Wednesday 20 November 2013

Vonn Injured in Training

Getty Images
Lindsey Vonn was injured in a training crash at Copper Mountain ahead of her return to racing following major knee surgery.

Vonn, 29, was taken off the slope on a sled and driven to nearby Vail, Colorado, for medical examinations.

"She is being evaluated to determine if there are any injuries, as is standard procedure," US Ski Team spokesman Tom Kelly told BBC Sport.

"We'll have a report once we know more."

The American was not admitted to hospital but went home to Vail to be evaluated by the doctor who performed her recent knee surgery.

Vonn started training in September after being out for seven months with ruptured ligaments following a crash at the World Alpine Skiing Championships in Schladming, Austria.

Re-injuring her right knee might be the end of her bid to defend her Olympic crown in February at Sochi.

Vonn's friend and team-mate Julia Mancuso tweeted: "Let's all send Lindsey Vonn our positivity and hope for the best."

The four-time overall World Cup champion had hoped to compete next week at Beaver Creek in a World Cup event.

Vonn is dating 14-time major golf champion Tiger Woods.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Wallabies Poised for Pay Cuts

Getty Images
The Wallabies are poised to accept pay cuts as the Australian Rugby Union takes dire financial blows.

A new collective bargaining agreement is set to end the days of Australian players earning a guaranteed $14,000 per Test – win, lose or draw.

The ARU's survival is at stake as it sits in a perilous financial position after recording a $19m deficit in the past two years and a worrying slump in support for rugby union in Australia.

The Wallabies' dismal results this year – winning just three of their nine Tests to drop to No4 in the world – have also impacted on attendances and sponsorship.

In eight months since replacing John O'Neill as ARU chief executive, Bill Pulver, in his own words, has "brutally attacked the cost base" by making cuts across the board.

Even a welcome windfall from the British and Irish Lions tour hasn't balanced the books at the ARU. Pulver has already slashed employee numbers and also made significant cutbacks to the high-performance unit and shelved the national academies in Brisbane and Sydney.

"My first six months at the ARU a lot of my time has been spent ripping costs out of the place basically," said Pulver. "It's not been a lot of fun but it's been a very important cleansing experience. From a financial perspective we're going to be skating on thin ice for the next couple of years. Can we get through? Yes, we can. Is it going to be bloody hard? Yes, it is."

Warnings of cuts to club rugby have made Pulver, looking to develop a new third-tier national competition, unpopular in club circles but he's making no apologies for taking drastic measures for the good of the game.

A reduction of player salaries has firmly been on the agenda and should be revealed in the next two months when a new CBA, the first since 2005, is expected to be finalised. The ARU board meets on Monday to discuss ongoing negotiations with the Rugby Union Players Association.

Both Pulver and RUPA boss Greg Harris confirmed Test match payments – which would currently see a Wallaby earn $196,000 if he played all 15 Tests this year on top of his salary – were among issues being addressed.

Former World Cup-winning skipper Nick Farr-Jones has led calls for incentive-based pay, claiming Wallabies should be paid far less for defeats.
Harris said the players union were taking a conciliatory approach to ensure the game didn't go under.

"Player directors have been united in their commitment in trying to assist the game in trying to confront the financial issues," Harris said. The last time a new CBA was drafted, in 2005, the code was in rude health with $35m in the ARU war chest and crowd numbers which had it challenging rugby league as Australia's No.2 code.

Harris hinted top players benefited from a generous deal in the prosperous times.

"My predecessor [Tony Dempsey] did a very good job of negotiating for the players when the dams were full and there was plenty of water around but we have a drought at the moment so we all have to drink a little bit less," he said. "The players are being very responsible.

Enhanced by Zemanta

No Real Xabi Pirlo Swap

Getty Images
Carlo Ancelotti has insisted that Xabi Alonso remains a vital player for Real Madrid and dismissed the idea of an exchange deal to bring in Andrea Pirlo from Juventus.

There has been speculation about the future of both midfielders as they approach the end of their respective contracts, and Ancelotti knows Pirlo well from their time together at AC Milan.

However, the Real boss has ruled out a move for his fellow Italian and given his full backing to Spain international Alonso.

The former Liverpool man has also been linked with a return to the Premier League, but Ancelotti is adamant that he wants Alonso to stay at the Santiago Bernabeu and play an important role.

"Xabi is a vital player for Madrid now that he's recovered from injury. There are only two players like him in Europe. One is Pirlo and the other is Xabi," Ancelotti told Mediaset.

"However, we have no intention of making a player exchange deal with Juventus. There is no substance to any rumour like that.

"I am still in touch with Andrea because I have a good relationship with him. I was pleased to see the Madrid fans give him a warm welcome when we met."

Enhanced by Zemanta

O'Shea Extends Quins Deal

Getty Images
Conor O'Shea and his backroom staff have agreed new contracts at Aviva Premiership side Harlequins.

The Irishman has committed his future to the club as director of rugby along with head coach John Kingston and skills coach Collin Osborne.

The decision of the trio to extend their deals to the end of the 2015-16 season gives the club a settled rugby management team after first XV coach and academy manager Tony Diprose and backs coach Mark Mapletoft signed new contracts last year.

The current coaching staff have overseen the most successful period in the club's history, delivering four trophies in three seasons - the Amlin Challenge Cup in 2011, the Aviva Premiership title in 2012 and the Aviva A League and LV= Cup in 2013 - to The Stoop.

In a statement on the Quins' website, chief executive David Ellis said: "We are delighted to have retained the services of the coaching team that has delivered the most successful period in the professional history of this great club.

"Their extensive experience of managing players at the top end of the game in this country has been fundamental to Harlequins' recent progress.

"I am confident that will continue given the quality of young English talent we have coming through our player development programme."

O'Shea said: "I am very privileged to be asked to continue as director of rugby at Harlequins and would like to thank the club's owners and the board for this opportunity.

"Every day I go into the club I meet a group of coaches, players and support staff that wants to be the best they can be and wants to bring success to a club that belongs at the top of the game.

"We are ambitious to ensure that what we are building here is a lasting legacy, that we play rugby in a style that our supporters enjoy and is true to the tradition of this club, a club that will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2016."

Enhanced by Zemanta

All Blacks 54 - 6 Japan

Getty Images
Richie McCaw and Dan Carter both came through their returns from injury unscathed as world champions New Zealand warmed up for their tour of Europe with a 54-6 win away to Japan.

New Zealand took the lead via Charles Piatau but Japan cut the gap to 7-6 through two Ayumu Goromaru penalties.

Sam Cane, Ben Smith and Richie McCaw all crossed to make it 28-6 to the All Blacks at the break.

And Jeremy Thrush, Frank Halai, Beauden Barrett and Piatau added further tries.

Fly-half Carter, playing his first game since mid-September after missing the All Blacks' last three Tests, kicked five conversions out of five before being replaced.

Japan almost scored a last-minute try through Kenki Fukuoka but McCaw, playing at number eight on his return to the fray after missing the recent Bledisloe Cup win over Australia with a calf injury, just managed to put him into touch.

"That was payback," smiled McCaw. "He got me good in the first half. I was pretty desperate to stop Japan scoring at the end. Perhaps they deserved to score a try but I got there and I didn't want to be the one that missed."

The All Blacks, who extended their winning run to 11 Tests out of 11 in 2013, play France next Saturday before games against England and Ireland over the following two weekends.

"It felt good from a personal point of view to get through 80 minutes and get the feeling of the game," said McCaw.

"I don't think it's going to take too much to change the mindset for Paris. Next week is going to be a hell of a match so it won't take much to turn the screws."

Despite the big winning margin coach Steve Hansen said he was "disappointed with some of the players". He added: "There were some lessons to be learned, but we scored eight tries so we can't grumble too much."

Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday 16 November 2013

All Blacks Maintain Record

Getty Images
New Zealand avenged last year's defeat at Twickenham but were given a mighty fright by England before emerging from a titanic struggle with a 30-22 victory, their 13th in an unbeaten 2013.

England trailed 17-3 early in the game, battled back to lead 22-20 after a hour but succumbed to a ferocious finish from the All Blacks.

New Zealand went ahead early through tries from the outstanding Kieran Read and Julian Savea, but England kept in touch through a scrappy try from Joe Launchbury and the relentlessly accurate boot of Owen Farrell.

It was Farrell's sixth kick from six which edged England ahead briefly but Savea's second try and a conversion and penalty from Aaron Cruden - on as a replacement for the injured Dan Carter - kept New Zealand's unbeaten year intact.

Carter joined the ranks of rugby's Test centurions, but his afternoon lasted just 26 minutes until injury ended his involvement.

The fifth All Black to reach 100 caps contributed a penalty and two conversions before making way for Cruden.

England started brightly but the home fans were stunned into silence when their line was breached after just 105 seconds.

New Zealand broke down the left wing through Read and some naive defending saw the number eight suck in Chris Ashton, Tom Wood and Billy Vunipola.

Somehow Read slipped a pass out to the lurking Savea and the wing had the simplest of run-ins, with Carter converting.

A penalty from Farrell got England on the board and Ben Foden thought he had scored a try after intercepting and running two thirds of the pitch, but referee Craig Joubert had spotted offside. To rub salt into Foden's wound, Carter kicked the penalty.

By the 18th minute New Zealand had surged 17-3 ahead with their second try started when lock Brodie Retallick sent prop Owen Franks racing through a gap.

The ball was recycled quickly and fed right where Foden was outnumbered and Read easily loped over. Carter added the conversion.

Finally England exerted some pressure, declining a shot at goal and kicking for touch to enable their forwards to pound away at the All Blacks' line.

They appeared to have mauled their way over, but video referee Gareth Simmonds controversially refused to award the try.

The score arrived moments later, however, when the ball squirted out of a five-metre scrum, touched the boots of Chris Robshaw and Wood before falling to Launchbury who gathered it up and fell over the line.

Farrell converted and then exchanged penalties with Cruden, reducing the deficit to 20-13 and with the added benefit of Read being sent to the sin-bin for entering a breakdown from the side.

The pendulum had swung in the final 10 minutes of the first half, England's resurgence founded on their dominant pack and Joubert's willingness to penalise the All Blacks at the breakdown.

And the shift in power continued after the interval as England produced their best passage of play with their backs also involved, only for Ashton to kick the ball away.

The action was captivating as New Zealand counter-attacked, missed a penalty and then allowed increasingly influential Billy Twelvetrees to burst through their ranks.

When Ashton was illegally blocked by Wyatt Crockett as he chased his own kick, England won a penalty landed by Farrell.

Rattled New Zealand continued to be penalised at the breakdown when they conceded again, they slipped behind for the first time in the match as Farrell hit the target.

The lead lasted just four minutes, however, as the All Blacks produced a stunning response in the face of some tiring home defence.

Desperate scrambling defence kept New Zealand out in the left corner, but a brilliant offload from Ma'a Nonu gave Savea a sniff of the line and he pounced, with Cruden converting.

A penalty from Cruden put the All Blacks eight points ahead and finally England's resistance had been broken.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Quade Runs Dublin Wallabies

Getty Images
Australia ran in four tries on their way to a 32-15 victory over Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

Livewire fly-half Quade Cooper claimed a try to pass 100 international points, Michael Hooper grabbing a brace and Nick Cummins completing the scoring.

Despite crossing the line twice, Joe Schmidt's Ireland were unable to conjure a try - and the new head coach will be furious with the defensive lapses that led to Hooper's first score and Cooper's soft finish.

Jonathan Sexton limped out with a hamstring injury, the distraught fly-half leaving the field at half-time with his head in his hands.

Cooper opened the scoring with a ninth-minute penalty, before Sexton levelled from the tee after a strong Ireland rolling maul.

Cooper then fluffed a straightforward penalty, but the Wallabies struck quickly.

Stephen Moore bisected the Ireland midfield before producing a scoring pass even Brian O'Driscoll himself would have savoured.

Cummins received Moore's pass, cut in off his left wing and outfoxed the remaining cover to notch his third Wallabies try.

Soon afterwards Tommy Bowe cleared loosely from his own 22 and straight into gleeful Australian clutches.

Cooper's whipped pass sent Folau to the line, Australia worked the ball back left and Fardy's back-handed offload put openside Hooper clear to run home for his first international score.

Ireland rallied immediately, with McFadden surging into the Australia 22. Peter O'Mahony knocked on after sustained phase play, but then Ireland won a free kick at the scrum.

Heaslip's break brought two tight sneaks towards the line, before Eoin Reddan failed to deliver the killer pass. After all the pressure, Sexton had to settle for a penalty.

McFadden's searing break yielded another penalty that Sexton knocked over with Hooper sent to the sin-bin.

Another fluent Irish attack brought Sexton's fourth penalty of the night, closing an engaging half missing only a home try.

Leinster's Ian Madigan replaced Sexton at half-time, with the Racing Metro star suffering that potential hamstring problem.

Another flat Cooper pass sent Cummins into the left corner from Australia's bright start, but Bowe did just enough to deny him his second try.

Australia turned Ireland over at the scrum though, and Cooper struck all too easily from the set-piece.

The wily outside-half claimed his seventh Australia try, ghosting between Madigan and Luke Marshall's wafer-thin resistance.

Cooper landed his second penalty after Rob Kearney's uncharacteristic high-ball spill.

Ireland's scrum power then brought a penalty, that Madigan duly converted.

Ireland punted a kickable penalty to the corner to launch the final quarter, only to knock on at the line-out when Australia sacked their maul at source.

The Wallabies took that cue to wrestle back control and quickly scored through a line-out drive of their own.

Flanker Hooper rose from the pile of bodies with the ball, to confirm his second try of the night.

Tevita Kuridrani was then sent off for a dangerous tackle on O'Mahony.

The Australia centre flipped the Munster flanker and planted him on his head, and could have no complaints with the decision ruled by TMO Warren.

Replacement Conor Murray thought he had scored from a penalty snipe, but referee Chris Pollock brought back the play, refusing to allow the quick tap.

In the final minute Sean Cronin powered over but the replacement hooker was denied his first Ireland try, with the TMO chalking it off due to a Murray knock-on in the build-up. That just about summed up Ireland's night.

Enhanced by Zemanta