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Sale’s Covid-19 outbreak sparks backlash from Premiership rivals as the Government step in

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sales covid 19 outbreak sparks backlash from premiership rivals as the government step in

Sale have faced a backlash from their play-off rivals over their mass Covid outbreak as Premiership Rugby came under pressure from the Government to cancel the club’s rearranged final league fixture.

Sale’s home game against Worcester has been postponed until Wednesday after 16 players and three staff tested positive for the virus.

Sportsmail has learned that PRL are facing demands from Westminster to justify that decision. It is understood that the Government are concerned about rugby players being seen to escape punishment for potential breaches of public health protocols at a time when the Premiership are seeking an emergency financial bailout.

Sale Sharks have suffered a Covid-19 outbreak among the Premiership club's squad and staff

Sale Sharks have suffered a Covid-19 outbreak among the Premiership club's squad and staff

Sale Sharks have suffered a Covid-19 outbreak among the Premiership club’s squad and staff

And the RFU are due to launch an investigation on Monday into the spike in COVID cases at Sale.

However, Sale’s director of rugby, Steve Diamond, has dismissed allegations that his squad returned positive tests after partying in the aftermath of their Premiership Cup triumph two weeks ago.

‘No players went out at all,’ he said. ‘No standards slipped and no protocols were broken.’

In response to the postponement of his side’s clash with Worcester, Diamond added: ‘We wanted to fulfil the fixture. I have a squad of 34 players and 19 kids. I don’t understand why people say we can’t do this. We’ve got a very strong team and a young bench which is Covid negative.’ 

The Sharks' final fixture of their Premiership campaign has been postponed until Wednesday

The Sharks' final fixture of their Premiership campaign has been postponed until Wednesday

The Sharks’ final fixture of their Premiership campaign has been postponed until Wednesday

His comments came amid an acrimonious response from Sale’s rivals for a play-off place which plunged the end of the league campaign into disarray. Bath, who drew with Saracens yesterday, face missing out if Sale beat Worcester.

Bristol are guaranteed a play-off next weekend after victory over London Irish, but they are in the dark about who they will come up against — with Bears’ director of rugby, Pat Lam, saying:

‘The biggest shock is the number of cases,’ he said. ‘We can understand one or two, but 19 — something has gone wrong there. The only way 19 happens is because of the behaviour within the group.

‘If I had one or two in my team, my concern is not just for our team but the opposition. Every player is connected to a family member or someone close.

Sale director Steve Diamond (left) has no worries about his club bringing together a team

Sale director Steve Diamond (left) has no worries about his club bringing together a team

Sale director Steve Diamond (left) has no worries about his club bringing together a team 

‘We’ve all made sacrifices. My kids are in their 20s and I don’t hug them any more when I come home — we keep our distance because we don’t want that risk. Every day I get my test it’s a nervous wait as I know it affects the whole team.

‘It was made clear you could lose the game if you have positive test results. We were told there would be no postponements. Hopefully common sense comes through.’

Bath have been left to prepare for a trip to Exeter knowing that they could be knocked out of fourth place on Wednesday night. The Chiefs and Wasps have earned home semi-finals, but neither club know who their visitors will be.

Rob Baxter, Exeter’s director rugby, laughed when the permutations were clarified and added: ‘Teams who play Sale will probably want to know some detail of how things have been passed around a relatively large group.’

The Sharks deny starting the outbreak in their squad by partying following their cup triumph

The Sharks deny starting the outbreak in their squad by partying following their cup triumph

The Sharks deny starting the outbreak in their squad by partying following their cup triumph

Wasps are similarly in the dark about the their next opponents, but head coach Lee Blackett said: ‘One thing we spoke about during lockdown was being adaptable. We will have to be adaptable again.’

Bath, as the team in fourth place, have the most to lose. Their director of rugby, Stuart Hooper, said: ‘The only thing we can do is prepare for a semi-final as if we’re going down to Sandy Park.

‘It’s out of our hands. We want want everyone to have a fair crack and opportunity to play. We’re still in it right now.’

Northampton, who played Sale last Tuesday, have refuted claims by PRL rugby director, Phil Winstanley, that they chose not to take up the option to bring in loan players, before forfeiting their game against Gloucester.

‘We were advised that this dispensation would not be granted,’ read a Saints statement. ‘We therefore had no option.’

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Marcus Rashford reveals impressive muscles as he launches Nike underwear line

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marcus rashford reveals impressive muscles as he launches nike underwear line scaled

KIDS’ food champion Marcus Rashford shows he’s a bit of a beefcake himself as he launches Nike’s latest underwear line.

The Man United and England forward took a break from campaigning for free holiday meals for poorer schoolchildren to share this snap on Instagram.

Marcus Rashford revealed his impressive muscles in a pair of red Nike underwear

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Marcus Rashford revealed his impressive muscles in a pair of red Nike underwearCredit: S Goodwin 2019
The footballer showed off his enviable physique as he launched Nike’s latest underwear line

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The footballer showed off his enviable physique as he launched Nike’s latest underwear lineCredit: S Goodwin 2019

The busy 22-year-old has a lot on his plate.

Earlier this week, it was reported that the footballer is set to miss out on a BBC Sports Personality of the Year nomination, despite his remarkable charity work.

Rashford is odds-on favourite with the bookies for the award after earning plaudits for his tireless campaigning for disadvantaged children to receive free meals during school holidays.

But the reports claim the star is likely to be overlooked as the Beeb’s guidelines state only ‘sporting achievements’ can be considered – despite the name of the award.

The kids’ food champion wowed in a pair of black boxers covered in the Nike logo

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The kids’ food champion wowed in a pair of black boxers covered in the Nike logoCredit: S Goodwin 2019

That would leave Formula One superstar Lewis Hamilton a strong contender after the Mercedes ace beat Michael Schumacher’s long-standing wins record at the Portuguese GP.

Rashford forced the Government into a U-turn over the summer holidays after fighting for the free school meals programme to be extended in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

And he took on ministers again as many vulnerable children head into the half-term without the safety net of food provided at school.

The Man United star forced the Government into a U-turn over the summer holidays after fighting for free school meals to be extended

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The Man United star forced the Government into a U-turn over the summer holidays after fighting for free school meals to be extendedCredit: PA:Press Association
Man Utd’s Marcus Rashford helps out at food charity after MPs reject bid to extend school meals

GOT a story? RING The Sun on 0207 782 4104 or WHATSAPP on 07423720250 or EMAIL exclusive@the-sun.co.uk

This post first appeared on thesun.co.uk

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Manchester United ‘will activate Dayot Upamecano’s £38m release clause next summer’

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manchester united will activate dayot upamecanos 38m release clause next summer

Manchester United will reportedly activate Dayot Upamecano’s £38million release clause next summer as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks to bolster his defensive options.

United have had their eye on the 24-year-old for some time, having previously invited him to Old Trafford for a tour of the club in 2015 before he moved from Valenciennes to Red Bull Salzburg aged 16 for £2million.

Having signed a new contract until 2023 with his current club RB Leipzig, Upamecano’s relatively small release clause will activate next summer – allowing Solskjaer to reignite his long-standing interest in the defender. 

Manchester United will activate Dayot Upamecano's £38million release clause next summer

Manchester United will activate Dayot Upamecano's £38million release clause next summer

Manchester United will activate Dayot Upamecano’s £38million release clause next summer

According to The Times, Upamecano’s release clause will become active during next years summer transfer window for £7million less than his previous – allowing a host of top-flight club’s time to prepare a transfer swoop.

Solskjaer will be looking to get ahead of the pack as he requires defensive stability within his Manchester United side.

Upamecano is a dynamic, confident defender who excels when playing in the counter-attacking style that Solskjaer deploys.

The Red Devils manager will have an opportunity to watch Upamecano in action as his players take on Leipzig in Wednesday’s Champions League fixture.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has had his eye on the 24-year-old defender for some time

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has had his eye on the 24-year-old defender for some time

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has had his eye on the 24-year-old defender for some time 

Upamecano signed a new contract with RB Leipzig until 2023 after making 120 appearances

Upamecano signed a new contract with RB Leipzig until 2023 after making 120 appearances

 Upamecano signed a new contract with RB Leipzig until 2023 after making 120 appearances 

Having previously denied claims that he was trying to sign Upamecano, Solskjaer claimed he refused to respond to speculation out of respect for Leipzig – but insists he will be watching the defender ‘close up’ on Wednesday.   

Solskjaer said: ‘I’ve always tried to respect that they are players for other teams and don’t want to comment on every player that we are linked to, but since he’s playing against us tomorrow I know he’s a very good player so we can see him close up.’ 

Upamecano has featured 120 times for Leipzig since he joined from Red Bull Salzburg in January 2017. 

Upamecano’s impressive form for Leipzig has seen him gain the attention of Europe’s elite. 

Solskjaer hopes Upamecano will solve the defensive issues Manchester United are having

Solskjaer hopes Upamecano will solve the defensive issues Manchester United are having

 Solskjaer hopes Upamecano will solve the defensive issues Manchester United are having

However, it is still Manchester United who are leading the charge for football’s most coveted young defenders. 

United currently have six senior centre-backs in the first-team squad but have failed to show any defensive stability. 

Harry Maguire, who joined for a world-record fee for a defender – £80m – in 2019, has had a torrid time recently at the heart of the United defence, whilst players such as £31m Victor Lindelof and £27m Luke Shaw are flattering to deceive, having both made costly errors in recent Premier League defeats. 

Should Solskjaer sign Upamecano, he will hope his defensive troubles will finally be over. 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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France coach Edwards delighted to have Dupont and Ntamack leading Six Nations charge

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france coach edwards delighted to have dupont and ntamack leading six nations charge

At long last the French half-back merry-go-round looks to have come to a glorious halt. Never mind being at sixes and sevens, France have been at nines and tens for a decade, sifting through 39 pairs of playmakers since 2009. 

Now they have found a duo for the next decade — and Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack could lead them to the Six Nations crown in Paris on Saturday.

At 23 and 21 respectively, they are regarded as the future of French rugby and many rate the electric Dupont as the best scrum-half in the world.

Antoine Dupont tore apart Wales and many rate him as the best scrum-half in the world

Antoine Dupont tore apart Wales and many rate him as the best scrum-half in the world

Antoine Dupont tore apart Wales and many rate him as the best scrum-half in the world

They may have started together in only 11 Tests since last year, but they know each other inside out — having teamed up at Toulouse — and have been key to the French revival.

‘The good thing is that they play together regularly at Toulouse as well as for France,’ Shaun Edwards, their defence coach at Les Bleus, told Sportsmail. ‘I was a half-back myself and you get more of an understanding with someone like that, so it becomes telepathic after a bit.’

Dupont tore Wales apart on Saturday night, scoring twice as the French laid down a marker before resuming their Six Nations challenge, and Ntamack kicked everything from the tee, scoring 14 points. Edwards wants his young stars to emulate their Irish counterparts Conor Murray, 31, and Johnny Sexton, 35 — a pair he admires hugely — when they clash on Saturday.

‘They have two incredibly experienced half-backs who I have ultimate respect for in Johnny and Conor,’ Edwards said. ‘Two fantastic players over the years who are still world class. We have ultimate respect for the Irish as players and coaches as a lot of them have been there and done it. They’ve done the things we want to do by winning Grand Slams and Six Nations regularly.

Toulouse playmakers Dupont and Romain Ntamack (above) have been key to the French revival

Toulouse playmakers Dupont and Romain Ntamack (above) have been key to the French revival

Toulouse playmakers Dupont and Romain Ntamack (above) have been key to the French revival

‘We want to become a top four team regularly over the next few years — like Ireland have been — and we’re on a mission to do that. Even the top three maybe. To do that you have to beat high quality opponents, which Ireland are. Everything they’ve done we want to do the same.’

Sexton has admired the French revolution. Ireland have to beat them well in Paris to win the Six Nations and he knows it will be a tougher task than in the past.

‘They have been very impressive,’ he said of Fabien Galthie’s men, who have won three of four in the Championship so far. ‘You can see the coaches’ fingerprints all over it in terms of defence and how much more aggressive they are with their line speed.

‘Obviously Shaun Edwards has been excellent with Wales over the years. We have found them particularly tough to break down with that line speed. That has been something we have been talking about a lot. They like to play quick, offload, dominate in the collisions and in defence they bring line speed. France are obviously a top-class team and we need to be at our very best this weekend.’

Edwards, having come from Wales last year after the World Cup, is enjoying being part of a newly dominant French set-up who are charging towards a home World Cup in 2023.

Edwards wants his young stars to emulate Irish counterparts Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton

Edwards wants his young stars to emulate Irish counterparts Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton

Edwards wants his young stars to emulate Irish counterparts Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton

‘One thing I have seen is that the French people are very much behind the team,’ he said. ‘France having a good team is good for world rugby, too. I just get the feeling that everyone wants a good French team. It’s up to us as a coaching team to deliver that.’

In these pages, Sir Clive Woodward has regularly backed France to be favourites in three years’ time.

Edwards, who was inspired to switch from league to union by the former England boss, said of Sir Clive: ‘He was one of the first people who got me interested in rugby union.

‘I went to watch England training and he was so kind to me. He let me watch a session, come to meetings, it was a real eye-opener. He thinks we’re favourites for the World Cup? I don’t know. We’re not allowed to bet, so I’ll stay clear of that! But coming from someone like Sir Clive, who knows his rugby, that is kind praise indeed.’

Ahead of the belated Super Saturday — with Wales playing Scotland, England facing Italy and France hosting Ireland — Edwards hopes the Six Nations conclusion will bring a festival of rugby, even if his game only kicks off at 9.05pm in Paris.

‘I joke to some of the coaches that I’m usually in bed at that time,’ he laughed. ‘Seriously though, it’s great for rugby having three games back-to-back on TV. We can’t have fans but what we can have is record TV audiences. Let’s hope that happens.’

With Dupont and Ntamack providing the spark, there could be fireworks in France.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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