22 Mar 2019

Today's sports news: What you need to know

5:41 am on 22 March 2019

Latest - The young New Zealand driver Marcus Armstrong has made an impressive debut in Formula 3 with the fastest time on day one of pre-season testing in France.

Young New Zealand driver Marcus Armstrong.


The 18 year old from Christchurch completed 50 laps for the Prema Racing team and was well clear of the rest of the field.

Armstrong is a part of the Ferrari Driver Academy.

New Zealand Grand Prix winner and this year's Toyota Racing Series champion Liam Lawson finished with the 14th fastest time for MP Motorsport.

The Formula 3 championship begins in May at the Spanish Grand Prix.

DMac set to stay at fullback

All Black Damian McKenzie appears set to play at fullback again for the Chiefs when they take on the Bulls in Super Rugby in Pretoria this weekend.

Damian McKenzie.


After four weeks at first five, McKenzie was shifted back to fifteen for last week's game against the Hurricanes with his brother Marty taking the ten jersey.

The Chiefs backline worked a lot better and they came close to their first win of the season with the match in Hamilton ending in a 23-all draw.

Assistant coach Tabai Matson says they're likely to keep McKenzie at the back for the game at Loftus Versfeld.

"very clearly having a world class fullback made a massive difference last weekend so we'll probably be looking to do the that again."

"Just having the two playmakers on the field made a difference to our territory battle so we'll be looking for that against this week."

Matson says either Marty McKenzie or Jack Debreczeni will start at first five.

The Bulls top the South African Conference with three wins and a loss.

Tom Walsh star attraction in Auckand

The appearance of World and Commonwealth Games shot put champion Tom Walsh headlines tonight's International Athletics meeting in Auckland.

New Zealand shot put champion Tom Walsh


The Cantabrian will be out to replicate his New Zealand record throw at last year's Sir Graeme Douglas International meeting at Henderson.

Last year he threw 22.67m, the ninth equal world all-time best.

Walsh will be up against his New Zealand rival Jacko Gill, Damien Birkinhead of Australia, Konrad Bukowiecki of Poland, as well as Ryan Ballantyne and Nick Palmer.

At the recent New Zealand Championships in Christchurch Walsh won his tenth national shot put title with 21.70m, from Gill 20.71m and Bukowiecki 20.25m.

Halaholo wants to play for Wales

The New Zealand rugby player Willis Halaholo has his sights on Wales selection after signing a long-term contract to remain with Cardiff Blues.

Willis Halaholo of Cardiff Blues


The 28-year-old centre made his debut for the region in 2016 and has gone on to score 13 tries in 57 appearances.

Halaholo, who grew up in Auckland and represented Tonga at under-20 level, qualifies for Wales under residency next season.

"I'm really happy to sign," he said, "the welcome I have received since I arrived here has been awesome."

"My family absolutely love it... this has definitely become our home and I'm really excited about what the future holds," he said.

"We showed our potential last season by winning the European Challenge Cup and with so many exciting young players we can continue building and improving."

Halaholo played for Southland and Waikato in provincial rugby and had a season with the Hurricanes before moving to Britain.


What future do the Sunwolves have?

SANZAAR will clarify the future of Super Rugby at the end of the week, with Australian media reporting the Tokyo-based Sunwolves are to be cut from the competition.

The new Japanese rugby team to play in the 2016 Super Rugby competition will be known as the Sunwolves.

The new Japanese rugby team to play in the 2016 Super Rugby competition will be known as the Sunwolves. Photo: SANZAR

The Australian newspaper reported that SANZAAR had already decided to cut the struggling Sunwolves, who have won just seven of their 43 matches since joining the competition in 2016.

The report, citing an unnamed Sunwolves spokesperson, said the team had objected to a request from SANZAAR to pay a Super Rugby participation fee, which is not asked of any of the other franchises.

The Sunwolves and Japan Rugby Football Association were unable to provide immediate comment.

The Sunwolves are currently fourth in the five-team Australian conference of Super Rugby, having lost four of their five first games of the season.

The Sunwolves joined Super Rugby along with South Africa's Southern Kings and Argentine side Jaguares when the competition expanded from 15 to 18 teams.

The Japanese side retained their spot when the tournament reverted to 15 teams last year after the expanded format proved unpopular with fans and broadcasters.


Bennett irrelevant says Stuart

The Canberra rugby coach Ricky Stuart has delivered a blunt retort to Wayne Bennett's "drama queen" accusation.

Wayne Bennett

Wayne Bennett Photo: Photosport

The South Sydney boss took aim at his Raiders counterpart last week after Stuart said he was less proud to be involved with the NRL.

Bennett said Stuart, and others within the NRL, had overreacted when talking about the off-field incidents which have plagued the game.

"I can't believe some of the silly statements they've all made," Bennett said last week.

"They've been a part of it for so long, they've seen so many things, we've been through a tough period, we've had them before, we've managed them and moved on.

"I think there have been a few drama queens out there, to be honest with you."

Stuart was asked about his long-time rival's comments ahead of the Raiders' round two clash with Melbourne on Friday.

"Wayne Bennett's irrelevant to me, so are comments he makes," Stuart told reporters on Thursday.

The back-and-forth between the rival coaches is sure to add some extra spice for Bennett's first trip to Canberra in charge of Souths in round 10.


Olympic torch unveiled

The torch design for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games has been unveiled, exactly a year before the flame is due to arrive in Japan from Greece.

The theme of the pink gold torch centres on 'sakura' or cherry blossom in Japan, which arrives every spring to much fanfare, and it was designed with input from children from the areas most severely damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Designer Tokujin Yoshioka said he was inspired to create the torch, which features five sakura petals cut into its head to mirror the five Olympic rings, following a visit to an elementary school in Fukushima.

The theme of the Tokyo Games is reconstruction from the 2011 disaster and the torch relay will begin in Miyagi prefecture - another area deeply affected - on March 20 next year.

The 1.2 kilogram torch is made from aluminium, 30 percent of which has been salvaged from the temporary housing built in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake.

Anscombe warns Wales about losing players

The Welsh Rugby Union and regional chiefs must resolve their differences and end the chaos surrounding the domestic game or risk losing players to English clubs, Cardiff Blues flyhalf Gareth Anscombe has said.

Gareth Anscombe of Wales kicks at goal


Anscombe, whose 20-point haul helped Wales beat Ireland and win the Six Nations title at the weekend, said turmoil off the field had left a number of Welsh players feeling let down by the authorities.

The WRU and Welsh regions have held restructuring talks that could represent the most radical change to regional rugby in Wales since its inception in 2003, including a proposed merger between Scarlets and Ospreys.

"Players have been let down a fair bit certainly when you look at the results we have provided them. We all want to play for Wales - there's no doubt about that - but players need to be treated well and we deserve to be," Anscombe said.

Players based outside Wales with fewer than 60 caps are not eligible for national selection.

Anscombe, who has attracted interest from English clubs Bath and Harlequins, would no longer be available for selection by Wales if he moves to England next season.

Unfair advantage for Team Sky

Team Sky's takeover by chemical giant Ineos has raised questions over financial fair play in cycling as the new outfit is expected to increase its monetary advantage over rival teams.

Thomas Geraint of Team Sky during stage 21 of 2018 Tour de France

Thomas Geraint of Team Sky during stage 21 of 2018 Tour de France Photo: © Photo News / Panoramic 2018

The British team's budget of about 66 million dollars is likely to be significantly increased when Britain's richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe takes over in May, sources told Reuters.

"I understand there can be concerns that the team with the biggest budget can have all the best riders and it affects the uncertainty of sport," International Cycling Union (UCI) president David Lappartient said.

Team Sky won six of the last seven editions of the Tour de France with three different riders - Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas - and in 22-year-old Colombian Egan Bernal, the recent winner of Paris-Nice, they have the hottest prospect in stage races.

Most of Sky's biggest rivals operate on a budget of 25-35 million dollars.