Thursday, July 10, 2008

England Rugby in decline

ITN - 10.07.2008 13:56

Rugby stars fined over misconduct

© ITN 2008

England rugby players Topsy Ojo and Mike Brown have been found guilty of misconduct following an investigation into the tour of New Zealand.

The inquiry was conducted Jeff Blackett, the Rugby Football Union's chief disciplinary officer, and found David Strettle and Danny Care not guilty of misconduct.

Ojo was fined £500 and reprimanded after he was found to have stayed out all night.
Brown was fined £1,000 and reprimanded after also staying out all night and arriving late for a physiotherapist appointment.

Ojo, Brown and Care were at the centre of sex allegations following England's 37-20 defeat by the All Blacks in Auckland.
But no official complaint was made against the players, who denied any wrongdoing.
In a report, Blackett said: "All the players I have interviewed vehemently deny any criminal wrongdoing.
"I have seen or heard no evidence which has been tested to gainsay those denials."
He revealed Strettle was not in the list of people the New Zealand police wished to interview.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Federer V Nadal at Wimbledon

James Lawton: Why Federer v Nadal was simply the greatest sporting event I've ever seen
Tuesday, 8 July 2008

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Yes, you're right, it could be that the emotion of the moment distorts, and perhaps devalues, the glories of the past. True, also, that all attempts to make some absolute judgement on the superiority of one passage of sport over another are always going to be arbitrary and perhaps easily flawed.
So does this mean we are bound to revisit Wimbledon on Sunday night and concede we might just have got a little carried away when Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer fought out what John McEnroe and Rod Laver believe to be the best Wimbledon final anyone has ever seen?
You may think that it needs to be done, if only as a mark of respect to all those who had gone before, men like Laver and Borg and McEnroe and Sampras and, perhaps not least, Goran Ivanisevic, who came as a wild card after three final defeats and distilled all his passion for the game into an unforgettable victory over the formidable Australian Pat Rafter. But then I don't.
Indeed, the stronger inclination is to return to SW19 and hoist a flag or plant a tree and reaffirm that here, on Sunday 6 July 2008, we not only saw the greatest tennis match ever played, we were also given, cleanly, beautifully, the very essence of all that is best in sport and in a way I had never quite seen before and do not confidently expect ever to see again.
Maybe we should try to define the best of sport. It can come in a variety of forms but always it must be underpinned by a purity of effort, a refusal to hold back on anything of yourself, even in the most discouraging circumstances, and when we see this, as we did on Sunday as the day stretched into the night, we can only hope for one ultimate bonus. It is that the competition is so balanced, and so intense and brilliant, that it is only in the very moment of victory that we can draw a line between the victor and the vanquished and that even when this has happened, we know as surely as we have known anything of what we have seen in any sports arena, that if the prospect of defeat had become unbearable the one who suffers the pain of it is not diminished in any eyes but his own.
Who could not say this of Roger Federer after he brought himself back from the possibility of annihilation so superbly that the obituaries being penned even before he stepped on to the Centre Court against his strong and magnificently competitive young challenger were made to seem premature to the point of bad taste?
No, we do not know how Federer will respond over the months to the loss of his Wimbledon title, but it should not be forgotten that, at the age of 26 and after recovering from a bout of glandular fever, he long ago negotiated the challenge that now faces the precocious boy-man from Majorca. It is the one that comes when you have exceeded all your hopes and then wake up one morning wondering about the health of your appetite – and your eagerness to go on repeating all those days of self-sacrifice, of continuing to see your sport as the core of your life. If Roger Federer proved nothing else on Sunday, he did that, and then when you consider the scale of his recovery and the fineness of his eventual defeat and all the searing virtuosity that had preceded it, is it not fatuous to believe that this was the end of something that for so many years was unique?
You could see on the faces of Nadal and Federer how much this match meant to them, both at the start and the finish. Nadal had ecstasy at the end and Federer, it seemed, the deepest resolution to revisit this place and make a different result. Yet even as you speculated on how they would readjust to their new situations, you could not but return to the astonishing inspiration and facility of the tennis they had produced under pressure that, plainly, neither of them had quite felt before.
Nor, when you left Wimbledon, could you ignore the question that beat in your brain and tugged at your heart: had anything you had ever seen of sport before touched you so deeply, not so much in the spectacle of it – though heaven knows it was breathtaking enough – but in the spirit and the conduct and the ambition of the men who made it?
Of course, there are more than a few contenders and perhaps the one which is closest in the intensity of the head-to-head competition, and the profundity of the commitment of both men, is the great world welterweight title fight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns in Las Vegas in 1981. It ended in the 14th round and it was titanic. It shifted in turns subtly and violently and you could never be sure of the outcome until Leonard, whose wife Juanita had been crying from ringside, "No more, baby, no more," finished it in the fashion of the street fighter he really was beneath the glitter of dazzling skills.
That fight was great in the way Nadal-Federer was great because when Hearns was taken out of the ring, hanging on the shoulders of two beefy security men and his feet trailing in the dust, you knew that you had just seen two hugely talented men go to the very edge of their ability and their courage.
It was haunting to see Brazil lose to Italy in the Sarria stadium in Barcelona in the 1982 World Cup and some of the images of the game, you knew, would last for ever, Falcao volleying in for an equaliser and Paolo Rossi, lurking like the assassin he was, scoring three goals, but the contest was flawed because the Brazilians lost their discipline and found instead vanity and, unlike Federer, had too many reasons for regret in a shattering defeat.
Sebastian Coe's 1500 metres gold in the Moscow Olympics will always rank high because that too was the result of an extraordinary recovery of will. When earlier he lost in the 800 metres to his fierce rival Steve Ovett, he was so distressed his father and coach Peter had to hold on to him when he left the stadium. He was, at least psychologically, as ravaged as Tommy Hearns.
Yes, when you think about it, there is no shortage of claimants to the high ground occupied by Nadal and Federer.
There was England winning the World Cup as a team in 1966, and Maradona claiming it virtually on his own 20 years later, and England's cricketers, in one shining, lost summer winning back the Ashes in 2005, and Steven Redgrave making Olympic history on a diamond of a morning in Sydney, and Lester Piggott bringing home The Minstrel at Epsom with such conviction that you had to wonder where he found his hauteur and his resolve. Manchester United winning their European Cups, particularly the one that came a decade after Munich and the other prised out of the ether in Barcelona have a place, obviously, as does Tiger Woods winning his first major at Augusta by a mile and his last one in California last month by an inch despite the acute pain from a wounded knee.
Yet, still, the belief here is that there was something unique about what happened on the Centre Court last Sunday.
A lot of it was to do with the balance of the match and how that was recreated only after Federer, who had come over his years as Wimbledon champion to represent so much more than mere versatility, had to remake himself under the gaze of so many who had arrived convinced that it was to see him crack. Well, he didn't crack; he was broken for a while and it was the sight of him recovering his game and his pride that was the most compelling ingredient of all.
Partly this was because it meant that no one could say Rafael Nadal had merely presided over the disintegration of a great player. No, in the end this ferocious and engaging young sportsman was not pushing aside a parody of possibly the most naturally gifted champion tennis had ever seen. He was engaging him on the highest ground their sport had ever occupied, and he was doing it with phenomenal power and skill and application.
The warming effect will certainly last this one lifetime.