Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone described the efficiency of Jamal Murray's 50-point haul as "remarkable".

Murray went 21-of-25 from the field and eight-of-10 from three-point range to post 50 points in the Nuggets' 120-103 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.

Malone lauded the guard's performance after the Nuggets improved their record to 16-13.

"I've been around a lot of great players, I've been in the league for a long time, I've seen many 50-point games," he said.

"To do it as efficiently as he did is really remarkable."

Nikola Jokic finished with a triple-double of 16 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the Nuggets.

Murray said the Nuggets' numerous threats made his life easier against the Cavaliers.

"I can shoot a little bit. Once I see a few go down, I just took off from there and kind of mixed it up," he told Altitude TV.

"I was able to get to the rim on them when they tried to change the coverage and we've got a lot of weapons. You can't just flat-out double me when I'm hot, you've got a 'Joker' [Jokic], who's MVP of the season, he'll pick you apart if you're playing four on three especially.

"I feel like it was just a tough task to be able to deal with both of us and the rest of the team as well."

The return of UEFA club competitions this week offered a reminder that there remain significant hoops to jump through before the delayed European Championship kicks off.

Fixtures being switched to alternative venues due to local coronavirus regulations cast the multiple host city model for Euro 2020 in an unhelpful light, with March's international break set to throw up fresh challenges.

Postponing and rearranging a major sporting event due to ongoing and unspeakably tragic global circumstances makes any focus on the footballing concerns within the equation feel somewhat crass.

But all 24 men leading countries into the finals will look at their squads before kick-off and ponder whether the additional 12 months of waiting and haphazard preparation have been a help or a hindrance in terms of form and personnel.

For England manager Gareth Southgate, the delay looks to have been advantageous.

It is highly unlikely the now resurgent John Stones and Luke Shaw would have featured in his defensive plans, much less centre-forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who is now the obvious back-up to captain Harry Kane.

Aston Villa's sparkling creative inspiration Jack Grealish now has England caps to his name, while a crop of richly gifted youngsters are flourishing.

None more so than Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden, who will go head to head when Premier League leaders Manchester City travel to Arsenal on Sunday.

Learning on the job

When Southgate comes to whittle down his final 23, versatility will count as a plus point for those hopeful of making the cut.

Foden and Saka have it in abundance, even if they have edged towards a degree of specialism during stunning runs of individual form during English football's winter months.

A central midfielder on his way through the youth ranks at boyhood club City, Foden's deployment on the left-wing has more or less coincided with the record-breaking 17-match winning run across all competitions that left Pep Guardiola's side 10 points clear at the start of the weekend

Not that it stopped Guardiola starting the 20-year-old as a false nine away to Liverpool, before switching Foden to the right flank for the second half, from where he provided an assist and a goal to inspire a statement 4-1 win.

Then, with Ilkay Gundogan injured, he was back in midfield to open the scoring during Wednesday's 3-1 win over Everton.

"He can play in both positions, he is so young," Guardiola said ahead of the Arsenal game.

"Phil just needs - and for the age [he is], he will get it –  the timing to play inside.

"When you play as a winger you have to play in one tempo, with one timing and one rhythm. When you play in the middle you have to play with another one.

"When he gets this balance, he will be 10 times the extraordinary player that he is right now. It's just a question of time."

Foden has four goals and two assists since the turn of the year in the Premier League, the same figures that can be attributed to Saka since Mikel Arteta selected him on the right wing for the Boxing Day clash against Chelsea.

Saka has featured at left-back, in both wing-back roles and centrally during Arteta's tenure, but he got on the scoresheet in a dominant 3-1 derby victory and has not looked back.

"I see Bukayo evolving, getting better and getting to understand different positions and finally we will fit him in one that gives the best [result]," Arteta said back in July. It appears he has his answer.

Variety is the spice of life

Splitting Saka's 21 Premier League appearances this season into centre, right or left positionally, Opta data shows he creates 1.1 chances per 90 minutes when on the right.

Both of his top-flight assists this term have come when starting on that flank, while an expected assists (xA) scored of 0.23 per 90 indicates a better quality of pass into danger areas when set against stints on the left or through the middle.

The 19-year-old, whose four England caps have come at left wing-back, is similarly effective dribbling on either flank, with 1.4 (left) and 1.5 (right) completed per match.

That figure rises to 3.1 when Saka has played through the middle this season, although two appearances and a solitary – albeit goalscoring – start in a central three versus Sheffield United skew his numbers to a degree.

Guardiola's words this week suggest Foden will find himself back on the flanks at Emirates Stadium, but the City star's feel for a goal comes to the fore when he plays through the middle.

In six Premier League games where he has operated centrally, his goals per game rate of 0.81 per 90 minutes and 2.4 dribbles completed per game are his highest across the three categories.

A shot conversion of 30 per cent also dwarfs his efforts from the left (11 per cent) but 2.5 chances created from open play per 90 in the latter role is perhaps the most significant statistic when it comes to explaining why he has made Leroy Sane's old position his own.

Among Europe's best

Saka and Foden each stack up very well when compared to the leading players under 21 throughout Europe. Indeed, no player within their age range has played more than Saka's 2,317 minutes in all competitions across clubs in the big five leagues.

Foden (2,130) comes in sixth in that regard, while his 11 goals are third behind Moise Kean (16) and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland (25). Saka's six goals overall place him seventh.

Jadon Sancho (11) is the only under-21 player with more assists than Foden (six), while the City player's 44 chances created from open play comes in second to the Dortmund winger – another handy illustration of the ample resources at Southgate's disposal.

How he should deploy them will be relentlessly discussed before June, even if those arguments are now the preserve of Zoom calls rather than crowded pubs.

What increasingly appears beyond debate is that Foden and Saka have established ironclad cases for inclusion, having at best been outside punts a year ago.

Along with their dazzling array of skills, the versatility Guardiola and Arteta have used to their benefit could prove invaluable to Southgate amid the cut and thrust of tournament football.

The Los Angeles Clippers ended the Utah Jazz's winning run in the NBA on Friday, while Joel Embiid and Jamal Murray posted 50-point games.

The Clippers snapped the Jazz's nine-game winning streak with a 116-112 victory in a clash between two NBA championship contenders.

Kawhi Leonard led the way for the Clippers with 29 points as they improved to 22-9.

Donovan Mitchell had a game-high 35 points, but the Jazz's winning run came to an end, with the Western Conference leaders now 24-6 this season.

Embiid's career-high 50 points, 17 rebounds and five assists helped the Philadelphia 76ers past the Chicago Bulls 112-105.

He is the first 76ers player to score 50-plus points since Allen Iverson in 2005.

Murray, meanwhile, was spectacular in the Denver Nuggets' 120-103 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The guard was an incredible 21-of-25 from the field, and eight-of-10 from three-point range, for his 50-point haul.

Murray and Embiid were the first NBA pair with 50-plus points on 65 per cent-plus shooting on the same day since Tom Chambers and Patrick Ewing on March 24, 1990, as per Stats Perform.

Nikola Jokic had a triple-double of 16 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in the Nuggets' win.

 

Giannis leads Bucks, Curry's Warriors fall short

Giannis Antetokounmpo's double-double of 29 points and 19 rebounds saw the Milwaukee Bucks past the Oklahoma City Thunder 98-85.

Stephen Curry had 29 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds, but the Golden State Warriors were beaten by the Orlando Magic 124-120.

Magic star Nikola Vucevic finished with a triple-double of 30 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists.

Despite a double-double from Trae Young (31 points and 11 assists), the Atlanta Hawks went down to the Boston Celtics 121-109.

 

Wayward VanVleet

Fred VanVleet went four-of-20 from the field for just 12 points in 37 minutes, but the Toronto Raptors still got past the Minnesota Timberwolves 86-81.

 

Edwards' incredible dunk

Anthony Edwards was three-of-14 from the field for just seven points in 34 minutes in the Timberwolves' loss, yet the 2020 top draft pick produced a monstrous dunk.

Friday's results

Orlando Magic 124-120 Golden State Warriors
Denver Nuggets 120-103 Cleveland Cavaliers
Boston Celtics 121-109 Atlanta Hawks
Philadelphia 76ers 112-105 Chicago Bulls
Phoenix Suns 132-114 New Orleans Pelicans
Memphis Grizzlies 109-95 Detroit Pistons
Milwaukee Bucks 98-85 Oklahoma City Thunder
Toronto Raptors 86-81 Minnesota Timberwolves
Los Angeles Clippers 116-112 Utah Jazz

 

Heat at Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers (22-8) look to bounce back from their loss to the Brooklyn Nets when they host the Miami Heat (12-17) on Saturday in what is a rematch of last year's NBA Finals.

Novak Djokovic will take the advantage of having an extra day's rest into the Australian Open final against the red-hot Daniil Medvedev.

Djokovic is set to compete in his 28th grand slam final and ninth in Melbourne as the Serbian star eyes an 18th major title on Sunday.

The 33-year-old looked in good form in a semi-final thrashing of Aslan Karatsev on Thursday – 24 hours before Medvedev impressively dispatched of Stefanos Tsitsipas.

For the second year in a row, Djokovic will have an extra day's rest over his opponent ahead of the decider.

Since 2000, players who have had the extra day's rest have won 12 and lost nine of the 21 finals. Djokovic has had the slight advantage four times – and four times he has not – and won all eight finals.

Given he has battled a suspected abdominal injury at this year's tournament, the additional day could be an important factor for Djokovic.

He faces Medvedev, who is on a 20-match winning streak that has included 12 victories over top-10 players.

The latest of those was a 6-4 6-2 7-5 mauling of Tsitsipas in their semi-final on Friday.

A key for Medvedev in that success, in which he endured a third-set blip, was that it came in two hours, nine minutes.

Since 2000, men who won the second semi-final in less than three hours are 6-5 in deciders. That record drops to 3-7 when the last-four clash has exceeded three hours.

Of the three that have managed it after marathon wins, Djokovic achieved it twice – in 2012 and 2015, while Rafael Nadal was the other in 2009, when he beat Roger Federer in the final after winning an epic against Fernando Verdasco.

It leaves the extra day's rest likely to be less of a factor on Sunday as both men chase history.

Entering Australian Open final with an extra day's rest since 2000
2020: Novak Djokovic (won against Dominic Thiem)
2019: Rafael Nadal (lost against Novak Djokovic)
2018: Marin Cilic (lost against Roger Federer)
2017: Roger Federer (won against Rafael Nadal)
2016: Novak Djokovic (won against Andy Murray)
2015: Andy Murray (lost against Novak Djokovic)
2014: Stan Wawrinka (won against Rafael Nadal)
2013: Novak Djokovic (won against Andy Murray)
2012: Rafael Nadal (lost against Novak Djokovic)
2011: Novak Djokovic (won against Andy Murray)
2010: Andy Murray (lost against Roger Federer)
2009: Roger Federer (lost against Rafael Nadal)
2008: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (lost against Novak Djokovic)
2007: Roger Federer (won against Fernando Gonzalez)
2006: Marcos Baghdatis (lost against Roger Federer)
2005: Marat Safin (won against Lleyton Hewitt)
2004: Marat Safin (lost against Roger Federer)
2003: Andre Agassi (won against Rainer Schuttler)
2002: Thomas Johansson (won against Marat Safin)
2001: Andre Agassi (won against Arnaud Clement)
2000: Andre Agassi (won against Yevgeny Kafelnikov)
Wins: 12 Losses: 9

Joel Embiid credited his team-mates after his incredible performance in the Philadelphia 76ers' win over the Chicago Bulls.

Embiid posted a career-high 50 points, to go with 17 rebounds and five assists, in the 76ers' 112-105 victory in the NBA on Friday.

But the All-Star paid tribute to his team-mates after the 76ers improved to 20-10.

"We did it as a team. It wasn't a one-man effort, we all worked together," Embiid told ESPN.

"My team-mates found me, I found them, we shared the ball, we moved the ball and we actually played better defense than we've been playing the past couple of games which makes me happy. It starts on defense and I'm pretty happy about what we did on that end."

Embiid added: "That's my job, that's why they pay me, defensively just being the best defensive player of the year because you know my aspirations are to win that defensive player of the year.

"Offensively doing whatever I'm needed to, if I need to get them open that's what I'm going to do, if I need to score that's what I'm going to do, if I need to set screens that's what's I'm going to do, so we did it as a team."

After back-to-back wins, the 76ers are top of the Eastern Conference.

Sam Burns pulled five strokes clear at the halfway mark of the Genesis Invitational, while Dustin Johnson is among the chasing pack.

Burns, 24, carded a five-under 66 in the second round at Riviera Country Club in California to surge clear at 12 under on Friday.

Seeking a first PGA Tour win, Burns – who held a two-shot overnight lead – produced a bogey-free second round that included five birdies.

With his total of 130, Burns tied the 36-hole record at the tournament with three players – Davis Love III (1992), Mike Weir (2004) and Shigeki Maruyama (2004).

Johnson, the 2017 champion, is in a four-way tie for second at seven under after shooting a 67.

The two-time major winner recovered from a bogey at the second hole to post five birdies and sit alongside Tyler McCumber (68), Jason Kokrak (68) and Joaquin Niemann (68).

Jordan Spieth continued his good form with a second straight 68 seeing him at six under and in a tie for sixth.

Coming off back-to-back top-five finishes, Spieth is alongside Max Homa (70) and Wyndham Clark (69), while Alex Noren (70), Scott Harrington (66), Cameron Smith (68), Patrick Cantlay (70) and Matt Fitzpatrick (71) are a shot further back.

Brooks Koepka carded a 70 to be at four under, while Rory McIlroy and 2019 runner-up Justin Thomas both missed the cut.

McIlroy missed the weekend at an event for the first time since the 2019 Open Championship after finishing at seven over.

Carlo Ancelotti dismissed rumours James Rodriguez could leave Everton, insisting the playmaker was "happy" at the club.

A report suggested James, who joined Everton from Real Madrid in September last year, was unhappy and could consider a switch to Atletico.

But Ancelotti played down that talk ahead of Saturday's Merseyside derby against Liverpool.

"He is okay, he has no problem. I talk to him every day, he is happy here, confident, motivated," the Everton manager told a news conference.

"He had a little problem in the last few games with his calf. But now he is in good condition. He really feels good here because everyone takes care of him, and that's it.

"I don't know if he complains about the weather, but the weather we know that it is not the best weather ever, but there are a lot of things good in this area."

James has scored five goals and provided three assists in 17 Premier League games this season.

No Everton player has created more chances than his 30, 22 of which have been in open play, or his eight big chances.

Everton are seventh in the table and three points behind sixth-placed Liverpool, although they have a game in hand.

Jurgen Klopp hopes Liverpool can have a little more luck with regards to injuries next season, believing a full-strength squad would see them sitting much closer to runaway leaders Manchester City. 

Liverpool finished 18 points clear of second-place City in the 2019-20 Premier League season as they ended a 30-year wait to be crowned champions again. 

However, while they have struggled in the defence of their title, Pep Guardiola's squad are once again the team to beat. They set a new record with Wednesday's 3-1 triumph at Everton, becoming the first top-flight team to start a calendar year with 10 straight league victories. 

The Reds' focus has switched to finishing in the top four - they sit in fifth place ahead of Saturday's Merseyside derby, 16 points behind City - but Klopp feels such a huge gap would not have existed if he had key players available. 

Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez have been long-term absentees, with fellow centre-back Joel Matip now out for the rest of the season. Diogo Jota, meanwhile, has not featured since December 9, while Naby Keita is only just nearing a return having yet to make an appearance in 2021. 

Asked in his pre-match media conference about what it will take to be closer to City next season, Klopp replied: "We don't have to think about that now.

"We don't play them this year anymore - probably not, maybe the Champions League. For next year, then we have a little bit more time.  

"It's never the case that we thought, 'How can we overtake City and become the finest team in English football?'. We never saw it like this – we wanted the best version of ourselves.  

"We have that chance again, then if that's good enough, it's good enough. If another team is better, then that's how sport works. You cannot do more than be the best version of yourselves.   

"That's what we really try again, as a team especially. We need a little bit more luck, then a few other things as well.  

"But, in the beginning, slightly more luck with injuries would help. Then we can come closer to them.  

"I think we can all agree if I would say, probably Pep would say it too, that a full season for both teams and we wouldn't be 16 points away. But we are. That's how it is, we accept that.  This season, though, it is not about how close we can come to Manchester City."

Van Dijk has been out of action since the previous Merseyside derby at Goodison Park, back in October 2020.  

The defender was hurt early in proceedings following a challenge from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, while team-mate Thiago Alcantara also suffered an injury in the game after a wild tackle from Richarlison that saw the Brazilian sent off. 

Klopp, however, made clear the game takes on no extra importance because of what happened in that 2-2 draw last year, as Liverpool look to avoid suffering four consecutive Premier League defeats for the first time since December 2002.  

"We play the way we play. It's very emotional but we are always emotional, to be honest," Klopp - who confirmed on Friday that Fabinho will not feature at Anfield - said. "That's our way to play.  

"What the other teams do I don't know, because I have no influence on that. I can imagine that after the first game you try to create some stories around that, but we will be prepared for a football game, for a derby, like we always do.  

"Nobody can say about his team that they are not ready for derbies, from an attitude point of view, from an understanding point of view over how important it is.  

"This team always was [ready] and will be tomorrow. Obviously, there are stories around, all these kind of things, but I have nothing to say."

Thomas Tuchel's view of football was changed by Ralf Rangnick and in Ralph Hasenhuttl he is looking forward to going up against another coach who worked alongside him.

Chelsea head to Southampton on Saturday and Tuchel will pit his wits against Hasenhuttl, who coached RB Leipzig during Rangnick's time as director of football at the Red Bull Arena.

Tuchel was a defender at Ulm for Rangnick between 1997 and 1998 and, following the premature end to his playing career due to a knee injury, was hired as a youth coach at Stuttgart by him two years later.

Rangnick is credited with revolutionising German football by introducing an intense high-pressing, counter-attacking style that was widely adopted.

His influence on Tuchel is clear, with Chelsea allowing the fewest opposition passes per defensive action (PPDA) in the Premier League since his first game in charge against Wolves on January 27.

Across the entire season, Southampton rank fourth in the league with a PPDA of 10.7, behind only Liverpool (10.4), Chelsea (10.3) and Leeds United (8.9).

"I was a player with Ralf Rangnick. I played in the third and second division and learned from Ralf that it's not necessary to follow the striker to the toilet," Tuchel told the media.

"He made a third-division team stronger than we actually were with brand new tactics, the back four not man marking but defending in the space in a 4-4-2 or 4-5-1.

"That was a gamechanger for me to watch football games after my experience with Ralf. It was different because I had a totally different view of what's going on.

"Ralf had his influence at Leipzig when he worked with Ralph as more or less the father of everything that happened in Leipzig.

"There are many coaches influenced by this philosophy, but I truly believe everybody has to find his own style, everybody needs to be authentic. You need to be yourself. You cannot copy anybody.

"The way from Ralph is very impressive. He had a very good season at Ingolstadt, very successful at Leipzig and now a big impact with his aggressive style of playing at Southampton.

"This is the challenge that we have to face. I cannot give you a reason why there is a trend, this is too much of a question for me right now."

Tuchel is unbeaten in six games since taking over at Chelsea, winning five straight since a 0-0 draw with Wolves in his first match.

Olivier Giroud found the back of the net in their 2-0 success over Newcastle United last Monday and Tuchel intends to give the France striker time to stake his claim for a new deal, with his contract due to expire at the end of the season.

Tuchel said: "No decision is made because it's too soon to make these decisions. [It's] too soon in the season and I haven't had enough time to make these decisions because I just started three weeks ago and we need more time to get to know the group better. Everybody deserves more time to show their value.

"What I can say is that I am super happy that he's here. He's one of the top strikers in the box, he's physically strong, he has an incredible first touch and he's strong in headers.

"He did an amazing game against Newcastle. He's very strong, very positive in training, very impressive.

"Right now, he plays a key role in the squad with a lot of young offensive players. He is a key figure, maybe not because he plays every three days 96 minutes, but because of the way he behaves and with his experience on a daily basis, he has a huge impact in the most positive way.

"This is what I can say. When the decision arrives, we will make it."

Only 13 new positive cases of COVID-19 were detected by MLB in its initial round of COVID-19 testing ahead of full-squad spring training, the league announced on Friday. 

The new cases represent 0.3 per cent of the 4,336 intake tests as players and staff reported to team facilities in preparation for spring training games.

Nine of the 13 positive tests were produced by players, while four came from staff members. The 13 positives were spread among 11 teams.

MLB also announced that once players have cleared intake testing they will continue to be tested regularly, and 2,298 additional monitoring tests have been processed without any new positives. 

Pitchers and catchers for all teams had already reported to team facilities in Arizona or Florida. Most clubs plan to start full-squad workouts on Monday, with the first spring training games scheduled for Sunday, February 28.

The 2021 MLB regular season will begin April 1 under a number of coronavirus safety and testing guidelines.

Justin Kluivert was sorely missed by RB Leipzig against Liverpool and his injuries are increasingly frustrating head coach Julian Nagelsmann.

Winger Kluivert joined Leipzig from Roma on a season-long loan at the start of the 2020-21 campaign.

However, the 21-year-old - son of former Barcelona striker Patrick - has so far been limited to just three starts and 452 minutes of action in a Leipzig shirt across all competitions.

An ankle issue has provided Kluivert's latest setback, with his last appearance coming in January and his last start before Christmas.

Prior to being named in the line-up against Werder Bremen on December 12, Kluivert had scored in consecutive matches against Bayern Munich and Manchester United - his only goals so far this season.

Nagelsmann was impressed by the Netherlands international's performances in those games and believes his dribbling ability could be a real asset; he leads Leipzig with 5.4 dribbles attempted and 2.6 completed per 90 minutes this term.

But the coach was again without Kluivert as Leipzig lost their Champions League first leg 2-0 against Liverpool on Tuesday, with the German team attempting just 11 dribbles and failing to execute a single fast break.

"At the stage when we played Bayern and Manchester [United], it was the Justin we were hoping for," Nagelsmann said. "After that, he was gone again.

"He just trains very little, I don't see him much in training. That's the problem. He has to become more stable in terms of his body.

"Since he's been here, he's had far too few training sessions and therefore too little impact on the game.

"He basically has skills that would have done us good in the game against Liverpool. They would also do us good in the Bundesliga, like his deep runs and fast dribbling. He's also a goalscorer and has a good finish.

"But he simply has to become more stable. He's a little too injury-prone these days."

Leipzig would reportedly have to pay in excess of €10million to make Kluivert's move permanent.

Nagelsmann is not ruling out the possibility but would like to see more from the player over the coming months, referring again to the standard set in a 3-3 draw with Bayern.

Kluivert scored with his only shot at Allianz Arena, playing 78 minutes after being named in Nagelsmann's starting line-up.

"Obviously, we hope he has an even bigger impact on a successful season, that he stays healthy and that he can train more and get fit again for the games," Nagelsmann added.

"He's welcome to do as well as he did against Bayern Munich.

"In the course of the second half of the season, we will then decide what we do and what he wants to do. And how big his influence was and how it then continues beyond the summer or not, we will decide then."

Sinisa Mihajlovic has hinted he could be tempted by a Premier League job when he leaves Bologna.

The former Milan head coach recovered from being diagnosed in 2019 with acute leukaemia and has returned to work in Serie A, with his ambitions not limited to Italian football.

Former Yugoslavia international Mihajlovic has a contract until 2023 with Bologna and is in no hurry to move on.

But he is open-minded and, as he prepared to turn 52 on Saturday, the Serbian signalled he was ready to see where fate takes him.

"I live as if I have to stay here 10 years and I work as if I have to leave tomorrow," Mihajlovic said.

"It is not a problem of contracts. I'm fine in Bologna, sometimes I get angry about the results, but I'm fine.

Quoted by Gazzetta dello Sport, he said: "I'd like to see what goals the club has. We have always agreed on everything, I think we will be agreed in the future too, but you never know.

"Do I like the Premier League? I am someone who wherever he goes I want to do my best. Of course, I would like to experience different cultures but I'm not forced to leave. I am used to achieving my dreams when I want."

He added: "There are other things and I would have to live 150 years to accomplish them, and I thought I was dying at 51."

Mark Wood revealed he withdrew from the Indian Premier League auction so he could spend time with his family and to ensure he was not "goosed mentally or physically" in a big year for England.

Wood had put himself forward for an IPL stint at the highest base price (2 crore/£200,000), but opted out on the eve of the auction this week.

The paceman's decision came after he flew to India for the remainder of the Test series, five Twenty20 Internationals and three ODIs.

Wood, who was given time off after the Sri Lanka tour last month, says playing for England in his priority, with the T20 World Cup and an Ashes series in Australia to come after a busy summer on home soil - including facing India again.

The quick said: "I'm going to spend six weeks here in India and then it would be another eight weeks on top of that, so that's 14 weeks.

"We're in a strange situation with COVID and unfortunately you can't see your families during that winter period coming out with India, like we usually do. 

"I just wanted to be able to switch off, recharge and go back home for the second reason, which is being ready for England. 

"I've tried to prioritise that and think later on in the year we've got loads of cricket going on and I don't want my body to fail me or be a bit goosed mentally or physically going into the back of the year, with a World Cup, Ashes and big series against India at home.

"I wanted to make sure I was ready from that point of view and have some family time because this block is a long time away from home."

England all-rounder Moeen Ali was snapped up by Chennai Super Kings for £700,000 on Thursday and although Wood knows he may have missed out on a lucrative deal, the 31-year-old hopes to get another chance to play in the IPL.

"Obviously there's been some big names gone for some big money and never begrudge them that, I think it's life-changing money, so it was a difficult decision for me," he said on Friday.

"The plus side is you're not just going for money reasons, you want to prove [yourself] hopefully going into the World T20 and learn some skills. Plus I feel like I've got a little bit of unfinished business with the IPL, I feel like I didn't do very well well in one game for Chennai last time [in 2018].

"I'd like another crack at some point, I just didn't feel like the time was right. Every player has their own decision, but for me it was to prioritise my family and England."

Antoine Dupont has become the latest member of France's Six Nations set-up to test positive for COVID-19.

Head coach Fabien Galthie, assistant William Servat and another unspecified member of the backroom team have returned positive results since last weekend's 15-13 victory over Ireland in Dublin.

The French Rugby Federation (FFR) announced on Wednesday that no players had tested positive for coronavirus and they had been permitted to return home ahead of further testing on Friday.

Although 11 players returned negative results in the latest batch of testing, Dupont was found to be positive.

"The player who tested positive for COVID-19 is Antoine Dupont," read an FFR statement. "To date, he is asymptomatic. In accordance with protocol he will remain in isolation for the next few days."

The France squad are due to return to the National Rugby Centre in Marcoussis on Sunday to begin preparing for Scotland's visit to Paris the following weekend.

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