England got their Vitality T20 International series off to a winning start after beating New Zealand by seven wickets in the first game at Chester-le-Street.

In their first 20-over contest since the whitewash defeat to Bangladesh in March, England got off to a flying start, taking three wickets in the powerplay.

Glenn Phillips top-scored for the visitors with 41 off 38 before falling to Luke Wood, who finished with three wickets alongside Durham quick Brydon Carse.

Although Jonny Bairstow was dismissed early on, Dawid Malan’s 54 off 42 balls put England in the driving seat along with Harry Brook’s unbeaten 43 off 27 balls, giving the hosts the advantage going into the second T20 at Old Trafford on Friday.

Despite being given an early scare when Finn Allen smashed three consecutive sixes off the first over, a change of ends in the fourth helped Wood kick off a dominant powerplay for England.

The Lancashire bowler took the first wicket of the evening as Devon Conway feathered behind to Jos Buttler and more wickets tumbled when Carse resumed from the Finchale End to earn his first T20 international scalp for England after clean-bowling Allen.

Wood struck again to send Tim Seifert’s bails flying as New Zealand were suddenly 38 for three after six overs.

Their woes continued when Moeen Ali clipped Mark Chapman’s off-stump in the eighth over but Phillips and Daryl Mitchell tried to regain control with some good running to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

Liam Livingstone ended the partnership, however, tempting Mitchell into looping the ball to long-off aiming for a six, but Brook was on the boundary to comfortably catch.

Phillips was the dominant batter at the crease looking to keep his foot on the gas, but he was beginning to run out of partners when Mitchell Santner sliced the ball straight to Wood off Adil Rashid.

Wood’s return in the 17th over saw Phillips eventually fall for 41 after Sam Curran made an excellent dive to his left.

Carse was handed the ball for the final over and ended Ish Sodhi and Adam Milne’s quickfire 26-run partnership, taking both of their wickets to finish with figures of three for 23.

Set 140 to chase, Bairstow opened the batting, smashing four off Tim Southee, but was caught out by the Black Caps captain as he edged to Mitchell at slip.

Aiming to capitalise on their positive start, Milne and Southee restricted England to singles but the introduction of Lockie Ferguson saw Will Jacks suddenly tee off, smashing back-to-back fours before thumping one into the stands for six.

Not to be outdone, Malan put away three consecutive fours off Santner and some more tidy running brought England to 61 for one at the end of the powerplay.

Sodhi struck in the seventh over when Jacks appeared to accidentally clip the ball with his bat twice allowing Allen to comfortably catch, but Malan instantly responded by belting a huge six over an outstretched Chapman at deep midwicket.

Not letting his omission from the provisional 50-over World Cup squad phase him, Brook dispatched two successive Sodhi deliveries into the stands and just after England reached the 100-run mark, Malan fired another ball into the crowd to bring up his 50.

Ferguson soon ended Malan’s heavy hitting with Mitchell catching the batter at mid-on, but Brook continued to put runs on the board before Livingstone put the game to bed in style with a huge six with 36 balls to spare.

Kyle Sinckler was inspired to play for England by the 2003 World Cup final – despite being forced to miss Jonny Wilkinson’s drop-goal in order to study maths.

Sinckler was 10 years old when he watched on television as Martin Johnson’s side were held 14-14 by Australia at the end of 80 minutes, ushering in a period of extra time that was ultimately settled by Wilkinson’s boot.

But the enthralled Sinckler never got to see the greatest moment in English rugby history as his mum Donna had ordered him to study.

“Watching 2003 was a massive motivator for me. I remember when the final was on, I had a maths tutor,” the Bristol prop said.

“Obviously it went to extra time and then my mum – honestly I don’t know, she’s so ruthless that woman sometimes – she literally turned the TV off and took me to my maths tutor.

“So I had to do my maths lesson and I found out afterwards that we’d won! Honestly, it was full-time and she said ‘you’re going to your maths tutor’. I said: ‘You’re joking!’

“But she was adamant: ‘Nope. I’m paying my money. I’m working hard to pay for your maths tutor so you’re going.’

“I was like: ‘You are so evil, ridiculous!’ Don’t even start with that woman! Nuts. Nuts!

“Before that I was literally glued to the TV, it was so inspiring for me watching that. It gave me, I guess, the hope that I wanted to emulate that one day.”

England are desperately short of form for their latest attempt to claim a second world title having lost five of their last six Tests.

They open France 2023 with a tricky clash against Argentina, who sit two places higher in the global rankings in sixth.

“It’s the real deal straight away. Every Test match you play it’s tough. I’ve never had an easy Test match in my life,” said Sinckler, who is expected to overcome a chest injury in time to face the Pumas.

“It pushes you to the limit and that’s why it’s called a Test – it does test you. But if you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.”

Harry Maguire has yet to play for Manchester United this season but could be part of the England squad announced on Thursday as Gareth Southgate deals with defensive headaches.

The Euro 2020 runners-up continue the road to next summer’s tournament with a qualifier against Ukraine in Poland on September 9, before playing a friendly in Scotland three days later.

There have been few surprises in recent selections and that theme is likely to continue when Southgate names his squad for the double-header at St George’s Park on Thursday.

The England boss is expected to largely stick with the tried and tested, meaning the likes of and Maguire, Kalvin Phillips and Jordan Henderson may get the nod despite questions over their international futures.

Maguire was replaced as Manchester United captain over the summer having fallen down the pecking order and has yet to play for Erik ten Hag’s side this season.

The 30-year-old’s last competitive match was June’s 7-0 win against North Macedonia and his next could also come in an England shirt due to a lack of centre-back options.

John Stones has yet to feature in the league this term due to a hip problem and Tyrone Mings, who returned to the international squad in June, has suffered a serious knee injury.

Eric Dier is fit but has not even made the bench for Tottenham this season and has been widely linked with a move before Friday’s transfer deadline.

Ben White, Fikayo Tomori, Marc Guehi and Lewis Dunk are options, while Chelsea defender Levi Colwill is expected to receive his first formal call-up.

The 20-year-old centre-back spent time with the senior set-up in June, including travelling to Malta, before going on to help England Under-21s win the European Championship.

In midfield, Southgate has decisions to make over Phillips and Henderson – two key members of his squad in recent years.

The former has struggled to make an impact at treble-winning Manchester City since joining from Leeds last summer and has yet to play a minute this term.

Southgate previously indicated a continued lack of game time could impact Phillips and Maguire, while Henderson’s move to Saudi Arabia raises questions over his international role ahead of the Euros.

England’s vice-captain joined Al-Ettifaq in the summer – a move that Southgate said makes it harder to assess the 33-year-old’s level, albeit clarifying “we would be stupid” to rule him out.

There is better news regarding another of England’s most experienced players after Raheem Sterling’s return to form after a sticky first campaign at Chelsea.

The 82-cap forward has not played for England since the World Cup quarter-final defeat to France, with injury ruling him out in March and a hamstring issue lying him low in June.

That omission was described as a “mutual decision” that appears to have paid off given Sterling’s lively start to the new season, including a brace and assist in Friday’s 3-0 win over Luton.

Chelsea team-mate Reece James is set to miss September’s matches through injury, as are the Manchester United duo of Luke Shaw and Mason Mount.

Morgan Gibbs-White, a key part of England’s Under-21s Euros triumph, is pushing to get his first call-up after continuing where he left off back at Nottingham Forest.

Eberechi Eze will be looking to maintain his place having made his debut in June and Rico Henry is another reportedly in contention.

Brentford team-mate Ivan Toney remains unavailable as he serves a Football Association betting ban and Roma’s Tammy Abraham is recovering from reconstructive surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Callum Wilson has not started for Newcastle this season but fellow striker Ollie Watkins – whose last cap came in March 2022 – is looking sharp at Aston Villa.

England have confirmed that Jonny May has replaced Anthony Watson in their squad for the World Cup.

Watson has been ruled out of the tournament by a calf injury so May, who started Saturday’s defeat to Fiji, has filled the gap in the 33-man party to be submitted to World Rugby on Monday.

The only other name missing from the group originally named by Steve Borthwick on August 7 is Jack van Poortvliet whose ankle problem means he has been replaced by Alex Mitchell.

Elliot Daly and Kyle Sinckler are also present as they continue their recovery from respective knee and pectoral injuries.

Spain’s World Cup-winning coach Jorge Vilda has criticised suspended football federation president Luis Rubiales, calling the moment he kissed squad member Jenni Hermoso “inappropriate and unacceptable”.

Rubiales, the president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), has been provisionally suspended by FIFA in the wake of kissing Hermoso on the lips while she collected her medal after Spain’s 1-0 final win over England in Sydney last Sunday.

Hermoso stressed on Friday she did not consent to the kiss and the fallout from incident continued on Saturday afternoon as Spain women’s coaching staff resigned en masse – with the exception of Vilda.

His name was conspicuously absent from the list of resignations, but he has now broken his silence on events.

In a statement published in Marca, Vilda said: “The events that have taken place since Spain won the Women’s World Cup for the first time in its history…have been a real nonsense and have generated an unprecedented situation, tarnishing a deserved triumph of our players and our country.

“I deeply regret that the victory of Spanish women’s football has been harmed by the inappropriate behaviour that our until now president, Luis Rubiales, has carried out and that he himself has acknowledged.

“There is no doubt that it is unacceptable and does not reflect at all the principles and values that I defend in my life, in sport in general and in football in particular.

“A clearly undesirable climate has been generated, far from what should have been a great celebration of Spanish sport and women’s sport.

“My work as the women’s national coach and sports director of the women’s national team has always been aimed at achieving sporting success, but also at promoting initiatives that promote inclusion, respect and equity.

“I reiterate my unwavering commitment to promoting a sport that is a model of equality and respect in our society.”

Spain assistant managers Montse Tome, Javier Lerga and Eugenio Gonzalo Martin were among those to have decided to stand down from their positions.

Physiotherapist Blanca Romero Moraleda and goalkeeper coach Carlos Sanchez, plus half a dozen others at several age-group levels, have also tendered their resignations.

A statement from the coaches said: “The undersigned express their firmest and most emphatic condemnation of the conduct shown by the president of the Spanish Football Federation.

“He offered a story that does not reflect in any way any of the feelings of Jenni Hermoso, who has expressly stated that she felt ‘victim of aggression’.

“The technical team supports the player Jennifer Hermoso, endorsing the version offered by her.

“In light of the unacceptable attitudes and statements made by the top leader of the RFEF, the undersigned have made the decision to relieve themselves of their duties.”

Rubiales has refused to resign from his post while the RFEF announced an intention to take legal action over the comments made by Hermoso on Friday.

The situation took a further twist on Saturday morning as FIFA, which opened disciplinary proceedings against Rubiales on Thursday, announced in a statement the 46-year-old official was banned “from all football-related activities at national and international level” for an initial period of 90 days.

Jorge Ivan Palacio, the chairman of the FIFA disciplinary committee, has ordered Rubiales and the RFEF to refrain from contacting or trying to contact Hermoso, either directly or through intermediaries.

Hermoso accused the RFEF of a “manipulative, hostile and controlling culture” as a total of 81 players signed a letter stating they will not accept national team call-ups while Rubiales remains in situ.

Rubiales also grabbed his crotch in celebration despite being just metres away from Spain’s Queen Letizia and her teenage daughter in the stadium VIP area.

Rubiales apologised for his behaviour in the VIP area but insisted in his speech on Friday he had been the target of a “social assassination” and repeatedly and emphatically stated “I will not resign”, words that drew applause from the gathered delegates at an extraordinary general assembly of the RFEF.

Rubiales claimed the incident was “spontaneous, mutual, euphoric and consensual” but Hermoso, who previously suggested comments playing down the incident attributed to her by the federation were false, hit back with an attack on the organisation as a whole.

“It is not up to me to evaluate communication and integrity practices, but I am sure that as the world champion national team we do not deserve such a manipulative, hostile and controlling culture,” she said in a statement on Twitter on Friday.

“I want to reinforce the position I took from the beginning, considering that I do not have to support the person who has committed this action against my will, without respecting me, at a historic moment for me and for women’s sport.”

Hermoso was quoted in a statement issued by Futpro, the players’ union representing her, as stating “in no case did I seek to raise (lift) the president”.

But the RFEF said on Saturday it has analysed four images of Hermoso and Rubiales embracing, claiming they show it was the former’s force that lifted him.

A statement said: “The RFEF announces the presentation of as many legal actions as may correspond in defence of the honourability of the president of the RFEF.

“In the union’s note, it is said to speak on behalf of Jennifer Hermoso and some statements by the player are attributed to her that are in quotation marks, implying that they have been pronounced by her.

“The RFEF wishes to inform public opinion that the competent bodies of the RFEF that are processing the complaints filed with the Federation have tried to contact Jennifer Hermoso, having been unsuccessful at all times.

“The RFEF and Mr President will demonstrate each of the lies that are spread either by someone on behalf of the player or, if applicable, by the player herself.

“The RFEF and the President, given the seriousness of the content of the press release from the Futpro Union, will initiate the corresponding legal actions.”

England boss Steve Borthwick insisted he will stay loyal to his players and management team despite one of the darkest days in the nation’s rugby history.

A 30-22 defeat by Fiji was their first loss to the Islanders in eight meetings and the first time they have fallen to a current tier-two team, with the result expected to plunge them to an all-time lowest position of ninth in the global rankings.

The worst possible build-up to the World Cup has seen their record under Borthwick number only three wins in nine Tests and their critical Pool D opener against Argentina is only a fortnight away.

Borthwick refused to panic, however, as he outlined his belief that England will come good.

“I’m very confident with the all the people involved in the team – the players, the coaches, the management,” Borthwick said.

“This isn’t the result that we wanted and we’re all disappointed. But the focus is to make sure we put in the performance we need against Argentina.

“We’ve got a very good group of talented players who we are sure will play exceptionally well against Argentina. I’m very happy with the squad we’ve got.

“I’ve been involved with other England teams before that have been under pressure, in difficult circumstances and facing adversity like the challenges we’ve faced – and they’ve come apart.

“What I sense is that this is a group that is coming even tighter together. We’re looking forward to getting into this World Cup.”

England made a high-octane start as they raced into an 8-0 lead but Fiji – who matched their customary magic in attack with tactical smarts and impressive organisation – took hold of the game by scoring three entertaining tries.

“We’re bitterly disappointed. Frustrated that we saw growth in some areas of our game but other areas dropped off,” Borthwick said.

“If you miss that many tackles against a team like Fiji they are going to score tries. The team started positively but made too many errors and slipped off too many tackles.

“Credit Fiji for an excellent performance. We knew they were a dangerous side after they pushed France very hard in France.

“They are going to do very well at the World Cup and there’s the potential for us to meet them again in a few weeks time.

“Our focus is to be ready for Argentina. These games in August are there for us to understand the areas that we need to develop.”

Fiji’s all-court performance will have shaken their Pool C rivals Wales and Australia as they fully justified the growing expectations that they will claim some major scalps at the World Cup.

“We don’t get to play at Twickenham too often so this was a great honour for us. It’s huge to get the victory and I’m very proud of the boys,” head coach Simon Raiwalui said.

“I wouldn’t say we were comfortable because it was a tough match. We’ve made a huge progression with our rugby.”

The Spanish Football Federation has announced an intention to take legal action over comments made about its president Luis Rubiales by World Cup winner Jenni Hermoso.

Hermoso was quoted in a statement issued by Futpro, the players’ union representing her, as stating “in no case did I seek to raise (lift) the president” during a a podium embrace after the World Cup final between Spain and England in Sydney.

The Federation says it has analysed four images of Hermoso and Rubiales embracing, claiming they show it was Hermoso’s force that lifted him.

Hermoso had accused the Federation of a “manipulative, hostile and controlling culture” as the World Cup-winning squad refused to play while Rubiales remains in post.

A total of 81 players signed a letter stating they will not accept national team call-ups while Rubiales refuses to resign after kissing Hermoso – who has stressed she did not consent – following the country’s World Cup win.

He claimed it was “spontaneous, mutual, euphoric and consensual” but Hermoso, who previously suggested comments playing down the incident attributed to her by the federation were false, hit back with an attack on the organisation as a whole.

The Federation said: “The RFEF announces the presentation of as many legal actions as may correspond in defence of the honourability of the President of the RFEF.

“In the union’s note, it is said to speak on behalf of Jennifer Hermoso and some statements by the player are attributed to her that are in quotation marks, implying that they have been pronounced by her.

“The RFEF wishes to inform public opinion that the competent bodies of the RFEF that are processing the complaints filed with the Federation have tried to contact Jennifer Hermoso, having been unsuccessful at all times.

“The RFEF and Mr President will demonstrate each of the lies that are spread either by someone on behalf of the player or, if applicable, by the player herself.

“The RFEF and the President, given the seriousness of the content of the press release from the Futpro Union, will initiate the corresponding legal actions.

“The RFEF regrets that after such an extraordinary sporting success as the one that occurred in the Soccer World Championship, it cannot be celebrated as the situation and success deserves for completely non-sports reasons.”

England face Fiji at Twickenham on Saturday in a send-off for the World Cup that is fraught with danger given the Islanders have toppled Tonga, Japan and Samoa in recent weeks.

Here the PA news agency examines five talking points ahead of the final Summer Nations Series match.

Crisis management

England have yet to set foot in France but already events are conspiring against them. While the disciplinary lapses that have seen Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola banned for dangerous tackles are problems of their own making, the growing number of injuries are a cruel misfortune. Anthony Watson joins Jack van Poortvliet in being ruled out of the tournament before a ball is kicked and there are significant concerns over Tom Curry and Elliot Daly, both of whom face a race against time to be fit for the crucial opener against Argentina on September 9.

Jonny set to answer May day call

Watson’s calf injury that was sustained against Ireland has resulted in a World Cup reprieve for Jonny May, who Steve Borthwick all-but confirmed will be plugging the gap in the 33-man squad. Injury and repeated bouts of Covid-19 have conspired against May in recent times, but the ultra-professional England wing is capable of scoring spectacular tries out of thin air and will bring the kick-chase pressure and aerial threat that was missing in Dublin.

Keep your heads

It is a message that had been drummed into the players – no more cards. In the last four Tests England have been shown three reds and four yellows in an alarming collapse in discipline headlined by Farrell and Vunipola being sent off by the bunker review system. Borthwick is confident their respective four and two-game bans can be absorbed by the depth in their positions, but knows that an underperforming team that has lost four of their last five games must keep 15 players on the pitch if they are to halt the slide.

100 not out

Courtney Lawes becomes only the fifth man to make a century of Test appearances for England when he leads Borthwick’s side out at Twickenham. The achievement is a victory for resilience in the face of persistent injuries and the willingness to evolve as a player. Lawes’ calling card early in his career was as a defensive hitman whose bone jarring tackles were a favourite on highlights reels, but he has since added more layers including a smart carrying game based on footwork, line-out expertise and better handling. Having set out on his 14-year international odyssey as a second-row, he is now the epitome of the modern blindside flanker.

Fiji on the rise

Given Japan’s dispiriting slump since lighting up the 2019 World Cup, Fiji have emerged as disruptors with the heavyweights in their sights. Both Wales and Australia will be eyeing their Pool C encounters nervously as the Islanders, bolstered by the success of their Fijian Drua side in Super Rugby, have added a strong scrum, greater cohesion and superior conditioning to the magical attacking skills that are their bread and butter. Waisea Nayacalevu and Semi Radradra have been paired together in the centres against England, taking star billing in a rotated side that will ask questions at Twickenham even if short of full strength.

Manchester United left-back Luke Shaw will be out for a number of weeks with a muscle injury.

The 28-year-old defender is a mainstay of Erik ten Hag’s side and started the first two Premier League matches of the season.

But Shaw will miss Saturday’s Old Trafford encounter against Nottingham Forest and next weekend’s trip to Arsenal as well, it seems, as England’s upcoming internationals.

The left-back is facing a number of weeks out with a muscle injury that is still being assessed.

A club statement read: “Manchester United defender Luke Shaw has sustained an injury which will rule him out of forthcoming games.

“The muscle issue is still being assessed but the England left-back is expected to be out of action for a number of weeks.”

United and England will be hoping nothing worse crops up during those assessments, especially with fellow left-back Tyrell Malacia also sidelined through injury.

The Old Trafford club loaned out another left-back earlier on Thursday, with Brandon Williams joining Ipswich for the remainder of the campaign.

United had already announced an injury to Mason Mount ahead of the Forest match and it remains unclear whether new boy Rasmus Hojlund will be fit to make his debut.

Amad Diallo, Kobbie Mainoo and Tom Heaton are also out, while Harry Maguire missed the trip to Spurs with a knock.

England are reeling from the loss of Anthony Watson for the entire World Cup as their troubled build-up took another ominous turn.

Head coach Steve Borthwick revealed that a complaint was being lodged with World Rugby over the “bewildering” disciplinary process that resulted in a four-match ban for captain Owen Farrell.

But of more immediate concern was the news that Watson would play no part in the tournament hosted by France because of a calf injury sustained in the 29-10 rout by Ireland.

Watson, who is currently contracted to the Rugby Football Union while he finds a new club, is a world class wing when firing and would have been a certain starter for the pivotal opener against Argentina on September 9.

Now he faces another period of rehabilitation, having battled back from long-term knee and Achilles injuries, joining ankle-injury victim Jack van Poortvliet in being ruled out of the World Cup before it has begun.

Adding to a bleak picture in the back three is news that Elliot Daly and Henry Arundell are nursing knee and back problems that prevent them from taking part in Saturday’s final warm-up fixture against Fiji.

Jonny May is set to fill the void left by Watson in the 33-man squad – that must be submitted to World Rugby on Monday – and will make his first appearance of the Summer Nations Series against the Islanders at Twickenham.

It continues a wretched week for England, who must plan for the Pumas showdown without the suspended Farrell and Billy Vunipola – at a time when they are reeling from a run of four defeat in five Tests.

“I have no doubt there’s going to be more injuries, for every team,” Borthwick said.

“We are now going though our time of having bangs and bruises and through our time of having a couple of disciplinary processes.

“Every team is going to go through it and if I could choose my time to go through it, it would probably be now rather than when we’re out in France.”

Borthwick is confident that Daly will be ready for Argentina and is equally bullish over Tom Curry’s chances of making the standout clash of Pool D in Marseille.

Curry has yet to appear in the warm-up matches because of an ankle injury sustained in training but England would be willing to propel him straight into the starting XV if he proves his fitness.

“I’ve no doubt Tom will be ready and firing and he only just missed out this week,” Borthwick said.

“He’s got two weeks before the Argentina game so I’ve got no doubt that should we decide to go that way, he’ll be ready to go.”

Courtney Lawes leads England against Fiji to win his 100th cap and Borthwick revealed that Marcus Smith was being considered as a future option at full-back in the hope of igniting the attack.

Compounding the injury problems are the respective four and three-game bans issued to Farrell and Vunipola for dangerous tackles.

Farrell was initially cleared for his high hit on Wales’ Taine Basham by a disciplinary hearing only for World Rugby to lodge an appeal that was upheld on Tuesday, resulting in his suspension.

From red card to ban, the process lasted 10 days and England have made their frustration known to World Rugby.

“Whether you’re a supporter of England or another country, everybody could see that something like this should not have gone on for that period of time,” Borthwick said.

“The first process was conducted by one of the more senior and experienced panels that handles these matters and they’ve come to a considered decision.

“Then another panel comes in and says something different. The whole process is quite bewildering.

“It’s been frustrating and there’s no doubt it’s been a distraction. But I’ll also say, we’ve got to focus on going forward. That’s what we’re doing now.”

Manchester City have completed the £55.5million signing of Belgium winger Jeremy Doku from Rennes, the Premier League champions have announced.

The 21-year-old has signed a five-year deal with the treble winners to become their third major signing of the summer transfer window.

City had an offer for the player accepted earlier this week and formalities have been completed over the past couple of days.

Doku said: “This is a great day for me, both personally and professionally. Manchester City are the best team in world football, so to be joining them is something very special for me and my family.

“I am a young player with so much learning and improving to do. Working with (manager) Pep (Guardiola) and his staff, and playing alongside these world-class players, will make me a much better player. I feel sure of that.

“Watching City last season was amazing. To win the treble is the hardest thing in football and they did it. You cannot imagine how exciting it is to be joining this team. I cannot wait to get started. Hopefully I can make the fans happy.”

Doku came through the youth ranks at Anderlecht before joining Rennes in 2020.

Noted for his pace, he made his international debut in 2018 and featured at both Euro 2020 and last year’s World Cup.

He said: “I am quick, I am strong, I like to dribble. Those are my abilities that I like to rely on.

“I think the way I dribble, my speed – those are things that I can add to the group.

“Of course, the group is already a top group with a lot of top players, but I think that I can add that to the group.”

Doku’s arrival follows those of Josko Gvardiol and Mateo Kovacic earlier in the summer.

The club have also been linked with moves for midfielders Matheus Nunes and Eberechi Eze, of Wolves and Crystal Palace respectively, but have not commented on the speculation.

Guardiola’s midfield resources have been depleted following the departures of Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez this summer and with Doku’s international team-mate, Kevin De Bruyne, likely to be out injured for several months.

City director of football Txiki Begiristain said: “Jeremy is a very exciting young player and I’m so pleased he’s joining us.

“In terms of raw attributes, he has everything a winger needs. He has outstanding pace and he is exceptional in one-on-one situations.

“I honestly believe working with Pep and the technical staff here at City will see him develop into a world-class attacking talent.”

Courtney Lawes will win his 100th cap when he captains England in Saturday’s final warm-up match before the World Cup against Fiji at Twickenham.

With Owen Farrell serving a four-match ban for a dangerous tackle, Lawes continues as skipper to become the fifth England player to amass a century of Test appearances, having made his debut in 2009.

George Ford continues as chief conductor in a new-look half-back combination that includes Alex Mitchell, while Manu Tuilagi and Ollie Lawrence are paired together for the first time in a powerful midfield alliance.

 

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Head coach Steve Borthwick may have given a hint of his thinking at number eight following Billy Vunipola’s three-game suspension for a high hit by picking Ben Earl in the position.

 

In an unexpected development, Jonny May has been picked on the left wing despite not being selected in England’s World Cup squad, hinting at potential injury problems in the back three.

Alex Hartley, part of the England side that won the 2017 Women’s World Cup on home soil, has announced she will end her playing career at the conclusion of The Hundred.

Hartley took 10 wickets in eight matches during England’s seminal triumph, including two for 58 in the final against India, the undoubted highlight of an international career spanning 28 ODIs and four T20s.

The slow left-armer has not featured for England since 2019 while she went on a brief hiatus in May after admitting she had been “struggling mentally”, having fallen out of love with the game.

She made her comeback earlier this month for Welsh Fire, who have guaranteed progress to at least the eliminator at the Kia Oval on Saturday and could even go directly into Sunday’s final at Lord’s.

Whatever the outcome for the Fire in the knockout stages, Hartley, a popular broadcaster with the BBC’s Test Match Special, will retire from cricket this weekend.

“I’m hanging the boots up. I am officially retiring from cricket,” the 29-year-old said on her BBC ‘No Balls’ podcast. “I can’t believe it, I feel so good.

“I have been thinking about it for ages and ages. I’m going to really miss it, I’m going to be really sad but it’s so right. I’ve loved it, I’ve hated it but I am really proud of what I’ve achieved.

“It’s everything that I’ve ever wanted to do. I’m gutted I didn’t play Test cricket but I’m one of those where if you’re not good enough then you’re not good enough.”

Hartley made her England debut in 2016 but estimated she has devoted 17 years to her playing career, and is now looking forward to having more free time, even if she will still work in the game.

“At the minute, it’s work, cricket, work, cricket. I don’t ever have any days off,” Hartley added. “I haven’t seen my school friends for about a year because I never have time.”

Hartley, who has represented North West Thunder on the domestic circuit since 2020, has taken two wickets in three matches for the Cardiff-based Fire, who are currently second in the table.

They will finish top – and thereby go straight into the Lord’s showpiece – if they beat Northern Superchargers on Tuesday and Southern Brave lose to Manchester Originals on Wednesday.

Gus Atkinson endured multiple false starts to his career but battling back on each occasion has given him extra satisfaction in the wake of his World Cup selection.

Atkinson was dealing with persistent injury setbacks when two members of his age-group at Surrey – Sam Curran and Ollie Pope – were appearing for England and others were making waves on the domestic scene.

Recurring stress fractures in his back in 2017, 2018 and 2019 would have tested the resolve of anyone but Atkinson was able to contextualise an injury that is an occupational hazard for fast bowlers.

He has hardly looked back since his first-team debut in 2020 and his 90mph-plus speeds for Surrey and Oval Invincibles in The Hundred have seen him fast-tracked into England’s preliminary World Cup squad.

The uncapped paceman told the PA news agency: “I never really felt like I was not going to make it.

“I know these things happen with young bowlers and there’s plenty of bowlers who have been through similar stuff so I just knew with my age, stress fractures happen. Each year I just came back stronger.

“I look back and it was a tough time but because I hadn’t experienced playing any professional cricket while I had those injuries, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

“It was just a delay to my career. Those were pretty important years for me, to be honest. It was tough but to be here now, looking forward to a World Cup, it makes it seem ages ago.”

Atkinson admitted the coronavirus pandemic three years ago which shut down most sports or, in cricket’s case, led to a drastically reduced summer schedule was beneficial for his recovery and development.

He said: “Covid, to be honest, actually helped with my back because we didn’t have a full summer of cricket, I had a bit of extra time just to relax. I could push through without the risk of injury.”

A slick, repeatable action is at odds with how fast Atkinson can bowl – he has clocked 95mph in The Hundred – but he is not just a one-trick pony as he possesses a devilish bouncer and several changes of pace.

He has inevitably been likened to Jofra Archer, whose ongoing elbow trouble has effectively hastened Atkinson’s promotion into the England set-up for a white-ball series against New Zealand, starting next week, and the defence of their 50-over World Cup crown in India in October and November.

Atkinson himself shied away from the parallels, saying: “I think that’s really the only comparison – we both have good pace and can make it look quite easy. But I don’t like to get too caught up with that.

“I think I’ve got quite a natural whippy action, a bit of hyper-extension and quite a strong wrist. I’ve improved the momentum in my run-up as well.

“There are a few different factors (in where his pace comes from) but I’d say it’s quite natural to me.”

Atkinson is the joint-leading wicket-taker this year for the Invincibles, with his 10 dismissals in five matches helping them top the men’s group stage, bypassing the eliminator to go directly into Sunday’s final at Lord’s.

The 25-year-old is then likely to make his T20 and ODI bows within the next month before heading to the pressure cooker of a World Cup, where England begin their campaign against the Black Caps on October 5.

It remains to be seen how England deploy their latest pace weapon but with nine group stage fixtures in 38 days in the subcontinent, they will be wary of overextending their other express quick Mark Wood.

Atkinson, who has never been to India before, insisted he has not allowed himself to get carried away, adding: “I’m just trying to focus on The Hundred.

“I’m trying not to look too far ahead. When this is over, I’ll start thinking about the T20s and ODIs. It’s come into my head but I’m not trying to think about it too much.”

England’s Lionesses arrived back in the UK on Tuesday morning following their World Cup final defeat against Spain but left Heathrow via a private transfer rather than coming through the arrivals hall.

A number of fans had turned out early to greet the team off their 6.30am flight but were left disappointed when they were told the World Cup runners-up would not be passing through arrivals.

The party departed Sydney on Monday around 24 hours after their 1-0 loss against Spain in Sydney.

Hopes were raised when Alex Scott was spotted walking through arrivals, with fans saying she hinted the team would follow and the crowd burst out into chants of ‘Sweet Caroline’.

The team’s bags with the squad logo were also carried through.

But the disappointed fans were informed just before 7am that the team would not be walking through arrivals.

Lionesses fan Joanne Bruce, 51, travelled from Wisbech in Cambridgeshire to the airport at 10.30pm on Monday night with her niece and sister in the hope of thanking the team for their tournament performance.

She told the PA news agency: “We haven’t slept, we have just laughed and joked.

“It was just the three of us to start with. My sister was like ‘I really want to go early’.”

A small number of fans watched at arrivals for a little longer just to be sure they had not missed out on any action.

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