State of the nation’s ahead of RWC19

The dust has established on the November internationals and the time for reflection from coaches has initiated 10 months out from next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan. Followers of rugby can book Rugby World Cup Final Tickets online.

State of the nation’s ahead of RWC19
State of the nation’s ahead of RWC19

NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand’s 10-try demolition of Italy in the final game of their end-of-season tour will have done nothing to ease concerns about the two previous matches, where they squeaked past England and lost to Ireland.

All Blacks endure the standard in test rugby and, despite losses to South Africa and Ireland this year, the odds on them winning a third straight RWC are unlikely to stray much above the 2-1 mark over.

IRELAND

Six Nations Grand Slam, first test series conquest in Australia for almost 40 years and November’s fully merited falling of the All Blacks made 2018 the year Ireland became frank RWC contenders.

They may have needed world player of the year Johnny Sexton’s stoppage-time drop goal in Paris to kick start a run of 11 wins in 12, but what followed included commanding victories in London, Melbourne, and Sydney.

ENGLAND

Eddie Jones declined to get carried away when England was racking up 24 wins from his first 25 games in care and did not dread when they lost five in a row this year.

State of the nation’s ahead of RWC19
State of the nation’s ahead of RWC19

Through France and Argentina struggling for form, England’s pool is starting to look a bit less stimulating and, on the back of six successive wins over Australia, two against South Africa and a TMO-inspired loss New Zealand that could so easily have been a victory, they should travel to Japan fearing nobody.

WALES

Wales completed a clean sweep of their November tests for the first time and end the year with nine test wins in a row and Coach Warren Gatland’s World Cup plans firmly on track.

The first win in 14 efforts over ailing Australia was the acme but Wales will also be pleased with the way they managed the home wins over Scotland and South Africa.

Their only sufferers in 2018 came away to Ireland and England, who they are due to see after the 2019 Six Nations in the build-up to the RWC for what will be huge tests of their willingness for Japan.

SOUTH AFRICA

The Springboks may have finished 2018 with a 50 percent win ratio but there is considerably more optimism around the team than a year ago and the real belief they can be World Cup contenders.

The team has repaid to traditional Bok rugby, powerful forwards who convey the ball with ferocity and a strong set-piece stand from which to unleash their backs.

AUSTRALIA

The poorest test season in 60 years has capped a depressing spell for Australian rugby on and off the pitch since the Wallabies lost to New Zealand in the last World Cup final.

In November, the first defeat in 14 tests against Wales, a three-try win over a limited Italy side and a sixth successive loss to England have left the twice world champs sixth in the rankings, a place which if anything flatters them.

The Australians have enough quality through the likes of Israel Folau, David Pocock and Will Genia to always pose a threat, but a consistent 80-minute performance against quality opposition has looked increasingly beyond them.

SCOTLAND

Scotland has proved to be a match for anybody at Murrayfield but a worrying inability to win consistently away from home will be giving coach Gregor Townsend sleepless nights ahead of the World Cup.

State of the nation’s ahead of RWC19
State of the nation’s ahead of RWC19

Home victories over England, France, and Argentina showed their best qualities, but heavy defeats in Wales (twice) and Ireland exposed how much work there still is to do.

The coach trusts he has a team to compete with anybody in the Six Nations, and therefore the RWC too, but results don’t fully reproduce that yet as Scotland still lack consistency.

FRANCE

France will be happy to see the back of 2018 in which they won three of their 11 tests and suffered a first-ever loss to Fiji, a home defeat described as “shameful” by center Mathieu Bastareaud.

The side must rebuild confidence ahead of the World Cup, though there are other obvious areas of concern.

The French conceded an average of 26 points per game this year, though three tests were away at world champions New Zealand.

ARGENTINA

Argentina healthier from a poor start to the year to best their best Rugby Championship recital before losing three matches in a row against European opposition.

State of the nation’s ahead of RWC19
State of the nation’s ahead of RWC19

The big query for Coach Mario Ledesma and the Argentina Rugby Union is whether to persevere with the rule of choosing mostly home-based players for the international side.

JAPAN

Japan has sustained to develop a free-spirited style under coach Jamie Joseph which means they should at least entertain home provision next year. Joseph has constantly stressed the need to iron out the inconsistencies that have plagued Japan in recent internationals.

However, the Brave Blossoms’ attacking system, combined with basic tackling errors, leaves them vulnerable in defense and this will be the focus for Joseph as Japan look to reach the quarter-finals for the first time.

ITALY

Italy bore another hot year which highlighted their diminishing status in RWC and revives questions about whether they add value to the Six Nations.

That points to a limited attack and porous defense, with little time to fix things before the World Cup.

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USA Eagles name training team in preparation for the RWC19

With just 100 days to go until RWC Japan 2019, the USA Men’s Eagles have named their initial 50-man training squad which includes 40 players who will assemble next week in preparation for the Pacific Nations Cup. Fans who want to watch the live action of Rugby can book Rugby World Cup Final Tickets online.

USA Eagles name training team in preparation for the RWC19
USA Eagles name training team in preparation for the RWC19

The preliminary training squad comprises a pool of players who will be considered for the final 31-man roster traveling to Japan in mid-September. Over the next several months, Head Coach Gary Gold and staff will use the upcoming camp in Colorado and Pacific Nations Cup (PNC) to make final selections.

Of the 50 players chosen, three are uncapped including Houston SaberCats’ Jamason Fa’anana Shultz, Seattle Seawolves’ Riekert Hattingh and Rugby United New York’s Ross Deacon.

Similarly, three players from the USA Men’s Sevens who recently qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are named, including Eagles Sevens Captain Madison Hughes, Martin Iosefo and Ben Pinkelman.

General Manager of the Men’s National Team 15s Dave Hodges said: We’re really looking forward to working with this group of men over the next several months as our staff makes final preparations for Rugby World Cup. As Japan 2019 is set to be one of the most exciting and successful rugby events to do date, we as a program are heavily focused on improving upon our past World Cup performances, as a representation of the growth of rugby in the United States.

“While the weeks and months to follow will be filled with tireless work, I’m confident that our coaches and staff will prepare these men not only for the Rugby World Cup but four crucial matchups ahead of that in the Pacific Nations Cup and our final test match with Canada in Vancouver.”

The U.S. Men’s National Team 15s will assemble next week in Colorado as the final stretch to Rugby World Cup begins. Beginning with the Pacific Nations Cup, the USA will face rival-Canada at Infinity Park in Glendale on July 27, followed by Samoa and Japan in Fiji on August 3 and 10, respectively.

One final test match between the U.S. and Canada will take place at B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver on September 7. The Eagles will then head to Japan to face England, France, Argentina, and Tonga in Pool C at Rugby World Cup 2019.

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Pacific Island double-header in Auckland in lead-up to RWC

A pair of Rugby World Cup warm-up clashes among Pacific Island nations and a New Zealand Heartland XV will be hosted at Eden Park on August 31. Fans are excited to get their Rugby World Cup Final Tickets online to see live performances of their favorite team and players.

On an occasion billed as the ‘Pasifika Challenge II: The Road to Japan’, Fiji will take on Tonga while Samoa will face the Heartland XV in back-to-back games in Auckland in preparation for this year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan, which kicks-off three weeks later.

Pacific Island double-header in Auckland in lead-up to RWC
Pacific Island double-header in Auckland in lead-up to RWC

The series of matches follows on from the inaugural Pasifika Challenge contest in 2017, which was used as a warm-up event for that year’s British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand.

That year, an under-strength Wales side defeated Tonga 24-6, while the All Blacks thrashed Samoa 78-0.

This year’s follow-up edition adds to the World Cup preparation of all three Pacific Island nations heading to the tournament in September.

It was announced last month that Fiji and the All Blacks will face off in a two-match series to be played in Suva and Rotorua in July, while Samoa and Tonga have one-off matches against the Wallabies in Sydney and the All Blacks in Hamilton a week after the Pasifika Challenge.

Additionally, all three teams will compete against Japan, the United States, and Canada in the Pacific Nations Cup in the weeks preceding their clash at Eden Park.

The event also has the potential to be rewarding off the field for the financially-embattled Pacific nations, according to RNZ, as event organizers Left Field Live, an Australian-based sports rights, and entertainment company, have added a monetary incentive based on attendance figures, which will be split evenly by the Fijian, Samoan and Tongan rugby unions.

Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development, a branch of the Auckland Council, is involved with hosting the matches, and there is hope that fans will turn out in big numbers in a similar fashion to the way in which they have supported the likes of Mate Ma’a Tonga in rugby league in recent years.

The Pasifika Challenge II will be played during the second round of New Zealand’s amateur provincial competition, the Heartland Championship, meaning that some of the league’s best players will be unavailable for their provinces for that weekend.

It will also be played simultaneously with the Mitre 10 Cup that round, and although no teams within the Auckland region are playing at home that day, Auckland will be playing against Waikato in Hamilton at 7:35pm, meaning a scheduling clash is likely between the competitions.

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England’s back-three options for the RWC

The 13-month injury-enforced absence of Anthony Watson finally came to an end last Friday, with the British & Irish Lion fighting to place himself back into contention for one of the predicted five outside back slots in England’s 31-man World Cup squad.

Once considered a nailed-on Test starter, Watson now faces the challenge of re-establishing himself as absolute certainty in Eddie Jones’s Japanese touring party post-injury – and he is not alone in this undertaking. Fans have bought their Rugby World Cup Tickets and hoping for their favorite players to perform well in the tournament.

Jack Nowell

Exeter Chiefs’ first Lion, Nowell is one of our three outside backs guaranteed a trip to Japan. Capable at outside-center, wing, and full-back, the Cornishman packs a punch in attack and, crucially, mixes in with the best breakdown causes. Jones’s throwaway statement that Nowell could play at openside for England highlights just how highly the Australian boss rates his skill-set.

England’s back-three options for the RWC
England’s back-three options for the RWC

Elliot Daly

Whether you scoff at the idea of Daly at full-back or, like me, sit in awe of his all-around skill-set, the fact that he’s started the last 12 England games in the No 15 jersey indicates that Jones will take the soon-to-be Saracen to the World Cup.

While the basics of defensive full-back play may have eluded him during his first few starts at 15, Daly has transformed England’s attack. Distributing in the last offensive wave and utilizing his pace as an individual threat, England’s attack will flounder without Daly.

England’s back-three options for the RWC
England’s back-three options for the RWC

Jonny May

Arguably England’s most improved player over the past half-decade, May has evolved from a simple speed merchant with a penchant for running in the wrong direction to England’s, and Leicester’s, most prolific try-scorer.

But May’s innate ability to find the white line like a heat-seeking missile is not the only reason he is guaranteed a squad spot. The 29-year-old’s strength under the high ball is an immensely attractive trait, with Ben Youngs’s box-kicking game fundamental to any and all English success under Jones. May is the final outside back Jones trusts implicitly.

England’s back-three options for the RWC
England’s back-three options for the RWC

Joe Cokanasiga

He has been a revelation for England this season after bursting onto the scene last November. Cokanasiga is the only England winger in possession of a truly unique selling point: X-factor. The Bath winger’s size (6ft 4in and 19-plus stone), power, ability to offload like a Fijian Sevens star and sheer athleticism offers Jones a genuine game-breaker. Although an attractive asset, it is not necessarily the World Cup material Jones desires.

England’s back-three options for the RWC
England’s back-three options for the RWC

For all his many attributes, Cokanasiga does not tick the box of full-back play Jones holds so dear. Going forward, his positional play and scrutiny under the high ball will mean the difference between watching the World Cup on his sofa and sampling sushi in Japan.

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Five key match-ups in the Brumbies v Waratahs RWC audition

The NSW Waratahs host the Brumbies in a blockbuster Super Rugby game that will double as an audition for Wallabies acnes at the RWC on Saturday. Sports fanatics from all over the world can now grab Rugby World Cup Tickets online to enjoy the most exciting rugby matches.

Five key match-ups in the Brumbies v Waratahs RWC audition
Five key match-ups in the Brumbies v Waratahs RWC audition

There are five key matchups in the penultimate round clash that could go a long way to deciding who starts for Australia in Japan later this year.

Constricted head props Sekope Kepu (Waratahs) and Allan Alaalatoa kick effects off in the front row, while second rowers’ locks Rory Arnold and Rob Simmons will latch horns behind them.

Arguably the most stimulating battle is at No.10; with inspiring Brumbies skipper Christian Lealiifano facing under fire Waratahs playmaker Bernard Foley.

That competition will have a big effect on the next, with red hot Brumbies outside center Tevita Kuridrani watching to run through veteran Adam Ashley Cooper.

Finally, it’s the encounter of the fullbacks viewing to fill the annulled of exiled star Israel Folau. The showdown sorts the hugely talented Kurtley Beale against Brumbies young gun Tom Banks.

The 10 rugby players have 588 Test caps among them but half will be demoted to the bench or even drop outside the game day 23.

Brumbies coach Dan McKellar supposed he was looking forward to the head to head fights and believes Lealiifano is the form five-eighth in Super Rugby.

“I don’t think Michael Cheika will be picking his Wallabies 10 off the back of Saturday night but all of these games certainly play a role,” McKellar said.

It will be as close to Test game footy as you can get at Super Rugby level, so you just get a meter of how players grip that situation.

Christian has played in more of these matches than most and he will be very comfortable and calm and will know he’s just got to do his job well.

“Christian has been the form 10 of the competition, consistently.  I don’t think he’ll be thinking a whole lot about Bernard.”

McKellar also sponsored his fullback.

“Banksy and Beale isn’t a bad one, he’s playing well Tommy, he gets a lot of raps when he’s scoring tries, but for me, the strength of his game this year is his ability to clean up kicks in the backfield,” McKellar said.

His cautious work is a real area he’s better as well and we all know he can attack.

“I think Kurtley (Beale) is more dangerous at 15 (than 10 or 12), it allows him to sit in behind the play and chime in and spot opportunities when they present.”

The Brumbies are leading the Australian session after winning six of their past seven matches, and can all but secure a home round by ending NSW’s period at Bankwest Stadium.

“There’s a lot on the line for us and them, and (for) individuals, so she’ll be on,” McKellar said.

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Rugby World Cup – Sunwolves biting the hand that no longer feeds them

In early March, the Sunwolves did their first ever win on New Zealand soil when they conquered the Chiefs. Less than a month later, they had broken another bend by toppling the Waratahs in Sydney. That win represented their first in Australia.  Sports fanatics from all over the world can now grab Rugby World Cup Tickets online to enjoy the most exciting rugby matches.

Rugby World Cup - Sunwolves biting the hand that no longer feeds them
Rugby World Cup – Sunwolves biting the hand that no longer feeds them

In the almost two months since the Sunwolves have failed to pick up any more victories. The season promised so much for the Tokyo-based side – especially on the back of those two outstanding victories. The return to underwhelming results will ensure that 2019 is written off as just another disappointing year for Sunwolves and Japanese rugby fans. But it gets worse.

Struck from the register

In late March, shortly before the win over the Waratahs, it was announced that the Sunwolves would be cut from Super Rugby from 2021 onward.

Various explanations were given for the culling. Ultimately, the decision seemed to be based on the fact that Super Rugby was becoming a hard-sell as a premier competition when you include a team that wins fewer than 15% of its matches.

Of course, the Sunwolves were first included in Super Rugby as a means of growing the sport in the Asia region. There was little expectation that a Japanese team would be able to compete with franchises from the rest of the SANZAAR region – at least in the short term.

The fact that the Sunwolves have been using so many non-Japanese players in their side has probably contributed to the wider public’s growing disappointment with the team. It’s hard to argue that the Sunwolves are going to boost Japan’s international performance when a significant proportion of the squad is ineligible for the national team.

Whether cutting the Sunwolves was in Super Rugby and Japanese rugby’s best interests or not, it certainly appears that the competition is already facing repercussions from the cull.

The biggest squad has ever seen in Super Rugby

The Sunwolves have brought 68 different players into their squad in 2019. That is an absolutely astronomical figure. When the New Zealand Super Rugby squads were announced back in August, they included 38 players. For contrast, the Sunwolves have used 40 forwards this year.

Of course, injured players have to be replaced in squads – and the Sunwolves haven’t had much luck with injuries. Neither, though, have the Chiefs – but they’ve still only used 46 players. As a matter of fact, it’s not injuries that have led to so many players being named for the Sunwolves – it’s simply due to the Japanese national team’s World Cup development squad.

The lone wolf dies but the pack survives

At various points throughout the season, a number of players have been pulled from the Sunwolves and called into the Wolfpack, as the development team is known. These players, naturally, have required replacing in the Super Rugby squad. Wolfpack players sometimes return to the Sunwolves for certain weeks in the competition, but they’re also often pulled back into the development side later on.

Rugby World Cup - Sunwolves biting the hand that no longer feeds them
Rugby World Cup – Sunwolves biting the hand that no longer feeds them

Effectively, there’s a constant roundabout of players joining and leaving the squad. This, as most would imagine, would cause significant disruptions in team set-up and planning.

The Sunwolves have looked like a team just coming out of their pre-season for most of the year, and that’s probably partially because the team has struggled to build combinations due to lack of time together. You simply can’t expect a team to regularly perform and improve when there are so many changes in the team environment.

That’s not even taking into consideration the fact that coach Tony Brown has also spent a significant proportion of the year with the Wolfpack. Assistant Scott Hansen was handed the reins from the start of the season until mid-March and has now resumed the role as acting head coach until the end of the season.

Brown only took over as top dog this year after assisting in 2018 and it has already been announced that he will be returning home to the Highlanders in 2020. All these changes have ultimately contributed to the Sunwolves having a very poor season and is an insult to the team as a whole.

Naturally, international rugby is the apex of the sport and some compromised must be made at the lower levels from time to time. In New Zealand, All Black has had to sit out various matches to ensure that they are not over-worked come to the World Cup. Japan, however, has taken this to a whole new level. It’s no wonder Super Rugby is losing its luster when even the Sunwolves are putting out a shadow side each week.

The JRU may argue that they no longer have any obligation to Super Rugby, given their impending eviction, but you also have to question what the Japanese national sides are gaining from their preparations.

Preparing for the best by preying on the worst

Obviously assembling the Wolfpack ensures that the Brave Blossoms have as much preparation and time together before the World Cup as possible, which is a great thing. That being said, one of the best ways to prepare for top-level rugby, surprisingly enough, is to actually be playing top level rugby.

Before the World Cup kicks off, Japan has four international fixtures. First up, they will play Fiji, Tonga, and the United States in the Pacific Nations Cup from late July to early August. Next up they will take on the Springboks in early September in a rematch of their historic match at the last World Cup.

Whilst most national representatives around the world have been warming up for the international season in premier club competitions such as Super Rugby and the Aviva Premiership, many of the Japanese players have had nothing even close to this level of play.

Some players have flitted in and out of the Sunwolves and have managed to turn out for some Super Rugby matches here and there, but when they’re off with the Wolfpack the matches have been of a considerably lower standard.

Cast your eye over the Wolfpack’s opposition this year and make a decision whether you think they or the Sunwolves have had higher caliber matches in 2019: Hurricanes B (twice), Highlanders B, Western Force, and Melbourne Rising (the Rebels’ second team).

National coach Jamie Joseph is obviously a very clever man, but to the outside observer, it’s hard to find an explanation for why Japanese players have had such limited game time in 2019. Michael Leitch has yet to play a match – whether this is due to injury or because he’s being rested for the World Cup is unknown. Both of those possibilities should be equally worrying for Japan supporters.

Japan will need to be at the top of their game to do well at their home World Cup this year. Ireland, Scotland and Samoa all have comfortable win rates against the tournament’s sole Asian representative while Russia won’t be pushovers either. If the Brave Blossoms do go into the tournament undercooked then they could be in for a very torrid time – which won’t do anything for the sport in Japan.

Rugby World Cup - Sunwolves biting the hand that no longer feeds them
Rugby World Cup – Sunwolves biting the hand that no longer feeds them

Already the Sunwolves have received the ax from Super Rugby, severely hampering Japanese player development for the future. For the future of rugby in the country, Japan needs to perform at the World Cup. If the team does look more cohesive and well-drilled than in the past and secures some positive results, then Jamie Joseph should be hailed as a mastermind. If the opposite occurs, then it’s very easy to see where the planning has gone wrong.

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Bairstow and Roy England’s pyrotechnic innovators

There was an intellect of predictability as Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow recurrently rattled Afghanistan’s bowlers to the boundary in England’s final warm-up match before the ICC Cricket World Cup. Cricket followers are waiting for thrilling acts of their favorite players in this year’s contest. You can book Cricket World Cup Final tickets Online.

Bairstow and Roy England’s pyrotechnic innovators
Bairstow and Roy England’s pyrotechnic innovators

This has become the norm for England’s pacesetters, whose no-holds-barred approach has been contributory to their team’s recent success.

Each of Afghanistan’s first three bowlers had their first delivery hit for four as Roy and Bairstow raced to their fifty partnerships in 32 balls, setting the platform for a crushing nine-wicket win secured with 32.3 overs to spare.

Bairstow’s dismissal in the eighth over, when the score was on 77, did nothing to stem the flow, Roy finishing unbeaten on 89 in a 46-ball innings which included 11 fours and four sixes.

“It was like T10 cricket,” said Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib with a wry smile in the post-match press conference. He is not the first skipper to be left scratching his head at how to stop England’s explosive duo.

The brutality and crispness of their stroke play immediately stand out, but it’s the consistency of the Roy-Bairstow combination that is truly exceptional. In 26 ODI innings opening together, their average partnership is 64.72 – the highest of any openers in the history of ODI cricket (minimum 20 innings). They have seven century and seven half-century partnerships at that time.

Eoin Morgan, who has recovered from a dislocated finger and was ready to bat if required against Afghanistan, knows how vital his opening partnership is to England’s chances at the World Cup, not only in terms of the runs they score but the marker they lay down for the rest of the team.

“When Jason is hitting it as well as that, not only does it impose our game on the opposition, it feeds right through the changing room,” said Morgan after the victory over Afghanistan. “The authoritative nature in which he plays builds confidence. And Jonny is the same. The two of them at the top of the order impose themselves on the game when they get an opportunity.”

It’s a formula that is reaping rewards for England, who approach their showpiece opener against South Africa at The Oval on 30 May sitting top of the ODI rankings, making them many people’s favorites to lift the trophy. It’s an unfamiliar position for a team that has only qualified for the knockout rounds once since reaching the final in 1992 and crashed out in the group stage four years ago – but one that Morgan is more than comfortable with.

“It’s a huge compliment to go into the tournament as favorites. The pressure is quite a huge opportunity. I’d much rather be going in as favorites than not even be considered contenders. [Before the last World Cup] we were constantly trying to find a formula that might work in the group stages. We had a lot of meetings and chats about how we could get better. Then practice on Wednesday before the match on Thursday.”

Whatever happens at the main event, it’s been a remarkable four-year journey for Morgan and his side, who in 2015 were criticized for a conservative approach to batting which was out of step with the modern game. Now they’re pushing the boundaries of what is possible, with Roy and Bairstow leading the charge.

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Angelo Mathews said handling pressure will be key for Sri Lanka

The former Sri Lanka skipper, Angelo Mathews, believes that overcoming pressure situations will be his team’s biggest challenge at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. Cricket followers are waiting for thrilling acts of their favorite players in this year’s contest. You can book Cricket World Cup Final tickets Online.

Sri Lanka, the 1996 World Cup champions and two-time runners-up, come into the tournament as the No.9 ranked ODI side. They have won only six of the 22 one-day internationals they have played since January 2018. Adding to ask is that several members of their World Cup squad are returning after a spell on the sidelines. Captain Dimuth Karunaratne himself, until last week, hadn’t played an ODI since the last World Cup.

Angelo Mathews said handling pressure will be key for Sri Lanka
Angelo Mathews said handling pressure will be key for Sri Lanka

The experienced Mathews, however, urged his side to put the past behind them and “enjoy the moment”.  “The biggest challenge will be in overcoming pressure situations,” Matthews told the ICC. “Quite a lot of us have played in England, so we know the conditions. But handling the pressure and the situations well is going to be the challenge.”

Matthews, who had captained Sri Lanka during the last edition of the multi-nation tournament, advised his teammates to embrace the challenge and express themselves with freedom.

“In a big tournament like this, you’ve got to play with freedom and embrace it, rather than putting too much pressure on yourself. Yes, it’s a World Cup, you have to perform well to win it, but at the same time, you have to embrace the challenge. If you put a lot of pressure on yourself, it adds to your burden. But try and embrace it, look at it as an opportunity to perform, to do something better for the country,” he explained.

The 31-year old veteran found himself in and out of Sri Lanka’s ODI squad last year, with concerns about fitness and form. However, he appears to have turned it around, hitting two half-centuries and one ton in his last five 50-over games, including 64 in Sri Lanka’s warm-up defeat against South Africa.

In recent months, Matthews has animatedly celebrated his batting milestones, especially in Tests, his vigor directed at his critics. But the all-rounder insisted he was not at the World Cup to prove a point about his place to anybody.

“Each game is an opportunity to better your own performance. If you do that, the team will benefit,” he said.

Matthews, who is currently Sri Lanka’s second most capped player in ODIs after Lasith Malinga, aims to pass his experience to the younger players in the team.

“My ambition is to perform and be consistent. For that, I have to look after myself in terms of physical fitness and give my absolute best … and make sure I pass on my experience to the younger players so they benefit as well,” he said.

Sri Lanka plays their second warm-up match against Australia on Monday, 27 May, before they begin their campaign against New Zealand in Cardiff on 1 June.

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Shadab khan said Leg Spin crucial to CWC success

In the modern age of uber-talented batsmen relentlessly unfurling scoops, sweeps and slogs to pepper boundaries, there is one rare art that still proves a bowling attack’s great equalizer in one-day international cricket. In previous eras, wrist-spin was the scarcest of skills, that mysterious knack bestowed upon only the gifted few. Come this summer, however, it will be showcased like never before, with 12 operating at the Cricket World Cup and only two teams – Bangladesh and West Indies not unleashing a frontline option. Cricket followers are waiting for thrilling acts of their favorite players in this year’s contest. You can book Cricket World Cup Final tickets Online.

A quality leg-spinner is, and always will be, worth their weight in gold, the craftsman who can bamboozle and stem the tide that increasingly dictates the flow of an international limited-overs encounter. Their ability to operate at multiple stages of an innings, easing the burden on seamers tasked with facing ever-more-skilled batsmen armed only with two new balls that don’t often reach the point of reverse swing, is as critical as it is desperately sought

Shadab khan said Leg Spin crucial to CWC success
Shadab khan said Leg Spin crucial to CWC success

Of those, one of the most exciting is Pakistan’s 20-year-old Shadab Khan, a bundle of tricks and treats who boasts 47 wickets across 34 games at a tick over 29. But just why are he and contemporaries such as England’s Adil Rashid – who has taken more wickets than any bowler since the previous World Cup – so difficult to face?

“Because wrist-spinners spin every way,” Shadab tells the ICC. “If there is spin there it’s very difficult to play if you bowl in good areas, and it’s very difficult to play on any surface. That’s why it’s important. With a leg-spinner, yes you may score runs, but he is a wicket-taker. You’re always looking for wickets so that’s why we’re always in the game.”

With run rates above six an over now almost a formality in most encounters, the task of bowling groups have evolved, from control to conquer. The weight of runs may be impossible to stop, but chipping in with wickets can at least manage the damage.

“It’s a very important role,” says Shadab. “With batting [friendly] tracks the par score will be 300 so, if you take wickets in the middle overs, you have a good chance to win games. On these batting surfaces, we have to take wickets, otherwise, they’ll score 350-plus, so if you take the wickets you can contain them under 300. To contain them under 300 is very good.”

Such is the depth of tweakers in the tournament that there could even be some internal competition among the likes of Shadab and Rashid. For Pakistan’s star, however, merely being on the field is a relief, having missed the five-match one-day international series against England through illness. After coming through 10 overs in the warm-up game versus Afghanistan, he feels fresh and ready to fire.

“I feel better,” he says. “I’m in a very good rhythm. I practiced one or two days and bowled very well yesterday so I’m good.”

His return is a welcome one for Pakistan, who followed up a 4-0 loss to England with a warm-up defeat against Afghanistan. Their final pre-World Cup practice, against Bangladesh, was abandoned due to rain. But Shadab has no doubts a team renowned for being able to deliver on the big stage – as evidenced by their Champions Trophy victory on these shores two years ago – will be ready when the showpiece commences.

“In the England series,” he adds, “every game we were close. In the crunch situation, we didn’t win but we played very good cricket, competitive cricket. Our batting is in good form, our bowling hasn’t performed so far but, if you take one or two wickets, then they can slip up.”

Tasked with delivering those scalps will be their young twirler, the leg-spinning X-factor capable of altering the course of bat-dominated occasions.

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Hashim Amla confident of doing well at the CWC19

Hashim Amla Skilled South Africa batsman has not been at his best recently but is self-assured of turning things around at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England. Cricket followers are waiting for thrilling acts of their favorite players in this year’s contest. You can book Cricket World Cup Final tickets Online.

Hashim Amla confident of doing well at the CWC19
Hashim Amla confident of doing well at the CWC19

Amla’s form has been a substance of some concern for SA ahead of the CWC. Since the start of 2018, he has scored 529 runs from 16 innings at 35.26 – sub-par when likened to his overall career average of 49.74.

But the 36-year-old is sure he can find his best, once the CWC gets happening with SA taking on hosts ENG in the tournament opener on 30 May. Some of that belief stalks from the fact that he has typically done well in ENG, as underlined by his ODI average of 56.73 on these shores.

“I am hungrier than ever before, there is no doubt about that,” said Amla. “I have been blessed to have this shirt for a while but the time off has made me want to come back stronger. This is my third CWC so I know what it is all about.”

“I have a strong record in ENG and I have always enjoyed coming here. We have played ENG recently and had some success against them; I have done well against them too.”

South Africa, although placed No.3 on the ICC ODI Team rankings, hasn’t been widely talked up of as one of the favorites to lift the title this time around. Amla feels the reduced prospects will advantage the team.

“This year, you don’t see the same big names and that is why the focus is not on us but that has some good in it,” he said.

“There has not been much chat about us winning in contrast to the past but I don’t think that played a part in how we have done. At the end of the day, we always gave our best and played to win. The fact there has not been a lot of chat at this CWC means there is less hope but in the side, we think we can do well.”

This year, I am very happy not to be reserved by anyone. We know how good we are so we just want to come and enjoy it. We have some players who will be playing in their last CWC and then some who are feeling it for the first time, so we just want to have some fun.

SA will look to tune things up in their warm-up games against Sri Lanka and West Indies on 24 May and 26 May correspondingly, before their movement gets underway in the tournament opener against ENG at The Oval.

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