Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

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.

But one quirk of the buildup is that Ireland appear to have been overlooked as serious challengers, a point not missed by England coach Martin Johnson.

As his Welsh counterpart Warren Gatland was doing his best Jose Mourinho impression by announcing that his team are planning to ‘wind-up’ English hooker Dylan Hartley, Johnson was keen to remind us not to write off the 2009 grand slam winners.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Aston Villa’s Bent buy will flummox O’Neill

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SOCCER-ENGLAND/

If eyebrows were raised when Aston Villa decided to spend up to 24 million pounds on striker Darren Bent then former manager Martin O’Neill’s forehead must have been pinned to his living room ceiling when the news broke on Tuesday.

The absurdity of the switch lies not in the inflated figure or Bent’s abilities on the pitch and in front of goal, but in the timing of Villa chairman Randy Lerner choosing to dig deep into his pockets.

Watson the man to lead Australia rebuilding

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CRICKET-ASHES/The cornerstone of Australia’s past and many successes was often their stubbornness and competitiveness but with the nation at an all time low the new way forward is honesty and the equation is a basic one.

Elementary, Shane Watson.

The man can bat, bowl and field, as he showed during the 3-1 Ashes defeat to England and the two Twenty20 internationals, but what was most notable about the all-rounder was his honesty in front of cameras.

Momentum the key to World Cup success for England’s cricketers

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AUSTRALIA-Look away now Australian cricket fans, this one’s going to hurt like a cricket bat to the groin. Their team has carried their abject 2010 form into 2011 by slumping to another defeat to a rampant England side but this time in Twenty20 rather than tests.

While England notched up their eighth straight victory in the shortest version of cricket – a new world record –  the last ball defeat in Adelaide means Australia have now lost 17 of their last 24 completed matches in all forms of the game.

English cricket celebrates a coming of age

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CRICKET-ASHES/England’s cricketers wrapped up a 3-1 series victory against Australia in Sydney on Friday and held aloft the little Ashes urn for the first time in 24 years on Australian soil.

They should enjoy the moment. It has been hard earned and a long time in coming. The taste of success will be sweet and should be savoured after so much hurt and torment at the hands of the great Australian sides of the last 20 years.

Collingwood exit gives England test dilemma

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CRICKET-ASHES/The retirement of Paul Collingwood from England’s test team was beautifully timed, leaving the selectors with the dilemma of who to replace the versatile batsman but with a long time to contemplate the decision and from a pretty lofty perch.

The 34-year-old brought options with the ball and was arguably the team’s best fielder, so although he has struggled with the bat of late whoever steps into the team has some big boots to fill.

England close to retaining Ashes but eyes should be on bigger prize

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CRICKET-ASHES/England moved closer to bringing the Ashes back from Australia for the first time in 24 years on Tuesday as they reduced the battered hosts to 169-6 at stumps on day three of the fourth test, needing just four more wickets to wrap up victory and still with a lead of 246.

In all likelihood England will require just three more wickets with Ryan Harris off the field with a stress fracture to his foot and unlikely to be forced to bat in such dire circumstances for the home side.

Oh, what to do about the Colly wobbles

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CRICKET-ASHES/With the fourth test steaming up on us like Santa’s sleigh with an inebriated Rudolf at the helm, time is running out for England to decide on what to do about a problem like Paul Collingwood.

Is it me or does “Brigadier Block” always seem more out of form than in form?

A test comeback for Warne? Australia are not that desperate

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CRICKET-ASHES/“Bowling, Shane” are not words English batsmen would want to hear ever again, but how would the Australians react to Shane Warne making an astonishing return to answer his nation’s plea for help in the wake of the second test defeat to the ‘Poms’?

To say Warne was England’s primary Ashes tormentor for years and years is an understatement. Every time the leg spinner had the ball in his hand he had the opposition quaking, and even off the pitch he was a handful.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

FIFA’s World Cup decision day — live

We'll be following all the presentations and the vote itself as FIFA's executive committee decides on the hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Spain/Portugal, Russia, England and Netherlands/Belgium are the four rival bids for 2018, while Australia, South Korea, Qatar, United States and Japan battle it out for 2022, with the vote to come on Thursday.

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