Halep awarded wildcard at Eastbourne

French Open runner-up Simona Halep was awarded a wildcard entry to feature at the Aegon International in Eastbourne next week, organisers said on Thursday.

Eastbourne will be Halep's first grass court tournament ahead of Wimbledon after she pulled out of the Aegon Classic in Birmingham due to an ankle injury last week. Wimbledon starts on July 3.

"I am very much looking forward to playing in Eastbourne,” the 25-year-old Romanian said in a statement.

Shenhua back coach Poyet despite poor start to season

HONG KONG Gus Poyet has received the backing of the Shanghai Shenhua president following growing calls for the Uruguayan coach's dismissal after a disappointing start to the Chinese Super League season.

Club president Wu Xiaohui stressed that the Shenhua hierarchy were not considering replacing the former Chelsea midfielder despite pressure from sections of the Shanghai support to remove the 49-year-old following a poor run of form.

"Poyet out? We never gave a thought about it," Wu told reporters. "It's not happening and won't happen in a long time."

Soccer: Mexico coach apologises for touchline rant

Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio has apologised after television cameras caught him using an expletive during Wednesday's ill-tempered Confederations Cup match against New Zealand.

Osorio said he was incensed during the first half of the game when Mexico defender Carlos Salcedo was left injured after a clash with rival forward Chris Wood in the New Zealand area and their opponents failed to kick the ball out of play.

New Zealand played on, went down the other end and nearly scored, with the Mexicans urging their opponents to stop the game.

Ireland's Schmidt makes six changes for final Japan test

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has made six changes to the starting 15 for Saturday's final test of the summer tour against Japan at the Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo.

Lock Devin Toner is set to win his 50th cap in the second row and will be partnered by Keiran Treadwell, who won his first cap from the bench during last week's 50-22 win over the Brave Blossoms.

In the back row, Jack Conan will be joined by captain Ryhs Ruddock and Josh van der Flier, who returns at open side flanker.

Plisson back at flyhalf as France change backline for Boks

JOHANNESBURG Jules Plisson has been restored at flyhalf as one of three changes to the backline by France coach Guy Noves for the third and final test against South Africa at Ellis Park on Saturday.

France are seeking a consolation win having been well beaten in the first two matches of the tour, and Noves has made a further six changes in a revamped bench.

Plisson started the first game in Pretoria and has been preferred in the number 10 jersey to Francois Trinh Duc, who is named among the replacements.

Quiet Munsterman O'Mahony ready to lead Lions roar

By Nick Mulvenney
| AUCKLAND

AUCKLAND But for Jamie Heaslip succumbing to a hamstring strain just before Ireland's Six Nations clash with England in March, there is a good chance Peter O'Mahony would not be on the British and Irish Lions tour at all.

On Saturday, though, the blindside flanker will not only line up in the back row for the first of three tests against New Zealand, but lead the side out to face the All Blacks at Eden Park as captain.

McIlroy backs PGA Tour drug testing reforms

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy has voiced support for the PGA Tour's drug-testing reforms that introduce blood screening and revise the list of banned substances to match the World Anti-Doping Agency's directory for the 2017-18 season.

Last July, the 28-year-old Briton expressed concern over the lack of regular drug testing in golf compared with other Olympic sports and advocated the introduction of blood testing.

With one eye on history, Hansen beckons Lions to Eden Park fortress

By Greg Stutchbury
| AUCKLAND

AUCKLAND In preparing his team for Saturday's seismic first test against the British and Irish Lions, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has made a point of looking to the past for inspiration.

The history of past Lions tours. The reminder that only one All Blacks side, in 1971, have lost a series to the combined team. The fact that they are unbeaten at Eden Park since 1994.

And the recognition that for this group of players, the three-test series will be their last chance to face the Lions.

Bolt to race in Monaco prior to London swan song

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt will run the 100 metres at the Herculis EBS meeting in Monaco on July 21, two weeks before his final world championships appearance in London, organisers said on Wednesday.

The eight-time Olympic gold medallist, who ran his final race in his home country earlier this month, last raced at the Louis II Stadium in 2011.

Moore included among six Wallabies changes to face Italy

SYDNEY Australia captain Stephen Moore will return to the starting line-up in a new-look forwards unit for the weekend test against Italy at Lang Park in Brisbane, as coach Michael Cheika shuffled his pack on Thursday.

Cheika made six changes to the side that suffered a 24-19 loss to Scotland in Sydney last week and more could follow when he names his reserves on Friday.

The 34-year-old Moore will become the 10th most-capped international player when he makes his 120th Wallabies appearance at his Queensland Reds home ground on Saturday.

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