Eddie Jones and Owen Farrell refused to point the finger at referee Pascal Gauzere after clinical Wales beat England 40-24 to secure the Triple Crown.

The Red Rose's hopes of retaining the Six Nations title are all-but over after Wales scored four tries in a bonus-point victory at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

England were made to pay for indiscipline as Wales moved two wins away from a Grand Slam in Cardiff, but the defending champions had every right to feel aggrieved by two controversial first-half tries.

Josh Adams touched down in the corner when he was picked out by a kick from Dan Biggar soon after Gauzere had called time out, having instructed captain Farrell to warn his team-mates about giving away too many penalties.

Farrell confronted Gauzere after he allowed that try to stand and both players were stunned when Liam Williams was awarded a score following a knock-on from Louis Rees-Zammit.

Jones said ahead the match that Gauzere would be under pressure to make the right decisions and the England head coach has previous with the French official, who he complained about to World Rugby in 2018.

The Australian would not say whether he would speak to the governing body again after tries from Anthony Watson and Ben Youngs, as well as 14 points for Farrell, were in vain.

Jones told BBC Sport: "It is what it is. We can't argue with the referee, the result is there in stone, we've got to accept it. Maybe they were tough calls but we weren't good enough to overcome that.

"I'm not going to make a comment on it, I accept the referee's decision. It could have been tough, but we've got to handle it. That’s the decision. It’s 40-24, let’s accept that we weren’t good enough on the day.

"We might have had some though calls. We’ve got to adapt to the game, adapt to the referee. If the referee is going to referee like that, we’ve got to deal with it."

Asked if he might make another complaint over Gauzere, he said: "That's not something to discuss today. Wales were worthy winners.

"I was pleased with how our players fought back, got ourselves back to 24-24 and probably the last play summed up our day.

"We did some lovely attacking work, get to the last pass, they intercepted and go down and score at the other end. That’s the difference of the game."

Skipper Farrell was also not prepared to blame Gauzere.

Asked about the referee's performance, he said: "That's not for us to talk about. We got our way back into it and didn't quite finish it off. There’s plenty that we can do better.

"I'd have to look back at it [the first Wales try]. I don’t know [if we could have been more alert]. There's no point in talking about it now, let everybody else talk about it. We’ll focus on what we can control. We’ll control what we can control."

Wayne Pivac shrugged off the suggestion Wales had luck on their side as they overcame England 40-24 to wrap up a Six Nations triple crown.

Wales have now beaten Ireland, Scotland and England across their opening three matches to take a five-point lead at the top of the standings, though second-placed France have a game in hand.

Saturday's victory was not without its contentious moments, however, as the calls of referee Pascal Gauzere took centre stage in the first half.

First, the French official allowed Josh Adams' opening try to stand, despite having given England little time to set themselves from a Wales penalty, with the referee having asked Owen Farrell to speak to his team.

Gauzere then made the on-field decision to award Liam Williams' try, with TMO unable to definitively prove that Louis Rees-Zammit had knocked on in the build-up.

Wales benefitted from a red card in their wins over Ireland and Scotland, but Pivac put the victory against England in Cardiff down to his team's application.

"Some people are going to say that, they'll say it's been on our side for the last three matches, but you've got to be in games to win them," Pivac told BBC Sport.

"England put a lot of pressure on us and came back, each time we hit them they came back again, so it was a hell of a game and a lot of resilience shown from our boys."

Asked if he had any sympathy for England, Pivac added: "I think when you give away that many penalties – one player giving away five penalties – I think you’re lucky not to concede a yellow card to be honest. I suppose you could argue either way."

Wales lost four of their five games in last season's Six Nations campaign, finishing fifth above winless Italy, yet now look on course for a Grand Slam.

"Time. A bit of time," was Pivac's explanation when asked how his team have turned their fortunes around.

"We've picked a squad to get results in this tournament and we had a good look at some players in the last tournament that we've well and truly documented, but certainly time together and I think you can see there's a good bond growing in this group.

"They enjoy winning things, as they did under Warren [Gatland]. Hopefully we can press on."

As ruthless Wales celebrated winning the Triple Crown, Eddie Jones might have been regretting saying the pressure would be on referee Pascal Gauzere in Cardiff.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac endured a difficult start to his reign after succeeding Warren Gatland, but his side are two victories from a Grand Slam after beating the defending champions 40-24.

England, on the other hand, saw the Six Nations title all-but slip through their fingers as they were left to rue poor discipline and two controversial first-half tries for Wales.

Red Rose boss Jones has previous with Gauzere and spoke to World Rugby about an incident involving the French official during Wales' win over Scotland in 2018.

The Australian was his usually outspoken self ahead of Saturday's clash at the Principality Stadium.

He said: "Unfortunately, there are no fans but the intensity of the clash I think over the last four or five years, the games I have been involved in, the points difference is six points. They always go down to the wire, so the pressure is going to be on the referee to make the right decisions."

So when Gauzere twice took centre stage in the first half by awarding tries for Josh Adams and Liam Williams, Jones may have been thinking he had made the wrong decision by putting the spotlight on the referee.

Jones should also be pointing the finger at his players, who he said had become more "street-smart" than they were when losing to Wales at the same stadium two years ago.

They were their own worst enemies, conceding 14 penalties as they lost for the second time in three matches, but Gauzere left them up against it and resurgent Wales took full advantage.

Owen Farrell has come in for criticism for having too much to say to referees, but he was understandably aggrieved when Adams was awarded an opening try 16 minutes in.

Gauzere had called time out after instructing the skipper to warn his team-mates about their indiscipline, only to give Dan Biggar the green light to pick out Adams with a pinpoint cross-field kick soon after with the majority of Red Rose caught out in a huddle.

Farrell exchanged words with Gauzere before reducing the deficit to 10-6 with his second penalty, yet the French official took centre stage once again when he raised his arm to signal a try for Williams with half an hour on the clock.

Louis Rees-Zammit was shaking his head in frustration after knocking the ball forward prior to Williams dotting down, but Gauzere opted against changing his decision after consulting the TMO as the ball struck the wing's leg prior to hitting the ground after he knocked it forward.

Rees-Zammit raised eyebrows over the verdict and England responded with a well-finished try from Anthony Watson before Farrell made it 17-14 just before the break.

Kieran Hardy caught England napping early in the second half with a sharp turn of foot to score a third Wales try but Farrell made it a seven-point game when he was on target with the boot again.

England were showing the sort of inventive play they were so badly lacking in the defeat to Scotland and the quick-thinking Ben Youngs nipped in for a superb try, which Farrell converted to level at 24-24 with 17 minutes to go.

The Red Rose continued to give away far too many penalties, though, and Callum Sheedy punished them on three occasion to put Pivac's men 33-24 up with six minutes remaining.

Cory Hill put the icing on the cake as it was Wales who proved to be more "street-smart”, with Pivac celebrating gleefully as his side took a big stride on the road towards another title.

England fell foul of some contentious refereeing decisions and indiscipline as Wales clinched a Six Nations triple crown with a 40-24 bonus-point win in Cardiff.

Eddie Jones' team felt hard done by in the first half with referee Pascal Gauzere at the centre of the discussion, allowing questionable tries from Josh Adams and Liam Williams to stand.

Anthony Watson's try handed England some momentum heading into the second half, though Kieran Hardy's effort seemed to have put Wales back in control.

Owen Farrell moved onto 1000 points in international rugby either side of Ben Youngs' score to level proceedings, yet a trio of composed penalties from Callum Sheedy and a late Cory Hill try settled a topsy-turvy contest.

Biggar kicked Wales ahead in the fifth minute, though Williams just denied Mario Itoje an opening try after a charge down at the other end.

Farrell restored parity after Ben Youngs' break resulted in an England penalty, but the visiting captain was soon left seething with referee Gauzere soon after.

England were given little time to set from a penalty restart, and Biggar's kick found Adams, who raced over in the corner.

Farrell channelled his frustration as he slotted a long-range penalty between the posts, though another contentious call then went against the Red Rose as Williams went over.

Louis Rees-Zammit's fumble in the build-up was adjudged to have gone backwards, and Biggar's conversion clipped the post on its way through.

England hit back when Watson forced himself through a crowd of defenders, and though Farrell missed the kick, he atoned with a penalty on the stroke of half-time.

Hardy cruised through a gap to restore Wales' cushion, though Farrell's penalty pulled England to within seven points – the skipper then reached his milestone 1000 international points by converting Youngs' try.

But with the scores level, defensive errors cost England, and in the space of eight minutes, Sheedy had struck nine points.

It set the stage for Hill to add further gloss as he bundled over under the sticks to send Wales to the top of the standings in style.

Wales looking good in Wayne's world

It was a tough 2020 for Wayne Pivac, but the New Zealander now has his team playing with real confidence and belief.

England might point to the refereeing decisions going against them, but their own errors in the final stages ultimately proved decisive and Wales took full advantage. They now top the standings by two points, with France not playing this weekend due to a COVID-19 outbreak in their camp, and having wrapped up a triple crown, look well on course for a Grand Slam.

Farrell's landmark proves fruitless

It is now 1000 points from 91 caps for England captain Farrell, who appeared to be leading his side back into the contest until those costly defensive slip ups.

Farrell is just the second man to reach that tally for England after World Cup 2003 hero Jonny Wilkinson (1179).

What's next?

England face another huge test in the form of France in round four, while Wales travel to Rome to face lowly Italy.

David Goffin moved a step closer to ending his ATP Tour title drought by seeing off the challenge of Egor Gerasimov at the Open Sud de France. 

Having previously lost in two semi-final appearances at the tournament in Montpellier, Goffin made it third time lucky as he came out on top in a deciding set against his opponent from Belarus. 

The second seed claimed the crucial break in the seventh game, then quickly consolidated his lead with an impressive hold. Gerasimov forced him to serve out for the win and Goffin duly delivered under pressure, clinching on his second match point. 

The world number 15 – who won two of his four career titles in 2017, but none since - will next face Roberto Bautista Agut, who defeated Peter Gojowczyk 7-5 6-1 after just one hour and 16 minutes on court.

At the Singapore Tennis Open, Alexei Popyrin caused an upset as he defeated Marin Cilic via a pair of tie-breaks in a hard-fought semi-final. 

Popyrin prevailed 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-2) to knock out Cilic, who had survived two match points before eventually beating Kwon Soon-woo in the previous round. 

Alexander Bublik is also through to the final, guaranteeing a first-time winner on the ATP Tour at the tournament. 

Bublik made the final of the Antalya Open earlier this year but had to retire due to an ankle injury. He will hope for better fortunes on Sunday, securing another opportunity for a maiden title after battling back from a set down to see off Radu Albot. 

Johnny Sexton says Ireland are "on a journey" and praised the team's character to bounce back from consecutive Six Nations defeats to hammer Italy in Rome.

Andy Farrell's side had started the tournament with defeats to Wales and France, the first by five points and the second by only two.

Ireland outclassed a poor Italy side on Saturday, though, with the Azzurri now having lost 30 straight Six Nations matches following the 48-10 reverse – the longest losing streak in the competition's history. 

The visitors ran in six tries while Sexton, returning to the side from a head injury, was eight from eight from the tee. That represents the most by any Ireland player while maintaining a 100 per cent success rate from the tee since Paddy Jackson kicked nine of nine against Italy in 2017.

With games against Scotland and England to come, Sexton is keen to ensure Ireland build on a promising display.

"We need to keep our performance levels like that against two very good sides," Sexton told ITV Sport after his 50th Six Nations appearance.

"Scotland have been very impressive in the first two rounds and if not for a red card would have been top of the table, probably. 

"This group is on a journey together, we're a year into it and we'd have liked to have had that performance earlier. 

"It's not for the want of trying, it's just little mix-ups along the way. Thankfully we put them right.

"We played very well, all of our forwards did – they've been very impressive over the first two rounds. 

"We've felt as a team that us backs have let them down at times. We improved on a lot of those areas today and thankfully got the victory we were desperate for. 

"We spoke about how close we were in the first two – both very different games but just very proud of the boys, the way we bounced back, it's a real sign of character when things have been going the way they have in the last few weeks, just to stick together and to show the work we've been doing behind the scenes."

Ireland have now won 21 of their 22 games against Italy in the Six Nations, while the 38-point margin of victory was their biggest in any Test match since beating the same opposition 63-10 in February 2017.

Ireland kick-started their Six Nations campaign as they beat Italy for an eighth successive time in the competition, claiming a 48-10 bonus-point victory in Rome.

Having gone down to Wales and France in their opening matches – the first time Ireland had lost their first two games of a Six Nations campaign – Andy Farrell's men got their first win of the 2021 campaign on Saturday.

The returning Johnny Sexton was typically influential, on point with his kicking and integral to slick attacks as Ireland made it 21 wins from their last 22 Six Nations meetings with Italy.

Garry Ringrose, Hugo Keenan and Will Connors propelled Ireland to a 27-point haul in the first half, Ireland's best first-half total in a Test since February 2018, with CJ Stander and Keith Earls also getting in on the act to seal a routine triumph.

Welcomed back into Ireland's line-up after missing the defeat to France due to a head injury, Sexton marked his 50th Six Nations appearance with a simple three-pointer five minutes in, moments after Paolo Garbisi nosed Italy ahead.

Sexton was adding two more points to his tally five minutes later, with Ringrose having picked a gap in Italy's defence to score the game's first try.

Another Sexton penalty edged Ireland further in front and despite some spirited Italy attacking, the visitors struck again as Ringrose turned provider for Keenan.

Ireland had a third try before half-time, Sexton combining with Jordan Larmour to feed Connors in the corner, though Italy managed to strike back through Johan Meyer.

Yet Italy's work was undone by sloppy defending immediately after the restart – Stander bundling his way over.

Italy's issues were compounded before the hour, substitute Giosue Zilocchi sent to the bin for an attempted ball steal.

Ireland appeared to have made their advantage count when Stander found the line again, only for the try to be disallowed for a knock-on.

Luca Bigi's booking handed Ireland a further boost, though, and Connors hauled himself over from a maul before Earls piled further misery on sorry Italy.

 

Perfect comeback for Sexton

Since his Six Nations debut, Sexton has missed just seven of a possible 57 matches in the championship, including Ireland's defeat to Italy in 2013.

Sexton successfully converted all eight of his kicks on Saturday, tallying up 18 points in total to give him a pristine record. The pace of the game was ideal for the 35-year-old, who also made eight tackles and 20 passes – the last of which played in Earls late on.

More misery for whipping boys Italy

Italy's losing run in the Six Nations now sits at 30 games, the longest of any side in the competition's history. Their last win at home was back in 2013, against Ireland (22-15).

They have now conceded a try-scoring bonus point in 18 of their 22 matches since such add-ons were introduced to the Six Nations in 2017.

What's next?

Italy welcome Wales to the Stadio Olimpico on March 13, with Ireland facing Scotland in Edinburgh a day later.

If Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez fails to defend his WBA and WBC super-middleweight titles against Avni Yildirim, it would amount to an upset of Tyson-Douglas proportions and probably beyond. 

The unheralded Yildirim is the WBC's mandatory challenger despite dropping a technical decision to Anthony Dirrell in his last bout two years ago. 

On his previous venture up to world level in 2017, the 29-year-old was demolished inside three rounds by Chris Eubank Jr. 

Nevertheless, becoming the undisputed champion at 168lbs is the dream for Canelo and, if WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders and IBF ruler Caleb Plant are to be brought to heel by the end of 2021, Yildirim must first be dispatched. 

Remarkably, Canelo would be the first fighter from Mexico to hold all four major belts in a division and this quest for legacy is one he shares with Eddy Reynoso, the trainer who has been by his side throughout a sparkling career. 

The relative lack of jeopardy in the fight means this week in Miami has served as something of a victory lap for Reynoso, the quiet sideman who might already have settled the argument for trainer of the year at this early stage. 

Reynoso, 44, has built a stable that is the envy of many in the sport – a story that can be traced back to the moment a youngster walked into his gym in Guadalajara and changed both their lives.

Fighting families ruling the world

Reynoso enjoyed a brief amateur career but decided against mixing it in the pros, having already been bitten by the training bug. 

He began working alongside his father Chepo when an alliance with another fighting family would prove life-changing. 

A young Canelo came down to the gym with one of his boxing brothers, Rigoberto. He and Reynoso instantly hit it off. 

"We are like family. Working with Eddy and Chepo has been a great experience," the boxer told Ring Magazine in 2016. "They've taught me discipline, hard work, respect and loyalty." 

That loyalty came through its defining test in the aftermath of Canelo finding himself on the receiving end of a Floyd Mayweather masterclass in 2013. 

The temptation might have been to ditch his little-known cornerman after being outclassed by Mayweather and seek out one of the sport's bigger names. For Canelo it was not even a consideration. 

In 13 fights since that sole career defeat, the 30-year-old has won titles at light-middleweight, middleweight, super-middleweight and light-heavyweight, counting Miguel Cotto, Amir Khan, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Daniel Jacobs and Callum Smith among his victims. 

There was also the small matter of a pair of blockbusters against middleweight king Gennadiy Golovkin. The first of two instant classics was called a draw, with Canelo edging the second on the scorecards. 

A formidable blend of blistering body shots, slick combinations, miserly defence and impeccable head movement and counter-punching placed Canelo at the top of the boxing world, also making Reynoso a man in demand. 

Grooming Garcia for greatness

Despite racing to a record of 16-0 at only 20 years of age, Ryan Garcia decided he needed a change after an unconvincing win over Carlos Morales. 

Already identified as a future star of the sport by promoter Oscar de la Hoya and a huge hit with the Instagram crowd, Garcia needed a little substance to go with the obvious style. 

"I've had a few meetings with Ryan, and he comes off as very disciplined, very happy and dedicated," said Reynoso after his appointment to head up Team Garcia. 

"But he's a fighter who needs to work on how to go forward, how to go backward, his defence and counterpunching. He has some boxing bad habits we need to take away." 

Not much to go at then? 

Four victories followed in quick time, with Garcia's dynamite left hook – already something of a Reynoso stable trademark – flattening each of Romero Duno and Francisco Fonseca within a round. 

That set up an intriguing crossroads showdown with London 2012 gold medal winner and two-time world title challenger Luke Campbell on January 2. 

When the Briton caught Garcia flush on the jaw and decked him in round two, sceptics were ready to unload on a hype job and an Instagram fighter. 

Such verdicts had to be torn up, however, as the youngster raged against adversity to stop Campbell with a brutal body shot in the seventh.

It was a highlight reel knockout of technical precision as Garcia feinted his favourite shot upstairs before turning the left hook into Campbell's ribs. It was a stoppage that an elated Canelo was seen mimicking during dressing room celebrations afterwards. 

Operating in the white-hot lightweight division, 'King Ry' is riding the crest of a wave, with Gervonta Davis, Devin Haney and maybe even Teofimo Lopez in his sights.

Adding value to Valdez

Six months prior to Garcia's move, undefeated featherweight champion Oscar Valdez claimed a March 2018 victory that was also not altogether satisfactory, although in far more painful circumstances. 

A brutal battle with Scott Quigg, who failed to make weight, saw Valdez keep his WBO belt at the cost of a badly broken jaw. For his trouble, former super-bantamweight champ Quigg was bloodied by eye damage and a broken nose. 

There are only so many wars a fighter can realistically subject themselves to over the course of a career and, once on the mend, Valdez also decided to turn to Reynoso. 

A couple of low-key defences followed before he vacated the WBO belt and faced up to claims he was ducking rising star Shakur Stevenson. 

Valdez, 30, had seen his star dwindle to such an extent that he was an almost a 4-1 betting underdog last weekend when he faced WBC champion and compatriot Miguel Berchelt in Las Vegas. 

Oscar had a different screenplay in mind as he dropped Berchelt in both the fourth and ninth rounds, eventually closing the show with an explosive KO in the 10th. Of course, it was the left hook. 

"There's nothing better in life than proving people wrong," Valdez said. "I have a list of people who doubted me. My idols doubted me. Boxing analysts doubted me. 

"They said Berchelt was going to knock me out. I have a message to everybody: Don't let anyone tell you what you can and can't do." 

Heavyweights on notice

Another man seeking to prove the doubters wrong with Reynoso's esteemed help is former unified heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr. 

Ruiz has not fought since arriving in Saudi Arabia rotund and rudderless for his rematch against Anthony Joshua, who racked up a landslide December 2019 points win over the man who had left him dazed and confused in New York six months earlier. 

The eyes of the boxing world are on whether Joshua and Tyson Fury will meet in their anticipated undisputed clash this year, leaving Ruiz to plot a path back to the top away from the limelight. 

"He's lost about 20 pounds and he also has more muscle," Reynoso told Behind the Gloves this week. "He's not as fat as he was before. He can move his hips a lot better and that helps him move around in the ring. 

"I'd love to see him fight Joshua again. With good training I think he could beat him. He's already beaten him. It just takes a little bit of discipline and a good training camp." 

Proving the doubters wrong using the guidance of one of the sharpest minds in the sport today? Canelo, Garcia and Valdez can tell Ruiz plenty about that in the gym, all while under the watchful eye of Reynoso. 

Mackenzie Hansen crossed for a hat-trick as the Brumbies ran in nine tries to thrash the Waratahs 61-10 in a lopsided Super Rugby AU clash at GIO Stadium in Canberra. 

The hosts made it 17 wins in 18 games at home, scoring 35 points without reply in the second half of proceedings. 

Waratahs actually opened the scoring through a Will Harrison penalty, yet Rob Valetini, Hansen, Noah Lolesio and Connal McInerney all grabbed tries to make it 26-10 to the hosts at the interval. 

Harry Johnson-Holmes had gone over for a score after 30 minutes that Harrison also converted, yet the overwhelmed Waratahs were ripped apart after the break. 

Wing Hansen crossed again in the 56th minute before completing his treble with nine minutes remaining. There were also tries for Nic White, Lachlan Lonergan and Tom Banks, while Lolesio kicked five conversions to give the fly-half a personal haul of 15 points. 

Replacement Ryan Lonergan took over kicking duties to land three conversion attempts following his introduction, helping the Brumbies claim their biggest ever win over their domestic rivals. It is also their biggest margin of victory in a Super Rugby fixture over a fellow Australian team.

Iga Swiatek produced the game that took her to grand slam glory as the French Open champion crushed Belinda Bencic in the Adelaide International final. 

A 6-2 6-2 victory for Swiatek was the perfect way for the Polish 19-year-old to complete a successful week in which she did not drop a set in five matches, losing only 22 games. 

Swiatek achieved her shock Roland Garros triumph in the same way, sweeping through the Paris draw untroubled with a string of straight-sets wins. 

She appears set to climb into the world's top 10 before long, with this week's work enough for her to jump three places to number 15 in the WTA rankings. 

Leading the winners count 22-9 reflected Swiatek's dominance of a match that she closed out in one hour and six minutes. 

Swiatek reached the Australian Open fourth round earlier in February, with her run in Melbourne halted when Simona Halep avenged her French Open defeat to the teenager. 

After sinking Bencic's Adelaide title hopes, Swiatek expressed gratitude to tournament organisers and the Australian government for allowing tennis stars into the country, which has imposed tight restrictions on travel during the pandemic. 

Swiatek said in an on-court speech: "I want to thank everybody who made this whole swing possible. 

"It's been amazing playing here in Australia and I love to play here. Also, the government, thank you for letting us play and thank you for the opportunity."

LeBron James has vowed never to "just stick to sports" after footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic said he did not support the NBA star getting involved with politics. 

Los Angeles Lakers superstar James has been a powerful voice against racism and police brutality, among a host of social issues, in the United States. 

James is a friend of former United States president Barack Obama and his own foundation supports a school that is aimed at helping disadvantaged children. 

Milan striker Ibrahimovic told Discovery+ Sport in Sweden: "He's phenomenal what he's doing, but I don't like when people, when they have some kind of status and they do politics at the same time as what they're doing. 

"Do what you’re good at, do the category you do. I play football because I'm the best in playing football, I don't do politics. 

"If I would be a political politician, I would do politics. That is the first mistake people do when they become famous and they come in a certain status. 

"Stay out of it, just do what you're best at, because it doesn't look good." 

That outburst was shot down by NBA star James, who said it was important to use his platform to shine a light on inequalities and injustice. 

"At the end of the day, I would never shut up about things," James said. 

"That's wrong. I appreciate about my people and I appreciate about equality, social injustice, racism, systematic voting, voter suppression, things that go in our community, because I was a part of my community at one point and seeing things what's going on. 

"I see what's going on still because I have a group of 300-plus kids at my school that's going through the same thing and they need a voice and I'm their voice. 

"I use my platform to continue to shed light on everything that may be going on, not only in my community but around this country and around the world. There's no way I will ever just stick to sports because I understand this platform and how powerful my voice is." 

James pointed to the time when Ibrahimovic complained of being racially discriminated against in his native Sweden three years ago, because he did not have a traditionally Swedish name.

At the time, Ibrahimovic spoke of "undercover racism" in the Swedish media.

James, therefore, expressed surprise at why Ibrahimovic would make his latest claims.

"I speak from a very educated mind," James said, "so I'm kind of the wrong guy to actually go at, because I do my homework."

Sergio Scariolo made sure it was business as usual for the Toronto Raptors despite the absence of six coaches – and one key player – for the victory over the Houston Rockets.

Head coach Nick Nurse and five of his assistants were unable to be involved with the team for Friday's game due to health and safety protocols amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The Raptors also recently lost assistant Chris Finch – who has taken over as head coach at the Minnesota Timberwolves – from their staff, yet Scariolo smoothly stepped up to take on the lead role, despite receiving little notice about his unexpected promotion.

Nurse had a video call with his temporary replacement prior to the game, with Toronto going on to triumph 122-111 to move to 17-17 for the season.

"It was different, because everything happened so fast. We had to re-adjust tasks, timing, schedule, so we had to go a little bit on the fly," Scariolo explained to the media after the game.

"But the players did a great job, and the remaining coaches – the few guys left – were great. The guys who were not with us tonight did a great job also, in terms of the game preparation.

"Coach Nurse was always there – we had a Zoom call before the game. This is teamwork, basically. There is a guy who stays on the sidelines who makes so decisions, but within coach Nurse's philosophy this has always been about teamwork, about a group, so I felt pretty comfortable."

The Raptors - who are playing their home games this season in Florida due to travel restrictions in place during the global pandemic, were also without Pascal Siakam due to NBA protocols.

However, 30 points from Norm Powell and 25 and 20 respectively from backcourt duo Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry saw them overcome the Rockets.

It helped that Scariolo knows all about the responsibilities of taking charge, too. As well as working for the Raptors, the Italian is also the head coach of the Spanish national team, leading them to a silver medal at the London Olympics in 2012, followed four years later by bronze in Rio.

Having only just returned from international duty with Spain, the 59-year-old went through a period of quarantine before joining up again with the Raptors - a unique set of circumstances that allowed him to be available to cover for absent colleagues.

"I think this is a subject for a book, rather than an answer!" Scariolo told the media.

"I came back on Monday and was tested immediately after the trip from Poland, we had played there, played two games. Fortunately we won both, so it was worth the effort to go back and forth.

"I quarantined and got tested every day, then travelled to Miami by car by myself. I stayed totally separated from the coaches and the players. Then yesterday we had this situation coming out.

"I was working on preparing for this game as normal, then suddenly at night I got a few texts and realised things were going to change."

The Blues started their Super Rugby Aotearoa season with a 31-16 win over the Hurricanes on Saturday.

Last year's runners-up, the Blues scored three second-half tries at Sky Stadium in Wellington to record an impressive win.

The Hurricanes led at half-time but were outscored 24-5 in the second half.

The Blues were gifted an early try when Devan Flanders threw a loose pass, allowing Dalton Papalii to intercept and score.

But the Hurricanes responded almost immediately through Asafo Aumua, who crashed over in the fifth minute.

A pair of late Jordie Barrett penalties saw the Hurricanes lead 11-7 at the break, but the Blues quickly responded after the interval.

Otere Black's great kick found Caleb Clarke in the corner down the left before Stephen Perofeta also scored to put the Blues up 21-11.

Aumua went over again for the Hurricanes, but the Blues sealed their win through Rieko Ioane with four minutes remaining.

LeBron James helped the Los Angeles Lakers end their losing streak, while Jimmy Butler inspired the Miami Heat.

James' double-double of 28 points and 11 rebounds saw the Lakers snap their four-game losing run with a 102-93 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday.

Dennis Schroder contributed 22 points, while Montrezl Harrell (17 points) and Alex Caruso (10) finished with double-digits off the bench.

Butler was in fine form as the Heat overcame the Utah Jazz, who have the best record in the NBA, 124-116.

He went 12-of-22 from the field for his 33 points, while also contributing 10 rebounds and eight assists.

Miami (16-17) had five players in double-figures for points, including Goran Dragic (26).

Donovan Mitchell finished with 30 points for Utah (26-7).

 

Green guides Warriors, Lowry shines

Draymond Green posted a triple-double of 11 points, 19 assists and 12 rebounds in the Golden State Warriors' 130-121 win over the Charlotte Hornets. Green was the first Warriors player to reach 19 assists since Baron Davis in 2008.

For the Hornets, Malik Monk had 25 points in 25 minutes, including five three-pointers. He has at least 20 points and four three-pointers off the bench in three consecutive games. The only other Charlotte reserve to do that in three-plus straight is Dell Curry (March 1995), as per Stats Perform.

Kyle Lowry did likewise for the Toronto Raptors, his 20 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists seeing them past the Houston Rockets 122-111.

Kemba Walker poured in 32 points as the Boston Celtics overcame the Indiana Pacers 118-112.

The Los Angeles Clippers thrashed the Memphis Grizzlies 119-99, with Kawhi Leonard (30 points, nine rebounds and seven assists) starring.

 

Rockets crash to another loss

The Rockets slumped to their 10th consecutive defeat with the loss to the Raptors. Victor Oladipo (27 points) and John Wall (21) combined for 48 points, but they went 18-of-42 from the field in total.

 

Brilliant Butler

Butler was in incredible form to get Miami past Utah.

Friday's results

Boston Celtics 118-112 Indiana Pacers
Toronto Raptors 122-111 Houston Rockets
Sacramento Kings 110-107 Detroit Pistons
Miami Heat 124-116 Utah Jazz
Phoenix Suns 106-97 Chicago Bulls
Los Angeles Clippers 119-99 Memphis Grizzlies
Oklahoma City Thunder 118-109 Atlanta Hawks
Golden State Warriors 130-121 Charlotte Hornets
Los Angeles Lakers 102-93 Portland Trail Blazers

 

Mavericks at Nets

The Brooklyn Nets (22-12) have won eight straight and will take on Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks (15-16) on Saturday.

Indiana Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis has replaced the injured Kevin Durant in the 2021 NBA All-Star Game.

Brooklyn Nets star Durant was ruled out as he deals with a hamstring strain.

Sabonis was called up in his place for the game, which will be played in Atlanta on March 7.

He is averaging 21.5 points, 11.7 rebounds and 5.7 assists for the Pacers this season, earning his second straight All-Star selection.

While Sabonis will be selected with the reserves, Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum was added to the starter pool.

Tiger Woods is in "good spirits" after undergoing further procedures on injuries sustained in a car crash on Tuesday.

The 15-time major champion was involved in a single-vehicle incident that saw his car roll "several hundred feet".

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) said Woods was "very fortunate" to survive, although a long surgical procedure was required on his lower right leg and ankle.

In a statement released on Friday, Woods' team said the American great underwent further procedures after being moved to a different hospital.

"Tiger has moved to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and received follow-up procedures on his injuries this morning. The procedures were successful, and he is now recovering and in good spirits," the statement said.

"Tiger and his family want to thank you all for the wonderful support and messages they have received over the past few days. We will not have any further updates at this time.

"Thank you for your continued privacy."

Brandon Wu edged into a one-stroke lead after shooting a five-under 67 in the Puerto Rico Open second round on Friday.

The American backed up his opening-round 66 with another fine showing to get to 11 under at the halfway mark of the PGA Tour event in Rio Grande.

Wu was one under through 11 holes in his second round before picking up four shots on his final seven.

He sits a shot ahead of Greg Chalmers, the Australian carding a 68 as he chases his first PGA Tour success since 2016.

Branden Grace (68) and Rafael Campos (69) are tied for third at nine under, a stroke clear of Jhonattan Vegas (68), Cameron Percy (69), Nelson Ledesma (67) and Thomas Pieters (67).

Brooks Koepka fired a six-under 66 to grab a one-stroke lead at the halfway mark of the WGC-Workday Championship.

The four-time major champion made seven birdies and one bogey at The Concession Golf Club in Florida on Friday to move into 11 under.

Koepka holds a 36-hole lead or co-lead on the PGA Tour for the eighth time in his career as he eyes a second World Golf Championships title.

The American made three straight birdies from the 15th before dropping his only shot of the round at the last.

Koepka is a stroke clear of Collin Morikawa (64), Billy Horschel (67) and Australian Cameron Smith (66).

Morikawa, last year's US PGA Championship winner, produced the equal best round of the day, with Bryson DeChambeau – who is tied for 20th – also shooting a 64.

Overnight leaders Webb Simpson and Matt Fitzpatrick both slipped back into a tie for fifth after firing 69s, sitting at nine under alongside Tony Finau (67).

Defending champion Patrick Reed carded another 68 to be at eight under alongside Kevin Kisner (69).

Rory McIlroy shot a two-under 70 to get to five under and into a tie for 13th, with Justin Thomas (66) also among that group.

A six-time WGC winner, Dustin Johnson improved on his opening-round 77, carding a 69 that sees him sitting at two over.

Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez makes the first appearance in what is hoped will be a far busier year on Saturday, defending his super-middleweight titles against Avni Yildirim in Miami. 

The coronavirus pandemic put paid to many best-laid plans for 2020, though Canelo was still able to squeeze in one outing before the end, putting on another emphatic demonstration of his skills against Callum Smith last December. 

Smith was deemed the best around at the 168-pound limit. He had won the World Boxing Super Series - his coronation coming after a stoppage triumph over George Groves - and was 27-0, while had a considerable height and reach advantage over the Mexican for their in-ring meeting at the Alamodome in San Antonio. 

However, the British boxer simply became the latest opponent to find out just how good Alvarez truly is. A lopsided triumph on the scorecards secured the WBA and WBC belts, as well as enhancing an already impressive CV. 

He is far from done just yet, either. A unification clash with WBO holder Billy Joe Saunders is seemingly lined up for May, while a third episode in the long-running saga with Gennadiy Golovkin could yet happen before the end of 2021 - though don't hold your breath on that one. 

First, though, he must make sure he deals with Yildirim. The Turkish fighter is the mandatory challenger with the WBC and is a hurdle that should not be overlooked, even if the two defeats in his career raise questions over whether he may be out of his depth at the home of the Miami Dolphins. 

To Canelo's credit, he has never been a fighter to look too far beyond the next man put in front of him. The target is clear: clean up in the division and become the undisputed champion. 

"It's important for me and Eddy [Reynoso, his trainer] because very few people have achieved becoming undisputed champions," he said in the build-up. "That's a short-term goal for us. To win all the titles at 168 pounds. 

"Obviously, no Mexican has ever done it. So that's our short-term goal, to keep making history. And that's what we want. Eddy and I have always wanted the best. And we want to keep making history." 


RECENT HISTORY 

Canelo dispelled any potential concerns against his decision to face a bigger man in Smith at the super-middleweight limit, though the latter was hampered in their bout by an arm injury.

Still, Smith was suitably impressed by what he faced that night, telling Sky Sports a month after his first loss: "I don't think anyone beats him. He may only lose if he keeps going up in weight but he's put a stop to that. His defence is just too good."

Yildirim was actually beaten last time out, his attempt to win the vacant WBC belt cut short in February 2019 following a clash of heads in the seventh round that left Anthony Dirrell with a nasty cut. The action was eventually stopped in the 10th, Dirrell named the winner via split decision. 

His other loss came in October 2017, when he was stopped inside three rounds by Chris Eubank Jr in Stuttgart.


TALE OF THE TAPE 

SAUL ALVAREZ
Age: 30
Height: 5ft 8ins (173cm) 
Weight: 167.6 lbs
Reach: 70.5ins  
Professional record: 54-1-2 (36 KOs) 

AVNI YILDIRIM
Age: 29
Height: 5ft 11.5ins (182cm) 
Weight: 167.6 lbs
Reach: 70ins  
Professional record: 21-2 (12 KOs) 

Saul '@Canelo' Alvarez is in elite Mexican company  pic.twitter.com/t6mgshtBsg

— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) February 26, 2021 THE UNDERCARD 

Matchroom's Miami offering includes a further glimpse at Zhang Zhilei, the unbeaten heavyweight prospect last seen knocking out Devin Vargas. Jerry Forrest is his opponent this time - the American southpaw has suffered four defeats, though went the distance last time out before losing on points to world-title challenger Carlos Takam.

There are two undefeated super-middleweights on duty before the main event, Diego Pacheco and Alexis Espino taking on Rodolfo Gomez Jr and Ashton Sykes respectively. 

Look out for Keyshawn Davis too, as he prepares to make his professional debut. After the COVID-19 crisis forced a delay to Tokyo 2020, he opted not to wait for a chance at Olympic gold in Japan this year and instead is stepping into the paid ranks.


WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY... 

Canelo expects a typically aggressive approach from his opponent: "I always want to be perfect, I always want to do things right inside the ring and this isn't any exception. I always try to be patient, but it depends on what Yildirim tries to do – he's going to try and rip my head off. So it's going to depends on what's going to do."

The subject of fervent support in his homeland, Yildirim said he was ready for the toughest assignment in boxing: "I'm feeling good, I'm ready for tomorrow. It's showtime, baby. I've waited a long time for the first, it's my time."

Promoter Eddie Hearn on the headline act: "I've been around the sport for 34 years and I do feel like a fan boy around Canelo Alvarez because he's the best fighter I've ever seen up close."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.