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New Zealand's Steve Hansen and England's Eddie Jones were among the nominees shortlisted on Tuesday for the annual World Rugby awards.

The pair will be vying for the coach of the year award along with Ben Ryan, the Englishman who guided Fiji to their first Olympic gold medal in any sport when the Pacific Islanders triumphed as rugby sevens made its Games debut in Rio.

New Zealand, since winning the World Cup under Hansen last year, have remained unbeaten and recently set a new record for a major or tier-one rugby union nation of 18 successive Test victories.

 

 

 

Australia coach Michael Cheika has urged his side to aim high during their tour of Europe as they look to finish a tough 2016 with a flourish.

Cheika's men have the chance to emulate the celebrated 1984 Wallabies that featured the likes of David Campese, Michael Lynagh and Mark Ella by completing a Grand Slam -- victories over England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales on one tour.

Australia will also play France in Paris on November 19 in a run of five internationals on successive weekends, starting with Saturday's clash against Wales in Cardiff.

Australia gave New Zealand a few awkward moments before losing last year's World Cup final at Twickenham, but 2016 has seen the Wallabies suffer some chastening defeats by the All Blacks, including a 42-6 hammering in Sydney in August.

That was a low in a run of six straight defeats that included a 3-0 series defeat at home to England, a side coached by Eddie Jones, Cheika's former team-mate at Sydney club Randwick.

 

 

Jurgen Klopp insisted Liverpool’s defensive problems were no cause for alarm after his side maintained their push for the Premier League title with a 4-2 win away to Crystal Palace.

Despite an ultimately comfortable scoreline that drew Liverpool level on points with league leaders Manchester City and second-placed Arsenal, the visitors’ shaky backline was badly exposed at Selhurst Park at times.

Dejan Lovren was at fault when James McArthur cancelled out Emre Can’s opening goal and the centre-back later allowed the Palace midfielder to head his second goal after Lovren himself had restored Liverpool’s lead.

Saturday’s result meant the Reds have kept just one clean sheet in the league so far this term, but Liverpool manager Klopp said: “We will sort the defence. When that happens, we will see (if we can challenge in the league).

“They can defend really well — it’s normal (to have lapses). But I know that everybody will talk about this.”

 

 

Manchester City suffered their first defeat under manager Pep Guardiola as Tottenham Hotspur  underlined their Premier League title credentials with a 2-0 win at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

Victory saw Spurs move to within a point of leaders City.

And later on Sunday, Arsenal -- Spurs' north London rivals -- won 1-0 away to Burnley thanks to Laurent Koscielny's  disputed winner deep into stoppage time as Arsene Wenger's men closed to within two points of top spot.

Meanwhile reigning champions Leicester City  were held to a goalless draw by Southampton while Manchester City  endured a frustrating 1-1 draw at home to Stoke City.

 

 

Mauricio Pochettino insists Tottenham won’t be allowed to use their temporary move to Wembley as an excuse for failure in their Champions League opener against Monaco on Wednesday.

Pochettino’s side return to the Champions League for the first time in five years in unfamiliar surroundings after deciding to stage their European matches at Wembley rather than White Hart Lane.

The prospect of bigger crowds at the English national stadium convinced Tottenham to make the short move across north London and the crowd is expected to set a new record for the largest attendance for a home Champions League game in Britain.

Fans of Tottenham’s bitter rivals Arsenal can testify to the struggles of a Wembley relocation after they won just two of their six fixtures in Europe when temporarily playing there in the late 1990s.

Tottenham have won only once at the redeveloped Wembley since it opened in 2007 and Pochettino’s demand for a high-intensity pressing style may prove more demanding for his players on the stadium’s big pitch.

But the Argentine coach has drilled his players on a pitch of the same size at their Enfield training ground and he expects them to thrive in their new surroundings.

“We need to go to Wembley and play, behave naturally and not try to find an excuse, that’s never good,” Pochettino said on Tuesday.

“We trust in us. We believe in the way we play and it’s a good chance to play on a big pitch.

“You have more space to play, it’s more difficult for the opponent to press you when there are more metres to run, but the same for both.

“We feel good at White Hart Lane because it’s our home and we need to feel good at Wembley. With two pitches at the training ground we designed the same dimensions as Wembley.”

 

Once upon a time, when their paths crossed at Barcelona, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola got on quite well. But all that changed as they went on to become two of the most successful coaches in world football.

Ahead of the mouthwatering Manchester derby at the weekend, AFP Sports looks at a selection of the bitter remarks they have aimed at each other down the years.

– Guardiola on Mourinho –

“I know Mourinho and he’s trying to provoke me into a reaction, but it won’t work. I’m not going to react. I’m not going to answer back. Only when I think the time is right.” — Guardiola in 2011 as Mourinho ratchets up the snide remarks.

“Outside of the field, he has won the entire year, the entire season and in the future (it will be the same). He can have his personal Champions League outside the field. Fine. Let him enjoy it, I’ll give him that.” — Guardiola finally cracks and lays into Mourinho on the eve of a 2011 Champions League semi-final, first-leg clash between Guardiola’s Barcelona and Mourinho’s Real Madrid. Barcelona won 2-0.

 

Officials in charge of England's elite Premiership club competition on Thursday joined the calls for reform of what they say is an "unsustainable" international calendar.

Ever since rugby union became a fully professional sport shortly after the 1995 World Cup in South Africa, there has been talk of a 'global season' in a bid to get greater harmony between club and international fixtures.

But with the 15-a-side code traditionally a winter sport in both the northern and southern hemispheres, all attempts to streamline the match programme have so far foundered, despite often repeated concerns about player welfare and burn-out.

In England and France, two of Europe's leading rugby nations, there is a further complication in that players are contracted to free-standing clubs rather than their national unions.

Yet for large parts of the existing season, those players are away on Test duty, be it the November international campaign or the Six Nations, Europe's premier tournament, which runs from February to March.

However, with the current Test programme expiring after the 2019 World Cup in Japan, there is the possibility for reform especially as world champions New Zealand, an on-field superpower but commercially outgunned by wealthier European nations, have indicated they won't just sign up to more of the same.

Bosses at the Celtic League -- the major domestic tournament for leading teams in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Italy -- have put forward a proposal for delaying the start of the Six Nations by six weeks in order to get club seasons completed beforehand.

But the Six Nations have thus far jealously guarded what they see as a prime commercial spot in the overall European sporting calendar given that no major football tournaments are being concluded at the same time.

Their stance has often been regarded as the major barrier to meaningful fixture reform, but Premiership chief executive Mark McCafferty insisted change was possible without moving the Six Nations.

 

 

Pakistan’s one-day form is a "real concern" to coach Mickey Arthur and the South African believes it could "take some time" to improve the team’s standing in white-ball cricket.

The 1992 world champions, Pakistan are languishing in ninth place in the International Cricket Council’s one-day internationals rankings,  with only hosts England and the top seven teams come September next year guaranteed a place at the 2019 World Cup.

A World Cup without Pakistan seems unthinkable but Arthur, speaking ahead of his one-day ‘debut’ with the team, believes they must tackle their shortcomings in limited overs cricket head-on, starting with Thursday’s first of two ODIS away to Ireland in Malahide, near Dublin, which will act as a lead-in to a five-match series against England.

"We have not done well in ODIs. I think this is a real concern for me," Arthur told AFP in London before the squad travelled to Ireland.

"Pakistan’s position at number nine in one-day cricket is not good. Pakistan is not the number nine team but I do fear that our one-day cricket will regress because of playing the style or brand that belongs to the 1990s when the game has moved on such big amount.

"I also think that your fitness and fielding play a massive role. So we need to get our players up to speed on that. I have looked at the one-day players and they look good but it’s going to be extremely tough.

"England is a very, very good one-day team now, so for us it’s about our progression. This is where our one-day journey starts.

"It’s not I am cautioning anybody, but I think it will take some time to get our one-day side to exactly where we want them to be."

 

Great Britain can match its incredible track cycling haul from London four years ago, according to Joanna Rowsell-Shand, a member of the record-breaking women’s pursuit team in the Olympic velodrome.

The British women set three world records over two days to retain their Olympic crown and claim Britain’s third cycling gold medal in Rio.

Britain already has the titles for the men’s team sprint and men’s team pursuit — also in a world record time.

On Saturday, Becky James won silver in the women’s keirin while reigning champion Jason Kenny and Callum Skinner qualified for the men’s sprint final, guaranteeing Britain gold and silver on Sunday.

Four years ago and in Beijing 2008, Britain won seven of the 10 Olympic disciplines.

 

 

Police in London are investigating allegations that a young tennis player was poisoned while competing at this year's Wimbledon, a British newspaper reported on Thursday.

Gabriella Taylor, 18, withdrew from the Girls' Singles competition in July and spent four days in intensive care.

Police are now investigating whether she was deliberately poisoned, The Telegraph newspaper said.

Taylor was reportedly diagnosed with Leptospirosis, a bacterial infection spread by animals.