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Archives for May 2010

Saracens in mood for change

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Ben Dirs | 09:20 UK time, Friday, 28 May 2010

There was a lovely Partridge-esque moment at the Saracens news conference on Tuesday: chief executive Edward Griffiths, struggling to convince the assembled media that his club were not, as he phrased it, the "naughty boys of English rugby", suddenly jumped to his feet and flipped over a board outlining the Sarries "vision".

Some of the old hands winced, while I could feel the chap next to me shrinking into his seat. And then someone highlighted the second of the club's commandments: "Innovate by pushing accepted boundaries on and off the field." That's exactly why people think they're naughty.

Saturday's Premiership final between Saracens and Leicester is being billed as a clash of rugby civilisations: upstart Sarries with their artificial contrivances against the organic Tigers, who seem to have erupted, fans and all, fully formed from beneath the Welford Road soil.

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Finn fits England's bill

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Ben Dirs | 09:19 UK time, Tuesday, 25 May 2010

When Angus Fraser describes Steve Finn as a man who is "not afraid of awkward situations", your thoughts immediately turn to the Gabba in Brisbane and the first morning of an Ashes series down under.

For an England cricketer it can be the absolute apex of awkwardness - just ask Steve Harmison, whose first delivery back in 2006 was a wide to second slip.

Ironically, the only slightly awkward moment when I chatted to Middlesex fast bowler Finn came when I mentioned his possible inclusion for this winter's tour of Australia.

"It's going to be boring for me to keep saying this," said Finn when asked if he'd be ready if selected, before insisting he hadn't thought about it and that he didn't expect to go.

It's a question the 21-year-old has often been asked since he made his Test debut in Chittagong in March, and given that he has been picked for the first Test match of the summer against Bangladesh starting on Thursday, it's a question he'd better get used to.

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Khan shows Mitchell the way

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Ben Dirs | 07:44 UK time, Monday, 17 May 2010

Kevin Mitchell's right forearm is inked with a quote from Muhammad Ali: "The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses, behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road - long before I dance under those lights." Won or lost, remember, won or lost.

Amir Khan's not really a tattoo kind of guy, but, on the evidence of Saturday, he doesn't need to cover himself in crib notes. Mean and mature on his American debut against Paulie Malignaggi, although not quite 'The Greatest', Khan could still teach Mitchell a thing or two about proper preparation.

"About five weeks ago, Jimmy Tibbs said, 'you haven't prepared for this fight properly, you keep messing around'," admitted Mitchell after his three-round demolition at the hands of Michael Katsidis. "There were things I wasn't doing and I was having a few late nights."

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Khan entering choppy waters

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Ben Dirs | 16:25 UK time, Thursday, 13 May 2010

Amir Khan referred to himself as a businessman quite a few times during our conversation a few weeks back, so I've been more than a little surprised by his rather unbusinesslike behaviour of late.

Racy magazine interviews with Piers Morgan, allegations of lewd texts and photos (allegations that haven't been denied), Twitter attacks on fellow British boxers - it's hardly surprising somebody's belatedly told him to switch his gadgets off.

"There are no distractions and I can focus a bit easier," the 23-year-old Khan told BBC Sport ahead of his US debut and WBA light-welterweight defence against Paulie Malignaggi on Saturday.

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Mitchell emerges from the darkness

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Ben Dirs | 10:22 UK time, Wednesday, 12 May 2010

While the pram in the hall may be the enemy of good art, it has inspired many a hungry fighter to great deeds - and not just in the Rocky movies.

Twelve months ago Kevin Mitchell was "grafting on the railway" to make ends meet, his favoured career in jeopardy because of a debilitating hand injury. A second baby on the way and a mortgage to pay, Mitchell concedes they were "dark, dark times".

Mitchell had spent the previous six years compiling one of the most eye-catching resumes in British boxing, including winning the British and Commonwealth super-featherweight crowns. He nevertheless played second fiddle in Frank Warren's promotional stable, so that had his injury forced him to hang them up for good, few outside of the boxing fraternity would have noticed.

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