Cracksman heads seven in Prince Of Wales’

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Cracksman will face just six rivals in Wednesday’s Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot.

John Gosden’s four-year-old is unbeaten in his last five starts, including victories in the Champion Stakes last October and the Prix Ganay on his seasonal bow.

He made hard work of winning the Coronation Cup at Epsom at the start of the month, but is still a hot favourite for this 10-furlong Group One.

Charlie Appleby’s Hawkbill won the Dubai Sheema Classic in March, but was beaten 25 lengths by Cracksman when fifth in the Coronation Cup and tries his luck again here.

Aidan O’Brien relies on Cliffs Of Moher, who was last seen when second behind sidelined stablemate Lancaster Bomber in the Tattersalls Gold Cup last time out.

Eminent is another runner on the comeback trail for Martyn Meade after disappointing when last of five on his seasonal return at Chester.

Poet’s Word got back to winning ways last time out for Sir Michael Stoute when down in class, but was second to Hawkbill in Dubai and filled the same position behind Cracksman in the Champion Stakes.

The field is completed by David Simcock’s Desert Encounter and Royal Julius, who is trained in France and was a winner in Italy last time out.

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Campbell & Ward: The full story of shocking 1979 tour

Ollie Campbell says it’s been a rare week in the past four decades that no one has mentioned Tony Ward, the Australian tour of 1979, and the selection dilemma that caused ructions within the Irish rugby fraternity.

In 1979, an Irish squad, coming off the back of an okay-ish Five Nations campaign, travelled Down Under and beat Australia 2-0 in a Test series. They wouldn’t win again away from home against the Aussies until last weekend. Hell, they wouldn’t beat them at all in any venue until 2002.

And yet, despite the landmark achievement, the tour is principally remembered now as the scene of Tony Ward’s shafting and Ollie Campbell’s dramatic elevation.

Any retrospectives or potted histories of that tour fixate on the psychodrama surrounding the selection and treat the actual test wins as a mere post-script. The victories are cited less as fine wins in their own right and more as vindication for the selectors.

Ward’s omission for the First Test was regarded as a shocking moment by many, not least the player himself.

Ward had starred in the 1978 and ’79 Five Nations campaigns, collecting more Man of the Match awards than he could fit in the boot of his car (the IRFU were evidently concerned about this space issue as they prevented him collecting the last two of these).

He was crowned both European Player of the Year and the Rugby Writers’ Player of the Year for the 1978-79 season. Not only that, but he was the starting out-half for Munster’s win over the All Blacks in ’78 and on the first tour match Down Under he broke the Irish points scoring record in a win over the Australian Capital Territories.

It seemed incomprehensible to many that he would be dropped.

00101b0b-614Ward was Europe’s in-form player in 1979

Rugby pundits, historians and promo makers are renowned for never taking a backward step in the hyperbole stakes.

In that spirit, we might describe this as the biggest selection controversy in Ireland since Dev decided not to pick himself for the Treaty negotiations.

It also jarred heavily with what was reputed to be standard practice in Irish rugby at the time.

After all, ancient lore has it that players were never, ever dropped from the Ireland rugby team in those years.

The only thing in the world harder than getting picked for the Irish rugby team, the old joke went, was getting dropped from the Irish rugby team.

Willie John McBride was speaking once at one of those Will Carling-led after dinner yokes that proliferate on YouTube.

You may have seen them. A host of past rugby players from down the decades line up Usual Suspects style on stage and tell well-worn anecdotes about their playing days and marvel at how much more craic filled – and shambolic – they were compared to the soulless professionalism of the present day.

After telling the crowd that he was delighted to be ‘anywhere’ at his age, Willie John recalled his own international debut at Twickenham in 1962 and speculated that his predecessor at lock “must have died or something”.

One other player gobsmacked by the selectors’ decision was Ollie Campbell himself

Then, when remembering his twilight years in the jersey and how his career briefly intersected with youthful opposite number Billy Beaumont, he expressed (probably ironic) bemusement that “they kept changing the English team” year on year.

In that context, the decision to drop the European Player of the Year was regarded as a remarkable bombshell.

One other player gobsmacked by the selectors’ decision was Ollie Campbell himself.

Speaking to RTE Sport this week, the unfailingly modest and polite Campbell said he was relieved to be picked for the Test squad in the first place.

“There was nobody more surprised than I was to be selected for the Test side. Tony was the European player of the year for two years in a row. He was probably the first absolute star of Irish rugby.

“For me at that stage, even to be selected for the Tour at all was a surprise.”

Why was Ward dropped? In his forthright autobiography ‘Twelve Feet Tall’, Ward suggests that the IRFU had grown wary and resentful of his burgeoning profile.

Ward was hot stuff in the late ‘70s, and in this narrative, the union, always pathologically obsessed with signs of creeping professionalism, took an almost visceral dislike.

00101b0d-614Ward playing in a soccer friendly

Despite his form on the pitch, Ward got an uneasy feeling on tour that coach Noel Murphy had it in for him. His antenna was cocked for any hint of hostility and he felt that repeated training ground comments about the need for teamwork were in fact swipes aimed at him.

The selection committee consisted of Murphy, team manager Jack Coffey, and team captain Fergus Slattery.

Munster hooker Pat Whelan evidently got notice of which way the wind was blowing before the announcement and whispered to Ward: “prepare yourself”.

Despite his earlier forebodings, Ward still admitted to being “rattled and dumbstruck” by the announcement. Campbell was so surprised that he initially assumed he was selected elsewhere in the backline rather than in place of Ward.

However, there is another rugby-based explanation for the decision. Tom English’s book No Borders: Playing Rugby for Ireland is highly revealing on that score.

While some players were blandly diplomatic on the matter, several of the Leinster forwards – notably Phil Orr, Willie Duggan and Fergus Slattery – were surprisingly bald in expressing their support for the selectors’ call.

Slattery, one of the trio of selectors who made the decision, said that Ward’s game lacked the structure of Campbell’s and the decision was only a surprise to those who didn’t understand what they were looking at.

“The problem with Tony’s game was a lack of pace and it wasn’t apparent to the intelligentsia in the media,” Slattery told English. “He didn’t have the pace to do the things he tried to do. He was a great dancer, small and agile, but there was far more structure to Ollie’s game.

00101b20-614The decision was front page news

“Wardy had a tendency to crab across the pitch rather than go forward and that put pressure on the outside. It was only a bombshell to the people who didn’t know what they were saying.”

The late Willie Duggan was more earthy in his language. Ward’s shimmying, off-the-cuff, improvisational game sometimes left him and his backrow colleagues at sea, he argued.

“You can’t just follow the ball as a backrow forward, you have to take the shortcut. You need to know where it’s going to go and then you go there. Sometimes with Wardy you looked around and he’d gone the other f*****g way. You were standing there like a p***k in the wrong place. He was a very good player but with Ollie you knew where you were.”

Whatever the rationale, Ward was especially upset at the heartless manner of his demotion. Neither Murphy nor Slattery, he said, felt it incumbent upon them to give a detailed, or indeed a vague, explanation for the decision.

In his book, Ward recounted a bizarre anecdote of how Murphy, rather than talk through the selection call, brought him instead to the cinema where they watched some unnamed Vietnam War movie, one which Murphy proclaimed ‘rubbish’ halfway through before beckoning them leave well in advance of the end.

Somewhat confused by this episode, Ward reasoned later on that Murphy was attempting to keep him away from the rest of the squad so as to prevent dissent from spreading.

Any time I meet Noel he says the same thing to me every single time. He says if the selection hadn’t worked, he would now be an Australian citizen

Murphy, known by the nickname ‘Noisy’ during his long years as player, coach and administrator, knew he was taking a big risk with the call.

Every time he meets Ollie Campbell these days, he greets him with the same line.

“Any time I meet Noel he says the same thing to me every single time. He says if the selection hadn’t worked, he would now be an Australian citizen. He would have stayed.”

Murphy could be satisfied the gamble worked and he was free to return home.

Australia were historically regarded as the poor relation of Southern Hemisphere rugby. With no David Campese or Mark Ella on the scene yet, they hadn’t evolved into the potent force that would decorate the game in the 1980s and 90s.

But Ireland were still big outsiders to win down there.

“That Australian team at the time was a very, very experienced team,” says Campbell. “They had beaten England in a Test series two summers before that. They had beaten Wales the summer before. And they had actually beaten the All Blacks in Eden Park – which is a very rare thing to do – the year before as well when Greg Cornelsen, one of their back rows, had actually scored four tries in that match.

“So, we weren’t really given much of a chance. To say we were rank outsiders would be something of an understatement. But we won the first Test 27-12 in Ballymore in Brisbane. It came as quite a shock to the Australians at that time.

“And we won the second Test in Sydney and we won that by a much narrower scoreline of 9-3.”

“We weren’t conscious of it at the time but we subsequently became aware that we were actually the first Northern Hemisphere individual country that won a Test series in the Southern Hemisphere.”

Ward’s international career thereafter was an interrupted affair, though he did start at fly-half for the Lions in the First Test against South Africa in 1980. He entered the hall of fame of Irish sportsmen more beloved by fans and the media than by the Ireland coach.

00101b12-614Campbell’s career was curtailed by hamstring issues

When Campbell was laid low with persistent hamstring injuries (which would soon force his retirement) Ward reclaimed the No. 10 jersey for the final couple of games of Ireland’s already doomed 1984 Five Nations campaign.

Paul Dean, an inside centre on the 1982 team, was then picked at fly-half for the Triple Crown winning season of 1985. This again caused bafflement among many in the media and the public, who couldn’t understand the aversion to picking Ward.

Ward himself, however, was much more philosophical and understanding about that decision and said that coach Mick Doyle had got it “spot on” in picking Dean, one of Ireland’s best ever passing out-halves.

Wardy’s last games for Ireland were wins over Canada and Tonga in the pool phase of the 1987 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

For Campbell on the other hand, the events of 1979 were the launchpad for a stellar Ireland career in the early 1980s.

As the most influential figure in the 1982 Triple Crown win, he became a rugby folk hero, earning the adulation of Paris resident Samuel Beckett in the process. (The anti-TV Beckett told a journalist that he only watched the box for the rugby games. “And only when the Irish play,” he added.)

00101b14-614Samuel Beckett was a Campbell fan

He held down the 10 jersey the following year when Ireland again won three out of four and shared the Five Nations victory with France (more innocent times). His career would end on a bum note as he was forced to retire with injuries before his 30th birthday.

Campbell told RTÉ this week that he and Ward became firm friends over the years and acknowledged that events in Australia ’79 have tied them together for the rest of their lives.

“I think it’s fair to say it’s been a rare week in the last 40 years where someone hasn’t mentioned Australia ’79, myself and Tony and our battle for the coveted No. 10 Irish jersey.

“But it was purely a sporting rivalry. It was never personal. Coming back on the plane from Australia, we even sat beside each other. We’ve become great friends. I think we’ve both come to accept that we’ve been joined at the hip for the last 39 years since ’79 and probably will be for the rest of our lives.”

With the decisive Third Test coming down the tracks on Saturday, Campbell believes that this team will write its own history down in Australia and people might henceforth stop talking so much about the events of 1979.

“I don’t think Australia will take too kindly to having been comprehensively outplayed last Saturday. I don’t think they will take that lying down so I would expect a better performance from then.

“But I think this Irish team under Joe Schmidt is so well drilled, so accurate in everything that it does. It’s so disciplined and so unbelievably hungry. The more success it has, the more they seem to want it.

“So I don’t want to tempt fate but I would be quietly confident that we will win the match on Saturday and hence the series. And this team will make its own piece of history. And from now on, people will be talking about the Irish team in Australia and Grand Slam winners of 2018 rather than the team of 1979.”

Follow Australia v Ireland on our live blog on RTÉ Sport Online and the RTÉ News Now app and listen to live commentary on 2fm from 10.45am (11am kick-off).

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RTÉ panel at odds over latest VAR call

Amidst almost universal agreement that the referee was correct to overturn his own call after a video review, Liam Brady feels that the Video Assistant Referee [VAR] system still needs improvement.

The RTÉ World Cup panel of Brady, Richie Sadlier and Michael O’Neill discussed Bjorn Kuipers’ actions after he initially awarded a penalty for a ‘foul’ on Neymar when Brazil and Costa Rica were deadlocked in their Group E encounter.

The Dutch official then ran to the sideline to review his call. After a few seconds he decided that he had made an error in judgement and ran back to the box and cancelled his original decision.

O’Neill and Sadlier both argued that this incident provided the perfect example of how the system should work.

Sadlier, speaing after the match which Brazil won with two late goals, said: “In the simplest terms it’s brought in to support the referee to minimise the amount of game-changing errors that he would make.

“In this case he made what would have been a game-changing error, he looked at the technology and that cleared up for him that he’d made a mistake and he was big enough to acknowledge the mistake.”

Northern Ireland manager O’Neill was in agreement. “It is VAR as I would certainly like to see it used, give the penalty and if it’s the wrong decision then you should have a look at it,” he said.

“It was one of those where technology has sort of worked the way we’d like to see it used in the game.”

.@richiesadlier gets physical with Liam Brady as the #RTEsoccer panel debate the Neymar incident and whether VAR got it right #worldcup #BRA #CRC pic.twitter.com/6DX5l0YeXk

— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) June 22, 2018

However, former Arsenal and Juventus star Brady said it appeared that the VAR was actually making the decisions.

He said: “What is apparent is that they [the video officials] are making the decisions up there and they’re telling the referee.

“Every time the referee has been called over to the [sideline monitor] he’s agreed with why they’ve asked him to look at it again.

“He’s never confirmed his own decision at all. He’s changed the decision in every instance.

“I think he’s being told ‘you’ve got to change your mind’.

“I’m for [VAR] but it’s not 100% correct.”

You can watch the full debate above (worldwide).

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Royal Ascot: Harrington Coronation as Alpha flies home

Alpha Centauri provided Jessica Harrington with a first Royal Ascot success after a brilliant victory in the Coronation Stakes.

Harrington, 71, has won many of jump racing’s biggest prizes – including the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle and Queen Mother Champion Chase – but was still seeking a first triumph at the showpiece fixture of the Flat season.

Alpha Centauri brought strong claims to the table after claiming Classic glory in last month’s Irish 1,000 Guineas and was the 11-4 favourite to follow up in the hands of Colm O’Donoghue.

A sensational performance from Irish 1000 Guineas winner Alpha Centauri who bolts up in the Coronation Stakes @Ascot and records her second success at Group One level. #RoyalAscot pic.twitter.com/dWrcsY8zS1

— Racing UK (@Racing_UK) June 22, 2018

Veracious and Aim Of Artemis led the field into the home straight, but Alpha Centauri soon loomed up ominously.

Once given her head, the Irish challenger bounded clear for a hugely impressive six-length verdict in a track-record time, with Threading coming through to beat Veracious to the runner-up spot.

Richard Hannon’s shock Newmarket Guineas heroine Billesdon Brook was a creditable fourth, but Teppal, winner of the French Guineas for David Simcock, finished down the field.

00101b13-614Colm O’Donoghue pushing Alpha Centauri out for victory

Afterwards, a delighted Harrington told ITV: “She was absolutely amazing. I thought when Colm turned in ‘jeepers, he’s gone very soon’, but the further he went the further he was going away. I couldn’t believe it.

“She’s a very big filly and on soft ground, she physically can’t get her feet out of it. She just floats on that top of the ground.

“I have a lot of people behind me and a lot of very nice owners who give me nice horses.

“I’ve had Ascot winners, but I’ve never had a Royal Ascot winner and it’s absolutely fantastic.”

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England’s Dele Alli ‘unlikely’ to face Panama

Gareth Southgate says Dele Alli is “unlikely” to feature in England’s World Cup match against Panama.

The 22-year-old played 80 minutes of Monday’s 2-1 win against Tunisia, despite sustaining a minor thigh strain during the first half.

Alli again missed training with the England squad on Friday and Southgate believes the attacking midfielder will probably miss Sunday’s match as well

Asked if he told the players the team to face Panama yet, the Three Lions boss told talkSPORT: “Not yet, no.

“I mean I think always from the type of training that we do they have a good idea and clearly we had a team that played very well and won.

“So, we’re not going to be wildly different to that.

“We have to wait and see whether Dele is going to be fit. It’s looking unlikely because he has not trained with the team yet, but he’s progressing really well, so we won’t rule that out just yet.”

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Late late show from Brazil sends Costa Rica packing

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Dramatic late strikes by Philippe Coutinho and Neymar gave Brazil their first win of the World Cup against Costa Rica in St Petersburg and broke Central American hearts by sending them out of the tournament.
The result leaves the five-times world champions with four points from two games after they drew 1-1 with Switzerland in their opening match, and they provisionally rise above Serbia to top Group E.
Serbia play Switzerland later today.
The clock had ticked past 90 minutes when Marcelo crossed from the left and substitute Roberto Firmino headed the ball back across goal to Gabriel Jesus.
Jesus’s first touch took the ball away from the defender and Coutinho raced in to poke past Keylor Navas from six metres out and claim his second goal of the tournament.
Neymar added the second with practically the last kick of the game, racing on to Jesus’s square ball following a quick counter-attack as Costa Rica were forced to push for the equaliser.

Heartbreak for #CRC as Coutinho starts and finishes the move with Firmino and Jesus playing their role too #Worldcup #RTEsoccer https://t.co/xxo2vgzqlD pic.twitter.com/9t9SMn2H0k

— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) June 22, 2018

The forward, who thought he had won a penalty in the 77th minute only for the referee to reverse the decision after consultation with the video assistant referee (VAR), was overcome by emotion on the whistle, covering his face as tears streamed down his cheeks.
For long periods Costa Rica’s flat-back five kept Neymar on the periphery, with Johan Venegas and Cristian Gamboa both man-marking him out of the game as Brazil found it hard to carve out chances in the first half.

To VAR or not to VAR. The panel are split on whether or not the referee made the right call in ruling out a penalty for Brazil #rtesoccer #worldcup #BRA #CRC pic.twitter.com/UywUdUL036

— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) June 22, 2018

Marcelo’s tame shot straight at Navas in the 41st minute was the first effort on target from either side before the break, and the team went into halftime with the boos and whistles of their own fans ringing in their ears.
Celso Borges spurned arguably the best chance of the first period for Costa Rica when he ran on to Gamboa’s cut back but shot wide from eight metres out.
The result means Brazil have avoided the ignominy of equalling their longest winless run at the World Cup.

How Group E looks ahead of #SRB v #SUI later (live on @rte2, kick-off 7pm) #RTEsoccer #WorldCuphttps://t.co/xxo2vgzqlD pic.twitter.com/Lsn9vOorpS

— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) June 22, 2018

Formations for #BRACRC…
Score predictions on this one? pic.twitter.com/VLmhqbXWMK

— FIFA World Cup 🏆 (@FIFAWorldCup) June 22, 2018

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