Rashford, Pogba fit for Premier League return
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba will be fit for the proposed resumption of the Premier League.
Rashford was due to miss the rest of the season after a back operation in January while Pogba had not played because of a foot injury, but with both men now in group training ahead of Project Restart, Solskjaer has delivered positive news.
“They’re looking good, they’ve joined training now and they’ve done everything the other boys have been doing. No reaction so far, touch wood,” he told MUTV. “When we get started, it looks like we can have a full squad to choose from.”
The players have been back at Carrington in small groups for the last week and Solskjaer says everything is ready to move to the next phase of training, a topic which will be discussed at Wednesday’s Premier League meeting.
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“We’re back in training which has been great. The boys have been fantastic, the weather’s been good and they’ve enjoyed it,” he added. “Hopefully now we’ve proved we can do this safely and we can move to the next step. It’s been really enjoyable being on the training ground again.
“Everyone’s looking sharp, everyone’s been in with a good mood and we’ve been splitting up in groups so (working in) fours and fives together and they’ve really done well.
“Hopefully, they can as I said, step up and go to bigger training groups but so far it’s been good.”
Reading agree wage deferral
Reading have announced that their first-team players have agreed to defer part of their wages for May, June and July to counter the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Championship club said in a statement: “Following complex discussions, first-team players at the club have agreed to defer a substantial percentage of their salary for May, June and July to help the club’s cash flow situation during the current Covid-19 crisis.”
Reading were lying 14th in the Championship table before the shutdown.
Club captain Liam Moore said: “I’m delighted we have come to an agreement on salary deferments.
“These are very testing times for our club at present, much like every other club up and down the country.
“However, with an owner like ours, who continues to support us as players and has pumped a lot of money into the club, we felt that this was the least we could do as we all try to get through the challenges that the coming weeks and months will present us with.”
Eddie Jones predicts interchangeable back-rowers and centres: ‘Tom Curry is as quick as some wingers’
In the fourth episode of The Eddie Jones Coaching Podcast, he discusses tactical trends in modern rugby union with co-host Conor O’Shea, repeating his call for fewer replacements and stressing that a focus on power means it is no longer a sport for all shapes and sizes.
Liverpool to refund season ticket holders for remaining four Premier League matches
Liverpool have announced they will be contacting season ticket holders over the next 14 days to ensure they are refunded for the club’s remaining four Premier League games.
Zlatan’s Achilles tendon is ‘perfectly intact’ ahead of Serie A resumption
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Achilles tendon is “perfectly intact” according to his club AC Milan, amid reports he had suffered a potentially career-ending injury.
The 38-year-old Swede has instead sustained an injury to the soleus muscle in his calf, the Italian club said, which would be examined again in 10 days’ time.
A statement released on Tuesday morning read: “AC Milan can report that Zlatan Ibrahimovic reported an injury to the soleus muscle of his right calf in yesterday’s training session.
“The Achilles tendon is perfectly intact. An examination will be carried out in 10 days.”
The Swede joined Milan on a six-month deal last December, his second spell with the club having spent two seasons there between 2010 and 2012, the first of them while on loan from Barcelona.
Ibrahimovic played for Manchester United between 2016 and 2018 before joining the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Milan are preparing for Serie A to restart on June 13, with the league having been suspended since March 9.
Ibrahimovic has suffered serious injuries before, including a knee ligament problem while at United which sidelined him for more than six months in 2017.
But given his age, there were fears an Achilles injury at this stage could have spelt the end of his playing career.
France’s League 1 row goes to country’s highest administrative court
The legal battle against the decision to end the Ligue 1 season will go to France’s highest administrative court after appeals by Lyon, Amiens and Toulouse were last week rejected by a Paris court.
Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 were cancelled at the end of August, with Paris Saint-Germain subsequently being awarded the title and Amiens and Toulouse both relegated.
Read more of Sam Dean’s story by clicking here.
Cheltenham Festival and Liverpool vs Atletico could have led to premature deaths, research shows
Rory McIlroy says he does not think Ryder Cup will happen in 2020
World number one Rory McIlroy does not think the Ryder Cup will be played this year.
It is currently scheduled to be played September 25-27 at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, where Europe will be looking to retain the trophy they won in 2018.
But a host of major 2020 sporting events have already been cancelled due to coronavirus and McIlroy thinks the Ryder Cup will suffer the same fate.
“My personal hunch is that I don’t see how it is going to happen, so I do not think that it will happen,” McIlroy told BBC Sport NI.
“I think the majority of players would like to see it pushed back until 2021 so that they can play in front of crowds and have the atmosphere that makes the Ryder Cup so special.
“The players are the ones that make the Ryder Cup. If they are not on board with it and don’t want to play then there is no Ryder Cup.
“I see it being pushed back until 2021 and, honestly, I think that will be the right call.”
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The PGA Tour is set to resume on June 11, with McIlroy already confirming he will play the first three dates.
The 31-year-old also said he would have no issues returning to the European Tour later in the year.
“It’s a tough one. There are a lot of things up in the air, but if there are some big events in autumn time, then I can,” McIlroy said.
“Maybe if Wentworth gets moved to October, which they are thinking of, then I could see myself going over and playing that event.
“I was just as disappointed as everyone else that the Open got cancelled this year. I think it would have been a good date in September if we were able to play it.
“I wouldn’t have concerns about travelling to Europe. I think if you stick to the guidelines then I don’t see any reason why we should feel scared to travel.”
Exclusive: How Surrey plan to reopen the Oval to 6,000 members with social distancing and thermal scans
A report from Nick Hoult on how Surrey are planning to open The Oval to their members, including limiting attendance, allocated seats and several other social distancing measures. It is unlikely to be for this season, but could be in place for 2020. Read the full report here.
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How will rugby change when it returns from action?
Daniel Schofield has the latest on World Rugby’s proposed changes, which include banning reset scrums, upright tackles and spitting. Read more on that here.
Boris Johnson in 11th-hour bid to save British Grand Prix at Silverstone
The Government is in urgent talks with Formula One to save this year’s British Grand Prix, with Silverstone officials prepared to delay hosting two races until late August as anxieties mount over strict UK quarantine regulations. While the Prime Minister has approved legislation that compels all incoming team personnel to self-isolate for 14 days after June 8, he is keen that a solution is found to restore the events as the premier spectacles of the country’s ravaged sporting summer.
Australian paceman Mitchell Starc warns that cricket risks becoming “pretty boring”
Australian paceman Mitchell Starc warned on Tuesday that cricket risks becoming “pretty boring” if ball-tampering rules are not relaxed in response to a coronavirus-linked ban on using saliva to shine the ball. The International Cricket Council (ICC) is set to implement the ban in June after receiving medical advice that spit poses a Covid-19 transmission risk.
Bowlers traditionally get the ball to move in the air, deceiving the batsman, by shining one side using sweat or saliva. Starc said swinging the ball in such a manner was a crucial part of the contest between bowler and batsman. “We don’t want to lose that or make it less even, so there needs to be something in place to keep that ball swinging,” he told reporters in an online press conference.
“Otherwise people aren’t going to be watching it and kids aren’t going to want to be bowlers. “In Australia in the last couple of years we’ve had some pretty flat wickets, and if that ball’s going straight it’s a pretty boring contest.” Anil Kumble, chairman of the ICC cricket committee, said this week that the saliva ban was only intended to be a temporary measure during the coronavirus crisis.
The former Indian Test spinner suggested cricket regulators did not want to open the door to using foreign substances to alter the condition of the ball. Starc said he understood such reluctance, given the clear rules that exist against ball tampering. But he said if bowlers were disadvantaged by a saliva ban, they should be given more leeway elsewhere.
The 30-year-old said ground staff could be ordered not to produce batsman-friendly flat wickets, or ball-tampering rules could be changed allowing a substance such as wax could be applied to the ball. “It’s an unusual time for the world and if they’re going to remove saliva shining for a portion of time they need to think of something else for that portion of time as well,” he said.
“[Either] with the wickets not being as flat or at least considering this shining wax.” Australian cricket ball manufacturer Kookaburra is developing a wax applicator that allows players to shine the ball without using saliva.
Novak Djokovic speaks at the opening of his Adria Tour
Australian Open holder Djokovic, who went on an 18-0 run at the start of the season, confirmed there would be three big names apart from himself at the June 13-July 5 tournament.
“I am delighted that Dominic Thiem, Grigor Dimitrov and Alexander Zverev will be my guests here in my hometown,” said the 17-times major champion.
“This is the first time any of them will be playing here and I will do everything in my power to be a good host.
“We would dearly love for fans to be able to attend but that’s still not certain because we have to abide by the Serbian government’s coronavirus regulations.”
The first leg will take place on red clay in Belgrade on June 13 and 14 at Djokovic’s complex and the second in Croatia’s coastal resort Zadar on June 20 and 21.
Montenegro and Bosnia have been designated to host the final two legs but Djokovic said the infrastructure was still not in place.
“Bosnia and Montenegro are still not 100 per cent certain as the hosts of the final two legs because we haven’t had enough time to prepare the infrastructure, but we are very nearly there.
“As for the three big names coming over, they will all play in the opening leg in Belgrade. Zverev might play in Croatia too while Dimitrov could appear in Croatia and in Montenegro.”
All four tournaments will feature eight players, competing in two pools of four on a round-robin basis with the winners of each pool advancing to the final.
Djokovic added sets would be slashed to winning four games instead of six, with a total of 13 matches to be played over two days in each leg.
Asked whether he considered inviting longtime rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to the event, Djokovic said: “Quite frankly, inviting Federer didn’t cross my mind because… he is still nursing a knee injury.
“As for Nadal, I have no problem giving him a call but I wouldn’t expect him to come over.”
Peterborough’s Fry begs Premier League to bail out EFL clubs
Peterborough United’s director of football Barry Fry has pleaded with the Premier League to provide financial aid to prevent English Football League (EFL) clubs from going bust due to the Covid-19 shutdown.
Fourth-tier League Two clubs in England unanimously voted this month to end their season, while third-tier League One clubs are set to make a decision this week. An unweighted points-per-game formula could determine the final standings.
With promotion still a real possibility, Peterborough are one of many League One clubs not in favour of voiding the season and Fry said a financial package would help support the English football pyramid.
“I’m very frustrated, disappointed and amazed that the Premier League haven’t come in with the financial package to help all teams in the EFL,” Fry told Sky Sports.
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“The big problem… why most clubs don’t want to play is because the testing will cost a fortune, putting up games in empty stadiums will cost a fortune.
“That’s why I plead, I beg and I pray the Premier League will come and help us out in some way, shape or form, by donation.”
Huddersfield Town owner Phil Hodgkinson said up to 60 lower league clubs could go out of business if the sport fails to plan for the impact of Covid-19 beyond the current season, a view shared by Fry.
“Those clubs up and down the country are so important … they’re the life and soul of the communities, we can’t lose them,” Fry said.
“I cannot understand why the Premier League haven’t done anything about it. If we’re not careful, I can see the whole of football collapsing. Then if the Premier League and the PFA do something about it, it will be too late.”