England beat Australia to snap tour duck

Australian opener Aaron Finch scored a century but it was all in vain as England snapped their eight-game losing streak with a 57-run triumph at the WACA Ground on Friday.


Chasing 317 for victory, a second-string Australian outfit were bowled out for 259 in 47.4 overs despite the best efforts of Finch.

The 27-year-old blasted 108 off 111 balls, but he couldn’t find a willing ally as England beat Australia for the first time this summer.

With Australia’s loss, they drop back from top spot in the one-day rankings just two days after reclaiming the No.1 mantle from India.

Had England lost in Perth, they would have equalled their record losing runs of 10 set in 1993 and 2001.

Instead, their drought-breaking win has given England skipper Alastair Cook some rare joy ahead of Sunday’s fifth and final one-dayer in Adelaide.

Before Friday’s game, Cook revealed he was keen to stay on as captain of the one-day side despite having reservations about his position just days earlier.

Cook (44), Ben Stokes (70) and Ian Bell (55) laid the platform for England’s innings, before wicketkeeper Jos Buttler rammed home the advantage with a dazzling 71 off 43 balls.

Buttler’s knock featured six fours and four sixes as Australia’s pacemen were carted to all parts of the ground.

Pace ace Mitchell Johnson finished with 0-72 from his 10 overs, while fellow speedster James Pattinson (0-63 off eight) also struggled.

Allrounder James Faulkner claimed 4-67 after picking up two cheap wickets in the final over.

Finch, who scored 121 in the series-opening win in Melbourne, kept Australia’s hopes of victory alive as he moved the score to 4-189 in the 36th over.

But when he was caught in the deep, attempting to guide Tim Bresnan over third man, Australia’s chances were shot.

Stokes was the hero for England, with the 22-year-old following up his crucial knock with figures of 4-39 with the ball.

Australia entered the match missing a host of their best players, with captain Michael Clarke, wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, allrounder Shane Watson and opener David Warner all rested.

Stand-in skipper George Bailey elected to bowl after winning the toss, but the decision backfired as England raced to 0-73 from their first 10 overs.

Buttler and Eoin Morgan (33) provided the fireworks late in the innings to lift England above 300.

“It’s been a long time coming,” a relieved Cook said.

“We know the series is gone, but the thought of losing 10-0; the prospect was there.”

Australia’s stand-in captain Bailey conceded the absence of Clarke, Haddin, Warner and Watson played a role.

Bailey said his decision to bowl first was based on the “tackiness” of the wicket.

“It certainly felt like it swung around a lot, but I don’t think we utilised that well at all,” Bailey said.

“I think it was probably the worst we’d bowled at the start of a game. It just looked like the bowlers found it a little hard to control.”

Podolski double helps Arsenal rout Coventry in FA Cup

Podolski’s goals were set up by fellow Germans Mezut Ozil and Per Mertesacker as the 10-times winners eased into the last 16 on a rainy night in north London.


The Polish-born forward rifled home from inside the area after a pass from midfielder Ozil in the 15th minute and headed in a corner at the far post from defender Mertesacker’s flick-on at the near post in the 27th.

Podolski was replaced by Olivier Giroud in the 79th and within five minutes the Frenchman had scored Arsenal’s third goal with a tap-in from left back Kieran Gibbs’ cross.

Fellow substitute Santi Cazorla completed the rout in the 89th from a rebound after keeper Joe Murphy had parried a shot.

Three minutes after the opening goal Coventry, the 1987 FA Cup winners who now play in League One, almost hit back with Arsenal stopper Lukasz Fabianski making a diving save to keep out midfielder Carl Baker’s fine shot from outside the area.

Striker Leon Clarke also missed two good chances to get a more enterprising Coventry side back into the game early in the second half.

Fabianski saved his first effort and the striker then hit the post from a central position inside the box after Franck Moussa’s square pass with the second.

“In the first half we did the job and took the game to them in a serious way and played the way we know we can,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was quoted as saying by the BBC.

“In the second half we dropped off and, give them credit, they gave it a go. Coventry should be pleased with their performance and we should be pleased with the result.”

Former European champions Nottingham Forest, now in the second tier Championship, were held 0-0 at home by League One side Preston North End in a clash of former FA Cup winners.

The fourth round continues on Saturday with holders Wigan Athletic, who were relegated from the top flight three days after their dramatic late win over Manchester City in last season’s final, at home to Premier League Crystal Palace.

Cup favourites Manchester City host second-tier Watford, also on Saturday, while seven-times winners Chelsea face Stoke City in an all-top flight tie at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

(Writing by Rex Gowar; Editing by Ken Ferris)

Comment: An end to China’s apartheid?

For over half a century, the Chinese Communist Party has sought to control where Chinese people live under the hukou system of household registration, which has separated people into two distinct groups — those with rural ‘passports’ and those with urban ones.


While the Afrikaans term ‘apartheid’ may be a harsh way of describing this system, its literal meaning — ‘the state of being apart’ — suggests that it is also fairly apt.

Even though millions of rural citizens have made their way into Chinese cities in recent decades, hundreds of millions more are still unable to do so.

As a result, rural Chinese currently earn on average around one third of their urban counterparts, with the vast percentage of the 185 million Chinese people living on under US$1.25 a day residing in rural areas. These disparities simply would not exist in an economy with perfect labour mobility since migrants would continue to head for urban centres as long as the wages there were higher. The hukou system prevents this equalising force and is therefore a major source of China’s rural–urban income inequalities today.

China’s top leaders are well aware of this fact and are deeply contemplating hukou reforms, as evidenced by a report released following a meeting on 12–13 December of the Communist Party’s 18th Central Committee, headed by President Xi Jinping. The report, which reaffirms China’s commitment to an urbanisation strategy that will drive economic growth in the decade ahead, claims that the government will allow migrant workers who live permanently in cities to gain urban residency status ‘in an orderly way’.

It is clear, however, that there are no plans to abolish the hukou system altogether. Instead, cities have been divided into four categories: hukou reform will focus on ‘fully open’ small cities and ‘orderly’ mid-size cities, but big cities and megacities will continue to have strictly controlled hukous. In other words, the government is not prepared to relinquish all control just yet.

This is understandable, given the enormity of the challenges facing both central and local governments as China embarks on a plan to shift 250 million more rural people into urban areas by 2025, in addition to the 200-plus million migrant workers who already live in cities but are largely excluded from the education, healthcare and social welfare services available to urban hukou holders.

Given these figures, a comprehensive ‘big bang’ approach to granting urban residency to anyone who wanted it, in any city they wanted to go, isn’t a realistic option. The pressure on cash-strapped city-level governments would be far too great and, although new ways for them to raise funds are underway — including tax-system reforms and the establishment of financial institutions to support urban infrastructure and housing — these will clearly take time.

Instead, hukou reform is likely to continue in the gradual, piecemeal and experimental way that has characterised China’s 35-year-long transition towards a market economy.

In Chengdu, for example, a new system of land credits that enables farmers to swap their rural land for urban housing has led to regulations issued in late 2010 that enable all Chengdu citizens — including five million farmers — to move freely into the city and register as urban citizens, receiving all the benefits that go with it. As Tom Miller points out in his 2012 book China’s Urban Billion: “If the Chengdu government is as good as its word, this would represent a huge breakthrough for hukou reform”.

Other experiments include the use of points systems for migrants, first introduced in Shanghai in 2004 and in Guangdong province in late 2010, under which urban residency status is granted to those migrants who achieve a certain number of points based on their employment, education, income and other (mainly economic) attributes. Although points systems can be justified on efficiency grounds, the distributional consequences are likely to be dire: creating an underclass of the already second-class rural Chinese who don’t make the grade. Whether points systems should be allowed to spread across the country is something the central government in Beijing will need to consider very carefully.

As the most recent indication of gradual reform, a news release by state news agency Xinhuanet on 18 December indicates that the Ministry of Public Security and 11 other ministries and commissions have drafted reform guidelines for the hukou system that aim to establish a new system by 2020. If approved by the central government, the new system will be based on a person’s place of residence and employment, not their birthplace. This is a positive sign for those migrants already working in cities, albeit requiring some patience. What it means for the 640 million people still residing and working in rural China is another question.

This latest string of announcements came shortly after the death of Nelson Mandela, who led the decades-long struggle to abolish apartheid and secure a multi-racial democracy for South Africa. President Xi Jinping has the opportunity to end China’s own form of apartheid, and may well become a national, even if not an international, hero in the process. The challenges are immense, but not insurmountable.

Dr Jane Golley is associate director at the Australian Centre on China in the World, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

This article was first published at East Asia Forum, a blog from the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific examining politics, economics and society across Asia and the Pacific.

Six Wallabies suspended after drinking session

“Those standards were compromised in the lead-up to Saturday’s victory over Ireland with a group of players making the decision to stay out late and consume inappropriate levels of alcohol during the early hours of Wednesday morning.


Wingers Adam Ashley Cooper and Nick Cummins, front-rowers Tatafu Polota-Nau and Benn Robinson, and backrower Liam Gill have been stood down for Saturday’s test with Scotland at Murrayfield.

Front-rower Paddy Ryan has also been given a one-game ban, but will serve his suspension in the Wallabies’ final tour match, against Wales in Cardiff on November 30, because international regulations state all squads must contain at least four props. Australia have only five in their touring party of 32.

McKenzie gave written disciplinary warnings to Dave Dennis, Kane Douglas, Saia Fainga’a, Bernard Foley and Nick Phipps, while Scott Fardy, Mike Harris, Ben McCalman and Nic White received verbal warnings.

“Let’s be clear – these are internal sanctions and aren’t a result of any complaints or reports of inappropriate or sinister behaviour while our players were out,” said McKenzie, whose team beat Ireland 32-15. “Instead, we have chosen to address an issue that has come up internally and we are now being up-front about it.

“We’ve done this because we need to continually reinforce the need for our players to make smart decisions to benefit the team.

“The worst thing you could do for the Wallabies in the long-term is do nothing, because that would mean we would be ignoring poor culture and a significant performance issue.

“We will always take action in relation to examples of poor culture when it’s warranted – doing nothing to address poor behaviour will never be an option. We’ve taken on the challenge of re-defining our team culture.”

In September James O’Connor was dropped from the Australia squad after he was thrown out of Perth airport after an alcohol-related row with staff while Kurtley Beale spent time in rehab earlier in the year following a drinking suspension from his club.

McKenzie, who succeeded Robbie Deans as Wallabies coach in July, said he would not use the absent players as an excuse for a poor performance against Scotland.

“For us, this is a great opportunity to circle the wagons and re-calibrate our behaviours to get back on track off the field,” he said.

(Editing by Justin Palmer)

Clicktivism: Why social media is not good for charity

Almost all of us have done it.


A click here, a like there. Maybe hitting follow to a cause that’s been mentioned by a celebrity.


The warm, fuzzy feeling that your Facebook friends can see you stand for something, that you’re drawing attention to big issues.


But no – it doesn’t really work like that.


Not according to a new study that says that so-called “slacktivists” are precisely the sort of people who don’t help change anything.


The debate about the value of online activism came in the wake of the Arab spring.


Some attributing sweeping social change in countries such as Eqypt, to the powers of social media.


But others have used campaigns like Kony 2012 to argue that it spawned meaningless actions of change over social media


“The way we define slacktivism is when the consumer is willing to make small tokens of support,” says Kate White from the University of British Columbia. “When the small act of token support is very public in nature and people can kind of signal to others that they have already helped the cause they actually arent more likey to help later.”


What the research says is that public displays of support like pins and stickers and Facebook ‘likes’ make us feel like job done we can take it easy.


When in actual fact it’s always time and money that gets anything done – not raising awareness.


Take two huge awareness campaigns: Pink ribbons for breast cancer and Movember for prostate cancer.


Despite the efforts to increase public awareness, even though 95 per cent of women agree that a breast screen could save their life just one-in-two women aged between 50-74 don’t follow the recommended mammogram checks


Similarly only 41 per cent of men aged 40-74 have been tested for prostate cancer in the last 12 months, despite those same men saying that it’s the important health issue facing them.


This is despite all the moustaches and all the pink ribbons you see, in the street and across social media


The ineffectiveness of online awareness campaigns are causing some charities to get tough about the way they get their message across.


The world’s largest petition platform, change.org, agrees that clicktisim stops further engagement.


A Yale study showed that door-to-door political campaigning and phone calls with the candidate are the best ways to win votes.


It dismisses social messages that are not personalized and lack that level deeper of engagement.


There’s a lot of causes vying for your support and it’s hard to feel like you can make a difference.


The key is to choose one or two you care about rather than liking 20 on Facebook.


And supporting those charities with your time and money offline as much as you do online.

The Feed airs weeknights at 19:30 on SBS 2. You can also follow The Feed on Twitter at @TheFeedSBS2, or ‘LIKE’ SBS 2 on Facebook to stay in the loop.

Wallaby bans aimed at improving team

A terse Ewen McKenzie has made no apologies for suspending six Wallabies in a hard-line move designed to set the standards required to win the 2015 World Cup.


Highly-respected 90-Test back Adam Ashley-Cooper is among five players axed from this weekend’s Scotland Test after staying out late and drinking in the build-up to last weekend’s win over Ireland.

The one-match bans compromise team selections for Sunday morning’s (AEDT) Test at Murrayfield but McKenzie is determined to improve team culture and behavioural standards at the start of his coaching tenure.

“We’re a high-performance team and we’re trying to climb the hill, climb the mountain, and get back to the top of world rugby,” he said in Edinburgh on Monday night (AEDT).

“It’s a significant enough challenge as it is with what our opponents present without making it difficult for ourselves.”

Ashley-Cooper, fellow starting winger Nick Cummins, as well as reserve forwards Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson and Liam Gill have been stood down from Sunday morning’s Test at Murrayfield, the fourth match on Australia’s end-of-season tour.

Second-string prop Paddy Ryan also received a one-match ban but will serve the suspension in the final match on tour, against Wales, so the Wallabies can supply a proper bench against the Scots.

Nine more players received disciplinary warnings as almost half the 32-man squad went out in the early hours of Wednesday morning after having dinner in Dublin on Tuesday night.

While the Wallabies don’t apply a curfew and allow a couple of glasses of wine at their Tuesday team dinner, McKenzie said it was a clear break of internal protocols.

Punishments varied depending on how late they stayed, how much alcohol players consumed and whether they were in the match-day 23.

Team management took two full days to uncover what had occurred and McKenzie handed down his punishments to players on Sunday morning.

He stressed there wasn’t enough time between finding out the full story and the Ireland clash, won 32-15 in the world No.4-ranked team’s best display of a forgettable year, to mete out bans earlier.

“There’s nothing sinister (involved),” he said. “This is about us making decisions about ourselves and judging ourselves

“We’re setting up the right behaviours and setting the right standards to be competitive at the World Cup (and) obviously we need to be … presenting the right image.

“The easiest thing to do in these situations is to do nothing. But to do nothing will give you mediocrity. We need to set high standards.”

It comes after the Australian Rugby Union cut wayward star James O’Connor loose eight weeks ago.

Dave Dennis, Kane Douglas, Saia Fainga’a, Bernard Foley and Nick Phipps all received written warnings while starting flanker Scott Fardy, Mike Harris, Ben McCalman and reserve halfback Nic White were given verbal warnings.

Ashley-Cooper, loose-head prop Robinson and hooker Polota-Nau have been regular starting Test players for the past seven seasons.

McKenzie said he was “massively disappointed” and admitted there were some varying reactions to the bans from suspended players.

“On the whole they sucked it up and accepted they did wrong,” he said. “There’s a lot of disappointment in themselves

“It’s a significant embarrassment for themselves that they will miss the game.”

The loss of Cummins and Ashley-Cooper, added to Tuesday’s judicial hearing against red-carded centre Tevita Kuridrani, means McKenzie will have to be “creative” in his backline selections against the Scots.

Zlatan and I can take the pressure – Sweden coach Hamren

It is likely to be the 32-year-old Ibrahimovic’s last chance of making it to the finals and with Hamren’s contract running out at the end of the year, the coach knows defeat will spell the end of his tenure.


“It’s happened to me a few times before as a club coach, when you know that if we lose a game there’s not much left of the job,” Hamren told reporters on Monday.

“But I’m not thinking about that one bit. My focus is on succeeding and if we do succeed we don’t need to discuss it.”

Asked if it was possible to heap too much pressure on Paris St Germain striker Ibrahimovic trumping Portugal ace Cristiano Ronaldo, Hamren said his player could handle it.

“He’s been at this level for many, many years and for us it’s not Ronaldo v Zlatan it’s Portugal v Sweden,” the coach explained.

Hamren said Sweden would have to attack more than they did in the first leg on Friday, a match decided by a brave diving header from Ronaldo, but also show a measure of caution.

“We need to score, that’s for sure,” the coach added. “They can play more for the result, they have an advantage in that.


“We meet a really good team with really good international players so we can’t start the match and just go forward and have the ambition to score easy and early because then they’re going to punish us quickly.”

The Sweden squad have practised penalties in case the teams finish level on aggregate.

“Those who are used to taking penalties, they don’t need to have some training because they do it a lot,” said Hamren. “But the players who aren’t used to taking penalties, they took some today.

“It’s a mental thing of course and if it’s been a long time then they need to have done it before the game.”

Midfielder Pontus Wernbloom told Reuters that practising adequately for penalties was impossible.

“It’s easy to do in training but when you’re out there in front of 60,000 people and everything can be won or lost, it’s difficult,” he said.

Asked if he would be prepared to take the fifth and final penalty that might send Sweden through to the World Cup in Brazil in June, Wernbloom laughed.

“If you ask me now I would say ‘no’ but when you’re out there you never know. We’ll see.” he said.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

Former UCI boss could be called before doping inquiry

Disgraced cyclist Armstrong, stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping, alleged in an interview with the Daily Mail on Monday that Verbruggen had helped him to backdate a prescription.


Verbruggen, an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), has denied wrongdoing.

In 1999, as Armstrong was on his way to winning his first Tour, the American failed a drugs test for corticosteroids but later provided a prescription, which he admitted was backdated.

Current UCI president Brian Cookson pledged to restore credibility in cycling and the governing body when he took over from Pat McQuaid, Verbruggen’s successor, last September.

“The UCI’s Independent Commission of Inquiry is in the process of being set up and we are in advanced discussions with stakeholders on its terms of reference to allow full investigation of any allegations relating to doping and wrongdoing at the UCI,” said a UCI statement on Monday.

“The commission will invite individuals to provide evidence and we would urge all those involved to come forward and help the commission in its work in the best interests of the sport of cycling.

“This investigation is essential to the well-being of cycling in fully understanding the doping culture of the past, the role of the UCI at that time and helping us all to move forward to a clean and healthy future.”

Earlier this month, Verbruggen denied that he had ever been involved in a doping cover-up.

“I have been frequently accused that, in my UCI presidency, my federation would not have been too serious in its anti-doping policy and that – in particular the Lance Armstrong case – the UCI and myself have been involved in covering up positive tests,” the Dutchman wrote in a letter to Olympic officials.

“Cover-ups never took place.”

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Clare Fallon)

CVC would fire F1 boss Ecclestone if found guilty

Mackenzie denied that Ecclestone, who has built Formula One into a global money-spinner over the past four decades, was being kept in his post because of his importance to the business.


Ecclestone remains a hands-on chief executive at the age of 83.

“If it is proven that Mr Ecclestone has done anything that is criminally wrong, we would fire him,” Mackenzie told a hearing at London’s High Court.

Ecclestone is facing a $100 million damages claim over allegations that he sold the business for too little when CVC became the largest shareholder in a deal agreed in late 2005.

The legal fallout from that deal has raised questions about whether Ecclestone can maintain his long grip on the sport and further complicated stalled plans to list the business on the stock market in Singapore.

Lawyers for German firm Constantin Medien argue that Ecclestone favoured a sale to CVC because it planned to keep him on as chief executive.

Mackenzie, a deal-maker who tends to avoid the media spotlight, told the court that Ecclestone had apologised for not immediately telling him about a multi-million dollar payment made to German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky after Gribkowsky’s arrest in January 2011.

Mackenzie recalled a meeting with Ecclestone in February 2011 at which the Formula One head told him of the payment, despite earlier denials.

“He told me that he had had a meeting with one of his colleagues who had reminded him that he had made payments to Gribkowsky and he apologised for having forgotten this,” Mackenzie told the court.

“He told me he had never lied to me and I must say that I had trouble believing you could forget payment of $40 million,” Mackenzie said.


A Munich court jailed Gribkowsky, former chief risk officer at German bank BayernLB for 8-1/2 years in 2012 over a $44 million payment made by Ecclestone and an Ecclestone family trust after the CVC deal.

CVC paid BayernLB around $830 million for a 47 percent stake in Formula One. Constantin, the successor company to former shareholder EM.TV, says it missed out on a share of the proceeds it would have been due had the stake fetched more than $1.05 billion.

Ecclestone told the court this month that he paid Gribkowsky around 10 million pounds because the banker had threatened to make false claims about his tax status that could have cost him as much as $2 billion.

The German authorities are due to decide next year whether to put Ecclestone on trial for bribery over the payment. Ecclestone denies any wrongdoing.

Pressed about how lucrative the CVC investment had been, Mackenzie said it was one of the fund’s top 10 deals but it had come at the price of some negative headlines.

“It is a successful investment apart from the adverse publicity and this is a good example of it,” Mackenzie told the court.

With a stock market listing having failed to come off, CVC sold down its stake last year from around 63 percent to 35.5 percent, bringing in U.S. investment funds Blackrock and Waddell & Reed and Norway’s Norges Bank as investors. The deals gave Formula One an enterprise value of $9.1 billion.

Constantin has brought the case against Ecclestone, the Ecclestone family trust, Gribkowsky and former trust lawyer Stephen Mullens. CVC is not a defendant in the damages claim.

Court hearings are expected to continue into next month.

(Editing by Erica Billingham)

Mind coach hails mountain-climbing Stenson

A win at the 2009 Players Championship in Florida, the sport’s unofficial fifth major, took the Swede up to fourth in the world before he suffered the second big form slump of his career to crash out of the top 200.


Stenson decided to reunite with his former mind coach Hansson in 2012 and since then he has fought his way back to the top, culminating in Sunday’s historic six-shot triumph at the DP World Tour Championship in the Middle East.

Not only did the victory enable the former Ryder Cup player to finish the season as Europe’s number one golfer, it also meant world number three Stenson became the first man to land the Race To Dubai and U.S. FedExCup double.

“I used a metaphor these last four days when we were working hard to try and get these titles that we were attempting to climb the highest mountain in the world,” Hansson told Reuters by telephone just moments after arriving back in his native Sweden.

“We had been struggling in the bushes and then the woods but then suddenly we could see above the tree tops and we could actually start climbing.

“In these last four days we were in the last stages of our climb and I told Henrik, ‘It’s going to be hard because you’re totally worn out and it’s freezing up there but you must be really aware of where you’re putting your hands and feet’,” said Hansson.

“After he finished and we were having dinner last night I talked about the metaphor we had used and I gave him a flag because that’s the only thing he forgot to do, put the flag at the top of the mountain.”

During the course of the European Tour’s season-ending $8 million tournament in Dubai, Hansson said he wanted Stenson to be sure of every step he took.

“On the flag there’s an inscription that says no one has ever been here before and you are the first one,” he added.

“When you’re at that level of climbing you have to be 100 percent certain where you put your hands and feet so I was just trying to tell him, ‘Don’t move anything unless you are sure you have a good grip’.

“We take it one shot at a time and we don’t do anything unless he’s absolutely positive about the shot he’s about to play.”


Not surprisingly, given the scale of his achievement, Stenson resembled something of a busted flush on Sunday night.

“We had a low-key party really,” said Hansson. “I was with Henrik, his family and his close friends.

“I think he was more relieved and surprised than overwhelmed. Most athletes tell me the same, that they can’t really get in touch with their feelings because they’re so absolutely worn out.

“There wasn’t much drinking from Henrik last night, he’s not really into that stuff.”

Stenson will remain in Dubai for a couple of days before jetting to South Africa for a family holiday and rounding off his golfing year by competing in the Nedbank Challenge in Sun City that starts on December 5.

The 37-year-old has been troubled by a wrist injury for the last month but Hansson said he was confident two weeks of rest would cure the problem.

“Not only is his wrist sore now, everywhere in the body is sore after the last couple of weeks we’ve had, what with playing, criticising, training and all the effort he’s put in,” he explained.

“I think if we give him 14 days rest he’ll be ready again.”

Britain’s Ian Poulter, who battled Stenson all the way only to finish second in the Race To Dubai money list, said the Swede could justifiably be called “the best player on the planet” right now.

Stenson trails second-placed Australian Adam Scott and 14-times major winner Tiger Woods in the rankings but Hansson had no argument with Poulter’s assertion.

“You saw the performance he gave yesterday,” said Hansson. “With all that pressure, all that media scrutiny and then to top it all with an eagle at the 18th, how can you ever explain it in any other way?

“I’ve told him so many times if we stick to the plans and work really hard there will be moments when we have the golfing gods with us and he had that.

“The gods wanted him to win yesterday and they wanted him to win in a really spectacular way so that everyone in the world could see how good he is,” said Hansson.

“We really feel he can reach number one in the world. Now we have new goals and new mountains to climb.”

(Editing by Justin Palmer)

Ireland plans ambitious bid for 2023 World Cup

The ambitious effort would see games played on both sides of the Irish border as unlike football, the national team is an all-Ireland selection, and would represent another major step since a 1998 peace agreement mostly ended three decades of violence in Northern Ireland.


Ireland has been mulling the idea for over a year, looking to replicate the successful hosting by similarly populated New Zealand in 2011, and minister Leo Varadkar said he will seek approval from cabinet colleagues on Tuesday.

“It’s probably the biggest event a country like Ireland could do, we’re too small for the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup and for that reason it would engender enormous national pride,” Varadkar told an International Rugby Board conference.

“The second thing is that even during the very difficult times of the Troubles, rugby in Ireland was a unifying sport. For us in Ireland, it would just be a symbol of how far we’ve come from the bad times to the better times now.”

South Africa, hosts of the hugely symbolic 1995 rugby World Cup and 2010 football World Cup, have also indicated that they plan to make a bid. France, hosts as recently as 2007, have also expressed an interest in the 2023 edition.


Dublin has been working with the Northern Ireland executive on the proposal and also has the backing of Ireland’s Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), meaning it can use stadiums like the 82,300-capacity Croke Park.

Alongside Croke Park, there are another 10 Gaelic grounds as big or bigger than the second-largest rugby stadium in the country, Munster’s Thomond Park, although many will need major renovation to stage an international tournament.

The GAA, governing body for Ireland’s unique sports hurling and Gaelic football, had to ask its members earlier this year to allow the stadiums to be opened up to other sports which it had previously done eight years ago.

In 2005 the GAA changed its rules to permit rugby and football to be played at Croke Park while the old Lansdowne Road was being upgraded.

The vote was a landmark decision as Croke Park, the national stadium for Gaelic football and hurling, was the venue for the original “Bloody Sunday” in 1920 when British troops killed 14 people during Ireland’s War of Independence.

Until 1971 the GAA banned members from playing or attending so-called “foreign games” like rugby and the politically-charged Six Nations game against England in Croke Park in 2007 marked a significant moment in British-Irish relations.

Varadkar said it could potentially boost the ailing economy by as much as 800 million euros ($1.1 billion) with hundreds of thousands of fans coming to the country, according to a report prepared for government by consultancy firm Deloitte & Touche.

The World Cup will be hosted by England in 2015 and then Japan in 2019, the first time the tournament will be staged outside either Europe or the southern hemisphere powerhouses of New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.

“We see this is as having great potential for Ireland as an island and for the sport itself,” said Irish Rugby Football Union Chief Executive Philip Browne, who has been working on the bid since 2011 alongside the two governments.

(Editing by Conor Humphries)

Stressed Alonso fighting for Ferrari

Once the prince of Formula One and holder of all the “youngest ever” records, Fernando Alonso will head to Brazil this week battling to keep pace with the sport’s new king of speed.


The two-time world champion Spaniard will also be leading Ferrari’s forlorn fight to finish as runners-up in the constructors’ world championship, having secured that position for himself in the drivers’ title race with his fifth place finish in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix.

Like most competitors and observers at the Circuit of the Americas, Alonso, 32, doffed his cap to Sebastian Vettel after the 26-year-old German had registered another record-breaking feat in winning his eighth successive race for champions Red Bull.

But behind his dignified show of respect for the supreme team and four-time world champion, he was struggling physically and mentally.

Regarded by many as the finest racing driver of his generation, Alonso has seen his potential to win for Ferrari reduced almost systematically by the stunning speed and reliability of Vettel and Red Bull.

Yet in bringing his Ferrari home to claim second in the championship, Alonso demonstrated again his deep resources of courage and commitment in the most difficult circumstances.

Alonso raced with his body taped up to reduce the pain from his back and the headaches that have dogged him since his 25-G impact on the kerbs in Abu Dhabi two weeks earlier.

Some drivers might have withdrawn from the fray, particularly on a day when Vettel added more lustre to his legend. But not Alonso.

“I’m tired, very tired,” he said afterwards. “I didn’t have good preparation for this race physically. I was one week on the sofa or in bed with headaches.

“The race was demanding. It was not an easy race. I had to fight all the way through, so physically I feel tired now. I felt stressed all weekend from all the battles.

“Hopefully I can feel a little bit better in Brazil, less tired, enjoy the weekend a little bit more, but there are still some targets to do with the constructors’ championship for us.”

The fatigued Ferrari team, without a win since Alonso triumphed in Spain in May – will continue to compete for second place against Mercedes and Lotus, knowing that it could be worth several million dollars in prize money to succeed.

Alonso, however, virtually conceded defeat to Mercedes in the fight for second place after Sunday’s race saw them slide further adrift in third, by 15 points.

Hart can secure status as England’s top keeper, says Hodgson

Hart was dropped by his club, Manchester City, last month after his misjudgment led to defeat at Chelsea, the latest in a series of high-profile errors that has left question marks over England’s No 1.


Hodgson gave Celtic’s Fraser Forster his senior international debut in the 2-0 friendly defeat by Chile on Friday, but Hart will reclaim the jersey for the visit to Wembley of three-times world champions Germany.

“I am sure (Hart) will respond very well,” Hodgson told reporters at England’s training base. “He is a proud man and very pleased to be playing for England. We have had no cause to doubt him in the (World Cup) qualifiers and also the Euros (2012 European Championship).

“I wouldn’t dream of putting a player in the team after one good game, or dropping him after one game. I can’t deny – and Joe wouldn’t deny – that this is another chance for him to show that he is a top-class goalkeeper and that he deserves his place, because he will be playing against a very good team that can cause us problems.”

Hodgson confirmed his line-up against Germany would feature the return of left back Ashley Cole and the retention – for his second cap after Friday’s debut – of Southampton winger Adam Lallana.

Steven Gerrard will captain the side, enabling the Liverpool midfielder to equal the 108 England caps of former defender and World Cup-winning captain Bobby Moore.

Striker Daniel Sturridge has been declared fit despite carrying a thigh strain, and the Liverpool player will partner Wayne Rooney.

Hodgson confirmed he had been sounded out by the German football association about succeeding Berti Vogts as national coach in 1998. “It was a nice approach and a very flattering approach, but it was a long time ago,” Hodgson said. “They have got on pretty well without me.”

Since then Germany have rebuilt their national side to finish second, third and third in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups. England’s best results in that period were their quarter-final exits in 2002 and 2006. In 2010 they were beaten 4-1 by Germany in the second round.

Hodgson admitted England could not match Germany’s recent record, but said he feels his players can prove themselves equal to Joachim Loew’s team.

“All the words in the world won’t make us better, it is what we do when we cross that white line and get on the pitch,” Hodgson said. “We have a very good group of players, and I believe in them and what we are trying to do.

“They (Germany) have a lot to do as well. They are the favourites with Spain to win the World Cup, there is pressure on them in a different way. Our pressure is to prove we can be as good as them.”

(Writing by Stephen Wood; editing by Justin Palmer)