World Rugby has ruled out the possibility of holding an international invitational tournament in the United Kingdom and Ireland in 2021 to provide relief following the coronavirus pandemic.

Former Rugby Football Union chief executive Francis Baron had proposed the one-off 16-team competition to raise money "for keeping the game of rugby alive around the world", with sport suspended in recent months due to the global crisis.

The event, held in the UK in order to avoid disrupting France's 2023 Rugby World Cup preparations, would see 31 matches across June and July and prompt the postponement of the British and Irish Lions' tour of South Africa.

The suggested tournament - dubbed the 'Coronavirus Cup of World Rugby' as Baron revealed his plan to the Telegraph - would reportedly aim to bring in up to £250million to support the sport as it recovers from the pandemic.

However, the  idea has been dismissed by governing body World Rugby.

A statement read: "World Rugby notes a proposal by former RFU CEO Francis Baron suggesting the organisation of a major international rugby event in the UK in 2021 to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on global rugby.

"World Rugby does not intend to pursue such a proposal.

"All stakeholders continue to progress productive discussions regarding the immediate global COVID-19 financial relief strategy and international rugby calendar optimisation, both of which will further the success of Rugby World Cup 2023 in France."

World Rugby has already postponed all July Tests and set aside a $100million relief fund in a bid to assist those struggling the most.

The Ultimate Test XI is done and the fans have made their votes count, overruling a panel of experts and the SportsMax Zone to pick two spinners in their line-up.

From jump street, the fans looked as if they would not be swayed by the opinions of the Zone and the panel, who had to get their ducks in a row if they wanted the final say on who makes SportsMax’s Ultimate XI.

Whereas all were agreed that India’s Sunil Gavaskar was probably the greatest opener the world has ever seen as was a shoo-in for the first opening spot on offer, the fans disagreed with the panel and the Zone on the other opener. Hands down, Fanalysts believed Gordon Greenidge, despite boasting a lower average than most in the Ultimate XI Test shortlist, was the man for the job.

The Fanalysts were outvoted as the Zone, who had 30% of all votes and the panel, who had another 30, believed Australia’s Matthew Hayden the man to walk to the crease in partnership with Gavaskar.

Then there were other differences of opinion. According to the panel, the greatest middle-order batsmen of all time, read Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar, and Sir Vivian Richards.

The Zone team, despite being made up of solely Caribbean journalists, disagreed. Sir Viv, they said could not fill the third spot in that middle order ahead of an Australian, Sir Donald Bradman.

The Fanalysts agreed and put the weight of their 40% of the vote squarely behind the Australian great.

So now the fans missed out on one of their picks for opener and the panel missed out on one of their picks for a middle-order batsman.

At the allrounder position and the wicketkeeper position, there was unison as Fanalysts, Zone and panel believed Sir Garfield Sobers should fill the former position, while Australia’s Adam Gilchrist is the best the world has ever seen don gloves.

It is in the bowling category that the most controversy was expected and that’s where the most variance occurred.

According to the Zone, Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose, Wasim Akram and Muttiah Muralitharan would provide the greatest bowling attack the world has ever seen.

The panel disagreed.

The panel, believed Marshall a shoo-in, New Zealand’s Sir Richard Hadlee could not be left out, and South Africa’s Dale Steyn was the final pacer to make up a bowling attack that had one spinner in Muttiah Muralitharan.

Hadlee never stood a chance for the Fanalysts, and neither did Steyn for that matter.

For the Fanalysts, a choice between Muralitharan and Warne, the two bowlers with the most wickets in the history of Test cricket, was too difficult to make and they picked both.

That left space for just two pacers and the all-West-Indian pairing of Marshall and Ambrose was the obvious choice.

With 30 per cent of the vote going to Hadlee, and another 30 per cent going to Steyn, Warne easily made his way into the Ultimate XI with the Fanalysts offering him up with their 40.

Based on all the Ultimate XI profiles have told you about these players, tell us who was right.

Were the fans who got their way with Bradman and the two spinners right? Or is there something to be said for the experts who went with Hadlee and Steyn, or even the Zone, who decided on Akram?

Were the Fanalysts accurate in going against the grain with picking Greenidge ahead of Hayden, or were the Zone and the panel correct in overruling them?  

Crazy or not, we are trusting the Fanalysts again with our Ultimate XI ODI team. 

Check out the shortlist below, tell me who you would pick in the comments section on Facebook and Twitter then go and vote after we tell you how wrong you are. Voting begins later today after the SportsMax Zone on SportsMax.tv.

 

In 2005, he was voted the "World's Scariest Batsman" in a poll of international bowlers. And, they would know after being the recipients of the remorseless and relentless savagery of this dexterous Western Australian destroyer. His strike-rate is amongst the highest in both Tests and ODIs.      

A big-stage player, Gilchrist is the only player to chalk up 50-plus scores in three successive World Cup finals – all three being match-winning efforts.         

 

Career Statistics

Full name: Adam Craig Gilchrist

Born: 14 November 1971 (age 48)

Place of birth: Bellingen, New South Wales, Australia

Height: 1.86 m (6 ft 1 in)

Batting: Left-handed

Role: Wicket-keeper–batsman

 

ODI Career: Australia (1996–2008) 

Mat     Inns     NO    Runs      HS     Ave     BF         SR      100s    50s    4s       6s       Ct      St

287      279       11    9619       172   35.89    9922     96.94     16      55     1162    149     417     55

 

Career Highlights

  • Named Wisden Cricketer of the year in 2002
  • Won Allan Border medal in 2003.
  • One-Day International Player of the Year  2003
  • One-Day International Player of the Year - 2004
  • Walter Lawrence Trophy 2010

Matthew Hayden was admittedly a much better Test opener than ODI batsman, which is strange since power and aggression were the hallmarks of his batting. Joining the ranks of Australia’s more notable ODI openers took time, with Hayden going from averaging 25 in 1993 to 54 in 2002.

However, his form would dip from 2003 to 2005, when he averaged at highest, 41 in any calendar year. In 2004 he scored 946 runs in 23 games but just 482 in 16 the following season, and saw his average fall from 41.13 to 32.13. Australia’s selectors duly dropped him.

As his form in Test cricket improved, so did the expectation that he would do well again in the ODI team and the selectors were proven right. Hayden only played two ODIs in 2006, but his average of 51.50 in that year may have prompted a recall and he went to the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean.

There he showed his worth,  where his domination had no equal. Hayden averaged 73.22 in the tournament, scoring 659 runs with a fractured toe and a broken bone in the other foot. His 66-ball century against South Africa earned him honorary citizenship in St Kitts. To boot, he lifted the World Cup for a second time. That year he played 26 ODIs, batting in 25 and averaged 62.18, his highest since 2002 when the six innings he played yielded 315 runs at an average of 105.

 

Career Statistics

Full name: Matthew Lawrence Hayden

Born: October 29, 1971, Kingaroy, Queensland

Major teams: Australia, Brisbane Heat, Chennai Super Kings, Hampshire, ICC World XI, Northamptonshire, Queensland

Playing role: Opening batsman

Batting style: Left-hand bat

Bowling style: Right-arm medium

Height: 1.88 m

 

ODI Career: Australia (1993-2008)

Mat    Inns    NO     Runs    HS      Ave      BF        SR       100s    50s     4s      6s     

161     155     15      6133     181*   43.80    7767    78.96      10      36      636     87    

 

Career Highlights

  • Former Australia record holder for highest ODI score (181*)
  • 5th fastest century at a World Cup (66 balls)
  • 3 centuries at 2007 World Cup, highest run-getter
  • ODI player of the year 2007

Legendary West Indies fast bowler Curtly Ambrose was typically content to let the ball do the talking but recently recalled an occasion when he was tempted to let his fists answer a few questions of their own.

The infamous incident happened during the 1995 Australia tour of the Caribbean, in a tightly contested third Test in Port of Spain, Trinidad.  As it happened, a visibly bristling Ambrose had to be pulled away from Aussie batsman Steve Waugh after an obviously heated exchange that looked set to boil over.  It was a strange sight for most as the towering fast bowler was known for being reluctant to exchange pleasantries, let alone be involved a full-on verbal joust.  Ambrose recently recalled the incident.

  “Steve Waugh and I had our battles over the years. He was a tough competitor and I have a lot of respect for him but in that particular game he said something to me that I didn’t like,” Ambrose recounted in an interview with Sky Sports Cricket Podcast.

“Initially I ignored it, as in the heat of the battle you can say things, but after a break something just snapped,” he went on.

“I asked him, ‘did you say so and so to me?’ He didn’t say yes, he didn’t say no. He just said ‘I can say anything I want to say’ which to me was a yes. I decided I deserved more respect so I had a few choice words for him.

“I said ‘my cricket career could be over right this minute, it doesn’t make a difference to me, but your career will be over, too, because I’ll knock you out and you won’t be able to play anymore’. There were a few expletives in between obviously!

Ambrose, who was named player of the match, went on to end the Test with overall figures of 9 for 65, including a 4 for 20 haul in the second innings.  The West Indies went on to win the match by nine wickets but Australia claimed the Frank Worrell Trophy after winning the series 2-1.  The West India has insisted that are no hard feelings between the two, but it has not been a subject that has been broached in any encounters since.

 

Dave Rennie is set to start work as Australia head coach ahead of schedule as Danny Wilson will take charge of Glasgow Warriors from next Monday.

Rennie was due to leave the Warriors at the end of the Pro14 season next month, but there has not yet been a decision on whether the campaign will resume amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Glasgow on Tuesday revealed Wilson will replace Rennie on June 1 in order for both coaches to give their new roles "undivided attention" when rugby union resumes.

Rennie will therefore be free to fully focus on watching Australian Super Rugby franchises in action when they get under way again.

Warriors managing director Nathan Bombrys told the Scottish team's website: "We've agreed that this is the right time for Danny Wilson to formally begin his role as head coach of Glasgow Warriors.

"The original plan was for Danny to come in after Six Nations and shadow Dave and his coaching team for the rest of this campaign. We appreciate Dave's willingness to be open and supportive, as this would have given Danny an excellent head start on next season.

"However, given that the 2019-20 season remains suspended for the foreseeable future, we felt that the best thing for the club would be to let Danny get started.

"With sport in Australia planning to return soon, making the change now will also allow Dave to begin his new role as head coach of the Australian national team.

"We are grateful to Dave for everything he has done for our club over the past three seasons, and particularly for how he has been supportive of the current situation, as well as his willingness to share his vast coaching knowledge with all of our coaches."

Mitchell Starc thinks the ICC's recommendation to ban polishing the ball with saliva due to health concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic could lead to boring cricket.

The ICC chief executives' committee will vote on the proposal, which has been put forward to "mitigate the risks posed by the COVID-19 virus", in June.

It has been reported the ICC will not permit the use of an artificial substance to generate movement when the ball is in the air, though players can use sweat.

Australia paceman Starc understands the concerns but thinks bowlers should be offered an alternative to ensure batsmen to not get an advantage.

"I understand that completely and hear what they're saying in terms of a foreign substance, but whether that can be controlled by the umpires in terms of they have a portion of the wax and you can only use a small amount, I don't know, but there needs to be a maintaining of the even contest," Starc said in a video conference.

"I understand what they're saying with foreign substances and that it's black and white in terms of that, but it's an unusual time for the world and if they're going to remove saliva shining for a portion of time they need to think of something else for that portion of time as well.

"Whether it be the wickets being not as flat or at least considering this shining wax to a degree, there needs to be some thought on that, I think.

"I guess you use both those things [saliva and sweat] to shine the ball. I've probably been a bit more on the sweat side, just trying to not get my hands in my mouth too much.

"But I agree completely with what Pat [Cummins] commented on last week: that contest with bat and ball, we don't want to lose that or get further away from that even contest, so there needs to be something in place to either keep that ball swinging.

"They've mentioned that it's only going to be there for a period of time and then once the world gets back to a relatively normal situation then saliva can come back into shining the ball.

"But if it's going to be a window of time there, maybe then instruct people to leave more grass on the wickets to have that contest or if they're going to take away a portion of maintaining the ball, there needs to be that even contest between bat and ball, otherwise people are going to stop watching, and kids aren't going to want to be bowlers.

"I think as we saw in Australia the last couple of years, there's some pretty flat wickets, and if that ball's going straight, it's a pretty boring contest.

"I think [ball manufacturers] Kookaburra have been developing a shining wax or something of the sort, so whether there's consideration of that, there needs to be some maintaining [of] that even contest.

"Generally, the spinners reckon that the wickets that seam a bit also spin, so maybe if you bring the bowlers back into the game, you'll tick all the boxes."

In 1993 the West Indies went into the fifth and final Test of a series against Australia at Perth tied at 1-1 and a number of brilliant performances made the game a one-sided affair, giving the visitors a not-so-close 2-1 victory.

The Rugby Championship could be played in a hub in Australia due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Rugby Australia (RA) interim chief executive Rob Clarke.

With travel restrictions in place around the world due to COVID-19, a new format could be needed if Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina are to play the annual tournament.

The possibility of all teams relocating to Australia, which has more than 7,100 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 102 deaths, is an option.

Clarke, named RA interim CEO earlier this month, said Australia could host every team later in the year.

"We can do it in the October-November timeframe," he told The Daily Telegraph.

"If we can fly international teams into a hub like Australia that sits in the middle of our territories, and put together a competition structure that might well be more towards a Rugby World Cup-type structure where there might be midweek games and weekend games, try to condense it as much as possible, we're looking at that as a potential solution.''

South Africa won the Rugby Championship last year, ending the All Blacks' run of three straight.

Ten of the leading international rugby union teams are exploring the possibility of a new aligned schedule.

South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina - the nations that make up SANZAAR - and the half a dozen countries that compete in the Six Nations are aiming to collaborate for the sport's benefit.

Several unions have been affected by the impact of coronavirus, with World Rugby having postponed all July Tests and setting aside a $100million relief fund in a bid to assist those struggling the most.

Now discussions are ongoing between SANZAAR and Six Nations boards over a new calendar designed to limit club-versus-country rows and create more lucrative games between the world's best teams.

A joint statement read: "Even though there may be different preferences, from the outset the nations have adopted a mindset that has sought to eliminate self-interest and recognise that the international and club game have shared mutual benefits that if approached and managed correctly can enable both to flourish."

It added: "The nations, together with other key stakeholders, remain open to shape the options that have been developed in an effort to resolve an issue that has held the game back for many years and are committed to putting rugby on a progressive path."

Last month World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont suggested a Nations Championship - similar to cricket's recently formed ICC Test Championship - could get off the ground after being met with initial resistance.

 

Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts remains hopeful a squad will travel to England for a limited-overs tour in September.

The coronavirus pandemic has put the English season on hold until at least July 1, yet the England and Wales Cricket Board is still working on proposals to stage international games on home soil in 2020.

A scheduled Test series with West Indies in June had to be postponed but could still be part of a rearranged fixture list, with action potentially getting under way in early July.

Pakistan could also still visit to play Tests and Twenty20 games, while Roberts declared there is "some chance" Australia will make the trip - so long as there are no health risks - later than originally planned.

England were due to take on their Ashes rivals in a trio of T20 fixtures and a three-match ODI series in July.

"I think there's some chance we could send a team over," Roberts told Sydney's Daily Telegraph.

"Obviously we won't jeopardise the safety of the players, but the best test of that is the West Indian and Pakistan tours of England before we're due to tour. We hope they go off without a hitch."

Wasim Khan, chief executive of the Pakistan Cricket Board, told Sky Sports' Cricket Show that they intend to pick a 25-man squad for a tour that will see fixtures staged at biosecure venues.

"We are trying to get to England early July so that we can get the quarantine done," Khan said.

"If we can practise during that time then great, if not then it gives us just under three weeks to practise.

"We are told there are going to be two venues (to stage matches). We have not been told which the two venues are. We are also told there is going to be a third venue, which is going to be our base while we are in England."

Brad Haddin’s arrival to Test cricket was delayed until he was 30 years old because of a man called Adam Gilchrist, who was unmovable in the Australian Test side. However, once he did, he proved to be a brilliant replacement with the gloves. Uncompromising as is the expectation for a wicketkeeper, Haddin was also brilliant at diving around and picking up wickets, maybe other wicketkeepers would not have been able to get to. His acrobatics meant he would end up with 270 dismissals in just 66 Tests, a phenomenal average, even of his career started late. As a wicketkeeper-batsman, he failed to live up to the heady heights of Gilchrist but still had a healthy average of 32.98 which was got to, in part, with his four centuries and 18 half-centuries.

Career Statistics

Full name: Bradley James Haddin

Born: October 23, 1977, Cowra, New South Wales

Major teams: Australia, Australian Capital Territory, Islamabad United, Kolkata Knight Riders, New South Wales, Sydney Sixers

Playing role: Wicketkeeper batsman

Batting style: Right-hand bat

Fielding position: Wicketkeeper

Height: 1.80 m

 

Test Career: Australia (2008-2015)

Mat    Inns    NO     Runs    HS     Ave      BF      SR        100s    50s     Ct          St

66        112    13      3266    169    32.98    5587   58.45       4       18       262          8

 

Career Highlights

  • 6th most dismissals in Tests (270)
  • Scored 4 centuries 18 half-centuries
  • Averaged 32.99 with the bat
  • Tallied 3266 runs as a wicket-keeper

Shane Warne is more sentimental about representing Australia than he lets on, his former team-mate Jason Gillespie said.

In the wake of a recent Amazon documentary about the Australian cricket team, Warne hit out at the "verbal diarrhoea" from some of the country’s current and former players over the significance of the Baggy Green.

Warne pointed to an example of players wearing them when they went to watch tennis at Wimbledon, labelling it "embarrassing".

He auctioned off his Baggy Green to support the bushfire relief fund earlier this year and often preferred to wear white floppy headgear when he was playing.

Gillespie believes the hat has important significance to many players and believes it still means a lot to Warne, even if he has been "dismissive".

"If that's what Shane believes then... he's probably more sentimental about it as he probably lets on," Gillespie said to Stats Perform News.

"It did mean a lot to him. I think he was making a point and I think the point he was trying to make was that is it a piece of cloth at the end of the day."

Gillespie added: "What it symbolises and what is symbolises for me is the hard work, the sacrifice.

"The sacrifice not just for myself but I think of my parents, driving me around to cricket practice every week to play games on the weekends. 

"I remember at Christmas time when Santa got me a new bat or a new ball and after opening presents I would hound my dad to go up to the nets before Christmas lunch.

"I'm thinking, 'The poor man, all he probably wanted to do was to have a Christmas drink and to settle down for an hour but he's with his 12 year-old son up at the nets on Christmas Day'. 

"The pride in yourself for the hard work you put in and the reward - ever since I was six years of age, I wanted to play for Australia, it was just my whole being, my whole dream. 

"Everything revolved around doing the best I could to play for Australia and that's what the cap symbolises. I look at that cap and I think, 'I earned that cap'. 

"I know that Shane has maybe been a little bit dismissive about it but it still means a lot to him. He thinks of all the hard work that he had to put in. 

"But everyone is allowed to feel slightly differently about it and what it means to them. It doesn't mean that Shane cared any less, it was just his way. 

"He used to wear a more floppy hat and for more practical reasons. He didn't want to get sunburn from the harsh sun. 

"It meant a lot, it still means a lot to all of us. I'm fortunate to have my Baggy Green and it's tucked away safely so it's all good."

Ricky Ponting believes it will be "difficult" for Usman Khawaja to force his way back into the Australia Test side.

Khawaja was a notable absentee when Cricket Australia announced its list of centrally contracted players last month.

The 33-year-old batsman has not played for his country since the drawn Ashes series in England last year and Marnus Labuschagne has looked very much at home at number three.

Former Australia captain Ponting thinks we may have seen the last of Khawaja in the longest format, despite the left-hander saying he believes he is among the top six batsmen in the country.

Ponting told ABC Grandstand: "I honestly think now he's going to find it difficult [to regain his place] and I feel for him.

"I love Usman Khawaja, I got really close to him over the last 10 years since he made his debut and I talk to him quite regularly.

"I've always felt he's a very good player and we probably never saw the absolute best of him at international cricket.

"We saw glimpses of it, and dribs and drabs, but not the consistently good player I thought he could have been for Australia."

Rugby Australia (RA) has said a World Rugby bailout will provide "certainty for the next 12 months" after the national association plunged into a financial crisis.

The impact of coronavirus has been a major factor in Rugby Australia suffering drastic economic worries, with a host of staff stood down for several months and players taking hefty pay cuts.

It has now secured a payout of 14.2million Australian dollars from the global governing body, released as part of a COVID-19 emergency relief fund.

All international tours scheduled for July have been cancelled, it was announced on Friday, meaning Australia's matches against Ireland and Fiji cannot take place.

It remains to be seen whether the Rugby Championship can take place later in the year, which would also help the Australian game financially.

Rob Clarke, interim chief executive of RA, said: "Our game has suffered an enormous impact globally from COVID-19 and we are very grateful for the support of World Rugby and commend them on their leadership in managing this issue for the global game.

"The financial implications of the virus have been significant for Rugby Australia and this emergency relief funding will provide us with certainty for the next 12 months and enable us to close off our 2019 accounts.

"The funding, in combination with the extensive cuts made across the business, provides us with the short-term impetus to see through the pandemic but does not solve all of the challenges.

"The board is continuing to work through its plans for organisational reform and additionally there are key conversations to be had across the game’s stakeholders about our rugby offering for 2020 and beyond.

"The World Rugby funding provides a much-needed boost and a level of security as we continue this important work."

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