Premier League Darts schedule and TV times: Michael Smith, Michael van Gerwen, Gerwyn Price and Peter Wright star

Darts’ biggest party is back in 2023 as the Premier League roadshow heads to a venue near you!; the SSE Arena in Belfast plays host as the first of 17 individual venues from Thursday February 2 with the Play-Offs returning to The O2 in London on Thursday May 25

Last Updated: 30/01/23 4:50pm


Michael van Gerwen and Michael Smith will clash on Premier League opening night in Belfast

Full schedule and TV times as Michael Smith takes Michael van Gerwen in a repeat of the World Darts Championship final on the opening night of this year’s Premier League.

This year’s tournament will see eight of the sport’s top stars contesting 16 mini-events during the season, with each league night comprising quarter-finals, semi-finals and a final over the best-of-11 legs.

The Premier League season gets under way at The SSE Arena in Belfast, with the opening night’s quarter-finals headlined by a blockbuster showdown between Smith and reigning champion Van Gerwen.

Van Gerwen was one dart away from a nine-darter before Smith nailed the hold grail in the World Championship final

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Van Gerwen was one dart away from a nine-darter before Smith nailed the hold grail in the World Championship final

Van Gerwen was one dart away from a nine-darter before Smith nailed the hold grail in the World Championship final

Dan Dawson looks at the growing rivalry between MVG and Smith

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Dan Dawson looks at the growing rivalry between MVG and Smith

Dan Dawson looks at the growing rivalry between MVG and Smith

This will be the pair’s first meeting since their Alexandra Palace epic on January 3, which saw Smith land a history-making nine-darter en route to clinching his maiden World Championship crown.

Two-time world champion Peter Wright plays newly-crowned Masters champion Chris Dobey, who celebrated his first televised triumph in Milton Keynes on Sunday night.

Gerwyn Price hit TWO nine-dart finishes in one night in Belfast

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Gerwyn Price hit TWO nine-dart finishes in one night in Belfast

Gerwyn Price hit TWO nine-dart finishes in one night in Belfast

Dimitri Van den Bergh marks his Premier League return with a clash against 2021 champion Jonny Clayton, while 2020 runner-up Nathan Aspinall plays Gerwyn Price – who famously landed two nine-darters in Belfast last year.

Night Two will take place at Cardiff’s International Arena on February 9, with Price pitted against Dobey on his homecoming, while Clayton makes his return to home soil with a tie against Smith.

Wright will headline Night Three at Glasgow’s OVO Hydro when he takes on Van den Bergh, with six-time champion Van Gerwen up against Aspinall in a repeat of October’s World Grand Prix final.

Michael Smith will be looking for Premier League success having claimed World Championship glory earlier this year

Michael Smith will be looking for Premier League success having claimed World Championship glory earlier this year

The sport’s biggest roadshow rolls into Dublin’s 3Arena on Thursday February 23, as Smith and Wright lock horns in a repeat of the 2022 World Championship final.

Night Five in Exeter will then see a repeat of two televised finals from 2022, with Van Gerwen meeting Price in a repeat of July’s World Matchplay decider, before Aspinall and Smith battle it out in a rematch of November’s Grand Slam showpiece.

Quarter-final fixtures for 14 of the 16 league phase nights are listed below in draw bracket order, with fixtures for Night Eight and Night 16 to be determined by league standings heading into each night.

All matches will be played over a best-of-11 legs format, with a £10,000 bonus on offer to each night’s winner.

Watch every nine-darter that has been hit in the Premier League

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Watch every nine-darter that has been hit in the Premier League

Watch every nine-darter that has been hit in the Premier League

2023 Premier League Fixtures

Night One – Thursday February 2
The SSE Arena, Belfast
Quarter-Finals

Dimitri Van den Bergh vs Jonny Clayton
Michael Smith vs Michael van Gerwen
Peter Wright vs Chris Dobey
Nathan Aspinall vs Gerwyn Price

Live Premier League Darts

February 2, 2023, 7:00pm

Live on Sky Sports Arena HD

Night Two – Thursday February 9
Cardiff International Arena
Quarter-Finals

Michael Smith vs Jonny Clayton
Nathan Aspinall vs Peter Wright
Gerwyn Price vs Chris Dobey
Michael van Gerwen vs Dimitri Van den Bergh

Live Premier League Darts

February 9, 2023, 7:00pm

Live on Sky Sports Arena HD

Night Three – Thursday February 16
OVO Hydro, Glasgow
Quarter-Finals

Nathan Aspinall vs Michael van Gerwen
Peter Wright vs Dimitri Van den Bergh
Gerwyn Price vs Michael Smith
Jonny Clayton vs Chris Dobey

Night Four – Thursday February 23
3Arena, Dublin
Quarter-Finals

Michael Smith vs Peter Wright
Gerwyn Price vs Dimitri Van den Bergh
Jonny Clayton vs Nathan Aspinall
Chris Dobey vs Michael van Gerwen

Night Five – Thursday March 2
Westpoint Exeter
Quarter-Finals

Michael van Gerwen vs Gerwyn Price
Nathan Aspinall vs Michael Smith
Dimitri Van den Bergh vs Chris Dobey
Jonny Clayton vs Peter Wright

Night Six – Thursday March 9
M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool
Quarter-Finals

Gerwyn Price vs Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen vs Jonny Clayton
Chris Dobey vs Nathan Aspinall
Michael Smith vs Dimitri Van den Bergh

Night Seven – Thursday March 16
Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham
Quarter-Finals

Dimitri Van den Bergh vs Nathan Aspinall
Jonny Clayton vs Gerwyn Price
Peter Wright vs Michael van Gerwen
Chris Dobey vs Michael Smith

Night Eight – Thursday March 23
Utilita Arena, Newcastle
Quarter-Finals

Fixtures based on league table following Night Seven

Night Nine – Thursday March 30
Mercedes-Benz Arena, Berlin
Quarter-Finals

Dimitri Van den Bergh vs Michael Smith
Nathan Aspinall vs Chris Dobey
Jonny Clayton vs Michael van Gerwen
Peter Wright vs Gerwyn Price

Night Ten – Thursday April 6
Utilita Arena, Birmingham
Quarter-Finals

Michael van Gerwen vs Chris Dobey
Nathan Aspinall vs Jonny Clayton
Dimitri Van den Bergh vs Gerwyn Price
Peter Wright vs Michael Smith

Night 11 – Thursday April 13
The Brighton Centre
Quarter-Finals

Dimitri Van den Bergh vs Michael van Gerwen
Chris Dobey vs Gerwyn Price
Peter Wright vs Nathan Aspinall
Jonny Clayton vs Michael Smith

Night 12 – Thursday April 20
Rotterdam Ahoy
Quarter-Finals

Chris Dobey vs Jonny Clayton
Michael Smith vs Gerwyn Price
Dimitri Van den Bergh vs Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen vs Nathan Aspinall

Night 13 – Thursday April 27
First Direct Arena, Leeds
Quarter-Finals

Michael Smith vs Chris Dobey
Michael van Gerwen vs Peter Wright
Gerwyn Price vs Jonny Clayton
Nathan Aspinall vs Dimitri Van den Bergh

Night 14 – Thursday May 4
AO Arena, Manchester
Quarter-Finals

Peter Wright vs Jonny Clayton
Chris Dobey vs Dimitri Van den Bergh
Michael Smith vs Nathan Aspinall
Gerwyn Price vs Michael van Gerwen

Night 15 – Thursday May 11
Utilita Arena, Sheffield
Quarter-Finals

Gerwyn Price vs Nathan Aspinall
Chris Dobey vs Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen vs Michael Smith
Jonny Clayton vs Dimitri Van den Bergh

Night 16 – Thursday May 18
P&J Live, Aberdeen
Quarter-Finals

Fixtures based on league table following Night 15

Play-Offs – Thursday May 25
The O2, London

Semi-Finals and Final



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Rugby Football Union apologises for ‘anger and concern’ over radical tackle-height change


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Sky Sports News’ James Cole visits Grasshoppers RFC to see what they make of the RFU’s decision to reduce the legal tackle height across community rugby from next season

Sky Sports News’ James Cole visits Grasshoppers RFC to see what they make of the RFU’s decision to reduce the legal tackle height across community rugby from next season

The Rugby Football Union will hold forums and workshops after it apologised for the “anger and concern” caused by its decision to lower the tackle height from next season.

It was announced last week tackling above the waist will be banned in community rugby in a move unanimously approved by Rugby Football Union Council members.

The legislation was brought in by the RFU in an attempt to support player welfare, notably reducing head impact exposure and will apply across the community game – clubs, schools, colleges and universities at both age-grade and adult levels – covering National One division and below in the men’s game and Championship One and below in the women’s game.

However, many clubs have been angered at what they see as a lack of consultation.

A group called the Community Club’s Union is trying to force a special general meeting of the RFU and a no-confidence vote in the board and chief executive Bill Sweeney.

The CCU says it has the backing of 278 clubs – many of whom agree with reducing the tackle height to increase safety but would prefer the limit to be set at chest/sternum.

The RFU says it will now begin a “series of forums and workshops with players, coaches, match officials and volunteers, to explain and develop the details of the domestic law variation.”

Ireland boss Andy Farrell says coaching will be crucial after the approval of a reduction in tackle height for the community game in England

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Ireland boss Andy Farrell says coaching will be crucial after the approval of a reduction in tackle height for the community game in England

Ireland boss Andy Farrell says coaching will be crucial after the approval of a reduction in tackle height for the community game in England

In its latest update on tackle height, the RFU said: “The RFU Board, Council and executive staff apologise for the anger and concern that has been created among the rugby community by announcing the decision to lower the tackle height from next season.

“In our desire to act quickly to reduce head impacts and concussions in the community game, which represents 99% of the rugby playing population in England, we have upset many of you who are the champions, volunteers, and ambassadors of our game. We fully acknowledge we got the engagement wrong, and we are truly sorry.

“In making our decision we were aware that France have lowered the tackle height, New Zealand will be doing so and World Rugby supports this approach.

“We, like the French, used the term “waist and below”; this has caused misunderstanding and confusion. We would now like the game to help us define how we describe a lower tackle height to reflect what the research is telling us in a way that is understood by all. Consequently, the risk of head injuries should be reduced if tackling below that optimum height.

“We will now begin a series of forums and workshops with players, coaches, match officials and volunteers, to explain and develop the details of the domestic law variation.

“A large body of scientific evidence* demonstrates the risk of head injury and concussion for players can be reduced by lowering the tackle height to prevent head on head contact. However, we also accept that the rugby community has other concerns that this change may bring and we need to listen, understand and respond to those concerns.

“We will start inviting players, coaches, match officials and volunteers to these forums from early next week, so that we can all work together.”

Johnny Sexton: Most concussions come from knees to the head

Backlash has not only come from the amateur game, with Ireland skipper Johnny Sexton making it clear he very much disagreed with the rule change and rather believed that it may only increase the number of concussions happening in the amateur game.

Ireland's Johnny Sexton says he does not agree with the new reduction in tackle height in the community game in England

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Ireland’s Johnny Sexton says he does not agree with the new reduction in tackle height in the community game in England

Ireland’s Johnny Sexton says he does not agree with the new reduction in tackle height in the community game in England

When asked whether it would make a difference, Sexton said: “Not at all. Definitely not.

“You can get a knee in the head. You can get a hip in the head. Most concussions come from those.

“There was a study done a few years ago and there were a lot of red cards given for high tackles and 100 per cent we need to get them out the game, but none of them resulted in concussions, whereas a lot of them came from knees to the head and hips to the head.

“I am not sure who puts these rules in place but I don’t agree with them, especially for a taller man like myself who likes to tackle hard.”

Youngs: More clarity needed

England and Leicester scrum-half Ben Youngs has stressed the importance of finding the right ‘balance’ between improving safety within rugby and and preserving the best of the sport in order to continue attracting new players and fans.

“I take my son to grassroots rugby on a Sunday, he is only doing tag at the moment,” said Youngs. “I think it is really important that we probably get a little bit more clarity about where the tackle height is.

“I know we are saying hips but I think for junior levels, for youngsters, it is not natural for people to be diving at knees and hips. Naturally they are stood up a bit more so if we could get a bit more shoulders and below, and have a bit more clarity.

“The last thing we want to do is be putting people off the game. Not through injury but actually through the fact they are having to be sent off to the sideline every couple of minutes.

“Or if someone can’t quite get to grasp with being low enough and then they are put off rugby because they never get to play because they are constantly being told off by the ref or the coach.

England’s most capped men’s player Ben Youngs says he is excited for a fresh start under Steve Borthwick as England prepare to face Scotland in the Six Nations next weekend

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England’s most capped men’s player Ben Youngs says he is excited for a fresh start under Steve Borthwick as England prepare to face Scotland in the Six Nations next weekend

England’s most capped men’s player Ben Youngs says he is excited for a fresh start under Steve Borthwick as England prepare to face Scotland in the Six Nations next weekend

“I think we have got to get that balance really right and it is a fine line. I am all for making the game safer, of course I am. I am a father, I want my kids to be safe, but I also want them to play rugby.

“It is a contact sport, it is a great sport. It gives so much in terms of values, teamwork, camaraderie and all those bits and you have got to get the balance.

“Yes, there is a risk to my son running around but also there is a huge amount of benefits of working in a team and doing all that.

“A bit more clarity around it would be great and that isn’t me speaking as a professional rugby player, that is me speaking as a father who takes his son to Sunday rugby.”



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Quad Series 2023: England head coach Jess Thirlby calls for more ‘maturity’ ahead of Netball World Cup

England sealed third in the 2023 Quad Series by beating hosts South Africa in Wednesday’s third-place play-off; the Roses suffered defeats to Australia and New Zealand to miss out on a place in the final

Last Updated: 25/01/23 9:02pm


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England head coach Jess Thirlby says it was important her team ended the Quad Series with a win ahead of the World Cup this summer.

England head coach Jess Thirlby says it was important her team ended the Quad Series with a win ahead of the World Cup this summer.

England head coach Jess Thirlby praised her side for showing “grit” to seal third place in the Quad Series but has admitted more “maturity” is needed ahead of this summer’s Netball World Cup.

The Roses came through a tightly contested third-place play-off against hosts South Africa to claim a first victory in their four matches at the tournament.

England had drawn with South Africa in the opening phase of the tournament, either side of defeats to champions Australia and runners-up New Zealand.

The competition marked the final opportunity for England – and their rivals – to prepare for the World Cup, which begins on July 28 in Cape Town.

“It was scrappy, it wasn’t the prettiest of wins,” Thirlby told Sky Sports. “But I think given the journey through the Quad Series that we’ve had, I thought it was a good way for us to finish and show the grit, in particular, that I think this team have become known for.”

Watch the highlights of the third-placed playoff between England and South Africa in the Netball Quad Series.

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Watch the highlights of the third-placed playoff between England and South Africa in the Netball Quad Series.

Watch the highlights of the third-placed playoff between England and South Africa in the Netball Quad Series.

“It’s been a good journey. We’ve just got to keep finding away to compete with those ranked above us.

“We’re respectful of the likes of New Zealand and Australia, but we’ve actually found ways to get a foothold against them, which is a little bit of new territory for us that we’ve got to grow a maturity around how to finish those games and punish them more.”

The Quad Series quickly followed England’s three-match home contest with Jamaica, against whom Thirlby’s side delivered an impressive 2-1 triumph.

England are ranked third in the word, a place ahead of Jamaica. Australia top the rankings from New Zealand, while South Africa are fifth.

Thirlby reflects on a 'bittersweet' loss against New Zealand but says several players have stood out for selection to play in the netball World Cup this summer.

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Thirlby reflects on a ‘bittersweet’ loss against New Zealand but says several players have stood out for selection to play in the netball World Cup this summer.

Thirlby reflects on a ‘bittersweet’ loss against New Zealand but says several players have stood out for selection to play in the netball World Cup this summer.

“In the couple of weeks after this, there’s going to be so much information for us to take, and it’s important to acknowledge that,” Thirlby said.

“These games are here for a purpose. We put ourselves out in two back-to-back series, it’s a big ask of the group but it’s exactly what we needed ahead of the summer.”

The Quad Series brings to an end a congested period for England, which saw them miss out on a medal at a home Commonwealth Games in the summer, and then beat Uganda at home before losing 3-0 as they toured Australia in October and November.

Highlights of the Netball Quad Series clash between England and New Zealand.

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Highlights of the Netball Quad Series clash between England and New Zealand.

Highlights of the Netball Quad Series clash between England and New Zealand.

“I don’t think I can combat all of the noise and the criticisms, but I will absolutely defend this group to the hilt,” Thirlby said.

“Their cohesion, togetherness and loyalty to one and other is unquestionable. They review wins and losses exactly the same way, which is exactly what any championship winning side that’s on track to try to learn to win more consistently should be doing.

“So this team for me, they’re the most together group that I’ve worked with and it’s an absolute joy to see their team resilience grow over the course of January.”

‘No ignoring Fadoju’ | ‘Wrap her up in cotton wool’

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of England’s performances during the Quad Series was the continued emergence of Funmi Fadoju, who has established herself as a key player ahead of the World Cup.

Having made her senior international debut against Uganda in October, the 20-year-old defender looks set to become one of the biggest stars in the sport.

Funmi Fadoju showed off her quick reaction skills with two stunning interceptions against South Africa in the netball Quad Series.

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Funmi Fadoju showed off her quick reaction skills with two stunning interceptions against South Africa in the netball Quad Series.

Funmi Fadoju showed off her quick reaction skills with two stunning interceptions against South Africa in the netball Quad Series.

Her brilliance was on show against South Africa as a series of turnovers helped England to victory.

“There’s no ignoring Funmi Fadoju,” Thirlby said. “If there’s anyone to give a little bit more credit to, I think it’s Funmi today.

“She really picks her moments, with such maturity, to sense that intuition when in the game we need it the most.

“I just think her contribution was excellent, but those around her really allow her to flourish.”

Fadoju reflects on England's win over South Africa in the Quad Series third place playoff and praises teammate Jade Clarke on her 200th cap for England.

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Fadoju reflects on England’s win over South Africa in the Quad Series third place playoff and praises teammate Jade Clarke on her 200th cap for England.

Fadoju reflects on England’s win over South Africa in the Quad Series third place playoff and praises teammate Jade Clarke on her 200th cap for England.

Former England player Pamela Cookey agreed with Thirlby’s assessment that the Roses have found the ideal setup to allow Fadoju to thrive.

“This was the defensive team that we know and love,” Cookey said on Sky Sports.

“That support that Fadoju had from Geva (Mentor) at the back allows her to go and play out the front – she had Jade (Clarke) at centre and Layla (Guscoth) at wing defence.

“That combination is safe, it’s tried, it’s tested and we’ve seen them get so much ball, so once you put that on there, she can then fly.”

How can England prepare for the World Cup? Tamsin Greenway and Pamela Cookey discuss ahead of England and South Africa in the semi-final in the Quad series.

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How can England prepare for the World Cup? Tamsin Greenway and Pamela Cookey discuss ahead of England and South Africa in the semi-final in the Quad series.

How can England prepare for the World Cup? Tamsin Greenway and Pamela Cookey discuss ahead of England and South Africa in the semi-final in the Quad series.

Former Roses player Tamsin Greenaway was also wowed by Fadoju’s performance, but expressed concern over England’s deficiencies in attack.

“Defensively, they were brilliant,” Fadoju said. “I can’t fault it all through the court, they are doing such a good job.

“But attack was static at times, the highest quarter was a 13-goal quarter. Even if that last quarter where Funmi got us about seven balls, we still only put 13 on the board.

“We’re going to have to look it and adjust. I think playing the strongest line-up just helps you get a good run.

“Defensively brilliant, and just wrap Funmi in cotton wool (until the World Cup).”



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Six Nations 2023 Championship in focus: England under new head coach Steve Borthwick


A new era dawns for England under Steve Borthwick. Will it get off to a flying start?

England head into the 2023 Six Nations under new head coach Steve Borthwick seeking big improvements on the last two years.

In each of the last two Six Nations campaigns, England have lost three from five fixtures, finishing fifth in 2021 and third – but well off the top two of France and Ireland – in 2022.

England’s poor form, stagnant attack and undisciplined defence continued into the autumn, where they suffered defeats by Argentina and South Africa on home soil, as well as a draw vs New Zealand from a game they were totally outplayed in.

The consequence saw Eddie Jones given the boot, and in came Leicester Tigers head coach Borthwick, who has just these five Six Nations clashes as competitive fixtures before the Rugby World Cup in France in September.

Here, Sky Sports takes a closer look at how England are shaping up ahead of that opening match against Scotland in the Calcutta Cup at Twickenham…

Fixtures

  • Scotland – Twickenham – Saturday, February 4 – 4.45pm (GMT)
  • Italy – Twickenham – Sunday, February 12 – 3pm (GMT)
  • Wales – Principality Stadium – Saturday, February 25 – 4.45pm (GMT)
  • France – Twickenham – Saturday, March 11 – 4.45pm (GMT)
  • Ireland – Aviva Stadium – Saturday, March 18 – 5pm (GMT)

What’s changed?

A lot. The main change has come right at the top, with Borthwick replacing Jones – the man he worked alongside with Japan and England for eight years between 2012-2020 – as head coach.

Other coaching changes have seen rugby league legend Kevin Sinfield join as defence coach, having worked with Borthwick at Leicester.

England head coach Borthwick discusses the importance of making every minute count in his new role

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England head coach Borthwick discusses the importance of making every minute count in his new role

England head coach Borthwick discusses the importance of making every minute count in his new role

The former Leicester Tigers coaching duo of Borthwick and Kevin Sinfield, Premiership champions last season, are now at the England helm

The former Leicester Tigers coaching duo of Borthwick and Kevin Sinfield, Premiership champions last season, are now at the England helm

South African Matt Proudfoot has departed as scrum coach, while Australian Brett Hodgson – rugby league coach with Hull FC until 2022 – departed too having never been involved at a Test after replacing predecessor Anthony Seibold as defence coach after the latter left for NRL side Manly Sea Eagles.

Training coordinator Danny Kerry was another to depart, while it was also confirmed Harlequins attack coach Nick Evans will join the England set-up. Previous attack coach Martin Gleeson was then also announced as a departure.

In playing terms, Owen Farrell has retained the captaincy, beating off Courtney Lawes and Ellis Genge, in what Borthwick termed “a straightforward” decision.

Borthwick called Farrell a 'fantastic leader' and said it was a 'straightforward' decision to keep him as captain

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Borthwick called Farrell a ‘fantastic leader’ and said it was a ‘straightforward’ decision to keep him as captain

Borthwick called Farrell a ‘fantastic leader’ and said it was a ‘straightforward’ decision to keep him as captain

Squad-wise, there is a return for 35-year-old Leicester tighthead Dan Cole after three years away, while established names like No 8 Billy Vunipola and wings Jonny May and Jack Nowell have been left out.

Five uncapped players are included in fly-half Fin Smith, wingers Ollie Hassell-Collins and Cadan Murley and hookers George McGuigan and Jack Walker.

Back-rows Ben Earl, Ben Curry and Alex Dombrandt, second-row Nick Isiekwe, centres Dan Kelly and Joe Marchant, and back-three duo Max Malins and Elliot Daly received recalls from Borthwick.

Sky Sports News' James Cole analyses Borthwick's selection decisions within his first Six Nations squad as England head coach

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Sky Sports News’ James Cole analyses Borthwick’s selection decisions within his first Six Nations squad as England head coach

Sky Sports News’ James Cole analyses Borthwick’s selection decisions within his first Six Nations squad as England head coach

What’s hot?

From Borthwick’s perspective, having skipper Farrell available despite his citing for a high tackle earlier this month (more on that below) is a big plus.

And like any sporting group, there does often seem to be a bounce or lift in performance once there is a change to the coaching group. There is a tangible sense that will occur with England.

Borthwick has arrived as a breath of fresh air after seven years of Eddie Jones. Will we see a new-coach bounce from England?

Borthwick has arrived as a breath of fresh air after seven years of Eddie Jones. Will we see a new-coach bounce from England?

England fans are believing again, the coaches are saying the right things, and the players are likely to respond in kind.

Sinfield’s presence as defence coach is a huge positive. An enormously influential figure, he is likely to have a huge impact.

England's new defence coach Sinfield has backed Borthwick and said his team will only look forward and not back

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England’s new defence coach Sinfield has backed Borthwick and said his team will only look forward and not back

England’s new defence coach Sinfield has backed Borthwick and said his team will only look forward and not back

England also have a lot of talented players – something that was never in question under Jones, but rather a frustrating facet to their failures under the Aussie.

Lastly, England’s start to the championship in 2023 could well be read as kind.

Scotland at Twickenham, Italy at Twickenham and a struggling Wales in Cardiff is how the first three rounds read. England may well be welcoming France to the home of English rugby in Round 4 on course for a Grand Slam…and momentum in the Six Nations is very often crucial.

What’s not?

The whole situation regarding Farrell’s availability for England’s Six Nations opener vs Scotland sits in distinctly murky waters.

Skipper Owen Farrell's availability for the start of the Six Nations, despite a citing, has come in unusual fashion

Skipper Owen Farrell’s availability for the start of the Six Nations, despite a citing, has come in unusual fashion

Farrell was cited for a high tackle made on Gloucester’s Jack Clement in Saracens’ Premiership clash on January 6 – a tackle he avoided a red card for, in a match he would go on to strike the winning drop-goal in.

The punishment marked the third time Farrell has been punished for a high tackle. He was banned for five weeks for a tackle on Wasps player Charlie Atkinson in 2020, with that sanction reduced from 10 weeks on account of off-field mitigating factors.

Back in 2016, Farrell was suspended for two weeks for an illegal challenge on Wasps’ Dan Robson during a European Cup semi-final.

James Cole explains why Farrell has not received a longer ban after being cited for a high tackle while playing for Saracens against Gloucester

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James Cole explains why Farrell has not received a longer ban after being cited for a high tackle while playing for Saracens against Gloucester

James Cole explains why Farrell has not received a longer ban after being cited for a high tackle while playing for Saracens against Gloucester

Farrell also avoided a citing in November 2018 for a shoulder charge high to the chest of South Africa centre Andre Esterhuizen while playing for England, as the offence was deemed worthy of a yellow card and not red. Farrell avoided a sin-binning for the incident during the Test as England held on to win by a point, 12-11.

As a repeat offender, Farrell was ineligible for the 50 per cent reduction this time around. And yet, the disciplinary panel reduced his six-week suspension by two weeks for mitigation such as conduct at the hearing. This despite Farrell arguing the offence was not a red card tackle.

Farrell was also offered World Rugby’s Coaching Intervention Programme, otherwise known as ‘tackle school’, to reduce his ban from four weeks to three weeks, availing of a 50 per cent reduction in any case.

Farrell's ban was cut in half, despite him being ineligible as a repeat offender, and one of the three fixtures his suspension covers is a Premiership game he would not have played anyway

Farrell’s ban was cut in half, despite him being ineligible as a repeat offender, and one of the three fixtures his suspension covers is a Premiership game he would not have played anyway

Upon the suspension being confirmed, the RFU then listed Saracens’ Premiership clash with Leicester on February 19, and not England’s opening Six Nations clash against Scotland on February 4, as the potential fourth fixture he would be banned for should he not attend tackle school, in a bizarre move, but explained away in terms that England’s squad had yet to be announced.

Where the real controversy arose, however, is that the third fixture listed in Farrell’s suspension – Saracens vs Bristol in the Premiership on January 28, a week before the Six Nations kicks off – is a game in which England internationals would not be taking part in anyway, as they would already be in Test camp.

Farrell will continue to lead England as captain, with Borthwick giving the Saracens man his full approval

Farrell will continue to lead England as captain, with Borthwick giving the Saracens man his full approval

To get around this, Borthwick and England confirmed the suspended Farrell will be released to Saracens for a game he was never going to play in, in order for his ban to count in the fixture, before returning to England camp and leading the side as captain vs Scotland – a game he is then consequently free to play in. It’s not a great look.

Further negatives are the hamstring injury to back-row Tom Curry, who is a big miss, and the fact that playmaking fly-half Marcus Smith only returned from an ankle injury picked up in November on January 15.

Lawes, Elliot Daly, Jamie George and Mako Vunipola all also suffered injuries of varying degrees a week before the players meet in camp.

Tom Curry's absence due to a hamstring injury is a big blow

Tom Curry’s absence due to a hamstring injury is a big blow

England’s form before now has also seen their attack stunted, discipline poor, and set-piece beaten. There is a lot of work to do.

Key player

Maro Itoje: If there is one player Borthwick – a former second row – is likely to build up, work closely alongside and place importance upon, it is Itoje.

Marcus Smith has been of huge importance to England, but his ankle injury and Farrell being named as captain means he is unlikely to be the focus, and as such Itoje is more likely to be a key man.

Maro Itoje, supremely talented but regularly indisciplined, is likely to be a central figure under Borthwick

Maro Itoje, supremely talented but regularly indisciplined, is likely to be a central figure under Borthwick

Supremely talented, and massively powerful, if Borthwick and Sinfield can rid Itoje of his maddening indiscipline, the squad as a whole are likely to improve in terms of their relationships with referees.

Whenever England experienced high points under Jones, Itoje was at the heart of it. He has all the tools to become a magnificent performer again.

Championship record

Six Nations since 2000: Seven-time winners (2000, 2001, 2003, 2011, 2016, 2017, 2020).

Overall: 29 outright wins (1883, 1884, 1892, 1910, 1913, 1914, 1921, 1923, 1924, 1928, 1930, 1934, 1937, 1953, 1957, 1958, 1963, 1980, 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2011, 2016, 2017, 2020).

England 36-man squad for the 2023 Six Nations

Forwards (20): Ollie Chessum, Dan Cole, Ben Curry, Alex Dombrandt, Ben Earl, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Joe Heyes, Jonny Hill, Nick Isiekwe, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, George McGuigan, Bevan Rodd, Sam Simmonds, Kyle Sinckler, Mako Vunipola, Jack Walker, Jack Willis.

Backs (16): Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell (c), Tommy Freeman, Ollie Hassell-Collins, Dan Kelly, Max Malins, Joe Marchant, Alex Mitchell, Cadan Murley, Henry Slade, Fin Smith, Marcus Smith, Freddie Steward, Manu Tuilagi, Jack van Poortvliet, Ben Youngs.



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Heir to cricket and rugby excellence, New Zealand golfer Ryan Fox blazes his own trail | CNN




CNN
— 

Pursuing a career in professional sports is hard. Following in your family’s footsteps is hard.

Now imagine doing both at the same time.

For Ryan Fox, shouldering the legacy of two generations of New Zealand sporting greats was a daily reality long before he rose to become one of the world’s best golfers.

First, there was Merv Wallace. To Fox, he was grandad, but to the rest of the country, he was a renowned former national team cricketer and later, coach.

Though a prolific batting career in Auckland was disrupted at international level by the World War II, with Wallace playing only 13 Test matches, his legacy in the sport was still notable. When he died aged 91 in 2008, one obituary described him as “one of the best batsmen New Zealand has ever produced.”

Then came Wallace’s son-in-law Grant Fox, a name that needs no introduction to anyone familiar with rugby.

Winner of the inaugural World Cup in 1987, the legendary flyhalf played 56 times for the All Blacks, carving a reputation as one of the greatest goal-kickers in the game before retiring as the country’s all-time leading test points scorer.

Both Wallace and Fox were individually honored during Queen Elizabeth’s reign for services to their sports.

If that wasn’t enough family sporting heritage, Wallace’s brother and son – George and Gregory – both played first-class cricket for Auckland.

Grant Fox kicks during the All Blacks tour of Britain in 1989.

Now, there is Grant’s son, Ryan. It’s a tough family act to follow, but with a world No.26 rank and three DP World Tour wins to his name, the 35-year-old is fronting up quite nicely.

“It’s pretty cool to be the third generation of my family to represent New Zealand,” Fox told CNN’s The Jazzy Golfer. “I don’t think there’d be too many other families that could say that.

“I’m sure there’s families that have done it over the same sport, but different sports is quite cool.”

Growing up, cricket and rugby seemed natural choices to Fox, and he played both well into his school years.

He didn’t even up pick up a club until he was 10-years-old. In true family fashion, it was to play a round in Auckland among sporting royalty; dad Grant plus cricketing trio Ian Botham, Martin Crowe, and Mark Nicholas. Soon after, Wallace crafted his grandson his first clubs from wood, and Fox was hooked.

Weekends and school holidays would be consumed by golf, and when the teenager was passing up on parties to hit the fairways, he realized he was in deep.

By the time he was at Auckland University starting a law degree, golf was rapidly overtaking studies, as well as other sports.

Men’s cricket didn’t offer the same enjoyment, and as for rugby, “too many concussions.”

“Looking back on it, golf was the sport I enjoyed the most,” Fox said.

“I’d always wanted to be a professional sportsman, it just took a fair while to figure out what sport it was going to be.”

Fox lines up a putt at the 2008 New Zealand Amateur Championship.

Not playing his first tournament until 18, Fox was a late bloomer, but made up for lost time emphatically. Two years later he made the national squad, and as a 24-year-old in 2011 he clinched the New Zealand Stroke Play, with none other than Dad as his caddy. Within a year, he had turned professional.

Having started on the PGA Tour of Australasia and the Challenge Tour, by 2019, Fox was a regular face on the European Tour, floating around the world No. 100 mark. Yet after his maiden Tour win at the World Super 6 Perth in February, that rank had slid steadily to No. 211 by early 2022.

The travel implications of New Zealand’s strict response to the pandemic saw Fox’s tournament appearances drop, with the birth of his daughter in December 2020 having a similar impact on his playing mindset.

“When you add that in with all the travel restrictions and not knowing whether I could get back home to see them [family], I’d have left home not knowing when I’d see them again,” Fox said.

“I think that makes it pretty hard to play good golf on the course with all that stuff in the back of your mind.”

Grant Fox caddied for his son at various tournaments during his early career.

To say Fox has rebounded since is, even in his own words, an understatement.

Having sealed a dominant five-stroke victory at the Ras Al Khaimah Classic in February, he secured seven top-10 finishes before claiming more silverware at the renowned Alfred Dunhill Links Championship earlier this month.

His roughly €2,621,000 ($2,627,000) earnings across 22 European Tour events this season mark an almost two-fold increase on purses gained across the previous three campaigns.

Fox celebrates victory at the Ras Al Khaimah Classic in the United Arab Emirates.

Only Rory McIlroy and Matt Fitzpatrick sit above him on the European Tour rankings and at world No. 26, he is the sole New Zealand golfer inside the top 250. All in all, Fox believes he is comfortably playing the best golf of his career.

“When you take the off the golf course stuff out of it, it certainly makes it easier to play well and I think that’s been the biggest thing this year,” he said.

“I’ve had patches where I’ve contended in tournaments and felt like I’ve competed with the best players in the world, but it certainly hasn’t been consistent.

“I’ve felt a lot more comfortable out there, a lot more comfortable in contention and felt week in week out that the golf game’s never that far away which has certainly been a nice place to be.”

Fox poses with the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship trophy with mother Adele Fox, father Grant Fox, wife Anneke Fox and their daughter Isabel Fox on the Swilcan Bridge at St. Andrews.

Given his form, a few eyebrows were raised when Fox didn’t receive a Presidents Cup call-up from International Team captain Trevor Immelman ahead of the September tournament.

The New Zealander has since spoken of his disappointment at missing out, though he is determined to use the hurt as motivation in pursuit of other goals – above all, stamping his ticket to The Masters at Augusta in April.

“I ticked off the goal to get in the top 50, but the big one would be to stay in the top 50 for the end of the year and get that Masters invite for next year. Another win would certainly help in securing that,” he said.

“Obviously there’s a lot of good players and still a lot of golf to come, but hopefully the good form from this year continues into that.”



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