Mitchell Johnson overcomes injury scare

Test aspirant Mitchell Johnson overcame an injury scare to claim two wickets in Western Australia’s Sheffield Shield clash with South Australia at the WACA Ground.

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The Redbacks were bowled out for 222, with paceman Jason Behrendorff (4-58) and Michael Hogan (3-43) doing the bulk of the damage.

Johnson was forced to go off for treatment after digging his big toe into the turf.

But the 32-year-old returned to the fray to collect a late wicket and finish with 2-74 from 16.4 overs.

Johnson missed more than six months of cricket after tearing a tendon in his toe in November, 2011.

However, a WACA spokesperson said Johnson’s latest injury wasn’t related to that setback.

Redbacks opener Phil Hughes blew a good chance to push his case for an Ashes call-up after being dismissed for 25.

Hughes received a life on five when Cameron Bancroft dropped a tough one-handed chance at third slip.

But his luck ran out shortly after, with an attempted hook off the bowling of Behrendorff skying into the air for wicketkeeper Sam Whiteman to catch.

Johnson, who’s also bidding to earn a recall for the first Test against England later this month, opened his day in horrendous fashion, with two of his first three deliveries called wides.

The left-arm quick was lucky not to have another two wides called during the over.

But he soon found his rhythm, and would have claimed the wicket of Sam Raphael in his second over had John Rogers held onto a diving, one-handed chance at gully.

Johnson’s second spell was particularly fiery, with a series of bouncers leaving the Redbacks’ batsmen hopping.

And the left-arm quick finally received some reward when he trapped Travis Head lbw for 51.

Johnson beat the bat on a number of occasions, and also saw an edge from Tom Cooper fly between second and third slip.

The Redbacks were in all sorts of trouble at 7-160, but a half-century to Joe Mennie (50) got the visitors to a reasonable score.


Pacquiao expecting to beat Rios

Philippine boxing great Manny Pacquiao said on Wednesday he was expecting to defeat American Brandon Rios in Macau later this month, but insisted if he did lose he would not retire.

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The 34-year-old, once regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter of his generation, faces the bout of his life in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory as he bids to break a losing streak and keep his boxing legacy intact.

“It’s one of the most important fights of my career because I want to show my fans and the world that I can still compete at a high level with elite boxers,” Pacquiao, speaking from his training camp in the Philippines, told reporters during a group phone interview.

A former champion in an unprecedented eight weight divisions, Pacquiao — who turns 35 in December — is seeking to come back from two consecutive defeats which have led supporters to question if he should hang up his gloves.

His seven-year, 15-fight winning streak came to an end in June 2012 with a controversial split decision loss to Timothy Bradley.

It was followed six months later by a sensational sixth-round knockout defeat to Mexican arch rival Juan Manuel Marquez.

But “Pac-Man”, as he is known to his fans, insisted the losses have not affected him psychologically, and said he did not contemplate being defeated by Rios in the former Portuguese colony on November 24.

“I am expecting to win this fight,” he said of the World Boxing Organisation (WBO) welterweight title bout.

“It’s a really important fight for me in my boxing career because I lost the last two,” Pacquiao added, pledging an “aggressive” strategy.

The Philippine boxing hero-turned-congressman insisted he felt “no extra pressure following the two losses”.

“It doesn’t affect me. As far as boxing is concerned sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.”

Pacquiao’s sporting achievements have made him a national hero, turning him into one of the highest paid sportsmen in the world, a showbiz celebrity and, in 2010, a member of parliament.

He is now a second-term congressman with ambitions of eventually becoming president, and critics have questioned whether his diminishing prowess in the ring was because he had become distracted by his many other endeavours.

Following his excruciating defeat to Marquez — whose hammerblow right at the end of the sixth sent the Filipino crashing to the canvas — family, friends and media commentators called on him to retire.

But Pacquiao, whose record stands at 54-5-2 with 38 knockouts, said Wednesday he had the desire to continue, and losing to 27-year-old Rios would not change that.


Man United’s Young dives headlong into more controversy

“If you are a Manchester United player and you see a player getting tugged back you want him to go down.

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Ashley Young has obviously gone down too much over the last few months,” former United captain Roy Keane said on ITV television.

“He’s been heavily criticised in England, but of course we’re playing in a foreign country and it’s almost more acceptable. But I think he’s conned the referee there.”

Young, who was warned by manager David Moyes earlier in the season about diving, went down easily in front of the referee in the 69th minute after Sociedad’s Markel Bergara appeared to tug his arm.

“This is as bad for me as all these over-the-top tackles we’re getting at the moment because that is a conning of the referee,” Sky Sports pundit and former United player Ray Wilkins said.

“I just wish Ashley would cut this out because he’s a good player but he’s getting a bad name.”

Young has earned a reputation for going down easily in the area and Former United manager Alex Ferguson also “had a word” with him last year after several high-profile incidents in which the England international had fallen over.

This time, however, the player had Moyes’s backing.

“I have seen it and the boy certainly tugs him in the box. If you look, the referee is two yards away for it and decided to give it,” Moyes told reporters.

The draw, during which United squandered several second-half chances and had midfielder Marouane Fellaini sent off in the 90th minute for a second yellow card, left the English champions top of Group A on eight points from four games, one more than second-placed Bayer Leverkusen with two matches to play.

“We are still in a strong position,” Moyes said. “I think if we had won tonight it would have given us a real, real chance of making sure that we are the team who were going to lead the group.

“But we are in a healthy position. You want to be on top but I do feel that we missed out on the chance tonight of making sure it was three (points).”

(Writing by Alison Wildey; Editing by Sonia Oxley)


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Barwick thrilled with World Cup

The Rugby League World Cup has so far surpassed the expectations of Rugby Football League chairman Brian Barwick.

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The 14th edition of the tournament is well under way and is proving far more successful than the last time it graced UK shores 13 years ago.

Then, hampered by weather, the competition proved a financial disaster and left the RFL in debt.

There are no such problems this time around, though, with RFL chief Barwick revealing the tournament is set to make a profit.

The former Football Association chief executive has been “thrilled to bits” by the opening two weeks of the competition and is excited by its potential legacy for the sport.

“It has exceeded our expectations in terms of the amount of people going to the games, the level of media interest and the quality of the games as well,” Barwick said on Wednesday.

“I mean, there were over 10,000 at Leigh last night for Tonga versus the Cook Islands and we’re up to 70,000 tickets for the final.

“We have been astonished. We have had sell-outs at Rochdale, Warrington and Avignon, we’ve had two sell-outs at Workington. We’ve had the highest crowds to watch rugby league in Cumbria for 20 years.”

Even in Bristol, which is not known as a rugby league hotspot, 8000 supporters had turned out.

“Both the games England played on the BBC peaked at over two million. These are new figures for us,” he said.

“I think the trick with rugby league is that it is a world-class sport but has a real family feel to it.

“It has more than exceeded our expectations. We are thrilled with it.”


Woods open to Ryder Cup talks with Watson

World No.

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1 Tiger Woods will welcome any move to sit down with USA Ryder Cup captain, Tom Watson and “clear the air” before next year’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, Scotland.

Watson was extremely critical of Woods in the months following revelations in late 2009 of Woods’ many extra-marital affairs.

And at the recent One Year to Go celebrations in Scotland ahead of the 2014 Ryder Cup, Watson said he had not talked with Woods privately and would “have to sit down and have a conversation with him”.

Woods was questioned on the subject on Wednesday as guest of honour at a packed press conference ahead of Thursday’s start of the $US7.0 million ($A7.4 million) Turkish Airlines Open.

The event is the third in the European Tour’s Final Series and with Woods being the only non-European Tour member competing.

“No, we haven’t spoken yet but I am sure as we have another year plus or about a year ahead of us, so there will be a lot of time between now and then to talk,” Woods said.

Woods also defended his decision not to contest last week’s $US8.5 million WGC-HSBC Champions event in Shanghai.

The 14-time winner instead spent the week after his Match at Mission Hills against Rory McIlroy attending to corporate engagements as well as hosting junior clinics in Macau and Singapore.

Giles Morgan, Head of Global Sponsorship with banking giant, HSBC last week indicated that Woods’ absence at Sheshan Golf Club is “something, from the tour’s point of view, that needs to be looked at”.

The prolific WGC-winning Woods had a simple response saying: “I am an independent contractor.”

Woods is competing in Turkey for a second year running after being a member of the elite number of golfers who participated in last year’s Turkish Airlines Invitational and an event where most players, with Woods an exception, wore shorts.

“We had a fantastic time last year but then it was a different format as we played match-play, and it was an occasion where a couple of the guys wore shorts and worked on their tans,” he said.

“However, this week has now turned into one of the biggest events on the European circuit so I am excited to be here and excited to go out and take a look at the golf course today.”


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