Ospreys flanker Jac Morgan will captain Wales in Saturday’s opening World Cup warm-up clash against England at the Principality Stadium.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has yet to announce his World Cup skipper, though, and says each of the preparation games against England home and away, plus South Africa in Cardiff, could have a different player at the helm.

Centre Max Llewellyn, plus props Corey Domachowski and Keiron Assiratti will make their Test debuts on Saturday.

And former England prop Henry Thomas, who qualifies for Wales through his father and has been able to switch countries under new World Rugby regulations, is among the replacements along with fellow uncapped forward Taine Plumtree.

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny, meanwhile, will win his 100th cap as Wales step up their World Cup preparations.

Ollie Chessum is in contention to win a place in England’s World Cup squad after making a successful early comeback from the ankle surgery that had jeopardised his tournament hopes.

England feared they had lost their breakout star of the Six Nations after he was ruled out for between five and six months with the injury sustained during preparations to face Ireland in March.

But on Tuesday he took part in a live scrummaging session during training as he closes in on making a complete recovery that should see him named in Steve Borthwick’s 33-strong squad on Monday.

England had made it clear Chessum would not be risked in Saturday’s opening warm-up match against Wales in Cardiff if not fully fit, but would be willing select him for the World Cup on the strength of his performances this year.

“Ollie’s close to a return. He’s done incredibly well and has been so diligent with his rehab. He looks really good,” attack coach Richard Wigglesworth said.

“He’s definitely a great character and I’ve enjoyed working with him over the last few years, but he’s also a top-quality player who we are keen to get fit.

“The medics said that if he’s free of complications then there’s a very good chance of him being ready for the World Cup. He’s had no complications and flew into his rehab.

“I don’t think we’re going to rush someone back from that injury and say ‘you have to play (against Wales)’ – it’s up to us to make a decision on the best 33 on the back of all the evidence we’ve had.

“Ollie has obviously given pretty strong evidence that he’s a top international player when he was fit.”

Chessum won the first of his nine caps under Eddie Jones but it was during the Six Nations that he announced his arrival as a high-calibre Test player through a series of imposing displays in an otherwise-underperforming team.

The 22-year-old can play lock or blindside flanker and made a big impression on Wigglesworth, who played alongside him and coached him at Leicester until leaving to join Borthwick’s coaching team at the end of the season.

“When Ollie’s fit and firing he brings an energy with him that’s infectious and he’s someone who’s just going to get better and better,” Wigglesworth said.

“He’s got a great attitude, great athletic ability and he’s got the mind to be in an England shirt for a long, long time if he keeps progressing the way he wants to.”

Billy Vunipola has also provided a fitness boost as he shows no adverse effects from his recent knee surgery, nudging him closer to regaining his place as England’s number eight.

“Billy looks highly motivated and he’s had a big impact in training, coming back in straight away,” Wigglesworth said.

“He’s shown his class and his form. His training is slightly modified but not much.”

Borthwick will oversee the final selection meeting in Cardiff on Saturday night before telling each player individually on Sunday whether they made the cut for the World Cup.

The date of the announcement means that the Principality Stadium clash will be the final opportunity for players to play their way into the 33.

“We pick a team to try and win a Test match, without a doubt, but it would probably be disingenuous to say we aren’t trying to get a squad ready for the tournament as well,” Wigglesworth said.

“We have to have a squad that is ready to play in France to the best of its ability. Will the same team play four weeks in a row? No, absolutely not. There will be changes throughout the four weeks.”

Ben Earl insists England’s players appreciate Steve Borthwick’s personal touch having previously endured the experience of learning about World Cup selection on a WhatsApp group.

Borthwick’s predecessor, Eddie Jones, used the messaging app to inform the 31 who would be taken to Japan four years ago if they had been chosen, with their names appearing in a newly-created group revealing the good news.

It was seen by some as a brutal way to discover whether a player’s World Cup dream had been made or broken, while WhatsApp was regularly employed during the Jones era to communicate team selection.

Since replacing Jones in December, Borthwick has adopted a more tactful approach to interacting with his squad and that will be needed on August 7 when he names the 33 who will be involved in this autumn’s global showpiece.

“With Steve it has been very much personal and that’s been great,” said Earl, the Saracens flanker hoping to be a part of England’s World Cup campaign.

“I know a lot of players have enjoyed that side of it and not having to stay up late at night waiting to be added to a WhatsApp group, which I know a few people have experienced. That has been a really nice change.

“Obviously we are all dying to be involved. But if it’s not your day, it’s not your day. And then you’ve got to crack on.”

Earl is competing for a World Cup spot within an ultra-competitive back row contingent, England’s most recent 40-man training squad featuring eight specialists across the three positions.

Additionally, Courtney Lawes, Maro Itoje and George Martin are options at blindside flanker as well as second row, increasing the rivalry for a ticket to France.

To underline the challenge facing the players is the decision made a week ago to leave out Sam Underhill, one of the stars of the 2019 World Cup and one half of the ‘Kamikaze Kid’ combination that took Japan by storm.

“Within our structured gameplan, there is still massive scope to be the player you want to be. That’s the magic of our back-row make-up,” Earl said.


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“There’s not one player who is the same as another. Every player has a strength and we’re all window-shopping, picking each little bit from each other and picking one another’s brains.

“The amount of experiences that the back-rowers have had this year is unbelievable. Jack Willis won the Top 14, Lewis Ludlam captained his club, Tom Pearson could have been player of the season in the Premiership and then you have Billy Vunipola and Alex Dombrandt, who have unbelievable international experience.

“Everyone is offering their little bit as best they can. There is obviously an elephant in the room with the competition, but it’s the healthiest and best environment I’ve been in.

“I guess not many nations will have our competition. In 2019 Sam Underhill was probably one of the players of the tournament, so that just goes to show how competitive it is.

“Sam trained brilliantly and it was a shock to us all that he was no longer involved. That really struck home with us.”

Flanker Lewis Ludlam says England’s players are self-policing the consumption of sweet treats in a bid to be in peak condition for a shot at World Cup glory.

Steve Borthwick’s preliminary squad are in the midst of preparations for the tournament in France, which kicks off in just seven weeks’ time.

Players were last week put through their paces in the heat of Italy before returning to home soil to continue building towards next month’s four warm-up fixtures.

Northampton captain Ludlam revealed diet rules and weight monitoring have been relaxed slightly since head coach Borthwick replaced Eddie Jones.

Yet, after exclaiming he had not “seen cake in weeks” after spotting a buffet at the team’s Surrey training base, the 27-year-old insists players are not allowing each other to give in to temptation.

“The regime has changed in that it’s not as much forced upon you – you’ve got the trust to do everything the right way so we are in the best position to go and put ourselves in the best spot this World Cup,” he said.

“There’s a general feeling amongst the squad that we’ve got to be on the money and making sure we’re making decisions so we are better rugby players the next week and the next month.

“It is a good group of lads and we keep each other in check.

“There might be a birthday cake here and there but I think the lads are pretty understanding of what’s ahead of us.

“In the grand scheme of things, it is a short time in our career when we can be really on it to give ourselves the chance of creating some really special memories.”

England take on Wales home and away in early August and then face Six Nations champions Ireland in Dublin and Fiji at Twickenham before heading to France to begin their Pool D campaign against Argentina on September 9 in Marseille.

Borthwick’s appointment last December led to Saints star Ludlam being surrounded at Test level by a management team previously in charge of his club’s fierce rivals Leicester.

The 19-cap back-row forward initially found it strange setting aside hostilities and having old enemies as allies.

But he believes the England setup – led by former Tigers coaches Borthwick, Richard Wigglesworth, Aled Walters, Kevin Sinfield and Tom Harrison – is beginning to feel like a club environment.

“It was weird to get over in the beginning, especially Tom, who obviously loves Leicester and having been up against him a few times,” said Ludlam.

“Now, because we’ve been in camp for a long period of time – we don’t normally get this long period without games – it’s starting to feel like a club coming together rather than an international team where you’re only in for six weeks or whatever.

“It’s starting to come together really nicely into one unit.”

England’s final 33-man World Cup selection is due to be announced on August 7.

Injured quintet Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola, Ollie Lawrence, Ollie Chessum and Jack Walker, who were not included in Borthwick’s initial 41-strong training squad, are continuing their rehabilitation.

“They’re good, they’re on their programmes and working extremely hard to get themselves ready,” said scrum coach Harrison.

“Everyone’s got different timescales but they’re doing their best to be available.”

Wales captain Ken Owens has been ruled out of their World Cup training squad due to injury.

The hooker has been released from the squad with a back injury along with Scarlets team-mate Josh Macleod who has a shoulder problem.

Cardiff’s Will Davies-King has also been ruled out with a foot injury, while Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Rhys Webb have all retired since the preliminary squad was released last month.

Ospreys hooker Sam Parry has been called up ahead of the World Cup, where Wales’ campaign gets under way against Fiji on September 10 followed by games against Australia and Georgia.

Head coach Warren Gatland said: “We’ve been really pleased with the players’ attitude and commitment throughout the first few weeks of our mini camps.

“The group has worked really hard and there have been a few curve balls from us in terms of testing them mentally and physically as people may have seen in some of our videos.

“Unfortunately we’re having to release Ken, Josh and Will due to injury which is really disappointing, but all three are hoping to be available later in the year should we need an injury replacement at any point.

“Ken has a niggle in his back which he needs some time out to sort. Josh got the injury on club duty – we were hoping to be able to manage it but specialist assessment showed that wasn’t possible.

“Will picked up the foot injury in training with us which we were managing but then he got re-injured so has been released.”

Billy Vunipola has undergone a minor operation on his injured knee but expects to be fit for the Rugby World Cup.

The England forward remains with a 36-player squad named by head coach Steve Borthwick for their third World Cup training camp at The Lensbury Resort in south-west London.

“The medical team are positive about my prospects and I understand exactly what needs to be done over the next few weeks,” said Vunipola.

The line-up is the same as last week’s camp with the exception of Will Joseph and Beno Obano, who both miss out. Players from Gallagher Premiership finalists Sale and Saracens have not been included.

“I’m pleased with the progress that’s been made over the last two weeks and we look forward to another productive training camp at the Lensbury,” said Borthwick.

“There’s still a long way to go until we are ready for a World Cup but each day we take another step forward.”

Ollie Chessum, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ollie Lawrence and Jack Walker all remain with their team-mates as they continue their rehabilitation from injury.

England will take on Wales in Cardiff on August 5, with Borthwick due to name his 33-strong squad for the World Cup in France two days later.

Training squad:

Backs – H Arundell (London Irish), D Care (Harlequins), J Cokanasiga (Bath), F Dingwall (Northampton), T Freeman (Northampton), J Marchant (Harlequins), J May (Gloucester), A Mitchell (Northampton), C Murley (Harlequins), G Porter (Leicester), H Slade (Exeter), F Smith (Northampton), M Smith (Harlequins), F Steward (Leicester), J Van Poortvliet (Leicester), A Watson (Leicester), B Youngs (Leicester).

Forwards – J Blamire (Newcastle), D Cole (Leicester), A Dombrandt (Harlequins), T Dunn (Bath), C Ewels (Bath), E Genge (Bristol), J Heyes (Leicester), T Hill (Bath), C Lawes (Northampton), L Ludlam (Northampton), J Marler (Harlequins), G Martin (Leicester), Z Mercer (Montpellier), T Pearson (London Irish), V Rapava-Ruskin (Gloucester), D Ribbans (Northampton), K Sinckler (Bristol), W Stuart (Bath), S Underhill (Bath).

England progressed to the quarter-finals of the World Cup of Darts with a comfortable 8-4 win against Latvia in Frankfurt.

The top-seed pairing of Michael Smith and Rob Cross are seeking to win a record fifth World Cup title for England and made light work of eliminating Madars Razma and Dmitriy Zhukov.

“We were trying too hard but every time I hit a bad shot, Rob stepped in and we worked as a team there,” the world number one Smith told Sky Sports.

“It wasn’t our greatest performance, but we needed a test and we know that if we play at our best we’ll win.”

England will face hosts Germany in the last eight after Gabriel Clemens and Martin Schindler beat Poland’s Krzysztof Ratajski and Krzysztof Kciuk 8-6 to a rapturous reception in Frankfurt.

Belgium also progressed with a brilliant sudden-death leg win over the Netherlands, whilst Wales beat Denmark 8-2 to ease through.

Earlier in the day, Scotland beat the Philippines 8-5 to book their quarter-final passage.

Australia, Sweden and France will complete the last-eight line-up.

Kim Huybrechts and Dimitri Van den Bergh put their differences aside to send Belgium through to the second round of the World Cup of Darts in Frankfurt.

The duo won their opening match against Finland on Thursday night but cracks in their relationship showed immediately afterwards, with Huybrechts admitting he does not “get along with” Van den Bergh, who also said there was “something personal” between them.

But, in an attempt to avoid a civil war in the PDC competition, they put on a united front ahead of Friday night’s match with China.

They said in a joint statement on Twitter: “Following last night’s win at the World Cup of Darts, we have sat down to discuss our recent differences.

“Whilst some issues remain to be resolved in the fullness of time, we are both fully committed to doing our best as a team to win the World Cup of Darts for Belgium, and to represent ourselves, our families and our country in the best light.

“That begins with tonight’s game against China and our focus is now on preparing for the match as a team.”

Harmony was needed in a close match, with Van den Bergh producing an under-pressure 86 checkout in the deciding leg to clinch a 4-3 victory.

Defending champions Australia are yet to drop a leg and they eased to a 4-0 win over Gibraltar, while Croatia claimed a 4-1 upset victory over the Republic of Ireland.

Hosts Germany are safely through, beating Japan 4-0, and Poland set a new record average of 118.1 in their 4-1 success against Lithuania.

Elsewhere, there were victories for France, South Africa, Canada, Latvia, Sweden and the Philippines, while Denmark lost to the USA but still go through.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has named four uncapped players in a 42-man training squad ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

Munster wing Calvin Nash, Leinster backs Ciaran Frawley and Jamie Osborne and Ulster hooker Tom Stewart have all been included.

Leinster back Jordan Larmour and Munster fly-half Joey Carbery miss out, though, for a first block of training that starts on June 18.

Ireland have World Cup warm-up games against Italy, England and Samoa in August, with their tournament opener coming against Romania in Bordeaux on September 9.

A warm-weather training camp in Portugal is also planned for August before Farrell confirms his 33-player World Cup squad.

“It is exciting to announce our extended training squad for the first phase of Rugby World Cup preparations, and we are looking forward to assembling in Dublin next month to hit the ground running as a group,” Farrell told irishrugby.ie.

“It is pleasing to see that selection has been as tough as ever, as real quality players have initially been unfortunate to have missed out.

“I am sure that camp will be competitive enough as we grow minds and bodies and look to push on with our game from last season.

“In the meantime, it’s important that we freshen up for a busy and exciting summer ahead so we are ready to get to work on June 18.”

Training squad: Backs – B Aki (Connacht), C Blade (Connacht), R Byrne (Leinster), C Casey (Munster), J Crowley (Munster), K Earls (Munster), C Frawley (Leinster), J Gibson-Park (Leinster), M Hansen (Connacht), R Henshaw (Leinster), H Keenan (Leinster), J Lowe (Leinster), S McCloskey (Ulster), C Murray (Munster), C Nash (Munster), J O’Brien (Leinster), J Osborne (Leinster), G Ringrose (Leinster), J Sexton (Leinster), J Stockdale (Ulster).

Forwards – R Baird (Leinster), F Bealham (Connacht), T Beirne (Munster), J Conan (Leinster), G Coombes (Munster), C Doris (Leinster), T Furlong (Leinster), C Healy (Leinster), I Henderson (Ulster), R Herring (Ulster), R Kelleher (Leinster), D Kilcoyne (Munster), J McCarthy (Leinster), P O’Mahony (Munster), T O’Toole (Ulster), A Porter (Leinster), C Prendergast (Connacht), J Ryan (Leinster), D Sheehan (Leinster), T Stewart (Ulster), K Treadwell (Ulster), J van der Flier (Leinster).

Lucas Hernandez was back in Bayern Munich training on Monday for the first time since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament during the World Cup.

The versatile defender suffered the injury early on in France's Qatar 2022 opener against Australia in November.

He went down clutching his right knee after being turned by Matthew Leckie in the build-up to the Socceroos' opening goal.

France subsequently confirmed he ruptured his ACL, leading to fears that Hernandez's season – not just his World Cup – was over.

But his chances of being involved in Bayern's run-in have improved significantly after the club confirmed he was once again training with the ball on Monday.

Nevertheless, it would seem unlikely for Hernandez to be back in match contention during Bayern's Champions League quarter-final tie with Manchester City, the first leg being on Tuesday and the second eight days later.

He should be able to assist Thomas Tuchel's side in the final weeks of the Bundesliga season, however.

The defending champions are top of the table with seven matches to go but have only a two-point lead over Borussia Dortmund.

Eddie Jones has six uncapped faces in his first Australia squad since returning to the team, comparing his training camp with Formula 1 pre-season testing.

The veteran coach was dismissed by England last December, and promptly returned to take charge of the Wallabies for the second time, succeeding Dave Rennie.

In making his first selections ahead of a training camp before July's Rugby Championship and September's Rugby World Cup, Jones has not been afraid to gamble.

On the weekend the Australian Grand Prix took place in Melbourne, the 63-year-old also spoke of how his side can draw influence from the start of a new year in F1 too.

"Every pre-season testing in Formula One is a fresh start," he said. "New ideas, new cars, new drivers, new support staff. It's the same for us.

"This is a new squad, with new standards and new expectations for a new challenge. I hope the players who have this first chance understand the privilege, have their tyres pumped up and they're ready to go."

Brumbies duo Blake Schoupp and Ryan Lonergan are included for the first time, alongside Rebels pair Carter Gordon and Brad Wilkin.

Waratahs teenager Max Jorgensen also gets a first call, as does Reds man Josh Flook, who is joined by domestic team-mate Suliasi Vunivalu despite the league convert's mixed form.

Jones believes he has a team with the mindset to deliver, adding: "It's no secret what I've been looking for, and in the players selected for this first camp they've delivered on work rate, effort and intent.”

"I've said it a million times. We have the talent in Australia but not the team. This first camp and this first squad is the first step to building a winning team.

"This is not the squad for Rugby World Cup. It's the first squad for the first camp. If you are in it, the challenge is to stay in it. If you are not in it, how do you get in it? Players select themselves."

Australia squad: Allan Alaalatoa (Brumbies), Ben Donaldson (Waratahs), Pone Fa'amausili (Rebels), Josh Flook (Reds), Lalakai Foketi (Waratahs), Nick Frost (Brumbies), Langi Gleeson (Waratahs), Carter Gordon (Rebels), Ned Hanigan (Waratahs), Reece Hodge (Rebels), Michael Hooper (Waratahs), Jed Holloway (Waratahs), Len Ikitau (Brumbies), Max Jorgensen (Waratahs), Andrew Kellaway (Rebels), Lachlan Lonergan (Brumbies), Ryan Lonergan (Brumbies), Fraser McReight (Reds), Mark Nawaqanitawase (Waratahs), Cadeyrn Neville (Brumbies), Jordan Petaia (Reds), David Porecki (Waratahs), Tom Robertson (Force), Pete Samu (Brumbies), Blake Schoupp (Brumbies), James Slipper (Brumbies), Darcy Swain (Brumbies), Jordan Uelese (Rebels), Rob Valetini (Brumbies), Suliasi Vunivalu (Reds), Nic White (Brumbies), Brad Wilkin (Rebels), Tom Wright (Brumbies).

South Africa assistant Felix Jones will join England's coaching staff after the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Jones featured 13 times for Ireland during his playing career, before taking on assistant coach roles with Munster and the Springboks.

England are planning ahead after a disappointing Six Nations campaign in which they finished in fourth place, losing three of their five games.

Speaking to the England Rugby website after the future appointment was confirmed, head coach Steve Borthwick expressed his excitement at eventually having Jones on board.

"We are continuing to build our programme to be in a position to compete to be world champions once again," Borthwick said. "At the same time, I also want to ensure we are preparing for long-term success for this England team, and I am excited that a coach as talented as Felix is joining next year.

"Felix has been competing at the top of world rugby during his four years with South Africa and will bring invaluable experience to our set-up. Like with Aled Walters, Felix was an integral part of the team that won the Rugby World Cup in 2019.

"Together with Richard Wigglesworth and Kevin Sinfield, we are putting in place a coaching team who have spent their careers at the highest level competing for trophies. That is exactly what we want for this England team."

Jones has worked with South Africa since 2019, and will join up with assistant Wigglesworth (assistant) and another former Springboks coach in Aled Walters (head of strength and conditioning) as well as Borthwick and Sinfield (defence coach) in 2024, with Wigglesworth and Walters due to come in at the end of the Premiership season.

"Coaching the Springboks is one of the biggest privileges in rugby and I intend to do everything I can to ensure the team is successful until the day my contract comes to its natural end," said Jones.

"The last four years has been an incredible journey for me and my family, both professionally and personally, I am indebted to so many people at the Springboks and in South Africa for that.

"My commitment to the Springboks until the end of the Rugby World Cup is unquestionable, and Rassie [Erasmus, director of rugby], Jacques [Nienaber, head coach] and the entire Springbok team know that.

"The next five months are going to be exciting and demanding, and I'm looking forward to preparing for the World Cup with this coaching team."

Another week, another landmark for Lionel Messi as the Argentina superstar scored his 800th career goal in Thursday's friendly against Panama.

It's been an almighty journey for the all-time great, who has basically won everything on offer and claimed a record haul of seven Ballons d'Or along the way.

The player regarded by many as the greatest ever, Messi reached his latest milestone with a picture-perfect free kick in the 89th minute against Panama, curling one into the top corner after crashing two prior free kicks into the crossbar.

Although Messi hits new landmarks so frequently, at the age of 35 he is approaching a point where such achievements will become a little rarer.

With that in mind, it's worth celebrating Messi and his feats while we still can – therefore, Stats Perform has delved into the Opta data behind his latest accomplishment.

On the receiving end

It's nearly 18 years since Messi's first goal in professional football. Then a floppy-haired 17-year-old, he latched on to a Ronaldinho pass before lifting a clever lob over Albacete goalkeeper Raul Valbuena on May 1, 2005.

That goal has since become famous given its significance in marking the arrival of Messi – it also left a mark on the career of Valbuena.

"The press calls me every time he's broken a record or achieved something important, especially press from Catalonia," he told Marca nine years later. "To me, it's a funny anecdote in my career as a goalkeeper."

Well, it's all right for some. Many goalkeepers have had to contend with Messi smashing past them a few more times than Valbuena's single concession.

In total, 232 goalkeepers had let in a goal against Messi before Thursday. No one conceded more than Diego Alves, however, with the Brazilian beaten 21 times. Iker Casillas is a close second (19).

Returning the favour

Of course, over his career Messi has also become synonymous with creativity, routinely setting up goals for his team-mates.

But, given how many he's scored, he's also had to benefit from plenty of service from his colleagues as well – when he's not doing it all himself.

There are several players with whom he's struck up particularly effective on-pitch relationships.

For years, his combination with Dani Alves was unrivalled, the Brazilian setting up 42 of Messi's goals, but then along came Luis Suarez.

Suarez, Messi and Neymar were a revered and feared front three, their understanding on the pitch so deadly. The Uruguayan ended up assisting 47 goals for Messi across their six years together, with no one else teeing him up more often.

Messi also has his favourite clubs to score against. Impressively, Real Madrid (26) are right up there – but there are four teams he has punished more.

Athletic Bilbao (29), Valencia (31) and Atletico Madrid (32) all struggled against him, but if there has been one team who have resembled lambs to the slaughter when facing Messi, it's Sevilla (38).

Heights few have reached

The world of football numbers can be a little muddy. What constitutes an official goal? What's an official competition?

As such, there has been lots of confusion regarding the 'official' goals hauls of players down the years – we're looking at you, Pele and Romario.

The International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) considers Cristiano Ronaldo to be the world record holder, stating in December 2021 that the Portugal forward was the first player to reach 800 official career goals.

This makes Messi the second to reach that figure, with Opta corroborating his career record. There remains a possibility he will eventually reach 1,000. No one is expecting him to get there soon, though.

After all, as good as he remains, achievements like scoring 91 times in a calendar year – as he managed in 2012 – appear to be beyond him these days.

That was his best ever year, which – perhaps unsurprisingly – coincided with his most prolific season (2011-12), when he scored 82 goals.

Still, the 35 goals he plundered in 2022 wasn't a bad return, especially given that haul included seven en route to World Cup success with Argentina.

Still to come?

There aren't many records at Barcelona that don't already belong to Messi. Top scorer? Done. Most appearances? Completed it. The most-photographed person at Camp Nou? Probably.

It seems unlikely Messi will be around at PSG long enough to have the same kind of impact there, but he certainly still has career targets in sight.

There's the aforementioned 1,000 goals landmark, though before then he will have his eyes on more international achievements.

Messi's free kick to seal Thursday's 2-0 win left him just one from reaching 100 with Argentina, and after that he'll perhaps have designs on usurping both Ali Daei (109) and Ronaldo (120), the two highest-scoring players in men's international football.

Similarly, with Ronaldo now out of the way in Saudi Arabia, Messi could also take his record for the most Champions League goals (140) – Messi is on 129.

But regardless of what else he does or doesn't go on to achieve, Thursday's milestone is just another reminder of how fortunate we've been to witness Messi's truly remarkable career.

Lionel Messi reached the latest major milestone of his storied career on Thursday as he moved on to 800 goals with a stunning free kick for to seal Argentina's 2-0 friendly win against Panama on Thursday.

The reigning World Cup champions returned to Buenos Aires where they received a thunderous reception from their loyal supporters, but they would have to wait until the final moments for their favourite son to get on the scoresheet.

Messi had hit the crossbar with a free kick in the first half, and after a second free kick was saved by inspired Panama goalkeeper Jose Guerra, he struck the woodwork again with a third free kick, although this one led to the opening goal as Thiago Almada tapped in the rebound.

But his fourth free kick finally curled under the bar and into the top-right corner, sending the stadium into raptures.

Of course, it was not so long ago that Messi hit another goals landmark.

His tap-in from Kylian Mbappe's inch-perfect cross against Marseille on February 26 was the 700th club goal of Messi's career – the strike against Panama was only his second for club or country since then.

Messi's stunner at El Monumental on Thursday was his 99th on the international stage.

Only his old nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo (120) and Iran legend Ali Daei (109) have scored more goals in international men's football than Messi, who looks set to continue playing for Argentina for a little while yet.

As such, his 100th goal for the Albiceleste is seemingly just around the corner.

But much like with that international milestone, Messi is not the first player to reach 800 across a full career.

Data can get a little murkier when you go deep into the past, with historical inconsistencies making it a little tricky to classify "official goals" or "official competitions".

The likes of Brazilian greats Romario and Pele are among a group of players deemed by some to have scored over 1,000 goals over their careers, but many of those were netted in friendlies or "unofficial" games.

The International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) considered Cristiano Ronaldo to be the first player to ever reach 800 official goals in December 2021.

With that in mind, Thursday's goal makes Messi the second to reach the landmark, and he is still going strong.

He has scored 18 for the season (all competitions) with PSG, though he also netted seven in as many games at Qatar 2022 as Argentina won the World Cup.

Of course, the vast majority of his 800 goals have been scored in the colours of Barcelona.

During 17 years with Barca's first team, Messi scored 672 times. That is 440 more than any other player in the club's history, while he also holds their record for most appearances (778).

And with his future at PSG in doubt, he could yet extend those records at Camp Nou.

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.

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