England’s visit to Dublin this weekend offers another opportunity to see off a rival at outside centre for the Test series against the Wallabies, with Manu Tuilagi his likely opposite number eight days after Welshman Jonathan Davies was outclassed. High praise greeted his performance in the championship opener at the Millennium Stadium, but O’Driscoll is far too seasoned a campaigner to take notice of the shifting sands of armchair Lions selection. “You’re not even flavour of the month now, you’re flavour of the moment,” he continued. “It’s not just one month on, one month off, now this is happening weekly and daily. You’re in the frame, then you’re gone, forgotten about. “You have to take it all with a pinch of salt. I like to think I am a decent judge of whether I’m in the mix or not. “It’s a huge honour to be a Lion – among the top 35 players in the four nations. “It is definitely an added incentive in the Six Nations in a Lions year, so you get your performances to as high a level as you can.” The Ireland centre has been installed as favourite to regain the post he filled in New Zealand eight years ago following his starring role in Saturday’s 30-22 RBS 6 Nations victory over Wales. “There’s more chat about the Lions now, more column inches. Every week there are new Lions teams for that week,” he said. Brian O’Driscoll may have delivered an emphatic “absolutely not” when asked if he had given any thought to the Lions captaincy, but the looming tour to Australia is still capturing his imagination. Press Association
The 35-year-old, who ironically has just won back his place in the first-choice line-up, has decided to draw a line under his 16-year career at his only professional club. Rodgers tapped into Carragher’s vast experience at Anfield, having taken over from Reds icon Kenny Dalglish last summer, and is relying on that on the pitch for the remainder of the campaign. “Jamie has been absolutely outstanding for me since I joined the club,” he told liverpoolfc.com. Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is looking for a significant contribution from Jamie Carragher in the remainder of the season after the defender announced plans to retire in May. Press Association “He has been a model professional on and off the pitch and has shown an unswerving commitment to our work. We still have a lot to play for as we look to finish as high up the Barclays Premier League as possible and continue our progression in the Europa League, a competition we’d like to win. “He will have a significant role to play for us between now and May and I know his commitment and dedication on the pitch will remain as it has done his entire career at Liverpool. “When the time is right we, as a team and a club, will give the man the tribute and recognition he deserves. I know the supporters will want to say thank you to someone who has served them with such distinction for so long.” Carragher, who in 723 appearances has won every major honour with Liverpool – the highlight being the Champions League in 2005 – except the league title, insists he will not allow himself to start looking back just yet. “It has been a privilege and an honour to represent this great club for as long as I have and I am immensely proud to have done so and thankful for all the support I have had,” said the centre-back. “There are many memories I want to share and people to thank, but now is not the time for that. “I’m making this announcement now because I don’t want the manager or the club to be answering questions on my future when I’ve already decided what I am going to do. I will be fully committed between now and the end of the season to doing the very best for Liverpool Football Club, as I’ve done my entire career since joining aged just nine years old. “All our focus and concentration should be on achieving the best possible finish in the league this season and trying to win the last remaining trophy (Europa League) we are competing in.”
The 26-year-old has settled quickly following his £8.5million deadline day transfer from Malaga, helping the Gunners keep clean sheets in victories over Stoke and Sunderland which boosted hopes of breaking back into the top four. Monreal, who scored his only goal for Malaga in his final appearance last month, told Arsenal Player: “One of the things any player wants is trophies. I cannot complain about my career, but I would like to win a trophy and I hope I can do this with Arsenal.” Spain defender Nacho Monreal is happy to play a supporting role as Arsenal go all out to end their season on a high. Monreal, whose first full game for the senior Spain team came after their 2010 World Cup triumph, added: “I am asked to defend well and not so much to score goals. When I go forward and assist others, it is as if I have scored, so that is a great satisfaction for me.” “It is difficult to say what your own qualities are, but I am a committed person and so give 100 per cent in every game. That is the best attribute that every footballer can have, that every Saturday you give everything you have got for your team.” Monreal’s arrival to offer competition for England full-back Kieran Gibbs, who is still sidelined by a thigh problem, saw Andre Santos fall further down the pecking order at Emirates Stadium. The Brazilian has returned to his homeland on a loan deal with Gremio. The 29-year-old was signed from Fenerbache for £6.8million in August 2011, but made just 26 appearances. “I am confident this is the best for both Arsenal and myself,” he said on the club’s official website, www.arsenal.com. “I just want to say a big thanks to all the people that helped me at this wonderful club.” Santos clearly feels he still can be part of Arsene Wenger’s plans in the long-term. Speaking in a separate interview with the London Evening Standard, he added: “The idea is to go there, play well and be able to come back strong. Do I have a future at the club? For sure. “However, when the club acquired another left-back it was clear to me that I will not play. I need to play, get my confidence back and Gremio is a good platform for this. I talked (with Wenger) and we decided together this would be a good chance for me to get on top of my game. “He gave me a hug and told me Arsenal would always welcome me back with open arms. He did (want me to stay), but he wanted to see me happy and if I am not performing all the time, then I am not happy.” Press Association
The Spaniard held talks with Toffees chairman Bill Kenwright last week and Whelan revealed a deal has now been agreed to buy out the remaining year of Martinez’s contract. He told BBC Radio 5 Live on Monday night: “I’ve reached some terms with the chairman, Bill, of Everton about six o’clock this evening. He can now talk to Everton because Bill and myself have sorted the compensation.” Martinez had already held talks, with Whelan’s permission, but is now free to discuss contract terms. “He’d spoken to Everton because I gave them permission,” Whelan said. “When he came back and told me how it had gone, it had gone very well and he was probably in the last two or three on the list. “Then the chairman rang me and discussed the compensation deal with me, and we agreed that this evening.” However, Everton responded with a statement on their website in which they insisted no appointment is imminent. The statement read: “In response to regrettable and somewhat premature reports earlier this evening, Everton Football Club are continuing discussions with regards to the vacant managerial position. Whilst positive moves are being made, the club will officially announce details as and only when they are agreed and completed.” Martinez, 39, was linked with the Everton vacancy almost as soon as David Moyes’ departure to Manchester United was confirmed. Press Association Roberto Martinez appears to be edging ever closer to a move to Everton after Wigan chairman Dave Whelan confirmed the two clubs have agreed a compensation payment.
Tevez’s long-time advisor Kia Joorabchian headed to Turin earlier today to begin negotiations over personal terms. Once Tevez arrives from South America, he will have a medical, although the striker’s past record does not suggest that will be a problem. Providing there are no unforseen hitches, Tevez will then complete one of the most notable summer transfers tomorrow. Although he has yet to officially start work, new City boss Manuel Pellegrini is known to have authorised the transfer, which could net the Blues £13.5million and will save them up to £27million, including bonuses, from the final year of Tevez’s contract. The move gives City more flexibility to operate in the transfer market, although it has been suggested Pellegrini is happy to offer Edin Dzeko a chance to stake a claim for a regular place. There had been interest in Napoli’s Edinson Cavani, although it is claimed City are not willing to meet the Italian club’s £50million valuation. Press Association Carlos Tevez is expected to fly into Italy on Wednesday afternoon as his move from Manchester City to Juventus edges closer to completion.
Press Association Lyons said: “He’s what I thought he was and he’s going the right way. It’s not often we refuse good money for a horse and we were offered very good money for him after his last run, but we said no. If we’re going where we want to go, we need to be brave with some of these horses. “He’s in the Group Two at Doncaster (Champagne Stakes) and I wouldn’t want to go shorter than seven furlongs with him again. “We’re in no rush with him, we won’t overdo him as I think he will make a nice three-year-old and he could be a horse for something like the Jersey Stakes. “Everyday he runs, he’s getting mentally better. Gary said the better the race, the better the horse.” Ger Lyons’ charge was sent off an 11-8 shot for the Group Three event after winning two of his three starts, including a race over this seven furlongs last time. Gary Carroll had him handy throughout, sitting on the heels of the front-running Home School before switching out to challenge inside the final couple of furlongs, and though Home School battled all the way to the line, he had to concede defeat by half a length. Exogenesis swooped in the dying strides to snatch victory in the Korean Racing Authority Tyros Stakes at Leopardstown.
Press Association “I hit it long and straight and just did not take advantage of some of the opportunities, especially on the last two holes. It definitely could have been a bit better but it’s a solid start and I was pleased. “It’s the best I’ve driven it in a long time. That’s huge, it’s the foundation of my game. If I drive the ball well, I play well and my results are good. “If you miss fairways here you get penalised heavily, so if you’re hitting it long and straight off the tee, it’s a huge advantage. The rough is very thick and really penal and if you miss the fairways, you’re making life very hard for yourself.” Joint leader Baldwin achieved his best finish on the European Tour by finishing second in the Nelson Mandela Championship in December and said: “It’s given me confidence to go on and hopefully keep challenging and maybe a win is around the corner.” McGinley carded a four-under-par 68 on Thursday to finish one shot off the lead shared by England’s Matthew Baldwin, France’s Romain Wattel and Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello. The 47-year-old Dubliner admitted the first half of last year following his appointment as captain was a “write-off” in terms of his own golf, but he finished the season strongly and began 2014 in the same fashion. “I prefer to play rather than practice in the winter and the members at Sunningdale, including Tim Henman, have been keeping me sharp with their money games,” said McGinley, who chipped in to rescue a bogey on the 16th after finding water with his second shot. “I played well in the second half of last season, made all the cuts and didn’t have any big finishes but I played a lot of good golf and obviously continued today. “I’m disappointed with the last. There was a scuff mark right in my line and I let it affect my stroke. It was reminiscent on Bernhard Langer at Kiawah Island (who missed a putt to retain the Ryder Cup in 1991). I didn’t hit a good stroke because of the scuff mark, a bit of a mental error.” McGinley outshone playing partners and potential Gleneagles team members Tommy Fleetwood and Thorbjorn Olesen – who carded rounds of 73 and 74 respectively – but is relishing the opportunity to compete alongside some of Europe’s rising stars. “That’s a big thing for me to do,” he added. “Both of them could be on the team. The more information I get, the better. I’ve played with Tommy three or four times now and that’s great. Should he make the team I feel I’m better prepared to manage him and the same with Thorbjorn.” McGinley admitted he knows more than enough about the likes of Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, but will nevertheless have been delighted to hear McIlroy’s reaction to his opening 70. The former world number one, who ended a miserable 2013 with victory in the Australian Open, carded two birdies and no bogeys and was delighted with his long game. “I played well and was very happy with how I hit the ball from tee to green,” said McIlroy, who has reaped the benefits of twice-daily gym sessions in Dubai following his engagement to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki in Sydney on New Year’s Eve. Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley revealed playing against former tennis star Tim Henman had helped keep his game sharp as he made an impressive start to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
Press Association Brendan Rodgers’ team returned to the top of the Barclays Premier League table with a 2-1 win at West Ham on Sunday which made it nine successive league victories. Whelan, who won six championships with Liverpool – including their last one in 1990 – believes the way in which they are overwhelming opponents with their pace and pressing is a good sign as the campaign reaches its climax. “You cannot fault anything they are doing, they are going out and winning game after game and doing it well,” he told Press Association Sport. “The energy they are showing at the end of the season always gives you a chance in the last five games. “The energy seems to be more than Chelsea and Manchester City and the other teams. “Nine games ago we wouldn’t have said we would win nine games on the trot but now there are only five more to go. “I know it will be a record, winning 14 in a row, but they are playing well enough to do it.” Liverpool lead the table by two points from Chelsea and third-placed Manchester City, four points adrift with two matches in hand, visit Anfield on Sunday. “There is a mentality to winning the title and Chelsea have been through it and they will know if perhaps they draw a game there are still plenty of twists and turns to go,” he added. “City have to go to Everton and that is no foregone conclusion. It is in Liverpool’s hands and we would never have guessed that with five games to go.” Whelan is one of a host of former players due to take part in the Celebration of the 96 charity match on April 21 in aid of the Hillsborough Family Support Group (HFSG) and Liverpool FC Foundation. The full line-up of the United Kingdom and Ireland side, managed by Kenny Dalglish, and their international opponents – all ex-Reds – has now been announced and with tickets sold for more than half of Anfield already, organisers remain hopeful it will be a full house. “There is so much excitement among the players. To get all these players back together should be a great occasion,” said Whelan. “It will get serious – Kenny always get serious. He’ll be on the touchline shouting and I’ll be thinking ‘I’m 52 years of age, leave me alone!'” UK & Ireland Team: Kenny Dalglish (manager), Roy Evans (assistant manager), Alan Kennedy, David Burrows, Danny Murphy, David James, David Thompson, Gary McAllister, Ian Rush, Jamie Redknapp, Jason McAteer, John Aldridge, John Barnes, John Wark, Mark Wright, Michael Owen, Michael Thomas, Peter Beardsley, Ray Houghton, Rob Jones, Robbie Fowler, Ronnie Whelan, Steve McManaman. Rest of the World Team: Gerard Houllier (manager), Phil Thompson (assistant manager), Bjorn Tore Kvarme, Didi Hamann, Jari Litmanen, Jan Molby, Luis Garcia, Marcus Babbel, Salif Diao, Sami Hyypia, Stephane Henchoz, Stig Inge Bjornebye, Veggard Heggem, Vladimir Smicer. Former Liverpool captain Ronnie Whelan believes the current crop of Reds are finishing the season stronger than their rivals and that gives them the best chance of winning the title.
“I wouldn’t have missed the Championship. I didn’t fancy it. I would have said ‘let somebody else have a go for a year’ because I like the people here – I like the chairman, I genuinely look forward to seeing him. “My leg is a lot better. I was struggling last year. I didn’t need an operation in the end, I just got on the bike and strengthened it. “I thought I would be out for three months with an operation – but the Premier League is exciting and I am looking forward to it.” With former England and Manchester United captain Rio Ferdinand the only new recruit so far, Redknapp will be wanting to add more to his squad before the season opener at home to Hull. “We’ll get them in, we know that,” he said. “I’m not making it up. A couple of boys are training with us who are not with us and we have Adel (Taarabt), who looks like he’s going to go. “I’ve got a couple of kids playing with us to make up the numbers. We’ve got around 12, with a couple to come back. We’ll be a maximum of 13 or 14.” The 67-year-old took over at Loftus Road in 2012 but could not prevent the west London club sliding to Barclays Premier League relegation. Although they were installed as favourites to seal an immediate return, poor form around Christmas saw Redknapp’s side having to negotiate the play-offs to gain promotion. Press Association And it was during the play-off final win over Derby when Redknapp started to face the prospect of walking away – only for Bobby Zamora to score a last-gasp winner. “If we hadn’t gone up this year I would have turned it in,” he conceded. “I would have definitely packed up. I wouldn’t have gone back and done another year in the Championship, it didn’t appeal to me any more. “If we had got beat I would have turned it in, definitely. “With 10 minutes to go I was thinking ‘what golf club should I join this year – should I play here or there?’ and then suddenly Bobby ruined it all.” Zamora’s strike secured a top-flight return and Redknapp is glad to still be at the helm as he looks to help the R’s flourish in the Premier League this time around – with a troublesome knee also no longer causing him problems. “Now I am excited again,” he said. “To go to Anfield and Old Trafford is fantastic, I am so lucky to be able to do that. Harry Redknapp has revealed how close he came to leaving QPR and retiring from football management last season.
The 46-year-old Randalstown man, along with team-mates Paul Daly and Neil Mulholland, collected silver after losing to South Africa in the men’s triples final last Monday – adding to a Commonwealth medal collection including g old in Kuala Lumpur (1998), bronze in Manchester (2002) and silver in Melbourne (2006). “Neil has had a great career, winning four medals in five Commonwealth Games,” Northern Ireland chef de mission Robert McVeigh said. “He is a respected member of Team NI and many athletes value the experience he brings. We look forward to attending the closing ceremony and celebrating the success of the Games with the organisers.” Northern Ireland had to wait until Saturday to secure their first gold of the Games, winning two on the penultimate day of action through boxers Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan. The team will take home 12 medals in total from Glasgow 2014 – nine from boxing, plus bronze in women’s pairs bowls along with the men’s triples silver, and Lisa Kearney’s judo bronze. Bowls silver medallist Neil Booth will be Northern Ireland’s flag bearer at Sunday evening’s Commonwealth Games closing ceremony at Hampden Park. Press Association