the starting line-up during the 2011 Six Nations.

He was first-choice full-back during the disappointing World Cup campaign in New Zealand, but has now opted to give way to the next generation of talent.

Sports News: Paterson: Retirement will hit home

Chris Paterson will now reflect on a record-filled Scotland career after announcing his retirement from international rugby.

Scotland will on February 4 tackle England at Murrayfield in the RBS 6 Nations without the services of Paterson, who has called time on a career which included record hauls of 109 caps and 809 points.

The 33-year-old anticipates the Calcutta Cup contest will be the moment full realisation comes that he will never again wear the dark blue jersey he wore with distinction and pride for 12 years and through four Rugby World Cup tournaments. And he told Press Association Sport: "That's when it will hit home."

He added: "There's highlights every time you take the field. I was lucky enough to win a first cap, which was special, but to then play in a 50th and 100th is something that springs to mind as a highlight."

Paterson, who will be 34 in March, made his debut in the 1999 World Cup versus Spain before becoming a regular in the inaugural Six Nations in 2000. He appeared at fly-half, wing and full-back and surpassed Gavin Hastings as Scotland's leading points scorer and Scott Murray's cap record on the 2008 tour to Argentina.

Paterson, who captained Scotland on 12 occasions between 2004 and 2007, demonstrated his resilience, returning in the November 2010 win over South Africa and forcing his way into the starting line-up during the 2011 Six Nations. He was first-choice full-back during the disappointing World Cup campaign in New Zealand.

His final appearance - the narrow World Cup loss to England at Eden Park - will stay in the memory. Paterson savoured every moment, just as he did every time he played for Scotland, but even more so because he knew it might well be the last time.

While the prospect of retiring immediately after the World Cup was considered, the decision was made at the end of November following consultation with family and friends, Scotland head coach Andy Robinson and current and former team-mates.

"The big emotion is pride and happiness," Paterson added. "I've made the decision, which I think is the right decision.

"It's a terribly hard decision to make and one you don't want to have to make, but you do have to make it. When you do make it on your own terms, in your time, at the right time, it's a lot easier."

Sports News: PFA back strong statement on racism

Luis Suarez's eight-match ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra is a strong statement that racism will not be tolerated, players chief Gordon Taylor has said.

Liverpool striker Suarez is expected to appeal - the Uruguay international's defence was that due to cultural differences he was unaware that language acceptable in his country was viewed as racist in Europe. Liverpool have reacted with fury at the punishment for the 24-year-old, who was also fined £40,000, which was imposed by an FA independent regulatory commission.

"This was an independent commission experienced in law and football and they must have had compelling evidence, and it sends out a very strong message to the rest of the world," said Taylor.

"I understand the point about cultural differences but if you come to this country all players have to abide by not just the laws of the game but the laws of the land as well.

"Referring to someone's skin colour has got to be offensive - it's self-evident.

"No one can say the FA have ducked this issue and bearing in mind outcry in this country over Sepp Blatter's remarks it sends out an important message.

"This is a timely reminder that the FA, the PFA and the clubs to continue education programmes particularly for players coming from abroad that it is never right to make reference to a person's skin colour or nationality."

Taylor said the high-profile nature of the issue, with two of the biggest clubs in the world, would reinforce the message.

He added: "This is a situation involving two of our biggest clubs and a very sensitive time and it reiterates the message we want to get out. We are a multicultural society and a cosmopolitan league and players must have equal respect for people regardless of their nationality or skin colour.

"You can understand Liverpool being upset as they are a top quality club with a top quality manager but perhaps it is a timely reminder that players new to this country need to be advised about what is unacceptable."

Sports News: Redknapp unhappy at abuse of Kean

Harry Redknapp has criticised the fans who subjected Steve Kean to "horrific" abuse during Blackburn's 2-1 defeat against Bolton on Tuesday night.

Kean's future at Ewood Park was plunged into further doubt as his team dropped to the foot of the Barclays Premier League with the loss against their fellow strugglers at Ewood Park. Rovers fans unfurled 'Kean out' banners and chanted for the Scot's removal during the match, but Kean insisted after the game that he would not resign.

Redknapp was taken aback by the fierce nature of the criticism and thinks the Blackburn supporters went over the top. The Tottenham boss said: "I have never seen it like that. That is horrific to stand and take that."

He added: "I watched the game on TV. It was sad to see. The camera was forever going on people shouting abuse at him. I just felt sorry for him."

Blackburn have won just two matches this season and sit four points from safety despite having played one more game than most of their rivals.

Rovers fans have been calling for Kean's head for some time now, and pressure on the 44-year-old grew this week when a local newspaper started a campaign to have him removed from his position.

Kean's squad has been ravaged by a spate of injuries, however, and Redknapp thinks the fans failed to take that in to account last night.

He said: "He has loads of injuries. I heard people saying today that the players weren't trying or weren't making the effort for him. That's absolute nonsense, a load of rubbish.

"They tried for their lives. He probably has three of his four best defenders missing and you need your best players. He had a left winger at left-back and a young midfielder playing right-back.

"He had a very weakened team out and they weren't just quite good enough. If he had (Ryan) Nelson and (Gael) Givet available, people who are really strong characters, they'd be a different team."

Sports News: Reds fully behind Suarez - Dalglish

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has insisted the club stand united behind Luis Suarez and will not be divided.

The Uruguay international was given an eight-match ban by the Football Association on Tuesday after being found guilty of misconduct for using insulting words to Patrice Evra which included a reference to the Manchester United defender's colour.

Liverpool's players displayed their support for the 24-year-old by releasing a statement before kick-off and wearing T-shirts, and Dalglish said: "I think the boys showed their respect and admiration for Luis with wearing the T-shirts. It is a great reflection of the man as a character, a person and a footballer that the boys have been so supportive and so have the supporters."

He added: "He has earned that. He deserves it and we will always stand beside him.

"They will not divide the football club, no matter how hard they try."

Suarez also received support from Wigan manager Roberto Martinez who, while not being able to comment on the incident which led the striker's charge, offered an explanation of the difficulties foreign players sometimes have adapting to a new country.

"It is difficult to comment on that particular incident but in general you arrive to the British game and it is a culture shock," said the Spaniard, who first came to Wigan as a player in 1995. "Believe me there is no right or wrong in understanding your culture.

"You are seen doing something wrong and you don't think you are doing anything wrong because your background and your culture and the way you live back in your country it is nothing wrong.

"It is the same when British people go abroad and could upset people.

"The problem is where you draw the line. We are playing in England and you need to understand what is right and wrong but you need to understand cultures bring a little bit of misunderstanding if it is an honest mistake."

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sports News: Reds held by Latics

Charlie Adam missed a penalty as Liverpool's disappointing run against Wigan continued with a 0-0 draw at the DW Stadium.

The Scotland international's effort was saved by Ali Al Habsi after Gary Caldwell had handled an overhead kick from Luis Suarez, playing 24 hours after learning he had been given an eight-match ban by the Football Association.

Wigan were well worth their point and probably should have had a penalty of their own in the first half when Martin Skrtel appeared to bring down Victor Moses.

Sports News: Reds squad back Suarez

Liverpool's players have given their full backing to team-mate Luis Suarez after the striker was given an eight-match ban on Tuesday.

The 24-year-old received the punishment after an independent commission found him guilty of misconduct by using insulting words to Patrice Evra which included a reference to the Manchester United defender's colour.

He had been given the full support of the club, who insist the player is not a racist, and now his team-mates have followed suit, issuing a statement which read: "Luis Suarez is our team-mate and our friend and as a group of players we are shocked and angered that he has been found guilty by the FA."

The statement continued: "We totally support Luis and we want the world to know that. We know he is not racist.

"We are a squad of many different nationalities and backgrounds. All of us support the club's commitment to fighting racism. All of us accept there is no place in the game for any form of discrimination.

"As a group of players we totally support the Kick it Out Campaign.

"We have lived, trained and played with Luis for almost 12 months and we don't recognise the way he has been portrayed.

"We will continue to support Luis through this difficult period, and as a popular and respected friend of all his team-mates, he will not walk alone."

Sports News: Terry in right frame of mind - AVB

Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas is certain John Terry will not be affected mentally by his forthcoming court case.

Charged on Wednesday with "a racially aggravated public order offence", Terry will face West London Magistrates Court on February 1, 24 hours after the Blues have faced Swansea in a Barclays Premier League game and four days before they tackle Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.

Prior to that, Chelsea have a packed festive programme to complete, starting with Thursday night's clash against Tottenham at White Hart Lane, but Villas-Boas said: "John has told me he is in the right frame of mind to play and showed fantastic commitment to the team. His performances have been good and I don't doubt his integrity as a person."

He added: "He represents this club to a maximum level and we're very grateful to have a player of his quality in our team, in what he represents in terms of history and achievements a the club. We know exactly his human values and personality, so we will support him whatever happens."

Terry will appreciate the backing as he faces one of the toughest battles of his career, knowing if he is found guilty of the charge brought following his altercation with QPR's Anton Ferdinand in October it is virtually certain to result in him being stripped of the England captaincy.

"I am disappointed with the decision to charge me and hope to be given the chance to clear my name as quickly as possible," said Terry. "I have never aimed a racist remark at anyone and count people from all races and creeds among my closest friends.

"I will fight tooth and nail to prove my innocence. I have campaigned against racism and believe there is no place for it in society."

The Football Association have given a brief response to the latest development, which came less than 24 hours after they handed Liverpool's Luis Suarez an eight-match ban and a £40,000 fine for comments made to Manchester United's Patrice Evra seven days before the Terry incident took place.

A statement on their official website, www.thefa.com, read: "Further to the announcement by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) today [21 December] regarding the allegation against John Terry following the Queens Park Rangers v Chelsea fixture on Sunday 23 October 2011, The Football Association will not be making any comment at this time."

Terry was caught by TV cameras appearing to mouth an obscenity at Anton Ferdinand, which he said afterwards had been "taken out of context".

Sports News: Terry vows to clear name

England skipper John Terry has vowed to clear his name after being charged with racially abusing Queens Park Rangers player Anton Ferdinand.

The Crown Prosecution Service have confirmed their intention to prosecute Terry over remarks he made during an altercation with Ferdinand during a match at Loftus Road in October.

"I am disappointed with the decision to charge me and hope to be given the chance to clear my name as quickly as possible," said Terry.

Terry was caught on camera making a remark, although claimed he was merely repeating an accusation he felt had been made by Ferdinand.

"I have never aimed a racist remark at anyone and count people from all races and creeds among my closest friends," he added.

"I will fight tooth and nail to prove my innocence. I have campaigned against racism and believe there is no place for it in society."

Sports News: Townsend salutes Paterson

Scotland's Chris Paterson has been lauded after announcing his international retirement.

Paterson has formally called time on a Scotland career which included record hauls of 109 caps and 809 points in a 12-year international career and his former Scotland team-mate Gregor Townsend paid tribute to the personal characteristics which carried Paterson to the top of the game, but also allowed him to remain grounded.

"When I think of Chris, the words professionalism, competitor and humility are closely linked to how he has conducted himself over his illustrious career," Townsend said.

"I'd also add inspirational - as I can only imagine the many thousands of kids that have taken up the game in Scotland thanks to his exploits on the field and his exemplary demeanour off the field.

"It is apt that two of the best goal-kickers in world rugby have announced their retirements from international rugby so close together."

Paterson, who will be 34 in March, made his debut in the 1999 World Cup versus Spain before becoming a regular in the inaugural Six Nations in 2000.

He appeared at fly-half, wing and full-back and surpassed Gavin Hastings as Scotland's leading points scorer and Scott Murray's cap record on the 2008 tour to Argentina.

He can now reflect on a sensational international career.

"The big emotion is pride and happiness," Paterson said. "It's a terribly hard decision to make and one you don't want to have to make, but you do have to make it.

"When you do make it on your own terms, in your time, at the right time, it's a lot easier."

Sports News: United win soured by injuries

Manchester United winger Ashley Young has been ruled out for two to three weeks while Phil Jones "doesn't look great" after the England duo sustained injuries during the 5-0 win at Fulham.

Young was hurt while tackling Dickson Etuhu, picking up an unspecified injury that Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed will sideline him until January and Jones damaged his jaw after being elbowed by Clint Dempsey while competing for the ball in mid-air, but Ferguson did not give an estimate for his time in the treatment room.

"The tackle on Ashley Young was a very aggressive tackle and I will have to see that again," Ferguson told MUTV. "Fulham were very aggressive in the second half and Ashley Young has paid the price for that. He has got a sore one so will be out for two to three weeks."

He added: "On Phil Jones it was an elbow from Dempsey, but I don't think it was intentional. But he caught him with an elbow.

"We are sending him for an X-ray tomorrow and it doesn't look great. We are picking up injuries at the moment."

Ferguson revealed that Rio Ferdinand was omitted from the starting line-up for tonight's 5-0 Barclays Premier League victory at Craven Cottage because of a foot injury.

The England defender will miss the clash with Wigan on Boxing Day, but should return in time to face Blackburn on New Year's Eve.

"Rio got a knock on the foot against QPR. I think he will be available for Blackburn, not Wigan," said Ferguson.

Danny Welbeck, Nani and Ryan Giggs were on target in a first half that was dominated by United, with Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov completing the rout after the interval.

"We played some superb football in the first half," said Ferguson. "It's not an easy place to come. We have experienced that in the last three years. We have got one point from nine here so that shows you the difficulties. But the players were really on song and just continued their form from a great display against QPR."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sports News: Wenger - We were fortunate

Arsene Wenger admitted Arsenal were fortunate to win at Aston Villa as they moved level on points with fourth-placed Chelsea via Yossi Benayoun's late winner in a 2-1 success.

Villa winger Marc Albrighton scored the 20,000th Premier League goal and Arsenal striker Robin van Persie equalled Thierry Henry's club record for the most Premier League goals - 34 - in a calendar year but it was Benayoun's late header from a Van Persie corner which enabled the Gunners to bounce back from the weekend reversal against Manchester City.

Wenger said: "I can only congratulate Villa. They played well and gave everything. We got very late three points that are vital for us. We were a bit unlucky on Sunday against City and today maybe we were a bit lucky."

He added: "But overall it was important to restart with a win tonight. We had two difficult away games where we had a to give everything physically. In the first half we controlled the game quite well. In the second half when Villa came back to 1-1, we had a little bit of a difficult period.

"Then we stabilised the game again and in the last 15 minutes you could feel we were on top of the game again. But if Villa continue to play like that, they will quickly come up in the table because they had an outstanding game."

Wenger praised the commitment of his side in recovering from a poor start to the season.

He added: "Our spirit is exceptional and that's why we came back from a bad start to the season to have such a a strong run.

"You could see that some legs were jaded from Sunday and some minds as well in the speed of the decision-making. But we kept going and there is an exceptional attitude and spirit in the side."

Albrighton conceded losing the game took some of the shine off scoring the 20,000th Premier League goal.

He said: "It was great to score the goal. It is one of those things you remember for the rest of your life. People will remind me of it for years to come. It is a milestone but it has been soured slightly by the fact we lost the game."

Sports News: Whitlock on song

Former PDC World Championship runner-up Simon Whitlock powered into the second round of the tournament with a commanding 3-0 win over Dennis Smith.

Whitlock, who was making his comeback after nearly two months out with a broken ankle, ended the match with a three-dart average of 105.11 - the best so far in the tournament - on the way to the 3-1 3-0 3-0 win.

Whitlock told www.pdc.tv: "I'm amazed by how well I played tonight. There was a lot to lose, but I had such huge determination to do well and I'm desperate to get my place in the Premier League."

The Australian won the first leg of the game before he hit back-to-back 180s at the start of the second, but he missed the seventh treble 20 to end hopes of a nine-dart finish.

Whitlock then shot a 14-dart leg to win the first set before he broke Smith's throw in the second and a 15-dart leg gave him set two.

The fifth seed hit a 125 checkout at the start of the third set before he capped the fantastic performance with a 11-dart leg, which included two 180s, before powering to the victory in the final leg.

Three-time world champion John Part also eased into the second round with a 3-1 3-0 3-1 win over debutant John Henderson.

Debutant Scott Rand also progressed to the second round with a 3-0 whitewash of Andy Smith.

Smith failed to win a single leg against the ruthless newcomer who maintained his accuracy to set up a match against world number 15 Colin Lloyd for a place in the third round.

In the final match of the night, Devon Petersen twice came from a set down and held his nerve in the decider to complete a 3-2 (0-3 3-2 2-3 3-1 4-2) victory over Steve Brown.

Man United Suffer Two More Crucial Injuries: Nine Old Trafford First Team Members Now Out Injured

Sir Alex Ferguson in the midst of an injury crisis.

Manchester United defender Phil Jones is to have an X-ray after suffering a facial injury in the 5-0 win at Fulham.

Jones appeared to take a knock to the face in a challenge with Fulham forward Clint Dempsey early on in the first half at Craven Cottage.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said: “Phil Jones got an elbow to the jaw and we’ll send him for an X-ray. It doesn’t look good.”

Ashley Young will also be out for two to three weeks with a knee problem.

The winger was forced off in the second half after a challenge from Dickson Etuhu and is likely to miss the whole festive period.

Defender Rio Ferdinand missed Wednesday’s win because of a knock and will not be fit for the Boxing Day clash with Wigan.

“Rio will maybe be back for the Blackburn game on New Year’s Eve,” said Ferguson.

“Phil [Jones] is a concern and Ashley is out for two or three weeks. It was an elbow [on Jones], but I don’t think it was intentional.

“I thought the challenge on Ashley Young was aggressive. We’re all right in the striker department, it’s in other areas we are picking up injuries.”

So as well as the pair who suffered knocks at Craven Cottage last night the likes of Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Owen, Anderson, Tom Cleverley, Darren Fletcher and Fabio are all also sidelined and given that the upcoming Christmas matches will come thick and fast Sir Alex Ferguson will hope his large squad can step up their games to keep up with local rivals Man City.

Fernando Torres Reveals Reasons He Left Liverpool: Owners Lied and Chelsea Man Doesn’t Know Why Fans Hate Him

Fernando Torres has lifted the lid on his acrimonious departure from Anfield, claiming the club lied to him and that Liverpool’s American owners made false promises.
The Chelsea striker says he was let down by the Fenway Sports Group before his acrimonious £50million transfer to Stamford Bridge in January.
‘The Liverpool fans don’t know the truth about why I signed for Chelsea,’ the 27-year-old, who spent three-and-a-half seasons at Anfield, told Spanish television.
‘The fans don’t even know half of what happened. They don’t know what the people in charge at Liverpool are like – they have a completely different perception of what they are like.

‘They made promises that they didn’t keep and I left because I realised I didn’t have time to be part of a project that would take years.’
The former Kop idol, who netted 81 times in 142 Liverpool appearances, also attempted to build bridges with the Anfield faithful.
‘I have nothing against the Liverpool fans,’ he said. ‘I didn’t want to leave Liverpool the way I did but the club lied. I was let down and I don’t understand why the fans hate me.’

So the former Anfield man says that the Liverpool board lied to him but doesn’t expand on that, preferring instead to state that the Anfield faithful ‘don’t know the truth’ about the Fenway Sports Group. That leaves it hard for those who used to idolise El Nino to feel anything other than betrayal at the manner in which he left Merseyside for Stamford Bridge.

Clearly if the 27 year old Spaniard is going to say “They kept promises they couldn’t keep” then Liverpool fans are going to ask “What promises were they?”. Simply making vast statements without issuing details only serves to make Fernando Torres look like he is ducking the issue and trying to justify actions that upset many of his former fans.

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If you are looking for information about activities we run at Carbis Bay, St’Ives please click on the image below to our new home.

Very soon all Ocean Sports coaching (including academy etc) will be found here and all Fenn related information will be found at www.fennuk.co.uk or click on this link when active.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

FBI's investigation into alleged Fifa corruption heads for the Caribbean

It is understood that investigators are pursuing lines of inquiry on several fronts after interviewing Chuck Blazer, the American Fifa executive committee member at the heart of the investigation.

Blazer is being investigated following allegations that he failed to declare payments linked to Concacaf television deals to the US tax authorities.

Sources have confirmed to Telegraph Sport that the American has been questioned by FBI officials.

The bureau is thought to be working through information provided by Blazer As well as examining a raft of allegations made following the flawed Fifa elections for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts a year ago, and the presidential election this summer.

The investigation is being handled by financial specialists based in New York, who have powers to access bank accounts and track financial transactions.

Blazer did not respond to an invitation to comment, but has said previously of the allegations: “All of my transactions have been legally and properly done, in compliance with the various laws of the applicable jurisdictions based on the nature of the transaction."

The allegations against Blazer were levelled after he turned whistleblower to expose alleged bribery in the Fifa presidential election by Mohammad Bin Hammam, and Caribbean football chief Jack Warner. Some 16 Caribbean football officials have been banned by Fifa for their involvement in the bribery scandal.

Taylor's talk not cheap

Further light has been shed on the negotiations concerning Gordon Taylor and News International after the Professional Footballers Association chief executive discovered his phone had been hacked.

Taylor received £850,000 compensation from NI but correspondence between NI’s lawyers and senior management reveal he rejected an earlier offer of £350,000, and asked for £1million plus £200,000 costs.

In one letter, NI’s lawyers said that Taylor’s lawyer, Mark Lewis, had told them he wanted to be “vindicated or made rich”.

The terms of his agreement with NI prevent him from commenting.

Lyon win raised eyebrows

There was surprise in betting and other circles last week at the speed with which Michel Platini dismissed suggestions that Lyon’s 7-1 victory over Dinamo Zagreb in the final Champions League group game should be scrutinised.

Lyon’s victory in Zagreb, combined with Ajax’s 3-0 defeat to Real Madrid meant the French side qualified from Group D at the expense of Ajax, prompting calls for an investigation from the Dutch side and a French betting operator.

While betting monitors including Sports Radar, which provides information to Uefa, concluded that there were no suspicious betting patterns around the game, experienced observers believe the attitude of some of the Zagreb players left much to be desired.

The in-play market for the game shows that punters, including a number of highly experienced professionals, abandoned the game when Lyon went 3-1 up possibly because of a lack of confidence in their commitment.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Charlotte Dujardin tops leaderboard in Reem Acra FEI World Cup dressage qualifier at London Olympia

Dujardin and Valegro were the only pair to score over 80 per cent.

The trio, team gold medallists at the European championships, filled the top four places along with Richard Davison who already has qualifiers under his belt and stands eighth in the Reem Acra rankings.

Dujardin and Valegro – a horse co-owned by her trainer and mentor Hester – posted a score of 81.04 per cent to land the £2,700 top prize on her Olympia debut.

Bechtolsheimer and Mistral Hojris finished second on 79.23 per cent, while Hester and Uthopia took third with 75.44 per cent.

The London International Horse Show's dressage programme continues with the World Cup freestyle to music competition on Wednesday before showjumping takes centre-stage from Thursday, culminating in next Sunday's Rolex World Cup class that was won last year by Britain's Michael Whitaker.

Chelsea's Ashley Cole 'aimed Thursday night, Channel Five taunts at Manchester City'

According to reports this morning, the England fullback mocked Roberto Mancini and his players's Champions League exit as they headed for their respective dressing rooms after Chelsea's 2-1 win which keeps their title ambitions alive.

Chelsea fans reminded Manchester City supporters all night of their new date on a Thursday night with Channel Five, a reference to the fact their Europa League matches will be screened on the terrestrial channel.

But Cole allegedly took it upon himself to repeat those same chants long after the final whistle as Chelsea ended City's unbeaten start to the domestic season.

It is claimed that Cole shouted out "******* have some of that" and "Thursday night, Channel Five", as Mancini and members of his staff remonstrated with referee Mark Clattenburg in the tunnel.

City felt aggrieved that they had a penalty appeal turned down during the defeat which also saw Gael Clichy handed a sent yellow card during the second half.

Cole was infamously caught up in the 'PizzaGate' furore during his Arsenal days when Arsène Wenger's side's 49-game unbeaten sequence in the Premiership was ended by Manchester United in 2004.

In a scuffle in the tunnel between players and staff on both sides, a slice of pizza was hurled at Sir Alex Ferguson.

Cole described the incident in his autobiography: "This slice of pizza came flying over my head and hit Fergie straight in the mush ... all mouths gawped to see this pizza slip off this famous, puce face and roll down his nice black suit."

Chelsea's Ashley Cole 'mocked' Manchester City rivals with 'Thursday night Channel Five' jibe

According to reports this morning, the England fullback mocked Roberto Mancini and his players's Champions League exit as they headed for their respective dressing rooms after Chelsea's 2-1 win which keeps their title ambitions alive.

Chelsea fans reminded Manchester City supporters all night of their new date on a Thursday night with Channel Five, a reference to the fact their Europa League matches will be screened on the terrestrial channel.

But Cole allegedly took it upon himself to repeat those same chants long after the final whistle as Chelsea ended City's unbeaten start to the domestic season.

It is claimed that Cole shouted out "******* have some of that" and "Thursday night, Channel Five", as Mancini and members of his staff remonstrated with referee Mark Clattenburg in the tunnel.

City felt aggrieved that they had a penalty appeal turned down during the defeat which also saw Gael Clichy handed a sent yellow card during the second half.

Cole was infamously caught up in the 'PizzaGate' furore during his Arsenal days when Arsène Wenger's side's 49-game unbeaten sequence in the Premiership was ended by Manchester United in 2004.

In a scuffle in the tunnel between players and staff on both sides, a slice of pizza was hurled at Sir Alex Ferguson.

Cole described the incident in his autobiography: "This slice of pizza came flying over my head and hit Fergie straight in the mush ... all mouths gawped to see this pizza slip off this famous, puce face and roll down his nice black suit."

Danny Care fined by Harlequins for breaking club's code of conduct following arrest

 Against the rules: Danny Care accepted Harlequins' fine after breaknig the club's code of conduct Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The 24-year-old was arrested at 3am on Saturday in Weybridge following Harlequins' 21-10 Heineken Cup defeat by Toulouse.

The England scrum-half was released without charge and he paid a fixed penalty fine.

The Rugby Football Union have taken no disciplinary action but Care has accepted a fine from Harlequins for breaking the club's code of conduct.

Care's fine will be donated to the Teenage Cancer Trust unit at University College Hospital in London.

Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea said: "We have a crucial Heineken Cup match at the weekend in Toulouse, so it was important we acted quickly.

"We take it very seriously. However, from the club's point of view a line will be drawn under the incident and we will get on with our preparation for the match.

"Danny has apologised to his team and understands fully what is expected of him."

Care was reprimanded by England's interim head coach Stuart Lancaster, who he has known since his days in the Leeds academy, but no formal action was taken by the RFU.

"It was a silly thing to do - I accept that and apologise completely," Care said.

"We had just played a tough game and I was out with some of the team and friends but should have remembered that, as a professional player, I am on duty throughout the season and need to set a better example to the fans.

"I totally accept the police and club fines."

Darren Fletcher fighting to save his Manchester United career after contracting chronic illness

Having fought against what Manchester United initially described as a virus for the past nine months, the club finally confirmed on Tuesday that the 27 year-old has in fact been suffering from a condition which can, according to medical experts, lead to severe complications and potential steroid treatment which could contravene football’s drug-testing policy.

The Scot has been missing from the United first team since scoring in the 2-2 Champions League draw at home to Benfica on Nov 22.

Fletcher’s absence following medical advice, which is expected to see him miss the rest of this season, has added to United’s alarming manpower shortage just days after captain Nemanja Vidic was ruled out for nine months with a ruptured cruciate ligament.

But while manager Sir Alex Ferguson is now likely to recruit in January to help stem the injury crisis which has been exacerbated by Fletcher’s illness, the immediate concern at Old Trafford is for the Scotland midfielder’s wellbeing and it is understood that the club are determined to ensure the player receives the best possible treatment.

Following increasing speculation about Fletcher’s condition, however, the club issued a statement on his behalf in order to clarify the worrying situation. The United statement said: “On behalf of Darren Fletcher, Manchester United wishes to announce that he is taking an extended break from football for health reasons.

“Over the past year, he has had several absence periods which we have attributed to a viral illness in order to respect his right to medical confidentiality. Darren has, in fact, been suffering from ulcerative colitis [a chronic inflammatory bowel condition] for some time preceding this.

“Whilst he was able to maintain remission of symptoms for a considerable period, this has proved more difficult recently and Darren’s continued desire to play, and his loyalty to both his club and country, has probably compromised the chances of optimising his health and fitness.

“He has therefore accepted medical advice to take an extended break from the demands of training and playing in order to afford the best chance possible of achieving full remission once again.

“We request that his privacy is respected and hope that the removal of the additional stress associated with speculation regarding his health will also aid his recovery.”

While no timescale has been placed on Fletcher’s potential recovery by the club, medical experts familiar with the condition have warned that the player’s career, certainly at Premier League level, could be compromised by the illness.

Professor Chris Probert, a consultant gastroenterologist at the Royal Liverpool Hospital, said: “I would be very surprised if he could perform at the same level with this condition. He must have been extremely fit to have been able to play for as long as he has with the symptoms of the condition.

“It seems inconceivable that he would not have had his performance impaired somehow by the condition and it’s no surprise that he’s been forced to take short breaks from time to time.”

Fletcher was forced to miss 12 first-team fixtures between March and May of last season following the initial outbreak of the condition, but he returned to take a place on the substitutes’ bench for the Champions League final defeat against Barcelona at Wembley.

He then missed United’s pre-season tour of the United States after suffering a setback, but was fit enough to return to action for Scotland’s Euro 2012 qualifiers against Czech Republic and Lithuania in September before making 10 first-team appearances for United, culminating in the Benfica outing last month.

Fletcher admitted in September that his health problems were “scary”, but felt that he had sufficiently overcome them to continue his career.

He said at the time: “It was scary and it knocked me back. I am hardly a person who can afford to lose weight, but I did. Now, though, I am fully on the mend.”

The latest setback for United, who have also lost midfielders Tom Cleverley and Anderson to long-term injuries, means Ferguson is likely to reconsider his stance last week that he would buy in January. Everton midfielder Jack Rodwell has rarely strayed from United’s radar, while Newcastle’s Cheick Tioté and Yohan Cabaye are also potential targets.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

British Olympic Association considering a boycott of BBC's all-male Sports Personality of the Year

The BOA leadership have been invited to the BBC showpiece, due to be broadcast from Salford next week, but are actively considering whether to accept because of the snub to British female athletes.

Double Beijing Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Addlington and taekwondo world champion Sarah Stevenson were among the leading female athletes who failed to make a shortlist compiled by national newspaper and magazine sports editors, including lads mags Nuts and Zoo.

The issue is particularly acute for the BOA, which will enter a team almost 50 per cent female for next summer’s 2012 Games, and they have made their concerns known to the BBC.

Moynihan and Hunt have not taken a final decision and could yet attend, but the fact they are considering the issue demonstrates the depth of feeling, and the absence of senior figures from the BOA in the last SPotY before the London Games would send a strong message about inclusivity.

The BBC has promised to review the selection policy for next year’s award after the issue overshadowed the announcement of the shortlist, headed by world champion cyclist Mark Cavendish, and three golfers led by Major winners Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke.

In a statement the BOA welcomed the BBC review but said it regretted “glaring omissions” from the shortlist.

“The Sports Personality of the Year is a prestigious honour and, typically, the BBC does a fantastic job recognising truly deserving sports men and women. This year, however, there were some glaring omissions from the list.

“Whether we attend this year is less important than what happens with the award in the future. To that end, we are encouraged to see that the BBC will review the process by which the finalists and winners are chosen in subsequent years.

"With next year being an Olympic year – and such an important year for British sport – this review is timely and will no doubt lead to an even better process going forward.”


The BOA is hoping to secure up to four long-term sponsorship deals by the spring to bring some financial stability after several years of struggling to balance the books.

Adidas became the first partner to sign up for the 2012-2016 Olympic cycle last week and the BOA hopes to add several more in the coming months despite the economic climate.

All are likely to be drawn from the existing roster of London Olympic sponsors.

The BOA will seek to tie up the deal before the Games to avoid Olympic fatigue, or negative associations should the team disappoint and miss the target of fourth in the medal table.

Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger tempted to sign a striker in January if 'an opportunity turns up'

Arsenal have turned their season around following seven wins from the last eight Premier League matches, to move back into contention for the top four.

Much of that success has been built on the 19 goals of prolific captain Robin van Persie.

With both Ivory Coast forward Gervinho and Morocco striker Marouane Chamakh both set to be away at the African Nations Cup early next year, Wenger accepts his backup options will be stretched.

Arsenal have plenty of cash reserves should Wenger wish to strengthen the squad, and the Frenchman will keep an eye out for any bargains.

“We lose players like Chamakh and Gervinho to the Africa Cup of Nations so hopefully, touch wood, we do not get any injuries to our strikers.

“But if an opportunity turns up in that department then we will buy,” Wenger told a supporters’ Q&A at the Emirates Stadium.

The Arsenal manager, however, feels the current financial climate is “a bit special”.

Wenger continued: “Economically the whole environment has changed and people suffer more. The clubs will suffer more financially and it’s much more difficult. Maybe we will have some opportunities because we are in a good financial situation.”

FC Koln’s Germany striker Lukas Podolski and Sochaux midfielder Kevin Anin are believed to be on Wenger’s radar, along with Anderlecht’s Luca Biglia.

Jonny Wilkinson retires: Telegraph Sport writers' fondest moments following end of international playing career

Yes, it was. And there were more to come. I can still remember Newcastle coach Steve Bates saying at Kingsholm in late September 2008 after Jonny had once again been taken from the field injured, this time with a knee problem: ‘He’s sitting up there in the dressing-room. It doesn’t seem serious.’ Wilkinson didn’t play again that season.

There were many wonderful Wilkinson cameos to recall: against South Africa in Bloemfontein in 2000 when he scored all 27 points to help England beat the Springboks, 27-22, setting a new national record in a win that was the start of a run of 12 successive England victories over the southern hemisphere culminating in that World Cup triumph in Sydney, his bravery as the ‘Boks went after him at Twickenham in 2002, a master-class against Ireland earlier that year at Twickenham, his international comeback game against Scotland in 2007, on and on we could go.

Yet it’s Wilkinson’s courage, resilience, fortitude, sheer guts to come back from no matter what adversity that really sticks in the mind. On that glorious August evening in Galway, Wilkinson probably knew deep within, even as he sighed with satisfaction and signed away willingly, that fate was already out there plotting to bring him down again. Yet he always got back up. And for that, he will forever be remembered.


Ian Chadband

After the World Cup semi-final in Sydney in 2003, I was interviewing Serge Betsen, asking him about how his indiscretions had been punished by Wilkinson’s metronomic penalty-kicking boot out there. Suddenly, this toughest of Frenchmen started to break down in tears at the thought. Yes, that was what Wilko’s cold-eyed marksmanship could do to even the hardest of spirits.

Jonny Wilkinson's mentor Steve Black says former England fly-half will succeed as coach

Wilkinson, 32, announced his international retirement on Monday and will now focus on his future with Toulon, a club he moved to in 2009 from Newcastle.

Black, a former Tyneside bouncer, was on hand to offer his support to Wilkinson over his decision to end his illustrious Test career with England.

He now believes that the 32 year-old will "blossom" during his final years in the club game before offering his wealth of expertise in management.

"In my opinion he has all the attributes to become a superb coach," Black told the Daily Mail.

"He has always been a student of the game, he has so many great ideas and I doubt many people know more about the psychological and physical preparation a team need.

"He is hugely interested in how sport operates and, with the experience he has, I think he would be tremendously successful.

"He will be remembered as one of the greatest sportsmen Britain has produced. He had a God-given talent but he is the most unselfish person I have come across. Everything he did was for the team."

Wilkinson will forever be remembered as the player who won the World Cup for England in 2003 with that right-footed drop goal. But Black says the fly-half's "defining moment" came four years' later.

He recalled: "We had got hammered by South Africa in the opening game [of the World Cup], but the fact Jonny had his fitness back and was in the side had an effect on the rest of the teams in the tournament.

"They assumed he had some sort of mythical status where he was going to win the World Cup on his own."

London 2012 Olympics: BOA ban on drug cheats is right. We must fight to keep it, says Sir Chris Hoy

Quite how the BOA can come under criticism for this I don’t know. It is being consistent and strong. In my opinion competing for your country at an Olympic Games is a privilege and that privilege should be taken away from anyone who has been convicted of a serious doping offence.

To my mind unless you ban a convicted doper from the Olympics there is almost no deterrent. I believe there has to be a meaningful consequence to cheating, otherwise we are not going to stop the cheats.

There has to be a price to pay over and above simply missing two years’ competition through a ban. You can miss two years’ competition just through injury alone. If the BOA is forced to back down it will be very difficult to regain that stance in the future and to me that would seem like a huge setback in the fight against drugs in sport.

We can’t control how the rest of the world conducts itself but we can make sure Great Britain does its best to maintain proper standards.

Whenever I hear of positive tests in sport the first people I think of are the victims — the silver medal winners who have been denied that golden moment that they have worked so hard for by a drug-using winner.

And those competitors who finish fourth who are denied perhaps a once in a lifetime moment on the podium and, who knows, the funding and opportunity that such a medal might have earned them after years of slogging away on their own.

Once it is proven beyond all doubt that an athlete has committed a serious doping offence and they are banned I have no sympathy, zero tolerance, for him or her as an athlete and competitor.

Yes, I have sympathy for them as individuals trying to rebuild their lives and I applaud the work that somebody like David Millar does in educating the sporting world as to how he got involved in doping and the dangers confronting competitors, especially the young.

But in my book they have still forfeited the right to compete for the ultimate prize in sport, which for me is always an Olympic gold medal.

The other big piece of news reaching us here at our training camp — Jason Kenny and Ross Edgar are also here along with team manager Shane Sutton and coach Iain Dyer — was the German team breaking our world record for the team sprint which we set in the qualifying round in Beijing.

The Germans, who set the mark of 42.914secs at the World Cup meeting in Cali, Colombia, have been going very well indeed this year and have good strength in depth so it wasn’t a complete surprise, although you never like to see a record you played a part in being broken.

I try not to dwell too much on the opposition, the focus has to be on what you are trying to achieve personally, but of course you keep an eye on the main opponents and hearing of a performance like that is very motivating.

Just after I had heard the news I had an especially testing gym session lined up which I wasn’t particularly looking forward to, but surprised myself with how well it went!

I have always enjoyed training here in Perth; this is my 12th winter camp. It’s a chance to escape the cold and wet of the UK at this time of year and really stick in a high volume of work after the first peak of the year, following the European Championships and the first round of the World Cup series.

For track sprinters, we have been doing a lot of road work in addition to the usual track and gym and this should set us up well for the following months.

Whilst I do love being out here, it’s not easy being away from family and loved ones and making that sacrifice is another motivator. You owe it to them as well as yourself to squeeze everything out of the camp.

You go into that ’camp’ mentality when you eat, live and sleep training and you can get through a mountain of work, taking one session at a time and not looking too far ahead.

A good winter training camp in Australia has always underpinned my best seasons and I would miss it if I didn’t come here. You feel like you are treading a well worn path which more often than not has led to success.

We were down here at about this time of year before the Beijing Olympics and the body remembers feeling the same, doing the same sort of sessions, feeling the same aches and soreness every night when I go to bed.

All very reassuring.

Premier League title race: our experts see Manchester City and United in two-horse race

JB: Everyone will think it’s Andre Villas-Boas given his age and lack of experience and he is undoubtedly under severe pressure, but the demands on Roberto Mancini are great also. City are out in front – can they sustain it? Are the squad united? Will they be able to cope?

AS: On the evidence so far, it would appear to be Andre Villas-Boas. Already he has reacted spikily to criticism from the media. As the least experienced he is treading new ground all the time, while knowing that he must produce results.

MO: Andre Villas-Boas has proved himself to be prickly and sensitive to criticism, so it will be interesting to see how he copes in a tense run-in. Roberto Mancini is safe at Manchester City, but that might change if they suffer a loss of form that costs them the title.

3. Which squad is best equipped to cope as the season goes on?

JB: It may come down to United’s mental resilience – and whether Sir Alex Ferguson can coax another title challenge out of them. It’s still City’s title to lose as they have the outstanding squad. Will they come to rue the loss of Carlos Tévez?

AS: Without question it is Manchester City. They have been fortunate so far not to suffer many injuries, but even if they do the squad is big enough and good enough to cope. As for team spirit, that seems to be improving all the time.

MO: Manchester City have the strongest squad, but United and Chelsea possess the experience and knowledge required to win a title. Experience only counts for so much, though, and the greater depth of quality at the Etihad is likely to be the key factor.

4. Which player do you think will have the biggest impact on the title battle?

JB: Wayne Rooney. If he can recapture his form then he is capable of propelling Manchester United to the top of the pile. If not then United will struggle and Manchester City should be champions. They have a better balanced side, more depth and more match-winners.

AS: For his consistency of performance, it might be David Silva. Many opponents have tried and failed to keep this fantastic little playmaker quiet.

MO: He will not play again this season, but Nemanja Vidic could be the man who decides the title. Without him, United’s defence is nowhere near as strong and the loss of Vidic could ultimately be the factor that ensures the title is heading for east Manchester.

Who will win?

JB: Manchester United

AS: Manchester City

MO: Manchester City

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Will Greenwood: Jonny Wilkinson was the crackpot who inspired a whole generation

And just as he lifted you by his actions he also tried hard to make you see the game his way. In the England camp he would always give a presentation on the Friday before the final team run. It was fascinating to see the way his brain worked in coloured markers and flip charts.

The pitch was drawn perfectly, his handwriting any teacher would die for. His talks were always 15 minutes long and by the time they were over the whole team knew exactly what was happening on any given area of the field at any given time.

I may not have agreed with him on all of it, but I certainly understood what was needed. And no matter what I may have thought tactically he would usually do something remarkable and shoot my arguments down by his sheer will to succeed.

People will always talk about the World Cup but in my view the best example of Jonny’s skills was in the Grand Slam decider in March 2003. He was fly-half perfection.

He made plus 20 tackles, covered the field like a flanker, nailed his penalties and conversions like a marksman, was inch perfect with his kicks from hand and dropped goals, off each foot into and against the wind.

But with Jonny, the playing part of the game was only part of the puzzle. He really was the first proper rugby heart-throb of the professional era and it didn’t always sit easily.

His drive for success on the field and hunt for perfection was called obsessive behaviour off it; his ability to command and direct the show during the game sometimes meant he felt a little helpless outside of it; and his role as leading man and fancy dan was a difficult fit for someone who loves their privacy. Ironically, as he has found more happiness and balance off the field so his game at the highest level has creaked.

But if I am honest, who could begrudge him that and when I have seen him in his new setting of the South of France he seems a much happier person. When I first met up with him in Toulon he was on a basketball court taking part in what looked like a rugby all stars match.

Flinging the ball about were Pierre Mignoni, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, and Joe van Niekerk. Felipe Contepomi was watching. Jonny was in amongst them, smile on his face.

In the lead up to that meeting the years had given more injuries than smiles, but here he was explaining that the move to France was all about playing for himself and not embarrassed that his hair was longer and his guitar playing was improving. Rugby was important and less important all at the same time.

I have two memories that should tell you everything that matters about Jonny. When that final whistle went after that dropped goal in 2003 I found myself jumping up and down with the man who would become a national icon.

At that moment you see two mates just jumping around like overgrown kids. It is the pure joy of sport and friendship and it is Jonny at his best. There is no guard or fear, you just see someone happy because they did what they could and they delivered for their team when it mattered.

The second memory comes courtesy of my wife who was in hospital during the World Cup when we had come close to losing our now seven-year-old son Archie.

The midwives would run through and ask if he had texted and, always the thoughtful fella, he stayed in touch during that difficult time.

The midwives looked horrified when Caro told them she had deleted the texts — they could not understand how you could delete a text from Jonny. But what matters is he sent them.

So when people ask why Jonny mattered as a rugby player the answer is simple — he was someone who lived for the game and his team-mates and made us all better through his actions on and off the field.

What have Australia been doing as England rise to No 1 in cricket?

 I don’t sit here and believe I can get the whole of this country to like me, people are always going to have their own views, but for me it’s about respect.

June 2011
Simon Katich, one of Australia's most consistent Test batsmen over the last three seasons, launches a withering attack on Australia's Test selectors, describing their inconsistent policies and decision to cut him from the list of 25 centrally contracted players as "absolutely ridiculous".

July 2011
Australia produce shock by calling up Adelaide groundsman Nathan Lyon for tour to Sri Lanka. Chief selector Andrew Hilditch concedes that the offspinner is the "surprise selection" after just four first-class matches. However he does take 5-34 on Test debut in Galle.

August 2011
Australia respond to their Ashes thrashing by copying England’s Schofield Report model with their own Argus Review, recommending the appointment of a powerful coach in the mould of Andy Flower to rebuild the team. The Argus Review's key findings include handing increased responsibilities to the captain and coach and the creation of a five-man selection panel with a full-time national selector.

Meanwhile, Australian cricketers' relationship with Greg Chappell, the national talent manager, disintegrates and sees him banned from the team dressing room. Chappell is described as a "caustic" influence in the Australian media.

September 2011

Before Australia's series win over Sri Lanka, CA places an ad in The Weekend Australian as they search for a full-time chairman of selectors. Jamie Cox's departure means that all four of Australia's selection panel for the Ashes series have moved on.

Tim Neilsen, unhappy at having to reapply for his position, becomes the final victim of England’s Ashes victory after standing down as Australia coach. The question now is whether Cricket Australia appoint from abroad. Meanwhile, Neilsen says:

 For 15 years before it was Australia doing it to other teams, and they had to lick their wounds. Now we have to lick our own.

October 2011

Former Wallaby rugby player Pat Howard is appointed as general manager with the aim to lead Australia out of the Test doldrums. A qualified pharmacist, Howard's commercial experience includes his current role as chief operating officer of Cromwell Property Group and he is a former board member of the Rugby Union Players Association. "It is a great opportunity for anybody interested in sports leadership," he says.

November 2011

Yes, it was a remarkable Test match but one that highlighted Australia's continued deficiencies. South Africa completed the humiliation of Australia by easing to an eight wicket victory in Cape Town. In doing so, they became only the second team in 60 years to win a Test after being bowled out for a first innings total lower than 100. Australia had been bowled out for 47, their lowest total for 108 years.

 Every single one of us needs to be disappointed, for good reason.
Michael Clarke.

December 2011

Australia bid to address its batting woes - Clarke's side lost eight wickets for 74 as New Zealand won for the first time on Aussie soil since 1985 - with a three-day 'batting boot camp' ahead of India series. Leading the lines will be Ricky Ponting, who will go into the camp a day after his 37th birthday, along with 36 year-old Mike Hussey, skipper Michael Clarke and allrounder Shane Watson.

Darren Fletcher will remain central to Scotland manager Craig Levein's plans despite extended break

Manchester United revealed yesterday that Fletcher had compromised his own recovery from a chronic bowel complaint in order to do his duty for club and country.

However, with the 27-year-old's situation giving cause for concern once more after another absence, previously attributed by the club to "a virus", the decision has been made for Fletcher to stand down.

"I am obviously absolutely devastated for Darren because I know how hard he has worked to get back to playing regularly for his club and country," said Levein.

"He is one of the most inspirational players I have had the pleasure of working with.

"I spoke with Sir Alex Ferguson and Darren this week and the most important thing at this stage is for the player to be given time to rest and recuperate.

"He is a central part of our plans for the World Cup 2014 qualifiers but at this stage his health is paramount."

A thoroughly likeable individual, there will be few who do not share the hope Rio Ferdinand expressed on Twitter that Fletcher eventually makes a full recovery.

Other athletes, including Sir Steve Redgrave, have maintained top level sporting careers despite health problems.

However, as the 'attacks' are so varied in strength and deeply personal, a full recovery is by no means guaranteed.

"Whilst he (Fletcher) was able to maintain remission of symptoms for a considerable period this has proved more difficult recently and Darren's continued desire to play and his loyalty to both his club and country has probably compromised the chances of optimising his own health and fitness," said a statement issued by United.

"He has therefore accepted medical advice to take an extended break from the demands of training and playing in order to afford the best chance possible of achieving full remission once again."

Aside from genuine concern for his fellow countryman, for Sir Alex Ferguson it exacerbates an already acute shortage of bodies in his midfield ahead of the packed festive programme.

It is anticipated Tom Cleverley will return during the Christmas campaign.

However, with Anderson currently sidelined and skipper Nemanja Vidic ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, yesterday's news may force United to revise their previously stated intention of not buying in January unless Ferguson intends offering Paul Pogba and Darron Gibson a far more prominent role than had originally been envisaged.

Graphic: average age and caps of Rugby World Cup winning teams and how England might compare in 2015

Following the shambles of England's World Cup failure in New Zealand earlier this year, plans are in motion to focus on 2015, when the tournament will be hosted on these shores.

Studying the last four World Cup winners the RFU calculated average team ages of 27, 28, 27 and 28. The number of caps held by Australia (1999), England (2003), South Africa (2007) and New Zealand (2011) was 622, 638, 668 and 709 for Graham Henry’s All Blacks, the most experienced of the quartet.

With Jonny Wilkinson now retired, his former place at No 10 is now fully open to Toby Flood, who will be 30 in 2015 and could have 79 caps by then.

Ben Youngs, Chris Ashton, Ben Foden and Manu Tuilagi are other likely regulars in the next four-year cycle. They could be joined in the backs by the exciting Gloucester wing Charlie Sharples and Owen Farrell, son of Andy, who is part of Stuart Lancaster’s temporary coaching team.

In the pack, Tom Croft, Tom Wood and James Haskell are the projected back row with Courtney Lawes and Dave Attwood at lock and Joe Marler joining Dylan Hartley and Dan Cole at the shoving end.

Jonny Wilkinson did not need bailing out during 2003 Rugby World Cup final says former team-mate Mike Catt

"That's why Jonny did come under a bit of pressure with his line kicking and with ball in hand but it was the team's failing, not his, and the solution was pretty simple for an experienced and confident side, which is what we were.

"The pack raised their game and Clive Woodward sent me on to provide the second kicking option which was the main, but very simple tactical switch.

"We then stood either side of the scrums, Jonny left and me right, and we hoofed it 60m downfield to get us on the front foot and the nature of the game soon changed.

"For some reason I got most of the credit – I did a decent job but no more – but the truth is everybody in the England team was part of the solution that night and Jonny was fantastic, kicking all his penalties as ever and adding a dropped goal as well if I remember."

After England's 28-17 win Catt was promoted to the starting fifteen a week later in the semi-final against France to play exactly the same subsidiary role alongside Wilkinson and four years later, in his rugby dotage, Catt was still serving precisely the same invaluable role in the latter stages of the 2007 World Cup.

Although different generations they worked supremely well together.

"It was always a pleasure playing alongside Jonny, we enjoyed some great matches together. When he first came into the squad as a youngster all he did was keep his mouth shut and perform, unlike somebody like Danny Cipriani.

"Week in week out, on the pitch and in training, he was exceptional and totally dedicated. He soon dragged some of us to new levels with his dedication to training and determination to master all the skills.

"You very quickly earn respect that way from your peers and Jonny soon had all that and more.

"My abiding memory of Jonny is not the dropped goal in the World Cup but that match against France in Paris very early in his career when he sent Emile Ntamack into orbit with one of his tackles.

"I was right alongside him in midfield and thought Ntamack was probably heading my way and I would have to make the hit but Jonny stepped in and sent him rocketing back.

"Technique and power and a load of courage as well. And discipline, he never overstepped the mark.

"He will miss Test rugby, there is nothing in life that recreates that buzz and its certainly the thing I have struggled with most since retiring but I think he's in a good place right now.

"Jonny has made a great life for himself in the south of France and they really love him in Toulon who are a very ambitious club. He is coming down nice and slowly.

"What I would say though is 'don't overdo it Jonny'. He seems pretty fit and healthy at the moment thank god but nobody has put his body on the line like Jonny has for club and country.

"He has broken and torn just about everything there is to break and tear, He has a long life to lead yet and it would be nice if some of that body was still in decent working order."

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