England's Six Nations performance has been labelled "incredibly disappointing" by Rugby Football Union chief executive Bill Sweeney.

Eddie Jones' side backed up a poor 2021 championship campaign with just two wins from five again, as their third-place finish lagged far behind France and Ireland.

A year-and-a-half out from the 2023 World Cup across the channel, England look unlikely to contend for the crown as they did in Japan in 2019.

"We are all, as an organisation, incredibly disappointed with what happened this year in the Six Nations," Sweeney told the media. "You'd expect more.

"To come away with fifth-place last year and two wins, and then going into this year's Six Nations feeling in good shape and expecting more, to only have a further two wins out of 2022 and come third was incredibly disappointing for us.

"We demand more in terms of our results and performances. Emotions have been running very high, it still feels quite raw. There is a great deal of frustration and disappointment."

Sweeney paid tribute to England supporters for their contributions, while stressing the team has still made progress under Jones in the last year.

"We saw a fantastic response from the fans during the Ireland game, one of the best examples of connecting with the team," he added.

"We understand why they're expecting more and feel not in a great place at the moment.

"We do feel there's been some real positive developments. We do feel we're on a path to the right direction. If you look at where we were 12 months ago: we're in a better place.

"It's a very tight-knit squad. There is a strong spirit. The players believe in [Jones] and believe he's taking them in the right direction.

"We're very excited by developments despite the fact we're coming out of a very difficult period. We know we're going to get better."

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has dismissed the notion of Russia hosting Euro 2028 as "beyond satire", instead suggesting the tournament be awarded to Ukraine.

Russia launched a bid for either Euro 2028 or Euro 2032 on Wednesday, despite the country's ongoing invasion of their Eastern European neighbour.

That puts the 2018 World Cup hosts against a joint United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland bid for the former, an Italy bid for the latter and a Turkey bid for either event.

"The idea of Russia holding any idea of football tournament or any kind of cultural event right now is beyond satire," Johnson said in Brussels, where a Nato summit addressing Vladimir Putin's invasion is taking place.

"I can’t believe that anybody would seriously consider their suggestion."

Johnson appeared to forget that his own country had bid for Euro 2028 when he subsequently suggested the best path would be to hand it to Ukraine, who jointly hosted Euro 2012 with Poland.

"I think the best thing possible would be for the entire Russian forces to retire forthwith from Ukraine and hand the tournament to them," Johnson added.

Last year's rearranged Pan-European edition saw Italy triumph over England in a penalty shoot-out final at Wembley Stadium.

Hosts will be confirmed for 2028 and 2032 in September 2023, ahead of the next edition in Germany in 2024.

England captain Harry Kane has called for a collective effort from his fellow international skippers to highlight the human rights issues in Qatar ahead of this year's World Cup.

Qatar's poor human rights record has been a concern during the build-up to the 2022 finals.

The nation's stance towards women and the LGBTQ+ community was widely raised as an issue before FIFA awarded it the tournament in 2010. 

Meanwhile, the deaths of thousands of migrant workers have been reported during preparation for the finals, although Qatar's organising committee disputed what it called "inaccurate claims" around the number of fatalities.

England manager Gareth Southgate described it as a "great shame" after learning of female and LGBTQ+ supporters who were subsequently staying away from the tournament.

Southgate led a briefing to his squad at St George’s Park on Tuesday about the issues surrounding Qatar's hosting of the finals – most notably the rights of women, the LGBTQ+ community and migrant workers.

There was also input from other FA staff members including chief executive Mark Bullingham and Edleen John, the director of international relations, corporate affairs and co-partner for equality, diversity and inclusion.

Skipper Kane mentioned his Tottenham team-mates Hugo Lloris and Son Heung-min – who captain France and South Korea respectively – as he called for a united approach and strength in numbers to drive lasting social change in the country.

Addressing the media ahead of England's friendly against Switzerland on Saturday, the striker said: "I feel as a group, we've never shied away from important issues, and we've always had our opinions and tried to show unity in anything we've done.

"That's what will happen now over this camp and the next camp to try to help in any way we can to support those issues.

"As players, we didn't choose where this World Cup was going to be. But what it has done is shine a light on important issues which might not have come to light if the World Cup wasn't there.

"We have to try to help as much as possible to understand the issues and the situations. We're no experts in that field at the moment in terms of what we know but as always, we try to help in any way we can, we try to use our platform to help in any way we can.

"I understand there has been some progress on certain issues in the country so far. What my hope is that having the World Cup there and having this light on the country will help try and progress some of the issues which have been going on for a long time.

"There's a couple of other national team captains in my team at Tottenham, maybe [I will be] talking to other national team captains to see whether we can be unified in what we try and do and approach it.

"That's something myself and some of the senior players in the team will look to try to achieve over the coming months.

"There's still a lot of progress to be made. But hopefully all of us, like we have done in the past, can try to make change with the platforms that we have."

Harry Kane is focused on leading England to World Cup glory later this year, with "more fire in the belly" following their Euro 2020 final heartbreak.

The Three Lions, whose only major international honour came when they won the 1966 World Cup, were within touching distance of ending 55 years of hurt last July.

However, they were beaten by Italy on penalties at Wembley in the final of the delayed tournament.

Gareth Southgate's side, who also reached the semi-finals at the 2018 World Cup, are looking to go the extra step and get their hands on silverware in Qatar in December, having come through qualification for the finals unbeaten.

England step up their preparations with back-to-back friendlies over the next week against Switzerland (March 26) and the Ivory Coast (March 29) at Wembley.

Captain Kane scored seven goals across the final two qualifiers against Albania and San Marino. That took his tally to 48, moving him joint-third with Gary Lineker on his country's all-time list and just six away from breaking Wayne Rooney's record (53).

The Tottenham man is thrilled with the progress he and his England team-mates have made over the past four years and explains they have a burning desire for glory.

"From where we were pre-World Cup 2018 to where we are now, we've made massive strides, with the squad, with the team, with the connection with the fans," he said. "There's definitely an expectation on us now.

"Obviously, the final in the summer still hurts. It still has a bitter taste in the mouth, but for sure it gives you more hunger, more fire in the belly to take that one step further and try to win a major tournament.

"We're working towards that, we feel like we're improving every year. 

"Hopefully, we can take big strides to becoming one of the best teams in the history of the England national team."

Ollie Robinson has been ruled out of England's series decider against West Indies after failing to recover from a back injury.

The Sussex seamer missed out on the drawn matches in Antigua and Barbados and will play no part in Grenada as England chase a first Test win in nine attempts.

England confirmed their squad on Wednesday, a day before the third Test begins, with Craig Overton recovering from illness to replace Matthew Fisher in the only change.

Robinson was unable to prove his fitness in a net session and skipper Joe Root is hopeful his team-mate can soon put his fitness issues behind him.

"Ollie wasn't as good as we would have liked or he was expecting himself," Root said prior to the squad announcement.

"It's just frustrating for him, as it is for me. He's working very hard but there's something that's nagging away at him.

"I'm not sure exactly of the medical prognosis. He's just got to keep on doing what he's doing and trust in time that he's going to get himself back.

"We all know how effective he has been and how good he's been in his short career up to now so the sooner we can get him back the better."

 

Root is 116 runs short of reaching 10,000 in Test cricket, a tally only Alastair Cook has previously reached among England players.

The 31-year-old hit centuries in the opening two Tests against West Indies but could not help his side to victory, something he is looking to put right in this winner-takes-all clash.

"I really hope we can take another step forward as a team and get across the line because there's been a lot of good stuff," he told reporters.

"We've played the majority of the cricket up to now and it would be a great way to end the tour. The most pleasing thing is we've not had a nightmare session that's cost us a Test.

"We've looked at each individual session and each hour and looked to win each and every one of them."

England are unbeaten in their last three away Test matches against West Indies, having lost each of the three games prior to that run.

Their most recent meeting at St George's was in April 2015, with England claiming a nine-wicket victory.

West Indies legend, Sir Andy Roberts, has called for more aggression from the Caribbean fast bowlers ahead of the third and decisive Test against England, which bowls off in Grenada on Wednesday.

So far, bowlers have rarely managed to gain the ascendancy with the two previous pitches in Antigua and Barbados offering very little in the way of assistance.  In the previous Test, a total of 1,238 runs were scored, including a deflating 507 for 9 declared scored by England in the first innings.

If the West Indies are to break the deadlock on the back of two prior draws, Roberts believes the region’s pace bowlers must give more effort at the crease to unsettle the English batsmen.

“Aggressive doesn’t mean you have to be up in somebody’s face, but you can be aggressive in your approach, you can be aggressive in your steering because that’s one of the things I did. I never swore but when I looked at you and I see you turn away, then I say ‘yes, I have you because you can’t look me in the eye’, and that is what is required,” Roberts told the Good Morning Jojo Radio program.

“I see many West Indian fast bowlers going back to the days of Mervyn Dillion, Reon King, and when they get hit for boundaries they smile, they don’t get upset,” he added.

“The ball doesn’t come off the pitch faster than you release it, so if you’re a fast bowler then it means you’re a fast bowler, you can’t be a fast bowler and a fast-medium bowler. What is being taught today is line and length and bowl fourth and fifth stump outside the off stump, but instead of attacking the batsman, attacking the stumps, they are bowling outside of off stump, which is what they practice so sometimes it seems as though the coaches are at fault sometimes. In order to get the best out of the fast bowlers, you have to encourage them to bowl fast.”

It is all to play for at the Grenada National Stadium as West Indies and England go in search of a Test series-clinching victory.

The Windies have dug in for draws under pressure on the final day in Antigua and Barbados.

England are bottom of the World Test Championship table, with the Windies directly above them as both sides strive to transform their fortunes in the longest format.

The tourists look set to be without seamer Ollie Robinson once again as he continues to struggle with fitness issues.

England have not won a Test series in the Caribbean for 18 years, but have undoubtedly made strides during this tour as they battle for the Richards-Botham Trophy.

Yet they are still without a win in eight matches in the longest format and have been unable to show the potency to dismiss West Indies twice when in a great position to take the lead in this series.

Kraigg Brathwaite was the Windies' hero at Kensington Oval, showing incredible application and skill in both innings.

The skipper batted for 710 minutes for his 160 in the first innings and dug in for an unbeaten 56 on the last day in Bridgetown to keep the series level.

England must produce some heat on the Spice Island if they are to head home with a 1-0 victory.

 

Brathwaite and Root leading by example

The Windies were indebted to opener Brathwaite in Barbados as he dropped the anchor in both innings on his home ground.

By facing 673 balls combined in his two obdurate knocks, the skipper set a record for the most deliveries faced by a West Indies batter in a single Test. Brathwaite has the more runs than anyone else in this series, scoring 304 at an average of 101.33.

Prolific England captain Joe Root has also been magnificent, racking up 284 - including two centuries - at an average of 71.


Overton set to return, unchanged squad for Windies

Craig Overton was ruled out of the second Test due to illness, but is set to get another opportunity with Matt Fisher expected to step aside.

Saqib Mahmood should also be unleashed on the Windies again after an excellent opening spell on the final day in Barbados, with spinner Matt Parkinson facing the prospect of missing out again and Robinson not fit.

West Indies named an unchanged squad after frustrating the tourists once again on the final day.

England batter Jason Roy has been given a suspended two-match international ban by the Cricket Discipline Commission.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) revealed Roy had admitted a charge of "conducting himself in a manner which may be prejudicial to the interests of cricket or which may bring the game of cricket, the ECB and himself into disrepute."

A disciplinary panel ruled that the opener had been in breach of ECB Directive 3.3, but did not specify what the matter relates to.

Roy has been given a fine of £2,500, which he must pay by March 31.

The 31-year-old pulled out of this year's Indian Premier League for personal reasons.

Roy had been due to play for new franchise Gujarat Titans in the competition, which runs from March 26 to May 29.

The powerful right-hander was last in action for the Quetta Gladiators in the Pakistan Super League a month ago.

 

As was the case after the first Test in Antigua, Cricket West Indies selectors have opted to leave the squad unchanged for the third and final Apex Test beginning on Thursday at the Grenada National Stadium.

The three-match Apex Series is level 0-0 following a draws in the first Apex Test match at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua and the second Apex Test at Kensington Oval in Barbados, which ended on Sunday.

According to Lead Selector Desmond Haynes, the team showed their fighting spirit in the just-concluded Test in Barbados.

“We were very impressed with the captain, Kraigg Brathwaite, showing the fight in both innings and the way he led from the front with the bat,” Haynes said.

“Also, Jermaine Blackwood, and the way he played in the first innings to get a century. They batted very well together. We really appreciated the fighting spirit from the batting department. We decided to stick with the same squad and want to see them continue to give a big effort in the third Apex Test match.

Captain Kraigg Brathwaite was named Player-of-the-Match in the second Apex Test. He scored an outstanding 160 in the first innings – his 10th Test century and his first on home soil, and then 56 not out in the second innings on the final day.

 

England interim head coach Paul Collingwood heaped praise on Ben Stokes for helping to heal the "scar tissue" from another Ashes disappointment.

Joe Root's tourists were thoroughly outplayed against their old foes Australia, succumbing to a 4-0 series defeat Down Under that saw Chris Silverwood dismissed in the wake of the hammering.

Collingwood was placed in temporary charge to lead a new-look England side, without James Anderson or Stuart Broad, to the Caribbean for a three-Test series against West Indies.

England remain in search of their first win under Collingwood – and in eight Tests overall – but have produced encouraging performances in consecutive draws in Antigua and Barbados.

Stokes, who bemoaned his fitness levels after averaging 23.6 with the bat and 71.5 with the ball in Australia, has been integral to the visitors' spirited showings against Kraigg Brathwaite's side.

Indeed, no seamer has sent down more overs in the series than Stokes (77) for his five wickets and economy of just 1.81. He also registered his first century since July 2020 with a brisk 120 in the second Test.

Collingwood was keen to credit superstar all-rounder Stokes for aiding Root and the rest of the England side in recovering from a familiar Ashes fate as they eye a winner-takes-all decider in Grenada, which starts on Thursday.

 

"He's phenomenal, he's box office," Collingwood said of Stokes.

"He was going into the Ashes with not much cricket under his belt. Now he's fit, he's determined, and you can tell he wants to make a difference in the dressing room as a leader.

"When he's preparing himself like he is at the moment, he certainly leads. He wants to go out in the middle and put in big performances. He wants the ball in hand, to score the runs, and he's doing just that at the moment.

"Even in the meetings when we first arrived, getting the scar tissue from Australia out the way and [discussing] how we were going to move forward, you could see and hear he had the bit between his teeth and wants to lead this team. I think he and Joe Root have done a magnificent job turning this round.

"He's just desperate to do well for the badge, for England. It's amazing when he's got this kind of attitude, as we all know he's one of the best. Long may it continue."

With a fully fit Stokes partnering the in-form Root, Jonny Bairstow and England's refreshed top order, Collingwood finds it hard to fault the efforts of his team so far.

"They want to put on a show, get a win under their belts, and we have a great attitude at the moment," he added. 

"All the way through the [second] Test match, we were pushing for the win. It always felt as though we were a session or session and a half behind the game with the pace Brathwaite batted in the first innings, but he showed great resilience right the way through the Test match to get a draw for them.

"It's been hard work, but you cannot fault the effort. If you could measure attitude and effort, it couldn't get any better than that."

The only criticism of England against West Indies so far has been their failure to take 20 wickets in a Test, albeit on two placid pitches, leading to calls for the inclusion of leg-spinner Matt Parkinson, who Collingwood feels will be ready whenever called upon.

"He is ready as can be," Collingwood said.

"The simple fact is, in COVID-19 times, you don't get matches in between. They are back-to-back-to-back, and it is putting a lot of stress on the players. The downside is we don't have matches in between to have preparation time for guys who are not playing."

West Indies Test captain Kraigg Brathwaite etched his name into the history books with his batting performance in the recently concluded second Apex Test match against England at the Kensington Oval in Barbados.

In the first innings, Brathwaite struck his 10th Test hundred, a marathon 160 off 489 balls. He followed that up in the second innings with 56 not out off 184 balls to break the record for the most deliveries faced by a West Indian in a Test match with 673.

“I enjoyed it. The pitch at times with the harder ball was difficult but I just decided to stick to my plan which was to play as straight and as late as possible,” he said in his post-match interview.

"I’ve put in a lot of work over the years and to do it at home is a quite pleasing feeling. I’m very happy and thankful,” he added.

Aside from his personal accomplishments, the West Indies captain also praised his players who stood tall in the game, including vice-captain Jermaine Blackwood, who struck 102 in the first innings, his third Test ton.

“I thought it was a tremendous effort. Obviously, Jermaine didn’t get runs in the first game but when we came out, we had the right attitude and just decided we would fight. England bowled extremely well but it was good that a team put up 500 and, for us as a team, we could fight and score 400 and bat 180 overs," Brathwaite said.

"I thought that was a superb effort. That’s the attitude we want and that’s what the fans want to see. Once we continue with that attitude, we’ll continue to do well.”  

Even with his stellar performances at the crease so far in the series, Brathwaite still hopes for a pitch that will better aid his bowlers in the third and final Test in Grenada.

“We’d like to see something in it for the pacers but, in saying that, I thought we put in a very big effort. Obviously, we want a result in the last Test going our way so we have to see what Grenada produces but let’s hope it has something for the pacers,” he said.

The third and final Test bowls off on March 24th at the National Cricket Stadium in Grenada.

 

 

 

 

Kyle Walker-Peters and Tyrick Mitchell have been called up to the England squad for the first time after Gareth Southgate was forced to make four changes to his squad.

A hamstring injury to Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold and fitness concerns over Chelsea's Reece James left the Three Lions with Luke Shaw as their sole fit full-back in the 25-man squad that was named on Thursday.

Newcastle United's Kieran Trippier and Chelsea's Ben Chilwell are injured, while Kyle Walker of Manchester City was left out as Southgate considered his options. Manchester United man Shaw, while called up, has not played since the end of February after contracting coronavirus.

Southgate has reacted to the latest setbacks by calling in Southampton full-back Walker-Peters and Crystal Palace's Mitchell, who could make their senior debuts across friendlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast.

Walker-Peters won the Under-20 World Cup in 2017, but Mitchell has not featured for any of England's youth sides.

Meanwhile, West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone replaces Arsenal's Aaron Ramsdale, who missed Saturday's 1-0 win at Aston Villa with a muscle injury.

The final change saw Tammy Abraham, who scored twice in Roma's 3-0 derby win over Lazio on Sunday, drop out as Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins comes in.

The Rugby Football Union's (RFU) claim England made progress during a tough Six Nations campaign has been criticised by ex-international Ugo Monye, who called their statement "dishonest".

Eddie Jones' side finished a distant third behind Ireland and Grand Slam winners France, managing just two wins from their five games.

It marked a second successive dismal Six Nations, far removed from reaching the final of the 2019 World Cup that marked the high point of the Australian's tenure in charge.

Now, a year-and-a-half out from the 2023 World Cup in France, the RFU has sought to frame their results as stepping stones, but Monye – a 14-time England international – believes such claims are untruthful.

"I want to know who in the RFU thinks that signifies progress and are happy with how things are," Monye told BBC Sport's Rugby Union Daily podcast.

"Fundamentally it's just dishonest. There isn't progress. With the financial backing, the player pool and the coaching staff they have you cannot be winning two out of five games two years in a row.

England captain Joe Root defended his decision to wait until lunch to declare after Kraigg Brathwaite made history to salvage a draw at Kensington Oval.

Root declared with the tourists 185-5 after batting on during a morning session on day five that included short delays due to rain in Barbados.

The Windies were never likely to chase down a target of 282 to win, but Brathwaite led by example with 56 not out after making 160 in a marathon first innings, to frustrate England with support from Joshua Da Silva (30no) and Jermaine Blackwood (27).

West Indies batted out 65 overs and were 135-5 when Root shook hands with Brathwaite, setting up a series decider in Grenada.

Opener Brathwaite set a record for the most balls faced by a West Indies batsman in a single Test – 673 – on the back of his incredible first-innings vigil.

Jack Leach took 3-26 and debutant Saqib Mahmood 2-21 on the last day as England were unable to force a victory, having also failed to bowl West Indies out on day five in Antigua.

Root had no regrets about not ending England's second innings earlier in the day.

He said in the post-match presentation: "It's always a tricky one. With how small this ground is and how strong the winds are, a couple of overs of someone coming off – you don't want to make it too close."

Root praised spinner Leach, who racked up 94.5 overs in the match on a flat pitch.

"It's really pleasing to see Jack play the way he has. You can see how much he enjoys it out there," Root said. "He's bowling with great control and looks threatening. It's great to see him find his feet and look comfortable at this level."

Marathon man Brathwaite was delighted by the fight his side showed under pressure.

He said: "I thought it was a tremendous effort. England bowled extremely well. It was good as a team we could fight and put 400 back. Fighting at the end, that is the attitude we want."

Brathwaite wants to see a surface in Grenada that will give the Windies paceman more of an opportunity to do damage.

He added: "We put in a very big effort, but we want a result in the last Test. We have to see what they produce [the pitch for the final Test] but let's hope it has something for the pacers."

Kraigg Brathwaite rescued West Indies with a record-breaking innings on his home ground as England again failed to force a final-day victory at Kensington Oval.

Windies captain Brathwaite spent 710 minutes at the crease to hold the tourists up with an excellent 160 in the first innings and he followed that up with a resolute unbeaten 56 in Barbados on Sunday to keep the three-match series level at 0-0.

Joe Root set West Indies 282 to win by declaring on 185-6, but Brathwaite set a record of 673 for the most balls faced by a West Indies player in a single Test as he dug in for a second time.

Brathwaite showed incredible concentration and skill as the Windies frustrated England for the second time in the series to grind out a draw, reaching 135-5 from 65 overs to set up a decider in Grenada.

Jack Leach (3-36) and Saqib Mahmood (2-21) gave the tourists high hopes of forcing a victory, but they were unable to dislodge the rock-solid Brathwaite or Joshua Da Silva (30 not out).

Spinner Veerasammy Permaul (2-29) removed Alex Lees (24) and Joe Root after England resumed on 40 without loss in need of quick runs before declaring.

Rain breaks held the tourists up, but Zak Crawley (40) and Dan Lawrence (41) built the lead, while Ben Stokes made a brisk 18 prior to striking Kemar Roach to Brathwaite at cover, having sent the paceman for a huge six over midwicket.

Jonny Bairstow made 29 off 25 balls, but the runs had dried up for England before the declaration came after more rain brought the players in once again late in the morning session.

Leach got the early breakthrough in his first over, with John Campbell caught by Leeds close to the bat. Mahmood then took centre stage, Root reacting to catch Shamarh Brooks after a Crawley juggling act and the captain held again on at first slip to dismiss Nkrumah Bonner.

West Indies were 65-3 at tea after a stand of 50 between the incredible Brathwaite and Jermaine Blackwood was ended by Leach, courtesy of Bairstow's catch close in to send the number five packing for 27.

Jason Holder faced 24 balls before departing for a duck, as Lawrence took a great diving catch at cover for Leach, but Brathwaite continued to stand firm with support from Da Silva in an unbroken partnership of 42.

 

Brathwaite shows incredible staying power

Another incredible captain's innings from Brathwaite at the top of the order left England scratching their hands.

The opener made England toil with a marathon 489-ball knock in the first innings and he dug in again when his team needed him on the final day.

Brathwaite's 184 balls faced on Sunday under great pressure moved him beyond the record of 582 that were delivered to Brian Lara, when he made his sensational 400 against England in April 2004.
 

England fall short despite Mahmood burst and Leach marathon

Mahmood led the way for England as he took 2-12 in an impressive opening spell.

Leach also did damage and racked up 94.5 overs in the match, but the spinner could not find a way to dismiss the phenomenal Brathwaite.

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