• Officials ran out when Mexican driver was leaving pits • Perez finished 13th for Racing Point after eventful race
Sergio Pérez said he came close to running over a marshal during the Monaco Grand Prix.
The Mexican driver was accelerating out of the pits when two track officials ran out in front of him. Pérez had to hit the brakes as one marshal made it to the opposing side of the track, while the other stood still, so he could pass.
Saracens will be a formidable barrier but Rob Baxter’s team are capable of overturning last year’s final outcome
It is easy to see why so many people think this year’s Premiership trophy is destined to remain in north London. Saracens, the holders, are already champions of Europe, are oozing class and were comfortably too good for Exeter in last year’s final. Even when they embark on three-day benders before big games they emerge victorious.
There is also the recurring question of whether Exeter’s relentless power game is quite as irresistible when it slams into an impenetrable defensive wall and the Chiefs’ primary instrument of control is blunted.
• Mercedes driver pays tribute to Austrian after emotional week • ‘My goal is to be one day as respected as he was’
Lewis Hamilton said he believed he felt Niki Lauda was with him as he drove to a hard-fought victory in the Monaco Grand Prix. The British driver added that he wanted to go on to emulate the three-times world champion in earning the respect and admiration with which he was held across the world.
After he clung on to take victory in Monte Carlo with his tyres giving up and Max Verstappen hounding him to the last, Hamilton immediately paid tribute to Lauda. The Austrian had played a key role in bringing Hamilton to Mercedes in 2013 and the two had become close friends. Hamilton and his team endured an emotional week after Lauda’s death on Monday.
• ‘With success there is a certain level of envy’ • Mubarak reacts to claims from La Liga president
Khaldoon Mubarak has responded angrily to Javier Tebas, accusing the La Liga president of “hypocrisy”, with the Manchester City chairman also claiming jealousy among rivals is driving them to try to smear the club.
City have just completed a historic domestic treble yet face several investigations including one by Uefa regarding an alleged breach of Financial Fair Play regulations, which they deny.
• Fast bowler left the field early on Saturday • Initial results of scan on left foot were positive
The England fast bowler Mark Wood is confident he will be fit to take part in the Cricket World Cup after an anxious weekend. Wood pulled up sore after one ball of his fourth over during the warm-up match against Australia at Southampton on Saturday and immediately left the field with discomfort in his left foot. Wood’s left ankle has been the subject of three operations in recent years.
Wood was sent for scans and although initial results were positive, the final results of a more detailed scan may not be available until Monday.
Both managers have overseen promising highs and bleak lows in debut seasons that will be defined by Wednesday’s result
Maurizio Sarri Chelsea finished third in the Premier League to qualify for next season’s Champions League, which fulfilled the key demand placed on the head coach upon his appointment last July. In the context of last year’s relative toils under Antonio Conte, as well as the mid-term slump this time when their away form collapsed (and they won one of their last five top-flight games), that represents something of an achievement. Throw in the fact they have also reached the Carabao Cup and Europa League finals and Sarri’s assessment, that this season “has been good and, if we win in Baku, would be wonderful”, is far from outlandish. At plenty of other clubs, it would already be considered a triumph.
The former England spinner on the varied venues from Taunton’s batting paradise to traditional Lord’s
The changing rooms are massive, so nobody’s going to be disappointed by the facilities, and the wicket is generally very good. Out of all the grounds in England it can be kind to the spin bowler, with proper turn and bounce – but English turn and bounce, rather than the lower and slower turn you can get on the subcontinent. After the recent redevelopment it now feels like a proper arena and games are always really well supported, particularly when any of the Asian sides are involved.
• Loss leaves Broncos two points adrift at bottom • Hull KR hang on after Salford’s stirring comeback
Leeds Rhinos have celebrated some momentous victories in huge settings, but the celebrations at full-time here underlined the significance of their 24-22 win over London.
Rightly or wrongly, this game had been billed as perhaps Leeds’s most important of the modern era – an opinion perhaps intensified by Hull KR’s 22-20 victory against Salford earlier in the day, which guaranteed the loser would be cut adrift at the bottom. The Rhinos, as on several occasions this season, made hard work of it:, but in the end it was job done.
• Johnson-Thompson wins in Götzis by 337 points • Briton says: ‘It gives me so much confidence’
After two days of exhilarating competition in the world’s most prestigious heptathlon event, Katarina Johnson-Thompson tumbled across the line in the 800m before dropping like a swatted fly. She then lay as still as the dead for several minutes, and when she finally moved it was only to throw up. But it was worth it. For while she had obliterated her body, she had also destroyed her personal best and a world-class field by 337 points.
It seems scarcely believable that on Friday Johnson-Thompson was talking about suffering from impostor syndrome, a feeling of never being good enough or feeling like a fraud. Fraud? Not on this evidence. And not when her final score of 6,813 points would have been good enough to win gold in four of the past six Olympics.
• Leinster flanker out for six months with hip injury • O’Brien joins Dan Leavy in missing tournament
Ireland’s Rugby World Cup hopes have suffered a blow with the news that flanker Sean O’Brien will miss the tournament in Japan with a hip injury, his club Leinster said on Sunday.
Leinster announced on Sunday that O’Brien, who missed their Pro14 final victory over Glasgow, will undergo surgery and faces six months out. Dan Leavy, O’Brien’s back-row colleague for club and country, was ruled out of the tournament with a serious knee injury last month.
• Vincenzo Nibali and leader Richard Carapaz take advantage • Italy’s Dario Cataldo takes 15th stage following breakaway
The Italian Vincenzo Nibali took full advantage of his knowledge of the terrain to unsettle his main Giro d’Italia rival Primoz Roglic in the 15th stage on Sunday.
On the roads of one of his favourite hunting grounds, the Tour of Lombardy, the double Giro champion attacked during a steep climb near the end to pull away from the Slovenian Roglic, who lost 40 seconds after crashing in the descent towards the finish.
Lee Bowyer was the last man standing in the Charlton technical area as his backroom staff and substitutes bench emptied on to the pitch, fleeing down the touchline to join the pile-on after Patrick Bauer snatched victory to seal promotion deep into four minutes of second-half stoppage time. They had recovered from an early dreadful mistake by Dillon Phillips, their goalkeeper, to return to the Championship.
For Sunderland, whose players crashed to the floor at the final whistle, this proved another heart-breaking and haunting trip to the national stadium, having not won on any of their past seven visits here. Jack Ross, the Sunderland manager, made it clear that the outcome of this game would define their season. The chilling words “the league just turned into a cup” greeted thousands of supporters above the underpass on Wembley Way, a message that both sets of players felt to full effect at full time.
The retired jockey on his greatest triumphs, the bitter rivalry with Lester Piggott – and his tip for this year’s race
“Most jockeys go out to ride in the Derby and there’s a little box in the weighing room, they take their brain out and put it in the box. Then they go out in the Derby and they go flat out.”
In the kitchen of his Gloucestershire home, Willie Carson, long retired from broadcasting and even longer from the saddle, is pulling out Derby memories – including some that haven’t been aired for a while – dusting them off and giving them a bit of a polish.
• Dutch driver finishes second but penalty moves him to fourth • Sebastien Vettel jumps up to second with Valtteri Bottas third
Lewis Hamilton won the Monaco Grand Prix from pole position with a commanding if somewhat nerve-racking drive as he struggled to maintain his tyres to the chequered flag. Sebastian Vettel was in second place for Ferrari and Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in third. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was in fourth. His teammate Pierre Gasly was in fifth and he took fastest lap.
In a race largely of little incidence at the front, as is so often is the case in Monte Carlo, Hamilton had led from pole and what jeopardy there was came when his team opted to put him on the medium tyres, as his rivals behind all took the harder rubber. Harried to the line by Verstappen, including a moment two laps form the end when the pair collided as the Dutchman tried to overtake up the inside at the Nouvelle Chicane. The incident is under investigation by the stewards.
• Federer beats Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 • Stefanos Tsitsipas, Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic safely through
Roger Federer marked his first appearance at Roland Garros since 2015 with a comprehensive first-round win as he overcame Lorenzo Sonego 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.
The 2012 champion had missed the last three tournaments in order to manage injuries and focus on the run-up to Wimbledon, but showed no signs of rustiness on clay, seeing off his Italian opponent in straight sets.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks had a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals. Then Toronto fought back
Just like that, the Milwaukee Bucks went from being in the perfect position to make their first NBA finals since 1974, putting together a 2-0 series lead against the Toronto Raptors, to being unable to win another game. In some ways, the Milwaukee Bucks’ 100-94 loss in Saturday night’s series-ending Game 6 was their Eastern Conference finals in miniature. The Bucks were in control at the start, extending their lead to 15 points at one point in the second quarter, before the Raptors solved them.
It was in the second half that the Bucks lost their focus, letting Toronto end the third quarter with 10 unanswered points. By the time Toronto tied the game 78-78 in the fourth, it became clear that everything had turned against Milwaukee. The Raptors pulled away with a victory and advanced to their first NBA finals in franchise history, while the Bucks were left with questions about how such a promising season managed to end with four straight losses, and how the franchise can move forward after its latest disappointment.
• Midfielder hurt in training and being assessed • Chelsea play Arsenal in Baku on Wednesday
Chelsea’s preparations for Wednesday’s Europa League final have endured another serious setback after N’Golo Kanté suffered a knee injury in training which is expected to rule him out of the showpiece in Baku.
Kanté is understood to have damaged the knee in a session on Saturday and departed the pitch in clear discomfort, with Chelsea’s medical staff due to assess the joint on Sunday afternoon to ascertain the gravity of the injury. However, their initial impressions are believed to have been far from promising.
The Brazilian goalkeeper has picked up the Golden Gloves award in his first season in England and his crucial saves have taken his club into another Champions League final
Alisson was dissecting a first mistake as Liverpool’s goalkeeper when he revealed his philosophical side. “The secret of the wise man,” he reflected in September, “is to learn from the errors of others.” What applied to a moment’s hesitation at Leicester is also true of Liverpool’s approach to a second Champions League final appearance in two years. This time confidence is rooted in the foundations of Jürgen Klopp’s team as well as its front line.
Defeat in Kiev last May did not trigger Liverpool’s £65m investment in a replacement for Loris Karius. Inquiries had been made in January about the Roma keeper’s availability. The final did, however, underline how vulnerabilities – goalkeeper and strength in depth in Liverpool’s case – can be exposed at the defining moment. Addressing the two were priorities last summer for Klopp who, when reviewing the calamitous defeat by Real Madrid, said: “Accept it and learn from it for next time.” Next time has come around fast, thanks in no small part to the contribution of the keeper from Novo Hamburgo.
Despite a run of defeats in 50-over games, there are reasons for optimism – not least the form of batsman Babar Azam and previous success in England
Ahead of the World Cup, in one white ball cricket format – ODIs – Pakistan have not played well lately; in white ball cricket’s shorter format – T20s – they have been the No 1 team for well over a year now. Somehow the loss of 10 consecutive official ODIs does not feel as bad as it should as the team has hardly played any of the games at full strength.
Against Australia in the UAE this March,Pakistan rested seven of their top players as a part of programme to rest and rotate for the World Cup. And when they lost four games in a row this month against the No1-ranked ODI side in the world, England, the team came out with a lot of positives.
Team with no selection issues but plenty of injury worries find themselves in a no-win situation with the World Cup looming
Warmup matches are a curious creation. With days until the Cricket World Cup, England played Australia on Saturday to lose by a dozen runs, then will suit up against Afghanistan on Monday. Both are unofficial matches that will never be reflected in international annals. These matches lack validity, but their existence implies they have value.
That’s true for teams working out their best combinations or fine-tuning a style, but England’s one-day side are doing neither. They have been ready to play a World Cup since Pakistan’s fast bowlers used a tacky Cardiff pitch to knock them out of the Champions Trophy two years ago.
Chelsea’s Brazilian defender enjoyed his brief spell working with Unai Emery at PSG and looks forward to meeting in the Europa League final in Baku
David Luiz has enjoyed a characteristically eventful season. He is the object of voluble criticism every time he plays badly and November brought the unusual sight of the Brazilian defender arguing with a betting company on its Instagram feed after Chelsea lost to Spurs. His role in Bournemouth’s second goal in a 4-0 away defeat in January was also subjected to exhaustive (over-)analysis. And yet, come the end of the season, here he is: David Luiz has a new two-year contract at Stamford Bridge and is about to play the second Europa League final of his bifurcated Blues career.
At 5-5, Muguruza ratchets up the pressure on Townsend’s serve. But at 15-30, a belting ave down the T - especially hard for a lefty - averts immediate danger. After some deuce, she holds it down and Muguruza needs a hold for a breaker.
And there it is: Potapova breaks to take the first set 6-4. The number five seed is in shtuck!
England’s captain is taking them to the World Cup. Those who know him describe a single-minded, inspirational leader
“Here’s a story,” says Paul Farbrace. It is from a one-day game at Trent Bridge in 2015, when he was England’s stand-in head coach. “New Zealand had made 349. In the old days we’d have had no chance but Hales and Roy got us off to this great start, and now we’re 90-something for none. So we need 260 off 40 overs, and all we really need to do is bat properly. Hales gets out and he comes and sits down between me and Jos Buttler. Jos asks him: ‘Did you think at any stage that maybe we didn’t need to keep playing these big shots?’ And Alex goes: ‘No, no. You just keep hitting it.’
“Now Morgan’s out batting with [Joe] Root, and Matt Henry is bowling. So Jos says: ‘Look, we’ve scored five off this over already. Rooty has hit a four off the first ball and a single off the third, So all we’ve got to do here is bat sensibly.’ And as he says it, Morgs runs down the wicket and flat-bats Henry over wide mid-off for this huge six, one of the biggest I’ve ever seen him hit. And all three of us just fell about laughing. It summed him up, really. There are so many times I’ve seen him do things that other people wouldn’t have dreamed of doing, but for him it’s a natural thing. Always has been.”
The Aston Villa legend will support them against Derby in Monday’s Championship play-off final and, having recovered from leukaemia, is looking for a return to the game
It was 11 years ago but Stiliyan Petrov makes it sound like yesterday. He knows exactly how he positioned his body to get the technique right, remembers that lovely feeling after the inside of his left foot clipped the ball on the half-volley, and can still see Roy Carroll, Derby’s goalkeeper, frantically trying to chase a shot that sailed over his head and into the top corner. Standing closer to the halfway line than the penalty area, Petrov must have been at least 45 yards out. “I don’t know the exact distance,” he says. “Just go as long as you can when you write about it.”
Petrov breaks into laughter as he makes that last comment, adding that it was “as close as I could get to shoot” back in the days when he had been converted into a holding midfielder at Aston Villa. His goal – the third of six in a thumping victory at Pride Park – was always going to crop up in conversation during a hugely enjoyable couple of hours in his company, especially as it is Derby who stand in Villa’s way in Monday’s Championship play‑off final.
Europa League final against Arsenal will likely be the brilliant No 10’s farewell but he has always aimed to leave on a high
Eden Hazard’s plan was always to go out on a high. That was clear even when times were toughest, a little over three years ago, as the incoming Chelsea head coach paid a visit to Cobham. Antonio Conte, still Italy’s national team manager, was not due to take up the reins at Stamford Bridge until after the summer’s European Championship, but planning for the role he would assume required reassurances from an ailing stellar player.
Hazard was entrenched in the first prolonged slump in form of a seven-year senior career. He had endured 28 scoreless league appearances, stretching back to the goal against Crystal Palace that had clinched the title in May the previous year. A persistent hip injury had blunted the Belgian through the unravelling of José Mourinho’s second stint in charge and, with the side hopelessly adrift of the top four, a player who had never hidden his desire to turn out for Real Madrid had been left contemplating a season without the prestige of Champions League football.
There is still some doubt over whether the Dante winner will run on the downs, but his form gives him edge over Bangkok and Sir Dragonet
In the early decades of the 19th century, many tens of thousands of ordinary Londoners left before dawn on Derby day to walk the 20 or so miles to Epsom and then, after an afternoon of revelry on the downs, walked – or crawled – home again. By the mid-1850s, in the early years of the rail network, Frith’s masterpiece “The Derby Day” shows a complete cross-section of Victorian society in attendance at the greatest sporting event of the age: aristocrats, criminals and everything in between. Parliament would always rise on Derby day to allow the honourable members to attend. On occasions during his two terms as Prime Minister, Disraeli himself moved the adjournment motion.
The Derby’s pre-eminence in the sporting and social calendar is, of course, ancient history now. The sporting world has moved on and so has Flat racing, with an increasing focus on events like Champions Day and the Arc at the other end of the season. But it still seems odd, unnerving even, to be within a week of Derby day and still unsure whether two of the most obvious contenders for the greatest of the Classics will even turn up next Saturday afternoon.
By the end they could take it no more, but the suffering was worth it and they made it. Somewhere in the madness a whistle blew and Valencia became Copa del Rey winners. For the first time in 1,456 days, Barcelona are not the cup winners.
There will be consequences at the Camp Nou, changes. Lionel Messi’s second-half goal was not enough to cancel out strikes from Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo Moreno and a league title is not enough for a club like this.
• Manager says decision on striker’s role in Madrid will be critical • Sánchez, Winks and Vertonghen should also be fit to play
Mauricio Pochettino says Harry Kane is on course to be fit for Saturday’s Champions League final against Liverpool and the Tottenham manager suggested he would live or die by the decision to use him as a starter or substitute.
Pochettino, who also reported that Dávinson Sánchez, Harry Winks and Jan Vertonghen ought to be available after injury, was keen to discuss how each member of his 25-man squad was equally important. But Kane’s readiness to take on Liverpool in the wake of the ankle ligament damage he suffered in the first leg of the quarter-final against Manchester City on 9 April has become an unavoidable talking point.
Leo Cullen knew the European Champions Cup finalists would be up against it playing Warriors in their own city, and the vast majority of the record 47,128 crowd were cheering on Dave Rennie’s team, but Leinster made a successful defence of their title at Celtic Park.
Glasgow had run in seven tries against Ulster last weekend to book their place in the final and looked set to sparkle again when Matt Fagerson gave them the lead early on. But with their trademark grinding, relentless style, Leinster smothered their rivals into submission and claimed victory thanks to tries from Gary Ringrose and Cian Healy.
• Australia 297-9; England 285 all out • Smith responds to boos with an impressive 116
Whatever the intention, phoney wars don’t end up much sillier than this World Cup warm-up. Jos Buttler offered a spectacle with a whirlwind half-century, after Steve Smith had done the same with a hundred, while a close finish provided some fun as England were bowled out 12 runs short of Australia’s 297.
Admittedly England playing Australia in any cricket match has cachet. The prospect of this dominant England side getting one over its biggest rival drew 10,000 people on the pilgrimage to the Hampshire Bowl outside Southampton.
• Scores: Hampshire 244-8, Somerset 245-4 • Somerset win by six wickets
Perhaps they turned the television off in the Somerset dressing room. Upon the screen at various intervals was a graphic which demonstrated that over the last 10 years Somerset had been runners-up 10 times in the various competitions that have adorned the domestic season – not a particularly helpful reminder.
Yet the burden of all those near-misses did not seem to haunt Tom Abell’s team. It all looked so straightforward for them to win a trophy for Somerset for the first time since 2005 when they won the T20, with a young James Hildreth in the side. This time an older, yet still fleet-footed Hildreth was on hand to guide the side home with a calm, impeccable innings of 69 not out. He was also there at the end of an impressive chase 14 years ago.
• Exeter 42-12 Northampton • Clinical Chiefs set up Twickenham date with Saracens
Northampton saw so little of the ball in the opening 20 minutes that their 14-point deficit seemed a minor triumph yet they would have gone into the break ahead had Cobus Reinach, the scrum-half who played a central role in the club’s revival in the second-half of the season, not dropped a try-scoring pass in the last act of the first half. Moments, like passes, have to be seized on the big occasion and the Saints, like Gloucester a few hours before them, made an appropriate exit.
Northampton had squeezed into the play-offs through the cat flap on the final day of the regular season when they lost here and Harlequins managed to avoid beating Wasps. They started the match as if questioning their right to be involved in the penultimate weekend of the season, rarely seeing the ball and quickly losing it when they had a touch.
• Ecuadorian leads by seven seconds after winning stage 14 • British rider finishes second and now lies ninth overall
Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz won stage 14 of the Giro d’Italia to grab the overall race lead. Movistar’s Carapaz raced clear on the penultimate climb of the day before holding off Britain’s Simon Yates to lead by seven seconds from Primoz Roglic.
The overnight leader Jan Polanc finished the 131km stage from Saint-Vincent to Courmayeur more than seven minutes down to concede the pink jersey. The lead looked set to move from one Slovenian to another until Carapaz attacked the leading group with around 28km remaining.
Tranmere Rovers returned to League One for the first time since 2014 after Connor Jennings broke Newport County’s hearts in extra-time at Wembley.
The League Two play-off final was heading towards a penalty shootout when Jennings ended the deadlock with two minutes left. Defeat was desperately harsh on Newport who had edged a combative game before losing their captain, Mark O’Brien, to a red card shortly before the end of normal time.
An unprecedented treble treble for Celtic did not arrive without its anxious moments, but two goals in the final half hour from striker Odsonne Édouard gave the Glasgow side the result which ensured a new entry in the history books.
An uneventful, and uninspiring, first half was quickly forgotten when Hearts took the lead through Ryan Edwards seven minutes into the second period. It was a much needed stimulus on a grey Hampden afternoon, but manager Craig Levein was denied a first-ever career trophy by the Celtic goals, neither of which was dealt well with by his defence.
Tony Gigot’s late drop goal helped Catalans Dragons withstand a second-half comeback to beat Wakefield 25-18 in the opening encounter of Magic Weekend.
The Dragons looked set for an easy afternoon’s work at Anfield, when they led 12-0 at half-time following a polished display against an out-of-sorts Wakefield. While Chris Chester’s side responded after the break – taking the lead after 47 minutes – Dragons held their nerve to close out another victory that suggests they are strong title contenders this season.
• Saracens 44-19 Gloucester • Replacement caps six-try display from champions
They are the best team in Europe, which means we knew already they are the best team in England. Whether Saracens go on to clinch the relevant gong at Twickenham next Saturday remains to be seen – sport is a funny old thing – but if we wanted evidence of how much farther ahead they are of the congested mid-table sprawl of the Premiership, of which Gloucester are the current leaders, we had it here.
However unpopular they may remain in so many quarters – and a failure to sell out a semi-final highlights as much as any salary-cap investigation ongoing issues with their business model – the myth that they play boring rugby was exploded here as it should have been some years ago. Yes, they will treat you somewhat roughly should you venture into their lair, but the sophistication of their attack continues to impress, more so now than even in the era of Schalk Brits, the byword for brilliance where there should be none.
• ‘I’m trusting myself right now because of good wins’ • Konta faces Antonia Lottner in fifth bid to make second round
The facts are incontrovertible: Johanna Konta goes into the first round of the French Open tomorrow on Monday against the world No 149 Antonia Lottner aware that she has failed to reach the second round here four times in a row. But, as Britain’s sole representative in the women’s draw pointed out, the game is about more than just facts. It is about feelings.
“You guys will always have an opinion, or ask questions to get an opinion,” the world No 26 told reporters. “That’s just part of our relationship, isn’t it? And you were also basing [opinions] on fact. Factually I didn’t have successful periods on clay in the last couple of years. So, you can only really base things on facts – and I can only speak on how I’ve felt on the surface and how I feel on the surface now. Actually I don’t feel much different.
• Hamilton beats Mercedes teammate into second on final Q3 lap • Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc knocked out in Q1 in 16th place
Lewis Hamilton took pole for the Monaco Grand Prix with a fine lap around the streets of Monte Carlo, leaving his best to last secure the place with his final lap of the day. He beat his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas into second with Max Verstappen’s Red Bull in third.
Sebastian Vettel, having crashed in final practice, recovered to take fourth place but his teammate, Charles Leclerc, at his home race, endured a shocker. He went out in Q1 in 16th place as Ferrari miscalculated badly in not sending him out to do a second run. Pierre Gasly in the second Red Bull was in fifth.
• England 2-0 Denmark • Lionesses win penultimate match before World Cup
An experimental England starting XI saw off a spirited challenge from Denmark in their penultimate friendly before they fly to France for the World Cup.
Nikita Parris, the former Manchester City forward who is expected to be announced as joining European champions Lyon, swept in from the edge of the box to close a frustrating first half and swing the game in the Lionesses’ favour before a Beth Mead cross was cleanly headed home by Jill Scott after the break to secure the win.
Coming back from childbirth was always going to be her biggest challenge, but the baggage of trying to become the all-time great is proving a formidable haul even for Serena
Eight years ago, the documentary Venus and Serena followed the Williams sisters as they tried to survive the nadir of their careers. Venus prepared to do battle with Sjogren’s syndrome, while Serena plotted her way back from the first pulmonary embolism that had nearly killed her. During a quiet moment of the documentary, a quick break in the middle of practice, Serena noted to no one in particular that she had returned to the top 10 of the rankings. Isha, her sister, frowned and then responded with the question that has consumed all followers of the sport for 21 years: “Girl, how can you and Venus keep in the top 10 and y’all never play?”
The question remains unanswered. This week, Williams returned to the top 10 for the second time this year, one year after her first grand slam competition following maternity leave. It is absurd. She has completed only one tournament in 2019, the Australian Open, withdrawing after one match in her last three events. Over the past 52 weeks, she has only completed five events. For much of her career, she loomed as large over the tour in her absence as when she was there, but now her absence seems normal. The sport goes on.
Heart of Midlothian and Celtic last met each other in the Scottish Cup final 63 years ago. Celtic sent out an unfamiliar team at Hampden Park that day in April 1956, without the injured Jock Stein and Bobby Collins. Hearts by contrast were in fine fettle, and could name the famous attacking Terrible Trio of Alfie Conn, Willie Bauld and Jimmy Wardhaugh, plus Dave Mackay at the back, middle and everywhere, and the Golden Vision of Alex Young on the wing. They ran out easy 3-1 winners, Ian Crawford scoring two and Conn the third, and were paraded around Edinburgh on an open-top Scottish Omnibus emblazoned with the bespoke logo Hearts Are Trumps.
And Hearts were trumps back then. The 1956 Scottish Cup win came at the start of a golden age during the late fifties and early sixties in which the Jambos won the League twice, came runner up twice, and lifted the League Cup on four occasions.
A coachload of Tranmere Rovers fans adorning Mike Dean (Wirral) masks have already filtered through the Wembley turnstiles. Last spotted dancing, quaking and trembling on the Prenton Park railings, proudly pumping both fists aloft, Dean, too, will no doubt again make himself known. For Tranmere, who are a win away from successive promotions, these play-off finals have become rather old hat: this is their third in three years. “He [Dean] has a season ticket, so does his daughter, and they follow us up and down the country,” said manager Micky Mellon. “Isn’t it good that a game of football can do that to somebody?”
In James Norwood, Tranmere boast a serial goalscorer. The 28-year-old is one – potentially decisive – strike away from bettering Sergio Agüero’s 32-goal haul in all competitions this season, a feat that would make him the most prolific striker in the country. “I was keeping an eye on how he got on in the FA Cup final,” Norwood said. “There’s lots to admire about him – his finishing prowess, his positioning – but one thing I won’t be doing is copying his silver fox look. I don’t think my thinning barnet could take it. It certainly seems as though the more hair I lose the more goals I score, so I might ask for a skinhead the next time I go to the barbers.”
A big chance then for Ellen White up front, who scored what proved to be the winner in the Lionesses’s last game, against Spain. She’s just joined City – ostensibly to replace Nikita Parris, who plays alongside her today – but has endured an injury-hit season after being named WSL player of the year and topping the scoring charts two years ago.
The complete rundown of the contenders, pretenders and outsiders as the tournament approaches
Prospects Their success remains one of the feelgood stories in international cricket but they’re now established regulars in the top international tournaments. That said, they nearly missed out on this World Cup, scraping through in qualifying after defeats to Scotland, Zimbabwe and Hong Kong. The bowling attack is strong but where will the runs come from?
Expect runs galore, twists and turns aplenty and maybe – just maybe – a tournament victory for England
Here comes the golden chance to rejuvenate the game in England, which now only comes around every two decades. All the best cricketers in the world have arrived and they are about to compete for the biggest prize in the international game. A festival of cricket awaits.
Even the odd English cricketer has whispered that it would be preferable to win the World Cup rather than the Ashes, a view that was once considered a heresy. This makes sense. England may have won the Ashes too infrequently for our liking but they have done it several times. They have never won the World Cup despite being in the final on three occasions.
3rd over: Australia 16-0 (Warner 4, Finch 11) Wood drifts onto the pads of Finch, who does the necessary through square leg for his first boundary. He gets another two balls later, muscling a pull over midwicket. That wasn’t a great over from Wood, and he was punished accordingly: 11 from it.
2nd over: Australia 5-0 (Warner 4, Finch 1) Warner gets the first boundary, pinging Curran through extra cover. He has been in stunning form of late, and looks a decent bet at 9/1 to be the leading runscorer in the tournament.
The John Gosden-trained colt’s turn of foot should be decisive in a clash with the Newmarket Guineas winner Magna Grecia
Immediate redemption awaits Too Darn Hot (3.35), who lost his unbeaten record but ran to a high level in the Dante, when asked to make up a lot of ground. Returning to a mile should help and he can land the Irish 2,000 Guineas at The Curragh, provided he can pick his way through a 14-strong field.
On the face of it the Newmarket Guineas worked out well for Magna Grecia, when he was one of three to race against the stands’ rail. He might lack Too Darn Hot’s turn of foot. It will be interesting to see whether Phoenix Of Spain can build on what he did last year, when he was runner-up to both Too Darn Hot and Magna Grecia; he did look the type to do better again at three.
The demands on rugby players are increasing, and the No 9s bear much of the burden in their pivotal position
Over the last couple of weeks discussions over changes to the structure of rugby – both domestically and internationally – have taken place in terms of a 13-team Premiership and World Rugby’s Nations Championship proposal. It must not be forgotten that they are taking place at the end of another long, arduous season with gruelling preparations for a World Cup just around the corner after the players’ five-week mandatory rest period.
All parties involved will talk loudly about a commitment to player welfare but the demands on modern-day players are huge and far greater than when I retired in 2015. There is no doubting the game has changed since then – it is quicker, the ball-in-play time is up and across the board players in every position are being asked to do more. If you look purely at how the workload for a scrum-half has increased in the past five seasons, however, the results are extraordinary.
Our writers pick the danger men who could decide the destiny of the World Cup as the 2019 edition gets under way next week
Among the greatest challenges for batting sides taking on India in this World Cup will be overcoming Jasprit Bumrah, a fast bowler whose homespun action and laser-precise yorkers place him among the leading exponents at the death.
• Derby manager says focus is solely on play-off final • ‘We’ve got a game coming up and they’ve got a manager’
Frank Lampard will hold crucial talks with Mel Morris, the Derby County owner, about the club’s future in the wake of Monday’s Championship play-off final against Aston Villa, but his own position as manager is also likely to be high on the agenda in response to rumours that Chelsea could make a move for him.
Lampard described the reports in relation to the Chelsea job as an “easy link” given the 13 years he spent there as a player and insisted that now was not the time to talk at length on that subject. He pointed to the fact that Maurizio Sarri, whose position has been under scrutiny for some time, is the Chelsea manager, and said his focus is solely on trying to lead Derby to promotion to the Premier League in the £170m showdown at Wembley.
Liverpool’s £75m defender tells Donald McRae about his unshakable manner, his slow rise to the top, that ‘totally crazy’ night against Barcelona and the trauma of a burst appendix
In the dappled shade, away from the glare of the Spanish sun, Virgil van Dijk thinks about words such as tension and nerves with a little smile. This is meant to be the hardest time, with the days moving slowly between the end of the regular season and Liverpool’s Champions League final against Tottenham in Madrid next Saturday night.
Van Dijk was named PFA player of the season by his fellow professionals, after his imperious form at the heart of Liverpool’s defence helped ensure his club lost just one match in a league campaign that earned them 97 points. They still finished a point behind Manchester City, and their wait to win the league title rolls over into a 30th year.
Striker insists Lionesses are focused on reaching the final of the Women’s World Cup – and are enjoying the trappings of fame
Fran Kirby has not watched the Lionesses’ Euro 2017 semi-final defeat by the Netherlands. She can’t. “It was silent,” she recalls of the dressing room after England lost 3-0 to the eventual champions. “People were crying, upset, gutted that we couldn’t give the account of ourselves that we wanted.
“We had had a positive Euros. I’ve not watched it back, no. I feel we let ourselves down as players. That was the hardest part – we didn’t give enough.”
The maverick fly-half could still earn an England World Cup spot if he can help his club to a semi-final victory at Saracens
As he stood clutching his latest prestigious prize, up on the brightly lit stage at the Premiership Rugby Awards in London this week, Danny Cipriani was asked about the “trials and tribulations” he has overcome. Quick as a flash – “Trials and tribulations?” – he had the entire room laughing knowingly with him. Say what you like about Cipriani but his ascent from a Jersey prison cell back to rugby’s sunlit uplands has been this season’s most colourful tale.
A failure because he cannot make the England squad? It recalls the vintage line delivered to a partying George Best in the 1970s – “Tell me, George, where did it all go wrong?” – by a room-service waiter entering his Park Lane suite. Even the most talented and successful of athletes can be pigeon-holed purely on the basis of reputation and few onlookers have ever associated Cipriani with dull conformity or monastic abstinence.
Emma John is joined by Guardian writer Andy Bull, comedian James Sherwood and Surrey Stars and England all-rounder Bryony Smith in the first episode of our new cricket podcast.
With the drama of the World Cup quickly upon us, the team are hoping England’s summer will have a happier ending than Game of Thrones. Will it be all hail (King) Jofra Archer?
Smith is one of the few people in the country who understand how The Hundred – English cricket’s new one-day competition – will work. She’s played in three pilot games. We also reflect on Kevin Pietersen’s new career as full time rhino-saviour and ask if it’s the weirdest life-after-cricket career choice.
• Lewis Hamilton quickest in both practice sessions • Team still coming to terms with death of Niki Lauda
The fans, as always, eagerly took their opportunity to walk the track on the traditional Friday holiday at the Monaco Grand Prix but when the harbour once again resonates with the roar of engines in qualifying every indication is that it will be Mercedes in complete control off those same narrow streets.
Mercedes are still very much coming to terms with the death of their non-executive chairman, the three-time world champion Niki Lauda, and while it has been emotionally difficult, operationally they are as sharp as ever. The team have opened the season with a record five consecutive one-two finishes. A sixth is on the cards.
• Briton will now play world No 273 Elliot Benchetrit • Australian pulls out of French Open citing illness
Nick Kyrgios, who pulled out of the French Open on Friday through illness, three days before his match against Cam Norrie and a few days after saying the tournament “absolutely sucks”, has not improved his popularity in certain parts of the game through deed or word lately.
Norrie, however, is not about to join the lynch mob perennially on the prowl for the Australian’s hide.
There is a cost to tinkering with formats and selling the game to Sky – cricket’s very life is at stake
The barman at the Bat and Ball isn’t sure whether or not he likes cricket. “Never seen it,” he says, “never played it.” It’s a pity, because the game grew up by his pub. It’s a hook over the road from Broadhalfpenny Down, where they played the very first game of first-class cricket in 1772. The landlord then was Richard Nyren, captain, secretary, and star turn of the famous Hambledon team who often played and beat All-England. They used to have 20,000 here for those matches. This particular Saturday Hambledon’s third XI are playing Portsmouth’s. There are five people watching. The players are all old men and young kids, starting their first or last seasons in senior cricket.
Hambledon had a job getting a side out. A lot of the younger boys were away playing for their private schools, the older ones were already back at university, and everyone else was in Southampton watching England play Pakistan. They weren’t the only club struggling. There were eight forfeits across the league that weekend. It used to be the local rule that a side who forfeited three game in a season would be demoted, but they had to scrap it. Too many teams would have suffered.
• British No 3 misses Roland Garros with back injury • Boulter left name in draw, then pulled out next day
Katie Boulter sent a ripple of bemusement through Roland Garros on Friday without hitting a ball, when she revealed the day after leaving her name in the draw that she was withdrawing from the tournament to rest her injured back.
The British No 3 and world No 112 will collect about £20,000 – half the first-round prize money – even though she indicated nearly three weeks ago that the injury she exacerbated in helping Great Britain beat Kazakhstan in the Federation Cup in London last month was not healing quickly enough for her to be fit for the French Open.
Simona Halep, the 2018 winner, could be challenged by Naomi Osaka among others but is Serena Williams undercooked?
There were emotional scenes when the Romanian ended her wait for a first major at the French Open last year. Having thrown away an imposing lead over Jelena Ostapenko in the 2017 final, Halep showed tremendous heart to fight back from a set and a break down against Sloane Stephens and become a grand slam champion. With that weight lifted off her shoulders, the 27-year-old should be even more dangerous. However she needs to recover from a shock defeat to Marketa Vondrousova in Rome.
There is rapacious ambition in so many parts of this industry now, albeit often concealed behind the same mask of sickly piety worn by Sven-Göran Eriksson and his ball project
“The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was that it was impossible to avoid joining in.”
It is 16 years since Sven-Göran Eriksson and Nancy Dell’Olio unveiled their Kick A Ball For Peace initiative, a campaign in which they transported a single hope-filled ball across the continents so that world leaders in war-torn hotspots could kick it around in front of a camera crew. There was a grand launch starring Kofi Annan, with Nancy beaming on and Sven lurking in the background looking, as ever, like a kindly provincial bank manager who goes carol singing at Christmas, volunteers at the local rotary club and keeps a severed badger’s head in his briefcase.
• Goodwood winner Private Secretary skips Epsom for Ascot • O’Brien set to send at least six runners for Classic
Frankie Dettori rode the winner of Goodwood’s only Derby trial on Friday as Private Secretary outstayed six rivals in the Cocked Hat Stakes but then confirmed that he will probably need a call to partner one of Aidan O’Brien’s extensive team of runners if he is to take a 24th ride in the Epsom Classic a week on Saturday.
John Gosden, Private Secretary’s trainer and who retains Dettori to ride, still has Humanitarian, a fluent winner at Salisbury this month, among the possible runners for the Derby. Dettori, though, said after Private’s Secretary’s success that even if Humanitarian lines up at Epsom, he will not be in the saddle. “No,” he said, “John’s told me that I can look elsewhere.”
When the fixtures for Anfield’s debut Magic Weekend were issued, few would have expected Leeds Rhinos v London Broncos to be the most anticipated of the six matches. Super League’s joint-bottom two meet on Sunday afternoon just before table-topping St Helens take on high-speed Castleford. Whoever loses should start seriously planning for relegation. That’s a bold statement with half of the season to go. But London know they have to overtake either Leeds or Hull KR, or hope Huddersfield, Wigan or Salford have an unlikely summer slump to the basement.
Beating Leeds seems the easiest way of doing that. So far, London and Leeds have both won just four of their 15 games. The Broncos snatched a dramatic late win at Headingley and beat out-of-sorts Wigan, but their other two wins have both been over Wakefield at Ealing.
• Fan lands five-year banning order and indefinite club ban • Supporter caught in an undercover stewarding operation
A 57-year-old Newcastle United fan has received a five-year football banning order after being convicted of racially abusing Liverpool players during a Premier League match at St James’ Park this month.
Michael Collins, from Richmond, North Yorkshire, was found guilty of racially aggravated harassment at North Tyneside magistrates court and received both the banning order and a £550 fine. Newcastle United have banned him from St James’ Park indefinitely.
Russia’s Ilnur Zakarin powered to victory in the 13th stage of the Giro d’Italia, the first mountain test for the overall contenders, while favourites Primoz Roglic and Vincenzo Nibali finished together on Friday.
A member of the day’s breakaway, Katusha’s Zakarin went solo in the final climb to beat Spain’s Mikel Nieve by 35 seconds and another Spaniard, Mikel Landa, by 1min 20sec, with Jan Polanc of Slovenia retaining the overall leader’s pink jersey.
Despite recent success, the athlete returns to Götzis determined to improve and reach her potential as the journey to Tokyo 2020 begins
Katarina Johnson-Thompson might be the best British female athlete in any sport. Yet remind of her the fact she has won three major multi-event titles in 15 months – and that she is the headline act at the prestigious Hypo-Meeting in Götzis this weekend – and she grimaces, shakes her head and makes an extraordinarily honest admission. She considers herself an impostor.
“I was reading up on impostor syndrome the other day,” she says. “My mum sent me an article on it because when she was a dancer she felt the same. I don’t know what it’ll take not to feel like that – I’ll just know when it happens.”
The sides meet to decide the destiny of the Royal London One-Day Cup in what will be the cricket ground’s last domestic final
After 56 mostly glorious years the last domestic Lord’s final – and the first one to be played in May – takes place on Saturday. This little bit of history may not be lamented by the England and Wales Cricket Board but it is a source of despair for many existing fans, who feel increasingly alienated.
At least a fine match is in prospect as the two best sides in the country this year, Hampshire and Somerset, meet to decide the destiny of the Royal London One-Day Cup, the first trophy of the summer. It would be an even better match if both sides were at full strength. There is no good reason why Hampshire should not be able to play their two World Cup squad members, James Vince and Liam Dawson. But as ever common sense takes a back seat and is trumped – unnecessarily – by the regulations. In this instance the ECB is not to blame (though it did schedule this match). It would have been happy for the two Hampshire stalwarts to play but the ICC cannot countenance any flexibility. Hampshire’s anger is justified.
In qualifying Brazilian drove one of his finest ever laps before lapse in concentration saw him spin out on race day
No Formula One race rewards bravery and commitment quite like threading the needle on the streets of Monaco with its looming walls that can bite even the best. For Ayrton Senna it was the scene of perhaps his finest ever lap and then, a day later, his nadir as the streets of Monte Carlo proved he was only too human.
Senna won in Monaco six times, the most successful driver at the race which celebrates its 90th anniversary this year. He won in 1987 for Lotus before taking five consecutive victories between 1989 and 1993, all for McLaren. The one that got away was 1988, and it was in his hands, not least because their car that year was the all-conquering MP4-4, technical director Gordon Murray’s remarkable feat of engineering that would win 15 of 16 races that season.
• Northampton recovered from relegation battle to finish fourth • Play-off semi-final rivals Exeter finished top of the Premiership
When Northampton lost at home to Newcastle at the beginning of December, they slumped to ninth in the Premiership, three points off the bottom. Qualification for the European Champions Cup looked unlikely, never mind a place in the play-offs, but a strong run in the second half of the season took them into the top four for the first time since 2015 and a semi-final date with Exeter at Sandy Park on Saturday.
“It has been a while, but we are pleased to have snuck into the play-offs,” said Tom Wood, Northampton’s England flanker. “It was not the most convincing top-four finish and three other teams could have made it, but it was our goal this season. Exeter and Saracens have been the best two teams in the league this season, out in front from the off and well clear of everyone else.
Former footballer believes the convicted abuser colluded with Kit Carson at Peterborough
A former youth footballer who says he was abused by two football coaches in the 1990s has spoken of his struggle with anxiety and depression, and strongly criticised the police and footballing authorities for not taking action against the coaches earlier.
Rafael Nadal is the favourite to win a 12th French Open title but several players could challenge the champion in Paris
Untouchable when he won his 15th major at the Australian Open, the world No 1 can make more history in Paris. Three years after completing the career slam at Roland Garros, a second French Open title would make Djokovic the first man to hold all four grand slams on two separate occasions. But while victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas in Madrid secured the 32-year-old’s first title on clay since the 2016 French Open, he needs to recover from defeat to Rafael Nadal in the Italian Open final.
Celtic and Hearts meet in the final for the first time since 1956 and victory for either manager could help quieten the doubters
It is a Scottish football quirk that two of its most high-profile clubs, Hearts and Celtic, will on Saturday be brought together in a Scottish Cup final for the first time since 1956. Back then, in simpler times and when the resource of the Glasgow clubs did not dwarf all around them, Hearts ran out 3-1 winners in front of 132,000 fans.
The managers on that occasion, Tommy Walker (Hearts) and Jimmy McGrory (Celtic), are club legends. Having been similarly prolific scorers at domestic level, Walker was briefly coaxed to Chelsea with McGrory essentially a one-club man, save a war-affected spell managing Kilmarnock. The football lives of Walker and McGrory remain fascinating, 63 years on.
The world champion could break his previous high rating of 2903 in rapidplay if he is on form at the Lindores Abbey Stars
Another week, another record attempt. The world champion, Magnus Carlsen, makes his first visit to Scotland this weekend, with serious chances to improve his all-time best 2903 rapid chess rating. The Norwegian’s six games in a double-round rapidplay, starting at 1.30pm both on Saturday and on Sunday, will be live and free on chess24.com with grandmaster commentary by Daniel King.
• Robert Elstone says enthusiasm buoyant among 12 teams • Annual extravaganza switches from Newcastle to Liverpool
What next for Super League’s Magic Weekend? The event relocates to a sixth different home in its 13-year history this weekend, but as Anfield prepares to become the latest major venue to host all 12 top-flight teams there is already debate about the future of the Magic Weekend beyond this year.
Robert Elstone’s decision to move Magic from Newcastle – which has hosted the last four editions – has been a controversial one. Reportedly low ticket sales have not helped either; it is widely accepted work still needs to be done to exceed the lowest-ever Magic crowd of 52,043, set in 2009.
This summer offers England an opportunity for unprecedented success but sport is about inspiring as well as winning
This summer represents such an incredible opportunity for cricket in this country. As England players we are so fortunate to have both a World Cup and an Ashes on home soil. Do the double and we really will be in dreamland.
The Ashes are in the back of my mind. I had a bit of a stinker on the last tour of Australia but having come back into the Test side since then and done pretty well, I’m viewing this year’s series as a chance to set the record straight. I will be ready.
British racing’s top jumps handicapper sincerely hopes Tiger Roll goes for a historic third straight Grand National win but says the race weights he allots must be ‘fair for everybody’
British racing’s top jumps handicapper has rebuffed a call from the owners of Tiger Roll, asking for the horse to be given lenient treatment when the weights are set for next year’s Grand National. “You can’t blackmail a system to get him running,” said Martin Greenwood, responding to a suggestion that the horse might not attempt to win the Aintree race for a third time unless his rating was reduced.
• Mourinho says for Klopp to lose third final would be ‘really hard’ • Former Chelsea manager expects Eden Hazard to leave club
José Mourinho believes Tottenham could go on a trophy spree if they win the Champions League final against Liverpool.
“Spurs is not winning titles and to win the first one, the biggest one of all, would be, of course, fantastic and would mean to win other domestic trophies [is easier] because the Champions League is the biggest one of all,” Mourinho told Sky Sports.
The three-time Le Mans champion was pictured with blondes and sponsored by Penthouse. But he lived a very different life away from the track
When Hurley Haywood emerged in the racing scene 50 years ago he looked like someone out of central casting. He had the trim frame, the sandy locks, the sapphire eyes. He was the total package, a Paul Newman type who would go on to win titles and Le Mans and race in the Indy 500.
But unlike Newman, who took up racing late in life as preparation for the lead in the 1969 classic Winningand willed himself into a first-rate wheelman, Haywood was a natural. He showed as much while dusting the field in premier endurance races at Le Mans and Daytona. All the while, images of Haywood celebrating victory with a smiling blonde on his arm pervaded, and Penthouse even signed on as a sponsor. Haywood looked like he was living his dream. But to hear him recall that period in his life now, it sounds more like a nightmare. “I was afraid,” he tells the Guardian. “I didn’t want it to get out.”
Raptors knock off Bucks to take 3-2 series lead in East finals
Kawhi Leonard’s game-high 35 points power Toronto in win
Kawhi Leonard scored 35 points and the Toronto Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks 105-99 on Thursday night to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
Leonard showed no obvious signs of the leg soreness that bothered him in Toronto’s victories in the previous two games, hitting the 30-point mark for the fourth time in the series. He made five three-pointers and had seven rebounds and nine assists.
The former Arsenal manager tells Amy Lawrence he is enjoying life away from football but is still looking for the next big innovation
When Arsène Wenger bade farewell to Arsenal with a theatrical bow after four uninterrupted decades in management, he could barely imagine a day away from what he describes as “the heat”. Now, after a year breathing cooler air, he is asking himself the question of what he really wants to do with his football obsession. There was never going to be a complete exit. Football still occupies him, enthralls him, keeps him in its unrelenting grip.
Waking one morning last May to begin the process of reinventing himself, to an extent reacquainting himself with the world away from the furnace, was less of a shock than he expected. “It is not so difficult because for all of us in life you have competition with others, and competition with yourself. My toughest one was with myself. Even now what is interesting is my basic question: what is my next level? I feel I will live with that as long as I am on earth. That will not change.”
‘We did what we had to do to win,’ says 47-year-old
Interview with former cyclist to be aired next week
Former cycling champion Lance Armstrong has said he “wouldn’t change a thing” about the doping that led to him being stripped of his record seven Tour de France titles, according to details of an interview that will air next week.
NBCSN, owned by NBC Sports Group, said on Thursday it would broadcast a 30-minute interview next Wednesday called Lance Armstrong: Next Stage in which the 47-year-old American discusses his career and the decisions he made.
• Mkhitaryan’s absence ‘something that should not happen’ • Frenchman says he is ready for return to football
Arsène Wenger has described Arsenal’s predicament in heading to Baku for the Europa League final as “a little bit of a nightmare”. The club’s former manager, who left last summer after 22 years in the role and still describes himself as a fan, expressed disappointment that Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who signed for the club under Wenger, feels obliged not to travel because of safety concerns.
Armenians are not ordinarily welcome in Azerbaijan because of the dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region and Mkhitaryan has spoken of his hurt to miss such a showpiece occasion. “That’s something that should not happen in football, in the modern world, that politically you cannot play a football game,” Wenger said.
• ‘There were men who had their legs blown off’ – Beth Mead • Team-building activities took place at St George’s Park
Toni Duggan and Beth Mead have spoken of the “reality check” they got from spending a night with the Royal Marines as the England team get stuck into their World Cup preparations.
“There were men there who had had their legs blown off, amputees. It was inspiring for us,” said Mead, who won the Women’s Super League with Arsenal and broke the record for assists in a single season with 12. “We think we are courageous when we are on a football pitch and we have people like that – it’s part of his life, with half their body missing. It gives us a reality check.
In Manhattan, the Springbok great discussed retirement, race and how the Rugby World Cup in Japan could eclipse the events of 1995
Lunch with Bryan Habana happens in New York, which is not where one would usually find a great South Africa wing. Not long before we sit down, though, the France centre Matthieu Bastareaud has announced a surprise move to the city’s pro team. In a World Cup year, the game is going global.
A full season has passed since Habana retired from the fray. He brushes off questions about whether he is tempted to play again, to follow Bastareaud into Major League Rugby, partly because one of his knees is shot. Neither does he plan to move into coaching, other than “perhaps some consultancy work”. But he is happy to discuss the prospects of his old Springbok comrades in Japan in September.
• Briton withdrew from tournament 17 days ago with back injury • Johanna Konta given qualifier, Rafael Nadal gets two
Rafael Nadal could hardly have asked for an easier entry into the French Open – two qualifiers to lift his spirits while Novak Djokovic has a far tougher time of it at the other end of the draw. But the real conundrum of the draw ceremony on Thursday night was the surprise appearance of Katie Boulter, only 17 days after announcing her withdrawal.
There were more than a few gasps when Boulter’s name popped up on the screen against that of Donna Vekic, when it was assumed she was still resting after aggravating a back injury during Great Britain’s Federation Cup win over Kazakhstan in London last month. There was no immediate explanation for her reappearance although it seems she might have left her name in the draw accidentally.
• Decision follows changes to World Rugby player insurance rules • Wales among countries to benefit for pre-tournament friendlies
Wales and Scotland are among a number of countries who have received a major boost to their World Cup preparations with Premiership Rugby agreeing to the early release of their players following landmark changes to World Rugby legislation.
Following the threat of legal action from PRL, as revealed by the Guardian in December, World Rugby signed off on changes to its player insurance regulations at its council meeting in Dublin on Wednesday. In turn PRL will agree to release players such as Wales’ Dan Biggar and Taulupe Faletau as well as Scotland’s Sean Maitland and Sam Skinner for pre-World Cup camps.
Ireland’s Eddie Dunbar overtaken on final climb at Pinerolo
Jan Polanc takes overall lead from team-mate Valerio Conti
Ireland’s Eddie Dunbar had to settle for third place as Cesare Benedetti took victory on stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia, as Valerio Conti passed the pink jersey to his UAE-Team Emirates colleague, Jan Polanc.
The 22-year-old from County Cork, riding for Team Ineos, was among five riders from left from a 25-man breakaway to reach the final climb in Pinerolo together after the group had splintered on the imposing Montoso ascent.
If Gunners refused to contest Europa League showpiece they would generate headlines that might force Uefa into climbdown
Leave no man behind. A code embraced by the US military, it refers to army policy of doing everything and anything possible to avoid abandoning troops behind enemy lines. A commendable dictum, despite the accompanying risks, it is one the Arsenal hierarchy may ponder ruefully as their players and backroom staff set off for next week’s Europa League final, leaving one of their own potentially key troops behind before even arriving at the Baku battlefield.
In the meantime a “letter voicing their concerns” has been dispatched to Uefa and, at a recent media briefing, Unai Emery made all the right noises about the importance of winning the final for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. “Micki”, as he is known to all and sundry at Arsenal, was unavailable to give his take on this Uefa-induced shambles, a conspicuous absentee as he will be on Wednesday night.