Boss Jitka Klimkova revealed all remained calm in advance of New Zealand’s 1-0 victory over Norway which opened the Women’s World Cup in Auckland, where a fatal shooting took place on Thursday morning.

The incident, which occurred in the city’s central business district close to Norway’s team hotel, resulted in three deaths – including that of the suspected gunman – with more wounded in what New Zealand Police characterised as an “isolated incident” and “not a national security risk”.

FIFA said a decision was taken to proceed with the match as planned after consulting with New Zealand authorities and the participating teams, who observed a moment of silence for the victims before the tournament kicked off at Eden Park.

The Football Ferns opened their campaign in style as Hannah Wilkinson’s second-half goal was enough to set the pace in Group A.

Klimkova said: “The players today were more preparing for themselves and it was pretty relaxed, but we still gave them the option to speak to the staff to get clarity but I believe the clarity was there, so they were more focussing on their individual preparation.”

FIFA also issued a statement before kick-off assuring they had no safety concerns for the rest of the tournament, which will see England open their campaign against Haiti on Saturday and conclude with the August 20 final at Sydney’s Stadium Australia.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said: “We appreciate the collaboration with the New Zealand authorities from the earliest moment of this tragic incident.

“We have been involved in ongoing communication from the outset, and we have also received the necessary reassurances from Minister for Sport and Recreation Grant Robertson in relation to the safety and security of the participating teams and fans at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in New Zealand.

“FIFA extends its deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims who lost their lives, and our thoughts and prayers remain with those who have been injured in this tragic incident.”

Robertson echoed Infantino’s assurances, saying: “This incident is in no way related to the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament and there are no national security concerns. We have provided the necessary assurances about the security of the tournament to FIFA’s leadership this afternoon.

“There is a comprehensive security plan around our hosting of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and we will continue to work with the police who have been part of an operational planning group for the tournament, and as such, have plans in place and were well placed to deal with this morning’s incident.”

An earlier statement from football’s global governing body said FIFA was “in constant contact” with the teams involved and they are “being supported in relation to any impact that may have taken place”.

Norway’s team hotel is located around 400 metres from where the shooting took place, but a team spokesperson told the PA news agency before the match that everything was calm in the Norwegian squad and preparations for the match were proceeding as normal.

Captain Maren Mjelde said in a statement: “Being informed about the consequences, the Norwegian team’s thoughts are with those affected and their families.

“Everyone probably woke up quite quickly when the helicopter hovered outside our hotel window and a large number of emergency vehicles arrived.

“At first we didn’t know what was going on, but eventually there were updates on TV and the local media. We felt safe the whole time. FIFA has a good security system at the hotel and we have our own security officer in the squad.

“Everyone seems calm and we are preparing as normal for the game tonight, then we may have to adapt if there are any instructions from the authorities.”

Jamaica Team Guide

July 19, 2023

Jamaica's Reggae Girlz takes the spotlight in our Fifa Women's World Cup build-up feature today. The Jamaicans will be making a second-consecutive appearance at the global showpiece set to get under way on July 20 and end August 20 in Australia and New Zealand.


They are no longer the only Caribbean team to qualify for the Women’s World Cup, but Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz will be the first from the region to make a second-consecutive appearance at the finals. Ranked No 43 in the world, they are a much more formidable group than that of 2019 and the squad features several US- and England-born players with Jamaican heritage that were not a part of the team which made a historic appearance in France.

The squad is similar to the one that competed in the qualifiers, winning all but two games – a 5-0 group stage loss to the United States and a 3-0 semi-final loss to Canada – at the Concacaf Women’s Championship in Mexico. During that tournament, Jamaica registered a 1-0 win over the host nation and also bettered Haiti 4-0 and Costa Rica 1-0 on their way to a third-place finish.

In total, the Jamaicans scored 30 goals and conceded 10 between the first phase of qualifying and the Concacaf championship and were again led by the talismanic striker Khadija “Bunny” Shaw, who ended the qualifiers with 12 goals.

Since then, the head coach Lorne Donaldson has brought in a few young prospects in 19-year-old goalkeeper Liya Brooks, 18-year-old Solai Washington, 19-year-old Kameron Simmonds and 22-year-old Peyton McNamara, all of whom impressed in the lead-up to the World Cup.

Jamaica have always banked on their speed and athleticism to open up opposing defences, particularly from the wide areas and it will certainly be more of the same in Australia and New Zealand, especially with the addition of fleet-footed players Washington, Simmonds and Kalyssa van Zanten, who can be lethal from the bench.

Still, Shaw, as always, will be the focal point in the attack and, much like she did at the 2019 showpiece when she assisted Havana Solaun to score a historic first goal against Australia, she could make a difference against their more illustrious Group F opponents if is she is able to get on the ball close enough to goal.

The defence has not always been the team’s strong point and while Donaldson and his assistants have done their best to beef up the backline, it basically remains the same as that of 2019, with the exception of Tottenham goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer and right-back Tiernny Wiltshire. Strong performances can be expected from the former captain Konya Plummer, who recently returned from maternity leave, but is looking raring to go. Much is also expected of her fellow defender Allyson Swaby, who is strong in the air and resolute on the ground.

Without doubt Jamaica remain one of the biggest underdogs at the World Cup, but they are certainly not going to the tournament accepting defeat, especially with the 2019 experience now under their belts.

The coach

Lorne Donaldson was born and raised in Jamaica where he started his playing career at Kingston College and Cavalier FC, before moving to the United States where he entered Metropolitan State University of Denver (he was inducted into MSU Denver’s Hall of Fame in 1995). He went on to play for the Denver Kickers, where he won the 1983 National Amateur Cup, and Jamaica.

He later started his coaching career as an assistant at Metro State Roadrunners in 1983 and has not looked back since, managing Colorado Foxes, Colorado Rapids and Real Colorado Foxes, along the way. 

Donaldson was introduced to the national women’s programme on the recommendation of ambassador for Jamaican women’s football Cedella Marley in 2014, along with previous head coach Hue Menzies and the two guided the Reggae Girlz to their historic qualification in 2019.

Both later left the programme for various reasons that involved the Jamaica Football Federation, but Donaldson expressed a willingness to return provided the conditions were different.

In July last year, he replaced Vinimore “Vin” Blaine at the helm, a few weeks ahead of the crucial Concacaf Championship, after the players released a letter expressing dissatisfaction with Blaine’s leadership.

Star player

The Guardian’s first female Footballer of the Year in 2018, the first player from the Caribbean to win the Concacaf Player of the Year Award in 2022, and Jamaica’s all-time leading scorer with 56 goals, Khadija “Bunny” Shaw’s career is one of bumps, bruises and of course, tremendous success.

The 6ft striker’s physicality and speed of thought had set her up for a dazzling career from a young age – aged 14 she played for Jamaica’s under-15, under-17 and under-20 teams. She made her debut for the senior side on 23 August 2015, scoring once in a 6-0 win over the Dominican Republic. She has lost siblings to violence and accidents but used those tragedies to fuel her passion for football.

During the 2019 World Cup in France, Shaw signed a two-year contract with FC Bordeaux and ended her second league season with 22 goals and seven assists in 20 matches, winning the top goalscorer award. She then joined Manchester City where the now 26-year-old continues to show her class, scoring 31 goals in 30 games last season and being named the club's player of the year.

Rising star

At 18 years old, the US-born midfielder Solai Washington is the youngest member of the squad and is one of the up-and-coming players to look out for at the World Cup. Still in high school going into her senior year, Washington first joined the setup at a camp in Florida this year and hasn’t looked back. She possesses great ability and works hard on and off the ball in a manner that belies her age.

Did you know?

Thirteen of Jamaica’s 23-member squad will be making their first World Cup appearances. That number includes the five England-born players – Rebecca Spencer, Vyan Sampson, Atlanta Primus, Drew Spence and Paige Bailey-Gayle. Also of note is that Cheyna Matthews, like she did in 2019, has returned shortly after giving birth to make the World Cup squad.

Standing of women’s football in Jamaica

Women’s football in Jamaica came to life in 1991 when the Reggae Girlz played their first international match against Haiti, losing 1-0. Since then, they have become one of the top teams in the region, and currently boast their second highest ever Fifa ranking at 43. They achieved their highest ever ranking at 42 last year.

There have been bumps on the road, however, and in 2010 the women’s programme as well as the women’s Olympic programme were disbanded by the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF). At that point, they were at their lowest ranking of 128 but the country was later removed from Fifa’s world rankings after three years of inactivity.

The programme was restarted in 2014 with the support of Cedella Marley, the daughter of the late Bob Marley. Marley’s robust fundraising efforts eventually helped the Reggae Girlz achieve their historic World Cup qualification.

Realistic goal at the World Cup

While it seems a daunting task for Jamaica to get out of Group F and into the last 16, they are expected to prove more competitive than they did in 2019 and the collective goal is to at least take points off one of France or Brazil. If they can do that, confidence is high that they will get the better of Panama in their final group game. So, the realistic aim for the team known for its stubborn determination and passion is to prove their doubters wrong by getting beyond the group stage.


England’s players have expressed their disappointment at talks with the Football Association over their bonus and commercial structures not being resolved before the start of the World Cup.

In a statement from the team posted on social media by captain Millie Bright, the Lionesses said they would “pause discussions, with full intentions of revisiting them following the tournament”.

The European champions’ campaign at the showpiece in Australia and New Zealand gets under way on Saturday when they face Haiti in Brisbane.

The statement said: “Last year we presented the FA with concerns relating to our bonus and commercial structures. The hope was that discussions would lead to a solution before the commencement of our World Cup.

“We are disappointed that a resolution has still not been achieved.

“We view the successful conclusion of these discussions, through player input and a transparent long term plan, as key for the growth of women’s football in England.

“With our opening game on the horizon, we Lionesses have decided to pause discussions, with full intentions of revisiting them following the tournament.

“We collectively feel a strong sense of responsibility to grow the game. And while our focus now switches fully to the tournament ahead, we believe every tackle, pass and goal will contribute to the work we are committed to doing off the pitch.

“We look forward to playing for our country (at) this World Cup, with pride, passion and perseverance.”

Last month FIFA announced a new financial distribution model to apply to this summer’s tournament.

Under that model, players will be guaranteed performance-related remuneration directly from FIFA, with amounts increasing the deeper teams go in the tournament, ranging from 30,000 US dollars (£23,000) per athlete for the group stage to USD 270,000 (£206,000) allotted to each champion.

Previously, it was up to individual national governing bodies to decide how money was allocated, with some still agreeing to fund additional payments in 2023 beyond the new deal.

England players were understood to have been left disappointed by the fact the FA was not following the lead of the Australian and American federations – where collective bargaining agreements are in place – in paying bonuses on top of the prize money being paid to players direct by FIFA.

Players were also understood to be frustrated over a lack of clarity over what their cut from any commercial deals done by the FA linked to the Lionesses will be, as well as the restrictions around their personal sponsorships.

The Professional Footballers’ Association released a statement from its chief executive Maheta Molango, who said: “Although the issues the Lionesses have highlighted are specific to the negotiations with the FA, they join players from a number of countries at the World Cup who are prepared to make a stand when they don’t think they are being listened to.

“It’s a massive mistake to underestimate the genuine strength of player feeling on these issues.

“It’s no coincidence that this is a particular issue for nations where there is no proper collective bargaining agreement in place between players and governing bodies.

“These longer-term agreements require negotiation and will nearly always involve difficult conversations. But when they are completed, they ensure a far higher degree of stability and security.

“They mean that everyone knows where they stand, and that’s obviously a massive advantage going into major tournaments when players just want to be focused on the football.

“The PFA’s view has always been that player rights and conditions should be addressed proactively and viewed as a partnership.

“There will always be consequences when players feel they are having to come back issue by issue to push for parity and progress. It doesn’t need to be like this.”

Bethany England says she stayed longer than she should have at Chelsea feeling “wasted” as the striker looks to take her fine form for Tottenham into the World Cup.

After an impressive 2019-20 campaign with the Blues which saw her named PFA player of the year, the 29-year-old subsequently found herself in and out of their starting line-up, and was part of it only twice in the first half of the 2022-23 Women’s Super League season.

She subsequently made a January move to Tottenham, went on to score 12 goals in as many league starts and earned an England recall – her first involvement since last September – when boss Sarina Wiegman named her squad in May for this summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

England said: “They (Chelsea) brought Sam Kerr in halfway through the (2019-20) season and I built up a great relationship playing with Sam, and then obviously it didn’t transpire to the next season where we didn’t play with a front two.

“Emma (Hayes, the Chelsea manager) opted for singular number nine, which made my chances much more difficult based off Sam being who she is – and she is a prolific goalscorer.

“So it was hard to kind of fight my way back in from that point and I think I probably overstayed maybe a year, a year-and-a-half too long, where I felt like I was just wasted there, and I wasn’t being used enough.

“It was a very difficult time, but I think I built up a lot of resilience from that and was able to take that into other scenarios in football.”

England, who joined Chelsea in 2016 and scored a total of 74 goals for them, added: “I think there was ultimately lots of reasons why I left, the World Cup being one of them.

“I think the move has paid off for me and, as you would say, (it has been) vindicated. Ultimately, I think if I had stayed where I was, sat on the bench, I would never be here today.”

England’s wait for an international recall initially went on after the January transfer despite her hitting goals for Spurs from the off, and she said: “I didn’t get selected for the (February) Arnold Clark Cup, and then I went and scored against Manchester United (running with the ball) from the halfway line.

“I think that was my ‘have some of that’ type thing. It was more like: ‘Look, I know I am good enough’.

“But equally, I had to balance not focusing too much on what was going on (with England), because ultimately if I didn’t do the job at club level, I wouldn’t have been here.”

Having continued to flourish with Tottenham, England, who was a member of Wiegman’s Euro 2022-winning squad as an unused substitute, is now among three main number nine options in the World Cup 23, along with Alessia Russo and Rachel Daly.

“I want to help the team and put the ball in the net, however they may go in,” said England, who has scored 11 goals in 21 international appearances.

“The biggest thing I would say is leading into the World Cup Sarina has been able to see me more, playing regularly, scoring goals.

“I am hoping, as a collective, everyone can see what qualities I can bring. They know I can bring that to this team and hopefully I am put in a position where I can help showcase that.

“I think me and Alessia are very different players. I would say I am more similar with Rachel. I think we are all great in our own way and whatever tactics suit the game at that time is going to showcase that.

“It’s a tough decision because we have all got different qualities, but whoever Sarina chooses to go for is her preference.”

England open their campaign by playing Haiti in Brisbane on Saturday.

Republic of Ireland midfielder Ruesha Littlejohn believes footballers cannot shy away from the spotlight if they want to escalate the growth of the women’s game.

The 33-year-old is one of 23 women selected by manager Vera Pauw to represent the Republic in their first World Cup, a monumental moment that has drawn unprecedented attention to the team and individual players.

The full World Cup experience comes with corresponding changes off the pitch – more photo shoots and social media followers among them – a fact of life Littlejohn encouraged the players at this Australia and New Zealand-hosted tournament to embrace like England’s Lionesses after their Euro 2022 victory blasted them into their country’s consciousness.

Speaking at the Girls in Green’s team hotel in Brisbane, she said: “It’s full on. The other day we were doing pictures and I was shattered, and I kind of felt sorry for the camera guy because I was just dead tired. Hopefully the pictures look OK.

“But look, this is it, we wanted to be here and now we’re going to need to embrace the change and manage all the way. I’m not a superstar so I think it’s going to be different for me but it could be different for the likes of Denise [O’Sullivan] and Katie [McCabe].

“Look at other teams. Like, you see the Lionesses, how their lives have probably changed massively. It’s probably been a big adjustment for some of them and I’m sure it’s not always easy.

“I’m sure there’s moments where they’re like, ‘oh, leave me be’. Let me go and get a Nandos and leave me in peace please’. But look, that’s where the game’s going and we kind of need to embrace that and learn now to deal and manage situations.”

The effects of England lifting the European trophy last July were keenly felt throughout the following 2022/23 domestic Women’s Super League (WSL) season, which according to a league report saw attendances up 173 per cent compared to the previous campaign.

All but one of the WSL’s 12 sides broke a club or stadium record during a season that also set the three highest attendance records in the English top flight, including the league record 47,367 who turned out for the North London Derby between Arsenal and Tottenham at the Emirates.

Littlejohn’s side are now just two sleeps away from their World Cup opener, when they will face Group B rivals and tournament co-hosts Australia in Sydney, and says “you know it’s on party mode back home”.

It will be some time before the legacy of the World Cup in the Republic of Ireland crystallises, but ex-Aston Villa player Littlejohn is already starting to notice a shift.

The native Glaswegian, who swapped allegiances through her Irish grandparents after representing Scotland at youth level, added jokingly: “It was the Euros last summer. Obviously deep down I’m gutted that England won.

“I’m just about over it. It was great for the game there, the WSL. It’s only going in one direction and I think the change that they’ve made is massive, and now you can see the change that hopefully we can all make on this world stage.

“It’s just exciting to see. You can even see that, round about the hotel, there’s a few young girls running about with Ireland tops on. I mean I would have never been taken anywhere to a different country to watch a game of football.

“I don’t know how these people are getting to do it, but that’s amazing that there’s so many people tuning in and it’s a reality for people now. This can become a job for you. You can go and do this too if you want to do it.”

England and Wales will head for New Zealand in October as the world champions host the sport’s elite teams in the inaugural WXV tournament.

World Rugby has confirmed the venues and dates for the new three-tier competition, which seeks to increase “the competitiveness, reach and impact” of the 15-a-side women’s game across the globe.

Eighteen teams will take part in the event, with the top six battling it out in WXV 1 in New Zealand across three weekends on October 21 and 28 and November 4, the next six contesting WXV 2 in South Africa on October 14, 21 and 28, and WXV 3 using the same dates but with the venue dependent on the nations qualifying.

World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “We made a pledge at a spectacular Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand to accelerate the advancement of the women’s game.

“Much progress is being made at rapid pace and today we are marking another milestone with confirmation of the dates and venues for the inaugural WXV competition.

“With women and girls leading our strategy to grow the sport on a global basis, this competition will increase the reach and impact of the sport and drive the overall competitiveness of women’s international rugby as we look forward to an expanded 16-team Rugby World Cup 2025 in England and subsequent Rugby World Cups in Australia in 2029 and USA in 2033.”

Beaten World Cup finalists England, France and Wales have already booked their places in WXV 1, while Scotland and Ireland will participate in WXV 2 and WXV 3 respectively.

The World Rugby Pacific Four Series 2023 will determine the remaining three teams in WXV 1 and one team in WXV 2, with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States contesting the competition featuring the top two teams in Oceania and North America.

WXV will comprise two sides from Europe and one each from Asia, Oceania, Africa and South America.

Each division in the annual tournament will be played out as a cross-pool format, with promotion and relegation – although not for the first two years leading up to the 2025 World Cup – adding spice.

Former England captain Sarah Hunter is confident the competition will help raise standards globally and hone teams for World Cup battle.

Hunter said: “To know that when you look at the calendar as England – and having recently played for England – that you’ll be playing some of the best teams in the world, it can only make you better, and to know that it’s not just every four years you get that opportunity to do so.

“I just think it’s a really exciting concept, that every year you’re going to be playing in one of the toughest competitions there is.”

New Zealand's ODI captain Kane Williamson is set to miss this year's ICC World Cup after scans confirmed he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) fielding in the Indian Premier League.

The decorated 32-year-old batsman underwent scans on Tuesday having sustained the injury to his right knee fielding in the Gujarat Titans' season opener against the Chennai Super Kings on Friday.

Williamson, who returned to New Zealand following the incident, will likely miss the World Cup in India in October and November given the significant rehabilitation timeframe for an ACL injury.

"I look forward to doing what I can to support [New Zealand coach] Gary [Stead] and the team over the next few months," Williamson said in a New Zealand Cricket statement.

"Naturally it's disappointing to get such an injury, but my focus now is on having the surgery and starting rehab.

"It's going to take some time, but I'll be doing everything I can to get back on the field as soon as possible."

Williamson averages 47.83 across 161 ODIs with 13 centuries and 42 half-centuries, with his absence at the World Cup to be a major blow for the Black Caps. Tom Latham is the leading candidate to take over as captain at the World Cup.

"You take Kane the player for a start, but then Kane the leader and the person he is within our group as well, it's a huge spanner in the works for us," Stead said.

"We haven't given up hope that he might be right but at this stage it does look unlikely. Our first thoughts are with Kane at the moment, it's a tough time for him, it's not an injury you expect…it hits you pretty hard."

New Zealand were beaten in the 2019 World Cup final by England in a dramatic super over on the boundary count back rule. Williamson was named Player of the Tournament in 2019, making 578 runs in 10 games.

Australia's Josh Hazlewood has moved to the top of the ICC's ODI bowler rankings for the first time in his career after Mohammed Siraj slipped to third. 

Siraj conceded 37 runs off just three overs in India's 10-wicket loss to Australia on Sunday, which caused the paceman to slump behind Hazlewood and New Zealand's Trent Boult.

Mitchell Stark took 5-53 in that rout, equalling the record number of five-wicket ODI hauls by an Australian bowler.

Hazlewood's rise to the top of the rankings comes despite the 32-year-old having not played in an ODI since November, while his last appearance in any format came in January.

However, he is expected to be back playing for this year's Ashes series in England, which commences on June 16 at Edgbaston.

Meanwhile, Kane Williamson has moved up four spots to second in the Test batting rankings behind Marnus Labuschagne. 

Williamson scored a remarkable 215 runs in New Zealand's victory over Sri Lanka in their two-match series, which the Black Caps won 2-0.

New Zealand would have been better off biding their time before announcing Ian Foster's replacement, according to former head coach Steve Hansen.

The All Blacks confirmed on Tuesday that Crusaders coach Scott Robertson will succeed Foster after this year's Rugby World Cup in France.

Robertson, who lost out to Foster on the position when Hansen stood down four years ago, has been handed a deal that will run through until after the next World Cup in 2027.

Foster revealed earlier this month he would not be reapplying for the job when his contract expires in November. 

The 57-year-old questioned New Zealand Rugby (NZR)'s decision to find his successor while their tournament preparations are in full swing.

NZR said "significant competition for elite coaching talent" forced them to act now, but Hansen believes that decision may backfire.

"I think they got burned last time so they were worried about that," he told The Platform podcast. "What they didn't take into account was everybody had their coaching sorted.

"In my opinion, they would have been better to wait, but in their opinion they wanted to push the button and they've done that.

"They're in charge of New Zealand Rugby, so it's them that die and fall on these decisions.

"Just like coaches there's got to be repercussions if it doesn't work. If it does work, well they've been super."

Robertson played 23 Tests for New Zealand and has been praised for his work since moving into coaching, having won six successive Super Rugby titles with Crusaders.

That made Robertson an obvious contender to take over as the All Blacks' next head coach, but Hansen questioned NZR's handling of the situation.

"It doesn't come as a surprise because he's been offered the job. [Foster] fought back and maintained it [last year]. He was obviously the prime candidate," Hansen said.

"I don't know who else applied and they're not telling us, so I think [NZR's] leading us in the dark whether there was more than one candidate or not."

New Zealand, who are third in the rankings, begin their Rugby World Cup campaign against hosts France before facing Namibia, Italy and Uruguay.

Former New Zealand coach Steve Hansen warned in-form Ireland they still have a huge point to prove at the Rugby World Cup this year.

Andy Farrell's side completed a Grand Slam against England on Saturday, sealing a Six Nations crown and reaffirming their place as the world's number one team.

But with France 2023 looming in just under half-a-year, they will have to overcome their own history, having never progressed beyond the quarter-final stage.

Hansen, who knocked Ireland out in the last eight with the All Blacks four years ago in Japan, feels they must defy their own tournament reputation to triumph.

"They are going well, [are] ranked number one in the world, and they have had a great year so far," he said.

"Every time a team is number one in the world, you have got to consider them to be a World Cup contender. But it is a tough tournament to win.

"They have seemed to struggle a little bit at World Cups. If it was the All Blacks, they would probably be called chokers. They have come a long way, they believe in themselves. They are a very good side.

"So they are definitely a contender. But they will have to overcome the pressure of not having gone past the quarter-finals before, and there will be a lot of pressure involved in that.

"If they get through to the semi-finals, then they are in new territory. That is something they will have to deal with that they've never dealt with before, and it is always hard to deal with something you haven't dealt with before."

Ireland open their campaign against Romania on September 9, before they face Tonga, Scotland and reigning champions South Africa.

Dimuth Karunaratne wants to step down as Sri Lanka captain following the Test series against Ireland next month.

The opening batter revealed after a hammering by an innings and 58 runs in the second Test against New Zealand that he has offered his resignation.

Karunaratne, who was appointed in 2019, hopes his reign will come to an end after the second and final match of the series versus Ireland in Galle.

He said: "I've talked with the selectors about stepping down as captain after the Ireland series. In the next WTC cycle, you've got to do two years.

"I think it's best if a new captain does that whole cycle than for me to do half and hand over. I've talked to the selectors about this, but I haven't got a response yet. My preference is to handover to a new leader after the next series."

Karunaratne made half-centuries in both innings of a heavy defeat to the Black Caps at Basin Reserve, which consigned the tourists to a 2-0 defeat.

The 34-year-old was not content with his knocks of 89 and 51 in Wellington.

"I played Tests after eight months. I only got to play one innings in a four-day match in between," Karunaratne said.

"!'m someone who gets a big one after getting a start, so I think I don't have that patience at the moment, and I need to go back to domestic cricket and develop that again.

"After eight months, although I made some runs here, I could have done more, I think. Twice, I think I could have turned half-centuries into hundreds, and I wasted them."

New Zealand captain Tim Southee described Kane Williamson as "world-class" after he led them to a dramatic final-ball win against Sri Lanka in the first Test at the Hagley Oval.

After rain delays on the final day on Monday, the hosts eventually began play on 28-1, needing a further 257 runs to win from 52 overs.

That effectively turned the innings into one more akin to an ODI, and both teams approached it as such

Williamson, who was dismissed for just one in the first innings, was the fulcrum for the chase as he hit 121 from 194 balls, with various partners showing more aggression after opener Tom Latham had fallen for 24.

Williamson and Daryl Mitchell (81 from 86) put on 142 for the fourth wicket, before Asitha Fernando (3-63) started taking wickets to set up a tense ending.

New Zealand still needed eight runs from the final over with just three wickets remaining, with Matt Henry then run out from the third ball.

With the last delivery of the match, Williamson and the injured Neil Wagner desperately ran through a bye to win it, with the former only getting his bat in marginally as Sri Lanka produced a direct hit at the stumps at the non-striker's end.

"Seeing how calm Kane is out in the middle keeps us calm as well," Southee said after the win. "He's a world-class player and world-class players are able to perform in different conditions.

"The guys were very trusting in what he was going to do and, alongside Daryl, for most of the day it was a great partnership that got us in that great position."

The defeat for Sri Lanka meant they were unable to qualify for the ICC World Test Championship final, with India taking that spot against Australia.

It gave the Black Caps their third-highest successful chase in Test cricket (285), and their second remarkable Test win in recent weeks after the one-run victory against England last month.

The second Test in Wellington gets underway on Friday.

New Zealand back-rower Ardie Savea has been handed a one-game ban after making a throat-slitting gesture to an opponent.

The 29-year-old flanker, who has captained the All Blacks and won 70 caps, apologised after Friday's Super Rugby game between the Hurricanes and Melbourne Rebels.

Savea aimed the mock threat at Melbourne's Ryan Louwrens after being sin-binned, earning him a citing.

Judicial committee chairman Nigel Hampton determined neither the yellow-card offence for Savea's part in escalating a ruckus, nor the afters that followed, deserved to be treated as worthy of a straight red card.

But collectively they warranted a sending-off, it was ruled, meaning Savea is suspended for one week, forcing him to miss Saturday's home clash with the Blues.

In a statement quoted by New Zealand media, Hampton said: "That was accepted by the player, and the player is therefore suspended for one week, up to and including Saturday 11 March 2023."

Savea said his behaviour was "out of character", telling broadcaster Stan Sport after the game: "I can understand the fans are furious around the gesture that I made. It was a heat-of-the-moment kind of thing, that's footy, but I understand, kids are watching us."

Ben Stokes is not risking fitness for this year's Ashes series by playing in the Indian Premier League, insists England head coach Brendon McCullum.

England's Test captain has signed for Chennai Super Kings with the IPL season starting on March 31, ahead of the Ashes getting underway on June 16 in Birmingham.

Stokes struggled with his left knee in England's Test defeat to New Zealand in Wellington, where he could only bowl two overs while batting for 33 runs on the final day.

But McCullum has no concerns.

"I don't think he's jeopardising the Ashes. The skipper has a strong mind, and he knows how to get right for the big moments," he told reporters.

"In fact I look forward to watching him play for Chennai, and see him play cricket without the captaincy and having to worry about everyone else.

"We know when he comes back to us, he'll have that bit between his teeth. I also believe the Ashes is the script the skipper is waiting to write."

Stokes has delivered in huge moments for England, from starring in their 2019 World Cup victory to stunning Australia in a famous Ashes Test at Headingley when the series was last played on English soil four years ago.

He also scored an unbeaten 52 to propel England to victory at the T20 World Cup last year and has become the quickest Test captain to reach 10 wins.

At Chennai, he will play under head coach Stephen Fleming, who was once New Zealand team-mates with McCullum.

"I've got a tee-time with him, so I'll be making sure he looks after the skipper," said McCullum of Fleming.

"Chennai have a very good set-up, and they have an outstanding leader in Flem. He sees the big picture in everything, so I've no concerns."

Australia won the last Ashes 4-0 but after developing a distinct style of play since McCullum's appointment, England look primed to take the fight to the tourists. 

"This team has grown over the last eight or nine months," McCullum added. "I think the players have become more at ease with how we're playing, and it's become more authentic.

"Our style certainly does give us the best chance of being able to topple a good Australian side.

"We know it won't be easy but with eight or nine months development of that style under our belts, we should be hard to beat. Bring it on!"

A decision on New Zealand's next head coach following the Rugby World Cup in France will come in the next six weeks.

Ian Foster has confirmed he will not reapply for his role, having previously urged New Zealand Rugby (NZR) to wait until after September's World Cup to decide his successor.

However, competition for talent in the global rugby market has forced NZR's hand to begin the hunt sooner and the process is now under way.

"Following wide-ranging consultation and after carefully weighing up all scenarios and the key lessons from 2019, New Zealand Rugby is now commencing a process for selecting the All Blacks Head Coach from 2024," NZR chairwoman Patsy Reddy said in a statement.

"Noting the divergent views as to the best timings for this process and that neither timing window is perfect, out of respect for the people involved, New Zealand Rugby will not be making any further comment after today until a decision has been reached. This will be concluded in the next four to six weeks."

Scott Robertson is widely considered to be the leading candidate for the role, having lost out to Foster in 2019 but overseeing success with the Canterbury Crusaders since.

New Zealand meet Italy, Uruguay, Namibia and hosts France in the pool stage of the Rugby World Cup.

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