Pama Fou signs with Melbourne Rebels

Australian Sevens star Pama Fou is switching to the 15-man format, signing with the Melbourne Rebels for 2017.

Fou originally signed with the club for the 2016 season, but was given dispensation to follow his Olympic dream, after joining the Sevens program in 2011, debuting on the Gold Coast.

In a cruel twist of fate, Fou ruptured his ACL just six weeks out from the Olympics, ruling him out to a chance to go to Rio.

The former volleyball player will join the Rebels immediately and said he was excited about his first Super Rugby contract.

“I’m really grateful the Rebels gave me the opportunity to pursue my dream of making the Olympics squad,” Fou said.

“I’ve come to terms with the disappointment of missing out on Rio and I’m now completely focused on getting down to Melbourne, returning to full fitness and repaying the Rebels faith in next year’s Super Rugby season.”

The 26-year-old is one of Australia’s most prolific Sevens try scorers and will join a beefed up attack in Melbourne next year, that includes Melbourne Storm convert Marika Koroibete and rising star Sefa Naivalu.

Fou is the first of the current Sevens squad to announce a switch to Super Rugby and his signing follows a slew of recent Rebels additions, including young guns Jack McGregor, Jack Maddocks and Tyrel Lomax.

The Australian Sevens leave for Rio on Tuesday, with the men’s competition starting on August 9.

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Frisby's future at Ballymore confirmed

The Queensland Reds’ pre-season keeps getting better, with news Nick Frisby will remain at Ballymore until the end of 2019.

The 24-year-old cemented his place as the best scrumhalf in Queensland last season and impressed Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, who handed him his first Test cap against England in June before taking him on the Spring Tour, where he earned four more caps.

A born and bred Brisbane boy out of Marist College Ashgrove and the GPS club, Frisby has been at the Reds since 2011, learning his craft as a back-up to Will Genia before taking the reins last season when Genia departed for Stade Francais.

Frisby’s booming box kick, laser-like pass and sixth sense in cover defence have him earmarked as one of the best young talents in Australian rugby.

“Ballymore has been home for a long time and it’s somewhere I’ve made a lot of great memories, so I’m really pleased to know my future is here for at least another couple of years,” Frisby said.

“I feel like I’ve still got a lot to achieve in the Reds jersey.
“The guys have worked incredibly hard over the pre-season and we’re really looking forward to the season.”

Coach Nick Stiles believes Frisby’s best years are still ahead of him.

“Nick joined the Reds six years ago and has grown immensely as a player in that time, but we feel strongly that his best years are still ahead of him,” he said.

“He’s a talented athlete, as shown through his selection for the Wallabies last year, but we’re looking forward to him continuing to grow as a leader within the group.”

Waratahs squeezing best XV in with one eye on 2018

It’s not quite square pegs in round holes, but the Waratahs are making their best XV fit onto the park, in anyway they can as they look to build for 2018.

Ned Hanigan, who has had a breakout season at blindside flanker for both the Waratahs and the Wallabies, has moved into the second row to accommodate the return of Jack Dempsey to the side.

With Will Skelton injured, NSW rookie Ryan McCauley comes onto the bench for his debut, after a star turn at the U20s World Championship.

Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson said definitively on Thursday that Hanigan’s best spot was at six, flagging a switch for June debutant Dempsey into no. 8 in the long-term.

“It’s going to create excellent competition, really I believe Ned is a six so that’s first and foremost, though he has played lock,” he said.

“In terms of Jack, there’s a potential position switch there, to try no. eight in the future.

“I know potentially the Wallabies might like him there in the future.”

In the backline, usual flyhalf/fullback option Bryce Hegarty will slot in on the wing, for just the second time in his Super Rugby career.

It’s not an unusual move these days, with plenty of Test sides employing a dual fullback structure and Hegarty said he wouldn’t be filling a traditional wing role, playing in tandem with Israel Folau.

“Daryl’s just been chatting to me each week and saying I need to get into the starting side and he was kind of like thinking a couple of positions where it could be and we’re like ‘let’s go wing and work it out from there’,” he said.

“He wants me to play more of a fullback style, have me in the backfield a lot more.

“Other than that – I’ve played it once, when I was at the Rebels and enjoyed it so looking forward to it.”

Gibson’s selections are with one eye to 2018 and the Waratahs are determined to finish their 2017 season on a positive note, as they close in on the make up of next year’s squad.

“We can’t afford to go into next season with poor momentum,” Gibson said.

“I really believe we’ve got the bones of next year’s team already here and need to make sure we finish off the season the way we want to start next season.”

With farewells for Dean Mumm, Rob Horne and Will Skelton on the horizon, there’ll be plenty of emotion among the team.

That, coupled with a measly two wins from six Sydney outings this season, gives them all the reason in the world to try and snag a victory against the Jaguares, Hegarty said.

“That’s something you pride yourself on your team and you’re playing in front of your home crowd and unfortunately we haven’t done that this year,” he said.

“We’ve got this week ahead and hopefully (we can) gain some momentum going into next year and it starts this week against the Jaguares who obviously had a tough loss on the weekend so they’ll be very hungry to keep playing for their (finals) hopes.

“We want to impress the fans that are behind us every week.”

Backrower Jed Holloway will miss the clash with a hamstring injury.

The Waratahs take on the Jaguares on Saturday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.

TEAM

IN: Ryan McCauley, Andrew Kellaway

OUT: Jed Holloway (injury) , Will Skelton (arm)

1. Tom Robertson

2. Tolu Latu

3. Sekope Kepu

4. Ned Hanigan

5. Dean Mumm

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6. Jack Dempsey

7. Michael Hooper

8. Michael Wells

9. Jake Gordon

10. Bernard Foley

11. Cam Clark

12. David Horwitz

13. Rob Horne

14. Bryce Hegarty

15. Israel Folau

Reserves

16. Damien Fitzpatrick

17. Paddy Ryan

18. Angus Taavao

19. Dave McDuling

20. Ryan McCauley

21. Matt Lucas

22. Taqele Naiyaravoro

23. Andrew Kellaway

Valetini signs until 2019

Young backrower Rob Valetini is staying in Canberra, re-signing with the Brumbies until 2019.

The Melbourne product has impressed Brumbies coaches since moving north to the national capital, after starring for the Rebels U20s in 2016 and Melbourne Rising in the NRC.

Just the second Australian forward to sign a Super Rugby contract straight out of school Valetini is hungry to prove his talents at the highest level

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“I am loving life at the Brumbies and I am happy that I have the opportunity to continue to learn my rugby at the club,” he said.

“This last season has been very enjoyable and I have learnt a lot.

“Moving away from Melbourne was tricky at the start and I had to leave my family behind to chase my rugby dream. But I feel like I have exchanged one family for another.

“The coaching staff here is first class and we have a great bunch of blokes in the squad and just being around the experienced guys means that I am learning new things and how to be a professional athlete.”

Brumbies CEO Michael Thomson said Valetini has repaid the Brumbies’ faith already.

“As a young man who has moved away from the comforts of his home and family life, Rob has settled quickly, and appreciates what we are trying to achieve here,” he said.

“He is progressing very well. Should he continue to develop at the rate that he has been over the past season, then we should see him playing Super Rugby very soon.”

State of Origin may be over before it begins

Rugby union’s mooted State of Origin adaptation won’t happen this year and may not happen at all due to an impending increase in Australian Super Rugby derby matches.

But the Queensland Rugby Union has been commended by state event bodies for thinking outside the box and encouraged to keep pitching more “content” ideas that will appeal to a wider audience.

The Queensland Reds will host the NSW Waratahs on Saturday night in the only meeting of the fierce rivals scheduled for this season.

That is a consequence of the Super Rugby’s expansion to 18 teams, which has led to an overall decrease in Australian derby matches on the regular season fixture.

With three teams set to be axed next year, that means more local derbies will be on the cards, lessening the need for union’s take on the NRL representative showpiece.

That doesn’t necessarily sound the death knell for the QRU’s brainchild event – tentatively dubbed ‘State of Union’ – which would have been held at Ballymore on the free weekend straight after the June Test window.

After a mixed response from players, coaches and franchises, it won’t be held simply because organisers didn’t have enough time to get it up.

However, it may mean that different avenues – like mid-season exhibition matches between the Reds and international teams, or women’s tens events – are pursued instead.

“Following a meeting of all Australian franchises and the ARU earlier in the year, the QRU met senior executives from Brisbane Marketing and Tourism and Events Queensland,” a QRU spokesman told AAP.

“They were receptive to the idea of more rugby content following the success of the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens,”

“The State of Union concept was one of a number of possible products discussed.

“While we have run out of time to bring the concept to fruition this year, we’ve all agreed to work together on rugby content that will appeal to the Queensland, Australian and international markets.”

Crystal Palace vs Manchester United: TV channel, live stream, squad news & preview

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s injury-hit squad travel to Selhurst Park as they seek to continue their unbeaten Premier League run

Manchester United travel to face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Wednesday with the intention of getting back to winning ways in the Premier League.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side defied injury problems to earn a commendable 0-0 draw at home against Liverpool on Sunday but saw fourth place handed to Arsenal as a result. 

They will seek to maintain the pressure on the Gunners in London, where they meet a Crystal Palace side in high spirits after a 4-1 win over Leicester and a lengthy undefeated run.

Game Crystal Palace vs Manchester United
Date Wednesday, February 27
Time 8:00pm GMT / 3:00pm ET


In the United States (US), the game will not be broadcast on television but will be available to live stream through NBC Sports Gold.

US TV channel Online stream
N/A NBC Sports Gold.

In the United Kingdom (UK), the game will not be broadcast or streamed live.

UK TV channel Online stream
N/A N/A


Position Crystal Palace players
Goalkeepers Hennessey, Guaita, Speroni
Defenders Sakho, Tomkins, Riedewald, Dann, Van Aanholt, Souare, Wan-Bissaka, Ward, Kelly
Midfielders Milivojevic, Kouyate, McArthur, Schlupp, Meyer, Kaikai, Townsend, Sako
Forwards Zaha, Benteke, Ayew, Wickham, Batshuayi

Confirmed Crystal Palace starting XI: Guaita; Ward, Tomkins, Kelly, Van Aanholt; McArthur, Milivojevic, Schlupp; Townsend, Batshuayi, Zaha

Position Manchester United squad
Goalkeepers De Gea, Grant, Romero
Defenders Lindelof, Jones, Bailly, Smalling, Shaw, Dalot, Young, Rojo
Midfielders Pogba, A. Pereira, Fred, Gomes, Garner, Greenwood
Forwards Sanchez, Lukaku, Rashford, Chong

Confirmed Manchester United starting XI:  De Gea; Dalot, Smalling, Lindelof, Shaw; Fred, McTominay, Pogba; Young, Lukaku, Sanchez



Crystal Palace can be backed at 9/4 with Bet365 to upset Manchester United. A draw is priced at 5/2, while the Red Devils can be backed at 13/10.

Click here to see all of bet 365’s offers for the game, including goalscoring markets, correct score predictions and more.



Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said after his side’s goalless draw with Liverpool on Sunday that he had never experienced anything like the bad luck the Red Devils did in that encounter.

The Norwegian saw his side suffer an incredible four injuries over the course of the match, including three hamstring problems in the first half alone, which compelled him to use his substitutes early.

Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Ander Herrera and Marcus Rashford all sustained problems, with Solskjaer left to lament: “Everything that could have gone wrong first half did go wrong.”

His side showed character to take a point from the match, but with as many as 10 players set to miss the midweek trip to Crystal Palace, he has pinpointed a couple of underperforming stars he wishes to see step up .

“It’s a chance for them to play to their potential,” Solskjaer said of Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku, neither of whom has featured regularly under him.

“Reputation is one thing; the potential is high and I’m sure of that because the two of them are good mates.

“They linked up between them against Arsenal in the FA Cup so hopefully Alexis and Rom can step up. 

“This might be a chance for those two to find some form and give a selection headache for us when everyone gets fit again.”

Crystal Palace, meanwhile, are unlikely to prove straightforward opponents, with the Selhurst Park side on a roll currently.

Roy Hodgson celebrated becoming the oldest Premier League manager ever in style at the weekend as his side steamrollered Leicester 4-1 away from home, with ex-Manchester United man Wilfried Zaha grabbing a double.

Palace, who are only six points clear of the drop zone, are now undefeated in six in all competitions, with their last loss inflicted by Liverpool at Anfield.

They will see Wednesday’s fixture against a wounded rival as another opportunity to claim a big scalp and to take a giant step towards survival.

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'Pogba is no leader like Man Utd greats Keane, Bruce & Cantona' – Kanchelskis looking for more from £89m man

The World Cup-winning midfielder has enjoyed a welcome return to form under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but has been told he must deliver in “big games”

Paul Pogba has been told that he is “no leader” at Manchester United in the Roy Keane or Eric Cantona mould, with Andrei Kanchelskis looking for more in “big games” from the Frenchman.

A World Cup-winning midfielder has enjoyed a welcome return to form for the Red Devils since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer succeeded Jose Mourinho.

The 25-year-old has delivered nine goals across his last 11 appearances, along with a number of important assists.

He did, however, see red during a Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain and will sit out the return leg of a tie that United trail 2-0 as a result.

Pogba will get another chance to make a telling contribution in a heavyweight encounter on Sunday when Solskjaer’s side play host to title-chasing Liverpool, and Kanchelskis is looking for an £89 million asset to prove that he can be a talismanic presence.

The former United winger told 888sport: “Everybody is talking about Paul Pogba and how he performs in the big games. Now we will see against Liverpool, in a big derby against an excellent team.

“At the moment he is no leader. In the past we had the likes of Roy Keane and Steve Bruce, Cantona. These were leaders. At the moment Manchester United don’t have one.”

United have not needed to rely on individuals over recent weeks, with a marked improvement having been made as a collective.

The likes of Pogba, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford have rediscovered their spark, but performance levels have been raised across the board from what was being delivered under Mourinho.

Eleven victories have been collected from 13 outings under Solskjaer and confidence will be brimming when old adversaries pay a visit to Old Trafford.

Kanchelskis, who also represented Everton in his playing career, is hoping to see United put a serious dent in the ambitions of Liverpool when they make the trip to Manchester on Sunday.

He added: “I hope Manchester United win. I’m a big supporter of them of course. It will be a good story if United win, with them having won so many trophies and Liverpool not winning a title for 29 years.

“Now that Liverpool have a good chance at winning silverware, it would be good if United can help stop them. It would be great. Everybody around the world will be watching this game.”

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Toronto FC and Tigres stunned on CCL opening night

Last year’s finalist was dismantled by a first-time participant while the Mexican giant fell in Costa Rica

The Concacaf Champions League got off to a flying start on Tuesday night, with two of the favorites to win the competition taking opening-night losses on the road. 

Toronto FC’s result was the biggest shocker of the night. 

The Canadian club made a run to the CCL final in 2018, only to come up short against Mexican club Chivas. But that was 2018. 

The 2019 version of Toronto FC now faces a huge uphill climb to reach the quarterfinals after taking a 4-0 beating on the road to open their round of 16 clash against Panamanian outfit CA Independiente. 

It was a first match in the continental tournament for Independiente , with the side taking full advantage of some sloppy defending from TFC throughout the night to roll to the heavy win. 

Abdiel Ayarza opened the scoring in ninth minute for the home side with a fine finish. New signing Terrence Boyd had a chance to pull Toronto level from the penalty spot just after the half-hour mark but missed badly, sending his spot-kick up and over the bar. 

Independiente doubled the lead early in the second half, Omar Browne scoring just three minutes after the re-start, and it was all down hill from there for the MLS club with Romeesh Ivey netting a brace in the second half to give the game its final scoreline. 

Mexican giant Tigres also had some struggles on the night as well, though falling 1-0 to Costa Rican power Saprissa away from home won’t bring about any form or panic. 

Johan Venegas netted the game’s only goal, heading home at the back post after a well-worked corner routine.

The Houston Dynamo were the only away side to win on the night, thanks to a stellar strike from veteran defender DaMarcus Beasley. 

The 36-year-old fullback fired home from 20 yards following a poorly cleared corner to hand the MLS outfit a 1-0 win over Guastatoya.

All three ties will have the return leg played next Tuesday, with Toronto, Tigres and Houston all set to host the second leg.   

'Neymar didn't leave Barcelona because of Messi' – PSG star's father rules out Real Madrid move

The Brazil international left Camp Nou in 2017 and has been heavily linked with a return to Spain, but talk of a switch in 2019 has been quashed

Neymar did not leave Barcelona because he “felt in the shadow of Lionel Messi”, insists his father, with the Paris Saint-Germain star also seeing a return to Spain at Real Madrid ruled out.

The Brazil international departed Camp Nou in the summer of 2017 in a record-breaking €222 million (£193m/$252) transfer.

He had spent four years in Catalunya, recording 105 goals in just 186 appearances.

It was suggested that he had opened himself up to a move as he wanted to become a superstar leader of his own side, rather than playing a support role to five-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi.

Neymar’s father insists that is not the case, telling Grande Circulo: “My son did not leave Barca because he felt in the shadow of Messi.

“When he received the call from the Emir [Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani], who showed interest in bringing a new star into an ambitious team, we took notice.”

Ever since making a stunning switch away from Barca, Neymar has been linked with a retracing of his steps.

Real Madrid are said to have considered the 27-year-old to be of the ‘Galactico’ mould for some time.

Florentino Perez has spoken of his admiration for the South American, with the Blancos president having history when it comes to putting big-money deals in place.

PSG have, however, made it clear that they have no intention of parting with a talismanic presence.

Club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has told Marca: “Neither Real Madrid, nor any other club in the world, needs to call us about Neymar or any other player.

“Real Madrid know perfectly well that Neymar is not for sale and that the player won’t leave PSG this summer. We have a fantastic relationship with Neymar and his father and it is built to last a long time.”

Neymar is said to be happy with that stance, with his father saying of the ongoing La Liga transfer talk: “Ney will not go to Real Madrid!”

A second spell at Camp Nou has also been mooted for Neymar, with Barca having struggled to replace him despite forever being in the market for top talent.

Various figures with strong ties to the club from past and present have had their say on a remarkable return, with there mixed opinions when it comes to a possible approach.

Brumbies re-sign Hyne

They sntached him from Queensland two years ago and the Brumbies have moved to keep backrower Ben Hyne in Canberra for one more year.

Hyne was a standout for Brisbane City in the 2015 NRC, and the Brumbies brought him to Canberra to train with them preseason, before signing him to a full-time contract.

The 23-year-old has played just five games for the Brumbies, since his 2016 debut against Queensland, but Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said Hyne was showing plenty of improvement.

“2018 will be Ben’s third season in our program,” he said.

“Over the last two years we have seen huge development in his game and we feel that if Ben continues to work hard he will be pushing for selection every week.

“He has the ability and the potential to make a real mark at the top level of the game.

 

“Ben is a very good defender, is a genuine line-out option and possesses a high work rate. All excellent attributes that he has shown at club and NRC level.

“The challenge for Ben in 2018 is to transfer those strong areas of his game to Super Rugby on a consistent basis.

“Knowing the attitude and application that Hyney has towards his game we are really excited about what the future holds for him at the Brumbies. 

Hyne said he was glad he made the move.

“I made the decision to come to Canberra after playing with Brisbane City in the NRC in 2015 and haven’t looked back since day one,” he said.

“It’s an amazing club and a great city to live in.”

“The Brumbies, and their supporters, have made me feel very much at home since I arrived here and I’m looking forward to continuing to develop professionally and personally with the new Brumbies staff and squad in 2018.”

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