Archive for October, 2011

With the more prestigious snooker tournaments, such as the UK Championship and the Masters, past approaching it’s time to consider who are the leading contenders for the sport’s biggest prizes this season.
Every year for the last 15 years or more, every snooker pundit in the land would have had Ronnie O’Sullivan as the first name down on the list, however, the “Rocket” appears to have an aversion to winning tournaments these days and has dropped down to number 12 in the world Snooker rankings. It would be no surprise if he was to bounce back; after all, he is the most capable player on the planet on his day. However, one attribute he no longer has is reliability and to that end, it is a great opportunity for some other players to steal the spotlight O’Sullivan has dominated for so long, here are five players who can make an impact at the major tournaments over the coming months.

Mark Selby

Currently at the top of the world rankings, the “Jester from Leicester” has been in a rich vein of form in 2011, appearing in the final of both the German Masters and China Open, where he lost in very close games against Mark Williams and Judd Trump respectively. He set a new record for the most century breaks at the World Championships in May, but could only make the last eight in the tournament, going down to Ding Junhui of China. However he won his last tournament, the Shanghai Masters in September after a thrilling battle with Williams which saw him come back from a 7-9 deficit to win 10-9. If he continues in that kind of form he is sure to feature in the latter stages of more ranking events and will be top of the snooker betting heading in to every tournament.

Mark Williams 

After a few years in the wilderness, Mark Williams is well and truly back to his best and has climbed back from snooker obscurity to the number two spot in the world rankings. He is a two time World Champion and a player who has won 18 ranking tournaments since turning professional in 1992. He has also been runner up in ten more and has also won the Masters tournament twice. Like Selby his recent form has been ‘top drawer’, making three finals this year already, winning the German Masters, before finishing runner up in the Australian Open and the Shanghai Masters. He was involved in a thrilling battle with John Higgins in the semi final at the World Championship, but had to accept second best again to the Scot; losing a classic match, 14-17. However, a return to former glories are not too far away and his objective will be to win a third World Championship next April.

John Higgins

The “Wizard of Wishaw” for many, is still the player to beat on the circuit, particularly in the big events. Higgins won his fourth World Championship earlier this year and is also the reigning Welsh Open and UK champion, tournaments he won after being suspended by the snooker’s governing body. His World Championship win was particularly poignant as it came in the wake of his father’s death. His recent form has been reasonable with two quarter final finishes and although he is only currently ranked third in the world behind Selby and Williams, there is absolutely no doubt that when the UK Championship begins in December he will be back to his best.

Judd Trump

Big things have been expected of this young man ever since he turned professional in 2005 at the tender age of 16. Now 22, Judd, as all snooker fans know, reached the final of the World Championship in April where he played supremely well when losing to Higgins by 15-18. He showed that he has every shot in the book and is certain to make a huge impact on the world snooker stage from now on. Just prior to the World Championship, Judd had lifted his first professional ranking tournament title by taking the China Open with victory over Selby and with age firmly on his side this could be the time when he establishes himself as one of the best around.

Mark Allen

Although only raked at number 13 in the world, this left hander from Northern Ireland has an excellent temperament during the bigger tournaments. Last season for instance, the 25 year old reached the Quarter Final of the World Championship, losing to Williams, the Semi Final of theMasters, losing to  Marco Fu and the semi final of the UK Championship, where he lost to Higgins. Allen is a superb break builder and is a player hugely respected on the circuit; for him it is merely a question of when and not if he wins a tournament and that wait may not be too far away.

Written by Rod Crowley

The British Boxing Board of Control has today confirmed that David Haye doesn’t wish to renew his licence. The former WBA Heavyweight champion has come in for alot of stick following his loss to Wladimir Klitschko last July when he lost his WBA world title by a unamimous points decision in Hamburg.

Haye, who celebrates his 31st birthday on Thursday has always said he would not fight on past the age of 30.

It was thought that Haye would make a comeback bout against Vitali or a rematch with Wladimir, who holds the WBC title.

Board secretary Robert Smith speaking on BBC Radio 5 he added that he had received an email from David Haye stating that he doesn’t want to renew his licence.

He added; “According to the email I received, he is no longer wishing to renew his licence.”

When asked if he had thought a Haye-Klitschko rematch had been likely, Smith added: “It doesn’t really matter what I think, it’s up to David and Adam (Booth, Haye’s trainer and manager). Obviously his last fight must have been bitterly disappointing for him, but if you look at his career as a whole he has been very good to the sport and we wish him well.

“There are many instances when heavyweights can go on longer than the smaller weight divisions but he has his whole life ahead of him, he has achieved a great deal and good luck to the man.

“You dedicate your life to your sport and to find something after that endeavour is very difficult for anybody.”

The Rugby World Cup is now down to the last four with a final between a team from the Northern Hemisphere against the best team from the Southern Hemisphere.

Battling to represent the Six Nations are Wales and France who meet at Eden Park, Auckland on Saturday in a match that clearly could go either way but it is the Welsh who have been made narrow favourites to make their first ever World Cup final.

They played outstandingly well to defeat Ireland in the Quarter Final, particularly in the second half, such was their dynamic performance that there are many highly regarded rugby pundits suggesting that they could go all the way and win the Webb-Ellis Cup!

Wales Coach, Warren Gatland, in fact went out to New Zealand with a lot more confidence than he was letting on. His side had three excellent warm up matches and although they lost the first of those to England, they avenged that defeat with a comprehensive 19-9 victory a week later at the Millennium Stadium.

That win was followed up with a comprehensive 28-13 victory over Argentina which is why they went into their opening World Cup pool fixture against South Africa extremely confident.

In the event, they lost that match (unluckily) by a single point but they showed enough ability to suggest that they could easily reverse that result should the two teams meet again the final. Wales went on to win all three remaining pool fixtures which included a huge 66-0 win over Fiji, a win that well and truly buried the nightmares of the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

It came as no surprise therefore to see Wales outplay Ireland but now they must take on France, rejuvenated it would seem after stories of dressing room unrest in the Pool stages of the competiton.

France have beaten Wales the last three times they have met, including a 28-9 demolition back in March this year in the Six Nations. However, the French were poor against the “All Blacks” in their Pool fixture and even worse in defeat to Tonga in what remains the biggest shock of this current World Cup.

It was with some surprise therefore to see “Les Bleus” come out with such verve against England in the Quarter Final. They took the game to Martin Johnson’s men with great panache playing extremely well throughout and fully deserving the 19-12 victory.

Assuming the French players are back on side with coach Mark Lievremont, then the team should have what it takes to get the better of Wales in this match but they will have to take into account that the Welsh team they face on Saturday will be a shadow of the team they beat in Paris earlier in the year and winning is far from a formality against a Wales team full of momentum.

A very close match which has the potential to be an epic could be the reward for rugby fans everywhere. The teams look extremely evenly matched, but the Welsh back row, led by skipper Sam Warburton will have the French half back pairing in their sights from the kick off and it is here where the match could be won or lost.

Additionally, in Mike Phillips at scrum half, Wales have a player at the top of his game who not only scores vital tries, his passing is so accurate and quick that he provides the much added dimension that Wales have been thriving on all tournament and with such belief, Wales can reach their first ever World Cup Final!

Written by Rod Crowley

In the end, England qualified for Euro 2012 in Poland/Ukraine with more than a degree of comfort from Group G and will now be amongst the second seeds when the draw is made for the finals on December 2nd in Kiev.

Already the hypothesisers have been busy voicing their opinions of pending English doom, suggesting that Fabio Capello’s men could find themselves in the same qualifying group as holders and world champions, Spain, Germany or Holland.

An outcome which at this stage does not bear thinking about but nonetheless it is a potential outcome which significantly highlights the difficulties that England could face next June…

The situation is made worse after it emerged England will kick off the tournament off without start striker, Wayne Rooney, after he foolishly got himself sent off in the 2-2 draw against Montenegro for kicking out at Miodrag Dzudovic.

That red card will mean an automatic suspension for at least the first game in Euro 2012  but it will almost certainly become much worse when UEFA deal with the case on an individual basis and are likely to extend it to a two game ban.

Was it ironic or coincidental that Rooney should be sent off during the same week as his father, amongst others, was arrested for an alleged betting fraud offence concerning a sending off incident in a Scottish league game.

Looking at England’s progress in a more positive light, they should be praised for qualifying without losing a game, especially on the back of a dismal showing at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Fabio Capello has moved the team on significantly and created a very healthy, competitive spirit in the squad.

More importantly he has shown great courage in bringing in new face, clearly indicating that the old guard are now no longer guaranteed their places and if recent squads are anything to go by, only six of the 23 heading to Euro 2012 will have been part of the squad that went to South Africa last year.

Players such as Ashley Young, Darren Bent, Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverly and Jordan Henderson just to name a few of the rising stars that have all got themselves into the mix and could all be included in the squad for next summer’s tournament.

Before all that, Capello will want to play at least two friendlies at Wembley by the end of this year, with the first of those against Spain taking place on Saturday, November 12th. A second game will be confirmed later this week, which could be against either Sweden or Portugal.

These games could be particularly significant for the international futures of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand, three players who could find themselves omitted from Capello’s thinking.

As far as the betting for Euro 2012 betting goes, Spain remain clear favourites to retain their crown with odds of 11/4 whilst Germany are considered next best at 4/1, while Holland are 6/1 and England now 9/1 after securing their place in the 16 team competition.

Written by Rod Crawley