Posted on | May 21, 2013 | No Comments
Australia coach Robbie Deans has hinted that James O’Connor will be playing number 10 for the Wallabies against the British and Irish Lions squad this summer and is full of confidence the youngster can play the key role.
The hosts have decided to overlook Reds fly-half Quade Cooper for the arrival of the Lions, with the creative playmaker having somewhat of a strained relationship with the national set-up.
Cooper could yet be called up into the side and it will be interesting to see how he gets on if he plays in Queensland’s encounter with the Lions before the Test series gets underway on June 22 in Brisbane.
Deans looks like he will be putting his faith in O’Conner, who has largely played much of his professional career in the back three, predominantly at full-back.
But such is the ability of the 22-year-old Melbourne Rebel star, that Deans wants him in the thick of the action.
O’Connor is by no means unfamiliar in the No.10 jersey, having played a lot of his youth rugby at fly-half.
The Rebels have been playing O’Conner at stand-off in the Super 15 this term and with his ability to kick from hand and of course find weaknesses in defence, he should be an exciting prospect at stand-off.
However there is still the question of experience and the Lions will certainly look to target any weaknesses in the youngster’s game when the Tests come around. The odds on Lions rugby success are at their shortest for many a year.
O’Connor has the ability to handle the pressure and Deans is happy to put his faith in one of the game’s rising stars, who is already a well-recognised figure in the sport.
Posted on | May 18, 2013 | No Comments
This clash focusses on two of the Premier League strugglers for the 2012/13 campaign, with both Wigan and Aston Villa experiencing disastrous seasons. In the case of Wigan, the result has been fatal with the Latics preparing for life in the Championship after suffering relegation earlier this week. Aston Villa have just escaped and the competitive nature of the bottom half means that they could actual finish in the middle reaches of the table if results go their way this weekend.
Nobody can still believe the events over the past seven days, with Wigan going from FA Cup victors to a relegated Premier League outfit in a matter of days. It remains to be seen if such an event will ever happen again but unlike previous campaigns, the Latics simply couldn’t respond from their early season slump to pick up sufficient points and remain in the top flight. While fans will still be jubilant following their Cup exploits, that joy is sure to be short-lived when reality sinks in that the DW Stadium outfit will be playing Championship football next term – most likely without their talented manager Roberto Martinez. The Spaniard has all but confirmed he will leave the club and take a new post in the very near future and while he has been part of this season’s relegation, most supporters will remember the fluent football he brought to the club and of course their victory in the greatest domestic cup competition in sport.
The funny thing is that Aston Villa supporters are probably even more disgruntled with their team, even though they have avoided the drop. The club have been battling in and around the bottom three for much of the season and there were times where a lot of people had written off their chances of survival. However, a decent run of form through March and April has preserved their top flight status, although fans’ opinions are still out on Paul Lambert who has really struggled to adapt to the role he was appointed to in the summer.
Wigan have been handed a piece of bad news for the clash with Callum McManaman poised to miss out after damaging his ankle ligaments in the recent defeat to Arsenal. Roberto Martinez at least has something to smile about in relation to Jean Beausejour though, with the defender poised to start after recovering from a hamstring injury. Aston Villa on the other hand will be missing their star man, with Christian Benteke set to be kept out through suspension. Ciaran Clark is another absentee as he struggles with a foot problem, although Karim El Ahmadi and Matthew Lowton are both back in the reckoning following injuries.
This is another Premier League match that could involve another manager set to depart, with Roberto Martinez widely tipped to leave Wigan in the summer. With that, we think the Latics players will put up a decent fight for their manager, especially as they hold the home advantage over an Aston Villa side that have struggled immensely throughout this campaign.
Posted on | May 18, 2013 | No Comments
It seems strange to think that it was just twelve months ago that Reading had clinched the Championship title, whereas West Ham were preparing for the playoffs. Despite the Royals being the superior side out of the two back then, the tables have turned completely this term with the Hammers set to finish in a safe mid-table position while the visitors are preparing for life back in English football’s second tier.
Even though West Ham did not arrive in the Premiership via the direct automatic promotion route, there were very few fears about the Hammers as they attempted to remain in the division following their immediate return. As well as being backed heavily by their owners, few pundits were worried due to Sam Allardyce – with the ex-Bolton boss not really accustomed to failure when it comes to managing at this level. Nevertheless, while this season has been a resounding success as the club sit in 10th, Allardyce will be hoping for a positive result in the final game of the season after seeing his team win just one of their last seven.
Reading meanwhile have endured a very poor campaign and the Royals have never really put up a serious fight to stay in the division. After finishing last year in such fine form on their way to the Championship title, hopes were high that Brian McDermott could mastermind further success at the Madejski Stadium. However, with McDermott gone, it was left to Nigel Adkins to deal with the clear lack in quality and add a relegation to his C.V. It has to be said that Adkins has really struggled to launch any sort of turnaround and in the seven games he has been in charge of, he has overseen just the one victory. This also means that the club have won just one of their last thirteen and you just have to wonder how they’ll fare when they drop down a division next term.
As for team news, West Ham only have the one complaint with James Tomkins ranked as doubtful to feature through injury. George McCartney will continue to sit on the treatment table with a long-term problem, but they remain the only issues for Sam Allardyce. Reading are in a similar boat with the Royals also having two absentees. They arrive in the form of Jimmy Kebe and Jason Roberts, who are both struggling with fitness concerns and will sit out this season finale.
Both of these outfits have experienced contrasting seasons, with West Ham being the superior on every level imaginable. With the Hammers also holding the home advantage, our prediction for the clash is going to be a comfortable 2-0 win for Sam Allardyce’s men.
Posted on | May 18, 2013 | No Comments
Even though both of these clubs don’t have anything left to play for, all eyes at certain to be on The Hawthorns as Sir Alex Ferguson prepares for his final game in football management. He will end his tenure with Manchester United champions for yet another season, although it’s also been a very successful campaign for West Brom who look set to finish the term in 8th.
In fact, some would describe West Brom’s year as one of the most fruitful in the Premier League. They are another side in the division who don’t live beyond their means, with a strict but prudent transfer policy providing them with a perfect platform for top flight success. There were worries when Roy Hodgson departed for the England post last year, but Steve Clarke has stepped in and taken the Baggies to the next level and established them as a top half club. Unfortunately, things aren’t exactly concluding to plan, with the club on a losing run of three games. Moreover, with their last clash ending in a 4-0 hiding to Norwich, the omens certainly aren’t looking good as they prepare for the visit of the new Premier League champions.
Despite West Brom’s success, there’s no doubt that the day will revolve entirely around the visitors and their retiring manager. Described as the greatest manager to have graced football by many quarters, it could be argued that the game will no longer be the same without him as he prepares to lead his United side out for the final time. The Red Devils wrapped the title up many moons ago yet the respect for Ferguson means that the players won’t be thinking about their holidays just yet, and will be desperate to record a victory for their departing boss. The club happen to have only won two of their last five, a bad statistic in United terms, yet many pundits believe that Ferguson simply won’t allow his players to sign off his career with anything other than a win.
As for team news, West Brom are approaching the fixture with a doubt hanging over Steven Reid after he picked up a minor knock in the Baggies’ game last weekend. On a more positive note, Steve Clarke will at least be able to select Marc-Antoine Fortune as he returns from suspension. Manchester United meanwhile look poised to rotate their squad, with Anders Lindegaard being one man who has been promised a starting role. Wayne Rooney is unlikely to feature again following his recent transfer request, while Rafael is still suspended.
It’s been stated through the course of this article that Sir Alex Ferguson will be demanding nothing but the best for his final game and that’s exactly what we expect. West Brom may have enjoyed a successful year, but our tip will be a traditional, comfortable United victory – 2-0.