British Queen celebrates



History will be made on the dark waters of London's River Thames on Saturday when women's crews from Oxford and Cambridge universities attack the men's Boat Race course for the very first time.

Female teams from the prestigious universities first competed against each other 88 years ago, but this weekend will mark the first time they do so on the same stretch of river as the men.

In another first, the race will be shown live on BBC television, while a crowd of over 250,000 people is expected for what has been heralded as a triumphant moment in the history of women's sport in Britain.

"I think it's a symbolic breakthrough, because of the longevity of this race," Helena Morrissey, sponsor of the women's race, told AFP.

"It's 186 years since the men of Oxford and Cambridge first rowed competitively against each other and it's taken quite a long time to get to this point on Saturday. It shows anything is possible."

Saturday's race, over a 6.8-kilometre length of river between Putney and Mortlake in west London, represents a big step up for the female eights and their coxes, who previously raced over 2km at Henley, some 100km upriver.

But in stark contrast to the first women's event, they will take to the water on level pegging with their male counterparts, whose own race follows an hour later.

The inaugural women's race, in 1927, was preceded by detailed discussions about what those competing should wear.

According to contemporary accounts, the matter was only resolved when one of the Cambridge rowers sat on a stool in front of university staff and simulated the action of rowing to ascertain whether shorts or a tunic best protected her modesty.

When the day of the contest arrived, The Times reported that the two teams took to the river separately and were judged on "steadiness, finish, rhythm and other matters of style" rather than speed alone.

- Sponsorship deal -

It was not until 1935 that the two boats were allowed to actually race and there were several more false starts before the event finally became a permanent fixture.

Now, fired by a haul of three British gold medals in the female events at the 2012 London Olympics, interest in women's rowing is on the up, with the number of participants in Britain rising from 9,600 to 13,450 in the three years leading up to January 2013.

But this weekend's breakthrough moment would not have arrived had it not been for Morrissey, chief executive of race sponsors Newton Investment Management.

A Cambridge graduate (who coxed "very badly", but did not row while at university) dismayed by the imbalance between the men's and women's races, Morrissey donated £30,000 ($44,540, 41,070 euros) in 2011 to bring the latter event up to scratch.





The England under-19 women's team will replay the final seconds of their European Championship qualifier against Norway later on Thursday after UEFA accepted the referee had made a mistake in the original fixture.

Norway were winning 2-1 in Belfast on Saturday when the sixth minute of stoppage time saw England awarded a penalty by German referee Marija Kurtes.

Leah Williamson scored from the spot but Kurtes disallowed the goal because an England player had encroached into the box before the kick was taken.

The final minute of the match followed and Norway appeared to have won 2-1.

However, the laws of football state that Kurtes should have ordered the penalty to be re-taken and UEFA, European football's governing body, said Thursday it had no choice but to order the final moments of the match be replayed from the point of the penalty kick.

"We originally wrote that Norway had qualified", UEFA said on its website.

"But on 8 April the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body announced that Norway's game against England on 4 April will be replayed from the minute a penalty kick was awarded to England, who were 2-1 down at the time."





Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said he felt "like a kid" after claiming the first trophy of his second Stamford Bridge tenure with a League Cup final victory over Tottenham Hotspur.

A deflected John Terry strike and a Kyle Walker own goal gave Chelsea a 2-0 win at a rain-soaked Wembley on Sunday and earned Mourinho his third success in the competition after two triumphs during his first spell as the west London club's manager.

It ended a 914-day wait for silverware for the 52-year-old Portuguese -- the longest of his managerial career -- and he expressed hope that it was a sign of things to come for his nascent Chelsea team.

"For me it's very important to feel that I'm a kid," said Mourinho, whose previous trophy had been the 2012 Spanish Super Cup he won with Real Madrid.

"Before the game I had the same feelings as my first final, I don't know how many years ago. It's important for me to feel the same happiness after the victory. It's important for me to feel that I am a kid at 52 years old.

"I know I have a team to build, which is what we are doing, but I feed myself with titles. It's difficult for me to live without winning things, even knowing that we are doing the work to be stable for many years.

"I need to feed myself with titles. It's important for me, it's important for the boys. For the club it's one more cup.

"But it's the first one of the new team. You have Petr Cech, John Terry, (Didier) Drogba, and after that everybody belongs to a new generation of players. So as a team, very, very important."

One of Chelsea's new generation to feature prominently at Wembley was 20-year-old French centre-back Kurt Zouma, pressed into action as an auxiliary holding midfielder in the absence of the suspended Nemanja Matic.

"It's very difficult for a central defender to play there," Mourinho said.

"Because central defenders, they don't (usually) have pressure from behind. They are pressed in their faces, not pressed from behind.

"In that position, you're surrounded by players. You have to think quick, you have to decide quick. It's very, very difficult, but our new Marcel Desailly, he worked hard during the week and did a fantastic job for us."


- Pochettino proud -


Mourinho's first League Cup success, in 2005, proved the precursor to back-to-back league titles, but although Manchester City's 2-1 loss at Liverpool earlier on Sunday left Chelsea five points clear in the Premier League with a game in hand, he said there was still a long way to go.




Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke has been appointed captain of Europe for the 2016 Ryder Cup against the United States, the European team announced on Wednesday.

"I am naturally extremely proud to be selected as European Ryder Cup captain for 2016," Clarke said in a statement on the European Ryder Cup team website.

"The Ryder Cup has been a massive part of my life and my career, so to have the chance to lead Europe next year is a huge honour."

Former British Open champion Clarke, 46, beat off competition from Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thomas Bjorn to succeed Paul McGinley, who led Europe to a five-point victory over the USA at Gleneagles last September.

Clarke, who was the favourite for the role, played in five Ryder Cups and was vice-captain in 2010 and 2012.

He will now lead Europe's bid for a fourth successive victory at Hazeltine in Chaska, Minnesota on September 30-October 2 next year.

"I am lucky to have played and worked under some fantastic captains in my seven Ryder Cups to date and I look forward to the challenge of trying to follow in their footsteps and help Europe to a fourth consecutive Ryder Cup victory at Hazeltine next year," Clarke added.

McGinley joined predecessors Jose Maria Olazabal and Colin Montgomerie, European Tour chief executive George O'Grady and players' representative David Howell on a five-man selection panel that convened to appoint a new captain at Wentworth, south-west of London.

Montgomerie told Sky Sports News the decision to appoint Clarke had been "unanimous".

McGinley's relationship with Clarke was believed to have become strained after the latter reneged on a pledge not to challenge McGinley for the captaincy in 2014.

But after leading Europe to a 16.5-11.5 success at Gleneagles, McGinley said that he would not let his personal feelings colour his thoughts about who should succeed him.




England bagged early World Cup bragging rights by clawing back a 10-point deficit to claim a thrilling 21-16 victory over Wales in the opening match of the Six Nations on Friday.

Wales stormed out to a 10-0 lead in the opening nine minutes at an electric Millennium Stadium after a Rhys Webb try converted by Leigh Halfpenny, who also added a penalty.

But the visitors, missing a raft of first choices through injury, responded with tries from Bath backs Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joseph, George Ford kicking a conversion and three penalties, as Halfpenny added another and Dan Biggar a drop-goal for the home side.

"I just wanted to knock it over for the lads," said man of the match Ford.

"The performance -- especially by the pack -- was outstanding. We felt comfortable in the first half but had a bit of poor start."

Joseph said that England believe they have the strength and talent to take on any side in World Cup year.

"It's incredible. No greater feeling to come here to Wales and win, probably one of our greatest rivals," he told the BBC.


"But the boys dug deep and got the win we deserved. There's a lot of confidence in the side and we've got the belief we can attack and penetrate."

Wales captain Sam Warburton admitted his side fell off the pace after the interval.

"We're very disappointed, it's not the start we wanted. The second half we struggled to get momentum and it seemed like England were on top for large parts," he said.

The victory, coming after the 30-3 humiliation England suffered in the corresponding fixture two years ago, sets up the World Cup it hosts nicely, with the English drawn in the same tough pool as Wales, Australia and Fiji, with only two teams qualifying for the knock-out phase.

After a five-minute delay to the kick-off, Halfpenny booted a touchline penalty in the second minute after Jonny May infringed.




Japan's Kei Nishikori fought past a tough Australian challenge from Jordan Thompson to post a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7/4) opening win at the Kooyong Classic on Wednesday.

The defending champion at the eight-man tune-up for the Australian Open needed just over two hours to earn the victory.

US Open finalist Nishikori, ranked fifth in the world, was forced to work hard in swirling winds at Kooyong Club.

"Conditions made it tough to play," said the 25-year-old Nishikori.

"It was difficult for me to be aggressive. But I played a good tiebreak and I'm happy to win today."





Lazar Markovic scored the only goal as improving Liverpool provisionally closed to within four points of the Premier League's top four by winning 1-0 at Sunderland on Saturday.

At a gusty Stadium of Light, the 20-year-old Serbia winger's ninth-minute strike -- his first Premier League goal -- enabled Liverpool to extend their unbeaten run to five league games.

Gus Poyet's Sunderland, who had Liam Bridcutt sent off for two bookable offences, remain three points above the relegation zone with only one win from their last 11 games.

Having earlier seen a penalty appeal waved away after tumbling under a challenge from Wes Brown, Markovic put Liverpool ahead when he gathered a pass from Fabio Borini and prodded the ball between Costel Pantilimon's legs.

Markovic then hit the bar with a spectacular, improvised scissors kick as Liverpool dominated, while former Sunderland loanee Borini rounded Pantilimon, only to find the side-netting.

The visitors lost Steven Gerrard at half-time, with Dejan Lovren coming on, but their position was strengthened in the 49th minute when Bridcutt was shown a second yellow card for impeding Emre Can.




Villarreal registered their seventh consecutive win in all competitions to move above Sevilla on goal difference into fifth in La Liga thanks to a 3-0 victory over Deportivo la Coruna on Sunday.

Jonathan dos Santos got the hosts off to the perfect start when the on-loan Barcelona midfielder slammed home his first goal for the club.

Argentine striker Luciano Vietto then added to his fine debut season in Spain with two simple finishes five minutes apart midway through the second-half to make the game safe before the hosts ended with 10 men when substitute Tomas Pina was sent-off.

Marcelino's men shot themselves back into contention for a return to the Champions League by inflicting Atletico Madrid's first defeat at the Vicente Calderon for 19 months last weekend and were in no mood to lose any ground in the battle for the top four as they flew out of the blocks.

They were rewarded with the opening goal after just 10 minutes when Fabricio could only parry Denis Cheryshev's low effort into the path of Dos Santos who gratefully steered the ball into an empty net.

The Deportivo 'keeper redeemed himself with fine saves from Cheryshev, Vietto and Ikechukwu Uche to keep the visitors in the game at half-time.

But despite an improved start to the second period they were hit again on the counter-attack for the crucial second goal 22 minutes from time when Victor Ruiz squared for Vietto to tap home.



The temperament around the Arsenal camp was anything besides bubbly this weekend after an excruciating thrashing to Stoke.

However Gunners stars have brought some welcome light help to incidents by wearing a few Christmas jumpers for a decent cause.




Two-time world champion Lewis Hamilton said Monday he is determined to keep winning Formula One titles after his triumph in Abu Dhabi.

After a night of partying following Sunday's Grand Prix victory, the 29-year-old Briton said he would get immediately down to work improving the car for next season.

"We want to be able to go into next season and compete again and be as strong as possible.

"That's obviously going to be the goal and I have absolute faith in the team that we will come back very, very strong next year."

Hamilton's victory, after Mercedes teammate and season long rival Nico Rosberg made a poor start from pole position and then suffered mechanical problems on his way to finishing 14th, added a second title to the first won in 2008.


Mercedes dominated the season with a record 16 wins in 19 races – 11 to Hamilton and five to Rosberg – and produced speed and consistency that left their rivals stranded.

The team now appear poised to enjoy an era of supremacy like that of Germans Michael Schumacher, at Ferrari, and Sebastian Vettel, at Red Bull.

"The first title was an exceptional and an incredible feeling for me,” said Hamilton.

"That was achieving a life-long goal of getting to Formula One and winning the world championship. I don't know if I was in a place to really embrace it and absorb it in the way I can today.

"Being a part of this team is definitely a more satisfying feeling. Winning this championship with this team -- a young team that has worked so hard to get to where we are," he added.

"To be a part of that is something really very special.

"You see the atmosphere in the team, you see the guys at the factory and what's gone on with the partnership with Petronas and all the guys back at the factories in Brackley and Brixworth putting the team together.