McGeechan’s Lions XV: Russell, Farrell the 10-12 axis


Sir Ian McGeechan has selected his British and Irish Lions team to face world champions South Africa this summer.
The legendary Lions coach highlights who made the biggest impressions during the first two rounds of the Six Nations as competition for places in Warren Gatland’s squad intensifies…Back three: ‘You need gamebreakers in South Africa’It’s only been two weekends of the Six Nations, but in the back three there are some significant names and there have already been some very good performances in that area. Stuart Hogg scored twice against Wales on Saturday It has to be Stuart Hogg at full-back, he’s in outstanding form and he’s confident. He’s making fewer errors, he’s good under the high ball and I think against South Africa you need players who can break the game up.We know how good a player Elliot Daly is, he’s just not where he was a couple of years ago.I want to mention Liam Williams as well, because I think when he went to full-back at the weekend, it changed the Welsh attack. It helped Louis Rees-Zammit in what he did as we all. I like Williams in the backfield, I think he’s a genuine game-changer. 0:18 Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones says this is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ for Louis Rees-Zammit after his match-winning try against Scotland Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones says this is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ for Louis Rees-Zammit after his match-winning try against Scotland At the moment, I’d have Rees-Zammit on the right wing on form, and the other wing I’d have is Duhan van der Merwe.Then you’ve got the back-up of Anthony Watson who can be a winger or full-back, Williams, and James Lowe who comes into the equation.Warren Gatland’s going to be spoiled for choice in the back three. Duhan van der Merwe evades the tackle of Wales’ Leigh Halfpenny Midfield: ’12 is a position that’s open’Good team performances often highlight good players, but England aren’t firing on all cylinders so some of the players are not showing genuinely how good they are and can be.Henry Slade is a player who I really like watching, I think he’s got a lot of talent, but some of the England players at the moment have struggled a little bit because tactically they haven’t honed everything collectively.So I think Slade is there or thereabouts, but I think Chris Harris on form over the two games should be there at outside centre. Chris Harris hands off Wales’ Owen Watkin in Edinburgh The issue we’ve got is that 12 is a very open position in all the teams. Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose are a settled combination in Ireland, whereas Wales have had disruption through injuries.Nick Tompkins I like, so there are players there who I think can make a statement in the remaining games of the championship, but I would put Owen Farrell at inside centre because I think you also need a goal kicker in a Test team.You’ve got to be prepared to win it by penalties as well as tries, if you need to. Farrell, with his experience, played very well in New Zealand for the Lions at 12 with Johnny Sexton at 10. Owen Farrell switched to inside centre for England’s win over Italy Half-backs: ‘Boks would be scared of a Lions team with Russell’Finn Russell at fly-half, you’ve got to go for him. I think South Africa would be worried if they saw a Lions team with Finn Russell in it.Yes, they may feel they could challenge him and cause issues with his decision-making, but I think he’s matured tremendously since he’s played with Racing 92, and all the messages coming out of the Scotland camp are about how good he’s been in training; talking to other players, getting ideas across and decision-making, which is so important for a 10. Finn Russell is playing his way into Lions contention Go back a few years and there was one Gregor Townsend who did the same.He’s a tremendous passer of the ball and is very good at running support lines and can take the first player on, but it’s the variety of his kicking game that could be so important on the highveld as well as at sea level.Gatland’s got some challenges at scrum-half. Dan Robson coming on actually showed a little bit of buzz and speed for England, and Ireland I think will go back to Conor Murray when he’s fit. Wales are still working out their scrum-half – there was a change almost at half-time which was interesting. Ali Price’s smart kick over the top created Scotland’s first try against Wales Over the last two weeks, I would go with Ali Price. He’s a natural link with Russell and he’s got a good kicking game, but he’s also quick and will have a go at forwards on the front foot. He’s not afraid of attacking the spaces either side of the breakdown.Front row: ‘You can’t be pushed all over the place in South Africa’In South Africa you have to have a good set-piece. Not necessarily dominant, but you can’t afford to be pushed back and be all over the place. You have to have parity at least. Kyle Sinckler has won 44 caps for England since making his debut in 2016 Tadhg Furlong is a player I really like, similarly Andrew Porter, but Kyle Sinckler gets in at tighthead prop for his impact.Sinckler is good with ball in hand, so you’ve got all the bonus of a very good footballer in open play, but technically you’ve got a good tighthead as well.I’ve gone with Wyn Jones at loosehead. I think technically, scrummaging wise, he can be challenged a bit, but given the form of the current props, it was between him and Rory Sutherland. Mako Vunipola needs to be playing games, he’s off the pace at the moment. George Turner outplayed Jamie George at Twickenham, says Sir Ian McGeechan George Turner carried well at the weekend. he tackles well and his game involvement is very high. I’ve been very impressed with him.He was good against England, if not better than Jamie George, and was again very positive against Wales at the weekend so he’s my choice at hooker.Second row: ‘Beirne benefitting from O’Connell’s influence’Alun Wyn Jones is an amazing player. I don’t think he’s the best second row, but for influence alone he’s so important to the Welsh team. Tadhg Beirne celebrates after scoring Ireland’s first try against Wales Along with Jones, you’ve got Jonny Gray, who’s going well with Scotland, and I’ve been impressed with Scott Cummings as well.Obviously James Ryan has been brilliant since breaking onto the scene, and Iain Henderson has been playing well.It’s an area where I think Gatland is going to be spoiled for choice, but for my second row I’ve gone with Tadhg Beirne and Maro Itoje.Itoje gave a lot of penalties away against Scotland which is back to what he was doing a couple of years back, but he was much better against Italy on Saturday. Maro Itoje wears the No 4 jersey in Sir Ian McGeechan’s Lions XV There is a slight question mark over Itoje on form, but I think Beirne has had two good games for Ireland and I think he’s benefitted greatly from having Paul O’Connell on the coaching staff.Back row: ‘You want someone scrambling for the ball’I thought Rhys Ruddock almost put himself in the picture at blindside flanker with the way he performed against France. You need an aggressive one in the back row – CJ Stander, who can play there, has also been playing well. Will Jamie Ritchie be in the Lions’ Test XV against the Springboks? Jamie Ritchie didn’t play at the weekend, but he would be my frontline player. I think Ritchie as a young back rower has a very good presence; he’s physical, he’s big and he’s quick. I’d have Stander on stand-by, he’s been leading the way for Ireland with carries.Hamish Watson is my openside, without a doubt. Over two games he’s been outstanding, and the sort of player you want scrambling around the ball and on the floor against South Africa.I think Tom Curry will be there, I do like him as a seven, and the other one I like is Justin Tipuric, who I think is underestimated in the impact he has. In the last 20 minutes at Murrayfield, he was outstanding. Scotland openside Hamish Watson is McGeechan’s pick in the No 7 jersey Taulupe Faletau is my No 8. I thought he played well at the weekend, and the longer the game went on the better he got.At times he’s been a bit peripheral and not involved, but I thought he was dominant. He had double-figure carries and double-figure tackles against Scotland. That’s what you want from your No 8. Billy Vunipola won’t be far away when it comes to the final measure, but over those two games I think Faletau has been one of the influential players in Wales’ two wins.Sir Ian McGeechan’s Lions XV: 15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland), 14 Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales), 13 Chris Harris (Scotland), 12 Owen Farrell (England), 11 Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland), 10 Finn Russell (Scotland), 9 Ali Price (Scotland), 1 Wyn Jones (Wales), 2 George Turner (Scotland), 3 Kyle Sinckler (England), 4 Maro Itoje (England), 5 Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), 6 Jamie Ritchie (Scotland), 7 Hamish Watson (Scotland), 8 Taulupe Faletau (Wales).

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Watson withdraws ‘poor’ criticism of Fagerson red


Hamish Watson described the decision to send off Zander Fagerson for a tackle on Alun Wyn Jones at a ruck as “absolutely dreadful”; the flanker changed his stance on Monday, explaining his “emotions were very high” after Scotland’s loss to Wales

By PA Media
Last Updated: 15/02/21 12:28pm

Hamish Watson says his original comments on Zander Fagerson’s sending off were made when “emotions were very high”

Hamish Watson has described his comments about Scotland team-mate Zander Fagerson’s sending off against Wales as “poor”.
Prop Fagerson was dismissed by referee Matthew Carley 13 minutes into the second half of Saturday’s Six Nations contest at Murrayfield, which Scotland lost 25-24.The decision came after Fagerson had made a shoulder-led challenge into Alun Wyn Jones at a ruck. After the match, Scotland flanker Watson said the call was “rubbish”, “absolutely dreadful” and “not rugby”.On Monday, replying to a tweet featuring a video of him making the remarks, Watson said: “Poor comments from me, emotions were very high after losing a very tight match. Players’ health is paramount.”A week on from their victory over England, Scotland led Wales 17-8 at the interval before things turned around in the second half. Fagerson leaves the field after being shown a red card against Wales When asked after the match about Fagerson and his red card, Watson said: “That was a rubbish call. An absolutely dreadful call. That’s not rugby, that call.”Zander is absolutely fine. We’ve already got round him. He’s a great player and a big part of everything we do with Scotland. He can hold his head high, I think.”We lost that game in the last 10 minutes of the first half and the first 10 of the second. We lost that game when we had 15 on the field. ‘Z’ has nothing to worry about.”He added: “I haven’t heard the comms from the TV but I’ve heard from other people that the TMO said it wasn’t a red, then the ref has overruled him.”The ref has the right to do that if he thinks that’s the right call. We as players strongly disagree with that call. As soon as I saw it on the TV, I was thinking, ‘That’s not even a penalty’.”There’s not much else we can say. We don’t think it’s a red, a yellow or even a penalty. But that’s the way the game is going.”Hogg: We’ll learn from ill-disciplineSkipper Stuart Hogg has vowed there will be no repeat of the ill-discipline that cost Scotland against Wales. Skipper Stuart Hogg was disappointed with the manner of Scotland’s 25-24 defeat to Wales Gregor Townsend’s team conceded a mere six penalties as they recorded their first victory at Twickenham in 37 years in their championship opener.But they almost doubled that tally against the Welsh, allowing Wayne Pivac’s side far too many opportunities to apply pressure. Hogg said: “It’s little things that are costing us. But the pleasing thing is we know exactly where we’re going wrong – there’s been times in the past where we’ve made mistakes and keep making them, whereas now I believe that’s a one-off in our ill-discipline.”We’ll be much better prepared for the France game in two weeks in terms of our discipline and we’ll get excited for that challenge.”

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Negri apologises for inflicting injury on WIllis


Jack Willis left the field on a medical cart shortly after scoring a try in his first Six Nations appearance; Sebastian Negri sorry after his ‘crocodile roll’ that could have ended Willis’ Six Nations campaign

Last Updated: 14/02/21 2:07pm

Jack Willis is treated after picking up a nasty-looking injury

Italy flanker Sebastian Negri has apologised after his ‘crocodile roll’ left Jack Willis facing the prospect of a long spell on the sidelines.
Willis had to be driven from the Twickenham pitch on a motorised cart after suffering an agonising knee injury in the final quarter of England’s 41-18 Guinness Six Nations victory.The Wasps player, who moments earlier had scored the fifth of his team’s six tries, cried out in agony after his left leg buckled sickeningly as he was pulled out of the ruck by Negri. A quick message to Jack Willis. So sorry about what happened yesterday. Just Horrible and never nice to see. Myself and all the @Federugby boys are wishing you all the best🙏🏼I hope to see you back on the field again soon. Take care and we all know you will be back stronger💪🏼 Seb pic.twitter.com/wCYisXxllp— Sebastian Negri (@slnegri04) February 14, 2021 Crocodile rolls are permitted by referees as long as they are not around the neck and while there was no act of foul play by Negri, they are a dangerous and controversial technique.”A quick message to Jack Willis. So sorry about what happened yesterday,” Negri said on Twitter.”Just Horrible and never nice to see. Myself and all the @Federugby boys are wishing you all the best. I hope to see you back on the field again soon. Take care and we all know you will be back stronger. Seb” 1:05 A stunning try from Jonny May is the highlight of England’s 41-18 win over Italy in the Six Nations (pictures ITV Sport). A stunning try from Jonny May is the highlight of England’s 41-18 win over Italy in the Six Nations (pictures ITV Sport). Willis is undergoing scans to assess the extent of the damage and it is a bitter blow to a destructive flanker who broke into the England team last autumn having battled back from previous knee and ankle issues. “It’s one of those, it’s quite emotional,” said Willis’ head coach at Wasps Lee Blackett, who has had a text conversation with the 24-year-old back row.”We have seen Jack, for the last few years, come back from his last one, just on the verge of England, then gets himself in this time, and it looked a nasty one. We’ll know more come today (Sunday).” Win £250,000 with Super 6! Do not miss your chance to land the £250,000 in Saturday’s Super 6 round. Play for free, entries by 3:00pm.

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Kolisi’s Stormers departure confirmed


Siya Kolisi captained South Africa to the World Cup title in Japan in November 2019; the flanker has represented the Stormers in 118 Super Rugby games, second behind Schalk Burger (123) in the franchise’s all-time list

By Reuters
Last Updated: 14/02/21 1:21pm

Siya Kolisi is the Stormers’ second-most capped player of all time

World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi has ended his 11-year stay with South Africa’s Stormers and is expected to be unveiled by the Durban-based Sharks in the coming week.
The move has long been mooted, with Western Province Rugby confirming on Sunday they had released Kolisi early from his contract, which was due to expire at the end of October, having accepted a transfer fee from an unnamed team.The loose forward is the second-most capped player for the team in Super Rugby with 118 appearances, just behind Schalk Burger (123), though the Cape Town-based side and the Sharks will compete in Europe’s PRO14 competition from 2021. Kolisi, 29, captained the Springboks to their 2019 Rugby World Cup triumph and is a hugely popular figure in the country with a rags-to-riches story.His move to Durban follows the acquisition in January of a 51 per cent stake in the Sharks by a United States consortium, MVM Holdings, that is headed by South African-born New York attorney Marco Masotti. Erasmus: SA don’t want to lose out on Lions seriesSouth Africa’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus insists the Springboks will do whatever it takes to make the British & Irish Lions series happen.The coronavirus pandemic has placed the tour’s original schedule in doubt, with three contingency plans being looked at if, as expected, it fails to take place in full stadiums in South Africa.The options being examined are to postpone it until next year, host it in the UK and Ireland or keep the existing itinerary but stage the matches behind closed doors.Erasmus, the Springboks’ 2019 World Cup-winning coach, is open to all eventualities as long as the event actually takes place. Rassie Erasmus says the Springboks are prepared to go to “option Z” to make the Lions tour happen “We desperately want to play the Lions, and we will do anything to play them,” he told an online press conference last month.”This series only comes around every 12 years. I have heard the different calls and opinions about the tour, and although we didn’t play in the Rugby Championship because of player welfare, it was also because we knew there was this big series in 2021.”If option one of playing in South Africa doesn’t work out, we will go to option Z to make it happen.”We don’t want to lose out on the Lions series, we feel we deserve to play against them. I want to, (head coach) Jacques Nienaber wants to, the players want to. So from our side, we’ll do anything. “But, yes, we will explore any option to play the Lions – we will play next year, we will play over there. This is the view from a player and management perspective.”Talks among the Lions’ eight-man board are ongoing and a decision will be made this month.

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Pivac: Improved Wales discipline needed to down Scots


Wales head coach Wayne Pivac: “We’ve got to make sure our discipline is improving. When we played them last time, we were inaccurate in the set-piece and our discipline wasn’t there. We will continue to talk about that until game-day”

By PA Media
Last Updated: 11/02/21 11:29pm

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac has targeted improved discipline to boost their chances of defeating Scotland

Wayne Pivac says that improved discipline is essential for Wales in Saturday’s Six Nations clash against Scotland.
Wales will arrive at Murrayfield without a quarter of Pivac’s original 36-man Six Nations squad, as eight players are sidelined by injuries and wing Josh Adams is suspended.Three of the absentees – George North, Johnny Williams and Jonathan Davies – are in midfield, while Pivac has also lost a trio of back-row forwards, with Dan Lydiate, Josh Navidi and Josh Macleod all out. It suggests a backs-to-the-wall mission for Wales at Murrayfield, where both sides are seeking to build on opening weekend Six Nations victories.They last met just over three months ago in a delayed 2020 Six Nations encounter that saw Scotland claim a first win on Welsh soil for 18 years.”We’ve got to make sure our discipline is improving,” Wales head coach Pivac said.”When we played them last time, we were inaccurate in the set-piece and our discipline wasn’t there. 0:30 Wayne Pivac believes Wales can improve in a number of areas despite his side getting their Six Nations campaign off to a winning start against Ireland Wayne Pivac believes Wales can improve in a number of areas despite his side getting their Six Nations campaign off to a winning start against Ireland “We allowed them too much possession and territory as a result, and ended up losing the game 14-10.”On the weekend [when Scotland beat England at Twickenham], they showed they and hold the ball for long periods of time and England, who didn’t have the best discipline, paid the ultimate price.”Discipline and set piece are the key. We will continue to talk about that until game-day.”Wales’ 21-16 victory over Ireland last Sunday was easily the most significant of Pivac’s reign, and if they can repeat the feat in Edinburgh, it would set them up for a full-scale tilt at England on February 27.They have also beaten Scotland 16 times in the countries’ last 19 meetings, and Pivac added: “After a game like Ireland, which was always going to be physical, we know this is going to be a big game in this Six Nations for us. 0:23 Wales coach Wayne Pivac called Josh Macleod’s injury the ‘most disappointing’ after the Scarlets flanker, who was set to make his Test debut, ruptured his Achilles tendon in training Wales coach Wayne Pivac called Josh Macleod’s injury the ‘most disappointing’ after the Scarlets flanker, who was set to make his Test debut, ruptured his Achilles tendon in training “The guys know they are going to have a tough day at the office, regardless of these injuries.”These players have been selected, and whichever XV or 23 we put out, we know we are going to have our hands full.”We know it is a very important game in this campaign for both sides. You would expect both sides to put out a pretty big effort. “He [Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend] has got a good group of players there who are playing for each other, you can see that, and they will relish the position they are in.”They seem to be going from strength to strength. It is certainly something that we are looking to achieve ourselves, so it is going to be an interesting game.”

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Vunipola ‘good to go’ for Italy game


Mako Vunipola is in contention for England’s Six Nations game with Italy after recovering from an Achilles injury; Vunipola: “I have been training with the staff here but with Saracens before that and I am happy with how I have recovered. The Achilles is good to go.”

By PA Media
Last Updated: 10/02/21 8:46pm

0:35

Mako Vunipola says Owen Farrell is a leader who ‘sets the standard’ for his team-mates after the England captain was one of a number of players blamed for the defeat against Scotland

Mako Vunipola says Owen Farrell is a leader who ‘sets the standard’ for his team-mates after the England captain was one of a number of players blamed for the defeat against Scotland

Mako Vunipola has declared himself fit and ready to go with England’s options at prop given a much-needed boost before Saturday’s visit of Italy.
Rehabilitation on an Achilles injury saw the 30-year-old miss last weekend’s 11-6 defeat against Scotland in their Six Nations opener, and tighthead Kyle Sinckler will also be back after he sat out the reverse due to suspension.With Joe Marler not available for this year’s tournament, Eddie Jones started Ellis Genge and Will Stuart at prop and called upon the previously uncapped Beno Obano from the bench at Twickenham, but the returning wealth of experience will provide a welcome lift. Vunipola said: “I have been training with the staff here but with Saracens before that and I am happy with how I have recovered. The Achilles is good to go.”I trained fully by the end of last week and in terms of match fitness still obviously a bit to get there, but I feel fit and ready to go out there if called upon.” Mako Vunipola missed England’s defeat to Scotland with an Achilles injury An inquest into England’s first defeat to Scotland at Twickenham in 38 years started straight after the full-time whistle.Several of Vunipola’s Saracens team-mates were selected in the XV despite not playing any club rugby between the Autumn Nations Cup Final against France on December 6 and the Six Nations opener two months later.But he added: “In terms of match rustiness, you will always have that in the first game, but it is a case of those boys at the weekend know their role and know how to get themselves into the right place to play. I feel like they did that, I don’t think that is much of an issue really.”The resounding judgement following Saturday’s ultimately historic clash was Scotland were the better team and Vunipola, who watched from the stands, agreed.”We didn’t perform anywhere near where we need to be,” he said.Brother Billy was sin-binned during the first half and took responsibility for the result post-match, but will not get any special treatment from his sibling.Quizzed on what the younger Vunipola may need this week, the loosehead prop replied: “Probably more arm on the shoulder here and there. I guess his wife is there to do that for him and my job is to give him a little prod.” 0:34 Eddie Jones took responsibility for England’s Six Nations defeat to Scotland at Twickenham Eddie Jones took responsibility for England’s Six Nations defeat to Scotland at Twickenham Described as the “elder statesman” by head coach Jones, the 63-capped forward insisted he would lead by example in the build-up to the Italy match.Over the Achilles issue which flared up in the win over Wales in November, Vunipola is ready to help the pack get back to their usual dominance.”I have always looked like the elder statesman in the squad anyway,” he joked. “But the age profile of the team is a lot younger than where it was when I first came into the team.”Naturally the more experience you get, you take it and understand what is expected of you as a player and what you need individually to get right.”The only way you can respond is by playing better, but we have spoken about the weekend and addressed what we needed to. I think for us the key for us is how we bounce back.”In terms of preparation for this week, we made a point that we can’t be hung up on it too much. You can’t get too low when you lose and you can’t get too high when you win.”We have spoke about how a big performance is not that far away, not miles away. There are obviously things we need to improve but for us as a pack of forwards we are very lucky we have an opportunity this weekend against a good Italian side.”It is all about getting our stuff right and hopefully the performance will take care of itself.”Now aged 30, Vunipola’s importance to England remains as high as ever and assistant coach Matt Proudfoot backed him to galvanise his team-mates as Jones’ side look to get their title defence back on track.”I am really confident he is fully match fit to be able to lead the pack in intensity if selected,” the 49-year-old, who recovered from coronavirus recently, said. “He has such a vast skill set. It is not just he is a dominant prop, he is a dominant player.”Particularly at set-piece time, he brings an intensity which galvanises the rest of the team and he is prepared to lead from the front which ties the pack together and that is really important.”

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Aston Martin reveal target vs ‘formidable’ rivals


Can Aston Martin beat Ferrari and McLaren in first season back in Formula 1? That’s the target, says team boss Otmar Szafnauer in exclusive interview before 2021 season with Sky Sports; Watch full interview below

By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 10/02/21 6:27pm

Aston Martin boss Otmar Szafnauer says the newly-rebranded team are targeting a coveted third in the championship this season but are wary of their “formidable” rivals – as well as 2021’s “significant” car changes.After morphing from Racing Point into Aston Martin – marking the famous British car brand’s return to the F1 grid for the first time in 61 years – the team have lofty ambitions, particularly after signing four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel to partner Lance Stroll. Szafnauer has previously revealed intent to become a “top team”, but in their first season as Aston Martin the Silverstone outfit are aiming for an achievement they narrowly missed out in 2020 – third place and F1’s top ‘midfield’ runner.”It will be the target for us,” Szafnauer told Sky Sports’ Craig Slater in an exclusive interview. “But I don’t think it will be easy – we’ve got some formidable competitors there.”Aston Martin’s team principal named two major threats in particular; historically F1’s most successful teams. One which is rebuilding after a well below-par season, and another that pipped Racing Point to third at 2020’s last race.”Ferrari, for sure, will work hard over the winter to do better than they did last year,” added Szafnauer. “McLaren get a new [Mercedes] power train, the same one that we have and I’m sure they did that for reasons of competitiveness. “And there’s some driver movements as well, so we’ll see how all that pans out. So there are some differences.”Szafnauer also said the 2021 changes to the car – which aren’t as drastic as previous seasons but are still leading to major re-designs – could make a big difference to the pecking order.”They took out big chunks of the floor for us to lose downforce, and depending on how the teams claw that downforce back, that’ll have a big impact.”How similar will the Aston Martin car be to Racing Point’s?Racing Point made headlines last season, and were even penalised, for designing their 2020 car – and more specifically the brake ducts – too similarly to the 2019 Mercedes, F1’s world champions and their engine-suppliers.Szafnauer said of Aston Martin’s 2021 car: “From a philosophy standpoint, running a low-rake car, that stays the same.”[But there are] significant aerodynamic changes – and because of that we had to redevelop the whole thing.” He also revealed that the team had designed a new chassis despite the carry-over from 2020. “This is the first time that a carry-over car has had many of its parts new,” he stated. “Although the philosophy is carry-over, we will still have a lot of new parts on the car, a lot of aerodynamic development and even a new chassis for us as well.”Although the car will be similar to last year, it’s predominantly new.”

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Ireland call up Leinster’s Conan


Jack Conan will strengthen Andy Farrell’s back-row options after Peter O’Mahony was sent off in Sunday’s 21-16 loss to Wales; O’Mahony faces a potential lengthy ban and will learn his fate at a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday

By PA Media
Last Updated: 09/02/21 11:34am

Jack Conan has not featured for Ireland since the 2019 World Cup

Leinster forward Jack Conan has been added to Ireland’s Six Nations squad ahead of Sunday’s clash with France, the Irish Rugby Football Union have announced.
The 28-year-old, who has earned 17 Test caps but not played since the 2019 World Cup, will strengthen Andy Farrell’s back-row options after Peter O’Mahony was sent off in Sunday’s loss to Wales.Flanker O’Mahony was dismissed for a reckless shoulder-led hit to the head of Wales prop Tomas Francis and will discover his fate at a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday afternoon. 0:29 Johnny Sexton says he is confident Ireland can fix the issues that cost them in their Six Nations opener on Sunday before they host France Johnny Sexton says he is confident Ireland can fix the issues that cost them in their Six Nations opener on Sunday before they host France Uncapped Munster back row Gavin Coombes has been released from Farrell’s squad to return to training with his province. Prop Ed Byrne, who provided additional front-row cover for the trip to the Principality Stadium, has remained with the national team, as has his uncapped Leinster team-mate Ryan Baird.Ireland captain Johnny Sexton and lock James Ryan will go through return-to-play protocols after suffering head knocks during the 21-16 loss in Cardiff.

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Wigan close training ground after positive Covid tests


Leeds and Huddersfield had previously closed their training facilities following positive tests, but both have since re-opened; following the latest round of testing on Monday morning, Warriors’ Robin Park Arena training ground will be closed for 10 days

By PA Media
Last Updated: 08/02/21 9:46pm

Wigan Warriors are the latest team to be hit by coronavirus

Wigan have become the third Super League club to close their training ground following a number of positive Covid-19 tests. 
Leeds and Huddersfield had previously closed their training facilities following positive tests, but both have since re-opened.Following the latest round of testing on Monday morning, Warriors’ Robin Park Arena training ground will be closed for 10 days.
Those who tested positive will self-isolate at home for a minimum of 10 days as per government guidelines and the club say Public Health England has been informed.Further testing has been planned for February 12 and 17 before a decision will be made by the Rugby Football League’s Multiple Cases Group as to whether the squad can resume training.On January 21, Leeds announced they would close their facilities for five days as a “fire break” after six players and a member of staff tested positive in the previous 10 days, with those affected having to produce a negative test before their return. Huddersfield followed suit the same day after reporting several positive cases at their own training facility.The start of the 2021 Betfred Super League season has been put back two weeks to March 25 due to lockdown restrictions.

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Hamilton’s new deal: Why only one year?


Why only a one-year deal for Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes and does that mean he could retire from F1 at the end of 2021? Team principal Toto Wolff answers the key questions after the world champion’s new deal is finally confirmed

By James Galloway
Last Updated: 08/02/21 6:53pm

1:35

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff insists ‘there was never a moment’ where the team believed Lewis Hamilton would not sign a new deal after he signed a one-year contract for the 2021 season

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff insists ‘there was never a moment’ where the team believed Lewis Hamilton would not sign a new deal after he signed a one-year contract for the 2021 season

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has explained why they have only agreed a one-year contract extension with Lewis Hamilton.
A deal for seven-time champion Hamilton to continue with Mercedes into a ninth season was finally announced on Monday, but its short-term nature caused surprise.Formal talks over video conferencing between Hamilton and Wolff only began in the week of Christmas and, with the world champion’s old deal lapsing at the start of 2021, the need to get an agreement in place for at least the new season quickly became imperative. “We jointly agreed on a one-year deal,” said Wolff, Mercedes’ F1 team principal and co-owner, in a virtual press conference after the deal was announced.”First of all there is a substantial regulation change in 2022. We also want to see how the world develops, and the company. 4:31 Craig Slater answers some of the key questions surrounding the news that Lewis Hamilton has signed a new one-year contract at Mercedes Craig Slater answers some of the key questions surrounding the news that Lewis Hamilton has signed a new one-year contract at Mercedes “On the other side, because we kept it very late… it was important to get it done as soon as possible. In that respect we thought let’s postpone the discussion about 2022 and onwards until a later stage in 2021.”Despite all manner of speculation in recent weeks about supposed aspects of the contract negotiations, Wolff insisted “the money topic wasn’t the sticking point” and that ultimately “it was more about ‘let us get going quickly for 2021′”.The Mercedes team principal also rubbished suggestions Hamilton had asked for a so-called ‘Verstappen clause’ – an effective veto on future team-mates beyond 2021.Expanding on the reasons for wanting more time to talk about 2022 and beyond, Wolff said: “There are uncertainties in the world that affect the way the sport can operate that have an influence on our revenue, on TV monies, on sponsorship income.”Daimler and Mercedes are in a huge transformation towards electric mobility and that means investment, So we are living in a financial reality different from what it was a few years ago.”But having said that, we are totally in line, Lewis and me, the wider group and Mercedes, about the situation. So there was never any discrepancy in opinion.”Could Hamilton retire at the end of 2021? 4:31 Craig Slater answers some of the key questions surrounding the news that Lewis Hamilton has signed a new one-year contract at Mercedes Craig Slater answers some of the key questions surrounding the news that Lewis Hamilton has signed a new one-year contract at Mercedes Although Hamilton has committed to a 15th season of Formula 1 and the pursuit of a record-breaking eighth world title this year, his medium-term future in the sport remains unresolved by Monday’s announcement.Hamilton said at the end of last year he was not yet certain how long he wanted to continue racing. But Wolff believes the 36-year-old can easily continue beyond this year.”As long as he enjoys racing, I think he’s very capable of going longer,” said Wolff.”He develops as a driver he looks after himself in terms of physical training and mental preparation, so I don’t think in terms of ability that ends in 2021. But at the end it’s his decision.”Wolff said they would enter into talks about 2022 “much earlier” than was the case last year. He reiterated while “Lewis needs to decide what his future holds for him”, Mercedes also needed to think about their long-term driver options.Valtteri Bottas is also on a one-year deal, while highly-regarded protege George Russell, whose career is managed by Mercedes, is in the final year of a three-year term at Williams “Valtteri and Lewis have our 100 per cent commitment and loyalty for 2021, we will support them with everything we have,” explained Wolff.”We will then look beyond this year and say: ‘what is the line-up that we imagine in 2022 and onwards?’ “Our first discussions are going to be with Valtteri and Lewis in respecting our values of loyalty and integrity but on the other side the young drivers are the future and therefore we need to consider how we want to set ourselves up for the years beyond.”If he was not already in contention before then, Russell firmly put himself in the shop window for 2022 after a starring role in Hamilton’s place at December’s Sakhir GP after the world champion contracted coronavirus.

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