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Lancaster is happy at Leinster, insists Cullen

Stuart Lancaster and Leinster are in a very happy relationship "at the moment", according to Leo Cullen.

The former England boss, who departed the role in the wake of the 2015 World Cup pool exit, has been linked with a return to his homeland.

England are on the look-out for a coach to join their set-up after next year's World Cup and RFU interim chief executive Nigel Melville stated this week that Lancaster's history with the side would not rule him out of contention.

Asked if Lancaster, who has been commuting from England since taking the senior coach job at the province in 2016, had given any hints about his future intentions, Cullen said: "He's telling me he's very happy at the moment, anyway. That's all we can work on at the moment.

"Stuart has had a huge impact on us as group and we're all very happy at the moment the way the dynamic is working.

"We'd be hopeful [he'll be here next season], yes."

Cullen brings his European champions to Bath tomorrow for a Pool 1 clash on Saturday. He said that Jack Conan, Rory O'Loughlin, Dan Leavy and Jordan Larmour, who were all on the assessment list on Monday, are still in contention for selection.

Jordan Larmour is in the running to face Bath

Leinster are favourites to take the points off a Bath side with just three wins from nine games in the Premiership.

However, Cullen admits that their reputation precedes them and that being European champions means that they are a prized scalp – as demonstrated by how Toulouse celebrated their victory in October.

He said: "A couple of games we've lost this season, [in the Pro14] against Scarlets, it was a big thing for them. We saw it against Toulouse. We need to understand that [the target] is there and figure out what our own motivations is going into the game.

"We understand what it feels like when we don't win the games. We've had a couple of reminders this year already what it's like when we lose and it's not particularly enjoyable."

Leinster will also have to deal with former coach Girvan Dempsey, now working with the English side.

Cullen said of his former colleague: "It's [his] knowledge of the way we are trying to play the game], the way we set up on both sides of the ball, in an attack and defence point of view, where we've been exposed and where we're potentially a little bit weak.

"Girv knows the players inside out so anyone who has that level of detail , you have to be very conscious of that.

"[But] sometimes even if teams know what's coming, they still have to be able to handle it."

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Live: Australia’s bowlers hunting early breakthroughs on day three in Perth

Email Virat Kohli aims for second-Test ton on day three of second Test against Australia – live blog By Jon Healy and James Maasdorp

Updated December 16, 2018 12:49:00

Related Story: Virat Kohli, a batsman on another level and playing his own private game External Link: Want to get all the Test highlights? We'll update you on Messenger Map: Australia

With Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane settled at the crease, Australia needs quick wickets on day three to remain on top in this second Test at Perth Stadium.

Keep up to date with all the action in our live blog and sign up to get the highlights on Facebook Messenger — ask us questions about the day's play and we'll answer some of the best ones.

External Link: Day three of Australia v India Test at Perth Stadium live blog

Topics: sport, cricket, australia, wa, perth-6000, india

First posted December 16, 2018 12:41:12

Contact Jon Healy

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Modric criticises Messi, Ronaldo for Ballon d’Or gala snub

Email Ballon d'Or winner Luka Modric criticises Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo for failing to attend gala

Posted December 16, 2018 12:03:06

Photo: Luka Modric's Champions League win with Real Madrid and World Cup run with Croatia, earned him the Ballon d'Or. (AP: Manu Fernandez) Map: Spain

Ballon d'Or winner Luka Modric has criticised Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for choosing not to attend this month's ceremony where he was given the award, saying their decision was unfair to fellow players and voters.

Croatian captain Modric, who broke Messi and Ronaldo's decade-long stranglehold on the prestigious prize, said in a newspaper interview on Saturday the pair's absence from the gala in Paris on December 3 did not make sense.

External Link: BR football tweet: Real talk from @lukamodric10

"I cannot speak about why someone didn't turn up at an award ceremony, it's their choice," the Real Madrid midfielder told Croatian newspaper Sportske Novosti.

"It doesn't make sense, does it? It seems these votes and awards are only significant when they win.

"It's unfair to fellow players and voters who have nominated them in the past 10 years, as well as to football and the fans.

"However, people will act the way they think they should."

Juventus forward Ronaldo came second in the 2018 Ballon d'Or vote behind his old Real teammate Modric, while Messi was fifth, a ranking met with some consternation at both the Argentinian's club Barcelona and in the Catalan media.

Modric, who lifted a third successive Champions League title with Real last season and led Croatia to its first World Cup final, said Ronaldo and Messi were still the best two players around but added that it did not mean they should always be named best player each season.

Golden duo miss out

Ballon d'Or wins

  • Lionel Messi – 5 (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015)
  • Cristiano Ronaldo – 5 (2008, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017)
  • Luka Modric – 1 (2018)

"In my opinion, things are very simple: Ronaldo and Messi are phenomenons [sic] who have been dominant in the past 10 years or so. They've been in a league of their own," Modric said.

"But we are talking about a season's accomplishments here and I guess it means something that votes by national team coaches, managers, football legends, journalists and fellow players have produced the same results."

The Croatian also offered the sarcastic suggestion:

"If the debate is going to be about how good a particular player is, the only course of action is to award all trophies to Messi and Ronaldo until they retire and scrap the voting."

External Link: Real Madrid news tweet: Luka Modric, what a year! #HalaMadrid


Topics: sport, soccer, spain, italy, croatia

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Kookaburras lose Hockey World Cup semi-final in shootout

Email Australia loses 4-3 to the Netherlands in a semi-final shootout at the Hockey World Cup in India

Updated December 16, 2018 10:47:39

Photo: The Australian men's team was the defending champion. (AP: Aijaz Rahi) Map: Australia

The Kookaburras have missed their shot at a historic third straight World Cup title after losing a heartbreaking semi-final to the Netherlands 4-3 in a penalty shootout.

With scores locked 2-2 at regular time, the shootout went to sudden death after both teams only converted three of their opening five shots in the Indian city of Bhubaneswar.

External Link: Kookaburras tweet: We've been beaten in a shootout in the #HWC2018 semi-finals… we'll play for bronze tomorrow. For now, that hurts #PrideOfTheKookas

After forward Jeroen Hertzberger scored for the Netherlands, Dutch goalkeeper Pirman Blaak swept away Daniel Beale's look on goal to seal their path to a final against Belgium.

It was a cruel defeat for the world number one team, who appeared to have lost in regular time only for captain Eddie Ockenden's last-gasp shot to be deflected in with 30 seconds to go.

Ockenden was involved twice in the build-up, bringing down a lofted ball and passing wide before receiving it back and forcing the shootout.

But the Kookaburras were unable to capitalise on their second chance, with Aran Zalewski and Tim Brand missing, and Beale failing with his second shot.

Ranked number four in the world, the Netherlands pounced on an uncharacteristically high turnover rate by the Australians and took a two-goal lead into half-time.

An open and free-flowing first half tightened up after the break, but Tim Howard converted a 44th-minute penalty corner to set up a grandstand final term.

The two-time defending champions pressed hard in the fourth quarter, with Trent Mitton's diving effort gloved away by Blaak.

Goalkeeper Tyler Lovell was pulled from goal and leading goalscorer Blake Govers had a last-gasp penalty corner, but Ockenden provided the game-changer.

The dramatic win for the Netherlands comes four years after they were walloped 6-1 by the Kookaburras in the 2014 World Cup final on their own turf.

Dutch player Thijs van Dam (L) celebrates with Pirmin Blaak in the Hockey World Cup semi-final. Photo: Dutch goalkeeper Pirmin Blaak (R) produced the game-winning save. (AP: Aijaz Rahi)

Chances flowed early and often for both teams in the opening quarter, with Australia drawing a number of saves from Blaak.

But it was the Netherlands who took their opportunities, with both Glenn Schuurman and Seve van Ass finding the back of the net inside the first half.

External Link: Hockey World Cup 2018 tweet: Here's how the World Cup campaign looks now. Just two teams left to fight for the title! #HWC2018 #Odisha2018

Blaak was named man-of-the-match, saving 10 shots on his goal.

Kookaburras coach Colin Batch said he was confident with the five players he picked in the shootout, but conceded he might change his line-up if presented with the same situation.

"We went with the five and Andrew Charter as the goalkeeper. We believe that was the right call," Batch said.

"We've got another five guys who can take them. If we have to do it tomorrow, we'll probably change things up. But it's hit and miss.

"Good technique survives sometimes but you could also be unlucky."

Batch's side now meet England in the third-place playoff, while the Netherlands face Belgium in the final, after the Belgians beat England 6-0 in the other semi-final.


Topics: sport, field-hockey, australia, netherlands, india

First posted December 16, 2018 10:28:36

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NFL: Browns keep play-off hopes alive beating Broncos

The Cleveland Browns' NFL play-off hopes remain alive following a 17-16 victory at the Denver Broncos.

It was the Browns' third win in four but they still need help to reach the post-season and can be eliminated later this evening if Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Tennessee all win.

Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield threw two touchdowns, finding Breshad Perriman with a 31-yard touchdown pass and then Antonio Callaway for a two-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

AFC South leaders the Houston Texans made it 10 wins in 11 games with a 29-22 triumph at the New York Jets.

Deshaun Watson found DeAndre Hopkins with a 14-yard touchdown pass with 2:15 remaining on the clock to prevent the Texans slipping to a second successive defeat following a nine-game winning streak.

Watson finished with 294 yards and two touchdown passes to Hopkins.

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Rose wilts in Jakarta as Poom takes Indonesian Masters

Justin Rose failed to reclaim the world number one ranking after a final round meltdown at the Indonesian Masters as Thai Poom Saksansin claimed the title for the second time with a three-shot victory.

Rose's title defence was effectively ended by a third-round 71 but, starting the day in a share of fourth, the tie for 16th with one other player or better he needed to replace American Brooks Koepka at the top of the rankings looked straightforward.

The 38-year-old Englishman's putting let him down badly, however, and he started with a bogey before adding a double bogey at the second when he twice failed to chip the ball up a bank and onto the green.

Worse was to come at the 12th when he had a reasonably gettable birdie putt but ended up with a triple bogey, which he followed with another bogey at the 13th.

The Olympic champion birdied his final two holes amid gusting winds as a storm bore down on the course but it was too little, too late and he signed for a three-over-par 75 which left him in a share of 17th on six-under.

Jazz Janewattananond spiced up the final round with a late surge but could not deny compatriot and 2016 champion Poom, who held the lead from the midway stage of the Asian Tour's season-ending event at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club.

Poom made a strong start with three birdies in his first six holes and signed for a final round 68 for a winning total of 20-under 268.

His fellow Thai Jazz wielded a hot putter to sink six birdies and a couple of eagles in his round of 65 for second place but Poom was never really threatened.

Panuphol Pittayarat (66) completed a Thai 1-2-3 a shot ahead of Sweden's Henrik Stenson (71), who finished alone in fourth on 14-under.

India's Shubhankar Sharma, who was already assured of winning the Asian Tour's Order of Merit, missed the cut.

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