Newcastle Falcons could be relegated from the Premiership this weekend after slipping to a 31-17 defeat at home to Northampton Saints.

The Falcons are bottom of the table with two matches remaining, seven points behind 11th-placed Worcester Warriors who also have a game in hand.

Sonatane Takulua opened the scoring for Newcastle with a sixth-minute penalty, but it quickly became apparent that, as has often been the case this season, this was not to be their night.

Tom Collins scored a first-half hat-trick of tries for the Saints and the score stood at a humbling 24-3 at the break in favour of the Saints.

Rodney Ah You and Takulua crossed early in the second period for the Falcons, yet any hopes of a dramatic turnaround were extinguished late on with Alex Mitchell's clinching try.

Newcastle will now have to wait on other results to see if they can still retain their top-flight status. If Leicester Tigers – who sit 10th in the table on 38 points – beat Bristol on Saturday, plus Worcester get the better of Gloucester 24 hours later, the Falcons will be down.

Also on Friday, England international Anthony Watson played 74 minutes for Bath against Sale Sharks on his return after over a year out with an Achilles injury.

However, Watson could not stop Sale from edging a low-scoring affair thanks to AJ MacGinty's pair of penalties.

The match ended 6-3, with Bath's efforts hindered by a late yellow card for Zach Mercer.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has declined to comment on a report Alex Hales is serving a suspension for recreational drug use.

According to a story published by the Guardian on Friday, Hales' recent absence for Nottinghamshire is due to a 21-day ban for falling foul of the ECB's drug policy.

Nottinghamshire had cited "personal reasons" for the England batsman not featuring at the start of their Royal London Cup campaign.

Asked by Omnisport about Hales' situation, the ECB said in a statement: "We have a duty of confidentiality, therefore we are unable to provide any further comment."

The speculation comes as England begin preparations for this year's Cricket World Cup on home soil, with Hales included in a preliminary 15-man squad for the tournament.

Hales, 30, was suspended and fined by England last year for his involvement in an incident with international team-mate Ben Stokes outside a Bristol nightclub in September 2017.

England face Ireland next Friday in a one-off 50-over fixture at the start of a busy schedule that includes a five-match ODI series against Pakistan prior to the World Cup, which begins on May 30.

Montenegro will play their next home fixture behind closed doors following racist behaviour from sections of supporters during the Euro 2020 qualifier with England. 

Raheem Sterling, who recently called for "radical changes" such as points deductions in order to tackle racism effectively, Danny Rose and Callum Hudson-Odoi were subjected to racist chanting throughout the Three Lions' 5-1 Group A victory in Podgorica on March 25. 

Gareth Southgate confirmed after the match that England would report the incident to UEFA and a charge followed from European football's governing body. 

Montenegro must now play their next competitive match, against Kosovo in June, without supporters present and a banner reading "#EqualGame" must also be displayed. 

Other UEFA charges found against Montenegro were the setting off of fireworks, throwing of objects, crowd disturbances and the blocking of stairways, with a €20,000 fine the outcome. 

In response, the Football Association stated: "The FA acknowledges UEFA's decision to sanction the Football Association of Montenegro. We hope that their next home match being played behind closed doors sends out a message that racism has no place in football or in wider society. 

"We will continue to work with the relevant authorities in football to ensure that all players are able to enjoy the game in a discrimination-free environment." 

Alastair Cook insists he will not return to international cricket, backtracking on his earlier statement that he would "never say never" to playing for England again. 

The former England captain retired following his 161st Test in September last year, saying farewell with a century against India at The Oval, but the team have struggled to replace Cook at the top of the order. 

The Essex man refused to rule out a return earlier this year, yet he now says he regrets the words he chose. 

Discussing a future in Test cricket again on Friday, Cook said his time was up and there would be no coming back. 

"The call's not coming. It's not coming," he told Sky Sports. 

"In the last couple of interviews I've done, there's always been a headline. Look, I'm not coming back. I've had my go. I said, 'never say never', and that's the worst thing I've said. 

"Someone said, 'If there was 15 broken legs, would you come back?' No, that's it. Unfortunately, my time has gone. 

"I look back on it with great, fond memories, but it's time for me to move on, it's time for England cricket to move on. I'm here just to hopefully enjoy a couple of years of county cricket." 

England have confirmed that Sam Billings will not take part in upcoming limited-overs matches against Ireland and Pakistan due to his shoulder injury.

The Kent star dislocated his left shoulder against Glamorgan on Thursday and England have called up Ben Foakes in his place.

Billings was not included in the 15-man group for the Cricket World Cup, but he was set to face Ireland and Pakistan, while the 27-year-old was seen as a likely reserve for the tournament on home soil. 

England's World Cup preparations will ramp up in the coming week, with the team travelling to Ireland on Wednesday ahead of a one-day international.

Windies batting star Chris Gayle believes the upcoming World Cup will be a wide open one and the regional team could have a good a chance as any to lift the title.

The 39-year-old star batsman believes that the hosts England will start favourite when the tournament bowls off next month, but with other teams know to extract good performances from conditions in England Gayle believes the tournament will be competitive.

“Almost every team has a chance to actually win the World Cup. Everybody puts England as favourites and they are at home.  They have a star-studded team as well, a well-balanced all-around team as well, so you have to give them credit,” Gayle told India Today.

“India always plays well in England, Pakistan always plays well in England so you have to look at those team that always do well in those kinds of conditions.  Australia, you can’t write them off, they're always up there and you can’t write off New Zealand either.  Everybody really and truly has a chance but there is going to be one winner, the West Indies and that goes without saying,” he added.

The big left-hander was confirmed as one of 15 members for the Windies World Cup squad, where he will make a fifth appearance at the tournament.

Former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson says he is "honoured" to have been linked with the Scotland job, although no talks over the role have taken place.

According to a report in Scotland, the 71-year-old has been sounded out by the Scottish Football Association over the prospect of taking over the national team.

Eriksson is claimed to be one of the leading candidates to succeed Alex McLeish, who left the job in the wake of the humbling 3-0 Euro 2020 qualifying defeat to Kazakhstan and an unconvincing 2-0 win over minnows San Marino.

Speaking to talkSPORT about the rumours, Eriksson, who was in charge of England between 2001 and 2006, said: "This is absolutely news to me. I never heard about it and I never thought about it.

"It comes out of the blue, so I have no idea, but of course I'm honoured. Scotland is a big job, it's a huge football country.

"Would I speak about it? Yeah, why not. It's not very polite if you don't want to speak to people. But I haven't thought at all about it. We'll see if it's happening, if there's something behind it or not."

Eriksson, who was last in charge of the Philippines, admits he is eager to get back into coaching.

"The passport is saying I am a certain age, but I don't feel it," he said.

"I still like to work, I love football. So, if something interesting comes up, I will go for it.

"There are a lot of people still going at my age and doing well – Roy Hodgson is one of them. I don't feel old and I'm healthy, so I hope to sit on the bench again one day."

England Cricket World Cup hopeful Sam Billings suffered a dislocated shoulder in Kent's One-Day Cup match with Glamorgan on Thursday. 

Making his first county appearance of the season, the batsman sustained the injury while fielding during the second over in Cardiff.

Billings dived to stop the ball and put his shoulder out before receiving treatment for several minutes, during which time he was given oxygen.

Kent confirmed the 27-year-old, who was not named in his country's provisional 15-man squad for the World Cup but is a likely reserve, had his shoulder relocated in hospital before returning to Sophia Gardens.

Billings, who had been included for the ODI with Ireland on May 3, will see a specialist and undergo scans on Friday.

His brief outing with Kent on Thursday came following his return from Indian Premier League duty with Chennai Super Kings.

England full-back Anthony Watson is set to make his long-awaited return for Bath against Sale Sharks in the Premiership on Friday.

Watson suffered a torn Achilles in the 2018 Six Nations, ruling him out for around six months, and then ruptured the tendon again in pre-season following an unsuccessful operation.

Bath director of rugby Todd Blackadder refused to put a date on the 25-year-old's return at the time, describing the second issue as a "start-again injury".

But Watson is now back in the fold and has been named in the Bath XV to face Sale, ending a stretch of over a year on the sidelines.

The return of the 33-cap England star will come as a boost to head coach Eddie Jones ahead of this year's Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Watson signed a new long-term contract with Bath in November last year.

Munster have condemned the fan who confronted England international Billy Vunipola on the pitch after Saracens' European Champions Cup semi-final victory on Saturday.

Vunipola – who was given a formal warning by the RFU earlier this week having offered a defence of Israel Folau's latest controversial social media post in which he shared an image that said "hell awaits" homosexuals – was approached by a supporter wearing a Munster jersey following Sarries' 32-16 triumph.

The fan was swiftly led away by stewards but Vunipola, who was booed throughout the contest, claimed the incident was "quite scary" in an interview with the BBC.

On Sunday, Munster issued a statement which read: "Munster Rugby do not condone the entry of any spectator to the field of play.

"The province wishes to confirm yesterday's identified spectator is not a member of the MRSC [Munster Rugby Supporters' Club] and does not hold a season ticket with the province. The incident will be investigated further."

Worcester Warriors have confirmed Ben Te'o will leave the club at the end of the season.

England international Te'o, who arrived three years ago from Leinster, is the high-profile name among a group of eight players who will depart Sixways.

The centre, 32, has won 20 international caps and also appeared in two Tests for the British and Irish Lions during their series against New Zealand in 2017.

Te'o has been linked with a move to France, though playing for a team in the Top 14 would rule him out of contention for England.

Samoa flanker Alafoti Faosiliva is also moving on from the Warriors, while former South Africa international Dewald Potgieter has announced he will retire from professional rugby at the conclusion of the Premiership campaign.

"We would like to thank all who are leaving for their contribution to the club and wish them the very best for the future," said Alan Solomons, Worcester's director of rugby.

"I often have to explain to people he didn't score all of the 375 off me," Chris Lewis quips as he reflects with mixed emotions on Brian Lara's astonishing record knock in Antigua.

It is 25 years to the day since Lara whipped an expectant Antigua crowd into a frenzy by hooking Lewis to the boundary to eclipse fellow West Indies legend Garry Sobers' long-standing highest Test score of 365 not out.

A quarter of a century on, that historic moment is still fresh in the memory of former England all-rounder Lewis.

"Oh no," Lewis replies when asked if he would mind sharing his recollection of an incredible tour de force from one of the greatest batsmen of all time.

That must have been what the England bowlers were thinking when captain Michael Atherton asked them to warm up as Lara majestically piled on the runs.

The Windies had been reduced to 12-2 on day one of the final match of the series, but Lara spent 12 hours and 46 minutes at the crease to surpass a record set by Sobers back in 1958.

Lewis had tried everything to remove the elegant left hander, whose foot dislodged a bail - which fell back into the groove - as he swung around after hitting one of 45 fours to make history.

He told Omnisport: "People identify me with running in to bowl that ball to Brian, so I often have to explain to people he didn't score all of the 375 off me!

"But I remember running in to bowl the ball and really just thinking, 'I've tried everything else, so I'll have a go at getting [the ball] as high as I can', and there were two men back, so see what happens.

"I bowled the ball, he whacked it for four and it was chaotic, with the game stopped halfway through, people came onto the field - including Garry Sobers - and we're just spectators taking it in, not quite believing what's going on.

"While that was happening, Jack [Russell, England wicketkeeper] came up to me and said, 'Do you know he stepped on his stumps when he hooked it?' I had no idea.

"Here we are 25 years later and certainly I didn't want Brian to break the record, certainly not off my bowling and certainly not against our team. I wouldn't say I was happy to be a part of it but I'm happy for Brian. He was the best batter I ever played against, one of the most exciting cricketers I've ever seen and he deserves it."

Lewis added: "It was really surreal. I remember Brian getting his hundred and I remember thinking, he's got his hundred so sooner or later - hopefully sooner - he'll probably chip one to cover or point or something like that, because it often happens - batsmen give it away after getting to the century.

"But he kept going and after day one nobody was thinking of the world record, then during the second day there almost seemed to be a build-up and an inevitably about it."

While Lewis is now happy to doff his cap to Lara - who went on to make an unbeaten 400 on the same ground against the same opponents to reclaim the Test record 10 years later - for his herculean knock, it was too painful to appreciate at the time.

"I must admit it took me a while to be admiring it, because it's a bit like being in the midst of a boxing fight and someone has given you a great right hook and you stand back and admire," the 51-year-old said. 

"It's very much later when there is not so much aggression going on or in some cases even after your career when you can look back. I didn't want to admire batters too much, it was a competition, but 25 years later Brian Lara coming into bat... if I wasn't bowling it would be a very enjoyable day!"

 

- Lewis is currently on tour for The Long Walk Back, a theatre production based on his fall from grace. 

Brian Lara made 375 to break the record for most runs in a Test innings 25 years ago - and his unbeaten 400 a decade on remains the highest score today. 

Windies fast bowler Kemar Roach has declared himself almost fully recovered from a troublesome back injury and targeted making an appearance at next month’s ICC World Cup.

The 30-year-old pace bowler recently gave another stark example of his immense talent after claiming a five-wicket haul against England in the first Test at Kensington Oval, January.  He returned to take eight wickets in the second Test, before sitting out the third with the back injury.

 “I am not 100 per cent. There are still a couple of weeks before the first game in Ireland, so I am gradually improving and I will be ready for the first game. I bowled a lot of overs in the Test series against England which took a toll on me but I am back now and ready to go,” Roach told Barbados Today.

Roach has, however, not made a One Day International (ODI) appearance for the Windies since Bangladesh in December of last year.  On that occasion, the bowler injured his hamstring.  The bowler will hope to stake his claim for a spot in the ODI squad when the team faces Ireland and Bangladesh in a Tri-series next month.

“In one-day cricket, I have to get back in the frame of things. The last ODI series I played in was in Bangladesh and I got injured there as well. So, it is about building up for all of the ODIs coming after a long World Cup at home and overseas, I am prepared to go out there and give it my best shot,” Roach said.

“Playing in the World Cup is something I have been working towards in the last couple of weeks so hopefully, if selected, I will give it my best shot and go out there and try hard to bring home the silverware for the West Indies.”

Roach has taken 184 wickets from 53 Test matches and 114 scalps from 80 ODIs.

 

 

 

Ian Botham does not envisage any surprise new faces being called into England's Cricket World Cup squad despite mounting speculation regarding Jofra Archer.

Hosts England are set to name their provisional 15-man group for the tournament on Wednesday, with the final squads to be finalised by the ICC on May 23.

While Eoin Morgan has a settled side, Barbados-born all-rounder Archer is now eligible to play for England and has spoken in recent months of his desire to be called up.

But England great Botham does not foresee drastic changes to Morgan's top-ranked one-day international team.

"No, you don't give people a chance when you're actually at the World Cup," Botham told Omnisport.

"No, this team's been working together, it's been bonding, you understand what the guy on the left is doing and the guy on the right and that's very important. I don't think there will be many changes, if any.

"I think Eoin Morgan has pretty much made his mind up on the situation and if you did anything to disrupt it, I don't think it would help the team."

Sussex man Archer has consistently impressed in limited-overs cricket, playing a key role for Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash League, as well as starring for Indian Premier League outfit Rajasthan Royals.

Archer took 3-15 against Kings XI Punjab on Tuesday, while England seamers Mark Wood and Chris Woakes each argued bringing a fresh face in could have a destabilising impact upon Morgan's in-form squad.

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