Rugby: Daily brain teasers for Japan team, as they face World Cup clash with South Africa

TOKYO (AFP) – Oscar Wilde once said: “Rugby is a good occasion for keeping thirty bullies far from the centre of the city.”

But World Cup hosts Japan are adopting a more cerebral approach to the “hooligan’s game” – using daily brain teasers to get their neurons firing as they plot their giant-killing antics.

In the build-up to this weekend’s quarter-final against two-time world champions South Africa, hooker Atsushi Sakate revealed that Japan coach Jamie Joseph has his players solve puzzles as a way to stimulate the grey matter.

“The coaches write these brain teasers on a whiteboard for us to think about at the gym,” Sakate told reporters on Wednesday (Oct 16).

“It’s supposed to help us use our brains while we’re lifting weights or when we face tough moments in training or even games.”

Japan’s Brave Blossoms have made history after beating Russia, Ireland, Samoa and Scotland to reach the World Cup knockout phase for the first time.

Kenki Fukuoka, who scored Japan’s try in the 19-12 upset over Ireland, plays the piano to relax between games – an activity linked to sharper reflexes and decision-making.

It was perhaps little surprise then that Sakate identified the fleet-footed winger as Japan’s brainiest player when it came to solving the whiteboard problems, with a respectful nod to giant lock Wimpie van der Walt and winger Lomano Lemeki.

“Kenki is the smartest one among us,” he said.

“He always figures out the answers quickest – but Wimpie and Lomano are pretty good at it too. The rest of us are always asking those guys for hints.

“It’s hard to explain the benefits in concrete terms,” added Sakate. “But it helps us keep calm and to communicate clearly and solve problems that arise during matches.”

Japan famously stunned South Africa 34-32 in their opening fixture of the 2015 World Cup under Eddie Jones, who introduced mental coaches to the Brave Blossoms set-up.

The Springboks crushed the Japanese 41-7 in a World Cup warmup last month and will go into Sunday’s quarter-final in Tokyo as favourites to end the host side’s fairy-tale run.

But Tongan-born lock Uwe Helu warned that Japan were a different beast now after sweeping to top spot in Pool A and achieving their target of a place in knockout stages.

“We already reached our goal – no one expected us to make the top eight,” he shrugged.

“No one will look at us to beat South Africa either, but we’ll have a few tricks this weekend – it’s another chance to prove people wrong.”

Utility back Ryohei Yamanaka, whose 2011 World Cup dreams were dashed after he was banned for using a hair-growth cream to try to grow a moustache which contained an illegal substance, insisted Japan could spring another shock.

“Obviously we have no experience of being in a World Cup quarter-final,” he said.

“But we’re ready to go. We have nothing to lose, we just have to go out and give everything we have.”

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Hudson-Odoi gives Chelsea injury scare as winger seen limping with ice pack on his thigh after England U21s win – The Sun

CALLUM HUDSON-ODOI gave Chelsea a fresh injury scare after he was seen with an ice pack on his thigh following England's thrashing of Austria.

The Blues winger scored two as Aidy Boothroyd's Under-21s hammered the visitors 5-1 at Stadium MK.

Hudson-Odoi, 18, scored a well-taken 12th-minute volley to break the deadlock before curling home a lovely second in the 46th minute.

But it was after the game that he will have given Stamford Bridge boss Frank Lampard cause for concern.

A popular Chelsea fan account claimed Hudson-Odoi had an ice pack on his thigh and that he was "walking gingerly".

Hudson-Odoi has only just returned from a serious Achilles injury he suffered in April.

He hit the ground running with a goal against Grimsby on his comeback in the Carabao Cup.

And he has provided assists in each of his three Chelsea outings since.

A tweet from @CarefreeYouth read: "Something people wouldn't have seen unless at the game.

"Callum has a ice pack on his thigh after the game, walking gingerly to have a after-match interview on the pitch.

"Hopefully it's just muscle tightness and nothing more."

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Canada pulls off upset of U.S. men’s national soccer team in Concacaf Nations League play

TORONTO (AP) — The U.S. men’s soccer team lost to Canada for the first time in 34 years, allowing second-half goals to Alphonso Davis and Lucas Cavallini in a 2-0 defeat Tuesday night in the CONCACAF Nations League.

A little over two years after the Americans failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup by losing at Trinidad and Tobago, they saw their 17-match unbeaten streak against their northern neighbor come to an end.

Davies turned in a cross from Scott Arfield. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen put a palm up to block Davies’ shot but the ball still dropped over the line as Canada’s players rushed to join Davies for a raucous celebration.

63′ Goal by Alphonso Davies! @CanadaSoccerEN’s 🇨🇦 has the lead! 1-0 over @ussoccer_mnt 🇺🇸 in Toronto | #FollowTheDream#CNLpic.twitter.com/j4KyfzS9Mm

Cavallini added a 90th-minute for 75th-ranked Canada, taking long pass and beating Steffen to the near post with a low shot.

Goal @CanadaSoccerEN 🇨🇦! Lucas Cavalini scores Canada’s second goal of the night! This is the first win against @ussoccer_mnt 🇺🇸 since 1985! #CNL#FollowTheDreampic.twitter.com/TQjtE2FCfA

Christian Pulisic had a point-blank shot saved by goalkeeper Milan Borjan in the 51st minute.

The 21st-ranked U.S., coming off last week’s opening 7-0 home rout of Cuba, had nine wins and eight draws against Canada since a 2-0 exhibition defeat at Vancouver, British Columbia, in April 1985.

Canada is trying to climb into the top six in the region in FIFA rankings, which will be used next summer to determine the nations in the hexagonal will produce the three direct qualifiers from the North and Central American and Caribbean region for the 2022 World Cup.

The U.S. and Canada meet again Nov. 15 at Orlando, Florida, and the U.S. faces Cuba four days later George Town, Cayman Islands.

American coach Gregg Berhalter made four changes, inserting Steffen, right back DeAndre Yedlin, central defender Aaron Long and midfielder Michael Bradley. Yedlin made his first international appearance since March 26 after recovering from groin surgery.

Defender Ream captained the U.S. for the fourth time.

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Beware of angry Saquon Barkley

There was a different sort of edge to Saquon Barkley when he was forced to talk about something he was disgusted to talk about: missing games because of a high ankle sprain. There was a defiance to his clipped words as he vowed, “I am going to come back as fast as I can and I’m going to be 10 times better.”

Ten times better?

“He’s been special since Day 1, coming back from this he’s champing at the bit a little bit,’’ tight end Evan Engram said. “When you miss time you just miss it so much when you come back it just adds that extra juice. I know he’s going got be the guy he is and be better and he’s gonna have a little edge to him just coming back out there.’’

Sunday against the Cardinals could be the first time anyone around the Giants has seen Angry Saquon. Engram has seen it — off the field.

“We’ve gotten into some arguments about some things before, some debates, I’ve seen him get worked up,’’ Engram said.

One of the most heated arguments? Engram (Ole Miss) avowing the superiority of the SEC and Barkley (Penn State) raising the flag of the Big Ten.

“You go after Big Ten, Penn State, those are some buttons you can press with him,’’ Engram said.

After missing the past three games, Barkley is ready to take his frustration out on someone, anyone.

“That’s good for us,’’ Engram said, “to have him mad at everybody else.’’

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Andy Murray makes European Open second round but could quit if wife Kim gives birth – The Sun

ANDY MURRAY progressed into the European Open second round — but is ready to quit the tournament if his wife gives birth.

The Scot was pushed hard by Belgian Kimmer Coppejans before winning 6-4 7-6 in Antwerp.

Murray chose the event because he can easily catch a Eurostar or flight back to London if Kim suddenly goes into labour, with the couple expecting their third child this month.

Murray, 32, was making a first competitive visit to Belgium since his Davis Cup victory with Great Britain in Ghent in 2015, which ranks as one of his finest career achievements.

And this was his first singles match on European soil in a major event since hip surgery in January.

This time he was up against an opponent he had not played before and who has yet to win in the main draw of a significant event.

Murray, now ranked 243 in the world, had an ideal start, racing into a comfortable 3-0 lead.

The 25-year-old home favourite drew the match level at 3-3 though, helped by three Murray double faults.

Despite that, the Scot had enough firepower to take the first set in 40 minutes. But the second set was a tougher proposition, with Murray forced to cover far more ground.

He had to come from 3-1 down in the tie-break to clinch victory in 1hr 44 min.

The former world No 1 now faces either Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas or Bolivian Hugo Dellien on Thursday.

Cameron Norrie was knocked out in the first round, beaten by Murray’s doubles mate.

The British No 3 lost 7-6 6-4 to Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, who hit 12 aces.

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Peter Wright beats Krzysztof Ratajski to win Players Championship 30

Peter Wright followed up his record-breaking showing on Monday by hammering Krzysztof Ratajski 8-1 to win the final event of the PDC Pro Tour season at Players Championship 30 in Barnsley.

Snakebite had stunned the darting world to beat Ratajski with a record average in a live broadcast match, but went on to lose to eventual winner Brendan Dolan in the semi-final; and while the Scot did not scale the heights on his 125.3 showing on Tuesday, he was too good for the Pole.

Players Championship 30

“It’s been a great couple of days, I beat Krzysztof yesterday and today I wanted to try and beat him 8-0!” Wright said.

“He’s a fantastic player and the past two days have been very tiring for both of us, so I’m happy to win. It was a hard day and to come through and take the title is brilliant.

“I’m looking forward to [the Champions League of Darts]. I lost to Gary [Anderson] in the final last year and he played fantastic. I beat MvG (Michael van Gerwen) in the semis and that took it out of me.

Trophy hunting MvG in the mood for more

“I approached the Champions League last year with a brand new set of darts and got to the final with them, but if I use these ones…

“The group I’m in, earlier in the season you’d say that wasn’t a bad group because Daryl wasn’t playing well, Gezzy wasn’t and Rob wasn’t quite on his game. Now, Rob’s won the World Matchplay, Gezzy’s playing fantastic and Daryl’s not too shabby either. I’m the outsider and I’m not bad!”

Wright, beaten in the second round at the World Grand Prix in Dublin last week, claimed the £10,000 first prize and a third ProTour title of the year while Ratajski, winner of the Gibraltar Darts Trophy a couple of weeks ago suffers his second Players Championship final defeat to go with two titles.

Snakebite averaged over 104 against Ryan Searle, Steve West and Mark McGeeney in progressing to the latter stages. He also overcame Joe Murnan and Arron Monk before taking a 7-2 semi-final win over Danny Noppert.

Wright asserted his dominance immediately in the final, leading 3-0 before legs of 11 and 12 darts moved him five clear of the Polish number one. Ratajski hit back with a 14-darter, but Wright matched that in two of the next three legs to complete the win.

Tuesday’s event was the last ProTour event of 2019, with the field for the Ladbrokes Players Championship Finals and provisional qualifiers for the William Hill World Darts Championship now set to be confirmed.

DRAW BRACKET | Here is the draw for the 2019 @Ladbrokes Players Championship Finals that will take place November 22-24 pic.twitter.com/ij4APxJN6Z

It was another impressive day’s work for Ratajski who averaged almost 107 in a superb 7-5 semi-final win over Gerwyn Price, missing double 18 for a nine-darter in that contest, while he took the deciding leg of his quarter-final with Jermaine Wattimena with a ten-darter.

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Chelsea star N’Golo Kante proves he is football’s most likeable character by hilariously posing in sunglasses during line-up photo – The Sun

N’GOLO KANTE lived up to his tag as football’s most likeable character by innocently posing in sunglasses during a Chelsea line-up photo.

The French ace has long been considered as one of the sport’s good guys, adored by all.

And the midfield workhorse gave fans online another reason to love him after a hilarious video emerged of him donning some sunnies in a Chelsea promo shoot.

One said: "Who is can hate Kante? The cutest guy but wild in football era."

Another said: "Kante is just adorable , really sweet player who just can't have haters , who could possible hate such Amazing player with beautiful soul?"

Despite being Mr Nice Guy on the outside, Chelsea team-mate Olivier Giroud revealed his French colleague is not as innocent as he seems.

Kante built a reputation for being a too competitive after it was suggested during the 2018 World Cup he cheats during card games with his France team-mates.

And speaking to beIN sports in February, Giroud revealed the sneaky midfielder tried to cheat during a game of chess they once played.

The Chelsea striker said: “I do not play cards with him, but we do play chess. It’s not bad at all, it’s good. I felt like I was going to find that (cheating) side.

“When we played, and he saw that he was in trouble, he said, ‘Oh I should not have done it! Go on, Olive, can I can do it again? Be a gentleman!’

“I won it and he said, ‘We do not count that one.’

“So when it suits him – I do not think he’s a cheater, he’s endearing and he’s a competitor, and he does not like losing.”

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Switzerland vs Ireland LIVE: Stream free, TV channel, kick off time and team news for Euro 2020 qualifiers – The Sun

SWIZERLAND face Ireland in a crunch Euro 2020 qualifier.

Mick McCarthy's side sit top of the group and a win here would put them in pole position for next summer's tournament.

  • Kick off at 7.45pm (BST) from Stade de Geneve
  • Referees give game go-ahead after pitch inspection
  • Victory will see Ireland qualify for Euro 2020
  • Watch on Sky Sports Mix and Main Event
  • Live stream on Sky Go and Virgin TV Go or via NowTV
  • Sky Sports Mix available to all Sky and Virgin customers

Switzerland XI: Sommer, Lichtsteiner, Elvedi, Akanji, Schar, Rodriguez, Zakaria, Xhaka, Mehmedi, Embolo, Seferovic

Subs: Mbabu, Lang, Freuler, Steffen, Mvogo, Cumart, Sow, Gavranovic, Drmic, Fernandes, Omlin, Benito

Ireland XI: Randolph, Duffy, Egan, Stevens, Coleman, Whelan, McClean, Hendrick, Browne, Connolly, Collins
Subs: O'Hara, Travers, Doherty, Maguire, Hogan, Robinson, Hourihane, Long, O'Dowda, Judge, Cullen, Williams

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Green Bay Packers' flickering lights add to dramatics in win over Detroit Lions

2019 NFL Season Outlook: Team by team previews, betting odds, and more

The 2019 NFL Season has begun. Take a look at which teams and players could have breakout seasons.

The Green Bay Packers scoring points at Lambeau Field during a primetime game has gotten more dramatic and it really showed Monday night against the Detroit Lions.

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Fans at the stadium were treated to a light show every time the Packers put points on the board. It showed as Aaron Rodgers cut the Lions’ lead to one point with a touchdown during the fourth quarter and the lights went crazy again when Mason Crosby kicked the game-winning field goal.

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The flickering lights had fans who were watching the game a bit bewildered.

The lights initially made their debut in the preseason in a game against the Kansas City Chiefs. The team scored four touchdowns in that game and the lights flickered each time they scored.

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Earlier in the preseason, Packers coach Matt LaFleur introduced a foghorn on the sideline for when the Packers had a third-down play, according to the Green Bay Gazette. However, the fan reaction was negative and the team turned to flickering lights to get the crowd amped up for scoring plays.

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LaFleur said in August he wishes to get the same home-field advantage the Atlanta Falcons have at their stadium. LaFleur, who was an assistant with the team earlier in his career, said that’s the standard.

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Sexual Abuse Cases Test U.S.A. Swimming Leader

For three and a half contentious hours last week in a downtown office in Denver, the chief executive of U.S.A. Swimming tried to distance himself and his organization from a lawsuit involving a California girl who was sexually abused by her club coach.

Tim Hinchey III, who took over the national governing body for swimming in 2017, said that he was not familiar with the details of the case and that he had not met the victim, according to a deposition reviewed by The New York Times. He also said he was not aware of any way of verifying that coaches, parents or children had been trained to deal with sexual abuse issues, even though his organization certifies coaches and oversees the sport at nearly every level.

“We can’t be there, on the ground, to support that type of training every single day,” Hinchey testified.

His testimony is central to the case, which is scheduled to go to trial on Tuesday in Stockton, Calif. The lawsuit will subject U.S.A. Swimming’s governance to intense and possibly discomfiting scrutiny at a time when numerous sexual abuse lawsuits involving Olympic sports — such as gymnastics, figure skating and taekwondo — are winding through the courts. There are also multiple federal investigations of Olympic sports federations, looking into their business practices as well as into accusations of sexual misconduct, according to people with knowledge of the investigations. The investigations were first reported in The Wall Street Journal.

The attorney general in California has also requested files from U.S.A. Swimming on at least a dozen coaches, according to U.S.A. Swimming emails reviewed by The Times.

Robert Allard, a lawyer for the plaintiff in the Stockton case, has represented several other swimmers in abuse lawsuits against coaches and the federation. “I think this case is a microcosm for how U.S.A. Swimming has viewed this issue: ‘I don’t want to deal with this. It’s dirty. It takes up too much of my time. I’d rather focus on other things,’” he said.

If Hinchey continues to be “indifferent and putting his hands to his ears and eyes,” Allard continued, “then he will continue to leave children vulnerable to predators.”

A spokeswoman for U.S.A. Swimming, Isabelle McLemore, declined to comment directly on the case, citing the litigation. But she said: “We cannot stress enough that athletes’ health and safety is U.S.A. Swimming’s No. 1 priority. It has been, it continues to be and we work to improve it every single day. The athletes are the core of everything we do, and we take that very seriously.”

A former swimmer at the University of California, Irvine, Hinchey worked as an executive in professional sports for two decades, including stops in the National Basketball Association, the English Football League and Major League Soccer, before joining U.S.A. Swimming in 2017.

He succeeded Chuck Wielgus, who died that year after a two-decade run during which he was credited with elevating the sport’s profile but also criticized for overlooking allegations of sexual abuse. Hinchey has no choice but to confront the problem. In just the last month, he has been deposed in the California case and another one in North Carolina.

In the Stockton case, a coach named Shunichi Fujishima pleaded guilty this summer to sexually abusing the plaintiff starting in 2017, the year she turned 12.

“Despite red flags of Fujishima’s predatory tendencies,” the civil complaint said, the swimming authorities “turned a blind eye to his activities.” Fujishima was sentenced last week to 12 years in prison, said Gilbert D. Somera, his lawyer.

During the investigation of Fujishima, documents surfaced indicating that senior U.S.A. Swimming officials, Hinchey included, had received copies of written accusations by a parent of another young swimmer against another coach with the same team, the Stockton Swim Club. The parent contended that the coach had committed statutory rape, and had sent sexually inappropriate messages.

In response, U.S.A. Swimming warned the coach in an email written by Susan Woessner, a senior executive, that “you agreed on the phone that your behavior could be perceived as inappropriate and told me that it won’t happen again.”

That coach has not been charged with a crime, and is not listed on the disciplinary database of the U.S. Center for SafeSport, an independent organization dedicated to investigating abuse and funded partly by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

The Stockton lawsuit names Fujishima; the Stockton Swim Club; Pacific Swimming, the regional association; and U.S.A. Swimming as defendants.

Somera, who is also a longtime coach, questioned the plaintiffs’ strategy in that case.

“How is the big body of U.S.A. Swimming responsible for something that happens on a small local level?” he said. “I get it that U.S.A. Swimming has the big, deep pockets, but what makes you believe you can just drop your kids off, without the checks and balances of being a parent?”

With a 100-person central staff and a $40 million annual budget, U.S.A. Swimming has 2,800 local teams and 400,000 members, the vast majority of whom are children. The organization also certifies coaches, who have to complete a series of courses, including one on protecting athletes from abuse, and submit to a background check. And while its main goals are to promote the sport and cultivate competitive success, the U.S.A. Swimming website says that “training our members in abuse prevention and mandatory reporting is just as important as creating policies.”

When handling sexual abuse cases, U.S.A. Swimming has traditionally relied on several senior staff members, led by the general counsel, Lucinda McRoberts, to make group decisions, according to Woessner, who resigned last year and was deposed last week.

The accusations against the unidentified Stockton coach, for instance, were discussed at least a half-dozen times by senior staff members, Woessner said in her deposition.

Referring to the warning to that coach, Woessner testified that if Hinchey “disagreed with this course of action, he could let us know that and/or indicate that he, instead of the warning letter, wanted an investigation to go forward or voice any other concerns that he may have had.”

But a lawyer for U.S.A. Swimming, William S. Kronenberg, said Hinchey had been on the job for only 23 days when that complaint was made, and therefore would have been unlikely to “override the recommendation made by this experienced group of people who had been running this program for seven years.”

Hinchey’s deposition was more combative. Kronenberg objected more than 70 times — or once every three minutes.

In one exasperated exchange related to the unidentified coach, Allard said to Hinchey: “I don’t mean to argue with you, sir, but you have admissions by a coach that he has discussed sexual activity with a minor, told her he needs a cuddle — cuddle partner — and suggested that he had a friend who wants to get laid. What more do you need to know to understand that a more severe punishment should have been imposed than merely the issuance of a warning letter?”

Hinchey responded: “Again, I would go back and rely on the folks that were doing this in the part of the process. I wasn’t part of that case. So I would have to understand what my opportunities are, what my abilities would be, and I need to know what those are to be able to take action.”

David W. Chen is an investigative reporter on the Sports Desk. He was previously an investigative reporter on the Metro desk, the City Hall bureau chief, and worked in Taiwan, Hong Kong and the San Francisco Bay Area before joining The Times in 1995. @davidwchen

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