Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

UPDATE: England need solid backs not flashes of brilliance

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Relief rather than elation greeted England’s decision to select Mathew Tait, Riki Flutey and Delon Armitage in the backline for Saturday’s Six Nations opener against Wales.

(*Flutey has since had to pull out with injury)

One try in three tests told its own story in the November internationals and the selectors had no real option other than to restore Flutey and Armitage and recall Tait.

The celebrations among England supporters, though, will be muted if only because it is difficult to see any of the above trio winning a place in, for example, the Ireland or Wales starting lineups.

With Danny Cipriani struggling for form and, according to newspaper reports contemplating a move to Australia, there is also no bright light on the horizon to whom the selectors can turn.

What are the odds on getting the Six Nations winner right?

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Picking the winner of the Six Nations championship is always a tricky task as the vagaries of form and the fixture list ensure that no two seasons are the same.

France, who finished third last season, are rated 6/4 favourites by Ladbrokes while grand slam champions Ireland are only second-best at 9/4.

Couldn’t Strauss try batting his way back to form?

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CRICKET-ENGLAND/England’s decision to allow “jaded” captain Andrew Strauss to miss next month’s tour to Bangladesh will leave many fans scratching their heads.

At a time when England are looking to lick the team into shape for their Ashes defence against Australia at the end of the year, it seems odd for the skipper not to be leading his troops from the front. Instead, it will be a “very excited” Alastair Cook who takes charge.

Vaughan reopens ball-tampering controversy

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Michael Vaughan in retirement does not shrink from the limelight. Or from controversy.

The former England captain commentates on BBC radio, writes a newspaper column and appears in a hair transplant advertisment. He also indulges in “artballing”, hitting paint-daubed balls at a blank canvas attached to a wall.

Even cricket’s referral system is not perfect

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Soccer has come under a barrage of criticism for not introducing technology to help referees while U.S. sports, rugby, tennis and cricket lead the way with innovative means of making sure the big decisions are right.

Cricket’s new referral system, where both the batting and fielding sides can have two unsuccessful challenges to an umpire’s decision per innings, has largely been welcomed by most in the game.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Donovan must think hard about Everton move

Everton hope to complete the signing of Landon Donovan on loan from Major League Soccer’s L.A Galaxy, a move which has generated plenty of excitement among North American soccer fans.

The move makes a lot of sense for Everton manager David Moyes – it gives him no-risk attacking cover, particularly useful while Nigerian Yakubu Aiyegbeni is away throughout January at the African Nations Cup. What is less obvious is why a short term loan spell is a good move for Donovan.

Johnno loves England too much to see them keep losing

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Bobby Charlton, Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst discovered that winning a World Cup as a player is no guarantee of success as a manager and Martin Johnson is beginning to feel the heat after a torrid first year at Twickenham.

His appointment as England “manager” was always going to be a risk, and one that he publicly accepted. Despite having absolutely no coaching experience Johnson was held in such high esteem by everyone in the game that it was felt by the RFU that his very presence would bring stability to the team.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Arsenal emerge as shining light in Champions League

Out of eight Spanish and English teams playing in the Champions League this week, only Arsenal were victorious.

Was this a blip for the two powerhouses, or is it another indication that Europe's top club competition is becoming more balanced?

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Beckham’s return to AC Milan confirmed

David Beckham will tread a familiar path once the MLS season is over, joining AC Milan on loan again for a five-month loan spell from January.

Milan have just announced the deal on their website (just in Italian for now), meaning any lingering hopes Premier League clubs had of changing the England midfielder's mind have finally been dashed.

England places up for grabs as European rugby action hots up

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Europe’s premier rugby competition has returned with seven English clubs providing much food for thought for England coach Martin Johnson ahead of the November internationals, writes James Illingworth.

Gloucester, London Irish and Northampton recorded opening day victories while defeated Bath, Sale and Harlequins will be looking to this weekend to get their first points on the board. Leicester staged the comeback of the first week, overturning a 26-8 deficit to draw 32-32 with the Ospreys.

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