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Allan Saint-Maximin can count on Callum Wilson to be his supporting act at Newcastle

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allan saint maximin can count on callum wilson to be his supporting act at newcastle

Newcastle United were a one-man headband last season.

At least this time around Allan Saint-Maximin looks like having Callum Wilson as a supporting act.

But there is still no doubting the star attraction. When Saint-Maximin is on song it does not matter if others are out of tune.

Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin are forming quite the double act in Newcastle

Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin are forming quite the double act in Newcastle

Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin are forming quite the double act in Newcastle

Saint-Maximin remains the star of the show for Steve Bruce's side and he dazzled once again

Saint-Maximin remains the star of the show for Steve Bruce's side and he dazzled once again

Saint-Maximin remains the star of the show for Steve Bruce’s side and he dazzled once again

Since the winger’s £16.5million arrival from Nice last summer Steve Bruce’s side have played 15 Premier League games without him in the starting XI and won only one.

With him in the team their record reads 12 victories from 26.

The numbers tell you the difference he makes but your eyes alone are evidence enough.

It is as if he is quicker with the ball than without it, the speed dial pushing back its boundary amid the incentive of a goal.

But there have been plenty of quick footballers who go nowhere fast.

That is the difference with Saint-Maximin — there is an end product.

The two combined to great effect on Saturday night in the comprehensive win over Burnley

The two combined to great effect on Saturday night in the comprehensive win over Burnley

The two combined to great effect on Saturday night in the comprehensive win over Burnley

Bruce says his skills are ‘as good as I’ve worked with’ and he admits other clubs will be watching him.

And watch him was all Sean Dyche’s sorry Burnley could do on Saturday night at St James’ Park.

Their defence retreated with such panic and haste that you half expected they could end up in the low rows of the Leazes End when Saint-Maximin drove at them for his opening goal on 14 minutes. Again, he had the finish to match the flourish.

But more impressive was the manner in which he responded after Burnley equalised through Ashley Westwood’s fine volley just after the hour.

It again involved running fast and in doing so he made visiting left back Charlie Taylor look very slow. The subsequent cross, however, was not easy to execute.

But Saint-Maximin made it look so, firing it along the six-yard line and allowing Wilson to tap in.

Saint-Maximin's pace is frightening and means he's one of most lethal wingers in the league

Saint-Maximin's pace is frightening and means he's one of most lethal wingers in the league

Saint-Maximin’s pace is frightening and means he’s one of most lethal wingers in the league

Bruce spent the day before the game arguing with reporters over his tactical approach, trying to answer the question supporters are asking — what is it?

But in Saint-Maximin he has a player who can render tactics redundant, be that your own or those of the opposition.

As long as Bruce picks him — and his team-mates pass to him — it is a strategy that will press pause on the wider debate of style and direction.

After Ryan Fraser was taken out by Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope while trying to put the game beyond doubt, Wilson netted his fourth of the season from the penalty spot to seal victory, becoming the first Newcastle player since Les Ferdinand 25 years ago to score four in his first four Premier League appearances for the club.

Newcastle do not boast the stars of that era but they have one in Saint-Maximin capable of carrying the Entertainer tag all on his own.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Chris Robshaw was among 12 Barbarians players to ignore Covid rules ahead of England game

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chris robshaw was among 12 barbarians players to ignore covid rules ahead of england game

Chris Robshaw’s farewell appearance against England at Twickenham on Sunday is off after the former national captain was among a group of Barbarians players to breach Covid protocols.

The RFU revealed on Thursday night that an urgent review is under way to decide if England’s first fixture since lockdown can take place after 12 of the visitors’ squad left their London hotel without permission for dinner in a nearby restaurant.

Sportsmail understands that 34-year-old flanker Robshaw, who was due to appear at HQ before a move to the USA to play for San Diego, was among the dozen diners along with ex-England teammate Richard Wigglesworth.  

Chris Robshaw is said to be one of 12 Barbarians who broke Covid rules in London this week

Chris Robshaw is said to be one of 12 Barbarians who broke Covid rules in London this week

Chris Robshaw is said to be one of 12 Barbarians who broke Covid rules in London this week

England are due to face the Barbarians on Sunday but the match is in danger of being called off

England are due to face the Barbarians on Sunday but the match is in danger of being called off

England are due to face the Barbarians on Sunday but the match is in danger of being called off

Sources also indicated that rookie Bath back Tom De Glanville, who was released by England head coach Eddie Jones to play for the Barbarians, claimed that he had not left the hotel, but was identified by CCTV footage as being one of those who ventured out.  

When the RFU revealed outline details of this incident, there was widespread speculation about heavy drinking but Sportsmail has been told that the players merely went for dinner and were back in the hotel by 10pm.

However, an RFU security guard informed them they had breached guidelines and kept them away from team-mates and staff.

On Thursday, the union’s head of discipline, David Barnes attended the Barbarians’ base, the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane, to take statements from all those concerned.

It is understood that new England prop Simon Kerrod and a large Fijian contingent did not leave the hotel — where the ballroom has been turned into a squad games and dining room.

Former England captain Robshaw was set to make farewell appearance at Twickenham

Former England captain Robshaw was set to make farewell appearance at Twickenham

Former England captain Robshaw was set to make farewell appearance at Twickenham

If it is confirmed on Friday that Robshaw has been withdrawn from the match it will see him denied a fitting send-off at the national stadium, having captained his country 43 times. 

Initial concerns that the non-cap game may have to be called off appeared to be receding on Thursday night as it is thought that the Barbarians have lined up replacements for most of the 12 players who will be stood down.

They have until 3pm on Friday to confirm they will be able to field a Covid-safe side.

Nevertheless, this is an embarrassing episode, as the RFU made clear. Their statement read: ‘Barbarian FC have expressed their extreme disappointment in the conduct of the players involved and have taken all necessary steps to ensure the safety of the players and staff within the bubble.’ 

It is thought Barbarians have lined up replacements for most of the 12 players to face England

It is thought Barbarians have lined up replacements for most of the 12 players to face England

It is thought Barbarians have lined up replacements for most of the 12 players to face England

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Lionel Messi hopes Cristiano Ronaldo will be able to play for Juventus in Champions League clash

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lionel messi hopes cristiano ronaldo will be able to play for juventus in champions league clash

Lionel Messi is hopeful his old foe Cristiano Ronaldo will be able to take part in Barcelona‘s Champions League clash against Juventus despite testing positive for coronavirus.

The 35-year-old forward has so often lead the way for the Turin giants and continued to defy his age, but may be absent from the mouthwatering clash due to returning a second positive test for the disease. 

Juventus are scrambling to ensure that Ronaldo will be available for selection should one final test come back negative – and Messi also appears keen to face off against him again in another ‘special’ match-up. 

Lionel Messi hopes Cristiano Ronaldo will be available for Juventus' clash against Barcelona

Lionel Messi hopes Cristiano Ronaldo will be available for Juventus' clash against Barcelona

Lionel Messi hopes Cristiano Ronaldo will be available for Juventus’ clash against Barcelona

The two historic rivals may meet again next week depending on Ronaldo's battle with Covid-19

The two historic rivals may meet again next week depending on Ronaldo's battle with Covid-19

The two historic rivals may meet again next week depending on Ronaldo’s battle with Covid-19

He told DAZN: ‘Obviously when Cristiano played for Real Madrid the games were special. Matches against them always are [special], but with Cristiano on the pitch they took on a particular significance.’ 

Ronaldo was doubtful despite initially contracting the virus while on international duty on October 13.

He immediately began a mandatory period of quarantine, and was forced to miss Juventus’ fixtures against Crotone and Dynamo Kiev while completing the quarantine.

Ronaldo has been forced into self-isolation after testing positive while on international duty

Ronaldo has been forced into self-isolation after testing positive while on international duty

Ronaldo has been forced into self-isolation after testing positive while on international duty

Andrea Pirlo’s side host Barcelona next Wednesday, and Ronaldo took a second test in the hope that he would be cleared to return and add another thrilling chapter to his encounters with Messi.

The former Manchester United man soon discovered he still had Covid-19, however, placing his spot in the game in serious jeopardy.

When questioned over his rivalry with Ronaldo during his trophy-laden days in Madrid, Messi added: ‘That is now in the past and we look forward to today’s challenges. 

‘Wednesday there could be this challenge and we hope Cristiano can be there and will soon recover from Covid. 

Messi and Ronaldo have not faced off in the Champions League since the 2011/12 campaign

Messi and Ronaldo have not faced off in the Champions League since the 2011/12 campaign

Messi and Ronaldo have not faced off in the Champions League since the 2011/12 campaign

‘The ones with Cristiano were and are a special duel which will remain forever. They last many years and it is not easy to maintain those levels for such a long time.

Our teams were also very demanding: Real Madrid and Barcelona, the two strongest clubs in the world.

‘Competing as equals for so many years is something that will remain forever. The duel between me and Cristiano was very good on a personal level and I think people enjoyed it.

‘The fans of Real, Barca, but in general all football fans, have seen a great show. We hope to give them even more emotions [on Wednesday].’ 

Both players have won 11 Ballon d'Or awards between them although Messi leads with six

Both players have won 11 Ballon d'Or awards between them although Messi leads with six

Both players have won 11 Ballon d’Or awards between them although Messi leads with six

The fierce debate over which of the two superstars can claim the title of the best player in the world, and perhaps in history, continues to rage on.

Both have won 11 Ballon d’Or awards between them, although Messi narrowly leads the way with a record amount of six. 

Juventus are hoping UEFA will grant them permission to test Ronaldo once again 48 hours before the European tie. The organisation’s protocols means that the player should have tested negative a week before the game in order to take part.

But his club have filed a medical report to UEFA that argues Ronaldo’s test showed a low viral load which, provided his test result on Friday is negative, should allow him to play.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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England can wait for Exeter’s Big Chief! Rob Baxter has his sights set on an Exeter dynasty

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england can wait for exeters big chief rob baxter has his sights set on an exeter dynasty

For a decade now Rob Baxter has been Exeter’s undisputed Big Chief. As he showers his club with gold, collecting the most coveted prizes on offer, the question quickly becomes: what is next?

If Exeter beat Wasps on Saturday and add a second Premiership to a first European Cup won last week, would Baxter’s task of turning also-rans to the continent’s top club be complete?

And then would he look to test himself at the highest level with England?  

Richard Baxter and Rob Baxter (right) in action together for Exeter back in 2003

Richard Baxter and Rob Baxter (right) in action together for Exeter back in 2003

Richard Baxter and Rob Baxter (right) in action together for Exeter back in 2003

BAXTER BOYS

JOHN BAXTER 

Age: 76 Position: Lock 

Played for Exeter in the 1960s, helped recruit financier and now-chairman Tony Rowe in 1992, before becoming chairman and director.

ROB BAXTER 

Age: 49 Position: Lock

Played at Exeter between 1987 and 2005, and was captain for a decade before becoming a coach. Made head coach in 2009 and won Chiefs promotion to the Premiership in 2010, their first title in 2017 and first European Cup last weekend.

RICHIE BAXTER 

Age: 42 Position: No 8

Made senior debut in Division 2 in 1997 before retiring in 2013 a Premiership player. Holds the record of Chiefs appearances with 431.

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‘Right here and now, no,’ comes the definitive reply from the man himself.

Why?

‘Because I’m happy here,’ the 49-year-old adds.

And in three years’ time, when Eddie Jones has left?

‘Well, it would depend if I’m happy here,’ Baxter offers with a grin.

Question answered, for now.

This is not a matter of desire, though – far from it, according to his family.

‘I look at the ambition he has shown with Exeter,’ says his younger brother Richie, 42, who played a record 431 times at No 8 for the Chiefs.

‘And you think quite possibly that ambition would be there to go further on with England, if asked.

‘What he has achieved at Exeter, you need to be an ambitious person to do those kind of things.’ The Baxter family is the golden thread through Exeter’s journey.

Between Richie, Rob and their father John, now 76, the Baxters have played more than 1,000 games for the club stretching back 50 years – not counting the hundreds Rob has coached since taking charge in 2009.

Normally Exeter matches are a family reunion. Father John and mother Roberta, 73, come with Richie and his family, Rob’s wife Jo and their children.

But this time the celebrations after the European Cup win took place in Covid-safe pockets down on the 300-acre farm outside Exeter where all three families still live.

Richard Baxter (left) and Rob Baxter celebrate promotion to the Premiership in 2010

Richard Baxter (left) and Rob Baxter celebrate promotion to the Premiership in 2010

Richard Baxter (left) and Rob Baxter celebrate promotion to the Premiership in 2010

A ‘chinwag’ outside was all Rob could manage with his parents – who still work the farm themselves – although he did enjoy a few drinks with Jo.

‘We had a bit of a giggle, did a few silly things as you do,’ smiles Rob.

‘We managed to sing along to a few songs that we probably shouldn’t have sung along to. I can’t say what ones! It’s too embarrassing.’ Richie, who has heard his brother sing plenty of them first-hand chimes in: ‘He loves the karaoke!’ So did the younger sibling toast his brother with champagne?

‘Well, you’ll know it was a glass of cider!’ Richie quickly corrects.

‘I did have a couple to celebrate the win, but life has to go on. You’ve got to get on with things, especially on a farm.’ Cracking on is engrained on the Baxter psyche.

On Sunday morning Richie was back tending to his 500 sheep and 80 bullocks, which among other things provide chops and steaks for Burrows farm shop in town, before coaching his sons at Crediton RFC.

John Baxter (left) collects an award in recognition of his loyalty to Exeter Rugby Club

John Baxter (left) collects an award in recognition of his loyalty to Exeter Rugby Club

John Baxter (left) collects an award in recognition of his loyalty to Exeter Rugby Club

And Rob was already onto new challenges. Beyond Saturday’s match he has a lot to ponder.

Next year handfuls of his Chiefs will be taken away by England for 14 Premiership games, and will not be as fit for Europe after gruelling Tests.

He is driven seeing how far he can propel new stars – like Sam and Joe Simmonds – and wants loads of Lions, all while praying the new Sandy Park hotel gets built and fans come in soon to keep his club afloat in tough times.

‘They’re all fresh challenges to take on,’ Baxter says.

‘All of this won’t mean very much to me and my career at Exeter if we’re a club that fail financially in the next six months.

‘We’d look back on this and go “well that was the year that was and we never managed to do it again because of Covid-19.”’ That desire to keep going sums up Baxter as a second-row.

The Exeter boss will seek to add a second Premiership to a first European Cup won last week

The Exeter boss will seek to add a second Premiership to a first European Cup won last week

The Exeter boss will seek to add a second Premiership to a first European Cup won last week

Will James, a Devonian former Gloucester lock used to say of Baxter: ‘if you didn’t knock him out or kill him, he would keep coming back again and again.’ ‘That hits the nail on the head!’ laughs Richie, who made his Exeter debut against Fylde in 1997.

‘As a young lad it was pleasing to know you had a few guys to look after you! Rob always led from the front with a “follow-me” attitude. You need that..’ 

The brothers played together countless times for Exeter, all over the country in three different leagues, both represented the Barbarians and played for the English Divisions XV in the 2000s against the World Cup winning Australians and South Africa.

But it was the humble trips they enjoyed the most.

‘We’d finish work on a Friday afternoon about three o’clock and would have to get to Middlemoor for the bus,’ remembers Richie.

‘Our front-rower Keith Brooking would normally order a Chinese and we’d have that delivered to the hotel!

‘We played Orrell away once. It all got a bit tasty. Bob Armstrong (a well-known Devon hard-man) lost some teeth, the crowd joined in and all sorts!

‘At Waterloo you had to walk out through the bar to get the pitch. You think now “Cor that was good”. We made sure we had a good bus trip home.

‘Plymouth, Penzance – some of those local derbies had the physicality of a Premiership game.

‘Rob’s last was up north in Rotherham.’ Rob takes up: “We won. I scored a try didn’t I?” ‘I picked up and he bound on, took the ball off me, rolled off and scored,’ Richie completes the story of the 41-33 win in April 2005.

Exeter beat French side Racing 92 to lift their first Champions Cup title at Ashton Gate

Exeter beat French side Racing 92 to lift their first Champions Cup title at Ashton Gate

Exeter beat French side Racing 92 to lift their first Champions Cup title at Ashton Gate

What Rob did not remember, though, was that day the Rotherham centre on a hot day at Clifton Lane was Lee Blackett – his coaching adversary in Saturday’s Premiership Final against Wasps.

‘There’s no better time than when you were a player even when you’re winning Heineken Cups,’ Rob reminisces.

‘It was an emotional day – the boots came off and they never came back on, even for training.

‘It just shows you how times goes by.’ Rob Baxter does not have much time to reminisce. Not when relentlessly driving his Chiefs forward.

‘It’s long-term thinking,’ concludes Richie on his brother’s fine work.

‘It’s been 10 years, but every year we’ve got better.

‘No matter what the result this or last weekend we’re all incredibly proud of Rob’s achievements.

‘We’ll try and grab whatever time it is after this weekend for a reflection and a few beers in the garden.’ 

England can wait – in the Baxters’ eyes the foundation stones for an Exeter dynasty have only just been laid.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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