Charles Leclerc is aiming for a third straight Formula One victory at the Singapore Grand Prix after leading Ferrari to glory in Belgium and Italy.

Lewis Hamilton will want to reassert his dominance at the top of the drivers' standings and the slow corners of the Marina Bay Street Circuit could play back into Mercedes hands after Leclerc made hay in the high-octane surroundings of Spa and Monza.

Pole position in Singapore can be both crucial and hard to come by, as our key raceweek numbers from Opta illustrate.

So, will the season revert to type or can Leclerc and Ferrari seal the team's hottest run of form for more than a decade?


23 – Marina Bay has more corners than any other circuit on the F1 calendar.

0 – No driver has been able to claim back-to-back poles in the 11 editions of the race. This could be a bad omen for Hamilton, who sat at the front of the grid in 2018.

8 – Eight of the 11 Singapore Grands Prix have been won by the driver on pole (73 per cent).

2008 – You have to go back 11 years for the last time Ferrari won three races in a row.

3 – Mercedes are a Grand Prix away from equalling their longest run without a victory in the hybrid era. Post-2014, they have only gone winless three times in row over the opening races of last season.

22 – The combined points haul returned by Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg finishing fourth and fifth respectively at Monza gave Renault the most from a single race in their history.

19 – Ayrton Senna holds the record for Grand Prix wins having led from start to finish. Hamilton is currently on 18.

27 – Team-mate Leclerc might have been making the headlines recently but Sebastian Vettel has won more races in Asia than any other F1 driver. Hamilton is on 24.

7 – Leclerc has bested Vettel in each of the past seven Saturday qualifying sessions and collected four poles this season. Only Niki Lauda (nine in 1974) and Juan Manuel Fangio (six in 1956) have taken more poles in their maiden Ferrari campaigns.

One of the more interesting subplots of any Premier League season is the race for the Golden Boot.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah were joint recipients of the title last season after all finishing on 22 goals.

That figure could be comfortably exceeded this time around, with a number of familiar names – such as Aubameyang, Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling – starting the campaign in prolific form.

They are joined at the top of the scoring charts by two players who excelled in the Championship last season: Tammy Abraham and Teemu Pukki.

Using Opta data, we take a closer look at the records of those five in the opening five games of the season and compare their stats from the same period in the 2018-19 campaign.  

 

SERGIO AGUERO (MANCHESTER CITY) - SEVEN GOALS

Aguero has started the season in blistering form and sits atop the scoring charts with Abraham on seven goals.

It is a marked improvement on his tally of three at the same stage last season; a period in which he played an additional 32 minutes.

It is little surprise that Aguero is finding the net regularly, given his superb record since joining City in 2011, but it is his ruthless efficiency this season that has caught the eye. The Argentina international's seven goals have come from just eight shots on target.

Aguero has been far from selfish so far this term, however, carving out seven chances for his team-mates; one of which has been dispatched.

TAMMY ABRAHAM (CHELSEA) - SEVEN GOALS

Chelsea's transfer ban might well have forced Frank Lampard to use Abraham more than he had planned, but the 21-year-old has well and truly taken his chance.

His electric beginning to the campaign is in contrast to a comparatively sluggish start to life on loan with Aston Villa in the Championship last season where he scored just twice in the club's opening five games.

He has played 80 minutes fewer in the top flight so far this season but has scored seven goals from just eight shots on target.

His hat-trick against Wolves at the weekend made him the third player in Premier League history to score two or more goals in three consecutive appearances aged 21 or younger.

TEEMU PUKKI (NORWICH CITY) - SIX GOALS

The Finland international has been one of the surprise packages of the season, plundering six goals for the newly promoted Canaries.

He scored a whopping 29 goals to help his side win promotion last season but started slowly, scoring just two goals in his first five appearances.

There has been no such slumber at the start of this campaign, however.

He took just three shots in his opening five games last season, but Daniel Farke's aggressive approach to life in the top flight has clearly benefited Pukki, who has already attempted 12 shots.

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (ARSENAL) - FIVE GOALS

It is hardly a surprise that the Gunners striker is among the deadliest strikers so far this season.

Since his Premier League debut in February 2018, only Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (53) has been directly involved in more goals in the competition (37 goals and nine assists).

The bad news for defences across the country is that he might be getting even more prolific.

He scored just once in his opening five games last season, but his brace against Watford on Sunday means he already has five to his name this campaign. Given that start, it will not be a surprise to see him comfortably surpass last season's tally of 22 goals.

RAHEEM STERLING (MANCHESTER CITY) - FIVE GOALS

Sterling set his stall out this season with a hat-trick in City's resounding opening day victory over West Ham.

It marked the continuation of a stunning few seasons for the former Liverpool man, who is now firmly considered to be one of the Premier League's deadliest finishers.

With 49 touches in the opposition box already this season – 18 more than his nearest rival in the top five – it is hardly surprising that he has five goals to his name; two more than he had in the same period last term.

He has also been a consummate team player, laying on eight chances for his team-mates.

It is little surprise to see powerhouses New Zealand start the Rugby World Cup as pre-tournament favourites.

The two-time defending champions remain the most fearsome side in world rugby and only the brave would bet against the All Blacks winning an unprecedented third straight trophy.

But the gulf between New Zealand and the chasing pack has been closed significantly, with Ireland starting the tournament as the number one ranked side.

With that in mind, three Omnisport writers give their thoughts on who will triumph in Japan, who may upset the odds and the player to watch throughout the tournament.


PETER HANSON

Winners: New Zealand

The All Blacks may not have the same air of invincibility they once held but it will still take an off day from Steve Hansen's men and a top performance from the other contenders to deny New Zealand a third straight title. Rare blips, such as the defeat to Australia and draw with South Africa in the Rugby Championship, will only galvanise this scarily talented squad, which has so much depth the likes of Owen Franks and Ngani Laumape did not even make the plane. England, Ireland, Wales and South Africa will all feel they can spring an upset, but I just don't see anyone dethroning the All Blacks.

Dark horses: Australia

It seems pretty absurd that a proud rugby nation such as Australia should be considered as outsiders, but that is the position Michael Cheika's side find themselves in. Inconsistent form over the past few years has seen the Wallabies lose some of their fear factor. You should always beware the wounded animal, though, and Australia really know how to turn it on at the World Cup. Twice champions of the world and twice runners-up, including four years ago when again they flew somewhat under the radar to make the final, discount the Aussies at your peril.

Player to watch: Sevu Reece

Exciting, electric, powerhouse New Zealand wingers go hand-in-hand with the World Cup and Sevu Reece is the next off the seemingly never-ending production line. He only made his Super Rugby debut for Crusaders in March, but finished the season as top try scorer with 15. At 22 years old, Reece still has plenty of time on his hands but he can already make a name for himself on the world stage.


PETE THOMPSON

Winners: South Africa

New Zealand will take some stopping in their bid to do what has never done before, but South Africa look well equipped to match the All Blacks' record of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup three times.

The Springboks have experienced a renaissance under Rassie Erasmus, with a formidable pack mixed with flair, and after winning the Rugby Championship in August they can become champions of the world in Yokohama on November 2.

Dark horses: Japan

Japan stunned South Africa in 2015 and home advantage can inspire them to reach the quarter-finals for the first time.

Captain and number eight Michael Leitch will drive on Jamie Joseph's exciting side, who can be a joy to watch with their skill, speed and agility.

Player to watch: Faf de Klerk

Faf de Klerk is not a giant in stature, but the South Africa scrum-half can light up the tournament.

The playmaker has played a huge part in the Springboks' resurgence, pulling the strings and setting the tempo and he can get South Africa ticking on the biggest stage of all.


TOM WEBBER

Winners: South Africa

The Springboks have come a long way under Erasmus and are unbeaten in 2019. They claimed an impressive draw against the All Blacks in New Zealand in July and went on to seal the Rugby Championship, undoubtedly making them the form team heading to Japan.

Dark horses: Argentina

The Pumas have not won a Test match since beating Australia 23-19 in September 2018, but the Jaguares making it all the way to the Super Rugby final this year shows this is a group of players with serious talent. The success of their campaign will likely hinge on their opening match against France at Tokyo Stadium, with England also in Pool C.

Player to watch: Peceli Yato

Yato has shown himself to be an accomplished flanker with Clermont Auvergne in the Top 14 in recent seasons; in 2018-19 he scored more tries and made more metres than any other forward in the division. However, with Fiji in a group that includes Australia and Wales they will likely need to claim a scalp against one of those sides to have a chance of advancing.

Erling Haaland made a stunning start to his Champions League career on Tuesday, becoming the eighth player to net a hat-trick on their debut in Europe's elite competition.

The 19-year-old netted all three of his goals in the first half as Salzburg crushed Genk 6-2, with Haaland the third youngest player to score a treble in the Champions League.

His first goal arrived in just the second minute, as he found the bottom-right corner in confident fashion from just inside the area, Haaland then doubled the tally just past the half-hour mark when finishing off a counter.

He completed the hat-trick – remarkably his fourth of the season across all competitions – just before the interval, tucking in from close range.

As impressive as his debut Champions League hat-trick was, he was not the first to accomplish the feat. Below, we look at those who came before.

Yacine Brahimi (Porto) v BATE – September 2014

Tricky winger Brahimi made an explosive entrance to Champions League football five years ago. He punished a goalkeeper error to open his account from a tight angle, before then adding a glorious solo effort and a pinpoint free-kick.

Grafite (Wolfsburg) v CSKA Moscow – September 2009

Brazilian striker Grafite pencilled himself into the history books in 2009 with a treble against CSKA Moscow. The powerful forward finished off a counter for his first, then converting a penalty. He rounded things off late on in the 3-1 win by converting a Marcel Schaefer cross.

Vincenzo Iaquinta (Udinese) v Panathinaikos – September 2005

Udinese made an emphatic start to their first Champions League campaign in 2005, dispatching Panathinaikos 3-0. Iaquinta was vital to that, opening the scoring with a header after wasting a couple of earlier chances. He made it 2-0 in the second half when racing on to Antonio Di Natale's pass and finishing, wrapping up the win with a fierce drive.

Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) v Fenerbahce – September 2004

After joining United for a reported £24million on the back of an impressive Euro 2004, Rooney truly announced himself with a marvellous treble against Fenerbahce on his Old Trafford debut. The striker got his first 17 minutes in, emphatically converting after a Ruud van Nistelrooy pass. A fine long-range effort into the bottom-left corner followed and he then blasted home a free-kick.

Yakubu (Maccabi Haifa) v Olympiakos – September 2002

Only 19 at the time, Yakubu ran Olympiakos ragged in 2002. Having missed a 5-2 defeat to Man United through suspension, Yakubu made up for lost time on matchday two, opening the scoring with a penalty. He doubled the lead against the run of play with a smart finish after holding off a defender and later added the third after getting in behind the visitors' defence.

Tino Asprilla (Newcastle United) v Barcelona– September 1997

A vibrant, colourful character, Colombian forward Asprilla produced a performance to match against Barcelona in a 3-2 win. He opened his account with a penalty, before twice nodding in towering headers from right-wing crosses, securing a famous result for the Magpies.

Marco van Basten (AC Milan) v Goteborg – November 1992

Synonymous with the spectacular, Van Basten's first goal in the revamped Champions League – having been the European Cup before the 1992-93 season – was a lovely one, finding the top-left corner despite being off-balance. A penalty followed and then came an outrageous overhead kick from the edge of the box. The Dutchman got a fourth by rounding the goalkeeper, sealing an easy win.

It is not a great week for some of the NFL's best and most durable quarterbacks.

In Week 3, the league looks set to be without Drew Brees (thumb), Ben Roethlisberger (elbow), Cam Newton (foot) and Eli Manning (benched). Here are their current prognoses:

- The New Orelans Saints' Brees will have surgery on a torn ligament on his right (throwing) thumb and is potentially out for six weeks.

- Roethlisberger is out for the season for the Pittsburgh Steelers and is set for surgery on his right (throwing) elbow.

- Newton aggravated the mid-foot sprain he suffered in the preseason and there is no timetable for his return for the Carolina Panthers.

- Manning was benched in favour of rookie Daniel Jones after the New York Giants' 0-2 start.

And this comes just one week after Nick Foles (shoulder) was sidelined for about 10 weeks and Sam Darnold (mono) was ruled out for an undetermined period. Not to mention the fact Andrew Luck retired before Week 1.

But this truly is the week that people will remember as one sure-fire Hall of Famer (Brees) and two probable Hall of Famers (Roethlisberger and Manning) were lost to injury or flagging performance.

So just what are we losing in these players? We take a look at some of their career numbers:

- Brees, Roethlisberger, Newton and Manning have combined to throw 1,429 touchdown passes.

- They have won a combined 484 games.

- They have been selected to 25 Pro Bowls.

- The four have been in seven Super Bowls and won five.

- They have made two first-team All-Pro teams.

- One has been an MVP (Newton) and two were Super Bowl MVPs (Brees and Manning).

- Since becoming full-time starters they have missed a combined 39 games out of 842, roughly one out of every 21 played.

- If their injuries and benchings are accurate, they will miss 35 games this season alone and possibly more.

The NFL certainly took a blow this week, but their careers are not over. Roethlisberger, Brees and Newton have football left in them, while Manning could easily stay on as a backup for the Giants and a mentor for Jones.

It finally happened: Eli Manning has been benched by the New York Giants.

It has been on the horizon for several years. It almost happened in 2017 when then-coach Ben McAdoo dropped Manning in favour of Geno Smith, but McAdoo was fired soon after and the veteran reprised his role.

Now it is rookie Daniel Jones' turn, and the writing had been on the wall.

Jones was drafted to be the Giants' quarterback of the future, he was great in the preseason and Manning was sub-standard as New York started 0-2.

But no matter what you think of Manning, he goes down as one of only 12 quarterbacks to win multiple Super Bowls. That is where the conversation about his career must begin.

Two Super Bowls

Manning did not just win two Super Bowls, he was a two-time Super Bowl MVP, and in those games he made iconic throws and posted good numbers. He went 49-for-74 passing for 551 yards with three touchdowns and one interception and beat Tom Brady twice.

But while those are incredible accomplishments to hang his hat on, his run to those Super Bowls cannot be forgotten either. The Giants had to win four games in both postseasons and Manning threw 15 touchdown passes to just two interceptions while going 8-0.

It is unlikely the Giants would have won either of those championships without him. That truly defines his career.

A .500 record

However, a less impressive factor that cannot be overlooked is his winning percentage as a starter in the regular-season. Manning has made 232 starts in his career and has a 116-116 record.

Championships are the true measure of a quarterback, but a team does not expect a .500 record when it pays $252million to a player over their career.

Top 10 in two all-time passing rankings

Manning has made only four Pro Bowls in his 15-year career and has never won a regular-season MVP award, but his stats are impressive.

Manning has seven 4,000-yard passing seasons, three years with 30 touchdown passes and is seventh all-time in passing yards and eighth in passing touchdowns. Add that to two Super Bowls and that is certainly a Hall of Fame resume.

However, a look at the entire picture muddies his legacy. Manning also had three 20-interception seasons and is currently 14th all-time with 241 career picks.

Manning is undoubtedly a talented and successful quarterback but with a career full of average performances and a 38-59 record over his past seven seasons, it is unsurprising the Giants are looking to move on.

Lionel Messi has his sights on a record set by Real Madrid great Raul when Barcelona face Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday, as the Champions League proper gets started for the 2019-20 season.

Barca's talisman is back in their squad for the trip to Germany after missing the start of the campaign with a calf injury and, while he is unlikely to start, few would bet against him having a decisive impact if he does make an appearance.

Reigning champions Liverpool begin their title defence at Napoli in what will surely prove to be a tricky test, although Sadio Mane will be aiming to equal a record set by Didier Drogba.

There will also be Champions League bows in the dugout for Frank Lampard and Sylvinho.

Below, we examine the key data for Tuesday's encounters...

Salzburg v Genk

0 - Salzburg have not lost any of their last 18 home matches in European competition (W14 D4 – including qualifiers), with their most recent defeat at home coming in October 2016 against Nice in the Europa League.

1 - Genk forward Mbwana Samatta scored nine goals in 12 appearances in European competition last season and he also finished with 23 goals in the Belgian top flight in 2018-19. Should he play in this match, he will be the first Tanzanian player to make an appearance in the Champions League.

 

Napoli v Liverpool

5 - Napoli have won just one of their past six European meetings with English clubs, losing the other five in this run and failing to score in the most recent three. That one victory was against Liverpool last season, though.

15 - Liverpool forward Sadio Mane has scored 14 goals in 24 Champions League appearances. Should he score in his next outing, he will equal Didier Drogba's record of needing just 25 appearances to score his first 15 goals in the competition, a record for any African player.

 

Inter v Slavia Prague

20 - Inter will be making their 20th appearance in the Champions League/European Cup – only Juventus (34) and AC Milan (28) have had more among Italian sides (including 2019-20).

24 - Inter forward Alexis Sanchez has been involved in 24 goals (12 goals, 12 assists) in his 52 Champions League appearances, but none of these involvements came in six games in the competition for Manchester United, the club he left on loan last month.

 

Borussia Dortmund v Barcelona

33 - Lionel Messi has scored against 32 of the 37 different opponents he has faced in the Champions League. Should he score against Dortmund, the Barcelona star will equal the competition's record for different teams scored against, set by Raul (33 clubs).

2 - Borussia Dortmund have won just two of their past eight Champions League home matches (D2 L4), losing their most recent match 1-0 against Tottenham in the last 16 in 2018-19.

 

Lyon v Zenit

1 - Lyon boss Sylvinho will manage in the Champions League for the first time, also becoming the first non-Frenchman to take charge of the club in Europe's elite competition. The Brazilian made 32 Champions League appearances as a player for Barcelona, Celta Vigo and Arsenal, scoring three goals.

58 - Zenit captain Branislav Ivanovic could make his first Champions League appearance since March 2016 (for Chelsea) in this match. He has made 58 appearances in the competition; only Dejan Stankovic (87) and Predrag Djordjevic (62) have made more among Serbian players.

 

Benfica v RB Leipzig

10 - Benfica are Portugal's sole representative in the 2019-20 Champions League, making it the first time in a decade that there is only one Portuguese club in the competition.

3 - Timo Werner scored three goals from just seven shots on target in the Champions League back in 2017-18, more than any other RB Leipzig player. He went on to net seven times in European competition that term, the highest total by an RB Leipzig player in a single season.

 

Ajax v Lille

6 - Ajax won six games in the 2018-19 Champions League, as many as they did in their previous four participations in the competition.

11 - Including qualifiers, Lille have not won any of their past 11 European matches in all competitions (D6 L5) and scored only five goals in these games.

 

Chelsea v Valencia

102 - Frank Lampard will take charge of a Champions League game for the first time in his managerial career. As a Chelsea player, he made 102 appearances in the competition and is one of only 22 players to have played 100 games or more in the tournament with the same club.

2 - Valencia have reached the Champions League in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2012-13 (three in a row), which was also the last time they made it to the knockout stages of the competition, before being beaten by Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16.

The world's best are converging on Japan for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, where New Zealand will hope to again defend their title.

But with only 31 players able to be selected by each team, a number of notable names have not made the cut this year.

We take a look at five who might count themselves unfortunate not to be involved in the sport's biggest event.


Devin Toner (Ireland)

Ireland have not quite hit the same heights this year as in 2018 when they won the Six Nations Grand Slam and defeated the All Blacks, yet they have no shortage of options. The inclusion of Jean Kleyn, recently eligible due to the residency rule, has seen Devin Toner miss out.

Remarkably, that law and Joe Schmidt's decision resulted in criticism from World Rugby vice-president Agustin Pichot, who posted on Twitter: "I will be asking WR [World Rugby] for answers. I feel sorry for [Toner]."

Schmidt responded: "I think [Pichot] has a number of big opinions, but they're not ones that are relevant for us. Considering he is involved in World Rugby, he could have a look at what the rules were and not have so many things to say because for us it is tough enough to do our job and tough enough for me to have a conversation as I did with Dev."


Ben Te'o (England)

With some key men fit again and available, experienced centre Ben Te'o paid the price.

Head coach Eddie Jones was understandably questioned on the decision and explained: "I'm not going to go into reasons why he wasn't selected. We've had conversations; he understands it. Whether he agrees with it is another matter. We've had that discussion with him and he's just not in our top 31 players at the moment."

Te'o will instead be plying his trade with Toulon during the tournament, having been called in as cover for their World Cup stars.


Owen Franks (New Zealand)

Not many teams have the luxury of leaving out a 31-year-old with 108 Tests to his name. But not many teams have the depth of New Zealand, unfortunately for Owen Franks.

Franks had started each of the past two World Cup finals, playing the full 80 minutes in the 2011 triumph over France, but will not feature in the All Blacks' latest title defence.

Steve Hansen, who also left out Ngani Laumape, said: "[Franks] is one of the great All Blacks, he's played over 100 Tests. But unfortunately we believe the game requires us to have big, mobile ones and threes and, in this case, we think the other guys are more so. It was a tough decision."


Mathieu Bastareaud (France)

France named their initial World Cup squad in June and, while there were changes before the final selection was confirmed, Mathieu Bastareaud was not given the opportunity to force his way back into the side.

Bastareaud was Les Bleus' vice-captain as recently as the Six Nations, but his role in an underwhelming campaign appeared to count against him when coach Jacques Brunel named a youthful group.

Morgan Parra and Teddy Thomas missed out, too, although Brunel insisted Fabien Galthie, who will take over as coach following the tournament, had no role in the decisions.


Rob Evans (Wales)

Loosehead prop Rob Evans was one of the stars of Wales' Six Nations Grand Slam campaign this year but, along with Samson Lee, did not do enough to make Warren Gatland's 31-man squad.

It appears injury issues counted against Scarlets star Evans, who has played 36 Tests, although he is fit again following a shoulder operation at the end of last season.

Gatland explained Wales were preferring more "durable" options, saying: "Rob hasn't trained a lot in the lead up to the warm-up matches. He came in with a shoulder injury, then he's picked up a neck injury and a couple of back issues. Rob hadn't played a lot."

Talk of two-time defending champions New Zealand being vulnerable as they bid to make Rugby World Cup history will be music to the ears of Steve Hansen.

The All Blacks start their quest to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for an unprecedented third time in a row as favourites, and rightly so.

Yet New Zealand are not the all-conquering force that have taken on all comers for so many years and slipped to second in the rankings behind Ireland ahead of the tournament in Japan.

Chinks in the armour were exposed during a Rugby Championship campaign that New Zealand finished in third spot after they were soundly beaten by Australia and drew with South Africa.

The Springboks were crowned champions, making a strong statement just six weeks before the two heavyweights do battle in their Pool B opener in Yokohama.

Ireland have beaten Hansen's side twice in the last three years and South Africa consigned them to defeat in a Wellington classic 12 months ago.

The juggernaut has been halted, but there is no doubt it can fire up driven on by inspirational captain Kieran Read - hungry to end his international career by lifting the famous trophy yet again in November.

Australia were put in their place a week after rocking the 14-man All Blacks in Perth, going down 36-0 at fortress Eden Park just eight days later.

Hansen must be rubbing his hands together reading or hearing about his side being fallible as they prepare to try and make history and give him the perfect send-off.

The All Blacks supremo declared Ireland are favourites to dethrone New Zealand after his side were beaten in Dublin last year, but sounded a warning upon arrival in Tokyo.

"To try and do things that have never been done before is a hallmark of what New Zealand people are about." he said.

"We came away from the home shores and settled in a country at the bottom of the earth. We had to find ways to live in isolation when life wasn't like it is today.

"They became pioneers. That's important in life and particularly in sport; you've got to strive to be leaders rather than followers. We have an opportunity that no one else at the tournament gets; we can shy away from it or get really excited about it. We are really excited by it."

One look at the list of New Zealanders who failed to make the squad shows the challenge their rivals face in trying to end their dominance.

Test centurion Owen Franks was sensationally omitted along with outstanding centre Ngani Laumape, highlighting the embarrassment of riches at Hansen's disposal.

Liam Squire is also absent, but Hansen has such an abundance of quality to call upon that New Zealand remain the team to beat.

The fear factor may not be what it was, but write the All Blacks off at your peril.

So, what did exactly did the 2019 Ashes series tell us? Steve Smith can definitely bat, Jofra Archer is seriously quick and no cause is ever seemingly lost when Ben Stokes is still at the crease.

Delving a little deeper, the five Tests made clear the obvious flaws in both teams, but also demonstrated their strengths. Now, though, they can draw breath, recharge their batteries and start thinking about the future.

Australia, who retained the Ashes courtesy of a 2-2 series draw, return to the Test arena against Pakistan in late November and with spots up for grabs, all eyes will be on the start of the Sheffield Shield season. England, meanwhile, have tours to New Zealand and South Africa to look forward to before the year is out.

Having examined the state of both squads at different stages during the year, we now offer one final assessment while also looking ahead to the future.

 

BATTING

Not even retaining the urn has been enough to silence the questions that were already there before the Ashes about Australia's batting.

Smith's heroics were enough on this occasion, but coach Justin Langer has work to do going forward.

David Warner, who should be Australia's second-best batsman, became Stuart Broad's bunny, making just 95 runs at an average of 9.50 during the series and falling to the England paceman seven times.

Between Warner, Cameron Bancroft and Marcus Harris, Australia's opening stands during the Ashes were an average of 8.50 runs, immediately putting themselves under early pressure.

Marnus Labuschagne was a revelation after getting his chance, scoring 353 runs at an average of 50.42 to cement his place in Australia's top-order. But, going forward, places are up for grabs.

Matthew Wade combined two centuries with eight scores of 34 or less, while Travis Head (who averaged 27.28) and Usman Khawaja (20.33) were both dropped during the series.

Harris and Wade top-scored in the Shield last season, but the likes of Kurtis Patterson, 26, Will Pucovski, 21, and Jake Lehmann, 27, should all be sensing an opportunity.

Given the others have failed to take their chances, albeit in tough conditions, perhaps the time has come to build around Smith and Labuschagne while preparing for the future.

Like their opponents, England have gaps to fill in the top six.

Rory Burns (390 runs at 39) had success at the top of the order, but the gamble on Jason Roy failed to pay off. Joe Denly may have received a stay of execution with his 94 at The Oval, but it is hard to see how a 33-year-old who has spent recent domestic seasons further down the batting list is the long-term answer.

Joe Root had made clear in the past that three is not his favoured role, so it will be interesting to see if Trevor Bayliss' replacement is happy to drop him one position lower.

The team's success in the longest format has often come courtesy of rearguard actions in difficult situations, but the time has come to start batting big.

Stokes (441 runs at 55.12) showed the way with two second-innings hundreds, but Jonny Bairstow has reached 50 only once in his last 14 Test innings and Jos Buttler is in the strange position of being picked as a frontline batsman that comes in at seven.

A busy winter schedule offers an opportunity to blood some fresh faces. Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley are the two openers regularly talked about as possible candidates to have a go alongside Burns. 

Ollie Pope is waiting for another crack at international cricket, while Ben Foakes could return behind the stumps for the struggling Bairstow, who should perhaps consider giving up the gloves to focus completely on his batting. 


BOWLING

Unlike their batting, Australia's bowling is far more settled and with good reason.

Pat Cummins won the Allan Border Medal in February and the paceman showed he can lead his nation for years to come. The 26-year-old played all five Tests – a fine feat for a player with his injury history – and was comfortably the leading wicket-taker in the Ashes with 29.

Cummins took his 29 wickets at an average of 19.62 and economy rate of 2.69.

Such is the depth and talent in Australia's attack, Mitchell Starc played just one Test, selectors perhaps looking elsewhere to capitalise on the English conditions.

Josh Hazlewood has long been expected to be the man in such situations and he grabbed 20 wickets at 21.85 in four Tests.

Peter Siddle and James Pattinson played three and two Tests respectively and while their spots are far from certain, the ability of the attack to deliver as a unit would have pleased Langer.

They were helped by Nathan Lyon, who bowled more overs than anyone else on his way to 20 wickets at 33.40.

Siddle (34) is the oldest of the group, but Cummins, Hazlewood (28), Starc (29) and Pattinson (29) look to have several years ahead of them in an excellent sign for Australia. Even Mitchell Marsh took his chance with the ball in the fifth Test, grabbing seven wickets, although the all-rounder is often criticised for his performances.

The bowling was expected to be Australia's strength during the series and it proved just that, with few signs of it being an area of concern going forward.

Similarly, for England, there are reasons to be cheerful over the attack. Broad benefited from the chance to hone his skills in county cricket prior to the Ashes - and went on to torture Warner and the rest of the left-handers.

While his regular new-ball partner prospered, James Anderson endured a wretched campaign. Forced off after four overs of the opening Test with a calf injury, the Lancastrian failed to reappear in the rest of the series. He remains committed to playing at the highest level again, but England should not need to rush their leading wicket-taker back.

That is mainly because of the emergence of the blistering Archer. He claimed 22 wickets in four Tests, knocked down the seemingly immovable Smith at Lord's and provided an added dimension to an attack otherwise lacking variety.

Sam Curran's patience was finally rewarded with an outing in the fifth Test, where he again demonstrated his knack of making things happen, but Chris Woakes flattered to deceive, both with bat and ball.

Craig Overton's selection at Old Trafford was an unexpected call and maybe brother Jamie, as well as another Somerset bowler in Lewis Gregory, may get a go ahead of him in future.

As for the spin department, Jack Leach became a cult hero among fans and an easy fancy dress costume for a day at the Test.

The captain-coach axis must also work out what they see as the future role for Moeen Ali, a player far too talented to be left languishing outside of the national set-up.


CURRENT OUTLOOK

Smith's form tilted the balance enough in Australia's favour to secure a 2-2 result, but now it will be fascinating to see how both nations develop as they go their separate ways.

For England, the preparations for the tour Down Under in 2021-22 should begin immediately, or else they may be waiting a little longer to get the urn back.

After many, many months of speculation, David de Gea has pledged his future to Manchester United in the form of a new contract.

The Spain international has agreed to fresh terms that will run until the end of the 2022-23 season, with the option of a further year.

De Gea is one of United's senior players these days, having joined the club from Atletico Madrid as a 20-year-old in 2011 as one of the final major signings made by Alex Ferguson before his retirement two years later.

Fergie brought in a fair few goalkeepers during his 27 years at Old Trafford. Some of them proved shrewd, pivotal signings. Some did not.

Here, we run the rule over all the keepers to join during the reign of the great Scot...

Jim Leighton (1988-91)

Leighton followed Ferguson to United from Aberdeen two years after his manager made the move. A fine player in Scotland, Leighton could not replicate that same form and was dropped for the FA Cup final replay in 1990 after some clangers in the first game.

Verdict: Miss

 

Les Sealey (1990-91, 93-94)

The man who replaced Leighton for that victorious replay against Palace, Sealey also played in the 1991 European Cup Winners' Cup final victory over Barcelona. He sadly died at the age of just 43 in 2001 but is fondly remembered by United fans.

Verdict: Hit

 

Peter Schmeichel (1991-99)

Arguably United's greatest ever goalkeeper, Schmeichel won 11 major trophies with the Red Devils, including the famous treble in 1998-99. Even joining Manchester City before retirement has not tarnished his legacy at Old Trafford.

Verdict: Hit

 

Tony Coton (1996)

Better known as a goalkeeping coach than a player at United, Coton never made a first-team appearance for the club. Considered Watford's best ever keeper and a top player for City, his United playing days were forgettable, to say the least.

Verdict: Miss

 

Raimond van der Gouw (1996-2002)

Coton's replacement as understudy to Schmeichel and then Fabien Barthez, Van der Gouw was an astute signing who served United with aplomb - even if he didn't play too often.

Verdict: Hit

 

Nick Culkin (1997-2002)

Signed from York City, Culkin took the record for the shortest Premier League debut when he came on as a substitute against Arsenal just before full-time. At the end of his career, he turned out for FC United of Manchester, the team formed as part of the anti-Glazer protest movement.

Verdict: Miss

 

Mark Bosnich (1989-91, 1999-01)

After a brief stint at the club as a teenager, Bosnich was signed back to replace Schmeichel in 1999. He won a Premier League title but rarely looked convincing, particularly with his kicking, and Ferguson later criticised his professionalism. 

Verdict: Miss

 

Massimo Taibi (1999)

Taibi cost a reported £4.5million, a sizeable fee at the time. It's fair to say it was not justified. Taibi had a good debut in a win over fierce rivals Liverpool, but utterly wretched performances against Southampton and in a 5-0 loss to Chelsea more or less ended his United career before it started.

Verdict: Miss

 

Fabien Barthez (2000-04)

France's World Cup-winning goalkeeper from 1998, Barthez was both an exceptional talent and an eccentric prone to too many mistakes. He was twice a Premier League champion but simply could not be relied upon. Still, we won't forget the Laurent-Blanc-head-kissing routine in a hurry.

Verdict: Hit - just

 

Roy Carroll (2001-05)

Say 'Roy Carroll', and you think of Pedro Mendes. A Premier League and FA Cup winner with United, it was Carroll's error against Tottenham that sticks most vividly in the mind, even if the goal was somehow not given. At least it helped pave the way for goal-line technology.

Verdict: Miss

 

Ricardo (2002-05)

On his Premier League debut against Blackburn Rovers, Ricardo conceded and saved a penalty in a 3-1 win. He didn't play in the top flight again. He still considered his time at Old Trafford "a lovely experience", though.

Verdict: Miss

 

Luke Steele (2002-06)

Snapped up from Peterborough United, Steele's days with the Red Devils comprised of reserve-team matches and time on the substitute's bench. His best days came in a Barnsley shirt.

Verdict: Miss

 

Tim Howard (2003-07)

A promising talent, Howard struggled in the United limelight and infamously dropped a free-kick that led to Porto's decisive goal in a Champions League tie, leading to Jose Mourinho's wild celebratory sprint down the touchline. He had a much better career with Everton and the United States.

Verdict: Miss

 

Edwin van der Sar (2005-11)

It took six years, but United finally got their Schmeichel replacement. Van der Sar runs the Dane close as the club's greatest goalkeeper, winning four league titles and the Champions League as part of the most formidable side since the treble season.

Verdict: Hit

 

Tomasz Kuszczak (2006-12)

Another United keeper to concede and save a penalty on his debut, Kuszczak was a back-up to Van der Sar who never truly inspired confidence. He did win seven major trophies, though.

Verdict: Miss

 

Ben Foster (2005-10)

A bright talent who joined United from Stoke City, serious knee injuries hampered Foster's early career. A good goalkeeper who just wasn't quite good enough, certainly to wrestle the number one shirt away from Van der Sar, he has been a fine servant for West Brom and Watford.

Verdict: Miss - just

 

Anders Lindegaard (2010-15)

A reasonably dependable presence while De Gea adapted to life in the Premier League, Lindegaard won the title in 2012-13 in a United career that mostly went under the radar.

Verdict: Hit

 

David de Gea (2011 -)

He had some tricky early days, but De Gea soon developed into one of the world's elite goalkeepers. A dip in standards over the past 18 months does not diminish his overall standing at the club, and he is showing signs of recapturing his best form.

Verdict: Hit

It is official. David de Gea is going nowhere!

The Spain goalkeeper penned a new contract with Manchester United until 2023 on Monday, with the option to extend the deal by a further year.

De Gea's future at Old Trafford has often been the feature of debate, with Real Madrid most famously coming close to securing his signature in 2015, while Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain have also been reported suitors.

But the 28-year-old, who has become recognised as one of the world's best goalkeepers during his time at United, will be with the Red Devils for the foreseeable future.

Below, we have analysed Opta data to take a look at De Gea's best Premier League stats with United.

 

MORE CLEAN SHEETS THAN A HOTEL

Since De Gea made his debut in August 2011, no other goalkeeper can boast more than his 102 clean sheets from 280 top-flight games. The nearest rival is Tottenham's Hugo Lloris ( 87 from 244 ), while Joe Hart ( 85 from 216 ) and Petr Cech ( 84 from 221 ) also feature highly on the list.


A GLOVE-LY RECORD TO HOLD

De Gea arguably enjoyed his best campaign in a Red Devils jersey during the 2017-18 campaign as he kept 18 clean sheets to clinch the Golden Glove award. In that same campaign, Ederson ( 16 ), Lloris ( 15 ) and Thibaut Courtois ( 15 ) could not match De Gea's efforts. That season saw De Gea make 14 saves in a single match against Arsenal – the most in one game (same as Tim Krul and Vito Mannone) since Opta started collecting shot save data in the 2003-04 season.


ONE HUNDRED NOT OUT

It took De Gea 264 appearances to rack up a century of Premier League clean sheets. That pales in comparison to the 180 it took former Chelsea and Arsenal stopper Cech to reach the milestone. Pepe Reina ( 198 ), Peter Schmeichel ( 212 ), David Seaman ( 225 ), Edwin van der Sar ( 247 ) and Joe Hart ( 259 ) also achieved the feat in fewer games. De Gea's best run without conceding was a streak of six between February 2 and March 30 2013.


THE VITAL PREMIER LEAGUE STATISTICS

280 – De Gea has racked up an impressive 280 top-flight appearances since making the move to Old Trafford from Atletico Madrid, playing 25,184 minutes in the process.

102 – The Spain international has frequently kept opposition attacks frustrated with 102 clean sheets to date.

282 – De Gea has picked the ball out of the United goal on 282 occasions in the Premier League. The most in a single season was the 2018-19 campaign where he was beaten on 54 occasions.

785 – You do not earn the nickname "Dave saves" for nothing and De Gea has 785 to his name so far, with an impressive save percentage of 73.27.

2 – One slightly surprising area of his game is penalty saves. De Gea has stopped just two of the 24 Premier League penalties he has faced.

10 – In his eight-and-a-bit seasons to date, De Gea has been personally culpable for 10 errors leading to goals. The most in a single campaign came last term with four, while he impressively was at fault for zero in the 2013-14 and 2017-18 seasons.

158 – Of the 280 Premier League games he has played, De Gea has been on the winning side on 158 occasions.

The Ashes battle is over for this year - England fought hard and made sure they avoided a series defeat on home soil, but a 2-2 result sees Australia retain the urn.

Steve Smith was the catalyst for triumphs at Edgbaston and Old Trafford but, in the main, ball dominated bat.

Pitches offered some assistance to the two high-quality seam attacks and with the English weather occasionally getting involved, there was rarely a dull moment across the five matches between the old rivals.

After the first drawn series since 1972, we have picked some of the notable numbers from Opta...

 

2 - In making scores of 144 and 142 in the opening Test in Birmingham, Smith became the fifth player to record two centuries in the same Ashes Test.

4 - Nathan Lyon is just the fourth Australian bowler to reach 350 Test wickets. He moved above Dennis Lillee into third place on the all-time list for his country, with just Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne now above him.

5 - With victory at The Oval, England are still unbeaten in a Test series on home soil since June 2014. Sri Lanka were the last visiting team to prevail, recording a 1-0 triumph under Angelo Mathews.

7 - Stuart Broad dominated his personal duel with David Warner, dismissing the Australia opener seven times while conceding just 35 runs against him.

8 - England's eight-match unbeaten streak in Tests at Edgbaston came to an end; the last time they had previously tasted defeat at the venue was in 2008 (against South Africa).

10 - An impressive run of successive half-centuries in Ashes games for Smith came to an end in his final knock of the series. The right-hander was caught at leg slip off the bowling of Broad for 23 in the fifth Test.

16 - Broad got more left-handers out than anyone else (16); he averaged just 13.7 against them, compared to 56.3 against right-handed batsmen. 

20 - England had played 20 successive Tests without a draw before the game at Lord's, where rain wiped out the entire first day's play of the second Test.

29 - Pat Cummins set an unusual record - his tally of wickets is the most in a Test series by a bowler without claiming a five-for in any innings.

135 - Ben Stokes posted his highest Test score against Australia with an unforgettable match-winning knock at Headingley that included eight sixes.

390 - Left-hander Rory Burns was easily the top-scoring opener for either team. Australia's trio of David Warner (95 runs), Marcus Harris (58 runs) and Cameron Bancroft (44 runs) all struggled for the visitors.

The 2019 Ashes certainly lived up to the pre-series hype.

England and Australia had no shortage of talent on display but also glaring holes in both sides were exposed over the course of five intriguing battles that provided plenty of twists and turns.

There were brilliant exhibitions of fast bowling. There were centuries (thanks largely to Steve Smith!). There was a fairy-tale finish for the ages, too, but in the end no outright winner.

Australia retained the Ashes but England's victory at The Oval in the fifth and final chapter means a 2-2 result, the first series draw between the rivals since 1972.

Here, Omnisport picks out the key moments as we recap each Test.

 

AUSTRALIA EIGHT DOWN, ANDERSON OUT

Tim Paine’s decision to bat first in the series opener appeared foolish when his side slipped to 122-8 on the opening day Edgbaston. Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes did the damage, but James Anderson was only able to bowl four overs before leaving the field.

His absence was keenly felt as, with Smith beginning his one-man crusade against the England attack, Australia’s last two wickets added 166 runs. Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon showed the supposed batsmen how it should be done in bowler-friendly conditions, supporting their former captain, who finished up with 144 as a potentially disastrous first innings was transformed into a competitive total.

Anderson, meanwhile, only appeared again in the game to bat due to a calf problem. He attempted a comeback in time to play at his home ground of Old Trafford later in the series, but a setback on second XI duty for Lancashire scuppered that plan, meaning England's all-time leading wicket-taker in the longest format sent down just 24 deliveries against Australia.

 

ARCHER MAKES AN INSTANT IMPACT 

With Anderson out, England handed a debut to Jofra Archer for the second Test at Lord's. The pace bowler had been a key component of the one-day squad that won the Cricket World Cup on home soil earlier in the year but warned the public not to expect "miracles" in his Test bow.

There was no miracle – Archer was not quite able to bowl England to victory in the final session of a game that had seen the entire first day wiped out by rain – but his performance caused quite a stir.

He claimed five wickets in the match, struck down Smith with a seriously quick bouncer when the batsman was seemingly on course for a third successive triple-figure knock and, subsequently, played his part in Test history as the first concussion substitute was used. Marnus Labuschagne was laid low by a delivery from Archer too, yet beat the count to carry on batting and make a crucial half-century to secure a draw.

 

HEADINGLEY MIRACLE - VOL II

At a venue where Ian Botham famously salvaged a seemingly lost cause to secure an unlikely Ashes victory in the 1981 series, Ben Stokes produced a performance at Headingley that will see him forever remembered in crick folklore.

Bowled out for just 67 in their first innings, England's valiant bid to reach a tough victory target of 359 appeared set to fall short when they slipped from 245-4 to 286-9 on the fourth afternoon. Yet Stokes refused to give in, choosing to go on the attack with a display of hitting that, with each boundary, raised the possibility of a stunning result.

The left-hander made 135 not out with eight sixes to drag his team over the line, aided by last-man Jack Leach surviving 17 balls and contributing a quick single that turned him into a cult hero. Australia failed to remain composed amid the carnage, wasting their final review and butchering a run-out chance when Lyon somehow fumbled a tame throw to the bowler's end.

 

SMITH AT THE DOUBLE

Having missed the defeat in Leeds due to concussion, Smith returned as the series shifted across the Pennines to Manchester – and made up for lost time with another telling contribution with the bat.  England's plans to rough him up with the short ball failed to pay off as the right-hander made his third Ashes double hundred, in the process taking his tally past 500 runs for a third successive series.

Given a life when dismissed off a no ball from spinner Leach, the former skipper finished up with 211 out of Australia's 497-8 declared. England avoided having to follow-on in reply but 82 from Smith second time around left Root's side needing another Herculean fourth-innings performance to keep the series alive.

While Stokes failed to fire again, it appeared the great escape could be on when Leach combined with Somerset colleague Craig Overton to push the game into the final hour. Fearing another opportunity was set to go begging, Paine turned to Labuschagne's leg spin. The move paid off as he dismissed Leach, opening the door just wide enough for the excellent Josh Hazlewood to wrap up victory in fading light as the tourists moved 2-1 ahead.

 

A PAINE-FUL DECISION & JOE 90

Perhaps it was the fact the urn was already retained, almost akin to a last-day-of-school situation, that led to captain Paine opting to bowl first after winning the toss. England failed to fully capitalise on the opportunity, posting 294, but Smith only (only!) made 82 as Archer's second six-wicket haul in the series secured a useful first-innings lead.

Following a dash home after day one to see the birth of his daughter, England opener Joe Denly celebrated the new arrival with a Test-best score of 94, helping to set Australia plenty in the final innings on a worn surface.

Broad dismissed David Warner for a seventh time in 10 innings – the opener finished the series with 95 runs (only Hazlewood posted a lower average for the visitors than the left-hander's 9.50) – and when Smith fell into England’s leg-side trap, it was just a matter of when, not if, the hosts would triumph. Matthew Wade went down swinging with a hundred, but the topsy-turvy series ended level.

Over the next six weeks, dreams will be realised, heroes will emerge and hearts will be broken at the Rugby World Cup.

The greatest prize in the sport is up for grabs in Japan, where New Zealand are aiming to be crowned champions for the third successive tournament.

There are sure to be thrills, spills and stories that will stand the test of time.

Below, we take a look at some of the most memorable moments in the history of the Rugby World Cup.


Wilkinson kicks England to glory in Sydney

England entered the 2003 Rugby World Cup as favourites and regarded as the best team in the world. Clive Woodward's side lived up to the billing to set up a final against an Australia outfit led by now England coach Eddie Jones. A tense encounter between the old rivals was level at 14-14 by full-time and a penalty each from Jonny Wilkinson and Elton Flatley meant the teams were still tied with the clock winding down. But in a dramatic finale, Martin Johnson drew the contact, Matt Dawson bided his time with the pass and England legend Wilkinson, on his weaker right foot, nailed the drop goal to kick his country to World Cup glory – becoming the first northern hemisphere side in history to lift the trophy.

Western Samoa upset Wales in Cardiff

It just was not in the script. Wales, one of the proudest rugby nations in the world, were hosting the unheralded Western Samoa in Cardiff. A routine win, surely? Think again. In one of the worst days in Wales' rugby history, the Cardiff Arms Park crowd were stunned by a 16-13 defeat in the 1991 World Cup in which Mathew Vaea starred with the boot. Wales failed to make it out of the group stages and it marked the first time a seeded nation had lost to a non-seeded nation. 

Warburton sees red as Wales fall agonisingly short

It was 10 years later that Wales would suffer more disappointment, albeit in more valiant and heart-breaking fashion in a 9-8 loss to France in an Auckland semi-final. That Wales came so close is to their credit given they were reduced to 14 men in the 19th minute when talismanic captain Sam Warburton was controversially sent off for a big tackle on Vincent Clerc. A yellow card would have been a fairer decision in such a huge game but luck did not favour Wales, who saw Stephen Jones hit the post with the conversion from Mike Phillips' try with 23 minutes remaining. Leigh Halfpenny also saw a long-range attempt fall short as Wales' World Cup dream came to a halt.

Lomu bulldozes Catt in England slaughtering 

It was a performance of a lifetime. Having already starred with three tries prior to the 1995 semi-final, Jonah Lomu truly announced himself on the world stage with a four-score haul in the All Blacks' 45-29 hammering of England in Cape Town. It was a barnstorming, awe-inspiring showing from the giant flyer, who unceremoniously trampled over future World Cup winner Mike Catt in one of the tournament's most famous tries.

Pienaar-led Springboks unite South Africa 

Lomu and New Zealand fell short in the 1995 final, though. The sight of South Africa president Nelson Mandela donning a Springboks jersey and handing over the Webb Ellis Cup to inspirational captain Francois Pienaar is one of the most iconic images in sport. South Africa tamed Lomu and the All Blacks to triumph 15-12 in Johannesburg.

Brave Blossoms cause monumental Springboks shock

It was an altogether different feeling for South Africa a decade later as the Springboks were victims of one the greatest upsets in the history of all sports against Japan. The two-time world champions boasted 851-caps worth of experience in their starting XV, but the Brave Blossoms lived up to their name with a performance brimming with pace and invention. Karne Hesketh was the man who wrote his name into history with the late try that secured an unbelievable 34-32 victory in Brighton.

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