In an interview with Omnisport last April, the great Brian O'Driscoll acknowledged Ireland would prefer the 2019 Rugby World Cup to be held 12 months earlier than scheduled.

How Joe Schmidt's men must have wished that had been the case on Saturday, as they suffered a humbling 46-14 defeat to a rampant New Zealand and exited the tournament at the quarter-final stage yet again.

In 2018, Ireland were almost unstoppable, racking up 11 wins from 12 Tests - including a Six Nations Grand Slam and an historic maiden home win over the All Blacks in November.

Their only defeat, at the hands of Australia in June, was swiftly avenged, as they followed up that loss in Brisbane with victories in Melbourne and Sydney to earn a first series victory in Australia since 1979.

Before that tour and the triumph over the All Blacks, though, O'Driscoll delivered an assessment that can now be viewed as startlingly prophetic. 

In the wake of Ireland's Grand Slam success, the former British and Irish Lions centre said: "Would we prefer to have the World Cup this September? Yes, we would, because of where we feel we're at versus the rest of the world.

"But 18 months is a long time in international rugby. It will give other teams an opportunity to build on the work they've done.

"South Africa won't be the side that they currently are in 18 months' time; they always get it together for a World Cup. France seem to be a side that will definitely improve. Wales have a lot of injuries [and will be stronger in future]. England are not going to be as disappointing as they were in this year's Six Nations.

"So there's lots of teams that have time to be able to right their wrongs in terms of recent form and make sure that they peak come Japan 2019."

Unfortunately for O'Driscoll and his countrymen, while several nations have improved significantly, Ireland's recent peak has undeniably passed.

A week on from last November's triumph over New Zealand, Ireland swept the major honours at the 2018 World Rugby awards, scooping the team of the year prize as Schmidt and Johnny Sexton were named coach of the year and player of the year respectively.

The following day, Schmidt announced his intention to stand down and end his coaching career after the World Cup. Ireland's fortunes have declined sharply ever since.

Defeats to England and Wales in this year's Six Nations saw the team finish third 12 months on from their Grand Slam glory.

If that represented a concerning dip, the alarm bells were certainly ringing by the time Schmidt's side were trounced 57-15 by England at Twickenham in August.

Skipper Rory Best said he and his team-mates were "nowhere near where we need to be", adding: "The only upside is that it is the middle of August not the middle of September."

Ireland won their remaining warm-up games against Wales and further much-needed optimism was provided when they recorded a comprehensive 27-3 win over Scotland in their opening Pool A fixture.

Yet it proved a false dawn.

A shock loss to hosts Japan six days on laid bare Ireland's issues once more and ultimately pressed Best and Co into the least enviable quarter-final slot, as opponents of the All Blacks.

Had the game taken place in 2018, Ireland would surely have fancied their chances.

Instead, this contest felt like a foregone conclusion from the outset and so it proved as a glittering era under Schmidt came to a painful end.

New Zealand remain right on course to retain the Rugby World Cup after they eased through to the semi-finals with a 46-14 thrashing of Ireland at Tokyo Stadium on Saturday.

The All Blacks ran in seven tries as they emphatically crushed their opponents, setting up a showdown with England - 40-16 winners over Australia in the first knockout tie of the 2019 tournament - in Yokohama next weekend.

As for Ireland, the heavy defeat means they are still yet to get beyond the last eight at a World Cup, a record seventh quarter-final exit bringing a disappointing end to Joe Schmidt's otherwise successful reign.

They had won two of the past three meetings between the teams but hopes of further success disappeared during an error-strewn opening half, New Zealand scoring 22 points without reply to make the result a formality with 40 minutes still left to play.

The All Blacks had opened their campaign in Japan with a hard-fought win over South Africa, but that heavyweight clash was a month ago, leading to suggestions rustiness could be an issue after cruising through the rest of their Pool B fixtures.

However, it soon became clear there was no need for head coach Steve Hansen to be concerned about his team being undercooked.

Aaron Smith darted over twice from close range in the first quarter, and even when Ireland did eventually threaten with ball in hand on the half-hour, miscommunication between Johnny Sexton and Keith Earls coughed up possession and New Zealand ruthlessly made them pay, Richie Mo'unga initially hacking the loose ball on before leaving it for Beauden Barrett to finish.

A sorry first half for Schmidt's team was summed up by a penalty decision being reversed, denying them a chance to get on the scoreboard before the break, while any remote idea of a comeback disappeared when Kieran Read's pass off the floor set up hooker Codie Taylor eight minutes into the second period.

Matt Todd and the excellent Bridge also crossed as New Zealand refused to show any mercy, though the former finished the game in the sin bin after Ireland were awarded a penalty try.

Robbie Henshaw had already crossed by then to make sure the Irish avoided the indignity of being shut out, yet the All Blacks deservedly had the last word when Beauden Barrett's pass put brother Jordie in at the right corner.

Vulnerable All Blacks? Forget about it!

Typhoon Hagibis forced the postponement of New Zealand's final group game against Italy, yet they did not take long to get back into the swing of things. An early show of physicality set the tone for a dominant display as they made a statement to those who have designs on ending their long reign as world champions.

Say it ain’t so, Joe…

This was not how Schmidt hoped his tenure would end. He had twice plotted defeats of his homeland previously, but there was to be no hat-trick. Still, he departs after over six years in charge having won three Six Nations titles, including completing the Grand Slam in 2018. Sadly for Ireland, they appear to have peaked a year too early in terms of the World Cup.

England boss Eddie Jones offered no sympathy to Australia after his team swamped the Wallabies at the Rugby World Cup.

A thumping 40-16 victory in Oita carried England through to the semi-finals, with Australian Jones the unabashed architect.

As his counterpart Michael Cheika just about held back tears, telling one journalist to show some "compassion" when raising the question of his future, Jones was jubilant after his own team's performance.

But when it came to sympathising with his former Randwick team-mate, there was nothing going.

"Look, it's tough when you lose a game, particularly at this level of a World Cup," Jones said in a post-match news conference.

"At this moment, not a lot of sympathy, no, because I'm enjoying the win and I think I'm allowed to enjoy the win.

"Maybe later in the week I might, so ask me that later in the week."

England will be deep in preparation for their semi-final task by then, and the impressive performance in their first match of the knock-out stage will count for very little.

They must not merely reprise the display that ripped Cheika's side apart but take it to the next level, Jones said.

"We just want to keep challenging ourselves. We haven't played at our best yet," Jones said.

"The challenge is: how do we get better next week?"

He said England would expect "probably the toughest game of the tournament" next and predicted a "twinge" that led two-try Jonny May to come off late in the Australia game will not keep him sidelined.

Jones described Kyle Sinckler as "like a runaway rhino" after his charge to the line for England's third try, and said George Ford was "absolutely spectacular" after coming off the bench in the second half, having been surprisingly left out of the starting line-up.

England's coach was wary, though, of placing the team on too high a pedestal, even when touching on a favourite pet topic of samurai warriors.

"It's a do-or-die game today. Everyone understands that, and the best samurais were always guys who had a plan but could adapt, who had a calm head, but they were full of aggression," Jones said.

"I thought we were pretty much like that today.

"The challenge is always how we get better, because there's always a better samurai around the corner, so we have to get better."

Michael Cheika urged a reporter to show "compassion" as he objected to being asked whether he intends to step down as Australia's head coach following their Rugby World Cup exit.

Cheika's contract is set to expire and he is widely expected to leave his position, having previously said he would not seek reappointment if the Wallabies did not win the tournament.

However, in a tense news conference after a 40-16 quarter-final loss to England in Oita, the 52-year-old took exception to being asked if he was considering his role.

"It's a cruel, cruel world nowadays when you're asking those questions two minutes after we've been knocked out of the World Cup," said a dejected Cheika.

"If you'd find it inside you to find a little bit of compassion for people who are hurting and just ask a more relevant question [that would be appreciated], because I came here with only one thought in my mind, about winning here. That thought has just disappeared now, not 15-20 minutes ago.

"I know that's what the papers demand, but perhaps, whatever your news outlet is, you should think about people's feelings."

Cheika's future was not raised again until the final question of the news conference. A journalist, who began his enquiry by saying he "appreciated the timeframe", reminded Cheika of his pre-tournament comments about standing aside if Australia did not triumph, asking if that was still his intention.

That query was also rebuffed by Cheika, who swiftly responded: "If you appreciate the timeframe, why ask the question?

He added: "When the time comes, I'll tell 'em [Rugby Australia].

"They don't need to know today - it's not going to kill 'em."

Eddie Jones insists England are still capable of improvement despite earning an impressive 40-16 win over Australia in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.

England will face New Zealand or Ireland in the last four next weekend after they scored four tries to the Wallabies' one in Oita on Saturday.

Head coach Jones recognised Australia had made the stronger start to the encounter but was impressed with how his players came through.

"The good news for us is we can still improve," he said after the match. "We weren't absolutely at our best. Australia started the game fast, played superbly for the first 20 and we had to hang in there.

"We hung in there, got a bit of momentum back and got the points when we needed. I'm so pleased for the players, they have worked hard to get this result. What a great crowd, fantastic.

"We are happy to play anyone now but obviously I've got a soft spot for New Zealand. I'd love to play New Zealand in the semi-final, it would be a great challenge for us, we'd be looking forward to it."

Jonny May scored two tries in the space of four first-half minutes, while Kyle Sinckler and Anthony Watson dotted down after England went into the interval with a 17-9 lead.

"Scott Wisemantel has done a great job with getting more options in our attack," added Jones.

"Maybe at the start of the four years here we were a little bit too one dimensional but now we have more options, he's done a great job in that area."

Captain Owen Farrell, who contributed 20 points off the tee, also praised Australia for the way they approached the game.

He said: "I thought Australia made that a brilliant game. They attacked throughout, from minute one to 80.

"Our boys did well in defence and then managed to get some field position off the back of it. We know that when we get some field position we can be pretty dangerous.

"My kicking was a lot better than last time!"

On England's second-half approach, as the forwards and kicking game played more of a role to tighten the match up, Farrell added: "We did what was needed.

"We had the lead and obviously Australia were throwing everything at us again. We wanted to play the game at our pace, not theirs, and thankfully we did that in the second half.

"The support has been brilliant. It's a massive privilege to play for England and hopefully you see that when we play. It's brilliant to have them behind us."

Thank goodness that's over, and Michael Cheika can get back to just being a "good old mate" of Eddie Jones again.

How it must have pained the old scrum colleagues from their Randwick days to be jostling against each other at a Rugby World Cup.

From being on the same side, dressing-room besties in the 1980s, to being sworn enemies at least for a week. It can't be good for anybody's health.

It sure as hell looked like being a grim state of affairs for Cheika, who whenever the television cameras honed in on him in the stands at Oita Stadium, looked to be living out a personal nightmare.

A thump of the desk here, a look of desperation there. Surely he'll be on his way to pastures new once the dust settles on this thumping 40-16 England victory over Australia.

He dramatically called for "compassion" from a journalist after the match, when asked if he would be moving on.

But the Wallabies are going home. They have lost seven straight games to England. Cheika's contract is up. You do the maths.

"I was supposed to get this done for the people here and for Australians. I'm so disappointed," Cheika said, seemingly close to tears.

Cheika clobbered the table in front of him early in the game after Australia gave away a scrum inside their own 22, and five minutes later his team were two tries behind, the estimable Jonny May marking his 50th cap with a double.

As Brexit debating went into overdrive in the UK Parliament, England certainly needed no left-wing amendment. They were happy, too, for this particular May to crack on with getting a deal done.

The Leicester flyer dashed in by the corner flag both times, firstly from close range after a patient build-up and on the second occasion when David Pocock handed over possession and Henry Slade charged from midfield before kicking through for England's bolting number 11 to gather.

Australia had an 11 who could dash for the line too, and when Marika Koroibete took advantage of tremendous work from Reece Hodge and Jordan Petaia to bound down the left for a try that Christian Lealiifano converted, it was a one-point game early in the second half. Hope for Cheika and his men, but not for long.

Prop Kyle Sinckler exploited a gap in Australia's defence to trundle through for a swift riposte, and Australia were then booted out of the game by the outstanding kicking game of England captain Owen Farrell. Anthony Watson piled on the agony with another try. Mercifully the TV cameras allowed Cheika to wallow in private grief this time.

With Jones and Cheika, there was a sense of soap-opera histrionics about their pre-match sparring, the possibility that this apparent long-standing great friendship - Jones described Cheika as "my good old mate" ahead of this game - may not be quite all it was cracked up to be.

Australians have made a roaring trade from exporting soap operas for global consumption, of course, and it was no great stretch to imagine Jones and Cheika squabbling over day-to-day mundanities in, say, the long-running Neighbours saga.

Mulish to a fault, you could equate them to that garrulous hepcat Lou Carpenter and Salvation Army field marshal Harold Bishop, long-time "good old mates" whose own friendship was put under intense pressure by another rivalry for the ages.

Just as Carpenter and Bishop fought tooth, nail and tuba solo for the affections of Madge Ramsey, so there was one thing standing between Jones and Cheika’s old pals' act on Saturday: it was a day to go hard or go home.

Erstwhile team-mates, Cheika had a beef this week about Jones bringing Aussie Ricky Stuart into the England camp over the past week. Why, Cheika seemed to question, are so many leading Australian coaches working with England teams, whether in rugby, cricket, indeed anywhere across the sporting spectrum?

The swaggering, wily Jones had struck another blow at the heart of Australia. Cheika was rattled by the master wind-up merchant, ensnared by another supremely executed trap.

The irony amid Australian post-match hand-wringing is that Jones is fancied in some quarters to take over from Cheika for what would be a second stint with the Wallabies. He was described as "the obvious solution" - as well as an "arch little pinprick" - in a Sydney Morning Herald editorial on Saturday morning.

Jones has often said he fancies retiring to Barbados once his time with England is up, yet he said the same during his Japan tenure.

The reality is that he lives for days such as this.

Australia need the sort of rebuilding job England faced after the last World Cup. They have lost to England and Wales, where four years ago hosts England were beaten by Australia and Wales.

Whether Australia could tempt 59-year-old Jones again is a different question. They need him surely more than he needs them.

With a Cheshire cat grin for the cameras and a brief pat on the back for Cheika, Jones is all about England for now as he turns his focus to Yokohama and a semi-final next Saturday, another coach and another team in his sights.

A disconsolate Michael Cheika hailed his Australia players as "a credit to their country" after the Wallabies were dumped out of the Rugby World Cup at the quarter-final stage by England.

Despite starting superbly in Oita, the 1991 and 1999 world champions were ultimately thumped 40-16 as England defended superbly before pulling clear in the second half.

Australia head coach Cheika is widely expected to leave his role, having failed to oversee a repeat of the team's run to the final in 2015.

The 52-year-old cut a distraught figure in his immediate post-match interview, but he made a point of highlighting his team's commitment to the cause.

"I think the lads put everything they had into it today," said Cheika. "I want all the Aussies at home and over here to know that. They gave it everything; they put their bodies on the line.

"We made a few mistakes at different times, but they've given everything, these lads ... and they're a credit to their country."

Australia had more possession throughout Saturday's contest but could only manage one try, through Marika Koroibete, while England crossed four times courtesy of Jonny May (2), Kyle Sinckler and Anthony Watson.

"I thought we actually played quite well, especially the first 50-60 [minutes]," Cheika reasoned.

"We gave away two intercepts and they [England] defended well like you've got to, so the better team won.

"That's the way it is, you've got to suck that up sometimes. I was supposed to get this done for the people here and for Australians. I'm so disappointed."

Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper added: "We're really upset. We emptied everything into this and we didn't get it done, which is pretty gutting for a lot of reasons.

"Firstly, there's a lot of our guys who are leaving. Secondly, we had a great supporter base over here to push us along and we really felt it along the way. To not be able to do it for them and ourselves is pretty gutting."

Matt Every has been suspended for the remainder of 2019 after testing positive for cannabis.

The PGA Tour suspended Every for 12 weeks on Friday and the 35-year-old will be eligible to return on January 7, 2020.

Marijuana was legally prescribed to the American in Florida, where he is based, but it is a banned substance under the Tour's anti-doping policy.

Every is ranked 256 in the world and won the most recent of his three PGA Tour titles in 2015.

In a statement released to Golf Channel, Every said: "I tested positive for cannabis, a drug I do not abuse.

"I have been prescribed cannabis for a mental health condition by my physician whom has managed my medical care for 30 years.

"It has been determined that I am neither an acceptable candidate to use prescription "Z" class drugs nor benzodiazepines.

"Additionally, these classes of drugs can be highly addictive and harmful to the human body and mind. For me, cannabis has proven to be, by far, the safest and most effective treatment.

"With that being said, I have no choice but to accept this suspension and move on.

"I knew what WADA's policy was and I violated it. I don't agree with it for many reasons, mainly for my overall wellbeing, but I'm excited for what lies ahead in my life and career.

"Over the last few years I have made massive strides and I know my best is still in front of me. I can't wait to comeback better than ever in January."

Jonny May marked his 50th Test appearance with two tries as England gained Rugby World Cup revenge over Australia, reaching the semi-finals with an emphatic 40-16 win in Oita.

May crossed twice in the space of four first-half minutes to give England, who were humiliatingly eliminated on home soil four years ago courtesy of a pool-stage defeat to the Wallabies, a lead they never relinquished.

Australia were ultimately well beaten in what appears likely to be Michael Cheika's final game in charge, Kyle Sinckler and Anthony Watson also crossing in the second half as England, for whom Tom Curry was outstanding, thundered clear.

Eddie Jones' men have now won seven successive Tests against Australia since that painful 2015 defeat and will face defending champions New Zealand or Ireland in the last four.

The Wallabies had more of the ball throughout the contest, yet England were much more clinical as they showed no signs of rust in their first game for a fortnight, the 2003 champions' final pool game against France having been cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis.

Teenage back Jordan Petaia - a bold selection from Cheika at outside centre - was prominent in a superb start for the underdogs, but the Wallabies' early dominance only yielded three points from Christian Lealiifano.

Having been initially pegged back by Australia's direct running and impressive ruck speed, England dramatically seized the initiative through May.

The Leicester wing's first score was a straightforward one as he accepted Curry's delayed pass to go over in the left corner, after Manu Tuilagi had played a key role in marching England forward.

A more eye-catching try quickly followed when Henry Slade intercepted a loose pass from David Pocock. Slade did not have the legs to reach the line, but he kicked ahead for May, who gathered calmly and outpaced Samu Kerevi to dot down again.

Owen Farrell, playing at fly-half for the first time in the tournament, twice converted from the left touchline and added a simple penalty in between two three-pointers from Lealiifano, ensuring England led 17-9 at the interval.

Australia briefly reduced their deficit to a solitary point as Marika Koroibete streaked over from Petaia's inside pass, only for England to respond immediately, Farrell's flat cut-out pass laying on a try for Sinckler.

England never looked back thereafter and skipper Farrell kicked three further penalties before Watson's 76th-minute interception try rubbed salt in Australia's wounds.

Russell Westbrook "will be alright" after his injury scare for the Houston Rockets, while coach Mike D'Antoni was stunned by another sublime performance from James Harden.

Harden had 44 points, seven assists, five rebounds and five steals in 35 minutes as the Rockets finished their preseason campaign with a 144-133 road win over the Miami Heat.

Point guard Westbrook left Friday's game in the fourth quarter in visible pain and ran directly into the tunnel after hurting his hand, while Austin Rivers suffered with a shoulder problem.

D'Antoni explained Westbrook, who scored 16 points, had suffered a finger dislocation just two days after the same thing happened in Wednesday's game with the San Antonio Spurs, which had meant he played this one with a bandage.

The Rockets begin the NBA season at home against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.

"With Russ it was just his fingers got dislocated," said D'Antoni. "Pop them back into place and then go play, he'll be alright.

"Both of them told me they were OK, so we'll take that. Austin said he was OK, I don't know exactly what that means but it is up in his [shoulder] – he also strained that in Washington last year."

The Rockets ended the preseason with a 4-2 record and hopes for a championship challenge are high after former Oklahoma City Thunder team-mates Harden and Westbrook were reunited in the offseason.

D'Antoni was lost for words by Harden's display against the Heat. He connected with 8-of-16 three-pointers and played like it was game seven of the NBA Finals.

"That's the way he's wired - he loves to play," added D'Antoni. "I couldn't take him out in the fourth quarter if I wanted to. He wanted to play and he'd play 48 minutes if he could.  

"James was ridiculous. He gets better every time. I don't know what his ceiling is but he seems to be the most improved player of the year for me, he's ridiculous."

Harden, meanwhile, was eager to get the regular season started after being asked for his initial feelings about how playing with Westbrook again had been.

"Great," the 2018 MVP said. "Now preseason is over with and we get to the real thing. It's gonna be a long season of just trying to communicate and be on the same page, not only me and Russ - our entire team. 

"This preseason was a good test for us, now we're excited for the real challenge."

Asked if this was the most powerful Rockets team since he had been with the franchise, Harden added: "Yeah, I think so."

Danny Lee moved into a joint lead with Justin Thomas after round three of the CJ Cup in South Korea.

South Korean-born New Zealander Lee was in a tie for second place with first round leader An Byeong-hun at Nine Bridges overnight and enjoyed a remarkable final hole swing on day three to draw level with Thomas.

The American was moving towards an 11th PGA Tour win midway through the round when Lee double-bogeyed hole 10 and local hope An triple-bogeyed at the 11th.

But Thomas bogeyed the last and Lee capitalised with superb eagle on the par-five 18th to complete a three-shot turnaround and cap a round of 68, ending the day with momentum.

The pair sit at 15 under par with one round remaining, three shots clear of Australian Cameron Smith, with Jordan Spieth and Wyndham Clark tied for fourth and a shot further from the pace.

Elsewhere, Ian Poulter made two eagles on the back nine to spring into contention at nine under while Viktor Hovland's tour record streak of 19 consecutive sub-70 scores ended with a two-over 74.

Defending champion Brooks Koepka pulled out of the event with a knee injury on Friday.

Artur Beterbiev stopped Oleksandr Gvozdyk to become the IBF, WBC and lineal light heavyweight champion.

Beterbiev recorded three knock downs in round 10 after a competitive fight in Philadelphia between the two undefeated title holders.

The pair traded heavy punches from the start with the Russian gradually wearing down Gvozdyk to record a 15th knockout in as many fights.

Gvozdyk was ahead on two of the three cards when the fight was stopped but Beterbiev landed the harder blows when it counted and is now motivated to win even more titles.

"This moment was my most important fight," Beterbiev said.

"I had big work to prepare for this fight. I was happy to end it.

"When I got this second belt, I got motivation. I was training so-so before, but from now on I was training very hard."

The New York Yankees forced game six on Friday after defeating Houston Astros 4-1 in game five of the American League Championship Series.

A pair of early home runs and impressive starting pitching from James Paxton helped to get the job done.

Aaron Hicks hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the first inning on a night where all five runs came in the team's opening frame.

The Astros will have to defend home turf in an attempt to avoid game seven, with one win sending them to the World Series. New York must win the last two games to earn a berth in the Fall Classic.

 

New York found quality pitching when it mattered most

The Yankees have made it a point to utilise a host of pitchers in the ALCS, but they got a great performance from starter James Paxton and a trio of relievers in a critical game that could've ended their season. Paxton gave up four hits and one earned run in six innings of work, notching nine strikeouts. Then Tommy Kahnle, Zack Britton, and Aroldis Chapman combined to give up one hit for the remainder of the contest once Paxton was taken out.

The Astros' five hits in the contest were their second-lowest total in the series after being held to just three in their game one loss.


The stage wasn't too big for Aaron Hicks

Aaron Hicks was an unlikely hero for the Yankees on Friday. Although the outfielder was initially ruled out for the season in August after suffering a flexor strain in his elbow, he returned from a two-month hiatus to face Houston and help his team with its World Series push. He blasted a three-run homer off the foul pole in the first inning and that made all the difference.

New York scored all four of its runs in the first inning before going on a scoring drought, but it didn't matter as the Astros experienced a drought of their own. Now the Yankees will likely benefit from a bullpen game on Saturday, and there will be ample opportunity for other players to unexpectedly tee off without facing the best of Houston's starters.


Justin Verlander continues to be plagued by home runs

Justin Verlander gave up a career-high 36 home runs in 2019 and that trend has followed him into the post-season. Even though Hicks' home run nearly hooked right of the foul pole, DJ LeMahieu also hit a solo homer and those were the decisive moments in the game. Verlander has given up 10 runs and five home runs in his last three appearances.

Verlander rebounded tremendously from his poor start in his seven-inning outing, tallying nine strikeouts, but the offense couldn't get flowing and now Houston faces a difficult situation. The Astros' trio of starters has been heralded as the best in MLB, but Gerrit Cole won't be ready to go on short rest in game six.

New York has coasted on power hitting all season long and now they can take advantage of not having to face elite starters as they look to force game seven.

Brooks Koepka has withdrawn from the CJ Cup due to a knee injury.

Reigning champion Koepka, who last won at the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational in July, was even par through his first two rounds at Nine Bridges, located on Jeju Island in South Korea.

Prior to the 2019-20 season the four-time major winner had stem cell-treatment to repair a partially torn patella tendon in his left knee.

He missed the cut at the Shriners Hospital for Children Open two weeks ago – his first tournament since returning.

It is unclear how serious Koepka's injury is or when he will be back on the course.

Justin Thomas went into round three of the CJ Cup at the top of the leaderboard and with a two-shot lead.

Andy Murray reached his first ATP Tour singles semi-final for over two years by rolling up his sleeves to overcome Marius Copil in the European Open on Friday.

The three-time grand slam champion's persistence paid off as he battled past Copil with a 6-3 6-7 (7-9) 6-4 victory in Antwerp.

Murray squandered a 4-1 lead in a second set he lost after holding the same advantage in a tie-break, with Copil saving a match point. 

The Brit was not to be denied a place in the last four, winning what was his second quarter-final since returning from hip resurfacing surgery after claiming the only break of the final set.

Ugo Humbert stands in the way of Murray and a place in the final after coming from a set down to beat Guido Pella 5-7 6-4 6-4.

Fourth seed Stan Wawrinka outlasted Gilles Simon 6-3 6-7 (6-8) 6-2 and will face Jannik Sinner, who became the youngest ATP semi-finalist since 2014 when he got past Frances Tiafoe 6-4 3-6 6-3.

There will be no back-to-back Kremlin Cup triumphs for Karen Khachanov in his homeland after Andreas Seppi beat the defending champion 3-6 6-3 6-3.

Seppi has reached at least the quarter-finals in his past six appearances in Moscow and will face Adrian Mannarino - a straight-sets winner against Dusan Lajovic - for a place in the final after claiming the scalp of the second seed.

Marin Cilic took out Jeremy Chardy 6-4 4-6 7-6 (7-2) and will go up against Andrey Rublev, who saw the back of Nikola Milojevic 6-2 6-3.

There will be no dream swansong for Janko Tipsarevic at the Stockholm Open after Yuichi Sugita ended the Serbian's career with a 6-2 4-6 7-6 (7-4) triumph, booking a semi-final showdown with Denis Shapovalov.

Shapovalov eased to a 6-0 6-3 defeat of Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, while Pablo Carreno Busta beat Sam Querrey and will face Filip Krajinovic - conqueror of Yoshihito Nishioka.

Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook have been ruled out for the New Orleans Saints' meeting with the Chicago Bears, the team announced on Friday.

Running back Kamara has been dealing with an ankle injury over the past week and was listed on the Saints' injury report with a knee issue in addition.

Tight end Cook has also dealt with an ankle injury and neither player practiced this week.

Kamara was last week listed as questionable ahead of the Saints' game against the Jacksonville Jaguars and wound up playing, rushing 11 times for 31 yards and catching seven passes for 35 yards.

He has rushed for 373 yards and one touchdown on 86 carries this season. Kamara has also caught 33 passes for 276 yards and one touchdown.

Cook has appeared in six games, catching 15 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns.

The injury report also stated quarterback Drew Brees will miss Sunday's game with a thumb injury he suffered in New Orleans' Week 2 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

Luke Morahan grabbed a double and new signing Nathan Hughes also crossed as Bristol Bears started the Premiership season with a 43-16 derby drubbing of Bath.

Ambitious Bristol marked their return to the top flight with a win over Bath last season and Pat Lam's side turned it on for a sell-out crowd at Ashton Gate on Friday.

Utility-back Morahan set the ball rolling with an early try following a powerful run from Hughes, who marked his league debut following his move from Wasps by going under the posts 11 minutes in.

Mat Protheroe touched down on the stroke of half-time to put Bristol 17-13 up after a Zach Mercer try and eight points from the boot of Rhys Priestland gave Bath a slender lead.

Bristol dominated the second half to run away with it, Piers O'Conor, John Afoa and teenage debutant Ioan Lloyd going over before Morahan claimed his second of the match.

Hughes was also involved in that final score as he set about trying to prove a point to Eddie Jones after being left out of England's Rugby World Cup squad.

A third penalty of the match for Priestland was Bath's only score of the second half of their first Premiership match under new director of rugby Stuart Hooper.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes' injury is reportedly not too serious and a 17-game schedule may be on the horizon.

All that and more on this edition of NFL news and notes. 

Three things that matter Mahomes likely to return this season

When Mahomes went down with a knee injury during the second quarter of the Chiefs' 30-6 win over the Denver Broncos, the NFL world held its collective breath. But a new report suggests Mahomes' injury is not as serious as it was initially believed.

NFL Network's reporting the reigning NFL MVP had an MRI on Friday and it confirmed the diagnosis of a dislocated knee cap and that there is "no significant additional damage."

The Chiefs plan on him returning later this season.

Kansas City currently sits at 5-2 and first place in the AFC West. Three of their next four games are at home before a bye in Week 12.

Cooper practices for Cowboys

Amari Cooper suffered a thigh bruise during the Dallas Cowboys' 31-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers in Week 6, and had to exit last week's 24-22 loss to the New York Jets early in the game due to the lingering injury.

“From the time I had hurt it in the Green Bay game to the time I talked to you guys, it had taken a huge leap,” Cooper told reporters on Thursday. “So I thought it would continue to get a lot better each and every day - but it kind of plateaued and it only got a little bit better every day.”

Dallas desperately need Cooper to be healthy, especially with the team in the midst of a three-game skid after starting the season 3-0. It remains to be seen whether Cooper will suit to against Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

“You know it’s going to be a challenge, it’s going to be a dogfight for us,” Cooper said. “It’s a divisional game, and it’s always a dogfight.”

NFL Players' Association open to discussing 17-game regular season

In recent years, rumours of NFL owners wanting to expand the regular season to 18 games have surfaced and been major talking points.

It seems players have begun to warm up to the idea, with ESPN reporting the NFLPA is open to discussing a 17-game regular season as part of the next collective bargaining agreement. The report states the NFLPA is in favour of expanding the season as long as the players' share in revenue is increased by a "sufficient amount" in the new deal.

While a formal 17-game proposal has not been created, the report states details have been discussed regarding the new schedule, including bye weeks for teams before Thursday night games, moving the Super Bowl back to Presidents' Day weekend and players getting paid on a 52-week schedule as opposed to just during the season.

The current CBA expires in March 2021.

Two things that don't matter Broncos' Fangio saying he's disappointed by offensive performance this season

You do not have to be a football expert to notice Denver's offense this season has been below par. The Broncos have scored more than 20 points just twice this season, and in Thursday's home loss to the Chiefs, they only managed six against a porous Kansas City defense.

"It was all levels of our passing game (that) were problems," coach Vic Fangio said. "Protection sometimes, receivers not getting open sometimes, [the Chiefs] using good coverages for us that maybe we weren't ready for; it's certainly a problem we have to get rectified moving forward. ... It's disappointing not to be ultimately competitive out there."

Last offseason, Denver general manager John Elway traded a 2019 fourth-round pick in the NFL Draft to Baltimore for quarterback Joe Flacco. The former Super Bowl MVP was coming off a season where he only played in nine games and has not looked like the signal-caller who lead the Ravens to a championship seven seasons ago. 

Since Peyton Manning retired, the Broncos have seen five different quarterbacks start games for them and can't seem to find stability at the position. Not to mention the team opted to hire a defensive-minded coach in Fangio this past offseason, so it was not like things were going to improve on the offensive side of the ball this season.

Bears quarterback Trubisky practices, listed as questionable to face Saints

Mitch Trubisky has been sidelined after dislocating his shoulder and partially tearing his labrum on September 29 against the Minnesota Vikings.

The Chicago Bears released their injury report on Friday, and while Trubisky was a full participant in practice all week, he is listed as questionable for Sunday's game.

"That where we have him at," Bears coach Matt Nagy said. "He's been doing good in practice and I like where he's at. We said earlier in the week that it was going to be a day-by-day thing and so far he's stacked good days together." 

Chicago have played one game in Trubisky's absence: a 24-21 loss to Oakland Raiders in London. But having the former first-round pick might not make things any better for the Bears.

The 25-year-old has looked pedestrian at best in the four games he has appeared in, leaving Chicago to rely on a tenacious defense to stay in games. 

Friday's tweet of the day

After Mahomes' scary injury, the quarterback took to Twitter early on Friday morning to voice support for his team and give an update on his situation.

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