News from Sporting Agenda

 

  • Rugby heavyweights on collision course in Japan

    With the English Premiership kicking off this weekend, the Rugby World Cup is reaching its pointy end with the quarter-finals stage in Japan, after four weeks of blistering, brilliant and bruising rugby, not to mention a typhoon of biblical proportions.  Whilst there haven’t been any huge shocks along the way, other than perhaps the host nation deservedly progressing at the expense of Scotland, there has been enormous progress from the so-called lower tier nations, who have undoubtedly closed the gap on the traditional super-powers of the game. However, there’s much to play for as England take on Australia, before Ireland face the mighty New Zealand, Wales play the unpredictable France and finally Japan hope to repeat their heroics of four years ago by beating South Africa. It’s anyone’s guess who will prevail, but it’s certain to provide a nail-biting and thrilling climax to the tournament.

  • Euro 2020 beckons for the home nations

    Whilst the Premier League puts its feet up for a week, it’s all about Euro 2020 qualifiers this weekend, with some crunch matches on the agenda for our home nations. As so often seems the case, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have it all to do, and will almost certainly have to rely on the play-off route to secure a place at the tournament, which is being held across Europe next June and July, with Wembley Stadium hosting the semi-finals and final. Meanwhile, England have thus far seen off their entirely eastern European opponents and are sitting pretty in their group, as are the Republic of Ireland, who can also ensure qualification over the next few days. With a last round of fixtures yet to come next month, disasters notwithstanding, it should be a formality for Gareth Southgate’s young and exciting squad

  • Frankie factor to enable Arc hat-trick

    The Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe takes place this weekend at Longchamp racecourse outside Paris, and Frankie Dettori will once again be on board Enable, as the John Gosden trained 5-year-old filly aims for sporting immortality with an unprecedented third consecutive win in Europe’s most valuable race. In a relatively small field of twelve, Enable will be sent off as favourite, although she will not be without her challengers, including the Aidan O’Brien-trained pair of Japan and Magical, as well as French Derby winner Sottsass, last year’s fourth-placed Waldgeist and the only other British-trained entrant, Ghaiyyath. Whilst it’s unlikely to be a stroll in the park, don’t be surprised to see yet another flying dismount from the evergreen and indefatigable Dettori as he enters the winners’ enclosure on board his “Queen of Racing”.

  • Few like it hot in Doha

    The IAAF World Athletics Championships get under way this weekend in Doha, where the main talking points have been the extreme heat and humidity in the Qatari capital, as well as the low ticket sales. However, the stadium cooling technology means that the athletes will actually be competing in almost perfect conditions, whilst the marathon will be held at midnight, when it will be slightly cooler. As ever, the event is shrouded in controversy, with American star sprinter Christian Coleman refusing drug tests, the Kenya team facing doping allegations, the Russians still suspended for continual drug use and South Africa’s ambiguously gendered man-mountain Caster Semenya barred for being too butch. Meanwhile, Britain has a number of very real medal contenders in Dina Asher-Smith, Laura Muir and Katarina Johnson-Thompson amongst the women, and recently qualified pilot and men’s 100 metres hope Zharnel Hughes, as well as throughout the relay events, if they can avoid any calamities. It should make for an explosive ten days.

  • Japan welcomes Rugby World Cup

    After seemingly months of build-up, the Rugby World Cup in Japan is finally upon us, and this time it looks almost impossible to predict who will be lifting the Webb Ellis Cup and crowned as world champions in six weeks time. New Zealand, having won the previous two tournaments, are always favourites but are suddenly looking vulnerable, whilst Australia and South Africa are both likely contenders. From the Northern Hemisphere, Ireland are currently ranked world number one, as briefly were Wales last month, whilst England are showing some form and pose a threat to anyone. Of the rest, Scotland and France will be confident of going far, as will Argentina, whilst Fiji and hosts Japan are more than capable of causing an upset, as has happened before. One certainty is that we are in for a fantastic spectacle in the Land of the Rising Sun.

  • Cricket season looking to end on a high

    As the most memorable and exciting cricket season in many years draws to a close, with England thrillingly as World Champions but Australia narrowly retaining the Ashes, largely thanks to the Bradmanesque batting of Steve Smith, and despite the almost superhuman efforts of Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer, there are now just the final two pieces of domestic silverware to be decided. Next week sees the final round of the County Championship, which has become a straight winner-takes-all contest as Somerset host leaders Essex. However, before all that, this weekend sees the T20 Blast Finals Day take place at Edgbaston, always one of the most eagerly anticipated and entertaining events on the calendar. Amongst the four semi-finalists this year are current holders Worcestershire, Essex, the ever-dangerous Nottinghamshire and, finally making their first appearance on finals day, the not-to-be-underestimated Derbyshire. With all the fancy dress, mascot races and entertainment, not to mention 120 overs of high-octane cricket, and with the weather set for a September scorcher, it is sure to be an absolute cracker.

  • Champions League back with a bang

    Having begun their Premier League campaign imperiously with five straight victories, Liverpool’s Champions League defence begins this week with a visit to Italy to take on Napoli. Meanwhile, Chelsea host Valencia, before Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City visit Olympiakos and Shakhtar Donetsk respectively. Elsewhere, the first round of group games provide a number of mouth-watering ties, including Borussia Dortmund v Barcelona, Paris Saint Germain v Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid v Juventus. With Wolverhampton Wanderers, Manchester United and Arsenal, as well as Celtic and Rangers, all going in the Europa League, there’s plenty to look forward to in Europe, so don’t believe everything you read.