Treble or nothing at World Cup as All Blacks face major test

New Zealand’s players take part in a training session on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2019

Treble or nothing at World Cup as All Blacks face major test

  • The hosts will kick off the tournament on Friday as favorites against minnows Russia

TOKYO: Treble-chasing New Zealand’s supremacy looks set to face a serious test from multiple challengers as the clock ticks down to an eagerly awaited Rugby World Cup in Japan.

The hosts will kick off the tournament on Friday as favorites against minnows Russia — a mark of their progress after years spent as the World Cup’s whipping boys.

But the serious business starts on Saturday, with the All Blacks in a blockbuster clash with South Africa that could be a precursor of the final on Nov. 2.

France play Argentina, top-ranked Ireland face Scotland and Eddie Jones’s England are against Tonga on a bumper opening weekend for the first Rugby World Cup held in Asia.

Organizers hope to ignite rugby passions in Japan and the region at large, saying the World Cup is on course to sell out and that Friday’s opener will set a tournament record for viewing figures in a
single country. 

Japan’s Brave Blossoms have set themselves the goal of reaching the knock-out phase for the first time, aiming to climb out of a tight Pool A also including Ireland, Scotland
and Samoa.

“The players are keen to get out there,” said Japan’s assistant coach Tony Brown. “We have an experienced group and those guys have got the team under control — they understand what they have to do.”

New Zealand ended a 24-year drought when they nervily won their second World Cup on home soil in 2011, and dominated in 2015 as coach Steve Hansen crafted a remarkable run of success.

But questions have been raised over the mighty All Blacks after a rocky patch of form which saw them lose their long-term grip on rugby’s world No. 1 ranking.

South Africa, on the rise under coach Rassie Erasmus, will hope to strike an early blow while England, Ireland and Six Nations champions Wales also look capable of winning the Webb Ellis Cup.

England have assembled a formidable array of ball-carriers under the canny Jones, the ex-Japan coach who led the Brave Blossoms to their stunning win over South Africa
in 2015.

The 2003 champions slumped to an embarrassing pool-stage exit in 2015 but they will be expecting to top Pool C where they are bracketed with France, Argentina, USA
and Tonga.

However, Wales’s hopes were dealt a blow when long-standing attack coach Rob Howley was sent home over a suspected breach of rules against betting, badly disrupting their preparations.

In a tournament rich in sub-plots, Gatland is one of a number of coaches stepping down after the World Cup, along with New Zealand’s Steve Hansen, Ireland’s Joe Schmidt and Jacques Brunel of France.

The French have endured a lean period but they have a fine record at the World Cup, reaching 1987, 1999 and 2011 finals, and there are positive signs since Fabien Galthie bolstered Brunel’s backroom staff.

Australia also shape up as potential dark horses after they shook off a turbulent period — marked by poor results and the controversial sacking of fullback Israel Folau for homophobia — to hand New Zealand a record defeat in Perth.


Police investigate $615,000 burglary at home of Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez

Updated 31 May 2020

Police investigate $615,000 burglary at home of Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez

  • Three watches worth more than £300,000 were taken
  • Cartier bracelets and rare football shirts worth nearly £150,000 also robbed

LONDON: Police are investigating after £500,000 ($617,000) worth of items were stolen in a burglary at the penthouse apartment of Manchester City player Riyad Mahrez.

Three watches worth more than £300,000 were taken along with £50,000 in cash, as well as Cartier bracelets and rare football shirts worth nearly £150,000, according to The Sun newspaper.

The Algerian international was not at home when the intruders used a key fob to access his apartment and three others in the Manchester city-center building on April 24.

A letter from building management sent to residents, seen by The Sun, informed residents of the apartment block about the break-ins and said “the (key) fob in question is now in our possession, has been fully deactivated and cannot be used again.”

A Greater Manchester Police spokesperson said: "At around 5pm on Friday April 24, police were called to reports that four separate apartments had been burgled at a city-center block." 

Mahrez and Manchester City have declined to comment on the incident.It is not the first burglary involving a Premier League player in 2020.Earlier in May,

Tottenham and England striker Dele Alli was attacked by burglars entering his home while he was with his girlfriend and brother, during which they stole watches and jewelery.

And the family of his teammate at Tottenham, Jan Vertonghen, were burgled at knifepoint in March while he was in Germany on Champions League duty for his club against Red Bull Leipzig.