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Archives for July 2009

Battle for 2015

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Simon Austin | 15:39 UK time, Monday, 27 July 2009

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The gloves are off ahead of the vote for the hosting of the 2015 and 2019 Rugby World Cups.

England and Japan are the recommended venues following an independent appraisal of the rival bids commissioned by Rugby World Cup Limited (RWCL).

The International Rugby Board had hoped its 28-man Council would simply rubberstamp these choices in Dublin on Tuesday, avoiding some of the controversy and horse trading of previous years.

How wrong they were.

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Sven's mystery bosses

Simon Austin | 12:00 UK time, Friday, 24 July 2009

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Even though Sven-Goran Eriksson has thrust Notts County into the global spotlight this week, the club's secretive backers are determined to stay in the shadows.

Their front man, club chairman Peter Trembling, admits he has relished the attention generated by Eriksson's appointment as director of football.

"It's about time Notts County got more than local press," he told the BBC on Thursday, "and (Eriksson's unveiling on Wednesday) went live in 118 countries".

Everton's former commercial director hasn't enjoyed being pressed about the identity of the men funding the Notts County revolution though.

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Springbok legends?

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Simon Austin | 14:23 UK time, Sunday, 5 July 2009

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Springbok euphoria was replaced by simmering resentment in the aftermath of their series win over the British and Irish Lions.

The world champions had expected to receive accolades and congratulations after beating the tourists for the first time in 19 years.

Instead, the final week of the tour was dominated by discussions about eye gouging, suspensions and the bad luck of the Lions.

This, allied with a thumping 28-9 defeat, explained why skipper John Smit looked so glum as he fielded questions at the end of the third Test.

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Lions ratings: third Test

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Simon Austin | 16:25 UK time, Saturday, 4 July 2009

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Rob Kearney - 8: Carried on where he left off last week. Superb under the high ball, allied great footwork with pace when he attacked and solid defensively. Highlight was a 40-metre break in the first half after he had gathered and evaded the attentions of Jongi Nokwe. Fine series for the Irishman.

Ugo Monye - 7: Quiet until he scored a 70-metre intercept try early in the second half. That allowed the Lions to breath a little more easily. Ends the tour as the Lions' leading try scorer with five, but memories of his missed opportunities in Durban will linger.

Tommy Bowe - 8: Played very well, especially when you consider he was away from his accustomed position on the wing. Made a couple of nice breaks before the interval and was always impressive in defence, most notably when he thwarted Odwa Ndungane on the line near the end.

Riki Flutey - 8: Deputised brilliantly for the superb Jamie Roberts. Excellent work for the second try, chasing his own chip before showing skill and awareness to offload to Shane Williams, who went in under the posts. An impressive all-round performance.

Shane Williams - 8: Started nervously, conceding a turnover and slicing a kick into touch. But showed his customary finishing skills and anticipation to grab two first-half tries. Ended the tour on a high after weeks of frustration.

Stephen Jones - 7: Slick distribution and impressive marshalling of the back line, yet again. Unlucky to miss the chance of an easy conversion when the ball dropped off the tee at the end of the first half. A strong end to a decent series for the Welsh fly-half.

Mike Phillips - 7: A characteristic performance from the tenacious scrum-half. Fierce in the tackle and a threat around the fringes, although his distribution was sometimes laboured. Adjusted well when switched to centre in the second half.

Jamie Heaslip - 8: His best performance of the series by far. Showed his dynamism, which had been under wraps for the last two weekends, with some lovely attacking cameos. A powerful surge was followed by a subtle offload for Williams' first try.

Martyn Williams - 8: A classic display of the open-side's arts. Quick to the break down, influential in attack and a thorough nuisance to the home side all afternoon. Got the better of the much-heralded Heinrich Brussow.

Joe Worsley - 7: Did exactly what was expected of him. Made tackle after tackle, was fearless and added bulk to the back row.

Paul O'Connell - 7: Led by example. Effective in the tight and never took a backward step. Sometimes looked laboured with ball in hand though.

Simon Shaw - 7: Aggressive, committed and made sure the Springbok forwards could never relax. Sin-binned after foolishly dropping his knees into Fourie du Preez's back though, which could have proved expensive.

Phil Vickery - 7: His performance will help to ease the painful memories of two weeks ago. There was no repeat of his Durban mauling by the Beast and he was a useful presence in the loose. A fitting way for the proud prop to sign off his Lions career.

Matthew Rees - 8: Another impressive performance from the Welsh hooker before he was forced off with concussion. Solid line-out throwing, part of a front row which more than matched their opposition and some strong ball carrying. Has emerged from this series with his reputation greatly enhanced.

Andrew Sheridan - 7: Looked as fired up as he was as a substitute in Pretoria last weekend. Key part of a scrum which was unrecognisable from two weeks ago and a threat with ball in hand.

Replacements:

Ross Ford - 7: Did a decent job after coming on late in the first half for Matthew Rees. Also gave Scotland its first taste of action in this Test series.

Harry Ellis - 7: Fiery and aggressive when he came on after the interval.

John Hayes - 6: Came on to win his first Test cap at the age of 35 and kept the scrum steady.

Tom Croft - 6: Saw little of his attacking prowess but busy in defence.

Alun Wyn Jones - 7: Made a couple of thumping tackles and took two line-outs.

David Wallace - 6: Too little time to make a real impact.

* For more up-to-the-minute chat, you can follow me on my Twitter feed

De Villiers: Misunderstood or liability?

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Simon Austin | 16:06 UK time, Thursday, 2 July 2009

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Peter de Villiers should have spent the last week basking in the glory of South Africa's first series win over the Lions for 19 years.

Instead, the Springbok coach has been fending off attacks from all sides after seeming to condone Schalk Burger's eye gouging in Saturday's second Test.

It seemed strangely appropriate for a man who has courted controversy since becoming his country's first black coach last January.

De Villiers was in hot water with the South African Rugby Union (SARU) before Saturday's match, following comments he made in the wake of the first Test.

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