Sheens should coach on with Roos: Smith

Cameron Smith has backed Tim Sheens to continue as Australian rugby league coach despite Saturday’s Four Nations final loss to New Zealand.

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The Kiwis claimed the end-of-season trophy in a nailbiting 22-18 win over the Kangaroos at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium to avenge somewhat last year’s World Cup final humiliation.

Sheens’ five-year tenure as Australian mentor is sure to come under scrutiny after the loss.

The appointment is made on a year-by-year basis and Kangaroos skipper Smith says he wants to see the four-time first-grade winning mentor coach on into 2015.

“He has done a great job with the team. He has won every trophy that you can win at international level – he has only lost a few games as coach so it is a pretty fair record,” Smith said.

“I don’t think there is any other international coach in the game that has the same record.

“If he feels he can still contribute to the team and he still wants to, then I would love to see him go on.”

Sheens did a commendable job getting an injury-hit Australia to the final, with nine players from the World Cup-winning 17 unavailable for the tournament.

Sheens blooded nine Test rookies in games against New Zealand, England and Samoa before the final.

“He did a great job,” Smith said.

“It was a fair challenge for not just him but all the coaches and the staff to get the team together.

“We had a lot of new faces, guys that haven’t played too much big-time footy. They have played some tight NRL matches and played in front of some big crowds but nothing gets you ready for representative football until you get there.

“I thought the coaching staff did a great job. We came together pretty quickly – I was actually surprised.

“I made the comment after the first game, although we lost, I was really impressed with the way the young guys joined the group so fast.”

The Australians play only one international next year in the Anzac Test.

That and the absence of an obvious successor could keep Sheens in the post for at least another year.

If not, his Kangaroos assistant David Furner is one possibility to take over.

Shades of Woosnam as Chilean Aguilar gets four-shot penalty

Having not completed his second round, which ended prematurely because of a thunderstorm on Friday, the European Tour said in a statement that Aguilar was in breach of Rule 4-4 by replacing the club.

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“The player must not start a stipulated round with more than 14 clubs,” the tour explained. “He is limited to the clubs thus selected for that round except that if he started with fewer than 14 clubs, he may add any number provided his total number does not exceed 14.

“The addition of a club or clubs must not unduly delay play and the player must not add or borrow any club selected for play by any other person on the course by assembling components carried by or for the player during the stipulated round.”

The maximum penalty for contravening Rule 4-4 in strokeplay is four shots, two at each of the first two holes at which a breach occurred.

Former world number one Woosnam had just moved into a share of the lead when he was famously docked two strokes in the 2001 Open at Royal Lytham after his caddie had mistakenly put an extra club in his bag at the start of the final round.

The Welshman was furious at the error, hurled the offending club — a driver — into the bushes and went on to finish four shots adrift of eventual winner David Duval.

Aguilar’s blunder meant his second-round 70 became a 74, leaving him with a two-over total of 146.

Britain’s Ian Poulter leads the field on 130 in Turkey, the penultimate event of the European Tour season.

The 40-year-old Aguilar has been a regular in Europe for the last nine years.

He has won twice on the tour, at the 2008 Indonesian Open and The Championship in Singapore in May of this year.

(Editing by Rex Gowar)

Kremlin denies Putin will leave G20 early

At one stage, a member of the Russian delegation told news agency AFP that Putin would cut short his visit by skipping the annual summit’s final lunch, upending a meeting focused on revamping the global economy and addressing the Ebola epidemic in west Africa.

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But the Kremlin stepped in to deny the Russian leader was leaving early under pressure over the Ukraine crisis.

“The G20 summit will be over tomorrow (Sunday), Putin will certainly leave it, when all the work is completed the president will leave,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Russian radio on Saturday, without specifying whether the Russian leader would attend the lunch.

A Kremlin statement said Putin held “rather lengthy and detailed discussions” with Merkel and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Junker.

“An exchange of opinions on the situation in the southeast of Ukraine took place” in the meeting between Putin and Merkel, it said. “Vladimir Putin in detail explained Russia’s approach to the situation.”

Before his own tense meeting with Putin on the G20 sidelines, British Prime Minister David Cameron said Russia faced a choice, with one option to implement an agreement to allow stability to return to Ukraine free of Moscow’s meddling.

“It’s important to warn of the dangers if Russia continues to head in the other direction,” Cameron said.

“If that path continues and if that destabilisation gets worse, the rest of the world, Europe, America, Britain, will have no choice but to take further action in terms of sanctions,” he said.

G20 host Tony Abbott had vowed to confront Putin, particularly over the downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over Ukraine in July.

On Saturday the Australian prime minister was all smiles as he posed for a handshake with a similarly grinning Putin – before the two leaders were photographed holding koala together.

However, the koala diplomacy was followed by less cuddly talks on the G20 sidelines.

When Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was approached by Putin to shake hands he said, according to Canadian media: “Well, I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I only have one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine.”

Spurs must give Pochettino time – Klinsmann

United States coach Klinsmann pointed to the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United who reaped the rewards of giving managers Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson time in the job.

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“I really hope (Pochettino is given time). There’s no reason to change anything,” Klinsmann, in London for his U.S. team’s friendly against Colombia at Craven Cottage on Friday, said.

“You look at the big clubs around the world, not just in Europe, the clubs that stick to a certain way, they give the coaches time to develop things the way they want it and they build consistency,” he told the BBC.

Argentine Pochettino has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks after a series of lacklustre and toothless Spurs performances.

Since arriving at White Hart Lane in May, Pochettino, who guided unfancied Southampton to a brilliant eight-placed finish last season, has struggled to replicate those managerial feats.

Spurs sit 12th in the table after 11 games, 15 points behind leaders Chelsea, having lost three of their last four matches.

They are six points worse off at this stage of the campaign compared to last season and only waited until mid-December last year before parting company with then manager Andre Villas-Boas.

“It’s normal that you go through up and downs when the new coaching staff comes in,” Klinsmann said.

“It will take time to mould things the way Mauricio wants it to happen. Therefore you have a little bit of a rollercoaster.

“You need to stay calm, take it one step at a time and make the changes you need to make and then things will go in the right direction. But it’s not going to happen overnight.”

Widely-criticised chairman Daniel Levy has made Pochettino his third manager in under a year after Villas-Boas and predecessor Tim Sherwood and Klinsmann urged him to exercise more patience with the 42-year-old.

“If you have only four or six months you’re not making that big difference. Arsene Wenger is (at Arsenal) for many years so you can only make that difference over a long period of time which he did.

“Look at Alex Ferguson, how much did he win in the first three or four years? Not much. But then he brought the consistency to what Manchester United is today. That’s the way it works.”

(Reporting By Tom Hayward; Editing by Rex Gowar)

Kremlin denies Putin leaving G20 early

The Kremlin has quickly stepped in to deny reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to leave the G20 leaders’ summit in Brisbane earlier than planned.

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At one stage, a member of the Russian delegation told news agency AFP that Putin would cut short his visit by skipping the annual summit’s final lunch, upending a meeting focused on revamping the global economy and addressing the Ebola epidemic in west Africa.

But the Kremlin stepped in to deny the Russian leader was leaving early under pressure over the Ukraine crisis.

“The G20 summit will be over tomorrow (Sunday), Putin will certainly leave it, when all the work is completed the president will leave,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Russian radio on Saturday , without specifying whether the Russian leader would attend the lunch.

A Kremlin statement said Putin held “rather lengthy and detailed discussions” with Merkel and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Junker.

“An exchange of opinions on the situation in the southeast of Ukraine took place” in the meeting between Putin and Merkel, it said. “Vladimir Putin in detail explained Russia’s approach to the situation.”

Before his own tense meeting with Putin on the G20 sidelines, British Prime Minister David Cameron said Russia faced a choice, with one option to implement an agreement to allow stability to return to Ukraine free of Moscow’s meddling.

“It’s important to warn of the dangers if Russia continues to head in the other direction,” Cameron said.

“If that path continues and if that destabilisation gets worse, the rest of the world, Europe, America, Britain, will have no choice but to take further action in terms of sanctions,” he said.

G20 host Tony Abbott had vowed to confront Putin, particularly over the downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over Ukraine in July.

On Saturday the Australian prime minister was all smiles as he posed for a handshake with a similarly grinning Putin – before the two leaders were photographed holding koala bears together.

However, the koala diplomacy was followed by less cuddly talks on the G20 sidelines.

When Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was approached by Putin to shake hands he said, according to Canadian media: “Well, I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I only have one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine.”

Johnson praises V8 champion Whincup

Jamie Whincup might have eclipsed his record of championship wins but V8 Supercars great Dick Johnson says it is impossible to compare their driving records.

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Five-time champ Johnson declared Whincup deserved to pass his record with a sixth title but was happy to serve up a ‘back in my day’-style defence of his own formidable driving success.

Johnson said comparing his record of Touring Car success with the V8 Supercars era was like apples and oranges.

“It’s not what you do but how you do it,” he said.

“We did things a lot differently.

“I used to build the engines, build the gearboxes and diffs and drive the truck.

“It’d be interesting to see if we had the same criteria today, wouldn’t it?”

The well-loved Ford legend was happy to pay tribute to Whincup’s achievements, saying he’d done an exceptional job.

Whincup will be pitted against returning NASCAR driver Marcos Ambrose next season, who will compete in a rebranded Dick Johnson-led team.

Despite Ambrose’s return, Johnson seemed to agree that Whincup’s domination of the sport would continue.

Johnson suggested he (Whincup) would continue to win races, and titles, when asked if he could be stopped next season.

“That’s up to him,” he said.

“Does he want to continue or does he want to challenge himself further in something else?”

Johnson’s fellow Ford man and beaten title contender Mark Winterbottom reflected on a tough year.

“It’s disappointing as this was the best start we’ve ever had,” he said.

“We’ve had good cars and our team deserves credit for how we started the year.

“It’s a tough championship and we fell away … you’ve got to be good for 12 months and we weren’t.”

It’s not all negative for Winterbottom and the Ford Performance Racing team.

“When there’s a Triple Eight car first and a Triple Eight car third … (and you’re second) you know you’re doing a good job.”

“We know we can beat them, but they’re very good.”

ODI winter primes England for World Cup success says Cook

Having not played any form of cricket since a Twenty20 victory against India in early September, England’s weary team are rested after a testing year on and off the field.

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Between now and the World Cup, in Australia and New Zealand starting in February, England’s schedule is made up entirely of limited overs cricket and Cook believes that provides them with the perfect platform for success.

“Without a doubt, this is our best chance,” Cook told a press conference ahead of their seven-game ODI tour in Sri Lanka.

“This goes back a few years in planning and asking why our World Cups have not gone as well as they should have.

“Since 1992, we have not done ourselves justice in any World Cup. The ECB have planned to make sure we have the guys fresh and ready to go for the World Cup.

“We have a great opportunity and I, for one, am excited about playing one-day cricket without having Tests in the forefront.”

England have lost five of their last six one-day series but the 29-year-old pointed to the absence of key personnel on those occasions.

“We haven’t had our full-strength side since the Champions Trophy (in June 2013). Priorities change. We obviously had back-to-back Ashes series so a lot of the guys were rested from one-day cricket. That is not the case now.

“We have a full-strength side, we have guys who are desperate to get a World Cup spot and we have time to really focus on us as an England one-day side.

“The last time we were able to do that we were very dangerous. A lot of one-day cricket is played on the back of Test series when guys are tired and you can’t do as much work on your skills.

“We have this five-week tour ahead of us now and we can’t use that excuse now.”

England face Sri Lanka in the first ODI on Nov. 26.

(Reporting By Tom Hayward; Editing by Ian Chadband)

Abbott officially welcomes leaders to G20

If Vladimir Putin was worried about being shirtfronted, he wasn’t showing it.

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Mr Putin was all smiles as was Tony Abbott when the prime minister welcomed the Russian hard man to the 2014 G20 Leaders’ Summit in Brisbane on Saturday afternoon.

Mr Abbott famously announced last month he would “shirtfront” Mr Putin over Russia’s support for separatists who allegedly shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, resulting in the deaths of 298 people including 38 Australian citizens and residents.

Most observers have described the encounter as cordial and it seemed to be the friendliest the two men have been in each other’s company during several meetings, including in Beijing earlier in the week.

Some wondered, however, about a two-fingered hand gesture Mr Putin made during the encounter.

But Mr Abbott was in genial host mode as he greeted Mr Putin and the other G20 leaders at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre at Southbank.

There were smiles all round as one leader after another, including close friends Canada’s Stephen Harper and the UK’s David Cameron, lined up for the handshake and photo.

Indian president Narendra Modi, the first Indian leader to visit Australia in 28 years, warmly hugged Mr Abbott, while US President Barack Obama was all comfortable smiles as the last to be greeted.

The leaders watched a welcome to country ceremony before Mr Abbott addressed the group and told the leaders that it’s up to governments to show that they can deliver growth.

“This is our message to the world that governments can deliver, that governments can agree that the world can be better, that there can be higher growth and more jobs,” Mr Abbott told delegates as he opened the two-day summit in Brisbane.

“That’s what the world expects of us, they want more growth, they want more jobs.”

Mr Abbott, the chair of the G20 Summit, was seated at the oval table between US president Barack Obama and Argentina’s representative, Axel Kicillof.

The seating was in alphabetical order, with Russian president Vladimir Putin between the Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz and South Korea’s president Park Geun-hye.

Mr Abbott said the leaders were embarking on a series of important reforms, including freer trade, more infrastructure and fiscal consolidation.

“We believe as a result of the work that we will do, the world can grow more than two per cent more over the next five years than what would otherwise be the case,” he said.

30,000 protest Russian annexation on Georgian streets

Carrying Georgian and Ukrainian flags and placards that read “Stop Putin!”, the protesters gathered on the city’s main thoroughfare on Saturday, following the call of the former president Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement party (UNM).

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Saakashvili addressed the rally by video link from Kiev as the cheering crowd chanted his name.

“Let’s show Georgia’s government that the nation is united against the serious threat to its independence, its future,” he said.

Saakashvili’s UNM party has accused the ruling Georgian Dream coalition government of not confronting what it claims is Russia’s creeping annexation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Backed by the Kremlin, the two regions broke away from Georgia after civil wars in the 1990s following the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Moscow officially recognised their independence after fighting a five-day war with Georgia in August 2008.

After that war, Moscow stationed thousands of troops in the two separatist statelets in a move condemned by Tbilisi and its Western allies as an illegal occupation.

Russia is already at loggerheads with the West after its annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in March and its support for separatist fighters in the former Soviet country’s eastern belt.

Georgian Dream, assembled by former prime minister and billionaire tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, came to power in 2012 and ended a decade-long rule of staunchly pro-Western Saakashvili and his UNM party.

Accused by prosecutors of abuse of power, Saakashvili lives in a self-imposed exile in the United States.

Young gun Koepka hoping first victory is in range

The 24-year-old from Florida has collected four top-10 finishes on the European Tour this season, including a tie for fourth behind German winner Martin Kaymer at the U.

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S. Open in North Carolina in June.

Koepka again put himself in a good position to launch a final-day title challenge when he signed for a two-under-par 70 in a soggy third round of the $7 million Turkish Airlines Open.

That left him two strokes adrift of pacesetting Australian Wade Ormsby and one behind former world number one Lee Westwood, European Ryder Cup talisman Ian Poulter and pony-tailed German Marcel Siem.

“It would be nice to finally get a win,” Koepka told Reuters in an interview on a cold and rainy day during which the spectacular Taurus Mountains were hidden by a fog of grey mist that fell on southern Turkey.

“I’ve been cracking on the door for a while but I’ve learned a lot from some of my failures.

“I’ve been in the lead with nine holes to go and with five holes to go. I feel like in the last two months I’ve been ready to win and it would be disappointing to finish the year without a victory.”

Koepka was a long way short of his best on Saturday. He toiled with his close-range putting and was fortunate to limit the damage after smashing a couple of wayward drives.

“It was nice to finish with a 20-foot birdie putt at the last hole, it will make dinner taste a little better tonight,” smiled the world number 61 after ending up with a 10-under-par tally of 206.

“I missed a couple of short ones today. I was fine with anything outside of four feet but inside that I just felt I couldn’t make them.

“I was never comfortable over them and that was quite frustrating. It never felt right,” added Koepka who won three times on the second-tier European Challenge Tour last season to earn promotion to the main circuit.

“It’s all about how I’m setting up, the way the putter sits in my hands, the way it’s running up my right forearm. I’ll work on that in the next hour or so to try and put it right.”

Lady luck smiled on Koepka when he hit two wild tee shots on the front nine.

“On the first hole my drive went right into the trees,” he explained. “They only found it after the five-minute rule, I hit a provisional ball and went on to make a bogey.

“Then it was kind of funny at the seventh because my drive went left, finished up against a bush and my provisional there landed up against the lip of a bunker. I was happy to get away with just a bogey,” said Koepka.

“I made mistakes but I got away with them, minimised the damage.

“Overall it was disappointing because today I felt you could really score well. I felt the course was gettable and I could easily have shot six or seven under.”

(Editing by Rex Gowar)