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Pick your Wales XV to face France in Six Nations

Published in Rugby
Sunday, 03 March 2024 13:29

After defeats against Scotland, England and Ireland, who would you pick for Wales' fourth Six Nations game against France?

Head coach Warren Gatland insists his revamped squad has a bright future, so should he give all his emerging talent another chance to learn?

After the 31-7 defeat in Ireland, wing Alex Cuthbert and former fly-half James Hook called for Mason Grady to be given his first start of the championship against France.

But this is your opportunity to select what you think is the best Wales XV to try and get their first win of the tournament at the Principality Stadium on Sunday.

Remember to share your picks on social media using #bbcrugby.

Wales XV to face France

Pick your starting XV for Wales' Six Nations game in Cardiff

Smith returns to England squad after calf injury

Published in Rugby
Sunday, 03 March 2024 11:23

Marcus Smith has returned to England's squad and is in contention to face Ireland in the Six Nations on Saturday.

Harlequins fly-half Smith, 25, is yet to feature in the tournament due to a calf injury.

Scrum-half Alex Mitchell is also available after a knee problem which ruled him out of the defeat by Scotland at Murrayfield.

England take on Grand Slam chasing Ireland at Twickenham at 16:45 GMT on Saturday.

Smith was in line to play a leading role in the Six Nations but picked up a calf injury in training before the opener against Italy at the start of February.

In his absence, Sale's George Ford wore the number 10 shirt for England's three games so far, with Northampton's Fin Smith making his first international appearances off the bench.

Head coach Steve Borthwick now faces a decision about whether to bring Marcus Smith straight back into the fold for the visit of the unbeaten Irish.

Meanwhile, Mitchell established himself as England's first-choice number nine at last autumn's World Cup and is expected to return to the matchday squad if he is able to prove his sharpness in training this week.

Mitchell's return means Harry Randall drops out of the wider 36-man group, with Danny Care and Ben Spencer the other scrum-halves.

Wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso also returns to the squad after missing last week's training camp because of a university exam.

'Ireland used to being favourites'

England's Six Nations campaign was derailed by a deflating 30-21 defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield, with Borthwick's side now needing to beat Ireland or France to salvage their campaign.

But with the visitors heavy favourites this weekend, Ireland great Jamie Heaslip told the Rugby Union Daily podcast he is struggling to see an upset at Twickenham.

Ireland have won their past four Tests against England and have won at Twickenham five times in the Six Nations era.

"I think England have got amazingly talented players, I just don't think the English side are playing to the strengths of those players," Heaslip said.

"I think they are playing a style that doesn't suit them, and I think Ireland are going to exploit a lot of the chinks in the armour there.

"The mantle of Ireland being the favourites does not irk these guys, they are well used to that.

"They are not going to fear coming there [Twickenham], they have won there consistently and they have beaten England consistently over the last period.

"But they have been in the position England are in and they are fully aware people can pull it out of the bag. That is why the complacency won't set in."

Rangers, goalie Quick agree to 1-year extension

Published in Hockey
Sunday, 03 March 2024 10:18

The New York Rangers agreed to terms Sunday on a one-year contract extension with veteran goaltender Jonathan Quick that's worth $1.275 million for the 2024-25 NHL season.

Quick, 38, joined the team he grew up rooting for on an $825,000 deal last summer after backing up for the Vegas Golden Knights on their Stanley Cup run. He has thrived as Igor Shesterkin's backup this season for the first-place Rangers.

The Milford, Connecticut, native is 13-5-2 with a 2.45 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in 21 games (20 starts) with New York.

Quick backstopped the Los Angeles Kings to the Stanley Cup twice, in 2012 and 2014, and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP during the first of those championship seasons.

Kuznetsov clears waivers, assigned to AHL team

Published in Hockey
Sunday, 03 March 2024 18:13

WASHINGTON -- Longtime Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov cleared waivers Sunday after not being claimed by any of the NHL's other 31 teams and has been assigned to Hershey of the American Hockey League.

The Capitals put Kuznetsov on waivers Saturday, hours after he was cleared to practice by administrators for the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program. It's unclear if Kuznetsov will report to the AHL-leading Bears.

"Just feel for him as a person and hope the outcome of this is just the best for him and his family," coach Spencer Carbery said before his team's 5-2 loss to Arizona on Sunday. "That's what I'm hopeful for."

Kuznetsov has one year left on his contract at a cap hit of $7.8 million and $8 million in actual money owed. That and his inconsistent play factored into Washington putting Kuznetsov on waivers and him going unclaimed.

Carbery talked to the rest of his players about Kuznetsov going on waivers, a nod to a player who has been a big part of Washington's core for more than a decade.

"Someone that's been in the organization a long time, and a lot of guys in our room or some of the guys in our room have been with him for all 11 years," Carbery said. "I felt like I owed him that."

It appears unlikely Kuznetsov, Washington's leading scorer on its Stanley Cup run in 2018, plays another game for the team that drafted him in the first round 14 years ago. His tumultuous tenure with the Capitals has included frustrating ups and downs, most recently just 17 points in 43 games this season before going into the program last month.

The Capitals waived Kuznetsov at their earliest opportunity following his progress in the program, long after multiple years of trade talks went nowhere.

"We've had history together, and an opportunity for him to have a fresh start, I think, is the main theme of what we're trying to accomplish," general manager Brian MacLellan said Saturday. "It's just an opportunity for our side, too, to start fresh and try to get him an opportunity to continue his career."

Casemiro: Utd should 'mirror' Man City in rebuild

Published in Soccer
Sunday, 03 March 2024 17:17

Manchester United midfielder Casemiro has said that the club's new minority owners should use Manchester City as "a mirror" in their bid to get the team back to the top of English football.

United were swept aside by City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, losing 3-1 despite Marcus Rashford's early opener.

- Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

It was the first Manchester derby since Sir Jim Ratcliffe's Old Trafford stake was confirmed and provided a harsh reminder of the gulf between the two teams.

Asked whether he sees positive signs from the new minority ownership group and if there is a long way for United to go to reach City, Casemiro told ESPN Brasil: "That is the big objective, we also have to be humble to accept that they are at the moment, not in history, as the history of Manchester United speaks for itself, but they are today the team to beat. Everyone wants to beat City.

"We have a mirror here, which is City, and they have been doing a great job."

Ratcliffe, chairman and CEO of chemical company INEOS, has pledged to "knock City off their perch" within three years.

There is hope that the arrival of the British billionaire, 71, will trigger a resurgence after more than 10 years without a title -- a period during which City have won the Premier League six times.

"Of course, when people from outside arrive, who want to add and evolve the club's level, it is always important," Casemiro said.

"It is very clear that the company [INEOS] and the new owners want to do this. I hope that they [new owners] arrive and grow together with us, as it is important for the club to have people who want to grow here."

United took the lead against City thanks to a wonder strike from Rashford, but were second best for much of the afternoon.

Pep Guardiola's team managed 27 shots on goal compared to three from United, but afterwards Erik ten Hag argued that the result had not shown there is a significant gap between the two teams.

"No, I don't think so, absolutely not," the United manager said.

"You can see we have many problems with injuries and still we had an opportunity. Really small margins and we could have scored the second goal in a debatable moment.

"It's not that big [a gap] and when we have everyone on board we can be competitive. I think also we showed in the cup final against them when it was really close but City, is in this moment, the best team in the world. Don't forget this. We were really close to winning or at least get a point here."

Information from ESPN's João Castelo-Branco contributed to this report

Barcelona draw marred by Pedri, De Jong injuries

Published in Soccer
Sunday, 03 March 2024 17:17

Barcelona are facing an injury crisis in midfield after both Frenkie de Jong and Pedri were forced off in the first half of Sunday's LaLiga draw with Athletic Club at San Mames.

De Jong was taken off on a stretcher in the 26th minute after landing awkwardly on his ankle. The Netherlands international spent two months on the sidelines earlier this season with a sprained ankle.

- Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

Pedri, meanwhile, came off just before the break with his third muscle injury of the campaign. A hamstring problem ruled him out for two months in August and he missed three weeks at the turn of the year with another muscle issue.

Both players will undergo scans on Monday, but Barça coach Xavi Hernández says it does not look food for either of them.

"The injuries affected the team because Frenkie and Pedri are two important players for how we want to play," Xavi said in his post-game news conference.

"Pedri's been coming good again [after his last injury], he trained really well this week. It's such a shame. Frenkie, too. He is heavily involved in our play. They are two big losses.

"It doesn't look good. We missed them today and we are going to miss them. Hopefully it's for less time than expected."

The match against Athletic ended in a 0-0 draw, leaving Barca right where they started the day: in third place on 58 points, eight behind LaLiga leaders Real Madrid.

"It was a big opportunity wasted," added Xavi as Barça missed the chance to cut the gap on Madrid, who were held by Valencia on Saturday, and climb into second ahead of Girona, who lost to Mallorca earlier on Sunday.

"We did not play well. Maybe the first 15 minutes was OK, but the rest wasn't. We can't be satisfied. We have to be self-critical. We should have taken a step forward.

"It's true this is a tough place to come, but we are disappointed because it wasn't how we wanted to play. Perhaps the only positive is how we defended."

However, the big negative was the loss of De Jong and Pedri ahead of key games in both LaLiga and the Champions League before the international break at the end of March.

Barça are already without midfielder Gavi, who was ruled out for the season in November after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament while playing for Spain.

Xavi used centre-back Andreas Christensen and youngster Fermín López alongside Ilkay Gündogan after losing De Jong and Pedri in Bilbao.

Oriol Romeu is another option to play in the middle of the park with Barça set to play the second leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie against Napoli on March 12 at the Olympic Stadium. The first leg in Italy ended 1-1.

Prior to that game, Barça host Mallorca in LaLiga on Friday and they then travel to top-four rivals Atlético Madrid on March 17.

In addition to De Jong, Pedri and Gavi, Barça are also currently without left-backs Alejandro Balde and Marcos Alonso and forward Ferran Torres due to injuries.

Pep: Forgetting misses makes Haaland great

Published in Soccer
Sunday, 03 March 2024 17:17

Pep Guardiola said that Erling Haaland's ability to miss chances and "forget in an instant" is what defines him as a great player after the forward scored in Manchester City's 3-1 win against Manchester United following a series of wasted opportunities.

Two earlier goals from Phil Foden enabled City to cancel out Marcus Rashford's stunning opener for United to seal a crucial win at the Etihad ahead of next Sunday's clash with Premier League leaders Liverpool at Anfield.

- Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

Prior to Foden's contribution, Haaland had missed easy chances to equalise for City including when he volleyed over the crossbar when faced with an open goal in the first half.

Haaland, who leads the race for the Premier League Golden Boot with 18 goals so far this season, missed several chances in the recent draw at home to Chelsea before going on to score five in the FA Cup win at Luton Town in midweek.

And after scoring late in the game against United following his earlier misses, Guardiola said that Haaland is simply proving his incredible scoring ability by being able to shrug off his misses.

"The great, great players I met, I was lucky to manage many of them, they forget [missed chances] in an instant," Guardiola said. "They forget as quick as possible.

"Footballers, basketball players. They miss. They just smile and get on with it and he [Haaland] did it. He has an incredible ability to forget. That defines the great players."

Foden's double strike, after scoring a hat trick against United at the Etihad last season, extended his run of form against City's neighbours.

And Guardiola said the 23-year-old is now showing himself to be the best player in the Premier League.

"What can I say? He is the best player in the Premier League right now for the amount of things he does. Unbelievable," Guardiola said. "He is right now the best so far.

"I always had the feeling he would score goals, but now he is winning games. He's a world class player. He lives for football, but now he is winning games.

"He played false nine at Bournemouth and now today. Rashford scored an incredible goal, but Foden was incredible too.

"It is the amount of games he is playing. He was always a talented player but nohe w he is more mature and understands more the game, especially defensively. He can play middle, right, make moments and cut inside, play in the left, scoring from the left."

City face Liverpool at Anfield next Sunday trailing Jurgen Klopp's side by one point at the top of table while third-placed Arsenal can move to within a point of City by beating bottom club Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Monday.

But with the title race so tight, Guardiola said it is up to City how and where they end up this season.

"It is about us," he said. "We can't control what Liverpool or Arsenal, Aston Villa or other contenders do, it is about us. We do what we have to do to win today, next Wednesday and Sunday. This team is legendary.

"Will we do it? I don't know. We have today more points at this stage than last season.

"The difference is Liverpool have I don't know how many more points than this stage last season. When the opponent is behaving like this, what can I say, congratulations so far. We will continue to try game by game."

USWNT's Macario scores in return, Chelsea debut

Published in Soccer
Sunday, 03 March 2024 17:17

Nathalie Björn, Mayra Ramírez and Catarina Macario all netted their first Women's Super League goals for Chelsea as they cruised to a 4-0 win over Leicester City on Sunday to go back to the top of the table, above Manchester City on goal difference.

The goal was a big one for United States forward Macario, who was making her Chelsea debut and return from an ACL injury that had kept her out since her former club team Lyon's final game of the 2021-22 campaign.

- Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

Macario had originally hoped to be back sooner, but ended up missing more than 20 months, including the USWNT's participation in the Women's World Cup in 2023.

Sweden defender Bjorn, who joined the Blues from Everton in January, broke the deadlock in the 38th minute after Leicester failed to clear a corner, hooking a shot back across the goal and over the head of keeper Lize Kop to make it 1-0.

Ramirez, another January arrival, added the second in the 44th minute with a brilliant solo effort, winning the ball in her own half and running half the length of the field before coolly rounding Kop and slotting the ball home.

Winger Johanna Rytting Kaneryd added a third before the Brazil-born Macario came off the bench to round out the scoring.

Chelsea moved back to the summit on 37 points thanks to a three-goal cushion over Manchester City, who beat Everton 2-1 on Saturday.

Information from Reuters was used in this story.

The U.S. women's national team is not subscribing to the idea that its best days are behind it and welcome the higher level of competition it is seeing globally, defender Crystal Dunn said on Saturday.

Delhi Capitals 163 for 8 (Lanning 55, Meghna 4-37) beat Gujarat Giants 138 for 8 (Gardner 40, Radha 3-20, Jonassen 3-22) by 25 runs

Meg Lanning's half-century and another class bowling display by Jess Jonassen propelled Delhi Capitals to the top of the WPL table and kept Gujarat Giants winless in Bengaluru on Sunday.
Having won the toss and opted to bowl, Giants were ragged in the field, missing five chances as they sought their first win of the season. One of those was Lanning, and she made them pay with a 41-ball 55 despite Meghna Singh's impressive four-wicket haul. Lanning moved past 9,000 T20 runs during the course of her innings, which was the stand-out for Capitals for whom Alice Capsey made a start and Annabel Sutherland played a neat cameo of 20 from 12.
Ashleigh Gardner threatened with a 31-ball 40 but when she fell to Jonassen, who backed up her 3 for 21 against RCB on Thursday with 3 for 22, Giants were left still searching for a first victory since their sixth match of WPL 2023. Radha Yadav claimed a valuable 3 for 20 for Capitals to put the result beyond any doubt.

Jonassen gets the job done

Titas Sadhu, making her WPL debut after seven T20Is for India, opened the bowling in the absence of Marizanne Kapp and started with a maiden as Capitals launched their defence of 163 for 8. Shikha Pandey struck with her third ball, an absolute gem which swung in late and snuck through the gap between Laura Wolvaardt's bat and pad to crash into the top of leg stump, removing the South Africa opener for a three-ball duck. Pandey could have had another moments later when she struck Beth Mooney on the pad in line with middle stump but Capitals errantly chose not to review the on-field reprieve.

Phoebe Litchfield helped herself to 11 runs off Sadhu's second over. Then three fours in four balls to Mooney and Litchfield off Pandey had Giants cruising in the fourth over. But Jonassen entered the attack and pinned Mooney on the front pad adjacent to the stumps and Giants had to try and rebuild. Jonassen struck again, however, when Litchfield spooned one straight to mid-off and the momentum swung firmly towards Capitals.

Radha, at deep midwicket, put down a catch off Veda Krishnamurthy, on 6, but crucially Giants were well behind on 41 for 3 at the end of the powerplay. After seven overs, they had already faced 25 dot balls. Gardner cut loose with a 78m six and four off Arundhati Reddy so that at the halfway point of the innings Giants were 72 for 4, needing 92 more. Jonassen returned to the attack with Giants needing 60 from six overs and she all but ended their hopes, putting the ball on a length outside off-stump as Gardner advanced, swung and missed. Taniya Bhatia whipped off the bails with Gardner too far down the track and Giants too far behind.

Meghna shines big-time for Giants

Shafali Verma struck the first ball she faced, from Tanuja Kanwar, through square leg for four with impeccable timing and two balls later lofted a six back over the bowler's head. To make matters worse for Giants, Kanwar dropped a return catch off Shafali at the end of the over, which cost 12 runs there and then, and who was to know how many more at that point. As it turned out, Shafali added just three more before Meghna had her comfortably caught by Wolvaardt at square leg. Lanning and Capsey settled into a rhythm and took Capitals to 51 for 1 by the end of the powerplay, but Meghna struck again with the crucial wicket of Capsey, who was in good form with scores of 75 and 46 heading into the match. Meghna ended Capsey's latest innings on 27 with a tempter outside off stump, sliced to Kanwar at backward point, and she wasn't done yet.

That sent Capitals into their shell as 19 deliveries came and went without a boundary. Lanning broke that by thumping debutant Tarannum Pathan over long-off for a maximum and from there she looked busy once more. Lanning should have been gone for 30 when she spooned a Mannat Kashyap delivery straight to mid-off, where Kathryn Bryce missed a sitter. Gardner had conceded 11 runs off her first over and her second went for 13 as Lanning moved within one clean strike of her fifty. She got there with an authoritative jab to the right of midwicket which was so well hit it evaded Gardner's best efforts to stop it just inside the rope at deep midwicket. Another four over cover came off the next ball but it was Lanning's anguish and Meghna's joy when D Hemalatha moved to her left and held on at cover point to stop the Capitals skipper in full flow after her second half-century of the campaign.

Jemimah Rodrigues laboured to 7 off 10 balls before Mannat Kashyap had her taken by Pathan at short third, but with Sutherland - in the side for Marizanne Kapp - and Jonassen at the crease, Capitals remained dangerous. Sutherland hit a monster 76m six off Bryce and, two balls later, Jonassen was let off by Hemalatha, who copped a blow to the forehead as the ball flew through her hands at deep midwicket and ended up needing a concussion substitute. Jonassen dispatched a Gardner full toss over the fence at deep square leg but was well caught behind by Mooney next ball. Kanwar bowled an excellent 17th over and was rewarded with the wicket of Sutherland, caught by Gardner at deep midwicket. Meghna juggled a catch at long-on to remove Arundhati Reddy and give Gardner her second, the look on the bowler's face making her relief palpable. After Kashyap shelled one at extra cover, Meghna trapped Radha lbw with the last ball of the innings, to become the first Indian fast bowler to pick up a four-for in the WPL.

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