There is a huge NFC South matchup in London on Sunday as the 3-2 Carolina Panthers meet the 2-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

At the moment, the Panthers lead the overall series with a 23-15 record, but the Buccaneers defeated Carolina 20-14 earlier this season in Charlotte.

With help from our friends at Opta, we break down what to expect when the Panthers and Buccaneers visit Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
 

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Coach

Ron Rivera is in his ninth season as an NFL head coach — all with the Panthers. He has a 74-58-1 regular-season record.

Quarterback

Kyle Allen has taken over the Panthers' offense since Cam Newton aggravated a foot injury at the beginning of the season.

The Panthers have won all three games Allen has started since, while the quarterback also led the team to a victory in 2018. The 23-year-old is one of two undrafted quarterbacks in NFL history to win their first four starts, with Super Bowl champion Kurt Warner being the first.

Allen also is one of four quarterbacks this season with five or more touchdowns and no interceptions. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota are the other three.

Offense

Undisputedly the best running back in the NFL at the moment, Christian McCaffrey has been unstoppable this season. The third-year tailback leads the NFL in carries (105), rushing yards (587) and touches (136) and is second in the league with seven total touchdowns, six of which have come on the ground.

"You always knew he had elite speed, and he was elusive, but now he's kind of figured it out," Panthers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said of McCaffrey. 

"Guys like that, I always say, he's not a running back, he's a weapon. He can do everything."

Tight end Greg Olsen has long been the backbone of the Panthers offense and, while his production isn't as dazzling as McCaffrey's, he's the leading receiver on the team. Olsen is sixth among active players in all-time receptions (864), ninth among active players in receiving yards (8,073) and ranks eighth in touchdown catches (59).

Interestingly, the last time Olsen had a game with over 100 receiving yards was in Week 2 - against the Buccaneers.

Defense

Luke Kuechly is the star of Carolina's defense. The linebacker leads the NFL with 56 tackles and is one of three players with 40 or more tackles and three or more passes defended.

In Week 4 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Kuechly recorded his 1,000th tackle. At age 28 and in his eighth season, he became the quickest player in NFL history to reach the milestone.

Complimenting Kuechly, outside linebacker Mario Addison has steadily climbed up the ranks as one of Carolina's top defensive players. Signed by the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2011, he joined the Panthers late in 2012 and is currently the only player in the league with six or more sacks in each of the past six seasons.

Addison and team-mate Brian Burns have at least 0.5 sacks in each of their last four games. Addison needs just one more in this upcoming game to tie the franchise record of 7.5 sacks in six appearances set by Julius Peppers in 2002.

Fun London fact: This will be the Panthers’ first game in London. They entered 2019 as one of three teams yet to play in England, with the Green Bay Packers and Houston Texans being the other two.


TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Coach

Bruce Arians is in his first season with Buccaneers and seventh in the NFL. He holds a 51-33-1 overall record (2-3 record with Tampa Bay).

Quarterback

Fifth-year starter Jameis Winston had a rough start to the season after he threw for just one touchdown and three interceptions in Week 1. Since then, he's thrown for 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions. However, his kryptonite appears to be the Panthers since he has thrown nine career interceptions against them.

More encouragingly, four of those interceptions were in his first game against Carolina. Since then, Winston has had five interceptions in the teams' last seven meetings.

Offense

Receiver Mike Evans has long been the go-to man for Winston, though he's struggled a bit lately. He did not have a single catch last week, but there is a reason he is Tampa Bay's franchise leader in yards (6,471) and receiving touchdowns (44). In fact, Evans needs just 18 more catches to surpass the franchise record of 430.

On the other hand, Chris Godwin has emerged as an elite receiver. He is the first Buccaneers player in franchise history to have six receiving touchdowns in the opening five games of a season. He and Evans are the only pair of team-mates in the league with four or more touchdown catches this year.

Defense

Shaq Barrett signed a one-year contract with the Buccaneers in the offseason, but expect him to stick around for a while. The linebacker leads the NFL with nine sacks (two more than any other player) and is tied for fourth with 10 quarterback hits. He had three sacks and four quarterback hits in Week 2 against the Panthers.

Only two players since 1982 (when sacks became an official stat) have had more sacks through a team's first five games than Barrett, who had 14 sacks in his first five years combined with the Denver Broncos.

"The roles I was in my first four years, I think that was perfect for me. I wasn’t ready to be a consistent starter, but now I feel like I am ready now and everything is just working out," Barrett said.

Another defensive weapon who seems to thrive against the Panthers is linebacker Lavonte David, who has spent his entire six-year career with the Bucs. He is one of two players with 10 or more interceptions and 20 or more sacks since his 2012 rookie year.

David also has 6.5 sacks in 15 games against the Panthers, four more than he has against any other team.

Fun London fact: This is Tampa Bay’s third game in London and their first since a 24-18 loss to the Bears in 2011. The Buccaneers are the only team to have played multiple games in London and have yet to win.

Simone Biles made history yet again on Thursday, becoming the first woman to win five all-around titles at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart.

Biles is the only woman with more than three such crowns and now boasts 22 career medals at the competition, just one shy of male star Vitaly Scherbo's overall record.

The 22-year-old's latest feat came as she scored 58.999 points after delivering four clean routines to finish 2.1 points ahead of China's Tang Xijing.

The win marked Biles' largest margin of victory at a World Championships all-around event, giving the United States seventh win in a row in the women's all-around to match the old Soviet Union's record streak.

The five-time Olympic champion is set to compete in all four event finals this weekend - the vault and bars, followed by the beam and floor - giving her the opportunity to surpass Scherbo.

Speaking on Wednesday, Biles told the Washington Post: "Every year it feels better and better just because we're adding to the legacy.

"I feel like I never think of records. I just go out there and do what I came to do, which is compete for the country."

Charles Leclerc has acknowledged Ferrari's tactics were confused last time out in Russia but insists the mishap was not "a huge deal" as they prepare to race again in Japan.

For the second consecutive race, Leclerc was left frustrated by events on the track involving team instructions.

He started from pole and appeared to follow Ferrari's tactics by allowing team-mate Sebastian Vettel to use his slipstream at the start to go into first place.

Unlike in the previous grand prix at Singapore, Ferrari sought to redress the balance by putting Leclerc back in front, but squabbling over the team radio appeared to delay that happening, with Vettel seemingly reluctant to make way.

Ferrari's pit stops allowed Leclerc to go back in front, only for Vettel to be forced to retire, opening the door for Lewis Hamilton to pit under a virtual safety car and lead home a Mercedes one-two.

The Scuderia's issues at the end of last month were still a topic of discussion on Thursday ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix weekend, yet Leclerc was looking to move on from the issue.

"Obviously there was some misunderstanding from the car, but I think we've had a discussion and everything is clear now," Leclerc told a news conference in Suzuka.

"Obviously it felt like it was a huge deal from the outside, which it definitely wasn't, but now everything is fine.

"What is clear is that the situation wasn't clear for both of the drivers starting the race. But what's important is that we spoke about it and we'll make sure this situation doesn't happen again in the future."

Vettel was also keen to "look forward", adding: "Probably there's certain things that we could have done better looking back.

"But in the end, we look forward and look forward to this race and the next races. So we're not worried too much."

Welterweight world champion Errol Spence Jr has been taken to the intensive care unit of a Dallas hospital following a car crash in the city.

Spence, who holds the IBF and WBC belts, was injured in the early hours of Thursday morning while driving a white Ferrari, which was pictured with significant damage.

Dallas Police confirmed the 29-year-old, who they said was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash, had been hospitalised but was "expected to live".

A statement from Dallas Police said: "On October 10, 2019, at 2:53 a.m., a white Ferrari was travelling at a high rate of speed northbound in the 500 block S. Riverfront Boulevard. The Ferrari veered left over the centre median onto the southbound lanes and flipped multiple times ejecting the driver who was not wearing a seatbelt.

"The driver, Errol Spence, Jr., 29-years-old, was taken to an area hospital where he remains in ICU. He is expected to live. The cause of the accident is undetermined at this time."

In September, the unbeaten Spence defeated Shawn Porter by split decision in Los Angeles to defend his IBF title and also claim the WBC strap.

Porter was among those to wish his welterweight rival well, posting on Twitter: "My dad always tells me, 'This boxing thing is a part of your life but it's not going to last forever. You still have a lot of life to live after that'.

"With that, I'm praying for @ErrolSpenceJr and his family because he has a lot of life to live and I pray he recovers quickly and fully."

WBO champion Terence Crawford has been involved in a public back-and-forth with Spence concerning a potential unification bout, but he sent his best wishes on Thursday.

"Praying for you champ, @ErrolSpenceJr," he wrote on his own social media page. "Get well. We fighters - I know you will."

Kell Brook, who was dethroned as IBF champion by Spence in 2017, posted his own message, writing: "Get well soon champ! Thoughts are with you and wishing you a full and speedy recovery."

Manny Pacquiao, the only eight-division world champion in the sport's history, tweeted: "Praying for @ErrolSpenceJr.."

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green is "prepared for anything" amid trade speculation. 

Green is yet to feature this season after undergoing ankle surgery in July and is reportedly among a group of players the Bengals are willing to part with after an 0-5 start under first-year coach Zac Taylor.

However, the seven-time Pro Bowler is simply focused on his recovery and intends to roll with punches.

"I tell everybody I haven't heard anything. I don't fantasise about anything like that. I'm just trying to get healthy and go from there," Green told the Bengals' official website.

"I'm prepared for anything. A trade's not going to change who I am. I'm still going to play. I’m still going to be A.J."

Green is in the final season of his four-year, $60million contract and Cincinnati are in a rebuilding period, but the 31-year-old does not intend to leave in free agency if he receives a fair extension offer.

"That's just not who I am. I'm loyal to the person who gave me my shot," Green said. "They took care of Larry [Fitzgerald]. He's a [Arizona] Cardinal. No matter how many times they rebuild, he's a Cardinal. He's the only guy still there."

The Bengals will be without Green against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, but the wideout could return against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 7.

Sonny Bill Williams could become the 'David Beckham of Super League' if Toronto Wolfpack can persuade the New Zealand star to join.

Coach Brian McDermott confirmed the Wolfpack, fresh from their win over Featherstone Rovers in the Million Pound Game, were interested in securing the dual-code international's services.

He believes signing the All Blacks veteran would represent a major coup, with Williams having the star power to elevate the profile of the league, as Beckham did for Major League Soccer during his time with LA Galaxy.

"Sonny Bill Williams has shown interest in us and that's what it is at the moment," said McDermott, who won four Grand Finals when in charge of Leeds Rhinos.

"He's currently busy with the [Rugby] World Cup so I wouldn't ever dare to suggest that he is more than interested in coming but the answer wasn't a 'no' once we made contact so that's something we'd like to follow up.

"Our club would want to have a name that's absolutely international that everybody would recognise and help the profile of our game, very much like David Beckham did for Major League Soccer.

"But he would have to be a very good player as well, he's got to be able to do the job that I want him to do. There would be no token player or just a headline-grabbing player."

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer face tricky quarter-final matches at the Shanghai Masters on Friday after the star pair battled through to the last eight.

World number one and defending champion Djokovic defeated John Isner 7-5 6-3, while second seed Federer got the better of David Goffin, earning a 7-6 (9-7) 6-4 success.

Djokovic goes on to tackle Stefanos Tsitsipas, who overcame a significant scare as he beat Hubert Hurkacz 7-5 3-6 7-6 (7-5), with Alexander Zverev up next for Federer.

German Zverev threatened to blow Andrey Rublev away after a first-set rout, but he was then made to work hard to come through 6-0 7-6 (7-4).

Daniil Medvedev, the third seed, and Dominic Thiem, the fourth seed, both won in straight sets, seeing off Vasek Pospisil and Nikoloz Basilashvili respectively.


DJOKOVIC SERVES UP A TREAT

The top seed was speaking of the threat of Isner's famous serve from the moment their last-16 clash was booked and continued to do so after his win.

But Djokovic also managed to execute his own serve as effectively as he had hoped, complementing his typically excellent defensive game to get through.

"I managed to kind of read his serve and find a good position on the return - at the end of the first set and also the beginning of the second," the Serbian said.

"I won five games in a row and that was the key - obviously having a break each set, and then I held my serve. I thought it was one of the best serving matches I've had lately."


FEDERER FLUSTERED BUT THROUGH

If Djokovic performed better than he might have expected, Federer was a little taken aback by the level of opponent Goffin, whom he thrashed in straight sets for the loss of just four games at the US Open.

"I never really felt like I had the upper hand over David today," Federer said. "I thought he did a really good job. He was so much better than at the US Open."


STILL TWO MINOR UPSETS

The top eight seeds would have made up the quarter-final line-up if not for wins by Italians Fabio Fognini and Matteo Berrettini.

Fognini, the Monte Carlo champion who made headlines for a spat with Andy Murray earlier in the week, defeated Russian Karen Khachanov 6-3 7-5.

Berrettini, who lost to Murray last week, a month on from reaching the US Open semi-finals, got the better of Roberto Bautista Agut, tying up a 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 victory.

Fognini faces Medvedev next, with Berrettini up against Thiem.

Sergio Parisse believes World Rugby would not have cancelled Italy’s clash with New Zealand if the All Blacks needed a victory to qualify from Pool B.

The reigning champions were set to go up against Italy in their final group game at the Rugby World Cup on Saturday. However, with Typhoon Hagibis due to hit Japan, the fixture has been called off.

With each side awarded two points, New Zealand will top the table while Italy finish in third, meaning they miss out on a chance to claim an unlikely win and progress to the quarter-finals.

It is a decision Parisse has branded as "ridiculous", insisting the match would have gone ahead had it been vital for their opponents. 

"It's difficult to know that we won't have the chance to play a match against one of the great teams," said Parisse in a news conference. "If New Zealand needed four or five points against us, it would not have been cancelled.

"We had the chance to play in a big stadium against a great team. It's ridiculous that a decision of this nature has been made.

"If Italy and New Zealand decide they don't want to play, then that's fine. But, as I said, if New Zealand needed the points, it wouldn't have been cancelled."

Parisse also questioned the back-up planning by tournament organisers when knowing a World Cup during storm season would always put matches at risk.

"It's ridiculous that there was no plan B because it isn't news that typhoons hit Japan," Parisse added.

"When you organise a World Cup you should have one in place. Sure, everyone might think that Italy v New Zealand being cancelled counts for nothing because we'd have lost anyway, but we deserved to be respected as a team."

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen, in contrast, described the decision as a "no-brainer" when speaking to the media.

"The reality is we can't control the weather," Hansen told a news conference.

"Do we charge on and put lives at risk? Or do we lead and make a decision that's around making sure people are safe? It's a no-brainer."

The Philadelphia Phillies have fired manager Gabe Kapler after a second successive mediocre season.

The Phillies had high expectations for 2019 after loading up in the offseason, but their roster moves only led to a one-game improvement from the previous campaign.

Consequently, the team, who concluded an 81-81 season 11 days ago, announced on Thursday that Kapler would not return for the final year of his contract.

"Several years ago, I promised our loyal fans that I would do everything in my power to bring a world championships team to our city," owner John Middleton said in a statement.

"During the second half of this season and continuing into this week, I have evaluated our organisation extensively, a process that included talking to many people both internally and around the league.

"Reassuring to me was the endorsement that people outside the Phillies gave to the progress we have made recently, both organisationally and on the field. 

"Nevertheless, with the knowledge that I have gained from my evaluation, combined with my personal reflection on the 2019 season, I have decided that some changes are necessary to achieve our ultimate objective.

"Consequently, we will replace our manager. I am indebted to Gabe for the steadfast effort, energy and enthusiasm that he brought to our club, and we are unquestionably a better team and organisation as a result of his contributions." 

That Philadelphia posted the one-game improvement from Kapler's first year at the helm was a significant disappointment after bringing in Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura and David Robertson.

Those additions bumped the opening day payroll up $45million from 2018, but the Phillies missed the playoffs for the eighth consecutive year. 

That was enough for Middleton to make the move, and now he will look for a manager who can vault the Phillies back into regular postseason contention. 

"We came into 2019 with very high hopes. We fell short of those, and that responsibility lies with me," Kapler said in a release.

"The next Phillies manager will inherit a team of talented, dedicated and committed players. There has been nothing more fulfilling in my professional career than the opportunity to work with the players on this team. I will forever value the relationships I developed with them.

"As I move on, I know that this organisation is in a great spot and will see a lot of success going forward. My hope is that I helped contribute to a developing culture in the organisation that flourishes in the years to come.

"I've come to care for this franchise and have the best wishes for this group in the future. The passion and devotion of the Phillies fan base both inspired and humbled me daily.

"It was an honour to grow, develop and learn with this team. I'm looking forward to what the future brings, and I know I'm a better leader and person for having had this opportunity."

Kyrie Irving's Brooklyn Nets debut lasted just a minute as the much-discussed NBA preseason game against the Los Angeles Lakers went ahead in Shanghai on Thursday.

Irving, who signed for the Nets alongside the injured Kevin Durant for the upcoming season, was trying to play through a facial fracture suffered in a pickup game last month, wearing a clear mask.

However, the former Boston Celtics star appeared to aggravate the issue early on as he clashed with Rajon Rondo and was immediately withdrawn.

The contest at least finally meant some basketball was played amid a week of controversy stemming from a since-deleted tweet by Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey supporting anti-government protesters in Hong Kong.

Morey's comments overshadowed what had been expected to be a celebration of the NBA in one of their key international markets in China.

Some fallout continued, with media duties for both teams and league commissioner Adam Silver cancelled, but the game represented a brief respite from a tumultuous few days.

The Nets prevailed 114-111 as some of the NBA's top stars took to the floor, although Caris LeVert followed Irving in making an early exit with an apparent eye problem.

Their absences made Spencer Dinwiddie the key man as he scored 20 points and Taurean Prince added 18 to lead six Nets in double figures.

LeBron James scored 20 points in 24 minutes to pace the Lakers, as he and Anthony Davis (16 points in 25 minutes) shared the floor as team-mates for the first time.

Brooklyn's Theo Pinson broke 111-111 tie with 20.9 seconds to play by hitting the second of two free throws, before Dzanan Musa's dunk with nine seconds left capped the scoring.

Los Angeles had a last shot to tie on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's three-pointer as the clock ran down, but it bounced away.

Running back Christian McCaffrey gave Carolina Panthers fans a scare when he appeared on Wednesday's injury report, but head coach Ron Rivera believes the NFL's leading rusher will be ready to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in London on Sunday.

McCaffrey is having an outstanding season with the 3-2 Panthers as he leads the league in rushing with 587 yards, while only Austin Ekeler has more receiving yards among running backs.

Last weekend McCaffrey rushed for 176 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-27 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, though he landed awkwardly on his back when flipping into the end zone for one of those scores.

A back injury was given as the reason for his absence from Wednesday's practice, but, speaking in London on Thursday, Rivera explained that was just cautionary.

Asked if he expected McCaffrey to play at Tottenham's stadium on Sunday, Rivera told reporters: "Yes. After a couple of extra days of treatment, it's been really good for him.

"We expect to have him out on the practice field tomorrow when we have our Friday practice."

McCaffrey, who has garnered MVP buzz with his strong start to the campaign, has been on the field for every offensive snap in three of Carolina's five games so far.

Shawn Porter and Terence Crawford have wished welterweight rival Errol Spence Jr well amid reports the IBF and WBC champion has been involved in a serious car crash.

Spence, who successfully defended his belts in a thrilling showdown with Porter in Los Angeles last month, was said to have been taken to hospital following the incident in Dallas on Thursday.

A widely reported statement from authorities appeared to confirm further details, with an unnamed driver ejected from a Ferrari as it veered over the central reservation of a dual carriageway while travelling at high speed.

Premier Boxing Champions, who represent Spence, are yet to confirm the 29-year-old was the person involved.

Omnisport has contacted PBC and the Dallas Police Department for comment.

Porter posted on Twitter: "My dad always tells me, 'This boxing thing is a part of your life but it's not going to last forever. You still have a lot of life to live after that'.

"With that, I'm praying for @ErrolSpenceJr and his family because he has a lot of life to live and I pray he recovers quickly and fully."

WBC king Crawford has been involved in a public back-and-forth with Spence concerning a potential unification bout, but he sent his best wishes on Thursday.

"Praying for you champ, @ErrolSpenceJr," he wrote on his own social media page. "Get well. We fighters - I know you will."

Kell Brook, who was dethroned as IBF champion by Spence in 2017, posted his own message, writing: "Get well soon champ! Thoughts are with you and wishing you a full and speedy recovery."

Joe Schmidt vowed Ireland will leave nothing to chance when they take on Samoa in their final Rugby World Cup pool match.

Saturday's encounter in Fukuoka was in doubt due to Typhoon Hagibis, which has forced the cancellation of England's encounter with France and New Zealand's clash against Italy.

However, the match is set to go ahead as scheduled, even though doubt remains over whether pool rivals Japan and Scotland will be able to play out their crucial game on Sunday.

Ireland sit second in Pool A, three points behind hosts Japan and one ahead of Scotland, meaning a bonus-point win over Samoa for coach Schmidt's team would be enough to secure progression into the last eight.

Should Sunday's match be cancelled then Ireland would be guaranteed a place in the knock-out stage as long as they avoid defeat against Samoa, but Schmidt was adamant his side will be going all out for the win.

"There was a lot of talk amongst the players post-training when we found out," Schmidt said, discussing the match cancellations. "We've got to make sure that our game gets finished with the right result for us.

"It's not something I can control. I only know what we need to do. It's a situation nobody wanted to have and there will be a couple of teams that are massively disappointed.

"From that perspective, that's disappointing, but from our perspective all we can do is what we can control."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Ireland - Robbie Henshaw

It has been a frustrating time for centre Robbie Henshaw, who will be keen to make his mark having been named in Schmidt's side after missing the first three matches through injury.

"We've gone with the guys who could give us the best preparation into the game," Schmidt said of making 11 changes. "Robbie is fresh and we're excited to have him in there."

Samoa - Teofilo Paulo

Samoa will be determined to spoil Ireland's party, with second row Teofilo Paulo - who is without a club after leaving London Irish earlier in 2019 - likely to be key. The 31-year-old sat out the defeat to Japan, and acknowledged Saturday is his biggest chance to prove his worth to potential suitors.

"I obviously don't want to be selfish and try to do the thing myself because the team comes first, and I'll obviously try to do my job for the team as best as I can, and leave the contract side off-field," Paulo said. "But obviously it's a bit stressful that the World Cup is coming to an end and nothing is up on the table."

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Samoa have lost their last 10 games against tier-one opposition at the Rugby World Cup, with their last such victory coming back in 1999 against Wales.
- This match will see Rory Best tie Ronan O'Gara for the third most Rugby World Cup appearances for Ireland, with 14 each. Only Paul O'Connell and Brian O'Driscoll (17 each) have played more games for Ireland at the tournament.
- Keith Earls needs one try to become Ireland's outright second highest try-scorer in Test rugby. He and Tommy Bowe are tied on 30 tries, behind Brian O'Driscoll's tally of 46.

Roger Federer conceded he had more than his fair share of good fortune in his Shanghai Masters win over David Goffin.

The Swiss maestro battled to a 7-6 (9-7) 6-4 triumph on Thursday to reach the last eight in China.

Federer saved five set points in the opener and sealed the second set after a solitary break of Goffin's serve.

"It was tough," said the 20-time grand slam champion. "He served for the set at 6-5. We both had chances but he probably had a few more I must admit.

"I had to play some very accurate shots and it went very close to the lines. They could easily have gone another way, I know that.

"I was a bit fortunate to win that first set but I played okay and I fought extremely hard.

"Sometimes it falls your way. I have had a good season and served well at the end.

"The first set was certainly crucial to put me in the lead."

The world number three will face Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals.

Roger Federer was pushed to the limit by David Goffin as the world number three battled through to the quarter-finals of the Shanghai Masters.

Backed by vociferous support from the crowd, Federer was firmly tested by Goffin but the 38-year-old eventually came out on top 7-6 (9-7) 6-4 on Thursday.

While fellow favourite Novak Djokovic cruised through his tie with John Isner, Federer was far from at his sharpest, with world number 14 Goffin capitalising on some rusty play from the veteran in the opening set.

Goffin squandered a break point as Federer laboured to a hold of serve in the third game, though the Belgian had to save a set point at 4-5 down.

The momentum seemed to have swung in Goffin's favour when he broke to take a 6-5 lead but the second seed responded in style, forcing the tie-break with a delicate lob at the culmination of a thrilling rally.

An arduous first set was finally settled after Goffin failed to land a shot down the line - Federer planting a firm cross-court forehand to clinch the lead. 

Both players passed up break points throughout the early exchanges of another attritional set, though Federer took the upper hand when Goffin sent a weak effort into the net.

With Federer holding the next game with ease, Goffin served brilliantly to stay in the match.

It was to no avail, though, a cushioned drop shot setting the 20-time grand slam champion up to serve out a hard-fought victory with an ace.

Eddie Jones joked the "typhoon gods" must be smiling on England after a tropical storm caused the cancellation of Saturday's Rugby World Cup clash with France.

England were set to play their final Pool C match in Yokohama on Saturday, but with Typhoon Hagibis set to make landfall, the game - along with New Zealand's meeting with Italy - has been called off. Japan's crunch Pool A contest with Scotland on Sunday is also under threat.

Although Jones is disappointed the France match will not go ahead, he said the extra time to prepare for a quarter-final against Australia or Wales has given his side a fantastic opportunity to be at their best in the knockout stage.

"Of course, everyone is disappointed not to play against France. We put a lot of work, tactical, physical and emotional work, into it," Jones told a news conference.

"We are disappointed, but the situation is a situation that we don't control. World Rugby has made a decision, so we have just got to get on with it now.

"We're not concerned at all, we're excited, absolutely excited. [It's a] great opportunity. Who would have thought we'd have had two relatively easy games, one tough game and then two weeks to prepare for a quarter-final, so someone is smiling on us.

"The typhoon gods, maybe."

Following the news of the cancellation, England decided to head back to their training base in Miyazaki, which is not in the typhoon's path.

"We found out officially this morning but there were rumours flying around last night and we were glued to our phones," Jones said.  

"We're excited about the prospect of having great preparation for the quarter-final now. We did get some leeway over the next three days and so we are off to Miyazaki for a short pre-season camp and then we are off to Oita.

"We love Miyazaki, we love Miyazaki beef. We are Miyazaki beef consumers. We'll do a bit of light training Friday, have a good hit out Saturday, have some beef Saturday night, a few beers, and get ready for the week ahead."

Formula One officials and the FIA are closely monitoring Typhoon Hagibis as the tropical storm threatens to cancel the Japanese Grand Prix.

The typhoon, which is scheduled to make landfall on Saturday, has already forced the cancellation of two Rugby World Cup matches - England's clash with France and New Zealand's meeting with Italy.

With final practice and qualifying due to take place at Suzuka the same day, race organisers have confirmed they are monitoring the progress of the storm ahead of this weekend's event.

"The FIA, Formula One, Suzuka Circuit and the Japanese Automobile Federation are closely monitoring Typhoon Hagibis and its potential impact on the 2019 FIA Formula One Japanese Grand Prix," an F1 statement read.

"Every effort is being made to minimise disruption to the Formula One timetable, however the safety of the fans, competitors and everyone at the Suzuka Circuit remains the top priority.

"All parties will continue to monitor the situation and provide further updates in due course."

Though F1 are yet to make a firm decision on the race schedule, Ferrari's Charles Leclerc - who sits third in the driver standings - has backed the officials to make the right call.

"It's pretty clear if the typhoon is going to come here, there is no way we can drive," Leclerc told a news conference.

"Of my previous experience, I have only done one year and a half in Formula One, but they have always been quite safe with the conditions.

"They always asked what we thought about the track once we were in the car. So I'm happy. We will see."

Should the race go ahead, Mercedes could wrap up the constructors' title if they outscore Ferrari by more than 14 points, with the team on the verge of a sixth successive double championship.

"It would leave us right at the top, if we do what we plan to do," defending world champion and current drivers' standings leader Lewis Hamilton told a news conference when asked what it would mean for Mercedes in terms of F1 history.

"All of the people who have contributed to enable us to do what we do. People do not see the work that goes on in the background. When they tune in at the weekend they see the outcome of hundreds of hours of work.

"It shows the strength in depth, the intention of Mercedes as an organisation to continue to be a dominating figure in motorsport. I'm really proud to be a part of it."

Heather Watson reached a WTA Tour quarter-final for the first time in over a year as she defeated Tianjin Open favourite Wang Qiang to set up a clash with Magda Linette.

The Briton - ranked 125th in the world - cruised to a 6-3 6-0 triumph over Wang to claim her first win against a top-30 opponent since she defeated Anastasija Sevastova at Wimbledon in 2017.

Korea Open finalist Linette, who last month beat Watson in qualifying for the China Open, awaits in the 27-year-old's first last-eight outing at this level since Quebec in September 2018, with the Pole having progressed when Kurumi Nara retired at 4-0 down.

Peng Shuai, meanwhile, proved little match for third seed Dayana Yastremska, who eased through 6-2 6-4.

Yastremska, now the highest-seeded player left in the competition, will face Veronika Kudermetova in the last eight, with Zheng Saisai retiring against the Russian.

Rugby league is leading the way when it comes to assessing and treating head injuries in sport, according to St Helens' Alex Walmsley.

Walmsley is set to feature for Saints as they take on Salford Red Devils in Saturday's Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford, while he is also in line to tour New Zealand and Papua New Guinea with Great Britain Lions.

It marks a remarkable comeback for Walmsley, who broke his neck in March 2018 while in action for Saints.

Concussion protocols have been in the spotlight in 2019, with Australia cricketer Steve Smith missing the third Ashes Test against England after he was struck by a Jofra Archer delivery. In rugby union, it has been suggested 10 minutes is not enough for a head injury assessment.

Though he believes rugby league is at the forefront of tackling the stigma surrounding head injuries, Walmsley acknowledged there is still plenty of work to be done.

"I didn't know I'd broken my neck but there was a gut instinct where I knew I'd done something which meant I shouldn't play on," Walmsley told Omnisport.

"With the head injury as well, it forced our hand to get me off the pitch.

"You look at Steve Smith and how devastated he was but we're not just sportsmen. We get tagged with how we should put our bodies on the line, but a lot of us are family men, we've got partners and kids and I think the most important thing to do after a game is you see your family.

"The way [rugby league] has gone, with the doctors in place and the head [injury] protocols, we're making sure that's right.

"There was a time when you'd be considered soft or weak if you came off with a concussion or head injury, you'd be expected to crack on. We're tough men who play a physical game but ultimately, regardless of the sport, if you've got a head issue we need to make sure we're safe and our sport is at the front of that."

Walmsley claimed the psychological aspect of his rehabilitation was the toughest hurdle to overcome, but to be on the verge of a Grand Final and a Lions tour has left him in no doubt he made the right decision in returning to rugby.

"It was a mental battle as much as it was a physical battle," said the 29-year-old, who has made 22 league appearances this term.

"Not only getting back into a position where I was right to play again but being confident in my body. That was a tough battle, there was a lot of tough conversations to be had, mainly in my own head, about what I was going to do and was it worth it.

"Thankfully I came to the decision where I knew my body was right. To get back playing, it makes those times all worthwhile."

 

Alex Walmsley is working with Dacia on their We Make Heroes campaign, celebrating understated heroes throughout Rugby League. To find out more, visit Dacia.com.

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