Aurelien Tchouameni and Marcus Thuram left the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2024 dream hanging by a thread as France maintained their perfect start to qualification with a regulation 2-0 win in Paris.

The pair struck either side of half-time at the Parc des Princes to claim a fifth successive Group B victory and leave Ireland with just three points from their first four games, a statistic which means Sunday’s clash with the Netherlands in Dublin could all but decide their fate.

Stephen Kenny’s men were organised and dogged, but with Ousmane Dembele tormenting Enda Stevens to such an extent that he was replaced at half-time and Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann delighting a passionate home crowd, were unable to cause the hosts enough problems with the notable exception of a Chiedozie Ogbene header which prompted a fine save from Mike Maignan.

Much had been made in France ahead of the game of Ireland keeper Gavin Bazunu’s propensity to concede from distance, but there was little he could have done to keep out Tchouameni’s sweetly-struck 19th-minute shot, and he was left exposed as substitute Thuram extended the lead after 48 minutes.

While the outcome in Paris was never likely to define their campaign, June’s defeat in Greece left Ireland up against it and a repeat against the Dutch would effectively extinguish all hope.

France set off in determined fashion, Adrien Rabiot thumping a shot into Bazunu’s midriff from Dembele’s pull-back before John Egan had to make a vital block to keep out Olivier Giroud’s strike after Theo Hernandez had out-stripped the cover down the Irish right.

Mbappe might have done better from the resulting corner, scooping a tame attempt over the top after Adam Idah had taken Griezmann’s corner out of Bazunu’s reach, and the Ireland keeper was relieved to see the Atletico Madrid star’s swinging 15th-minute free-kick smuggled away after it reared up at him off the turf having sailed through a crowded penalty area.

However, he was beaten four minutes later when, after Griezmann had headed down for Dembele, his cross was headed away by Nathan Collins only for Mbappe to recycle the loose ball to Tchouameni, who curled a delicious shot across the Southampton keeper and inside the far post from 25 yards.

Giroud departed injured after going to ground under Egan’s 24th-minute challenge and was replaced by Thuram and with Mbappe dropping deep to pick up possession, the visitors found themselves under almost constant pressure, with Ogbene’s occasional, but largely unsupported, forays down the right their only meaningful outlet.

Bazunu fielded a speculative effort from Mbappe comfortably, but was relieved to see an offside flag come to his rescue after the Paris St Germain star had stabbed a 42nd-minute shot between his legs.

Stevens departed at the break to be replaced by James McClean, but his side fell further behind within three minutes of the restart when, after Mbappe had failed to make the most of a Theo Hernandez cross, Thuram span on the lose ball to rifle into the roof of the net.

With little left to lose, the Republic threw caution to the wind and might have reduced the deficit from Ogbene’s header but for Maignan’s brilliance after Idah had beaten the offside trap, and the Luton striker curled a left-foot shot inches over seconds later as the anxious keeper could only look on.

Ireland’s new-found sense of adventure left them vulnerable at the back and Mbappe’s blushes were spared by a late offside flag after he had missed the target in a one-on-one battle with Bazunu, who then did well to parry another Tchouameni piledriver 23 minutes from time.

Dembele rattled the upright from a tight angle with France in cruise control, and only stout defence, a series of less than effective final balls and a bad miss by Thuram spared the visitors further damage.

Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny is refusing to bemoan his luck as he prepares to take on the might of France without his emerging star striker.

Irish fans were licking their lips in anticipation when 18-year-old Evan Ferguson plundered a Premier League hat-trick for Brighton against Newcastle on Saturday evening just days before he was due at the Parc des Princes for a showdown with the World Cup runners-up.

However, a knee injury has forced his withdrawal from the squad for the game and the home clash with Netherlands which follows it on Sunday, much to the disappointment of Kenny, whose reign has been punctuated by misfortune ever since he lost frontmen Adam Idah and Aaron Connolly to what proved to be false positive Covid-19 tests in the run up to their Euro 2020 play-off in Slovakia.

Asked if he was due a change of luck, the manager said: “No, I don’t really look at it like that. I’m very privileged to manage Ireland, very privileged.

“The attacking players that are missing, five of them – Michael Obafemi, Troy Parrott, Mikey Johnston, Callum Robinson and Evan Ferguson, of course – the five players are missing, but because we’ve given 18 players their debut in that period over the last two years, it’s increased the level of squad depth and it means that we still have a strong team.

“I’m happy with the team that we have tomorrow night, very happy with it and I’m happy with the options that we have.

“We know many people don’t give us much of a chance – I understand why, we understand that. But we’re going to give ourselves every opportunity to prepare well and perform to the level that we need to to put in a really strong performance tomorrow night.”

The odds are stacked against Ireland as they attempt to resurrect their Group B campaign, which so far has yielded just three points from as many games, a run which includes a 1-0 home defeat by the French in Dublin.

Didier Deschamps’ men are ranked second by FIFA, while the Republic have slipped to 53rd, and they realistically need to win at least one of the two games this week if they are to keep their campaign alive.

Asked if the trip to Paris was his toughest game to date as Ireland boss, Kenny said: “I would say it is, yes. I’d say that’s most likely accurate.

“France have been to the last two World Cup finals. They won the World Cup, then obviously lost last year on penalties to win two World Cups in a row, so they’re definitely within the two best teams in the world, if not the best.

“We obviously respect their talent and to come into their backyard, into their home arena and play them presents a stiff challenge and one that we understand is difficult.

“But we’re very excited by it as well and we understand that it’s an opportunity for us.”

Skipper John Egan is expected to be fit after shaking off knee and ankle problems, while Andrew Omobamidele, who was drafted in as cover for the Sheffield United man, has now joined the squad in Paris after being given compassionate leave following the death of his grandfather.

Evan Ferguson has been ruled out of the Republic of Ireland’s upcoming Euro 2024 qualifying matches against France and the Netherlands.

The 18-year-old picked up a knee injury during Brighton’s 3-1 win against Newcastle on Saturday, in which he scored all three of his side’s goals, and after being assessed by national team medical staff has withdrawn from the squad.

He joined up with the team on Sunday but it has been decided that he will not be fit to feature in either match during the current international window, with the squad due to travel to France later on Tuesday.

Stephen Kenny’s team have three points from their first three matches in Group B and need a positive result in Paris on Thursday and against the Dutch in Dublin next week to keep alive realistic hopes of reaching next summer’s finals.

The manager has Norwich’s Adam Idah, Preston’s Will Keane, Hull’s Aaron Connolly and Chiedozie Ogbene of Luton available as his other forward options.

Paris St Germain have announced the departure of Georginio Wijnaldum to Saudi Arabian outfit Al-Ettifaq.

Wijnaldum has agreed a three-year contract with the club who are managed by former Rangers and Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard.

The 32-year-old midfielder joined the Ligue 1 champions on a free transfer from Liverpool in July 2021, but spent last season on loan at Serie A side Roma.

A statement on PSG’s official website read: “Dutch international Georginio Wijnaldum has joined Saudi Arabian side Al-Ettifaq FC on a permanent transfer. The club would like to wish Georginio all the best for the rest of his career.”

Wijnaldum, who has 90 caps for the Netherlands, becomes the latest high-profile player to sign for a Saudi Pro League club this summer.

He will be reunited at Al-Ettifaq with Jordan Henderson, who captained Liverpool to Champions League and Premier League success during their time at Anfield together.

Scotland back-rower Jack Dempsey cannot wait to land in France this weekend and start “soaking in” what he believes will be a spectacular Rugby World Cup.

The Sydney-born 29-year-old went to the 2019 showpiece in Japan, by his own admission, as a peripheral figure within Australia’s squad.

But he will fly into Nice this Sunday afternoon as a key member of Scotland’s 33-man pool after taking advantage of a change in World Rugby’s eligibility rules that allowed him to switch allegiance to his grandfather’s country last year.

Dempsey expects hosts France to put on an “epic” event over the next two months and – having rediscovered career contentment and top form since joining Glasgow from New South Wales Waratahs two years ago – he is delighted to be competing at the tournament with a national squad in which he now feels firmly embedded.

“Having one World Cup experience under my belt, you realise how big a thing it is and I think you’re more grateful for it the second time,” Dempsey told the PA news agency. “I’m more prepared to soak it all in.

“To do it with this bunch of lads, it’s one of the best environments I’ve been in on and off the field. Everyone gets on, everyone’s a good bloke.

“When you get up and go to work it’s enjoyable and you have places in your career where it’s not like that. That’s the biggest thing about this crew that I like.

“To go to a World Cup, which is as big as it gets as a rugby player, something you dream of as a kid, and the fact the French, who are the best showmen in the world, are putting it on, I think it’s going to be epic.

“As a collective, everyone in rugby, we want these big tournaments like World Cups, Lions Series and Six Nations to promote the game and the grow the game, and I think the French are the best people to do it at this point in time just because of how good they are at putting on events.”

Dempsey made two pool-stage appearances for the Wallabies at the last World Cup but was not in the 23 for the quarter-final defeat by England and felt like a bit-part player.

“I’d only played seven or eight games of rugby in that calendar year, I’d had a lot of injuries and I just scraped through really in terms of getting picked,” he recalled. “I was probably the last name put down in the back row.”

Dempsey’s status with the Wallabies four years ago is in stark contrast to the prominence he enjoys with Scotland, where he has established himself as a key member of Gregor Townsend’s back row.

“My role then was very different to what it is now,” he said. “Here I’m like a specialist number eight but back then I was more utility, I was a six, I was a seven.

“I think that shows the maturation in the cycle of my career. I’m a more complete player to what I was back then. I’m loving my rugby at the moment.

“Since moving to Glasgow, I’ve enjoyed my role in the team. I think Scotland and Glasgow have really identified what my strengths are and put me in positions to use those strengths, which is not always something you can say in your career.

“I have a very clear, precise role which Gregor gives me with Scotland and I just go out and do it. We’re playing an attractive game of rugby, I think France, New Zealand and us are leading the way in terms of aesthetic rugby and it’s pleasing to be a part of.

“That’s the way I like to play and I’m hoping to bring that to the World Cup.”

Geoffrey Soupe was the surprise winner of stage seven of the Vuelta a Espana as the Frenchman edged out Orluis Aular in a chaotic sprint after a crash-strewn finish in Oliva.

A late corner on the 201km stage from Utiel put favourite Kaden Groves and several other quick men out of position and set up a messy finale, in which TotalEnergies’ Soupe just hung on to beat Caja-Rural’s Aular in a photo finish.

The battle for position had already been significantly disrupted by a big crash a little over six kilometres out which left Thymen Arensman of the Ineos Grenadiers needing lengthy medical treatment before leaving the race in an ambulance.

Earlier in the stage, the Ineos team leader Geraint Thomas had also gone down, and continued to receive treatment to his left knee as the Welshman looked uncomfortable for much of the day, losing another 24 seconds on the line after the crashes contributed to splits in the bunch.

Sepp Kuss, winner of Thursday’s mountain stage to Javalambre, was also caught up in a late incident but quickly got back into the peloton to stay second overall, eight seconds behind 20-year-old Frenchman Lenny Martinez, who retained the red jersey he took on Thursday.

The rest of the main favourites finished in the front group to mean no major changes ahead of Saturday’s return to the mountains.

One of the most eagerly-awaited tournaments in Rugby World Cup history will unfold in France during September and October.

It takes place across nine host cities – Paris, Toulouse, Marseille, Bordeaux, Nice, Lyon, Saint-Etienne, Nantes and Lille – with more than 2.5 million tickets sold.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the main talking points ahead of the competition.

A wide-open tournament?

Only four countries – New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and England – have won the World Cup during its nine previous stagings. The All Blacks and Springboks are once again expected to feature prominently, but Ireland and France can be confidently added to that mix. Six Nations champions Ireland, under the coaching direction of Andy Farrell, surged to top spot in rugby union’s world rankings, while Les Bleus’ thrilling playing style and power game are an irresistible combination. A lop-sided draw – it was carried out in December 2020 – has all the heavy-hitters in its top half, which could assist teams like the Wallabies and Wales merely adding to the intrigue.

England up against it

It is 20 years since England conquered the rugby world – a success built from an imposing platform provided by players like Martin Johnson, Jonny Wilkinson, Lawrence Dallaglio, Jason Robinson and Richard Hill. Two more finals followed in 2007 and 2019 – England lost both – and they will arrive in France following a difficult build-up. New head coach Steve Borthwick, appointed earlier this year, oversaw an underwhelming Six Nations campaign, while key players Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola are suspended for opening World Cup pool action after being sent off during warm-up games. There is little to suggest that England will be title contenders.

Discipline in the spotlight

The widespread hope is that France 2023 will be remembered above anything else for the quality of rugby on show – but it is not guaranteed. High tackles, red cards, yellow cards and disciplinary hearings are an inevitability, while spectators are becoming accustomed with the foul play review bunker, where a second television match official can decide – on referral from the referee – if a yellow card should become red. Coaches will want consistency, too, on punishments handed out by disciplinary chiefs – England captain Farrell’s recent case highlighting that need – and all matters being efficiently and promptly dealt with.

Warren Gatland back for more

Gatland could not have imagined a year ago that he would be back as Wales head coach and preparing for a fourth World Cup. His original 11-year stint in the job ended after the last tournament in Japan, but the Welsh Rugby Union turned to him following Wayne Pivac’s departure after a miserable 2022 when Wales lost nine Tests, including demoralising home defeats against Italy and Georgia. Gatland’s World Cup record with Wales is impressive – two semi-final appearances and one quarter-final – while he relishes an underdog status that regularly accompanies his players. A 33-1 shot, Wales might not be expected to feature at the tournament’s business-end, but Gatland will have other ideas.

Magnifique! France to triumph

Since the first World Cup in 1987, France have won 11 Five and Six Nations titles, including five Grand Slams, yet the biggest prize of all has eluded them. World Cup finalists 36 years ago, then again in 1999 and 2011, they finished as runner-up each time. But if Les Bleus can cope with host nation expectation and pressure, something they failed to do when France last staged the tournament in 2007, then this could be their time. They have the players – Antoine Dupont, Gregory Alldritt, Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou and Charles Ollivon, to name just five – and coaching team to thrive. If France beat New Zealand in game one, then their momentum could prove unstoppable.

There is a neat statistical symmetry that suggests the 2023 Rugby World Cup might be won by Ireland or France.

Since the sport’s world rankings were launched 20 years ago, all five subsequent world champions were either ranked first or fourth close to the tournament kicking off.

Ireland and France occupied those positions during recent weeks, and neither nation has previously been crowned world champions, with no new name being engraved on the trophy since England in 2003.

It is, of course, way more complicated than that to confidently suggest a winner but such a scenario underlines what many believe is a wide-open tournament.

In the World Cup’s 36-year history, only four countries – New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and England – have triumphed.

Six Nations champions Ireland and France can be added to the mix this time around, though, as genuine contenders, although a World Cup draw carried out in December 2020 has generated a serious imbalance with tournament heavyweights South Africa, New Zealand, Ireland and France all in its top half.

While those teams are on a quarter-final collision course in Paris, the best of the rest would point to Australia, Argentina, England and Wales.

There is real potential for the World Cup final to be a one-sided affair, which is not being critical of any participant, but more questioning why such an important draw is conducted so long before the competition.

France and New Zealand are in the same pool, while Ireland, South Africa and a dangerous Scotland team have been grouped together. Elsewhere, Pool C sees Australia, Wales and Fiji in direct competition, with England, Argentina and Japan the main Pool D protagonists.

France meet the All Blacks, who are reeling from their all-time record defeat of 35-7 in a warm-up fixture against South Africa, in a mouthwatering tournament opener.

The 40-match pool phase will be played out across nine host cities – Paris, Marseille, Nice, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Lyon, Lille, Saint-Etienne and Nantes – with £2.5million tickets sold.

It can only be hoped that France 2023 will be remembered for the rugby on show, with inevitable disciplinary matters not overshadowing it.

High tackles, foul play, red cards, yellow cards and disciplinary hearings will be part of it all. Coaches will want consistency, too, on punishments handed out by disciplinary chiefs – England captain Owen Farrell’s recent case highlighting that need – and all matters being efficiently and promptly dealt with.

If rugby is to be the winner, then it will require a host of superstar names to lead the way.

And that prospect is one to savour, given the presence of players such as France captain Antoine Dupont, South African backs Cheslin Kolbe and Canan Moodie, New Zealand full-back Beauden Barrett, Ireland’s current world player of the year Josh van der Flier, genial Fiji centre Semi Radradra and exciting Italian star Ange Capuozo.

The ingredients are all there for a genuine showcase of rugby at its finest, with some thunderous games in store and potentially memories to last a lifetime.

If France can cope with the enormous host nation pressure that will accompany them, then a magnificent first World Cup triumph for Dupont’s team would be one to savour.

There is a small queue forming behind them, though, potentially led by a South African squad that appears primed to successfully defend the world crown.

Ollie Chessum knew from the reaction of his England’s team-mates that he had done some serious damage as his World Cup dream flashed before his eyes.

Chessum faced a battle to be fit for the tournament hosted by France when a “freak training accident” during the final week of the Six Nations left him needing surgery to repair a dislocated ankle.

It was a savage end to his season but England’s breakout star of the Championship had already done enough to convince boss Steve Borthwick that he should be given every chance to prove his fitness for the World Cup.

Now two matches into his comeback, the Leicester Tiger is set to join Maro Itoje in the second row for the crucial Pool D opener against Argentina on September 9.

“I got a tackle from behind and I got my foot caught. It was just a freak training accident,” Chessum said.

“Initially I just thought I’d rolled it, but as I rolled over and the lads were around me, I saw them all turn away and that’s when I knew I should probably have a quick look – and my foot wasn’t where it was supposed to be.

“When I first did the injury one of the first things I said to Freddie Steward was ‘that could be my World Cup’, and he said ‘don’t think like that’. I was quite emotional at the time.

“There have been days in the last five months where I’ve thought it doesn’t feel great, but getting back was always the goal.


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“We knew it was going to be close. I spoke to the surgeons and they said it would be four to six months and with no setbacks, that would be a semi-realistic goal.

“But then I had conversations with some of the physios and they said that they’ve had lads who have had similar injuries that have taken seven to nine months.

“I just cracked on with it. If it happened, it happened. And if it didn’t, it didn’t.

“It’s still not 100 per cent now. There is enough there that I can do what I need to and I can play rugby, but the likelihood is that for the next year or two I will need to look after it.”

A return to France on Arc weekend and a trip to the Breeders’ Cup will come under consideration for Tiger Belle following her front-running success in the Prix d’Arenberg at ParisLongchamp.

The Ado McGuinness-trained filly was a 7-1 shot stepping up to Group Three level following a narrow Listed success at Naas and was smartly away in the hands of Cristian Demuro.

Karl Burke’s Dawn Charger finished with a flourish, but Tiger Belle saw her off by a neck, with Graceful Thunder the same distance further away in third for George Boughey.

McGuinness said of the winner: “She’s a very tough filly and I’ve said all along she’s very fast, one of the fastest fillies I’ve ever had.

“She’s improving with every run, she’s a lovely filly to have and I’m delighted for the guys that own her (Shamrock Thoroughbreds).”

The County Dublin-based handler confirmed Tiger Belle could carry new colours on her next start if a suitable offer arrives as he targets a potential step up to the highest level.

“No one rang us after she won in Naas, but she is for sale and hopefully someone might buy her now. We’d love to keep her, but the lads that own her are an investment syndicate and we have to sell to survive,” McGuinness added.

“We have plenty of options for her now. She could run at the Breeders’ Cup over five or we have the option of going for the Prix de l’Abbaye if we wanted.

“She obviously handles the track. I think the key to Longchamp is the draw, but her gate speed is very fast, she kills the race halfway through and they just struggle to catch her.”

Folarin Balogun has completed a permanent move to French club Monaco from Arsenal.

The PA news agency understands the deal for the 22-year-old United States forward is worth 40million euro (£34.3m) and also includes a sell-on clause of 17.5 per cent.

Monaco confirmed Balogun had signed a five-year contract until June 2028.

Balogun joined the Gunners aged 10 and developed through the club’s academy before signing a first professional contract in February 2019 and made his senior debut in the Europa League the following year.

In January 2022, Balogun joined Sky Bet Championship side Middlesbrough on loan and he spent last season in Ligue 1 at Reims, where he scored 21 goals.

A club statement from the Gunners read: “We thank Folarin for his contribution to Arsenal, through our Academy into the first team, and wish him the best of health and happiness in his new chapter at Monaco.”

Kevin Philippart De Foy has a French outing planned for the promising Shadwell filly Alshinfarah.

The two-year-old, who is owned and was bred by Sheikha Hissa’s thoroughbred operation, made a winning debut when taking a Doncaster maiden by half a length in July.

After that she headed to Haydock for a seven-furlong novice and won comfortably under a penalty when defeating William Haggas’ Remaadd by a length and a quarter.

That victory was then made to look even more impressive when the latter horse triumphed by a very taking four and a half lengths in a Goodwood maiden at the weekend.

Philippart De Foy now has a trip to France pencilled in for Alshinfarah, with the Prix d’Aumale at Longchamp the target should the ground be suitable.

The trainer said: “She is in very good form, William Haggas’ horse won at Goodwood and that was good to see.

“The filly is entered in France in the Prix d’Aumale at Longchamp next week, it’s a one-mile fillies’ Group Three.

“She is quite well related so the goal now is to try to get some black type.

“It seems to be a good place to go, it’s the right timing and as long as there is decent ground we will be aiming there.

“She is very straightforward, Jim (Crowley) was pleased with her. It was the first time he’d sat on her and she gave him a great feel, it would be great if she could step up again and try to do something nice in a better race.”

Alshinfarah’s victories mark the beginning of a relatively new relationship between Shadwell and the Newmarket-based trainer, who is understandably pleased to have provided the major owner with some success already.

He said: “It’s good to start on a positive note, we are lucky to have those colours on the yard this year and hopefully there is more success to come.”

Philippart De Foy has another nice prospect in Inquisitively, a two-year-old who won the Listed Julia Graves Roses Stakes at York on the final day of the Ebor meeting.

The colt has new Hong Kong-based owners and will ultimately head east, but before then he has engagements closer to home and could run at Town Moor later in the term.

The trainer said: “Inquisitively will be entered at Doncaster in two and a half weeks, and providing the ground doesn’t go soft he will run there in the Flying Childers.”

Conor Murray acknowledges Ireland’s record-breaking winning run and impressive achievements under Andy Farrell will count for very little at the Rugby World Cup.

Ireland travel to France as Six Nations Grand Slam champions and having topped the world rankings for more than a year on the back of their historic tour triumph in New Zealand.

Farrell’s men made it 13 consecutive victories with Saturday evening’s 17-13 success over Samoa in Bayonne – bettering the 12-game winning streak enjoyed under Joe Schmidt across 2017 and 2018.

Defeat in the first Test against the All Blacks in July 2022 was Ireland’s last loss and just one of two suffered in their previous 27 outings.

Scrum-half Murray is preparing for his fourth World Cup and knows the tournament is a “different animal”.

“We’re in a pretty good place, given where we have been over the last two years and what we have achieved,” he said.

“We never get carried away with ourselves. We know going into every game that we have to respect the opposition.

“It (form) going into a World Cup doesn’t count for much. You have to bring your best rugby when you get to the tournament, when the competition kicks off for real.

“But we know how good the team can be. We also know how hard we have to work to get to that level and be there every week.

“The summer series was good and people got hit outs and we feel match fit now, but it’s a different animal by the time the World Cup comes around.

“We know where we can go as a group, the confidence is really high.”

Murray claimed a crucial try as Ireland stuttered past Samoa on a soggy evening in south-west France, with the vast majority of a vocal sold-out crowd supporting their opponents.

The 34-year-old believes the experience will be beneficial moving forward, with hosts France a potential quarter-final opponent, if Ireland successfully negotiate a group containing reigning world champions South Africa, Scotland, Tonga and Romania.

“Along that road we’re going to have games when things don’t go perfectly and we have to find a way,” he said.

“The World Cup could be like that and probably will be like that, it won’t go perfectly.

“There’s going to be nights like this (Samoa), the atmosphere was really hostile, in a good way, but we’re going to have to deal with that kind of thing as well.

“We know how much pressure there’s going to be, how the atmospheres are going to be.”

Ireland received a timely reminder of the dangers of South Africa after their Pool B rivals emphatically dispatched New Zealand 35-7 on Friday evening.

Murray previously worked with Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber and his assistant Felix Jones at Munster.

“We know what they’re like,” he said of South Africa.

“You could say New Zealand were poor but I thought South Africa put them under so much pressure it made them make mistakes.

“A lot of us have been coached by Jacques and Felix and we know what’s coming. Well, we think we know what’s coming, Jacques is always going to pull something out of nothing and something you didn’t expect.

“We’ve been watching South Africa and everyone else for a long time. I’m sure they will feel really good about where they’re at because that was a really good New Zealand side and they made them look not so good.”

USA, Jamaica, Japan advanced to the final of the 4x100m relay on Friday.

In a keenly contested semi-final heat, the USA team of Christian Coleman, Fred Kerley, Brendon Barnes and JT Smith, just managed to hold off the Jamaican quartet of Ackeem Blake, Oblique Seville, Ryeim Forde and Rohan Watson to win in a what was briefly a world-leading time 37.67.

It was a blanket finish that saw the Jamaicans close behind in 37.68 and the Japanese foursome of Ryuichiro Sakai, Hiroki Yanagita, Yuki Koike and Abdul Hakim Sani Brown, who were third in 37.71.

That world-leading time by the USA lasted mere minutes as Italy’s team of Roberto Rigali, Lamont Jacobs, Lorenzo Patta and Fillippo Tortu stormed to victory in the second heat in 37.65. South Africa’s team of Shaun Maswangnayi, Benjamin Richardson, Clarence Munyai, and Akani Simbine close behind in 37.72.

Great Britain was third in 38.01.

Brazil who ran 38.19 and France 37.98 are also through to the final.

Jamaica missed out on the cut for the final of the Mixed 4x400 metres relay, as they could only manage fifth in heat two of the event on Saturday's opening day of the ongoing World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

The Jamaican quartet of Demish Gaye, Natoya Goule-Toppin, Malik James-King and Stacey-Ann Williams, running in that order, struggled from the off and was at the back of the pack for the first two legs.

In fact, it was on the third leg that James King tried to force the initiative and gradually made progress, but faded in the latter stages, leaving Williams with much to do on anchor.

Despite facing an uphill task, Williams showed grit and determination to bring Jamaicans from eighth into fifth and ninth across the two heats in a season’s best 3:14.05.

They finished behind the Femke Bol led Dutch team, who won in 3:12.12, followed by France (3:12.25) and Czech Republic (3:12.52), with fourth-placed Germany taking one of the non-automatic qualifying spots.

United States with a World lead 3:10.41, Great Britain, with a national record 3:11.19, Belgium (3:11.81) and Ireland (3:13.90), are the other finalists.


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