29 Jan 2020

Today’s sports news: What you need to know

3:43 pm on 29 January 2020

Latest - Six players are in line for their debut matches for the Blues in Friday's Super Rugby opener in Auckland.

English centre Joe Marchant, wing Mark Telea, flanker Tony Lamborn and hooker Kurt Eklund are the uncapped quartet named to start in the clash with the Chiefs at Eden Park.

Southland flanker Tony Lamborn played for the USA at the World Cup and will make his debut for the Blues on Friday.

Southland flanker Tony Lamborn played for the USA at the World Cup and will make his debut for the Blues on Friday. Photo: Photosport

Marchant's inclusion means All Black Rieko Ioane remains on the wing, with a shift to the number 13 jersey on hold for now.

Lamborn will play openside flanker, with rising star Dalton Papalii on the blindside.

Northland's Tom Robinson won the race to partner captain and All Blacks lock Patrick Tuipulotu in the second row.

With All Blacks first-five Beauden Barrett not available until the midway point of the season, Stephen Perofeta starts in the playmaker role.

All Blacks duo Ofa Tu'ungafasi and Karl Tu'inukuafe provide front-row firepower off the bench.

The Blues won last year's corresponding ficture in Auckland 23-8.

Folau joins French club, tennis legends want Margaret off court and Saracens boss steps away.

Former Australia rugby union international Israel Folau has made a switch back to rugby league after joining French club Catalans Dragons on a one-year deal.

Israel Folau

Israel Folau Photo: Photosport

Folau reached a settlement with Rugby Australia in December after his contract was torn up in May for posting a meme on social media that said hell awaits "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers" and other groups.

Dragons chairman Bernard Guasch said they wanted to give Folau a "new opportunity" but said the club do not share the player's religious beliefs.

Folau, who had enjoyed a successful stint in the National Rugby League with Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos before switching codes, was told he would not be allowed a return to NRL.

But the Rugby Football League (RFL) has confirmed it will not prevent the player's registration with the Dragons.

- Reuters

Kobe merchandise sold out

Nike says it's Kobe Bryant merchandise has sold out on its website, following reports the company had pulled products branded by the NBA star who died in a helicopter crash on Monday.

NBA superstar Kobe Bryant.

Photo: AFP

A search for Kobe-branded products on the footwear maker's website took users to an obituary page for the player.

Bryant, 41, was one of nine people killed on Sunday when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed in Calabasas, California.

His 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, also was among those who perished.

- Reuters

Legends want Margaret off court

Tennis greats Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe called for Margaret Court's name to be stripped from the Australian Open's second showcourt in a protest at the stadium that drew a frosty response from tournament organisers.

Court, who holds the all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles, has been heavily criticised for voicing her religious-based opposition to same-sex marriage and transgender athletes.

Former world tennis number one John McEnroe.

Former world tennis number one John McEnroe. Photo: Photosport

Navratilova and McEnroe unfurled a banner emblazoned with "Evonne Goolagong Arena" - a call for the stadium to be renamed after Australia's Aboriginal seven-times Grand Slam champion.

Navratilova, who is openly gay, climbed into a vacant umpire's chair and tried to address a small crowd of spectators lingering after a doubles match, but the microphone was cut off soon after she began speaking.

Governing body Tennis Australia, which organises the year's first Grand Slam, condemned the protest as a breach of protocol.

- Reuters

Zimbabwe on top in Harare

Donald Tiripano and Sikandar Raza took a wicket each as Zimbabwe reduced Sri Lanka to 122 for two in their first innings before bad light brought a premature end to the second day of the final cricket test at the Harare Sports Club.

Zimbabwe had posted 406 all out in their first innings and lead by 284 runs on a wicket that is offering little encouragement to the seamers, but providing turn for the spin bowlers, which is likely to be the key factor in the remainder of the test.

Kusal Mendis (19 not out) and Angelo Mathews (four not out), who crafted an unbeaten double ton in the first test, will resume on the third morning with Zimbabwe the happier of the two camps.

Zimbabwe will feel well ahead in the game if they can pick up key wickets in the first session on Wednesday, having made it into the final hour on the fifth day of the first test at the same venue earlier this month, only to lose by 10 wickets.

- Reuters

Saracens boss steps away

Edward Griffiths has resigned as interim chief executive of English rugby club Saracens with immediate effect.

Saracens interim CEO Edward Griffiths.

Saracens interim CEO Edward Griffiths. Photo: Photosport/WiredPhotos

Griffiths, who was Saracens chief executive from 2008 to 2015, had returned to the London-based club this month following Nigel Wray's departure as chairman.

"This was always going to be a very short-term appointment, and others are well-placed to drive forward the rebuilding of the club," Griffiths said in a statement.

Griffiths' departure follows Premiership Rugby's decision to relegate English and European champions Saracens from the top division for persistent salary cap breaches.

- Reuters

Astros line up new manager

The Houston Astros are finalizing a deal to make Dusty Baker their new manager.

Baker, 70, last managed the Washington Nationals in 2017.

The Astros fired manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow earlier this month in the fallout of Major League Baseball's investigation into electronic sign stealing during the 2017 season.

Baker compiled a 1,863-1,636-1 record in 22 seasons. He guided the San Francisco Giants to the National League pennant in 2002 before losing to the Anaheim Angels in the World Series.

Baker produced 10 90-win campaigns during his tenures with the Giants, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds and Nationals.

Other candidates considered for the post included former big-league managers Brad Ausmus, John Gibbons and Buck Showalter, and Chicago Cubs third-base coach Will Venable.

- Reuters