Ireland stun Black Ferns

New Zealand’s Black Ferns were punished for too many mistakes, beaten for the first time in a women’s Rugby World Cup since 1991 as Ireland hung on for an upset 17-14 win in Paris.

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Kiwi coach Brian Evans says the result is disappointing, but Ireland deserved the win.

“They outmuscled us, they forced errors, but huge congratulations to them for that,” he said afterwards.

“Our mistake level was so high, we couldn’t execute our game-plan and our ball retention was bad, but we must stay positive.

“I have a lot of respect for the Irish team and coaches. They are top people.”

The Black Ferns have won the last four tournaments and had not lost a World Cup game since their semi-final defeat to the United States 23 years ago.

They began reasonably well and led 8-0 courtesy of a Kelly Brazier penalty and Selica Winiata’s try but Heather O’Brien’s score, which was then converted by Niamh Briggs, cut the deficit to just one point at the break.

Brazier’s second penalty extended New Zealand’s lead but when Alison Miller went over with Briggs again adding the extras, it was the Irish who led by three.

Another Brazier penalty levelled the scores but Briggs slotted one of her own with 10 minutes remaining and Ireland held on for a famous victory.

The result moved Ireland to the top of Pool B ahead of their final group match against Kazakhstan on Saturday, with New Zealand up against the United States on the same day.

Even if the Black Ferns beat the US, their progression into the semi-finals depends on results in the final round of pool matches.

The pool winner from each group goes through to the play-offs, with the fourth spot taken by the second-placed team with the most competition points.

Saint-Andre not fussed by Blanco role

France head coach Philippe Saint-Andre says he’s not worried by the fact French Federation vice-president Serge Blanco has decided to take a keener interest in the affairs of the national side.

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Blanco, a flamboyant fullback and one of France’s greatest players with 38 tries in 93 Test appearances, will, Saint-Andre says, lighten his workload especially when it comes to rugby politics and dealing with the clubs.

“It won’t be too bad a thing to have someone who can take off my hands certain things like the convention (an agreement between the league and the federation over the availability of international players which Blanco negotiated in 2013), and relations with the clubs,” said Saint-Andre.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the women’s rugby World Cup at the French national rugby centre in Marcoussis.

Blanco, who is also president of relegated Top 14 side Biarritz, announced over a week ago in French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique that he would be taking a far keener and closer interest in the national team which has lost five and won three of its matches this year following a similarly disappointing campaign in 2013.

“I am there to help the people we choose either as players or coaches,” he said.

Saint-Andre, who was a popular choice when he replaced Marc Lievremont after the French lost 8-7 to New Zealand in the 2011 World Cup final, along with his assistants Yannick Bru and Patrice Lagisquet met with Blanco briefly at Marcoussis on Tuesday.

“Serge had a board meeting here, and I was working with Yannick and Patrice, so we had a coffee together and then he had to leave,” said Saint-Andre.

Saint-Andre, who established his coaching credentials at two English clubs Sale and Gloucester and also in France with Bourgoin and Toulon, said he had often had to deal with the political side because nobody else was willing to.

However, the 47-year-old former France wing and captain – who has constantly used the Top 14 clubs as scapegoats for his poor record complaining so many foreigners play instead of French talent making his selection more problematic – refused to elaborate on what exact role Blanco would play.

Bubba not concerned over recent lapse in form

The left-hander piled up seven top-10s in 10 events, two of them runner-up spots, and it seemed that an emotional player known for audacious shot-making and up-and-down form was heading for a season of extraordinary consistency.

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Though Watson has since failed to maintain that red-hot momentum, missing the cut at the U.S. Open and also at last month’s British Open, he was in confident mood on Tuesday about his prospects for this week’s PGA Championship.

“I feel like my game’s all right,” the Masters champion told reporters at Valhalla Golf Club while preparing for Thursday’s opening round. “I tweaked a few things here and there, and hopefully I’ll be ready this week.

“This is my first time being here in Valhalla. The course is in great shape. It’s a good layout, a good test of golf. Obviously long irons are going to be key around this place, there’s a lot of long holes.

“There are about five tee shots for me that are very difficult that I’ve got to really pay attention on. You’re going to wear out your long irons. My six and five-iron are going to get a lot of work this week.”

Asked if he was at all disappointed with how his PGA Tour form had tailed off over the past few months, Watson replied: “No, I’m not disappointed. I haven’t played many rounds of golf

“I’ve been taking it easy with the family and stuff, cutting back with the schedule. It’s one of those things where you don’t see yourself as that far off.

“You see yourself as really close. So I’ve just got to keep going and try to make putts or try to make less putts, however you want to word it.”

Watson, who withstood an early challenge from fellow American Jordan Spieth to clinch the Masters for a second time in three years at Augusta National in April, felt the Valhalla layout was softer than organisers would have liked on Tuesday.

“Right now, every shot is kind of receptive,” said the 35-year-old from Florida, who is known for his pink-shafted driver with a pink head. “It’s not backing up off the green. Obviously a higher shot is going to be a lot better for you.

“A big hitter, a big hitter that’s hitting his driver well can play this golf course. The rough’s not too demanding. It’s really demanding around the greens.

“A lot of crazy chips are going to happen this week, a lot of pitch shots that are going to be different because the ball is sitting up around the green, so it’s hard to decide what shots you want to hit.”

Watson, a six-times winner on the PGA Tour, will tee off in Thursday’s opening round along with U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer of Germany and Northern Irish world number one Rory McIlroy, who clinched last month’s British Open.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue)

US general killed in Kabul attack

The Pentagon has confirmed that a US general was killed in an attack in Afghanistan – the highest-ranking American fatality since the 9/11 attacks.

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The US Defense Department also identified the assailant, who was wearing a uniform, as an Afghan soldier and said that he was killed after he opened fire on coalition forces, his supposed allies, on Tuesday.

“I can… confirm among the casualties was an American general officer who was killed,” the Pentagon spokesman, Rear Admiral John Kirby, told reporters.

Kirby said that he would not identify the general further pending next of kin.

The general was the highest-ranking US officer killed since the September 11, 2001 attacks when Lieutenant General Timothy Joseph Maude was killed by a hijacked airliner that crashed into the Pentagon.

No US general has been killed in combat since the Vietnam War, with top-ranking service members spared during the Iraq war and, until now, the Afghanistan conflict.

President Barack Obama plans to withdraw most troops from Afghanistan later this year.

Kirby said that “up to 15” people were wounded in the attack but that they were not all Americans.

Separately, the German army said that one of its generals was wounded.

The Pentagon spokesman said that the assailant was killed, although he did not have more detail on how the incident unfolded.

“We believe that the assailant was an Afghan soldier,” Kirby said.

Kirby described the attack as an isolated incident.

“I’ve seen no indication there’s a degradation of trust between coalition members and their Afghan counterparts,” Kirby said.

“As terrible as today is – and it is a terrible day, a terrible tragedy – we haven’t seen in the course of the last year or so… a ‘spate’ of these insider threat attacks.”

Mata says United believe in the Van Gaal way

United wrapped up their U.

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S. tour with a 3-1 win over rivals Liverpool in the International Champions Cup final in Miami on Monday and after defeating Real Madrid on Saturday the mood among Van Gaal’s squad is buoyant ahead of their Aug. 16 Premier League opener against Swansea.

“It was a good tour for us, a good two or three weeks trying to get ready physically and mentally while trying to adapt to the new system,” Mata told ManUtd广西桑拿,. “Obviously, we didn’t lose a game which is good for the confidence but the most important thing is that we believe in what we are doing.

United played in front of huge crowds in the United States with 86,000 watching them beat L.A. Galaxy in California and a massive 109,000 in Michigan for a 3-1 win over Real Madrid as the club proved once again their global popularity.

“We take home a lot of love from the supporters. It was amazing from the first day until the last – in every stadium, in every training camp and in every hotel. I think (the highlights were) the support and obviously the new ideas that the manager has brought,” said Mata.

Van Gaal’s 3-5-2 formation has seen Mata, who scored a well-taken goal against Liverpool, employed in an advanced playmaker role and that appears to suit him well.

“I feel good and I feel comfortable in this position. I have to do what the manager wants me to do, both offensively and defensively, and I am trying to do that. It can be a good position for me to try to perform to my best,” he said.

After a disappointing seventh place finish in the Premier League last year under David Moyes, United will be expected to be back in the title hunt and, at the very least, ensure a return to the Champions League with a top four finish.

“We are all excited to start the new season,” said Mata, “Everybody wants to do better, we want to fight for the trophies and this club deserves that. We will try our best.”

Forward Wayne Rooney, who also scored against Liverpool, gave his backing to Van Gaal’s approach.

“He is a tough but fair manager. He has been great since he has come in and he has given us all a different way of looking at football that we didn’t have before. So it’s been great for us and hopefully that will continue,” he said.

(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Frank Pingue)