South Africa must take their frustration over officiating out on the British and Irish Lions when then they attempt to keep the series alive on Saturday.

The Lions roared back in the second half of an attritional first Test at Cape Town Stadium last weekend to take a 1-0 lead with a 22-17 victory.

South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has had a busy week since the world champions' seven-match winning run came to an end.

Erasmus accused the Lions of "reckless and dangerous" play and used social media to highlight "questionable calls" from the officials during an absorbing contest.

The 48-year-old fanned the flames further on Thursday, offering to "step away" in an hour-long video in which he stated the Springboks should be given an "equal chance" by officials in the remainder of series.

It was the turn of assistant coach Mzwandile Stick to have his say on Friday, accusing the Lions of “destroying the dignity of the series" by starting the war of words prior to the first Test.

Siya Kolisi then backed up Erasmus' claim that the Springboks captain felt disrespected by referee Nic Berry, who might be glad it will be New Zealander Ben O'Keeffe on duty this weekend.

The Lions have taken a different approach as they look to stretch their run of series without defeat to three for the first time since 1959, giving their backing to O'Keeffe.

Full-back Stuart Hogg said: "In the short time I've been Scotland captain Ben O'Keeffe has been one of the best referees I've had to deal with.

"He almost coaches you round the field at the same time. When we ask questions he's very calm in his answers and is good at communicating.

"That's a reason why a large majority of his games when he's involved are allowed to flow, you're allowed to get on with it, and he helped me massively in the couple of games we've had him when I've been leading the side.

"Everyone is entitled to the opinion of referees, but they have a huge amount of respect from us as players. I'd hate to do the job if I'm honest!

"But Ben O'Keeffe has been one of the best referees I've had the opportunity to deal with as captain."

South Africa have handed number eight Jasper Wiese his first Test start as one of three changes, with prop Steven Kitshoff steps in to win his 50th cap alongside the returning Frans Malherbe.

Prop Mako Vunipola, scrum-half Conor Murray and centre Chris Harris come into the Lions team.

 

 

KOLISI: TIME TO STAND UP

While the hurting Springboks were quick to point the finger at the officials, skipper Kolisi knows they must improve after squandering a lead in the first Test.

"Of course, we feel a lot of pressure, but we must focus on what we can control and fix the mistakes we made," said Kolisi.

"We responded well this week and trained well, and we are looking forward to the match. We know we have to stand up in times like these."

He added: "There are some similarities to losing against New Zealand in our opening game in the World Cup, but this is different because this tournament is only played every 12 years, while the World Cup is played every four years, so we may not have another opportunity.

"We have to turn it up and we are looking forward to the match."

 

LIONS PREPARED FOR BOKS BACKLASH

Robin McBryde has been looking back as well as forward as the Lions prepare for another almighty battle, reading up on the 1974 tour of South Africa.

The Lions secured a 3-0 whitewash 47 years ago, but they did not go down without a huge fight and forwards coach McBryde knows it will be no different this time around. 

"They will go back to their physical nature. It’s what they did in 1974 after losing that first Test," he said.

"There's a term they have which means climbing in, to get stuck in. I'm sure that’s what they'll be looking to do on Saturday – to get stuck into us.

"They're a very proud nation who will be looking to come out with all guns blazing."

 

South Africa : Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (captain), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jasper Wiese.

Replacements : Malcolm Marx, Trevor Nyakane, Vincent Koch, Lood de Jager, Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith, Herschel Jantjies, Damian Willemse.

British and Irish Lions : Stuart Hogg, Anthony Watson, Chris Harris, Robbie Henshaw, Duhan van der Merwe, Dan Biggar, Conor Murray; Mako Vunipola, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tadhg Furlong, Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Jack Conan.

Replacements : Ken Owens, Rory Sutherland, Kyle Sinckler, Tadhg Beirne, Taulupe Faletau, Ali Price, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- The Lions have lost just two of their previous 13 games in Cape Town (W10, D1), a run that stretches back to the beginning of the 1974 tour.
- South Africa conceded 14 penalties against the Lions in the first Test, including nine inside their own half of the pitch; both tallies were their most in a Test since June 2018 against England.
- The Lions are unbeaten in their three Tests (W2, D1), their best run since a six game spell spanning the 1971 and 1974 tours (W4, D2).
- The tourists have lost just two series after winning the first Test (W10, D1) – against New Zealand in 1930 and Australia in 2001. They won four and drew one of their five such series against South Africa.

A'Ja Wilson led the way for the United States as they saw off host nation Japan 86-69 at the Tokyo Olympics, while China and Belgium booked their places in the quarter-finals.

Team USA are six-time defending champions, though they were made to work by their opponents in Saitama before their height proved decisive.

Now on a 51-game winning streak at the Olympics, Team USA top Group B on four points from their two games so far at the Games.

Wilson was the top scorer with 20 points, while she also contributed 10 rebounds and three assists. Support arrived from Breanna Stewart (15 points) and Brittney Griner (15 points).

It was by no means a comfortable victory, however, having edged out Nigeria 81-72 in their first match.

"Just communication. One, we're getting used to the ball. And then two, just working on making sure we're just all in for each other and understanding the personnel a little bit better," explained guard Jewell Loyd when asked how the team were looking to improve as the tournament goes on.

"Taking a breath. We've played a little fast in other games so just trying to get a rhythm for us, take it slow and play our basketball."

Only Wilson scored more points than Japan's Maki Takada, but the hosts were simply physically outmatched.

"[Team USA] are really superstars," said Evelyn Mawuli. "They know how to play and they're tall and we're small, so we have to run faster than them. So that was a bit difficult, but it was fun."

CHINA SNATCH LATE WIN TO SEAL QUARTER-FINAL SPOT

China and Belgium are sure of their places in the last eight.

That is because of a last-gasp win for China against Australia, avoiding overtime in dramatic fashion to clinch a 76-74 triumph in Group C.

China, who were led by 20-point Wang Siyu, were 11 ahead at one stage in the final quarter, but that deficit was cut down by a resurgent Australia.

However, with 0.6 seconds left, Li Yueru was fouled under the basket. She made both free throws to seal victory and progression into the quarters.

In the process, Belgium's progress was also secured. They beat Puerto Rico 87-52 in the first of Friday's matches.

GARNIER PROUD OF FRANCE REACTION

Elsewhere, France bounced back from an opening defeat to Japan with an 87-62 victory over Nigeria in Group B.

Five players made into double figures for points for the French team, with Sandrine Gruda topping the charts with 14, adding nine rebounds and three assists.

"It was necessary after the defeat against Japan to have a good reaction. I am proud of my team because they did and they all played very hard defence," France coach Valerie Garnier said.

"This is necessary against Nigeria because they fight a lot. After we did this very good job, we tried to make the biggest gap possible, so 25 points was a good result for us."

There were no excuses for Nigeria coach Otis Hughley Jr, who said: "We just got beaten really bad. Offensively we were flat and we couldn't score. You can't play that way against the number five team in the world."

South Africa assistant coach Mzwandile Stick has accused the British and Irish Lions of "destroying the dignity of the series" ahead of the second Test on Saturday.

The Springboks are aiming to bounce back in Cape Town following last weekend's controversial 22-17 defeat in the series opener.

The performance of referee Nic Berry came under scrutiny from the hosts, with director of rugby Rassie Erasmus embarking on a lengthy rant on social media criticising the official.

Backing Erasmus, Stick has intensified the pressure ahead of the second Test.

The assistant coach has suggested Warren Gatland's Lions challenged the integrity of the governing body in the lead-up to the opening Test by questioning the appointment of South African Marius Jonker as TMO.

"Let's go on the build-up where firstly, the integrity of World Rugby was challenged by another human being when Marius was appointed TMO," Stick said.

"And then Gatland on the other side went crazy, and was asking World Rugby and challenging them about the decision they had made.

"We're not asking for any favours, we just want equal grounds.

"I wouldn't like the whole series to be about decisions taken by the officials, or about the coaches off the field.

"Even if things are being said in social media or a traditional media conference, it's still the media. All coaches want to get their messages across.

"He (Erasmus) wanted to state his as his own personal view; it had nothing to do with us as a team.

"So if Rassie got into trouble because of what he said on social media, I think the gentleman that challenged the integrity of the game when the TMO was challenged, I think that is something that really destroyed the dignity of the series and also challenges the integrity of World Rugby."

Marc Albrighton has signed a new three-year extension with Leicester City, the club announced on Friday.

Albrighton, 31, featured 42 times across all competitions last term as Brendan Rodgers' men secured their first ever FA Cup win by defeating Chelsea in May.

The midfielder, who has racked up 253 appearances at the club, joined from Aston Villa in 2014 and played a key role in the Foxes' unlikely Premier League title win under Claudio Ranieri in 2015-16.

Speaking to the club's media after extending his contract, Albrighton said: "I'm delighted. Obviously, it's a club that is progressing every single year. It's a fantastic club with the people here and the direction that they're going – it's great to be a part of.

"I have always been the type of player and person who wants to establish himself at a club and stay there. I'm settled here and I'm really enjoying it."

During his seven-year spell at Leicester, Albrighton has established himself as one of their most consistent performers, if not always the star of the show.

Most notably, during Ranieri's title-winning season, only Riyad Mahrez (68) created more chances than Albrighton's 62 as he repeatedly caused problems on either flank with his enticing deliveries.

Indeed, in his 31 Premier League appearances last season, Albrighton provided 38 chances – a total bettered only by Youri Tielemans (49) and James Maddison (51).

The former Villa man was also Leicester's first Champions League scorer when he netted away at Club Brugge before producing the decisive, quarter-final sealing strike against Sevilla later in the 2016-17 competition.

Mauricio Pochettino hailed Georginio Wijnaldum as a "complete player" ahead of the Trophee des Champions clash against Lille, while also commending Achraf Hakimi's versatility.

Paris Saint-Germain disappointed last season as they finished runners-up in Ligue 1 and were beaten home and away by Manchester City in the Champions League semi-finals.

However, the French giants have had a busy transfer window, bringing in Hakimi, Wijnaldum, Sergio Ramos and Gianluigi Donnarumma as they attempt to reassert their authority.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's final, Pochettino praised the former Liverpool man, who he feels will significantly strengthen their midfield.

"We are very pleased to have him here. I think Georginio Wijnaldum can contribute going forward and also defensively", the head coach said. "He has the aggression that we need as a team."

"His experience and quality make him a player who can help in the same way, going forward and defensively. He can win the ball back [and] be aggressive, so I think he is a complete player."

Indeed, Pochettino's men missed that aggression in midfield to drive them forward and regain possession as they limped to a second-place finish in 2020-21.

Last season, PSG ranked 11th in Ligue 1 in terms of the number of possession recoveries and Pochettino has previously explained this is an area for improvement.

While PSG recorded 2,250 recoveries across the previous campaign, champions Lille were the hardest working, recovering possession 2,460 times. The signing of Wijnaldum, who ranked fourth in terms of recoveries for Liverpool in 2020-21, will likely help their cause.

 

Hakimi contributed seven goals and nine assists last season for Inter, a total bettered by only four defenders across Europe's top-five leagues.

"He offers many options to the team, especially going forwards," Pochettino said.

"He has attributes that not many others have in terms of his physical strength, quality and crossing. He is brilliant at cutting in.

"He is adapting well and we hope that he will quickly show that he is a key part of the squad."

On Thursday, Mauro Icardi suggested a win over Lille would inflict revenge, with PSG having lost the Ligue 1 title to them last year.

But Pochettino insisted that the focus was on in-house improvement and any success would serve to make amends for their underwhelming campaign, not Lille's triumph.

"This game won't be about getting revenge against Lille but against ourselves," he added. "The loss of the league title and our Champions League exit left a bitter taste.

"We will do everything to change that, we want to win every competition. We are Paris Saint-Germain, we want to win. We'll do everything to win this trophy, but it's not about revenge because Lille deserved their title."

Three members of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic team have tested positive for covid-19, following a routine Saliva Antigen test at the Olympic Village.

Long jumper, Andwuelle Wright, and 400m hurdler, Sparkle-Ann McKnight, will not compete at the Games in Tokyo after their covid-19 tests returned positive results. A coach, Wendell Williams will also miss the games, after becoming the third positive result.

With less than 24-hours to compete, the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee revealed the breaking news via social media.

“Two Team TTO athletes and one official received positive test results following daily routine Saliva Antigen tests at the Olympic Village. This came following two Nasopharyngeal PCR verification tests in accordance with established TOKYO2020 COVID-19 protocols, countermeasures, and guidelines.

The three members have been placed into quarantine at an approved hotel facility for foreign athletes and officials.

Former Carifta gold medallist and Trinidad and Tobago’s national long jump record holder, Wright, also confirmed the news via social media. The aspiring athlete is disheartened by the circumstances but is happy that he is healthy and well.

“The Olympics has come [and] gone for me and my heart hurts more than anything else. I am devasted, confused and heartbroken. My coach and I both tested positive for COVID-19 virus days before I had to compete, after receiving six (6) negative test and I had to withdraw from the games,” he posted.

“More Importantly I’m okay although I don’t know what “okay” looks like right now but I’m happy to be alive and breathing.”

23-year-old Wright, who is from Tobago, said he was fully vaccinated and was not showing any symptoms during his time at the Olympic Games.

“[I was] experiencing zero symptoms of this virus also being fully vaccinated, meaning my Olympic dreams and everything we worked hard towards was shattered.”

McKnight, previously represented Trinidad and Tobago at the 2013 and 2015 World Championships in Athletics, reaching the semifinals on the second occasion.

Williams was a former Trinidad and Tobago national long jump record holder. He held the previous mark of 8.14m since 1999. However, Wright leaped to an impressive 8.23m to eclipse the feat his coach had achieved.

Arsenal have moved to bolster their defence with the signing of England international Ben White from Brighton and Hove Albion for a reported £50million fee.

White has signed a long-term deal at the Emirates Stadium in a move that was completed on Friday.

The 23-year-old had agreed a four-year deal with Brighton in 2020 after impressing on loan with Leeds United in the 2019-20 season.

White went on to establish himself as a key part of Graham Potter's side, making 36 Premier League appearances last term.

His form was rewarded with a call up to England's provisional squad for Euro 2020, with White then replacing the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold in Gareth Southgate's 26-man selection.

Though he did not make an appearance at the Euros, Arsenal have nevertheless committed to a huge outlay on the youngster. Mikel Arteta's side are short at the back having allowed David Luiz to leave upon the expiration of his contract.

Russell Westbrook is preparing for life on a fourth different team in as many years, with LeBron James welcoming his new running mate to the Los Angeles Lakers following a blockbuster trade.

The Lakers overshadowed the NBA Draft by completing a deal to get Westbrook from the Washington Wizards, who receive Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in return.

The Wizards also got the 22nd pick in Thursday's first round – Isaiah Jackson was taken at that slot, then traded to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for point guard Aaron Holiday – while the Lakers gained two second-round selections in future drafts, according to reports.

For Westbrook, it means yet another fresh start. The 32-year-old ended his long association with the Oklahoma City Thunder when reuniting with James Harden at the Houston Rockets in 2019, only to then leave for Washington a year later.

Despite only spending one season with the Wizards, Westbrook declared his appreciation for all connected with the franchise in an Instagram post after news of the deal had emerged.

"Thank you DC! You welcomed my family and I with open arms from day one," he wrote.

"Everyone from the front office to the training staff, the coaches, my team-mates, and the fans. I’m grateful y'all took a chance on me and supported me every step of the way.

"I'm blessed to have been a part of such a stand-up organisation. It didn't take long to make a home in DC, and I will forever be grateful and appreciative of my experience with the organisation. Thank you."

LeBron, meanwhile, used his Instagram account to put up a picture of himself and fellow Lakers star Anthony Davis standing either side of the team's latest recruit, along with the caption "Brodie", which is Westbrook's nickname.

The addition is a move aimed at getting the 2019-20 NBA champions back into contention. The title defence did not go to plan last term, long-term injuries to their two stars leading to a struggle just to make the postseason. While they did qualify, the holders were knocked out in the first round by the Phoenix Suns.

As for Westbrook, his year with the Wizards included a key role in a late charge to make the playoffs via the play-in tournament, though they were beaten 4-1 in the first round by the Philadelphia 76ers, after which it was announced head coach Scott Brooks would be leaving his role.

Westbrook had broken an NBA record that had stood for 47 years during the regular season, moving beyond Oscar Robertson to top the list for career triple-double games.

He led the league for assists with 11.7 per game, as well as shooting 31.5 per cent from three-point range - his best return from deep sine the 2016-17 season. It will be fascinating to see how he fits into the Lakers' current roster, though it remains to be seen if they are finished making offseason moves just yet, considering free agency is around the corner.

There was speculation L.A. were also in negotiations to bring in Buddy Hield from the Sacramento Kings. The 28-year-old would add some much-needed outside scoring, seen as he is a career 40.6 per cent shooter from deep.

The Lakers finished at 35.4 per cent as a team from three-point range, ranking them 21st in the entire league. Caldwell-Pope was one of their more successful players when it came to taking aim from distance, finishing up at 41.0 per cent, but he has been moved on in order to add a new playmaking presence.

Westbrook, who is from California and played at UCLA during his college career, will earn $44.2million in 2021-22, then has a player option worth $47m for the following year.

The United States and Canada will do battle in the semi-finals of the women's football tournament at Tokyo 2020 after edging into the final four.

USA - winners of the Olympic tournament four times previously - managed to beat the Netherlands 4-2 on penalties in their quarter-final after the game finished 2-2 at the end of extra time.

Having finished with fewer than six points in the group stage of a major event for the first time in their history, the USA knew a much-improved display was needed against a Dutch side who scored 21 times in their opening three games, the most of any women's side at a single Olympics.

They duly delivered a strong display as they twice took the lead only for Vivianne Miedema to continue her sensational form, scoring twice to cancel out goals from Samantha Mewis and Lynn Williams in an engrossing contest in Yokohama.

Megan Rapinoe swept the decisive penalty kick high into the net after Alyssa Naeher had made two stops to her right.


BRAZIL FALL SHORT AGAIN

Canada await USA after they inflicted further heartbreak on Brazil, whose wait for gold in this event goes on.

Beaten semi-finalists in Rio five years ago, Brazil were held to a 0-0 draw before suffering another defeat on penalties to the 2016 bronze medallists.

Goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe, who was injured in the closing stages of extra time, recovered to make two critical saves in the shoot-out to secure a 4-3 win.

"In the moment, it was about trusting myself, trusting my instincts, and trusting my ability to make a save," she said afterwards.

"Pain is temporary. We have our eyes on the prize."

 

WHITE TREBLE NOT ENOUGH AS MATILDAS WIN CLASSIC

The stand-out quarter-final took place between Australia and Great Britain, a seven-goal thriller eventually ending in a 4-3 victory for the Matildas.

Two goals from Ellen White had turned the game on its head and looked to be enough to send Hege Riise's side through, but Chelsea star Sam Kerr levelled in the 89th minute with a crisp low strike.

The contest then swung Australia's way in a dramatic minute in extra time, Mary Fowler's deflected shot finding the top corner after Caroline Weir had a penalty saved at the other end.

Kerr scored another before White completed her hat-trick with a deft header to set up a frantic finale, with Australia just holding on for a famous win.

Remarkably, they overperformed in terms of expected goals by 3.2, their highest such figure at these finals.

Australia will contest their semi-final against Sweden, who ended Japan's quest for a medal on home soil with a 3-1 victory.

Mina Tanaka cancelled out Magdalena Eriksson's sixth-minute opener, but Sweden took control in the second half through further goals from Stina Blackstenius and Kosovare Asllani.

 

Proud boxing star Ben Whittaker admitted he was a blubbering mess after securing at least a bronze medal for Great Britain at the Tokyo Olympics.

The Wolverhampton-based light heavyweight set up a Sunday semi-final against Russian Olympic Committee's Imam Khataev after scoring a majority points win over Brazilian Keno Machado.

Whittaker was overwhelmed by the result and burst into tears at the realisation he would be taking home a medal.

"That was the hard part, getting that medal," Whittaker said. "I won't relax, but I've pushed through that first door now and all I have to do is start changing that colour. Bronze is a lovely colour but everyone wants gold."

His verdict until beating Machado was that anything less than gold would amount to "nothing", but when the reality that he would be on the podium struck, Whittaker let his emotions spill out.

"I was crying, bogies were flying everywhere. I was trying to keep as calm as I could but I couldn't help it," Whittaker said. "I've just got to compose myself now as Sunday is when it gets real.”

He said his father, a council worker, would usually be at work at 5am but was given permission to stay at home to watch the 24-year-old Olympian in action.

"He hasn't slept all night and he has been giving me tactics, trying to keep me calm but I know my dad when he is nervous. His nervousness was making me a bit nervous," Whittaker said.

"My mum was probably trying to talk to him and he was probably telling her to shut up and whatnot. But bless him, I've done it for him, not just me."

Khataev had a third-round knockout win over Spain's Gazi Jalidov to earn a shot at Whittaker next.

The other light heavy semi-final will see Azerbaijan's Loren Berto Alfonso Dominguez tackle Cuban Arlen Lopez after both enjoyed unanimous judges' verdicts.


CUBAN STAR TAKES DOWN JOHNSON

Cuban welterweight fighter Roniel Iglesias earned a third Olympic medal after sinking American Delante Johnson with a sweep of the scorecards.

After a bronze in Beijing and gold at London in 2012, Iglesias savoured another chance to target the top step of the podium.

The 32-year-old said: "It is my third medal which is very important but what I really want is to win the gold medal. It is a historic moment for me and for my country, Cuba. I am very happy at this achievement."

Russian Andrei Zamkovoi awaits him next, with Great Britain's Pat McCormack tackling Ireland's Aidan Walsh on the opposite side of the draw.


FIRE FUELS JONES GOLD DREAM

American Oshae Jones saw off Dominican Maria Moronta on points in their women's welterweight last-eight clash, and afterwards the 23-year-old from Ohio opened up on the fire that nearly took her life in May.

Jones was woken by banging on the door of her Toledo home as a blaze took hold of her home. Now a guaranteed medallist, she recalled: "We barely got out. We've got pretty noisy neighbours, thank god. Any other neighbourhood, where people mind their business, I would be dead.

"The home is coming together again, slowly but surely. I had to get a whole new roof and inside drywall, wiring. It's a lot, but I keep pushing every day. My boyfriend and I had purchased it. It was a fixer-up and we were almost done. Now we've had to start over.

"It's always in the back of my mind when I am at camp: what I am going to go home to, is the house going to be done? All I can do is give my best here.

"I’ve thought about winning a medal and had a vision of me standing on the podium. I practise my gold-medal speech every day, so I plan on winning."


'FIST THROUGH HIS FACE'

New Zealander David Nyika secured a heavyweight medal by beating Belarusian Uladzislau Smiahlikau emphatically on points, and 2019 World Championship winner Muslim Gadzhimagomedov stands in his way of a place in the final.

If Nyika gets his way, Gadzhimagomedov will not be standing for long when they battle it out on Tuesday.

"Yeah, 'Gadz' is top class. I have nothing but respect for him as he has accomplished so much. But I'm going to try and put my fist through his face," said Nyika.

The 25-year-old Nyika was a flagbearer for his country at the Olympic opening ceremony and is feeling the weight of expectation to deliver.

"Getting bronze doesn't take the pressure off, I'm still under a lot of pressure. The rest of New Zealand is shouting for me but I know I've got a lot more to do," he said.

"I've got a lot to prove, not only to them but to myself. I've been working so hard and mentally I've been through some pretty rugged stuff over the last 18 months and I'm pretty sure I'm going to come out of it on the other side a lot bigger and a lot stronger.

"I'll have proved to myself that I'm worthy of everyone’s respect and the honour that my team has given me."

The opposite heavyweight semi-final will see Brazilian Abner Teixeira tackle Cuban Julio Cruz.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will hold talks with Cricket Australia over coronavirus restrictions during the Ashes amid concerns that several senior players may be reluctant to tour.

Joe Root's side are due to start their bid to regain the urn at The Gabba on December 8, with the fifth and final Test scheduled to begin at Optus Stadium in Perth on January 18.

Multi-format players such as Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler would face several months away from home, with the T20 World Cup taking place in the United Arab Emirates prior to the Ashes.

It is unclear whether COVID-19 rules may prevent families from travelling to Australia and England players have been in talks this week to seek clarity over restrictions that may be in place.

The ECB and the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA) say player and staff welfare will be a priority as they prepare to hold discussions with Cricket Australia.

A joint ECB and PCA statement  said: "This week, several meetings have been held between the England men's players, ECB and Team England Player Partnership to discuss provisional plans for the tour of Australia later in the year.

"All parties are collaborating and will continue to work together to understand protocols around bubble environments, family provision and quarantine rules that will be in place for the tour during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

"With player and management’s welfare paramount, the ECB will discuss planning and operational requirements with Cricket Australia in the coming weeks and how they seek to implement their policies in partnership with state and federal governments.

"All stakeholders are committed to putting player and staff welfare as the main priority and finding the right solutions that enables the England team to compete with the best players and at the highest possible standard that the Ashes series deserves."

Ethiopia's Selemon Barega secured gold in the men's 10,000 metres final as the athletics got underway at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.

Barega surged clear of Joshua Cheptegei and Jacob Kiplimo, who were each denied a first Olympic gold for Uganda, as he clocked 27 minutes 43.22 seconds in the Japanese capital.

Cheptegei, the 2019 world champion, was highly fancied to win, while compatriot Kiplimo would have become the youngest man to be crowned champion at the distance at the age of 20 years and 258 days.

But Barega, himself only 21, claimed the honour of the maiden athletics gold at this year's event after timing his kick for the line to perfection.

USA SUFFER MIXED RELAY DQ

It was a disappointing outing for the United States' mixed 4x400m relay team as the favourites were disqualified.

The event is making its debut in the Olympics but the landmark will not be fondly remembered by USA's foursome after one of their baton exchanges was deemed to have taken place outside the designated zone.

That has left the gold medal well and truly up for grabs, with Belgium, Ireland and Germany the automatic qualifiers from heat one, while in heat two it was Poland, Netherlands and Jamaica.

Great Britain and Spain round off the final eight, having gained the two next best times.

 

HASSAN SETS THE STANDARD

Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan laid down a marker in the heats for the 5,000m.

The first heat was much quicker than the second, with Hassan's 14:47.89 leading the way.

She is chasing a first Olympic medal and will face stiff competition from the likes of Kenya's Hellen Obiri.

Obiri won silver in Rio and qualified second fastest in the second heat with a time of 14:55.77.

 

HAVING A FIELD DAY

In two of the field events to begin on Friday, women's world number one triple jumper Yulimar Rojas recorded the longest leap of the heats at 14.77m.

The Venezuelan, a two-time world champion, had to settle for silver in Rio behind Colombia's Caterina Ibarguen, who will be eyeing a repeat in Tokyo.

Ibarguen's qualifying jump was a season's best 14.37m.

China led the way in the women's shot put, Gong Lijiao staking her claim with a throw of 19.46m, putting her ahead of compatriot Song Jiayun (19.23).

Ash Barty has conceded her dramatic Olympics mixed doubles defeat will be tough to take.

The world number one saw her hopes of winning a gold medal for Australia at Tokyo 2020 brought to an end on Friday.

Barty and partner John Peers won the first set against Russian Olympic Committee duo Andrey Rublev and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

But Rublev and Pavlyuchenkova turned it around to win an epic clash 5-7 6-4 13-11 and reach the final.

With Barty already eliminated in the singles and women's doubles competitions, the best she can now hope for is a bronze medal alongside Peers.

They will meet Serbia's Novak Djokovic and Nina Stojanovic for the last spot on the podium.

"It is a tough one to swallow," said Barty. "I think those tie-breaks at times, they go either way and we just didn't quite have the run of the grain. 

"We put ourselves in a position to win the match, we just weren't able to close it out. It was a good level, no doubt disappointing."

Another chance at a medal means Wimbledon champion Barty will try to get over her loss swiftly.

She added: "But we get to fight for a medal - this one hurts but we still have an opportunity to play another match and try to win a medal for Australia. 

"We pick ourselves up pretty quickly, move on and know that we will give it our all and keep fighting right until the end.

"It's been quite a while since we've had an Australian medallist here [in tennis] at the Olympics so we're looking forward to that challenge."

In the men's doubles, Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic are Olympic champions after they beat fellow Croatia representatives Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig in the final.

Alexander Zverev apologised to Novak Djokovic after ending the Serbian superstar's hopes of a glorious Golden Slam – but joked it was about time someone else landed a major tennis title.

In their Olympic Games semi-final, it seemed Djokovic was cruising through to the gold medal match when he surged a set and a break of serve ahead.

Incredibly, though, Zverev won 10 of 11 games from 3-2 behind in the second set to take the match 1-6 6-3 6-1 and set up a shot at Karen Khachanov in Sunday's final.

Djokovic swept to Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon trophy success before heading to Japan for the Olympics, the fourth leg of a potential sweep of each of the year's majors and the Tokyo 2020 singles title.

He had spoken of it becoming closer to a reality, as he attempted to match Steffi Graf's achievement from 1988, when she followed triumphs at each of the slams by winning in the October 1 final at the Olympics, held in Seoul that year. Graf remains the only player to have pulled off the feat in the same year.

Zverev had other ideas, but he also had sympathy for Djokovic when they exchanged words at the net.

"I told him that he's the greatest of all time, and he will be," Zverev said.

"I know that he was chasing history, chasing the Golden Slam and chasing the Olympics, but in these kind of moments me and Novak are very close. Of course I'm happy that I've won, but at the end of the day I know how Novak feels.

"I feel sorry for Novak, but he's won 20 grand slams, 550 Masters Series or whatever, you can't have everything.

"He's the greatest player of all time, he will win the most grand slams out of anybody on tour, but I'm also happy that I'm in the final."

 

Victory at Wimbledon earlier in July took 34-year-old Djokovic to 20 grand slam titles, level with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most by a man in the history of tennis, and Zverev was lurching towards becoming his latest victim when their Tokyo tussle began in a one-sided manner.

"I was down a set and a break, so I needed to change something. I started playing much more aggressive," Zverev said. "I started to swing through the ball a little bit more, and I tried to dominate that way."

Zverev is assured of at least a silver medal now, while Djokovic faces a bronze medal play-off against Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta.

"It's an amazing feeling knowing that you're going to bring the medal back to your house, back home to Germany," Zverev said.

"It's incredible beating the best player in the world undoubtedly right now and in this season. It seemed it was impossible to beat him at this event, so I’m very happy right now. But yet there's still one match to go."

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