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.

England international Billy Vunipola has been given a formal warning by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) after he showed support to Israel Folau following his latest controversial social media posts.

Folau sparked outrage last week with his views on homosexuality and gender, stating in a message on Instagram that "hell awaits" drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters, as well as: "REPENT! ONLY JESUS SAVES".

The Waratahs and Wallabies star is set to be sacked by Rugby Australia, but Vunipola also came in for criticism having 'liked' Folau's post, the Saracens number eight later posting on Instagram that his beliefs had been insulted but he did not "hate" anyone.

Saracens released a statement condemning Vunipola's "serious error of judgement" and he was called to a meeting with the RFU to discuss the issue, with the governing body announcing on Tuesday the player had received a formal warning and been reminded of his responsibilities.

In a statement, the RFU said: "Following a meeting between the RFU and Billy Vunipola, the Saracens forward has been issued with a formal warning under RFU rule 5.12 for conduct prejudicial to the interests of the union or the game.

"The warning will be retained on his disciplinary record for a period of five years and may be taken into account in future disciplinary proceedings.

"During the meeting the player expressed genuine regret at his public comments and understood that he had caused hurt and offence as a result of his actions.

"He has been reminded of his responsibilities as an England player and as an ambassador for the game, which values inclusivity and respect."

Saracens have formally warned Billy Vunipola over his future conduct after the England international offered a defence of Israel Folau's controversial social media posts.

Last week, Folau sparked outrage with his opinions on homosexuality and gender, posting a message on Instagram that said "hell awaits" drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters, as well as: "REPENT! ONLY JESUS SAVES".

Having avoided punishment last year for sharing similar sentiments, Folau on Monday was hit with a breach notice by Rugby Australia, who confirmed the full-back has 48 hours to request a hearing or face the sack.

Vunipola 'liked' Folau's post before later offering an explanation for his actions, claiming his beliefs had been insulted. On Monday, Saracens released a statement condemning the number eight's "serious error of judgement".

"Senior representatives of the club yesterday held lengthy discussions with Billy Vunipola regarding his recent social media activity," the statement read.

"At Saracens, we are one family, open to all with the firm view that everyone should be treated equally with respect and humility. We recognise the complexity of different belief systems and understand Billy's intention was to express the word of God rather than cause offence.

"However, he made a serious error of judgement in publicly sharing his opinion, which is inconsistent with the values of the club and contravenes his contractual obligations. The player has been formally warned about his future conduct."

Sarries simultaneously released a statement from Vunipola, who took the opportunity to once again explain his support of Folau's post.

"I can see that my recent post has hurt people," Vunipola said. "My intention was never to cause suffering. My intention was to express my belief in the word of God.

"These beliefs are a source of great strength, comfort and guidance in my life. This is deeply personal and does not represent the views of my team. 

"Anyone who knows me, knows I live with kindness and love towards ALL people.

"I have faith. My Christian faith has sustained me through the ups and many downs of my life. God has given and continues to give me many reasons in life to be grateful."

Saracens have formally warned Billy Vunipola over his future conduct after the England international offered a defence of Israel Folau's controversial social media posts.

Last week, Folau sparked outrage with his opinions on homosexuality and gender, posting a message on Instagram that said "hell awaits" drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters, as well as: "REPENT! ONLY JESUS SAVES".

Having avoided punishment last year for sharing similar sentiments, Folau on Monday was hit with a breach notice by Rugby Australia, who confirmed the full-back has 48 hours to request a hearing or face the sack.

Vunipola 'liked' Folau's post before later offering an explanation for his actions, claiming his beliefs had been insulted. On Monday, Saracens released a statement condemning the number eight's "serious error of judgement".

"Senior representatives of the club yesterday held lengthy discussions with Billy Vunipola regarding his recent social media activity," the statement read.

"At Saracens, we are one family, open to all with the firm view that everyone should be treated equally with respect and humility. We recognise the complexity of different belief systems and understand Billy's intention was to express the word of God rather than cause offence.

"However, he made a serious error of judgement in publicly sharing his opinion, which is inconsistent with the values of the club and contravenes his contractual obligations. The player has been formally warned about his future conduct."

Sarries simultaneously released a statement from Vunipola, who took the opportunity to once again explain his support of Folau's post.

"I can see that my recent post has hurt people," Vunipola said. "My intention was never to cause suffering. My intention was to express my belief in the word of God.

"These beliefs are a source of great strength, comfort and guidance in my life. This is deeply personal and does not represent the views of my team. 

"Anyone who knows me, knows I live with kindness and love towards ALL people.

"I have faith. My Christian faith has sustained me through the ups and many downs of my life. God has given and continues to give me many reasons in life to be grateful."

Haseeb Hameed made his first County Championship century since 2016 to boost his hopes of earning an England recall for this year's Ashes.

The batsman was horribly out of form last season, averaging 9.7 as Lancashire suffered relegation in first-class cricket, but followed up a recent double century against Loughborough MCCU by passing three figures against Middlesex in his county's first Division Two fixture of 2019.

Hameed, who made his England debut in India in November 2016 aged 19 but suffered a finger injury in his third Test appearance, reached the milestone with a pulled six off paceman Toby Roland-Jones.

But the 22-year-old was dismissed for 117, caught and bowled by Dawid Malan after leading Lancashire towards a first-innings lead at Lord's.

Keaton Jennings, another England opener aiming to earn an Ashes chance this year, made 52 in a 123-run partnership with Hameed for the first wicket.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) is seeking a meeting with Billy Vunipola after his defence of Israel Folau's latest controversial social media posts.

Folau is set to be sacked by Rugby Australia after the Wallabies and Waratahs star sparked outrage with his opinions on homosexuality and gender this week.

The full-back, who escaped punishment for similar statements last year, was widely criticised but had support from England international Vunipola on Friday.

Vunipola took to his own Instagram account to explain why he had 'liked' Folau's post, claiming his beliefs had been insulted but that he did not "hate" anyone.

He said: "Man was made for woman to procreate - that was the goal, no?"

The RFU stated the body does not agree with Vunipola's comments, with the issue to be discussed with the player.

"Rugby is an inclusive sport, and we do not support these views," a spokesperson said. "We will be meeting with Billy to discuss his social media posts."

Vunipola's club side Saracens also released a statement, promising to take the matter "very seriously".

"Saracens proudly embraces diversity and warmly welcomes everyone to the club regardless of race, gender, religion and sexual orientation," it read.

"Our sport is open to all and we strive for it to be free from all forms of discrimination.

"We recognise that people have different belief systems and we expect everyone to be treated equally with respect and humility.

"As representatives and role models, Saracens players have a responsibility not only to themselves but to the club and wider society.

"Billy Vunipola's recent social media posts are inconsistent with this and we take this matter very seriously. It will be handled internally."

England international Billy Vunipola has offered a defence of Israel Folau's latest controversial social media posts.

Rugby Australia announced plans to sack Folau after the Wallabies and Waratahs full-back sparked outrage with his opinions on homosexuality and gender this week.

Folau posted a message on Instagram that said "hell awaits" drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters along with "REPENT! ONLY JESUS SAVES". He had avoided punishment last year after stating homosexuals should go to "hell" unless they "repent their sins and turn to God".

The dual-code international also caused a stir with his stance on the passing of legislation in Tasmania that makes gender optional on birth certificates and allows people 16 years and older to legally change gender without parental approval.

Vunipola took to his own Instagram account on Friday to explain why he had 'liked' Folau's post, claiming his beliefs had been insulted but that he did not "hate" anyone.

"So this morning I got 3 phone calls from people telling me to 'unlike' the Izzy Folau post," Vunipola wrote alongside a picture of a Bible passage.

"This is my position on it. I don't HATE anyone, neither do I think I'm perfect. There just comes a point when you insult what I grew up believing in that you just say enough is enough.

"What he's saying isn't that he doesn't like or love those people. He's saying how we live our lives needs to be closer to how God intended them to be. Man was made for woman to procreate - that was the goal, no?

"I'm not perfect, I'm at least everything on that list at least at one point in my life. It hurts to know that.

"But that's why I believe there's a God. To guide and protect us and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."

According to reports in Australia, Folau has been stood down by the Waratahs until further notice. 

Robert Haynes has been confirmed as the new Cricket West Indies (CWI) chairman of selectors, ushering in a clean sweep of the selection panel by the newly appointed Ricky Skerritt-led administration.

The 54-year-old Haynes will replace Barbadian Courtney Browne as head of the four-man committee.  The rest of the panel will consist of CWI director of cricket Jimmy Adams and Floyd Reifer, who has also been named as a replacement for interim coach Richard Pybus.

Pybus who previously served as head of the high-performance centre in 2018 and Windies Director of Cricket from 2013 to 2016 seemed off to a promising start in the job.  Under Pybus, the Windes defeated England after winning the Test series 2-1 and sharing the ODIs 2-2 to lift the team’s confidence ahead of the World Cup. 

Reifer comes in to replace Pybus before the Englishman's contract ends. He was contracted by the previous administration until the end of the India series in the Caribbean in August.

 

Former England rugby international Christian Wade has been assigned to the Buffalo Bills as part of the NFL's International Player Pathway Program.

Wade retired from rugby union in October having won one England cap and scored 82 Premiership tries for Wasps - the third-most in the competition's history.

The 27-year-old opted to try his hand at NFL and will now attempt to make the grade with the Bills, who finished third in the AFC East last year with a 6-10 record.

Reacting to the news that he could well be going to face to face with Super Bowl champions the New England Patriots should he succeed in Buffalo, Wade was unable to sum up his emotions.

He posted a picture on Instagram with a caption that read: "I'm lost for word [sic] right now... I'll update the caption soon. Give God thanks!"

Former NRL star Valentine Holmes has also been taking part in the International Player Pathway Program but has yet to be assigned a team.

England and Leicester Tigers scrum-half Ben Youngs will miss the remainder of the Premiership season after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Youngs sustained the injury while representing England in the Six Nations, with his last appearance for club or country being the 38-38 draw with Scotland at Twickenham on March 16.

The Tigers confirmed the 29-year-old had an operation on his shoulder this week and was unavailable for their final five Premiership fixtures.

Youngs became England's most-capped scrum-half by making his 85th Test appearance versus Scotland.

The British and Irish Lion will be hopeful of recovering in time to form part of Eddie Jones' squad for the Rugby World Cup, which begins in September.

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