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Witness ‘haunted’ by Russian plane crash

Andrei Gorshkov was coming home from school when he saw a plane and then heard a loud bang.


The crash that followed and killed at least 43 people was so horrific that it will haunt him at night.

“It was so scary,” the 16-year-old said. “It will all be coming back to me in my sleep.”

The Yak-42 carrying a Russian ice hockey team crashed on Wednesday into the small river of Tunoshonka running through Gorshkov’s village of Tunoshna, just outside the central Russian city of Yaroslavl.

He and his friends saw a huge blaze which immediately turned into smoke and rushed to the scene of the tragedy.

Half the plane was in the water, the other half broke into pieces and was scattered around the shore and the wheels were on fire.

“Everything that was in the plane was floating on the water,” Gorshkov told AFP at the sleepy village whose world has been turned upside down by the disaster.

“Two bodies were floating on the water,” he said. “The third one was being carried out of the water on stretchers, he had burns all over.”

The plane was flying members of three-time Russian champions Lokomotiv Yaroslavl to a season-opening match in the Belarussian capital Minsk when it went down a few moments into the flight some 300 kilometres northeast of Moscow.

Natalia Panova, a doctor at Tunoshna’s small hospital, was the first medic at the scene. By the time her ambulance arrived, most were beyond help.

“The plane caught fire and blew up. Someone was without a leg, someone was without a head,” she told AFP. “There was blood everywhere, mangled bodies.

I am still shaking.”

Panova treated one of two survivors, attending to crew member Alexander Sizov’s multiple wounds and fractures and giving him promedol to alleviate severe pain before he was taken to hospital in Yaroslavl.

He was in a state of shock and did not fully realise what had happened, she said, adding: “I don’t know how he remained alive.”

Another survivor, team member Alexander Galimov, who received extensive burns, was taken away by a boat, she said.

Panova said she herself had seen 16 bodies which were pulled out of the water and placed in rows on the ground.

“I’ve lived here for 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Panova, a local. “So many people died young. This is a tragedy for the entire country.”

By Wednesday evening, the small village was teeming was emergency officials and police who cordoned off the scene of the tragedy.

Many residents came out of their homes, quietly talking to one another or smoking in silence as night fell over the village.

They were joined by hockey fans who trickled in from Yaroslavl, some carrying flowers and crying.

Back in the city, thousands of fans converged on Lokomotiv’s ice arena bringing heaps of roses, candles and fan scarves.

President Dmitry Medvedev is expected to visit the venue on Thursday. Ahead of key parliamentary and presidential elections he had been set to address a political conference at the ice arena which has now become a sombre vigil site.

Many fans said the horrific coincidence brought home a simple question: why does not Russia protect its best and brightest?

“Why is this happening?” said Dmitry Luchnikov, who was mourning his close friend, 23-year-old former New Jersey Devils player Alexander Vasyunov.

“Why haven’t we got reliable aircraft?”


-Brad McCrimmon, 52, from Canada. A former Detroit Red Wings assistant who became Lokomotiv’s coach in May. Played in 1,222 NHL games between 1979-97, compiling 81 goals and 322 assists.

-Pavol Demitra, 36, from Slovakia. A three-time NHL All-Star who helped Slovakia win a world championship bronze medal in 2003. Scored 304 goals in 847 NHL games. Three-time Olympian.

-Ruslan Salei, 36, from Belarus. A defenceman who played in 917 NHL games, totaling 45 goals and 149 assists for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Florida Panthers, Colorado Avalanche, and Detroit Red Wings.

-Alexander Karpovtsev, 41, from Russia. Assistant coach who played 12 seasons in the NHL as a defenceman with the New York Rangers, Toronto, Chicago, the New York Islanders, and Florida. Joined three Rangers teammates in 1994 as the first Russian players to have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup.

-Karlis Skrastins, 37, from Latvia. A defenceman who played in 832 NHL games, mainly for the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche.

-Josef Vasicek, 30, from Czech Republic. A Czech forward who spent most of his NHL career with the Carolina Hurricanes. He was a member of the club’s Stanley Cup championship team in 2006.

-Karel Rachunek, 32, from Czech Republic. Played 371 NHL games with the Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, and won a world championship title with the Czech Republic in 2010.

-Igor Korolev, 41, from Russia. Assistant coach following a playing career in the NHL and KHL. In 12 NHL seasons with St. Louis, the Winnipeg-Phoenix franchise, Toronto and Chicago, he scored 119 goals in 795 games. His last NHL season was 2003-04.

-Stefan Liv, 30, from Sweden. A veteran goaltender who won Olympic gold with Sweden as a backup in 2006.

-Alexander Vasyunov, 23, from Russia. Had one goal and five points in 18 games last season with the New Jersey Devils, his only NHL experience.


Gaddafi escape routes ‘cut off’

Libya’s new leaders were urgently seeking Niger’s help in preventing Muammar Gaddafi, his family or his troops from crossing the border, as the hunt for the fugitive strongman intensified.


New regime forces, meanwhile, were poised to battle loyalist troops still holding out in their remaining strongholds of Bani Walid, southeast of Tripoli, Sabha in the deep south and the coastal city of Sirte, Gaddafi’s hometown.

Gaddafi’s sole remaining media mouthpiece, Mishan al-Juburi, owner of the Syria-based Arrai Oruba television, said the defeated leader was still in Libya, along with his son Saif al-Islam.

“I can tell you that I spoke with Gaddafi very recently,” Juburi told AFP.

“He is in Libya, in very good spirits, feels strong, is not afraid, and would be happy to die fighting against the occupiers,” Juburi, a former Iraqi MP, said by telephone.

“His son Saif al-Islam is in the same state of mind,” added Juburi, whose channel has broadcast a number of audio messages from Gaddafi and his son since they went into hiding after Tripoli was overrun by rebel fighters last month.

Asked how he makes contact with Gaddafi, Juburi said: “When I need to talk to him, I send him a message, or he contacts me when he wants to pass a message.”

Libya’s new rulers are anxious to arrest Gaddafi and put him on trial, thus sealing their hold on the country.

They are fearful he may slip into a neighbouring country, particularly Niger, to which a convoy carrying other senior officials of his ousted regime fled on Monday.

Bidding to cut off Gaddafi’s potential escape routes, the now-ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) said it had dispatched a team to Niamey.

“We have sent a delegation today that is going to Niger to talk … about securing our borders to stop any kind of infiltration of Gaddafi troops to Niger, to stop any attempt by Gaddafi or his family to escape to Niger,” Fathi Baja, head of the NTC’s political affairs committee, said.

“We ask any neighbouring countries to stop Gaddafi people from going to their land,” Fathi told reporters in the eastern city of Benghazi.

When asked about the convoy that entered Niger reportedly carrying money and gold, he replied: “We don’t know how much money this convoy was transporting but, according to what we know, security reports provided by groups in this region, from phone contacts and certain people’s dispatches, we can say that they have seen money and gold in these cars.”

He added: “If that happened, we want that money back.”

The large convoy of civilian and military vehicles entered Niger late on Monday and drove through the city of Agadez.

Niger was adamant Gaddafi was not with the convoy, while Washington said that while some senior officials of the ousted regime were in the convoy, he was not believed to be among them.

Gaddafi’s remaining forces have been a given a Saturday deadline to surrender, in a bid to spare further bloodshed.

At Bani Walid, 170km southeast of Tripoli, negotiators were still seeking to broker the oasis town’s peaceful surrender.

“The negotiations were successful yesterday and we are waiting for the NTC to give us the green light to go in,” said the NTC’s chief negotiator, Abdullah Kenshil.

NTC leaders say they are committed to avoiding bloodshed in Bani Walid, even after a delegation sent there on Tuesday retreated after being fired on.

“The elders have joined the revolution,” Kenshil said, adding that some of them were in Tripoli and others were back in Bani Walid after armed men loyal to Gaddafi initially prevented them from returning.

In the hamlet of Wishtata, some 40 kilometres from the front, Colonel Abdullah Abu Asara said his volunteer fighters were ready for anything.

“We are fully ready to attack, we are just waiting for the command from the National Transitional Council, we are under their command now,” he told AFP.

NTC forces on Wednesday were trying to advance along the road from Um Khunfis to the Red Valley, the pro-Gaddafi forces’ front line, some 60 kilometres east of Sirte, an AFP journalist said, reporting artillery fire.

Loyalist forces putting up strong resistance fired several shells at NTC vehicles at an electricity power station, but there was no immediate word on casualties.

On Tuesday, NTC forces advanced at least eight kilometres towards Sirte in heavy fighting, commanders said.

NATO, in its latest operational update on Wednesday, said its warplanes had bombed six tanks, six armoured fighting vehicles, four armed vehicles, a munitions store and an artillery piece in Sirte the previous day.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Libya on September 15 for talks with NTC chief Mustafa Abdul Jalil in Benghazi, the Turkish premier’s office said on Wednesday.

In July, Ankara recognised the NTC as Libya’s legitimate government.

Portugal’s Foreign Minister Paulo Portas, visiting Benghazi on Wednesday, urged his country’s businessmen to return to Libya, calling it “a land of opportunities.”


Trans Tasman tension high in basketball


In a fiery Oceania championship game one which erupted into two second half fights and led to New Zealand veteran Mark Dickel being ejected, the Boomers accounted for the Tall Blacks 91-78 in Melbourne on Wednesday night.


The win gives the Boomers a priceless lead in the best-of-three series which will decide a place at the London Games.

A physical men’s match which simmered from tip-off erupted into a melee with the game evenly poised midway through the third quarter.

Feisty Kiwi guard Dickel was at the centre of it as players from both sides got involved in some push-and-shove.

Another stoush between Australian forward Mark Worthington and New Zealand’s Casey Frank erupted soon afterwards, before more fireworks in the final quarter which led to Dickel being marched.

Dickel launched at Boomers rookie Matthew Dellavedova before Australian skipper Matt Nielsen then stepped in, pinning Dickel to the court before all players got involved and a flurry of technical fouls resulted.

But when the heat rose, the Boomers cooked – channelling anger into energy for a six-minute late third-quarter rampage which ultimately decided the match.

Worthington thrived on the drama, tipping in 13 points for the match and providing much of the late third-quarter offensive spark, and guard Patty Mills a team-high 20 points.

Nielsen was excellent in the second quarter as the match swung in the balance, while Joe Ingles and Brad Newley also did their bit in a grafting all-round effort.

Tall Blacks star Kirk Penney was exceptional for his side, with a game-high 30 points – 16 in the first half as they trailed by just two points.


And it rounded off a good night for Australia after another 13-point win to the women’s team, the Opals, over New Zealand to also move a step closer to Olympic qualification.

Both the Boomers and Opals now need just one more win in the series – either in Brisbane on Friday night or Sydney on Sunday – to book their spot at next year’s Olympics.

But unlike the Opals – who clearly have room to improve on their 77-64 win over the Tall Ferns earlier in the night – the Boomers were shown they will have to scrap every minute if they want to book their ticket for London.

Two killed in Swedish pub shooting

Two men were killed and more than 10 were wounded after gunmen burst into a pub firing automatic weapons in a suspected gang-related attack in the Swedish city of Gothenburg.


Customers in the bar were watching football on television when at least two gunmen, reportedly wearing skeleton masks, launched their shooting spree.

“We are assuming that this is gang-related and not a terrorist attack,” police spokesman Bjoer Blixter said.

“We’ve had similar problems with shootings for several years but never of this magnitude.”

A manhunt has been launched for the gunmen who fled by car after the shooting in a heavily immigrant area of Sweden’s second city.

Blixter said two people died and between 10 and 15 were wounded, but the death toll could rise.

Gothenburg police said they have launched a murder investigation and are questioning a large number of people but no arrests have been made.

Sweden and neighbouring Denmark have a longstanding problem with criminal gangs, including Hells Angels, Bandidos and several immigrant groups which battle for control of the local drug trade.

The shooting fitted a pattern of regular tit-for-tat retributions between rival gangs in areas with high immigrant populations in Gothenburg, which lies on Sweden’s southwestern coast and has a population of 550,000.

One witness told the Aftonbladet tabloid that two people entered the pub in Gothenburg’s heavily immigrant suburb of Biskopsgaarden armed with weapons that looked like Kalashnikovs and started shooting.

Another witness said the shootings were over quickly.

“I didn’t have time to think what was happening. Then I saw that my friend was bleeding. I tried to stop the flow of blood as well as I could with my hands,” a man who gave his name as “Rocky” told public broadcaster SVT.

Allegri protests a distant memory as Juve give European masterclass

Juve’s performance in Wednesday’s 3-0 win at Borussia Dortmund was a throwback to the days when Serie A sides dominated the Champions League and suggested they can be serious challengers this year for a trophy that Italian sides have not won since 2010.


Allegri’s team set up an impenetrable barrier in defence, then picked off a dispirited Dortmund with lethal counterattacks as they completed a 5-1 aggregate win in the round of 16 tie.

Allegri, already without playmaker Andrea Pirlo, remained unruffled when Paul Pogba, his other key midfielder, went off injured before the half hour, bringing on defender Andrea Barzagli as he seamlessly switched from a back four to back five.

“This result is the fruit of the work we have all put down together, with the lads and the club,” the phlegmatic Allegri told reporters.

“This is an important result for Italian football…and I believe we have the quality to do even better.”

Yet, when he replaced the fiery Antonio Conte, who had led Juventus to three Serie A titles in as many seasons, Allegri was anything but a unanimous choice.

He had been sacked by AC Milan only six months earlier after a 4-3 defeat at Sassuolo left them languishing 11th in Serie A and around 300 Juventus fans turned up to protest his appointment outside the club’s training ground.

But his results at Juventus, who also lead Serie A by 14 points, appear to have vindicated the view that Allegri was a victim of the rudderless leadership at fallen giants Milan, especially as they have continued to struggle since his departure.

Allegri has replaced Conte’s hell-for-leather approach with a more controlled style, which has served well in Europe where they do not enjoy the same dominance over opponents as in Serie A.

Earlier this month, they gave a similarly controlled performance to draw 1-1 at AS Roma in a top-of-the-table Serie A match.

“I just want to emphasise and offer the highest recognition to our coach Massimiliano Allegri, who was greeted with the utmost scepticism earlier in the season,” said Juventus chief executive Giuseppe Marotta.

“We are leading the league with a great advantage and we have reached the Champions League quarter-finals with great credit: a big round of applause goes to the coach and the team that has done well in following his lead.”

“It was said at the start of the season that Massimiliano had great courage to sit on this bench, but he has also shown great courage in achieving these results.”

“Conte won a lot, and I do not want to start a discussion by making comparisons, but it is also right to recognise this coach.”

(Reporting by Brian Homewood; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

Sky to lift prices after record Premier League auction

Sky, which normally increases its prices in September, said on Thursday the price of a sports TV package would rise by 1 pound to 47 pounds ($70) a month.


Its family bundle, which includes its highest profile shows and box-sets of drama, would rise by 3 pounds a month to 36 pounds.

The price rise reflects the balancing act Sky is attempting, having agreed to pay 4.2 billion pounds ($6.2 billion) to show 126 live English Premier League matches a season from 2016 to 2019, to fend off its fierce rival BT.

Sky, which is in more than 10 million homes in Britain, said at the time it would fund the new rights deal by increasing prices and cutting costs.

Analysts said the lower price rise for sports channels might reflect a concern within the company that viewers could defect to BT, which won the right to show 42 games a season and has also beaten Sky to show European Champions League matches from later this year.

The price increases will take effect in June. Analysts at Citi said this was prudent as the previous timetable would have resulted in Sky trying to increase prices just as the Champions League matches disappeared from its channels.

Sky may also have been encouraged to move ahead with price rises now after recent quarterly results showed the number of people leaving the platform had reduced.

“The experience of Canal+ in France suggests losing rights does not impact subscriber volumes, but does impair pricing power,” Citi said. The analysts said the price rises could result in an around 10 percent increase to earnings per share.

Shares in Sky, which has recently expanded into Germany, Italy and Austria, were up 1.4 percent, outperforming the FTSE 100 Index which was up 0.4 percent.

(Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Paul Sandle and Keith Weir)

Australian killed in Tunisia attack named

The Australian killed in a terror attack in Tunisia has been identified as recent university graduate and business analyst Javier Camelo.


The 28-year-old Australian-Colombian dual national was killed with his mother, and another 17 people, when gunmen stormed the National Bardo Museum in the Tunisian capital of Tunis.

Mr Camelo, who reportedly lived in Waterloo in inner Sydney, graduated from Spain’s IE Business School this year with an MBA and formerly studied at the University of Sydney.

According to social media, he had worked for American Express in Sydney.

The young man’s friend posted a moving letter to her fallen friend on Facebook.

“Dear Javi, I always imagined I would see your name on the news due to your great achievements in life,” Rasia Sanderson wrote.

“But never as one of the victims of those terrorist attacks that always feel so far away through tv and computer screens.”

Ms Sanderson said she was heartbroken and thanked her friend for the laughter, adventures and fun times.

Colombian media reported Mr Camelo, the son of a retired army general, graduated with an MBA only last week and then travelled with his parents and brother to Africa.

The family were in a group of tourists on board a cruise in the Mediterranean Sea.

Mr Camelo’s father and brother were unharmed, the report said.

It was a sombre day on Thursday for Mr Camelo’s colleagues at the Sydney office of American Express as news of his death spread.

“Today American Express mourns the loss of our much loved colleague, Javier Camelo, who tragically lost his life in yesterday’s incident in Tunisia,” managing director of American Express Australia/New Zealand, Rachel Stocks, said in a statement.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Javier’s friends and family during this difficult time.”

Ms Stocks said counselling had been offered to staff.

Seventeen foreign tourists, including Mr Camelo, and two Tunisians were killed in the daylight attack.

The shooters opened fire as the tourists got off a bus before chasing them into the national museum.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott told parliament on Thursday it was an attack by Islamic extremists on a fledging democracy.

Australians planning to go to Tunisia are being urged by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to exercise a high degree of caution.

England recall Parling for 6 Nations rugby

Leicester lock Geoff Parling was recalled by England head coach Stuart Lancaster for Saturday’s decisive Six Nations rugby showdown with France at Twickenham.


Parling comes into the second row in place of Dave Attwood, who drops out of the squad, in the only change to the team that overcame Scotland 25-13 last weekend. Harlequins No.8 Nick Easter returns to the bench.

“Geoff did well off the bench against Scotland and, now that he has got some games under his belt, we feel it is the right time to start him and use his experience and quality in the starting line-up,” Lancaster said on Thursday in a statement.

“The same goes for Nick Easter, who has really impressed in camp and in his appearances off the bench. Nick is a quality ball carrier and great defender – things we feel we’ll need in the latter stages of the game.”

Seeking a first Championship success since 2011, England go into the final weekend level on points with Ireland and Wales at the top of the table, but with a points difference advantage of +4 and +25 over their respective pursuers.

Young Stade Francais five-eighth Jules Plisson has been called up for France, with coach Philippe Saint-Andre naming a 16th different halves pairing.

Plisson, 23, comes in for injured first-choice No.10 Camille Lopez, who misses the game at Twickenham due to a knee problem.

With Sebastien Tillous-Borde remaining at halfback, it will be the 16th different halves pairing Saint-Andre has picked in just over three years at the France helm.

In the only other change, Vincent Debaty comes in for Eddy Ben Arous at prop after the latter suffered an injury to his arm.

Remi Tales and Uini Atonio replace Plisson and Debaty on the bench.

France can still win the Six Nations but will need to not only beat England by at least eight points but also hope Ireland lose in Scotland and Wales are beaten in Italy.

Wales play away to Italy on Saturday, while Ireland tackle Scotland in Edinburgh.


Mike Brown; Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Luther Burrell, Jack Nowell, George Ford, Ben Youngs, Billy Vunipola, Chris Robshaw (capt), James Haskell, Courtney Lawes, Geoff Parling, Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley, Joe Marler. Res: Tom Youngs, Mako Vunipola, Kieran Brookes, Nick Easter, Tom Wood, Richard Wigglesworth, Danny Cipriani, Billy Twelvetrees.


Scott Spedding, Yoann Huget, Gael Fickou, Maxime Mermoz, Noa Nakaitaci, Jules Plisson, Sebastian Tillous-Borde, Loann Goujon, Bernard Le Roux, Thierry Dusautoir (capt), Yoann Maestri, Alexandre Flanquart, Nicolas Mas, Guilhem Guirado, Vincent Debaty. Res: Benjamin Kayser, Rabah Slimani, Uini Atonio, Romain Taofifenua, Damien Chouly, Rory Kockott, Remi Tales, Mathieu Bastareaud.

PM uses Nazi propaganda chief reference

Four years after comparing Tony Abbott to Joseph Goebbels, shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus was outraged when the prime minister used the same comparison in parliament.


Mr Abbott on Thursday labelled Opposition Leader Bill Shorten the “Dr Goebbels of economic policy”, likening him to the Nazi minister for propaganda.

Mr Abbott immediately withdrew the remark, but not before opposition MPs, including the Jewish Mr Dreyfus, erupted in anger.

During a rowdy exchange, Speaker Bronwyn Bishop suspended Mr Dreyfus from the chamber.

As he left the chamber, Mr Dreyfus said Mr Abbott was a “disgusting man”.

When Labor pleaded for his reprieve, government leader of the house Christopher Pyne reminded Ms Bishop that Mr Dreyfus had made a similar Goebbels reference when criticising then opposition leader Mr Abbott’s anti-carbon tax campaign in 2011.

“Leaving aside the Goebbellian cynicism of labelling a scare campaign a `truth campaign’, I think it shows Abbott’s contempt for the Australian electorate,” Mr Dreyfus wrote in an opinion piece for Fairfax Media.

Other Labor figures have also made Goebbels references.

Former treasurer Wayne Swan in 1995 made the comparison with then opposition leader John Howard.

“In recent weeks there has been a Goebbels-type campaign by the leader of the opposition, the member for Bennelong (Mr Howard), and others on his front bench …”

And in 2006, Labor MP Jill Hall said the coalition “have vilified asylum seekers and refugees in a way that would make Goebbels blush”.

Later on Thursday, Jewish Labor MP Michael Danby said all parties, including the opposition, should stop making Nazi references.

“We have had differences in the Australian parliament, rough and tumble hard as you like, lots of jokes, but it’s not appropriate to compare us with the paradigm of evil in politics,” he told Sky News on Thursday.

Mr Danby gave Mr Abbott credit for how he normally handles issues to do with the Jewish community, including increasing security around schools against possible terror attacks.

“The irony is as far as the Jewish community goes, Tony Abbott is a good guy.

“That makes my criticism of him all the more valid – don’t make these comparisons, it’s completely unnecessary for you.”

Parling to start for England against France

Having started every match in the tournament so far, there is no room for Attwood on the bench either, with Harlequins’ Nick Easter named a replacement.


Easter’s inclusion looks a reflection of the fact the Six Nations crown is likely to go down to points difference and England will be chasing a score.

“Geoff did well off the bench against Scotland and now that he has got some games under his belt, we feel it is the right time to start him and use his experience and quality in the starting line-up,” England head coach Stuart Lancaster said.

“The same goes for Nick Easter, who has really impressed in camp and with his appearances off the bench in the second row.

“He is a quality ball carrier and great defender… something we feel we will need in the latter stages of the game.”

England, Ireland and Wales are all tied on six points, with France in fourth on four. The English lead the table due to a superior points scored difference of 37, compared to Ireland’s 33 and Wales’ 12.

Wales travel to Italy in the opening fixture at 1230 GMT, while the Irish look to rack up points against the Scots in Edinburgh at 1430 GMT.

Were Ireland and Wales both to lose their games, France could win the Six Nations title by beating England.

England kick off against France at 1700 GMT at Twickenham.

England: 15-Mike Brown, 14-Anthony Watson, 13-Jonathan Joseph, 12-Luther Burrell, 11-Jack Nowell, 10-George Ford, 9-Ben Youngs; 8-Billy Vunipola, 7-Chris Robshaw (captain), 6-James Haskell, 5-Courtney Lawes, 4-Geoff Parling, 3-Dan Cole, 2-Dylan Hartley, 1-Joe Marler

Replacements: 16-Tom Youngs, 17-Mako Vunipola, 18-Kieran Brookes, 19-Nick Easter, 20-Tom Wood, 21-Richard Wigglesworth, 22-Danny Cipriani, 23-Billy Twelvetrees


15-Scott Spedding, 14-Yoann Huget, 13-Gael Fickou, 12-Maxime Mermoz, 11-Noa Nakaitaci, 10-Jules Plisson, 9-Sebastien Tillous-Borde, 8-Loann Goujon, 7-Bernard Le Roux, 6-Thierry Dusautoir (captain), 5-Yoann Maestri, 4-Alexandre Flanquart, 3-Nicolas Mas, 2-Guilhem Guirado, 1-Vincent Debaty

Replacements: 16-Benjamin Kayser, 17-Rabah Slimani, 18-Uini Atonio, 19-Romain Taofifenua, 20-Damien Chouly, 21-Rory Kockott, 22-Remi Tales, 23-Mathieu Bastareaud

(Editing by John O’Brien)

No time for Schalke and Leverkusen to mourn European exit

Neither team will have much time to think about their Champions League round of 16 exit, Schalke bowing out to Real Madrid despite beating them 4-3 in Spain and Leverkusen beaten on penalties by Atletico Madrid.


On Saturday it will be all about the Champions League again when Leverkusen travel to Schalke in the Bundesliga with three points separating them.

Leverkusen are in fourth place, which leads to the Champions League qualifying rounds, on 42 points, with the Royal Blues three points behind in fifth.

A win for Leverkusen would instantly put a big buffer between them and their rivals with eight games left in the season.

“This is a real six-point game,” Leverkusen midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu said. “We want to go and win there to increase our advantage over them.”

Calhanoglu, arguably Leverkusen’s best player so far this season, will also be looking to make amends for his weak spot kick in the shootout against Atletico on Tuesday, one of three he and his teammates missed.

But with Schalke, who played their last European game of the season last week, needing to win to stay in contention, it will not be easy.

Schalke may be missing almost a dozen players through injury, including their top two goalkeepers.

They have won just one of their last five league games and are with their backs against the wall. They will also be without suspended captain Benedikt Hoewedes.

“Unfortunately it is nothing new for us to miss key players,” said fellow defender Joel Matip. “But we have managed as a team to compensate for any loss of an important player so far.

“Leverkusen are direct rivals and we want to win to improve our current position. We can calculate a lot but at the end it is about winning and getting points.”

Leaders Bayern Munich, 11 points clear at the top, host third-placed Borussia Moenchengladbach on Sunday.

VfL Wolfsburg, in second place on 53 points, travel to Mainz 05 while last season’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund will look to score their first league goals in March as they battle to climb up the table.

(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

Wenger joins Blatter in calling for change to away goals rule

Wenger is not the first to call for the rule to be changed — FIFA president Sepp Blatter expressed the same view last October saying it had “fallen behind the times.


Arsenal and Premier League rivals Chelsea, were both eliminated on away goals in the last 16 of the competition after drawing 3-3 with French League teams.

Chelsea drew 1-1 at Paris St Germain but were eliminated after a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge, while Arsenal lost 3-1 at home and went out despite winning 2-0 at Monaco on Tuesday.

In his pre-match briefing before Arsenal face Newcastle United in the Premier League on Saturday, Wenger said the time had come for the rule to be changed.

“I think it should be questioned. It’s a rule that is outdated now and should be changed.

“None of the teams in the competition apart from Barcelona looks to be superior in Europe today.

“Maybe the rule should count after extra time. This rule was created in the 1960s to favour teams to attack away from home but since then football has changed and the weight of the away goal is too big today.”

The away goals rule replaced the coin toss or the drawing of lots to settle ties which were level on aggregate after the second leg.

Last October Blatter wrote in his column in the FIFA Weekly magazine, “It is time to rethink the system.

“Football has progressed since the 1960s, so the away goals rule may now be questioned. Does the away goals rule still make sense?

“The idea dates back to a time when away games were often an adventure, involving journeys that could be long and arduous — and the playing conditions would vary considerably.

“In reality it favours the club that play away from home in the second leg. Where the scores are tied, that team has 30 minutes more than their opponent to score a valuable away goal. After all, in the first leg there is no extra time.”

Blatter suggested implementing the rule used in the MLS playoffs in the United States and in the CONCACAF Champions League where away goals only count “double” until the end of normal time.

(Reporting by Mike Collett; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

Messi masterclass spells bad news for Real Madrid

Barca sealed a Champions League last eight place with a 3-1 aggregate triumph following Wednesday’s 1-0 win but some sloppy finishing and an inspired performance from City keeper Joe Hart kept the winning margin down to a respectable level.


However, the dominant performance would still have been pleasing for coach Luis Enrique, who in just a few months has silenced doubters questioning his credentials to become the leader of a side contending for silverware on three fronts.

The Catalan side are on a run of 17 victories from their last 18 games in which they have qualified for the King’s Cup final and moved a point clear of Real Madrid in La Liga.

Luis Enrique and Messi had a highly publicised bust-up in late December with the Argentine left out of the starting lineup for the first game of 2015, which they lost away to Real Sociedad, as he returned late from a winter break.

Since then, Barca have only lost one game and Messi’s enthusiasm has returned, with the player even training last Monday which was scheduled as a day off for the team.

While Messi has been the talisman, Luis Suarez and Neymar are also looking menacing in a potent three-pronged attack as Barca face a crunch clash with Real this weekend that could go a long way to deciding where the title ends up.

“We are playing well but we cannot get carried away because there is a long way to go,” Messi told reporters.

“We have some big games… first against Madrid and then there are the quarter-finals (of the Champions League) where we will face another tough team.”

By contrast, arch-rivals Real have stuttered of late, recording just one win from four games in all competitions and a defeat on Sunday would intensify the pressure on them.

“I have a lot of respect for Madrid. When Madrid are in this situation it is when they are most dangerous,” Messi added.

“They have great players. We will go out to play our football and look to win but at the same time we need to be wary of them as much as ever.”

(Editing by John O’Brien)