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#Rugby: #McCaw to play blindside in All Blacks shake-up vs #Scotland

Richie McCawNew Zealand’s captain Richie McCaw looks back at his teammates through the rain during their Autumn International rugby union Test match against England, at Twickenham stadium in southwest London, on November 8, 2014. AFP / Adrian Dennis.


All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw has been shunted to blindside flanker and fly-half Dan Carter gets his first Test start in a year in a vastly rearranged New Zealand side to play Scotland on Saturday.

The surprise shake-up also has hooker James Parsons making his Test debut as only 12 players survive from the 23 involved in last weekend’s 24-21 win over England at Twickenham.

Parsons, along with utility back Colin Slade and lock Dominic Bird who are also in the run-on side to play Scotland, were not in the original touring party but have been called in as injuries hit the squad.

But coach Steve Hansen rejected any talk of an under-strength side

“Though we have made changes to our team, there is an expectation that those who fill the jersey will deliver quality performances,” he said when announcing the team.

For the 135-Test veteran McCaw, widely acclaimed in his prime as the world’s best openside flanker, this will be the first time he has started a Test in the number six jersey although he has previously played at the back of the scrum.

Dan CarterNew Zealand’s Dan Carter attends a training session at Wood Lane recreation ground in London, on November 4, 2014. AFP / Glyn Kirk.

He moves to the more defensive role to make way for his openside understudy Sam Cane with Victor Vito at number eight to give the All Blacks more mobility than the established loose trio of McCaw, Jerome Kaino and Kieran Read.

Of the 15 who started against England, only McCaw and Ben Smith will start again and even Smith has to change position, moving from wing to fullback in place of Israel Dagg.

Kaino and locks Patrick Fekitoa and Brodie Retallick were not considered due to injury while centre Conrad Smith has returned home for family reasons.

In Smith’s absence there is a new-look back combination with Ryan Crotty and Malakai Fekitoa paired in the centres while Slade, who kicked the winning goal as fly-half against Australia last month, joins Charles Piutau on the wing.

Carter, the world’s leading Test points scorer, joins TJ Perenara in the halves to start his 102nd Test and wear the number 10 jersey for the first time this year.

New Zealand's head coach, Steve HansenNew Zealand’s head coach Steve Hansen walks on the pitch ahead of their Autumn International rugby union Test match against England, at Twickenham stadium in southwest London, on November 8, 2014. AFP / Glyn Kirk.

After sitting out the June Test series against England, he missed the Rugby Championship because of injury before returning to play 30 minutes off the bench against the United States two weeks ago.

Bird gets his second Test at lock alongside Jeremy Thrush, and with a front-row combination of Joe Moody, Charlie Faumuina and Parsons the tight five have a combined total of just 42 caps.

Sonny Bill Williams has been placed on the bench along with player of the year nominee Julian Savea.

“We have a lot of respect for the Scots and, like all northern hemisphere teams, know that they will bring a lot of physicality to the park,” Hansen said.

“However, we also expect them to want to move the ball, particularly from any turnovers or free kicks. That style certainly suited them last week and makes them, we believe, even more dangerous.”

Hansen has said he is using this tour to replicate World Cup conditions.

New Zealand team (15-1)

Ben Smith; Colin Slade, Malakai Fekitoa, Ryan Crotty, Charles Piutau, Dan Carter, TJ Perenara; Victor Vito, Sam Cane, Richie McCaw (captain); Dominic Bird, Jeremy Thrush; Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons, Joe Moody
Replacements: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Luke Romano, Liam Messam, Augustine Pulu, Sonny Bill Williams, Julian Savea.


#Russia’s Football Coaches Skip #Euro2016 Qualifier Over Unpaid Wages

The Moscow Times (masthead)
Two members of Russia’s football coaching staff have failed to accompany the national team abroad for a match, citing an ongoing dispute with the country’s football association over unpaid wages.

Italian trainer Christian Panucci and his compatriot, fitness coach Massimo Neri, have not gone with the team to Austria, against whom Russia will play its Euro 2016 qualifier Saturday.

The Russian Football Union confirmed the news to sports website Sovsport, saying Monday in a statement: “Panucci and Neri did not come because of contractual disagreements.”

The association has been struggling to pay the wages of its national team’s coaching staff since June, when Russia crashed out of the World Cup at the group stages, The Associated Press reported.

Italian head coach Fabio Capello is reportedly one of the best paid coaches in world football, with a contract worth $11 million a year, according to Forbes’ estimates.

Russia takes on Austria this Saturday at 6 p.m. local time (8 p.m. Moscow time) and could go to the top of their group with a win.

The Moscow Times.

#Soccer: #Ukraine cedes to #Slovakia in Euro 2016 qualifying opener #Euro2016

by Mark Rachkevych.
Ukraine's Taras Stepanenko heads the ball as Slovakia midfielder Robert Mak enters late with a kick in Kyiv's Olympic Stadium on Sept. 8 during their European soccer championship qualifying match that Slovakia won 1-0. © ffu.org.uaUkraine’s Taras Stepanenko heads the ball as Slovakia midfielder Robert Mak enters late with a kick in Kyiv’s Olympic Stadium on Sept. 8 during their European soccer championship qualifying match that Slovakia won 1-0. © ffu.org.ua

KYIV, Ukraine – Slovakia successfully defended an early first-half goal to take its opening Group C European soccer championship qualifier against Ukraine 1-0 thanks to midfielder Robert Mak’s accurate pointer in the 17th minute. Fellow midfielder Marek Hamsik accurately found him at the 60-meter mark that the PAOK footballer touched ahead splitting two Ukrainian defenders who were belatedly closing the gap as he hit home. 

It was enough to give Slovakia an away win in the six-team group, which will see each squad play two-legged games against each other for the rights to play in the continent’s most prestigious soccer tournament taking place in France next in 2016.

Missing for most of the game was Ukraine’s characteristically composed, combinational play that spectators witnessed in the latest World Cup qualifying cycle under coach Mykahilo Fomenko’s guidance. The blue-and-yellows narrowly missed qualifying for Brazil in a round-robin match that France won.

Ukraine started with an aggressively quick tempo that often fizzled the deeper play entered Slovakia’s disciplined defense. Jan Kozak’s side flooded the midfield with five players buttressed by four in the back who clinically made quick transitions to offense, leaving the blue-and-yellows to often back pedal.

After the opening goal, Slovakia continued threatening with defender Peter Pekarik having the best chance. He almost doubled the score in the 33rd with a strike 20 meters out that goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov had to dive to save near the far post.

Yet Ukraine still had plenty of chances, especially as the half waned. Defender Yaroslav Rakitskiy failed on each of his side’s three free kicks to penetrate beyond Slovakia’s defending wall. Towards the end of the half in the 44th, Taras Stepanenko met Edmar’s arching pass with a header only for the leaping goalkeeper Matus Kozacik to deny the finish. A minute later forward Roman Zozulya was in a similar position, but misfired his header while diving.

Ukraine midfielder Oleh Husiev (left) reacts after an attempt on goal as Slovak goalkeeper Jan Kozak cups the ball during their Euro 2016 qualifier in Kyiv's Olympic Stadium on Sept. 8 that ended 1-0 in Slovakia's favor. (ffu.org.ua)Ukraine midfielder Oleh Husiev (left) reacts after an attempt on goal as Slovak goalkeeper Jan Kozak cups the ball during their Euro 2016 qualifier in Kyiv’s Olympic Stadium on Sept. 8 that ended 1-0 in Slovakia’s favor. (ffu.org.ua)

Following the half, Ukraine reasserted itself with quicker play, despite the absence of injured forward Yevhen Konopolyanka. Also injured was Anatoliy Tymoshchuk of Zenit Saint Petersburg.

Edmar had the best chances for Ukraine in the 2nd. He threatened in the 66th with a volley that misfired following a free kick. His header earlier in the 51st hit the far post. The Brazilian-born midfielder was also the near-playmaker in other chances in the box.

Yet Slovakia pulled off a tough win away in Kyiv. Ukraine’s next Euro 2016 qualifier is an away match against Belarus on Oct. 9.

(Kyiv Post editor Mark Rachkevych can be reached at rachkevych@kyivpost.com).

Kyiv Post – Sport.

FIFA: Russia relations hit rough spot

FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, speaks during a press conference in Ulrichen, Switzerland, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. Blatter has challenged his critics to FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, speaks during a press conference in Ulrichen, Switzerland, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. Blatter has challenged his critics to “take the risk” and stand for election against him next year. He did not identify potential rivals in the ballot scheduled in May, though he appeared to target UEFA President Michel Platini. (AP Photo/Keystone, Anthony Anex)

GENEVA (AP) — Relations between FIFA and its next World Cup host, Russia, are under strain.

Two major issues have flared since July 13, when Russian state President Vladimir Putin sat next to FIFA President Sepp Blatter at the World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Control of Crimean football clubs and expensive new stadiums for FIFA’s flagship tournament.

Attempts by the Russian football authorities to integrate three clubs from Crimea this season — without consent from Ukraine — have escalated tensions between the two countries’ football federations, which are both members of FIFA and UEFA.

Though the game’s world and European governing bodies have reason to at least warn the Russian Football Union of disciplinary action, neither has taken that step.

Blatter’s view that the Putin-backed, $20 billion World Cup project of 12 stadiums would be better with 10 met with a pushback on Tuesday from Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s sports minister and an elected member of FIFA’s executive committee — which is chaired by Blatter.

It followed a weekend meeting between Blatter, a regular visitor to Russia, and Putin, who speaks the FIFA leader’s native German fluently.

FIFA said in a brief statement that their talks in Sochi, which were not announced in advance, concerned “business related to” the 2018 World Cup.

The three-paragraph FIFA release did not specify if Blatter and Putin discussed the current stalemate in football politics over Crimean clubs.

Blatter reiterated that the Crimea matter “should be overseen by” UEFA, according to FIFA’s account of the Russian trip, which included talks with Mutko and organizing committee CEO Alexey Sorokin.

FIFA’s diplomacy with Russia seems restrained compared with its typically strict enforcement of rules that prohibit government interference in how football federations manage their affairs.

In other cases, FIFA has publicly set deadlines for national governments or courts to withdraw their threats or rulings. If not, FIFA suspends a country’s teams and officials from international matches and meetings until football order is restored.

It is possible that the Russian Football Union acted alone — without government advice — when it announced last month that Crimean clubs SKChF Sevastopol, Tavria Simferopol and Zhemchuzhina Yalta had been added to the Russian third-tier league. The clubs left the Ukrainian league after last season but their transfer to Russia has not been approved by UEFA, which has authority over FIFA on purely European disputes.

When those clubs played their first competitive fixtures last week, in Russian Cup preliminary rounds, Ukrainian football authorities protested to UEFA and FIFA demanding action.

The Crimean clubs issue has been clear since March, when a disputed referendum supported the region’s annexation by the Russian state.

Still, the football problem has lingered beyond the Brazil-hosted World Cup and into the new season with Russia on the clock as upcoming host.

Top Russian clubs have even raised concern UEFA could be forced to suspend them from the Champions League and Europa League.

A solution could be found in Monaco next week when all parties will gather on the sidelines of the Champions League group-stage draw. That draw could include Zenit St. Petersburg, owned by Russian industrial giant Gazprom — a top-tier Champions league sponsor — and which counts Mutko among former presidents.

UEFA has publicly expressed hope that the Russian and Ukrainian federations will find a compromise.

“If they would come up with a joint proposal that would be a very nice signal,” UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino said this month, without suggesting which side might concede ground. “Football sometimes makes miracles.”

Meanwhile, the question of Russia’s World Cup stadiums was on the agenda in Sochi, according to FIFA.

Blatter suggested “a possible reduction in the number of venues for the 2018 FIFA World Cup as well as matters linked to the capacity of the arenas.”

Mutko responded Tuesday, defending the plan agreed with FIFA two years ago.

“The conception, under which 12 stadiums in 11 cities will host World Cup matches, is not being changed,” Mutko said, according to the ITAR-Tass agency. “FIFA recommends 10 stadiums in nine cities, including two arenas in Moscow.”

A final decision might be made when FIFA’s executive committee next meets Sept. 25-26 in Zurich.

The once certainty is that the international mood about a World Cup in Russia has clearly changed since Brazil hosted a better-than-expected World Cup.

The shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet in eastern Ukraine last month, suspected to involve pro-Russian separatists, fueled calls from western lawmakers for FIFA to move the tournament elsewhere.

Blatter has dismissed those calls, and was joined by UEFA President Michel Platini. UEFA must also decide on Sept. 19 whether to choose St. Petersburg as a host for 2020 European Championship matches.

For now, Russia seems too big in world football to fail.

Associated Press.

Ukraine will not host 2015 Euro basketball championship

FIBA Europe, the continental governing body, says on June 13 on Twitter it has FIBA Europe, the continental governing body, says on June 13 on Twitter it has “decided to relocate EuroBasket 2015 from Ukraine to a new destination(s),” without giving further details. © AFP

Europe’s basketball federation says Ukraine has been stripped of the right to host next year’s European men’s championship. The tournament had been in doubt because of the political instability in Ukraine.

Ukraine was stripped of the right to host next year’s European men’s basketball championship on Friday because of the continuing instability in the country.

Three of the planned host cities for the 24-team tournament were located in volatile eastern Ukraine, where government troops are fighting pro-Russian separatists.

Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March, tournament director Markiyan Lubkivsky said that hosting the event was no longer possible, but Ukrainian and European basketball authorities had tried to keep the project alive.

FIBA Europe, the continental governing body, said Friday that its board had now decided the risks were too great.

“The decision was taken after a careful consideration of the continuous political situation and security issues in Ukraine, which deemed as less than favorable for the staging of such an important and demanding event,” the organization said in a statement.

However, FIBA Europe said it will “start negotiations immediately” with Ukraine on hosting the 2017 championship.

A decision on next year’s host will be made by September 30, with “single or multi-country bids” to be submitted by the end of July.

Even before Ukraine lost the hosting rights, France had positioned itself as a leading candidate to stage next year’s championship, submitting a formal bid to FIBA Europe last month.

The decision to move the tournament out of Ukraine was announced three days after Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk hosted FIBA Europe president Turgay Demirel to discuss hosting plans.

Among the planned Ukrainian host cities for the September 2015 tournament were Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk and Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, where militant groups are pushing for closer links with Russia.

Next year’s championship will include two dozen teams from across Europe. France is the reigning champion after beating Lithuania 80-66 in last year’s final in Slovenia.

FIBA Europe also said the 2015 tournament will use an extended knockout system rather than a second group stage, a change that had been due to come into force in 2017.

The Associated Press


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