RUGBY WORLD CUP
Hong Kong, Singapore out
Hong Kong and Singapore have pulled out of plans to stage some of the matches at the 2019 rugby World Cup to be hosted by Japan, press reports said yesterday. In July 2009, Japan was awarded the right to host the 2019 edition after insisting in what it called a “tender for Asia” that it will allocate some pool matches to Hong Kong and Singapore to help globalize the sport. However, the International Rugby Board (IRB) has said matches must be staged within host nations unless there are special reasons to co-host them. The 2019 rugby World Cup will be the first to be staged in Asia. “Hong Kong and Singapore have told us they are withdrawing,” Japan Rugby Football Union president Yoshiro Mori told Japanese media on Tuesday, according to Kyodo news agency. “Japan will host the tournament on its own.” Mori was speaking at the end of an inspection tour by IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset. In its 2019 bid, Japan said sharing some World Cup matches with the two former British colonies would help cultivate new fans and create business opportunities in a region with emerging corporate power. Hong Kong is home to the world’s biggest rugby sevens tournament and Singapore is located close to the sport’s superpower nations of Australia and New Zealand. The hot tropical weather in Singapore, however, had been cited as a disadvantage for teams who might have to play there.
David Smith to leave Perth
Super 15 star David Smith will leave Perth-based Western Force at the end of the season for Toulon, the club’s Web site said yesterday. The 24-year-old New Zealand winger is the team’s marquee player and his departure will be a big blow, but Force coach Richard Graham said he understood why Smith had signed a two-year deal with the French side. “As our marquee player, David was only able to sign for one year at a time and he was upfront with us that there was a longer-term opportunity for him in Toulon,” Graham was quoted as saying. “David has been absolutely fantastic. He is a quality person and someone who has enthusiastically contributed to the club this season.
Sharks flanker suspended
Coastal Sharks flanker Keegan Daniel has been suspended for two weeks after being found guilty of foul play, southern hemisphere rugby alliance SANZAR (South Africa, New Zealand, Australia rugby) said yesterday. Daniel was cited for a late and dangerous tackle on ACT Brumbies center Christian Lealiifano during the Sharks’ 34-16 win in a Super 15 match in Durban, South Africa, on Saturday. “The suspension is effective until May 21. The Sharks have a bye this weekend, which means Daniel will miss one match, against the Bulls,” Sydney-based SANZAR said in a statement. The Sharks’ bonus-point win lifted the Durban franchise to fifth on the combined table with 39 points, leaving them just four points behind the Western Stormers in the South African conference.
Williams pulls out of WTA
The US’ seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams on Tuesday withdrew from next week’s US$618,000 WTA tournament in Brussels, placing more doubt on her taking part in the French Open later this month. The 30-year-old five-time Wimbledon champion is still plagued by the abdominal injury that forced her to pull out of the Australian Open in January. The French Open begins on May 22.
Wizards go retro
Adopting a retro-style look from their glory days in the 1970s when they were nicknamed the Bullets, the NBA’s Washington Wizards revealed their new uniforms, colors and logo on Tuesday. Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, who took over the club last year, said fans told him they wanted the older look, so he ditched the blue and gold coloring and a logo featuring a wizard holding a basketball. Instead, the Wizards will have a red, white and blue color scheme and lettering with the nickname similar to that used by the Bullets, a nickname that was dropped in favor of “Wizards” by former owner Abe Pollin in 1997. “They will look even better when we’re a really, really good team,” Leonsis said. The Wizards struggled to a 23-59 record last season, brightened only by the performance of top overall draft pick John Wall.
Haye, Klitschko trade barbs
David Haye couldn’t resist directing a few more insults at Wladimir Klitschko ahead of their title unification fight, saying the Ukrainian was “killing” the heavyweight division. The two boxers are set to meet in Hamburg on July 2 and Tuesday saw them promoting the fight in Haye’s home town of London, a day after a similar press conference in Germany. WBA champion Haye promised to knock out Klitschko, the holder of the IBF, IBO and WBO titles, insisting his opponent had done much to lower the prestige of what was once boxing showpiece’s division. “I’m really happy the fight has finally been signed and I’m happy I’ve got my man,” Haye said in a press conference televised by Sky Sports. “You are going to see a unified heavyweight champion. I believe Wladimir Klitschko is solely responsible for killing the heavyweight division … The average boxing fan has turned off to it. Finally they have come back to it for this particular fight, and that’s because of me — my speed, my athleticism and what I do inside the ring.” However, Klitschko hit back by saying: “I saw the Hayemaker magazine, and I opened it — [it was about] me, me and more me. With this magazine, you could change the H to a G, it would be funnier and better for sales,” Klitschko said.
Forman, Riley share award
Chicago Bulls general manager Gar Forman and Miami Heat president Pat Riley, whose teams are on a playoff collision course, were named on Tuesday as co-winners of the NBA Executive of the Year award. Each received 11 of 30 possible votes from a panel of fellow NBA club executives, marking the first time since the award was created in 1973 that it was given to more than one person.
Stanford to stand trial
Financier and cricket mogul Allen Stanford has been scheduled to stand trial in September for an alleged US$7 billion Ponzi scheme, court records showed on Tuesday. Stanford was sent to a US prison hospital for drug addiction treatment in February after a judge ruled he was temporarily unfit to stand trial. Government psychiatrists and Stanford’s legal team testified that he was suffering from bouts of delirium linked to his dependency on powerful anti-anxiety medication. The flamboyant Texan has pleaded not guilty to more than a dozen counts of fraud, money laundering and obstruction. He faces up to life in prison if convicted. The trial is set to begin on Sept. 12. Stanford created the Stanford Super Series Twenty20 cricket competition, appalling many in the cricket world by challenging the sacrosanct traditional cricket establishment.