Sunday, November 30, 2008

Monday's gossip column

Transfers Other gossip And finally


Manchester United will sign Serbian teenager Adem Ljajic from Partizan Belgrade once he has won an international cap. (Daily Mirror)

West Ham want to agree a loan deal for 20-year-old Juventus forward Sebastian Giovinco. (Daily Mirror)

Wigan are keen to sell striker Emile Heskey in January rather than lose him for nothing when his contract expires in the summer. (Various)

Liverpool and Manchester City are both keen on Heskey. (Daily Mirror)

West Brom are to give a trial to Bohemians' Lithuanian midfielder Mindaugas Kalonas this week. (Daily Express)

Wolves boss Mick McCarthy will be handed £10m to spend on players in January. (The Sun)

Derry City midfielder Niall McGinn will only sign for Celtic if they guarantee him first-team football. (Daily Record)

Real Madrid will target Ajax striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in January, with Ruud van Nistelrooy ruled out for the season. (Marca)

Scotland manager George Burley says Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor has been struggling with fluid in his knee and will require a scan. (Daily Mail)


West Ham's Icelandic owners have rejected three offers to buy them out as they are well short of their £120m valuation. (Daily Mirror)

Huddersfield are close to making former Newcastle midfielder Lee Clark their new manager. (Daily Mirror)


Chelsea's Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka and Sunderland's Djibril Cisse and El-Hadji Diouf are among the stars invited to attend a huge Christmas party hosted by hip-hop artists Lil Wayne and Akon. However, their clubs have banned them from attending the Florida bash. (The Sun)

Lee helps Australia thrash Kiwis

Second Test, Adelaide (day four, close):
Australia 535 bt New Zealand 270 & 203 by an innings and 62 runs

Brett Lee
Lee ended with nine wickets in the match as Australia eased to victory

Brett Lee took five wickets on day four of the second Test as Australia sealed a 2-0 series win over New Zealand with victory by an innings and 62 runs.

Lee struck four times to reduce New Zealand to 63-4 before Mitchell Johnson made it 84-6 in Adelaide.

Brendon McCullum provided an element of resistance with a typically explosive 84, including 14 fours and two sixes.

But Lee (5-105), Johnson (3-29) and spinner Nathan Hauritz (2-32) helped skittle New Zealand out for just 203.

Australia captain Ricky Ponting will be happy with the way his side bounced back from defeat in India.

But, especially from a batting point of view, New Zealand were extremely poor and Australia are sure to face stiffer opposition in the three-Test series against South Africa, which begins in Perth on 17 December.

The Black Caps will look to bounce back in their two-Test series against the West Indies, starting in Dunedin on 10 December.

Captain Daniel Vettori watched on as his team slumped to 83-5 before lunch, New Zealand self destructing in the face of Lee's probing line and length.

Aaron Redmond squirted the second ball of the day to Michael Clarke at point before Jesse Ryder scooped a cover drive to Andrew Symonds.

Ross Taylor departed after a leading edge handed Lee a simple caught and bowled then Ponting produced a stunning full length diving catch in the slips to remove Jamie How.

Johnson removed Daniel Flynn after the Kiwi played across the line before bowling Peter Fulton after the interval.

Vettori and McCullum briefly steadied the innings but when the captain was caught by Matthew Hayden at first slip off Hauritz, Australia's triumph was within sight.

McCullum and Tim Southee added 26 for the eighth wicket before the Kiwi bowler handed Hauritz a second wicket, caught at second slip by Ponting.

New Zealand reached tea 98 runs adrift at 167-8 but Iain O'Brien was trapped by Lee and Johnson bowled Chris as both were removed for ducks.

The world's three leading news agencies are not covering the series due to a dispute with Cricket Australia.

Reuters, Agence France-Presse and Associated Press have suspended all coverage of the 2008-09 season.

Their photographers and reporters did not supply material from within the ground. As a result, we cannot use pictures from the current match.

Furious Scolari wants ref apology

Scolari believed Van Persie's goal should not have stood

Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari has demanded an apology from the officials for allowing Robin van Persie's first goal in the 2-1 defeat by Arsenal.

The Dutch striker's first of two goals appeared to be offside but the goal was allowed to stand by referee Mike Dean.

Scolari said: "I want only after tomorrow that he (Dean) looks at the TV and the referee and the linesman see they are wrong, and they say 'sorry'.

"That is all I want, no more, because they were not good and made a mistake."

Television replays appeared to show Van Persie in an offside position after Denilson had played him in on the edge of the penalty area. But Van Persie drilled his effort past Petr Cech, before grabbing the Gunners' winner three minutes later with a neat, low finish on the turn.

Chelsea, who remain top of the Premier League, had taken the lead through Johan Djourou's own goal, but succumbed to Arsenal's quick double in the second half and fell to their second home defeat this season.


And Scolari attributed the latest loss to the performance of the officials.

"We need a referee that comes to Stamford Bridge who referees for both sides, not just for one," The Brazilian added.

"Have you ever heard me speak about referees any time in the games I have been here? Never, in 15 in the Premier League, four in the Champions League, the Carling Cup, I have not said anything, but today is different.

"I do not want three points, all I want is them to say sorry it was a mistake, because in the first half, the same linesman made a mistake against us with (Salomon) Kalou.

"He is human and he can make a mistake, but the offside has killed my team. I just want them to say they are wrong, because I am wrong when I put some players in, or the players are wrong when they make a mistake in front of goal or are not covering.

"These are all wrong, but the referee is never wrong. I do not think they came here to deliberately make a mistake against us.

"It is difficult for my team to play after this, because they lost their concentration. The offside killed my team.

"We lost because one goal was not a goal, and it was a goal which changed the result. If we won, Arsenal would have been 13 points behind us and their championship would have been finished."

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said the style of their win at Stamford Bridge showed his side's strength of character despite their recent problems.

Wenger praised his side's spirit following the Gunners' victory

The furore over William Gallas's public criticisms of some team-mates had cast doubt on their credentials.

But Wenger said: "It was a fantastic win. We've had a bad period in the League and we were 1-0 down and still won.

"There's no better test of character. I told the team to keep the pace and last longer than they did and keep strong."

The win takes Arsenal up to fourth, but Wenger was playing down the suggestion that it put them back among the title contenders.

"It was much better but we are still not close enough," he said.

"We can gain belief after beating Manchester United and now Chelsea away. That shows we have potential and character. We have now to be humble and come back tomorrow and do our job."

Learning curve is over - Edwards

Shuan Edwards
Edwards was satisfied with the win over Australia

Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards says victory over Australia means their learning curve is over.

Edwards told Scrum V head coach Warren Gatland's pre-match pep talk ahead of the 21-18 win over the Wallabies underlined the message.

"He (Gatland) did say yesterday (Saturday) that the learning curve is over - it's time to win," said Edwards

"It really struck home to the boys then that we're not here to be brave losers, we're here to be winners."

Edwards added: "We always put pressure on ourselves so it was no different.

"But Warren said in his pre-game talk that it's acceptable to say that we're still on a learning curve by losing to South Africa and it's acceptable to say we're still on that learning curve, pushing the All Blacks close because I think anybody with a firm mind would say the score (Wales 9-29 New Zealand) certainly didn't represent the game."

Edwards was largely satisfied with the narrow win over the Wallabies that gave Wales the only European win against a Tri-Nations team.

But he also lamented Wales' inability to take the chances created by what he felt was the best attacking rugby they have played since Gatland took over a year ago.

"Obviously there's great satisfaction that we got the result against a southern hemisphere (Tri-Nations) team, the only northern hemisphere team to win during all of the series," said Edwards.

"There's a little bit of frustration that we probably didn't win with more points, particularly in the first-half I thought of the offensive rugby we played was out of the top drawer and probably as good as we've ever played.

"I thought we defended very well throughout the game, probably except for the fact we switched off for the last try. I think we thought the job was done by that time.

"All-in-all we're pretty satisfied, but still got that burning hunger, that desire to get even better.

"We just didn't have much possession in the second-half and Stephen (Jones), 10 times out of 11 he would have made those kicks.

"Fortunately he made the one that really mattered, which put us beyond one scoring try by them near the end, but all-in-all we've got to be satisfied to have beaten Australia, a team who have beaten all the other northern hemisphere teams."

More to come from NZ - Muliaina

By Bryn Palmer

Mils Muliaina powers through two England tacklers at Twickenham
Muliaina scored the 23rd and 24th tries of his All Blacks career at Twickenham

Full-back Mils Muliaina believes the current All Blacks are the mentally toughest team he has played in but that they have yet to hit their peak.

Muliaina scored two tries in the 32-6 win over England to seal New Zealand's eighth straight Test victory since losing 34-19 to Australia in July.

"Mentally this is the hardest team I've been involved with," he said.

"A lot of guys are really talented and we've started to nail it collectively. But we can still make some strides."

Victory at Twickenham completed a second 'grand slam' over the home nations in three years, Muliaina one of 17 players in the All Blacks squad that also featured in the 2005 clean sweep.

The full-back believes this year's achievement was "tougher" given the exodus of a dozen frontline players after last year's World Cup.

We have been a little too emotional the way we have started games

Mils Muliaina
"You have to say the young guys this year have been remarkable - they have stepped into some really big shoes," Muliaina said.

"To rebuild as quickly as we have after losing a lot of players last year says a lot for our coaching staff.

"It is just a shame we are doing it between World Cups. But I think there is still a little bit more in the tank.

"We have been really disappointed with the way we have started games, for example. We can be a bit more clinical.

"We have been a little too emotional the way we have started games, we need to be a bit cleverer upstairs."

Muliaina was entitled to feel emotional after his man-of-the-match performance, which also included a vital last-ditch tap tackle on Nick Easter that prevented England scoring at the start of the second half.

Muliaina joined the tour late because his first child Max was born just a week before the All Blacks faced Australia in Hong Kong.

His new-born son was then found to have a hole in his heart and will undergo an operation next week.

"It has been really hard being over here, and it probably took its toll at the end of last week," Muliaina added. "The boys and the coaches have been really supportive.

"I couldn't let them down so I 'gutsed' it out. But now I am just looking forward to going home and seeing my wife and son."

While New Zealand failed to find their rhythm in a stop-start first half punctured by penalties, Muliaina's two tries in seven minutes - the 23rd and 24th of his 68-Test career - were part of a 20-point blitz from the end of the third quarter that killed the game.

The third try was superbly finished off by rampaging centre Ma'a Nonu, who has evolved from something of a liability early in his Test career into a player of genuine class and authority.

I think Dan (Carter) will end up a more mature rugby player for his French experience

Graham Henry
"We have a bright group that is working hard at understanding the game and communicating what they see," said assistant coach Wayne Smith.

"Ma'a epitomizes that. He is a play-caller now. Daniel (Carter) would say he is right up there as a second five-eighth (inside centre) who can call the plays, and he has scored seven tries this year as well."

Carter, meanwhile, heads to Perpignan next week for a six-month sabbatical, and may miss the All Blacks' next Tests, at home to Italy and France, next June.

But he should be available for the start of New Zealand's defence of the Tri-Nations in July, when Henry expects to have a "more mature" player on his hands.

"I think it will be stimulating for him," Henry added. "I think he'll grow from that challenge.

"When you go and play in a different country it's a personal challenge rather than a rugby challenge.

"I'm sure he'll handle that and I think he'll end up a more mature rugby player for the experience."

Everton's Yakubu out for season

Yakubu's injury took the gloss off an impressive win at White Hart Lane

Everton striker Yakubu is out for the rest of the season after rupturing his Achilles tendon during Sunday's 1-0 win over Tottenham at White Hart Lane.

The Nigerian went off early on after what looked an innocuous challenge.

But Toffees boss David Moyes said after the match: "He's done his Achilles and that's him out for the season.

"Louis Saha did his hamstring as well so, with James Vaughan facing a knee operation, we are really short up front. It's a massive shame for us."

Yakubu went down awkwardly during a challenge with Ledley King on 10 minutes, but at first looked as if he would be fit to carry on.

However, he was soon replaced by Saha and, after being examined by the medical staff in the dressing room, Moyes's worst fears were confirmed.

Saha was later stretchered off with a hamstring injury meaning, with Vaughan out until the new year at the earliest after injuring his knee in training, Moyes is left with Victor Anichebe as his only fit striker.

"We've had no luck injury-wise," said Moyes. "But I'm hopeful that the group will work hard and respond to the challenge, especially Anichebe who, whilst only young, has real quality."

When asked if the injuries would prompt the Scot to seek reinforcements in the January transfer window, he added: "It is well documented that we don't have great amounts of cash here and getting involved in January certainly wouldn't have been our ideal plan.

"But the chairman has always backed me and clearly we can't go through the rest of the season if we only have one fit striker.

"We'll see where we are and what we can do when the time comes in the new year."

Portsmouth 3-2 Blackburn

By Chris Whyatt

Sean Davis is mobbed by his Portsmouth team-mates
Davis came off the bench to provide the game's late climax

Sean Davis's winner saw Portsmouth edge a thrilling second half over battling Blackburn to earn Tony Adams a first win as boss at Fratton Park.

Peter Crouch hit his own post in a lively first period but easily nodded in the opener after 48 minutes.

Jermain Defoe soon slotted in Pompey's second but Blackburn hit back through substitute Matt Derbyshire's looped header and Tugay's fizzing 20-yarder.

Yet Davis clipped in late to leave Paul Ince's side winless in nine games.

That record means Blackburn are now on their worst league run in a decade and leaves the club sitting 19th in the table.

Former England team-mates Adams and Ince were in opposite dugouts before kick-off and, with both managers still finding their feet in their first season as Premier League bosses, the match was lent an interesting subtext.

Unsurprisingly showing the confidence of a team who drew 2-2 with Italian giants AC Milan in the Uefa Cup on Thursday, Portsmouth hit the ground running and should have taken a fourth minute lead.

Johnson played a sharp pass through to Crouch whose through-ball was met by Glen Little, but the Pompey midfielder could only shoot straight at a back-pedalling Paul Robinson.

Crouch was proving an influential pivot in attack with the hosts pressing hard and Armand Traore fired a low shot just wide.


But Blackburn did carve out chances as Stephen Warnock miscued from 10 yards out with his weaker right foot before Roque Santa Cruz, after being delicately laid in by Benni McCarthy, crashed a low shot just past the post from 18 yards out.

The visitors came within inches of the lead when Crouch, attempting to clear Brett Emerton's viciously inswinging corner, flicked a header onto his own post with David James stranded.

Crouch then should have scored himself just before half-time but headed over from six yards after Traore had chipped over a superb cross.

Pompey boss Adams sought to add a touch more composure after the interval as Niko Kranjcar was brought on for Glen Little - and it had an immediate effect.

Marauding Johnson, in outstanding form recently swung over a perfect 48th minute cross which Crouch steered back beyond Robinson and inside the post for a simple opener.

Minutes later Croatian midfielder Kranjcar fed Defoe who turned sharply before bamboozling Christopher Samba and slotting the ball easily past Robinson from 12 yards.

Yet Blackburn showed their steel by getting one back within ten minutes as Derbyshire, on for Benni McCarthy nodded a deep, bouncing Morten Gamst Pederson cross over David James.

And by the 66th minute they were level as, remarkably, Pompey let Tugay motor forward from 50 yards out before the Turkish midfielder rifled a low shot from 20 yards out just inside James' near post.

Blackburn scented an unlikely victory and Derbyshire again had the ball in the net, only for it to be ruled out for a Christopher Samba foul on James in the build up to the substitute's hooked finish.

Pompey were not done though and midfielder Papa Bouba Diop muscled forward from deep to force a smart Robinson block.

With Blackburn unable to clear their lines from the rebound substitute Davis, on for Traore, pounced on the loose ball before advancing to deftly chip over Robinson from eight yards.

Derbyshire had a late chance to level in a frenetic finish but his reactions were not quick enough to convert Santa Cruz's cross.

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match on 90 minutes: Portsmouth's Jermain Defoe 7.63 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

Tottenham 0-1 Everton

By Sam Lyon

Steven Pienaar
Everton midfielder Pienaar celebrates his crucial strike at White Hart Lane

Steven Pienaar struck to earn Everton a narrow victory in David Moyes's 300th game in charge and end Tottenham's 100% home record under Harry Redknapp.

The South African latched on to Mikel Arteta's quick free-kick and his shot cannoned in off Vedran Corluka's shin with Heurelho Gomes stranded.

It was no more than they deserved at that point, after Gomes had denied Louis Saha and Pienaar earlier on.

Spurs responded, but Tim Howard denied Roman Pavlyuchenko to seal the win.

It was a classic away win for the Toffees, the visitors dominating proceedings for the first hour before dropping deep late in the game to repel Spurs' expected rally.

Everton moved up to seventh but victory came at a high cost with news afterwards that striker Yakubu is expected to miss the rest of the season after rupturing his Achilles.

For their part, Tottenham will be disappointed to succumb to only their second defeat in 10 games under Redknapp but, having made a habit of winning even when not at their best under the former Pompey boss, their fortunes ran out at a chilly White Hart Lane.

For a time, though, it looked as though luck would again be on their side with Gomes producing a series of smart saves to keep them on level terms and prevent Everton converting their early dominance into goals.

The much-maligned keeper has faced a barrage of criticism of late but he showed glimpses of his returning confidence, saving from Marouane Fellaini twice from the edge of the box in a matter of seconds.

The Brazilian also did well to twice deny Saha - an early substitute for Yakubu - once when he cut out Fellaini's cross with the Frenchman poised and then when Saha found himself unmarked eight yards out only to direct his header straight at the keeper.

The Toffees were shifting the ball around with total confidence and, faced with a five-man midfield full of energy and quality, the likes of Tom Huddlestone and Bentley failed to fire early on for Tottenham.

Aaron Lennon, though, was as effervescent as he has been most of the season and he had the hosts' best chance of the half, collecting the ball in the area after a fine counter-attacking run from Didier Zokora, only to blaze his effort at goal high and wide.

If Everton fans wondered whether they might rue their team's first-half profligacy, Pienaar soon calmed their nerves.

The midfielder - in only his sixth league start of the season because of injury - latched on to Arteta's free-kick with the Spurs defence asleep and his shot was deflected past a helpless Gomes by Corluka.

He almost made it two when another of his drives was deflected by Ledley King but Gomes did well to beat it away and, with Everton happy to sit and break, Spurs came back into it.

Bentley, in particular, began pulling the strings for the hosts and he carved out a great chance when his whipped cross was poked goalwards by Pavlyuchenko, but Howard did brilliantly to palm it away left-handed on the stretch.

With Everton camped in their own half with the minutes ticking down, Gareth Bale and Fraizer Campbell both forced desperate blocks from the Toffees defence late on.

But Tottenham, for once under Redknapp, could not find a breakthrough and the Londoners remain outside of the bottom three only on goal difference.

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Phil Jagielka 6.85 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

Hurdler Rawlinson plans comeback

Chris Rawlinson
Rawlinson tasted victory in the hurdles at the Commonwealths six years ago

Former Commonwealth Games hurdles gold medallist Chris Rawlinson has revealed his ambitions to race for Australia.

Injury forced the 36-year-old to retire after the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games and he went on to marry and coach Australian world champion Jana Pittman.

With Australian citizenship imminent, the Rotherham-born athlete said: "I'm just going to ride the wave and see what happens.

"It should be a motivator for the other Australian 400m hurdlers."

Rawlinson became 400m hurdles Commonwealth champion in Manchester in 2002.

But now he is looking to wear the Australian vest, and has the approval of UK Athletics and Athletics Australia in his bid to represent Australia at the World Championships in Berlin next year.


Rawlinson is likely to begin racing again in January and referring to the stiff competition in the Australian camp, he added, "I'm sure they won't want to get beaten by a 36-year-old."

His wife, Jana, is now back in full training after missing the Beijing Olympics with a toe injury and said she was in full support of her husband.

"He just wants to enjoy it again and he figures that while I'm running, he might as well do it too," she said.

England 'a long way from targets'

Toby Flood tries to claim a high ball against New Zealand
England have struggled to compete with the Tri-Nations teams

Fly-half Toby Flood admits England face a huge task to transform themselves into credible Six Nations challengers after a miserable autumn series.

Asked how they can turn things around after three heavy defeats to the Tri-Nations sides, he told BBC 5 Live: "It is going to be very difficult.

"We are where we are and realise we are a long way from where we want to be.

"The team has a huge amount of ambition and potential. But they are just words. We have to go away and work very hard."

Flanker James Haskell also admitted England have failed to make the progress they hoped for in their first series under manager Martin Johnson.

Saturday's 32-6 defeat by New Zealand, a record loss to the All Blacks at Twickenham, followed a record home defeat (42-6) by the Springboks a week earlier and a 28-14 defeat to Australia.

"We have got the ability and belief," said Haskell, who like Flood was one of four England players sin-binned on Saturday.

"It is the small inches that make the difference. I think we are moving forward. We have taken small steps but not the big strides we wanted."

Johnson, who started his reign with a 39-13 victory over the Pacific Islanders three weeks ago, has plenty to ponder ahead of England's first Six Nations match at home to Italy on 7 February.

He has given Test debuts to six players over the course of the series - Delon Armitage, Ugo Monye, Riki Flutey and Nick Kennedy from the start, Dylan Hartley and Jordan Crane off the bench.

Under the Rugby Football Union's new agreement with the Premiership clubs, he has the option of changing up to five of his 32-man elite squad in January if he so chooses.

"We can make some changes if we think that is the right thing to do," he said. "But these are the best players.

We got what we deserved - Johnson

"It has been difficult for the guys. They didn't get the rewards they wanted, and frankly they haven't deserved it.

"We probably won't have as tough a run of games as that again but it has also been good; we have no illusions where we are and the players will be better for it.

"When you see the guys take the All Blacks on, the more you think it is worth the heartache and the pain to get there.

"If you can get there and win games then it is worth it. This is our first series together and we know we can improve."

You must give Martin Johnson space. It's not as if the team he's coaching is full of experience.

Graham Henry
Johnson was backed up by his All Blacks counterpart Graham Henry, who fielded a starting side with 650 caps between them, compared to the 275 in England's starting XV.

"They had a very inexperienced side out there and they will get better," said Henry, who was head coach when Johnson led the British & Irish Lions for the second time in 2001.

Henry also pointed to his time as Wales coach, when he overcame a difficult start of three defeats in his first four games before overseeing 11 successive Test victories.

"It might be a similar situation for Martin," Henry added. "Maybe he needs patience.

"He's a man of high standards who achieved great things in the past. He was respected by his peers and led by example.

"But you must give him space. It's not as if the team he's coaching is full of experience. The media can kill him or support him."

Sri Lanka claim series whitewash

Fifth one-day international, Harare:
Sri Lanka 152 all out (48.5 ov) bt Zimbabwe 133 all out (44.0 ov) by 19 runs

Match scorecard
Sri Lankan bowler Nuwan Kulasekera (R) appeals on Zimbabwe"s batsman Hamilton Masakadza
Sri Lanka completed a straightforward win over Zimbabwe

Sri Lanka wrapped up a 5-0 series whitewash with victory over Zimbabwe in the final one-day match in Harare.

The tourists had posted their lowest total in the series as Zimbabwe rattled them out for 152 with Ed Rainsford returning figures of 3-22 in Harare.

But Zimbabwe could not take advantage and lost their first six wickets for only 58 runs.

Muttiah Muralitharan did the most damage, capturing 5-29, while Keith Dabengwa top-scored with 39 runs.

Nations await 2011 World Cup draw

Rugby World Cup trophy

England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland will all face stiff southern hemisphere opposition when the draw for the 2011 Rugby World Cup is made on Monday.

Wales' win over Australia lifted them to fifth place in the world rankings, with England dropping to sixth.

The top four in the rankings - New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Argentina - will be top seeds in each of the four pools in New Zealand.

Ireland and France are in the second tier with Scotland in the third group.

That means Frank Hadden's side, who finished the November internationals ranked ninth in the world, will have two of the world's top eight teams in their group.

Warren Gatland's Wales could have moved into the top four, and avoided one of the Tri-Nations giants in New Zealand, if they had beaten Australia by more than 15 points on Saturday.

In the end the Welsh ran out 21-18 winners to leapfrog England, who completed a whitewash at the hands of the Tri-Nations sides as they went down 32-6 to New Zealand at Twickenham.

The draw is very important because from there we can develop the match schedule, select base camps and develop the ticketing strategy

RWC 2011 boss Kit McConnell

Wales second row Alun Wyn Jones was philosophical about not making the top four.

"We know that if we had beaten Australia by 15 points that would have done us a world of good in the seedings," he told BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek programme.

"But knowing that we can pit ourselves against the best as we have done, and had 50% of the game against the All Blacks [the previous Saturday], means we will have all confidence going into the World Cup whoever we are drawn against."

If England, under new boss Martin Johnson, had defeated New Zealand they would have moved above Argentina into fourth.

The draw for allocating the pools will take place in London on Monday, 1 December at 1500 GMT.

Kit McConnell, head of Rugby World Cup 2011, defended the decision to conduct the draw three years before the tournament takes place.

"The draw is very important for us because from there we can develop the match schedule, we can select team base camps and we can also develop the ticketing strategy for the tournament," explained McConnell.

"Those three elements are really critical to putting the building blocks in place early enough to make 2011 the same success as we saw in France (2007).

1 New Zealand
2 South Africa
3 Australia
4 Argentina
5 Wales
6 England
7 France
8 Ireland
9 Scotland
10 Fiji
11 Italy
12 Tonga

"By having certainty about which teams are playing which other teams in each pool, we can develop the match schedule.

"That is obviously of critical importance to the teams and also the supporters to know who is playing which other teams when, and where, and we will be announcing that in March, so that is really the next key step in the tournament preparations."

As in 2007, there will be four pools of five teams, with the top three positions in each pool filled by the 12 pre-qualified teams from the last World Cup.

Those 12 are Argentina, Australia, England, Fiji, France, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, Tonga and Wales.

The IRB rankings determined which seeding band the countries find themselves in, with one-to-four in the rankings forming the top band, five-to-eight the second tier, and nine-to-12 the third.

The final two bands will be filled by teams who have fought their way through qualification competitions taking place around the world.

Band four will be composed of the top qualifier from the Americas, the top two teams from European qualification and the leading team from the Oceania competition.

The final band will be made up of the teams which finish top of qualifying in Africa and Asia, the second American team and the winner of a play-off involving teams which had missed out in their respective regional qualifiers.

2011 Rugby World Cup draw:

Band One - New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Argentina.

Band Two - Wales, England, France, Ireland.

Band Three - Scotland, Fiji, Italy, Tonga.

Band Four - Oceania 1, Europe 1, Europe 2, Americas 1.

Band Five - Africa 1, Asia 1, Americas 2, Play-off winners.

Histon 1-0 Leeds

Matthew Langston's header stunned Leeds and earned non-league Histon a home tie with Swansea in the FA Cup third round.

In a game played in awful conditions, postman Langston netted from Gareth Gwillim's corner just before half-time.

Until that point Histon had rarely threatened, with Patrick Ada's near-own goal and Luciano Becchio's shot over being Leeds' best first-half chances.

Lubomir Michalik hit the post and had a shot cleared off the line as Leeds sought an equaliser but to no avail.

Histon: Naisbitt, Oyebanjo, Langston, Ada, Gwillim, Barker, Mitchell-King, Simpson, Knight-Percival, Wright, Midson.

Subs: Welch, Pope, Okay, Kennedy, Andrews, Reeves, Murray.

Leeds: Lucas, Richardson, Marques, Michalik, Sheehan, Delph, Douglas, Snodgrass, Robinson, Becchio, Hughes.

Subs: Ankergren, Prutton, Kilkenny, Howson, Parker, Showunmi, Telfer.

India decision hangs over England

Andrew Flintoff
Flintoff and the England players will have many issues on their minds

England's cricketers are considering whether to return to India for two Tests after a security assessment has been completed.

The England and Wales Cricket Board has said players would not be forced to go.

Spinner Graeme Swann, battling to secure a place in the side, told the BBC he had a "tricky" decision to make, despite not being 100% happy to return.

ECB managing director Hugh Morris could not confirm reports of Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison refusing to travel.

He told BBC 5 Live's Sportsweek programme: "I've not had confirmation from either Andy or Steve. What we are doing is pulling the (security) reports together over the next 24 to 48 hours and we will be putting that information to the players and their representatives."

The security report is due within the next two days, conducted on the back of the terror attacks in Mumbai.

With the last two one-dayers between India and England cancelled, the two-Test series - due to begin on 11 December - depends on the report's outcome.

Morris said the team would only go back to India if their safety could be guaranteed, but it remained unclear as to which players a returning England team would comprise of.

SillyPoint_Over a StickyWicket

Swann told BBC Five Live's Sportweek programme it would be a shame if the series did not go ahead, but added that when watching the "harrowing scenes" in Mumbai last week, cricket was the last thing on his mind.

"I wouldn't be 100% happy going back," he said. "If [the report] says 'look guys we're safe, we can go out there, we can do some good playing cricket', then I'd go.

"But until that report comes back, I'm not keen at the minute."

There have been reports suggesting that Flintoff and Harmison will pull out of the tour because of family concerns.

However, being two of England's top bowlers, any decision by them not to play is unlikely to affect their future position in the team.

Swann, though, has still to cement his England spot, having pipped Adil Rashid and Samit Patel to the second spinning slot alongside Monty Panesar when the Test squad for India was chosen in September.

"It's tricky for people like myself who are trying to forge a regular place in the team," the 29-year-old said.

"It comes down to thinking if I don't go and miss out on future selections, which clouds the issue.

Graeme Swann
Swann would have a good chance to shine with the ball in India

"It's certainly a very difficult decision to make and not one anyone will be enjoying."

Meanwhile, Lalit Modi, vice-president of the Indian cricket board, expects England to return - if safety assurances were met.

"Player safety and fans safety is paramount for us," Modi told Five Live's Sportsweek.

"But on the other hand we must make sure events like this don't give the opportunity to terrorists around the world to get away with this. We need to carry on."

On the prospect of players deciding against playing because of their families, Modi added: "We don't want to force the decision on anybody.

"I'm sure families will want to influence players and rightfully so, but they need to make their own decision.

"I really do believe it will happen though. The ECB, the security teams and governments are all checking it out and I'm sure it will be all right."

He also said the Board for Control of Cricket in India would not press the ECB for compensation should the series be shelved.

Live text - Premier League

Man City v Man Utd (1330 GMT)

Portsmouth v Blackburn (1500)
Tottenham v Everton (1500)
Chelsea v Arsenal (1600)


To get involved use 606 or text us your views & comments on 81111. (Not all contributions can be used)

By Jonathan Stevenson

1247: "I didn't get to bed till about six this morning. I was too excited about today's football, and Liverpool aren't even playing. Is that sad?"
Andy, Liverpool, via text on 81111

No, Andy, it's not sad. You are a hero, that's what you are. Sometimes I wonder how any of us gets any sleep ever when there's such awesome stuff to look forward to.

1245: There are two other games, today. AC Milan near-conquerors Portsmouth host Blackburn three days after one of the greatest nights in the club's history. And Tottenham can move to within a point of Everton if they win at White Hart Lane. Both kick-off in 135 minutes. Bless this day. This wondrous day.

1239: "Probably the most important weekend in the Premier League yet. Chelsea look like winning the title if they win it and a Man Utd defeat could mean the end of them. I'm getting so excited!"
AllyMorrison-RFC on 606
Join the debate on 606

1237: At 1600 GMT, two giants of English football go head-to-head. Chelsea, with one win in their last four games, face Arsenal, something of a club in crisis. The gap could be 13 points, come this evening. Or it could be down to seven (it may also stay at 10).

1234: Are these the days on which championships are won? You bet they are. Three of the teams vying for the Premier League title are in today's very, very special mixer. Manchester United go first. They are at Eastlands. They're playing Manchester City. It kicks off in 56 minutes. Short sentences mean I'm excited. Sorry.

1230: You know how sometimes you wake up and you just think to yourself how utterly, utterly brilliant it is to be alive? I thought that this morning. I bet you did, too.

Grant eyes Premier League return

Avram Grant
Grant said he was "very proud" of his achievements at Chelsea

Former Chelsea manager Avram Grant has told the BBC he would love to return to coaching in the Premier League.

The Israeli, who replaced Jose Mourinho as boss in September 2007, lost his job despite taking the team to last season's Champions League final.

"I love the involvement from inside, development, problems, solutions - of course I miss it," he said.

"I hope I'll be back. After so many years it's good to see football from the side but I hope soon I'll be back."

Grant told Radio Five Live's Sportsweek programme that he had received offers to return to coaching, but nothing that had caught his eye.

"Yes (I've had offers), more than a few, but for the moment not something I like," he said.

"When you're in the game so long, you want a challenge, to take the team and develop to a higher place, this is what I like to do.

"I loved the Premier League before I came to England, the best atmosphere in the world is here, but anything with a challenge is good for me."

He also said he was "very proud" of what he had done in his time at Chelsea and chose to remember his achievements rather than the nature of his departure.


"In any aspect of football - results, atmosphere, the image of the team - in every aspect I left the team much better than I received it," he said,

"Everyone remembers Chelsea with two titles (won under predecessor Jose Mourinho) but when I took them, they were on the way down.

"I took them in September which is not easy to do in the middle of a season without preparation.

"I'm not a man who looks at the past too much, I have so many good memories.

"When I got the job everyone put question marks by my name, but we developed, won some games, had success, got to the Champions League final and were 10cm from winning it, and from many points behind we were nearly (Premier League) champions.

"I can focus on bad moments or good ones, but there are so many good ones so I don't want to remember the decision."

Deans backs Wales for Six Nations

Robbie Deans
Deans suffered his first autumn Test defeat against Wales

Australia coach Robbie Deans says Wales are good enough to reclaim the Six Nations crown next year after seeing his side beaten 21-18 in Cardiff.

Wales have not won back-to-back titles since 1979 or successive Grand Slams since 1909.

The Wallabies failed in their attempt to win all four Tests in Europe, having beaten Italy, England and France.

"We feel Wales are better equipped going into the Six Nations than the other sides we've played," said Deans.

"You look at the number of line-breaks they created. You look at their resilience; they dug deep when they had to.

"They are all attributes that serve you well in a competition like that."

Deans says Wales will also be boosted in Europe's showpiece Test competition by the confidence gained from being the only northern hemisphere team to beat a Tri-Nations side in November.

"They will obviously take a lot of belief out of being the only side to have tipped over a southern hemisphere side," he added.

"It all adds to what they've got."

The Kiwi was full of praise for Wales, who had lost their last 10 Tests against the three Tri-Nations sides since overcoming the Wallabies in Cardiff in 2005.

"It was a very good (Wales) performance and pretty much what we expected," said Deans.

"They are playing good rugby, playing with ambition.

"They are looking to play on the tackle line and to use their width and they're being pretty heady around the park.

"Defensively they really push the boundaries and make your life difficult and that's been evident throughout the year.

"You don't pick up a Six Nations title easily. Since the Six Nations their conditioning has improved, their collective understanding has improved.

"They have good running lines and work hard at playing a better game of rugby.

"Evidently in the last three weeks they have challenged the southern hemisphere nations and I'm sure Warren Gatland wants them to continue to do that up to the 2011 World Cup.

"Our response at the death was good. It was evidently an arm-wrestle and the whole experience of the UK has been fantastic for us."

Sweden in stunning World Cup win

-27 Sweden -24 Spain -18 Australia, Japan -16 Germany -15 England -14 Thailand, South Africa -13 USA
Selected others: -10 Ireland -7 Scotland -3 Wales

Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson
The Swedes impressed on the course designed by Jose Maria Olazabal

Robert Karlsson and Henrik Stenson overturned a three-shot deficit to seal a dramatic World Cup victory for Sweden at Mission Hills in China.

The Swedes scored a nine-under 63 to see off Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez and Pablo Larrazabal and Australian pair Richard Green and Brendan Jones.

Japan tied for third, while England's Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher carded 67 to end in sixth, 12 shots off the pace.

Defending champions Scotland led by Colin Montomgerie were 21 shots behind.

Sweden, pre-tournament favourites, started the final day four behind Spain, but five early birdies fired them up the leaderboard.

Karlsson and Stenson, the two highest ranked players in the event, were in blistering form and pulled into the outright lead with four more birdies on the back nine to finish on 27-under.

Joint overnight leaders Australia carded a disappointing 76 to finish eight shots behind the winners, level with Japanese pairing Ryuji Imada and Toru Taniguchi.


It was the second World Cup win for Sweden after Per-Ulrik Johansson and Anders Forsbrand's 1991 triumph in Rome.

Stenson said: "I thought it was our turn today," who still remains winless in individual tournaments.

"I was starting to run out of tournaments, so it was nice to win this one. It has been a while.

"This is my third last. So I've got two more to go in South Africa. But winning for Sweden is nice."

After a strong finish by England, Poulter was left rueing missed opportunities, after being unable to match their third round 63.

Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher
England's Poulter (left) linked up well with World Cup debutant Fisher

"We should have had a chance to win this golf tournament. That's what we come here for," Poulter said.

"It didn't happen on Thursday and Friday and that's just such a shame to be so far out of the picture."

Ireland's Paul McGinley and Graeme McDowell suffered their worst round of the tournament with a five-over 77 to drop to 16th.

Scotland's Colin Montgomerie and Alastair Forsyth were unable to defend the World Cup to finish seven-under-par, tied for 19th place.

Pampling wins Australian Masters

FINAL LEADERBOARD: (GB & Ire unless stated)
-12 Pampling (Aus), Fraser (Aus)-9 Allenby (Aus)-8 Green (Aus), Noren (Swe), Clark (Rsa)-7 McKenzie (Aus) -6 Erlandsson (Swe), Leishman (Aus), Summers (Aus)
Selected others: -5 Webster -4 Horsey, Donaldson -1 Archer

Rod Pampling
Pampling gets his hands on his first Australasian Tour trophy

Rod Pampling edged out Marcus Fraser at the third play-off hole to claim the Australian Masters title in Melbourne.

The two Australians finished on 12-under after Fraser had carded a stunning final round seven-under-par 65 to take it to its dramatic conclusion.

Joint overnight leader Robert Allenby, a two-time Masters champion, fell away in the closing stages to finish third.

Steve Webster was seven shots off the pace on five-under, with Dave Horsey and Jamie Donaldson on four-under-par.

With Fraser, 30, sat on the practice range, Pampling had three opportunities to seal victory in the final round but missed chances on the 16th and 17th holes.

Fraser kept the pressure on but on the third play-off hole he had to settle for a bogey opening the door for his 39-year-old fellow countryman.


Pampling grabbed his chance with a simple three-foot par putt to secure his first win on the Australasian Tour.

South Africa's Tim Clark (67), Australia's Nathan Green (70) and Sweden's Alexander Noren (68) finished tied for fourth at eight under.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Screen Hero wins Japan Cup race

Italian jockey Mirco Demuro guided Screen Hero to victory in the Japan Cup ahead of pre-race favourite Deep Sky.

But the English contingent of Purple Moon, Sixties Icon and Papal Bull were disappointing, finishing sixth, 11th and 14th respectively.

Screen Hero stormed from fifth to first in the final furlong to win by half a length in the 1.5 mile race, with second favourite Vodka third.

Demuro said: "It was a very competitive race, but he concentrated very well."

Sunday's gossip column

Transfers Other gossip And finally


William Gallas could be set for a shock move to London rivals Tottenham with Harry Redknapp ready to take on the Arsenal defender. (Sunday Mirror)

"Get Lost Gallas" says the Star. The Gunners board are reported to be putting boss Arsene Wenger under pressure to offload the former skipper in the January sales. Paris St Germain and AC Milan are believed to be interested.


Somebody else on the move is Carlos Tevez. Real Madrid are getting their Euros ready to take on the Manchester United striker struggling to make the starting XI this season. (Sunday Express)

And the Man United boss is one person not going anywhere. Sir Alex Ferguson plans to stick around until he is 70. "Why would I pack it in at the moment?" (News of the World)

According to Sir Alex there's only one thing going to stop him quitting. "If my health deteriorated, that solves the problem for everyone. You would be rid of me for good." (News of the World)

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is close to signing a new deal at Anfield. Despite interest from Real Madrid the Spaniard has told the board he wants to stay. (News of the World)

Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari had a spat with Didier Drogba after the striker failed to acknowledge the Blues fans at the end of the draw with Bordeaux in midweek. (News of the World)


Middlesbrough are set to spark a three-way scrap for Stewart Downing with Spurs, Liverpool and Manchester City ready to splash out £12m. (News of the World)

Bayern Munich striker Lukas Podolski could be off to Eastlands with Man City leading the chase for a cool £12m. (Star) Sounds like a bargain.

Newcastle boss Joe Kinnear has been told he won't have any cash to spend in the January sales. (Sunday Express)

Elsewhere at St James' Park, Michael Owen could return to Anfield for a cut-price £2m. (News of the World)

Pascal Chimbonda has issued a come-and-get-me plea to Lyon, with the French champions set to make an offer for the Sunderland defender. (Sunday Express)


Football's legendary hardman Ron 'Chopper' Harris has voiced his opinions on Arsenal's Nicklas Bendtner's new boots. "Pink is a woman's colour, or so my missus tells me." (Sunday Mail)

Man United's Ronaldo is tipped to beat AC Milan's Kaka to the European footballer of the year trophy but the Portuguese star has lost out to Kaka in a Brazilian newspaper's poll on best-looking players. (Sunday Times)

Micah Richards has found a new way of keeping up with opposing strikers. The Man City defender has bought a Harley Davidson, but there's only one problem...he doesn't have a licence. (News of the World)

Man City boss Mark Hughes has a headache ahead of the Manchester derby as he faces a battle to keep hold of Robinho. The Brazilian superstar wants assurances over the future of his fellow countrymen Elano and Jo. (The Star)


Business is booming for a London carpenter after being called out to the Emirates for a repair in the away changing room. Woodworm? Dynamo Kiev's Olexander Aliyev booted a hole in the door after his red card in their Champions League defeat. (News of the World)

Teams await Cup third round draw

Date: Sunday, 30 November Time: 1415 GMT
Coverage: Live on ITV, BBC Radio Five Live & BBC Sport website
FA Cup

Eastwood Town, Forest Green, Barrow and Blyth Spartans will all be seeking a plumb tie when the FA Cup third round draw takes place at 1415 GMT on Sunday.

The non-league sides will all be in the hat when the teams from the Premier League and Championship enter the fray.

Eastwood pulled off arguably the biggest shock of the second round with a win over League Two leaders Wycombe.

Barrow beat Brentford, Forest Green saw off Rochdale and Blyth Spartans earned a replay with Bournemouth.

Torquay are the other non-league side in the third round draw, after they beat fellow Conference side Oxford to earn their place in the hat.

Amongst the most keenly anticipated numbers to be drawn will be one (Arsenal), 12 (Chelsea), 21 (Liverpool), 22 (Manchester City) 23 (Manchester United) and 29 (Cup holders Portsmouth).

FA Cup third round draw numbers

1 Arsenal
2 Aston Villa
3 Barnsley
4 Birmingham City
5 Blackburn Rovers
6 Blackpool
7 Bolton Wanderers
8 Bristol City
9 Burnley
10 Cardiff City
11 Charlton Athletic
12 Chelsea
13 Coventry City
14 Crystal Palace
15 Derby County
16 Doncaster Rovers
17 Everton
18 Fulham
19 Hull City
20 Ipswich Town
21 Liverpool
22 Manchester City
23 Manchester United
24 Middlesbrough
25 Newcastle United
26 Norwich City
27 Nottingham Forest
28 Plymouth Argyle
29 Portsmouth
30 Preston North End
31 Queens Park Rangers
32 Reading
33 Sheffield United
34 Sheffield Wednesday
35 Southampton
36 Stoke City
37 Sunderland
38 Swansea City
39 Tottenham Hotspur
40 Watford
41 West Bromwich Albion
42 West Ham United
43 Wigan Athletic
44 Wolverhampton Wanderers
45 Chesterfield or Droylsden
46 Peterborough United or Tranmere Rovers
47 Eastwood Town
48 Notts County or Kettering Town
49 Leicester City
50 Barrow
51 Leyton Orient
52 Southend United
53 Forest Green Rovers
54 Histon or Leeds United
55 Scunthorpe United
56 Torquay United
57 Hartlepool United
58 Morecambe or Cheltenham Town
59 Gillingham or Stockport County
60 Millwall
61 Carlisle United or Crewe Alexandra
62 AFC Bournemouth or Blyth Spartans
63 Kidderminster Harriers
64 Macclesfield Town

Ties will be played on the weekend of 3-4 January

Keane unsure of Sunderland future

Roy Keane
Keane has taken charge of 100 matches as Sunderland manager

Roy Keane has hinted his future as Sunderland boss may not be certain after the club's defeat by Bolton saw them slip into the relegation zone.

Defensive errors triggered Saturday's 4-1 loss after which some fans at the Stadium of Light fans booed his players - but Keane took full responsibility.

"I ask myself every day if I'm the right man for Sunderland," he said.

"I asked myself this morning, and I said I was. Sunday morning, if the answer's no, we'll have to look at it."

The Black Cats had taken an early lead through Djibril Cisse's low finish but Bolton soon hit back through Matt Taylor and Gary Cahill goals, while Johan Elmander's double either side of half time sealed a comprehensive victory.

Sunderland now lie 18th having lost five of their last six Premier League matches.

Keane added: "I have to be honest in my assessment. It's not about what's best for Roy Keane. It's Sunderland football club.

I might wake up on Monday morning and think I'm the right man. On Tuesday it might be different

Roy Keane
"I might wake up on Monday morning and think I'm the right man. On Tuesday it might be different.

"I'm the manager of this football club and ultimately I'm responsible and I've never shied away from that.

"That's part of being a manager and that's why I take full responsibility for today and the run we're on and everything else."

Despite glaring errors from Danny Collins and captain Dean Whitehead on Saturday which led to Elmander's goals, Keane insisted he was not angry with his players.

"I look at what these lads have done over the last two and a bit years and they've been absolutely brilliant," he said.

"I can't legislate for individual mistakes so stuff like that doesn't make me angry.

"We play with such innocence we make it hard for ourselves and we seem to get punished for every mistake we make.

"It's such a harsh world. When you get in front you've certainly got to make sure you don't lose the game."


Bolton manager Gary Megson insisted his confidence in his side was being rewarded after they moved up to seventh in the table.

"There's no secret and the only thing we're doing differently that we weren't doing beforehand is scoring goals," he said.

"Our performances are not much different except in terms of confidence.

"When we score goals all the other aspects of our game come to the fore and people start to realise what we've got."