24 Sep 2019

Today's sports news: what you need to know

12:45 pm on 24 September 2019

Latest - Argentina forward Lionel Messi beat Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk and five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo to win the best FIFA player of the year award for a record sixth time.

Lionel Messi.

Lionel Messi Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Messi, who won the Spanish La Liga title with Barcelona last season as well as the European golden boot, last won the award in 2015.

His win is somewhat of a surprise with Van Dijk, a centre back who transformed Liverpool's defence on the way to the Champions League crown, having won the European best player award.

Messi's win at the La Scala Opera house in Milan also marks a return to the dominance of the Argentine and Ronaldo, who between them have won the award all but once since 2007.

US co-captain Megan Rapinoe won the women's top award after helping her country to the World Cup title this year.

She beat fellow co-captain Alex Morgan and England's Lucy Bronze.

Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp and the USA women's mentor Jill Ellis were named coaches of the year.


All Blacks back on top of rankings

The All Blacks have returned to the top of the world rankings after their opening World Cup victory over South Africa ended Ireland's two-week stay at the summit.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 17:  Kieran Read of the All Blacks performs the Haka with team mates during The Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the Australian Wallabies at Eden Park on August 17, 2019 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo: POOL)

All Blacks Photo: POOL / Photosport NZ

The All Blacks' decade-long reign at the world's number one ranked team came to an end last month, first losing the mantle to 2019 Six Nations champions Wales and then to Ireland.

According to the intricacies of how the standings are calculated, New Zealand would have returned to the summit with a win over their Rugby Championship rivals, regardless of how Ireland did against Scotland, World Rugby said.

In the event, the world champions beat the Springboks 23-13 while Ireland cruised past the Scots 27-3.

South Africa's defeat pushed them down to fifth, below Wales who started their World Cup campaign with a win over Georgia.

France's dramatic victory over Argentina pushed them ahead of Scotland into seventh spot.

The top ten are New Zealand, Ireland, England, Wales, South Africa, Australia, France, Scotland, Japan and Fiji.


O'Mahony and Aki set to play Japan

Ireland flanker Peter O'Mahony and centre Bundee Aki could be available for Saturday's World Cup Pool A game with Japan after both passed the second of three head injury assessment tests.

O'Mahony and Aki exited Sunday's impressive opening 27-3 victory over main pool rivals Scotland in the first half, after failing their initial HIA, but coach Joe Schmidt said they were symptom-free after the game.

However, under rugby's concussion laws, neither player can train fully for six days after the knocks to the head, even if they pass the final assessment later on Monday.

The IRFU added that flyhalf Johnny Sexton, who relinquished kicking duties in the first half, did take a blow to the thigh but his move to the bench in the second half was for tactical reasons rather than injury related.


Smith cops fine for slap

Melbourne captain Cameron Smith has copped the $1350 fine for slapping after pleading guilty to the grade-one charge.

Cameron Smith

Cameron Smith Photo: Photosport

Smith was controversially binned for his slap on Parramatta hooker Reed Mahoney in the Storm's semi-final win on Saturday.

Smith wasn't the only player poorer from week two of the NRL finals, with South Sydney duo Dane Gagai and Cody Walker also lighter in the wallet.

Both Rabbitohs players will pay $1150 for their grade-one contrary conduct charges from their semifinal win over Manly.

Walker was binned for slapping Sea Eagles forward Jack Gosiewski, while Gagai also landed in hot water for the same 29th-minute incident.

All three of Smith, Gagai and Walker are free to play in their respective preliminary finals this weekend.

Meanwhile Sam Burgess has escaped with a $10,000 suspended fine after the South Sydney skipper issued a public apology for describing the NRL judiciary as a "kangaroo court".


Wallabies expect Hodge to be cleared

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika. Photo: Photosport

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika believes winger Reece Hodge will be cleared of having carried out a dangerous tackle in Australia's opening World Cup match when he faces a judicial panel on Wednesday.

The incident was one of the weekend's most controversial, in the context of World Rugby's campaign to rid the game of high tackles and the head knocks that often go with them.

Hodge was cited on Sunday for a dangerous tackle on Peceli Yato in the previous day's opening Pool D match in Sapporo.

The collision left the Fijian flanker with concussion and prevented him from continuing the match.

Cheika said that after the briefing given to coaches by World Rugby referees bosses and disciplinary chiefs in Tokyo last week, he had every confidence Hodge would be clear to play Wales on Sunday.


Russia to miss World Athletics Champs

Russia will miss the World Athletics Championships for the second time in a row after the sport's governing body extended the ban against country's federation.

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The IAAF confirmed the decision four days before the start of the competition in Qatar after hearing a report from its Task Force overseeing Russia's reinstatement efforts.

The World Anti-Doping Agency revealed that historical data supplied by the country's anti-doping authority contained "inconsistencies", also putting Russia's participation at the Tokyo Olympics under threat.

Russia's athletics federation was suspended in November 2015 after a report commissioned by WADA found evidence of widespread doping in the sport.

Russian authorities have denied the existence of a state-sponsored doping programme in the country but have accepted that some senior officials were involved in providing banned substances to athletes, interfering with anti- doping procedures and covering up positive tests.


Flanagan set for return with Dragons

Shane Flanagan has talked up his chances of returning to the NRL as St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor's deputy in 2020.

Flanagan was quickly linked to the Dragons after the NRL confirmed last week that the former Cronulla coach would be eligible for registration as an assistant for the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

Flanagan was banned indefinitely in December last year after he was found to have broken the terms of his 2014 supplements scandal ban by communicating with Cronulla officials.

But the 2016 Sharks premiership coach was told he would be eligible for registration from 18 December after speaking with NRL CEO Todd Greenberg last Friday.

Flanagan - who coached the Sharks for 101 wins in 184 matches - is tipped to be named as a Dragons assistant to McGregor who is set to remain as head mentor following Phil Gould's post-season club review.


Warne banned from driving

Shane Warne

Shane Warne Photo: Photosport

Former Australian cricketer Shane Warne has been banned from driving for 12 months after admitting a speeding charge in England.

The ex-spin bowler admitted breaking a 40mph limit in a hired Jaguar car in Kensington last year.

The 50-year-old, who was not in court for the hearing, was clocked at 47mph at 6.29am on a slip road on 23 August.

Warne, widely regarded as one of the best bowlers to play the game, had 15 penalty points on his licence at the time for five speeding offences.

He was also ordered to pay a total of $3500 to the court.