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Bristol Bears coach Pat Lam sees Challenge Cup final as springboard to greater success

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bristol bears coach pat lam sees challenge cup final as springboard to greater success

Bristol coach Pat Lam wants to use Friday night’s Challenge Cup final against Toulon as a springboard to bigger and better things.

The ambitious Bears have splashed out on the likes of wing Semi Radradra and prop Kyle Sinckler and will feature in the gold-standard Champions Cup next season.

They are favourites to win at the Stade Maurice-David and Lam believes the game will be a significant milestone. ‘We plan that this is the last time we’re in this competition as we move to the Champions Cup this year and every year after that,’ said Lam. ‘It’s going to be a wonderful experience going forward.

Bristol Bears coach Pat Lam is eager to use the Challenge Cup final as a springboard

Bristol Bears coach Pat Lam is eager to use the Challenge Cup final as a springboard

Bristol Bears coach Pat Lam is eager to use the Challenge Cup final as a springboard

‘The significance of the final is not lost on anyone. We want to get something for our fans and, more importantly, for our players who have done the hard yards. It’s very much for the guys who missed out on this opportunity because of Covid, too.’

Following the Premiership semi-final defeat by Wasps, No 8 Nathan Hughes and scrum-half Andy Uren joined Charles Piutau on Bristol’s injury list. 

The squad flew out on a Covid-secure chartered flight on Thursday and will face a Toulon side featuring Test stars Sergio Parisse and Eben Etzebeth.

‘We all understand the size of the challenge and particularly the boys who have been here with me from the start of this three years ago,’ added Lam. ‘Getting a trophy would be a significant boost. This is where we want to be every year.’ 

Bristol, who are favourites against Toulon, have splashed out on the likes of Semi Radradra

Bristol, who are favourites against Toulon, have splashed out on the likes of Semi Radradra

Bristol, who are favourites against Toulon, have splashed out on the likes of Semi Radradra

Toulon can call upon stars including the experienced Sergio Parisse for the final

Toulon can call upon stars including the experienced Sergio Parisse for the final

Toulon can call upon stars including the experienced Sergio Parisse for the final

Lam’s side have been working on drop goals, in the event of a tight finish. 

‘When I was with Connacht, we missed out on the quarter-finals and all we needed to do was take a drop goal,’ said Lam. 

‘We have done it every training day and have a play in the system for it. Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.’

The French government are imposing a curfew on cities including Aix-en-Provence, but Bristol will fly home the following morning.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Barely a peek of Donny van de Beek who looks forlorn on the fringes at Manchester United

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barely a peek of donny van de beek who looks forlorn on the fringes at manchester united

There was little to admire about Manchester United here at Old Trafford, but the strength of their bench was certainly impressive enough.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer brought on Edinson Cavani for his debut, Paul Pogba and Mason Greenwood. Not a bad supporting cast. The United manager still had Nemanja Matic, Axel Tuanzebe and goalkeeper Dean Henderson in reserve.

Then there was United’s seventh substitute. The blond-haired Dutchman sitting forlornly in the rain waiting for his chance to shine. It has been a peculiar time for Donny van de Beek since swapping a starting spot at Ajax, who enjoyed a 13-0 win on Saturday, for a place on the fringes at United.

Donny van de Beek has struggled to get game-time due to the competition at Old Trafford

Donny van de Beek has struggled to get game-time due to the competition at Old Trafford

Donny van de Beek has struggled to get game-time due to the competition at Old Trafford

What should have been an exciting new chapter in the 23-year-old’s career has turned into a period of frustration bordering on stagnation. United’s £40million signing has made just two starts, in the Carabao Cup against Luton Town and Brighton. Four Premier League appearances as a substitute have produced a total of 61 minutes, plus a two-minute cameo in the Champions League win over Paris Saint-Germain.

There is little doubt that Van de Beek is a victim of the short pre-season. He has not had as long as many new signings to adapt to his new environment, and there is a feeling at United that he needs to build himself up physically for the demands of English football. 

But his lack of involvement has only added weight to the argument that United needed to strengthen in other areas instead of adding to their extensive midfield options. 

Solskjaer acknowledged the issue before Saturday’s draw, saying: ‘Donny’s fit enough but it’s competition for places. It’s a new league and it’s giving him time to settle and adjust to his new team-mates. He’s eager to play more but it’s going to be a long season and you’ll see him.’

What followed was another evening on the sidelines. Van de Beek only got on the pitch after the final whistle when he took part in a warm-down session with the other unused subs.

His agent, Sjaak Swart, had voiced exasperation last month, pointing out that Van de Beek scored off the bench on his debut against Crystal Palace and was involved again when United won their next League game with a late penalty at Brighton.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Van de Beek is taking time to adjust to a new league since his move

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Van de Beek is taking time to adjust to a new league since his move

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Van de Beek is taking time to adjust to a new league since his move

Danny Blind, the former Holland coach and father of ex-United player Daley, echoed the mood in his country after Van de Beek was again surplus to requirements for his club having played 90 minutes twice for the national side against Mexico and Italy in the last international break.

‘What was he signed for?’ Blind demanded to know on Dutch TV. ‘I listened to Solskjaer and he had nothing but praise for Donny. Yet he didn’t even give him a cameo. He bought him to beef up the squad. Why not use that squad depth?’

The games don’t get any easier. United face Red Bull Leipzig on Wednesday followed by Arsenal, Istanbul Basaksehir and Everton. Van de Beek is desperate to play a part, but for now the wait goes on.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Man Utd star Paul Pogba has ‘quit playing for France’ over President Macron’s comments on ‘Islamist terrorism’

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man utd star paul pogba has quit playing for france over president macrons comments on islamist terrorism scaled

PAUL POGBA has reportedly quit international football after comments from French president Emmanuel Macron alleging that Islam was the source of international terrorism.

The Manchester United star has allegedly made the decision following the remarks on Friday from his country’s leader.

Paul Pogba has reportedly 'quit playing for France'

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Paul Pogba has reportedly ‘quit playing for France’Credit: Getty

And the French government’s decision to honour the teacher who published offensive images of the prophet Muhammad, which Pogba reportedly resented, are also said to be behind the move.

That is according to various Middle Eastern news sources, but neither the 27-year-old, nor the French Football Association, has commented on the speculation.

United ace Pogba’s alleged decision comes in the wake of the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty, 47, who was attacked on his way home from the junior high school where he taught in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, 40km northwest of Paris.



Mr Paty was awarded the French Legion d’honneur, the highest decoration bestowed by the French state, in recognition of the fact that he died for trying to explain the importance of freedom of speech.

Preisdent Macron described the murder as an ‘Islamic terrorist attack’ that took the life of the French teacher.

He later added: “Unity and firmness are the only answers to the monstrosity of Islamist terrorism.”

Pogba’s apparent resignation was published Sunday in the Arabic sports website 195sports.com, which said that the decision to give the teacher the Legion d’honneur and the comments were the motivation for his decision to stop playing as a French international.

Pogba allegedly considered the decision an insult to him and to French Muslims, especially since Islam is the second religion in France after Christianity.

LB TROPHY MANUNITED

Calls are growing meanwhile around the world for people to boycott French goods in the wake of the president’s comments accusing Muslims of separatism and he pledged not to give up cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Pogba made his international debut back in 2013 and went on to lift the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

He has won 72 caps and scored ten goals for Les Bleus.

SPORTS GRAPHIC EXPENSIVE SIGNINGS MANUTD v3

This post first appeared on thesun.co.uk

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SPORTS AGENDA: Cornelius Lysaght uses his whip on BBC boss after controversial departure in April

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sports agenda cornelius lysaght uses his whip on bbc boss after controversial departure in april

Cornelius Lysaght has admirably kept his counsel since his controversial departure from BBC Radio 5 Live in April.

However, the much-respected former racing correspondent could hold back no longer when director of radio and music James Purnell announced his own exit last week. 

Former Labour MP Purnell was widely viewed as the senior power responsible for the culling of quality, experienced journalists (including Lysaght) as part of the broadcaster’s neurotic drive to target a youth audience.

Cornelius Lysaght kept his counsel since his controversial departure from BBC Radio 5 Live

Cornelius Lysaght kept his counsel since his controversial departure from BBC Radio 5 Live

Cornelius Lysaght kept his counsel since his controversial departure from BBC Radio 5 Live

In a spectacular Twitter assassination, Lysaght said he doubted anyone at the Beeb was ‘vaguely sorry’ to see him go, before referencing the former PM Tony Blair protégé’s role in a failed coup against Gordon Brown, the shrinking of his constituency’s majority when he took over and the doctoring of a photo showing him outside a hospital during a visit when he was, in fact, not there.

‘Hate is too big a word for me but his talentless contribution to BBC is surely regretted by many,’ added Lysaght for good measure.

Whether a change of direction following Purnell’s departure ensues remains to be seen.  Some believe the 50-year-old, who is going to the University of Arts London, decided to leave after failing to land the Director General role, which was always an unlikely prospect given his political past.

Giro d’Italia can’t mask deeper issues

Much fawning from the cycling press over the performance of Team Ineos’s Tao Geoghegan Hart, who won the Giro d’Italia, and the input of general manager Sir Dave Brailsford.

Anyone would think that there was not an ongoing medical tribunal involving former medic Dr Richard Freeman which is painting, at best, a murky picture of the culture and practices of Ineos forebears Team Sky, along with British Cycling.

Last week, we heard the revelation from ex-doctor David Hulse that he feared new protocols on intravenous recovery and intravenous hydration — written up by Freeman — could lead to breaches of the World Anti-Doping Code.

Indeed, Hulse left a short time later. So now we have the delivery of banned testosterone, issues with three laptops and concerns over potential rule breaches — all on Brailsford’s watch. Still, as long as Ineos do well…

There has been much fawning after Team Ineos's Tao Geoghegan Hart won the Giro d'Italia

There has been much fawning after Team Ineos's Tao Geoghegan Hart won the Giro d'Italia

There has been much fawning after Team Ineos’s Tao Geoghegan Hart won the Giro d’Italia

And still the wait goes on for Wigan 

The nervous noises over the Spanish-led takeover of Wigan Athletic continue to get louder. Earlier this month, a number of staff at the League One club were informed they had two choices. 

The first was a 30 per cent pay cut. The second was redundancy. These are people whose salaries make up a fraction of the wage bill. 

The latest concerns have been flagged to the EFL who have already been made aware of other potential issues. Other groups continue to watch with interest.

The nervous noises over the Spanish-led takeover of Wigan Athletic continue to get louder

The nervous noises over the Spanish-led takeover of Wigan Athletic continue to get louder

The nervous noises over the Spanish-led takeover of Wigan Athletic continue to get louder

Reed’s influence still felt by FA

Les Reed is due to exit his role as FA technical director next year but he continues to play a key role in post-Brexit negotiations with the Premier League. 

Reed and the FA have been keen to lower the number of foreign players permitted from 17 to 23 in a 25-man squad.

Interesting, then, that in a 2016 interview while at Southampton, Reed stated: ‘If we were to introduce quotas and dampen it down a bit to give English players more opportunity, we might be taking that opportunity to develop away from them’.

Les Reed is due to exit his role as FA technical director next year but is still playing a key role

Les Reed is due to exit his role as FA technical director next year but is still playing a key role

Les Reed is due to exit his role as FA technical director next year but is still playing a key role

Much like the debt, United staff numbers soar 

Lots to digest from Manchester United’s figures last week, with focus rightly placed on the impact of Covid and the staggering rise in the club’s debt. 

What went largely under the radar, however, was the continued expansion of the organisation’s staff levels. In 2004, 504 people worked for United. That figure now stands at 1,000.

Meanwhile, one of those 1,000 appears to have made a favourable impression on one of United’s stars. Juan Mata addressed an all-club meeting last week, and participated in a Q and A. 

The Spaniard was asked who he had missed most from the club during football’s suspension. Would it be one of his team-mates or his manager?  No. Mata answered almost instantly that Kath Phipps, the long-serving receptionist at United’s Carrington training ground, was the person who he had been looking forward to seeing the most when they returned.

Manchester United's Juan Mata addressed an all-club meeting and participated in a Q and A

Manchester United's Juan Mata addressed an all-club meeting and participated in a Q and A

Manchester United’s Juan Mata addressed an all-club meeting and participated in a Q and A

Brighton switch rubber-stamped by Watford

Danny Welbeck had to get Watford’s approval before sealing his free transfer to Brighton. 

Part of his termination deal at Vicarage Road required him to get Watford’s approval before joining his next club. 

The diligent Hornets were happy to let him make the move rather than any of their Championship rivals.

Danny Welbeck had to get Watford's approval before sealing his free transfer to Brighton

Danny Welbeck had to get Watford's approval before sealing his free transfer to Brighton

Danny Welbeck had to get Watford’s approval before sealing his free transfer to Brighton

Covid confusion for Vaughan 

Michael Vaughan appears to be a conflicted man when it comes to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

As this column reported, the former England cricket captain was given a dressing down for a breach of bubble protocol at Old Trafford, missed day one of a Test after being forced to follow protocols after a trip to Northern Ireland and was absent for more than half of a T20 fixture as he was stuck in the Ageas Bowl car park awaiting his test result.

Given the above, the fact that he described a story that the chief medical officer said 90 per cent supported strong restrictions by the state as ‘utter rubbish’, posted a picture of a Spitfire and claimed he would like to turn the clocks back to 1940 when the country had b******s and posted a message that ‘I’m still wondering why we can’t make medicine for a virus that can be killed by sanitiser or soap’, one might think he is not particularly concerned over the virus.

None of the above, however, stopped him from retweeting a post from the hair restoration clinic, which he co-owns with Ryan Giggs, promoting its ability to offer private, Government-approved testing (for a fee, of course).

Michael Vaughan appears to be a conflicted man when it comes to the Covid-19 pandemic

Michael Vaughan appears to be a conflicted man when it comes to the Covid-19 pandemic

Michael Vaughan appears to be a conflicted man when it comes to the Covid-19 pandemic

Conway driving Project Big Picture communications 

Former BBC man Richard Conway is clearly not afraid of taking on challenging projects in his new role as spin doctor. 

Fresh from the controversial Qatar World Cup, the ex-sports news correspondent is managing the comms for the ownership of both Manchester United and Liverpool over Project Big Picture. 

He was approached on an ad hoc basis after the story leaked, following his work with Liverpool in the run-up to the Club World Cup last December.

Hirst doesn’t come cheap! 

One reporter last week contacted Keegan Hirst, who in 2015 became the first rugby league player to come out as gay, for an interview. 

However, they were left stunned when the ex-Wakefield prop’s agent told them it would cost £10,000 for the privilege.

Keegan Hirst's agent told them it would cost £10,000 for the privilege of interviewing him

Keegan Hirst's agent told them it would cost £10,000 for the privilege of interviewing him

Keegan Hirst’s agent told them it would cost £10,000 for the privilege of interviewing him

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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