Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Welcome back “le crunch” — we’ve missed you

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RUGBY-NATIONS/ENGLANDThere will be an extra buzz around Twickenham on Saturday and it will not be just because England fans know a win over France would set them up for their first Six Nations title for eight years.

“Le Crunch” is back, and then some. The fixture that was for so long the focal point of the championship gradually lost its allure as England dropped off the pace and Wales and Ireland became the main challengers, but with two wins apiece for the cross-channel rivals so far, it once again looks the pivotal match.

With the teams on course to meet again in the quarter-finals of the World Cup later this year there is an extra edge to the clash and just in case that was not enough, along came France coach Marc Lievremont to roll back the years with his extraordinary blast last weekend.

“We appreciate our Italian cousins with whom we share the same quality of life. We appreciate the Celts and their conviviality and then among all these nations we have one huge thing in common: we all don’t like the English,” he announced.

Armstrong re-retires, says no way back this time

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ARMSTRONGIt’s been a sad week in sport in some ways, with two modern greats announcing their retirements with immediate effect.

Admittedly, we knew long ago that we’d already seen by far the best of both Ronaldo, who called it a day on Monday, and Lance Armstrong, who announced on Wednesday his “retirement 2.0″.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Farewell Ronaldo, one of the game’s greats

SPORT SOCCER WORLDRonaldo has just made the official announcement that he is to retire with immediate effect, bringing to an end one of the great soccer stories.

The 34-year-old Brazilian announced his decision at a news conference in Sao Paulo a few moments ago, after concluding that the battle for fitness -- always a bruising struggle -- was one he could no longer win.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Rooney strike — wonder goal or shinpad special?

SOCCER-ENGLAND/Wayne Rooney's overhead scissors kick goal to win the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on Saturday has sparked a tidal wave of hyperbole in the British media, with "wonder goal" the most popular tag used to describe it.

The general consensus was not that it was just the nailed-on winner for "goal of the season" but was also the best of Rooney's career and even the best ever seen at Old Trafford.

West Ham given Olympic stadium nod but can soccer co-exist with track and field?

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OLYMPICS-LONDON/STADIUMSo now we know: Premier League soccer club West Ham United will take over the Olympic Stadium in London following the 2012 Games, assuming there are no late objections from the British government or the city’s mayor.

The decision will be greeted with relief by many fans of the rival bidders Tottenham Hotspur for one simple reason — soccer does not generally co-exist very well with athletics.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Relief in Barcelona as Guardiola extends contract

SOCCER-FIFA/During Barcelona’s 3-0 win over Atletico Madrid at the Nou Camp last Saturday, which set a Spanish record of 16 straight La Liga victories, there was one thrilling passage of play which perfectly illustrated the work ethic Pep Guardiola has instilled among his squad of wonderfully gifted players.

The ball was played into space for Atletico forward Sergio Aguero. Lionel Messi suddenly appeared, sprinting back into defence. The World Player of the Year ran shoulder to shoulder with his Argentina team mate, stole the ball, beat Felipe Luis with an audacious piece of skill and started yet another assault on the visitors’ goal.

from Photographers' Blog:

Before a ball is bowled

Reuters Photographer Parivartan Sharma takes us to the town of Meerut, north of Delhi, where cricket balls are still being made the old-fashioned way - by hand. India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will co-host the 2011 Cricket World Cup starting on February 19.

The Making Of A Cricket Ball - Cricket World Cup Preview from Vivek Prakash on Vimeo.

Super Bowl XLV: Packers v Steelers — live

Follow all the action at Super Bowl XLV with our live blog, featuring expert commentary and analysis, instant score updates and the best pix you’ll find on the internet.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

FIFA takes agenda by scruff of the snood

SOCCER-ENGLAND/There will be a lot of fashion-conscious footballers holding their breath for item “V.1.b” at the International Football Association Board’s annual meeting next month.

Forget goal-line technology and positioning of goal posts and the other very sensible items on the agenda, the one sure to get a few people rather hot under the collar is the “wearing of snoods” – those snugly neck warmers much loved by the likes of Carlos Tevez and Samir Nasri.

Don’t discount Ireland for the Six Nations

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RUGBY-NATIONS/
By James Illingworth

The 2011 Six Nations kicks off shortly in Cardiff with much of the pre-tournament hype suggesting a two-horse race between France and England.

England’s favourites tag among English bookmakers looks unjustified if it is based on one decent performance in November against Australia, with the 2010 grand slam winners France surely still the team to beat.

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