The International Rugby Board has introduced a new engagement procedure that is aimed at lessening the initial impact, reducing the number of collapses and resets, and allowing for technically better packs to benefit.


The Wallabies have long had issues with the scrum, particularly against sides that concentrate on the technical side of the dark art, and were twice shunted off the ball in their 27-16 Rugby Championship loss to the All Blacks on Saturday.

McKenzie, who was capped 51 times for the Wallabies and was considered one of the best tighthead props in the world at the time, is unsure if the referees know what it is they are looking for.

“It’s a bit of a lottery there,” the dejected-looking Wallabies coach told reporters after the match at Wellington Regional Stadium.

“I used to play in the front row (and) … I used to be able to work out what was a penalty but now I have no idea.

“I guess we’ll work it out eventually, but I’m lost.”

McKenzie said the All Blacks had performed well in the scrum, particularly in the second half, but he felt some calls by referee Jaco Peyper had not been consistent.

He pointed to one scrum when Sekope Kepu was penalised for angling in rather than staying square to his opponent, when the three previous scrums had been conducted in the same way.

“There were penalties there going either way,” McKenzie said. “I think Kepu got penalised for going in on the angle whereas there had been three (earlier) resets (for the same thing).

“So I don’t understand and I can’t work it out. It’s a completely different beast now.”

(Editing by Stephen Wood)

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The son of Ireland’s only Tour de France winner, Stephen Roche, ended up third behind eighth stage winner Leopold Koenig of the Czech Republic and Spain’s Dani Moreno on the 14-km Alto de Penas Blancas summit finish.


The Saxo-Tinkoff rider now leads overall by 17 seconds from American Chris Horner. Moreno is third while Italian Nibali, 16th in the 158.6-km leg from Jerez de la Frontera, occupies fourth position.

“I benefited from a bit of an opening when things stalled in the main pack behind Koenig,” said Roche, Ireland’s first leader since Sean Kelly won the race in 1988.

“I was only eight seconds behind Nibali before the stage and I’ve never led a Grand Tour before so I wanted to go all out and give it absolutely everything,” he told reporters.

“Right now I’m the happiest man on earth, it’s been an incredible week for me,” added Roche who won his first Grand Tour stage on the Vuelta’s first summit finish last Sunday and also leads the King of the Mountains competition.

With two summit finishes looming on Sunday and Monday, the 29-year-old was cautious about his prospects of remaining in top spot.

“It would be pretty optimistic to say I can hold this lead all the way to Madrid,” said Roche whose best Grand Tour finish is seventh in the 2010 Vuelta.

“Monday is one of the hardest stages of the entire race and if I can get through these three days in the lead that would be great.”

Stage winner Koenig’s small-scale NetApp Endura team are one of four non-World Tour squads to benefit from an invite to the Vuelta.

“This climb suited me down to the ground, its steeper segments were all in the early part. Once I got through that with the favourites I thought my chances were pretty good,” said the Czech.

“I saw Anton was suffering and managed to catch him just before the line. I’ll try for the overall lead now but anything I get from here on is a bonus for me and the team.”

The Vuelta’s second straight mountain-top finish on Sunday is a long climb with lung-burstingly steep segments of up to 25 percent in the sierras of northern Andalusia.

The race ends in Madrid on September 15.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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The 33-year-old American lost a heartbreaker to China’s Zheng Jie 6-3 2-6 7-6(5) in the second round of the U.


S. Open on Wednesday before rejecting any possibility of retirement.

“Oh wow, I definitely want to come back for the atmosphere,” she said. “I’ll get there. I just have to keep working on it. I’ve had a tough set of circumstances to work through, especially this year, last year and the year before.

“I’ve been dealt some cards that aren’t easy, but I have to play with them. I’m a fighter.”

Williams suffers Sjogren’s Syndrome, which causes fatigue and joint pain, and has been hampered this year by back pain.

Champion in New York in 2000 and 2001, Williams had a parochial crowd on her side as the match went down to the wire.

A rushed volley at five-all in the deciding tiebreaker proved costly.

“I should have made the shot,” she said. “I rushed so badly and didn’t make it. I had a lot of opportunities, I was always stepping up and putting myself in a good position … but I just dug myself into so many holes.

“I fought as hard as I could to get out of them, but sometimes it just wasn’t enough.”

Williams will contest the doubles with her sister Serena.

She planned to sit back and watch the next era of American women’s tennis.

“I’m happy to see them doing so well,” she said. “They all seem really talented.

“I’m looking forward to them continuing to develop their games and hopefully be able to win big matches, big tournaments, and continue to influence the next generation, as well.”

Former world number one Williams, who upset 12th-seeded Belgian Kirsten Flipkens in the first round, is now ranked 60 in the world, but Zheng was thrilled to fell the former champion in front of her home crowd.

“It’s unbelievable I can beat her,” she said in a courtside interview. Zheng next faces 18th-seeded Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro in the third round.

(The story clarifies the day in second paragraph)

(Editing by Ian Ransom)

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Santiago Phelan’s side were hammered 73-13 by South Africa in the first match of this year’s Championship but went down just 22-17 in Mendoza two weeks ago.


“Any time you play Argentina, if you hold the ball for a long time and put ball into space and get your decisions right it’s hard for teams to defend for long periods, so that’s certainly what we’re after,” McCaw told reporters in Hamilton on Friday.

“If you allow it to be a stop-start affair and go set piece to set piece it becomes an arm wrestle.

“Traditionally that’s probably the way Argentina have enjoyed getting stuck in, so we’ve got to make sure we don’t allow that to happen.”

McCaw said the Pumas had enjoyed some success against the Springboks in the second game by breaking up the play.

“That’s probably where they got a bit of reward in Argentina against South Africa,” he added. “They managed to disrupt the breakdown ball and also to slow the game down in that regard, not let the Springboks get flow on.”

The All Blacks will be looking to flyhalf Daniel Carter to ensure their attacks flow after the world’s leading points scorer returned to the side from a calf injury.

The experience of Carter, who is playing his 96th test, and centre Conrad Smith (72nd) should ease the debut of inside centre Francis Saili, who is the 17th player to be given a test debut by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen since he took over from Graham Henry following the World Cup win in 2011.

“You’ve got a couple of old heads just keeping him calm and he’s getting them excited,” Hansen said earlier this week of Saili’s debut after they chose to give Ma’a Nonu’s injured ankle more time to heal before they face the Springboks next week.

“He’s not the finished product, and nor is anyone having their first test, so he’s no different from anyone else,” he added.

“We think he’s going to be a very, very special player and it’s the beginning of something we could see a lot of.

“You can tell he’s pretty excited and we’ve just got to keep him calm till Saturday, then let him rip.”

Saili is a renowned line breaker at Super Rugby level with soft hands and good distribution skills, though is prone to try too much at times.

He has been given a simple brief — run fast, straight and hard at the Pumas centres Marcelo Bosch and Santiago Fernandez.

“I’ve just got to take it as it comes and embrace it pretty much, not over-complicate things,” Saili said after he was named in the team on Thursday.

“I know it’s the biggest game of my life so I just have to embrace it.”

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Napier, New Zealand; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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The world and European champions, who top the group by one point from France after five of eight matches, will be missing midfielders Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso for the game in Helsinki before they play a friendly against Chile in Geneva on September 10.


Del Bosque told Tuesday’s edition of As sports daily there was no need to make a drama out of the absences, saying Spain had plenty of other players capable of rising to the occasion.

“We have a number of important midfielders missing,” the former Real Madrid coach said before the squad met up at the Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) headquarters outside Madrid on Tuesday.

“But those that are here will do a good job because they are in excellent shape.

“We are relaxed about the trip to Finland due to the players we ultimately have selected.”

Del Bosque mounted another strong defence of his captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who has yet to win back his place in the Real Madrid starting line-up after injuring his hand and then falling out with coach Jose Mourinho last season.

Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes has been in fine early-season form, prompting speculation that he might start Friday’s match.

“I am not saying, nor will I say, that Iker Casillas has to play for Madrid,” Del Bosque told As.

“What I am doing, and what I will do, is defend him because he, Casillas, is the captain of the national team and a lad who is part of Spanish football, and a key part,” he added.

“He is going through a bad patch and he needs the support of those who appreciate him and hold him in high regard.

“It’s not a comfortable situation for anyone but above all it’s uncomfortable for him.”

Spain can take a big step towards securing their place in the tournament in Brazil next year with a win in Helsinki.

However, they will not take their opponents lightly after surrendering the lead to draw 1-1 with them in Gijon in March. Finland are third in the group, four points behind the French.

“France are lying in wait and Finland still have a chance and will be looking to beat Spain and fight for a playoff spot,” Del Bosque said.

“We have to be very careful about this match. What’s more, I recall that all Finland’s qualifiers have been close, meaning they are tough opponents who improve at their own stadium.

“We drew in Gijon in March and the last time we visited Helsinki in 2007 we could not do better than a 0-0 draw.

“I don’t expect an easy game but we are confident that we will get the result we want and then wait for the matches against Georgia and Belarus in October.”

(Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Clare Fallon)

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