ENGLAND face France today knowing the Haka-baiting Tongans are now lying in wait for them.
Tonga turned the World Cup on its head by beating New Zealand . . . after fronting up to them during their fearsome war dance.
Focus Images Denis Betts says England do not mind who they face after Tonga shook up the World Cup by beating the Kiwis
England are due to meet the Kiwi slayers in the semis — IF they claim an expected victory today and make it through their last-eight tie.
And they watched as the Tongans went NOSE-TO-NOSE with New Zealand’s players during an incredible pre-match Haka before going on to win 28-22.
England watched the epic upset in Hamilton before heading to Perth for their final group game.
But Denis Betts vowed they can Hak it against Tonga.
Tonga went closer to New Zealand than any team ever has in the pre-match Haka Getty – Pool Tonga stunned the Kiwis by getting in their faces – before the match and during it
England’s No 2 said: “It does not matter who we play. It is a massive test — but that is what you are here for.
“We will just do what we’ve practiced. It sounds boring but we are just here to try to win the competition.”
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Boss Wayne Bennett is not likely to make late changes to his side after having to shuffle things around against Australia and Lebanon.
But if England progress to next week’s quarter- finals, Sam Burgess and Jonny Lomax will be back after injuries.
And Betts says superstar Burgess, who showed he is close to full fitness by going paddleboarding, could have played today.
He added: “Sam is chomping at the bit. If you asked him, he would play today.
Getty Images – Getty Alex Walmsley helped England to a 29-10 victory over Lebanon at the Allianz Stadium in their last game
“But we want to give him extra time to be fit, so he’s not just going into games with passion and desire.”
Warrington’s Stefan Ratchford will show his versatility against the French by playing on the wing.
That will be his FIFTH different position in just three matches.
But the 29-year-old said: “I’ve played on the wing before. You just want to be in the team and I’ll play anywhere.
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“In the first game, I came off the bench at full-back and played a bit at centre and loose forward. Last week it was full-back, then a stint at hooker.
“But playing in a World Cup is about getting out there and being involved.
“If you nail your hat to just being a full-back, there is a chance you might not be involved in the squad.”
Getty – Pool Tonga went on to beat New Zealand 28-22 to set up a World Cup quarter-final with Lebanon
But Ratchford and Co should be warned that the fired-up Tongans are ready to KO their World Cup dream.
And asked if they can go on and win the tournament themselves, Tonga coach Kristian Woolf said: “I’m not going to sit here and say ‘No’ now!”
ENGLAND (likely): Widdop; Ratchford, Percival, Bateman, McGillvary; Brown, Gale; Hill, Roby, Graham, Currie, McMeeken, O’Loughlin. Interchange: Walmsley, Burgess, Taylor, Williams.
MY SECRET RON FLING
Luk Who's Talking
RUMBLE IN JUNGLE
AMIR'S RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE
New year, new fear
'WE CAN'T GO ON'
STROKE OF LUCK
France 18 NZ 38
I SPY BIG FLAWS
WE CAN HAK IT!
BAIR YOUR SOUL
Wooden Watch Can Someone Catch Trae Young
To this point, there is no question as to who has been the most impressive player during the college basketball season: Oklahoma freshman guard Trae Young.
The nation’s leader in both scoring (29.1 points per game) and assists (9.3), Young is the clear favorite for the Wooden Award. Two weeks ago, it seemed like he was a virtual lock and the final two months of the season would serve as somewhat of a send-off party before his inevitable leap to the NBA.
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But even then, after Young scored 44 points in a 98-96 win against Baylor on Jan. 30, there were signs that Oklahoma might not be much of a factor come March. The Sooners lost three of four going into that win after peaking at No. 9 in the AP poll and have since lost four straight to fall into a fifth-place tie with Baylor in the Big 12 at 6-7.
The Sooners’ poor run isn’t in spite of brilliance from Young, either. He’s still scoring at a high clip, but in the four-game skid he has made just 7 of 41 3-point attempts and committed 23 turnovers.
In the past 20 years, only one Wooden Award winner has come from a team with double-digit losses — Texas was 25-10 when Kevin Durant won it in 2007. In that same span, every winner’s team won at least one game in the NCAA tournament and all but two advanced past the tournament’s opening weekend.
In ESPN’s latest Bracketology, which came out before Oklahoma lost to Texas Tech on Tuesday, the Sooners were listed as a No. 5 seed, but it’s not inconceivable for the Sooners not to make the tournament. Say they lose three of their remaining regular-season games and bow out in the first round of the Big 12 tournament. At 18-13, they would be firmly on the bubble and if they get left out, Young’s shot at winning the Wooden would be a break from history.
So, if the Sooners lose him out of contention, who would have a real chance at winning?
Right now, that’s anybody’s guess, but here are a few possibilities — and it will likely be decided more by what happens over the rest of the season.
The draft darlings
Deandre Ayton, Arizona: The Wildcats haven’t quite met expectations, but they’re still 20-6, in first place in the Pac-12 and Ayton has been a dominant force. At 7-foot-1, he’s a strong candidate to be drafted No. 1 overall in the upcoming NBA draft and if he has a memorable March, he could play his way into contention. He’s averaging 19.5 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.
Marvin Bagley III, Duke: A knee injury has kept him out of the Blue Devils’ past two games, but when he’s on the court it’s easy to see why Bagley believed he didn’t need another season of high school basketball. In fact, there’s a case to be made that he was ready to play in the NBA this season. Like Ayton, and the rest of these candidates, there’s still plenty of time for him to leave his mark on the season.
The best players on good teams
Miles Bridges, Michigan State: A favorite for the award when the season began, Bridges leads the second-ranked Spartans in scoring (17.3) and knocked down a key shot late to beat then-No. 3 Purdue last week. With another run to the Final Four, Bridges could be deserving.
Trevon Bluiett, Xavier: The Musketeers have won nine in a row, including a win against Seton Hall on Wednesday in which Bluiett went for a season-high 37 points. He has a chance Saturday against Villanova to make a statement in a game that could give Xavier a 2?-game lead in the Big East standings.
Keenan Evans, Texas Tech Evans’ rise was highlighted in last week’s Wooden Watch and took another significant step forward after outplaying Young in Tech’s 88-78 win on Tuesday. Evans scored 26 points, aided by shooting 4-of-7 on 3s, and has the Red Raiders all alone in first place in the Big 12.
Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s Largely because of Landale, the Gaels climbed to their highest ranking in program history — No. 11 in the AP poll — but against Gonzaga at home, with a chance to move into the top 10, he was ineffective. Landale scored just four points — his lowest total in the past two seasons — as Saint Mary’s lost 78-65 on Saturday. He’ll have a chance to bounce back Thursday against San Francisco, which he scored 26 points against the first time they played.
Others to watch: Mohamed Bamba, Texas; Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State; Mikal Bridges, Villanova; Jalen Brunson, Villanova; Carsen Edwards, Purdue; Vincent Edwards, Purdue; Marcus Foster, Creighton; Kansas; Luke Maye, North Carolina; Collin Sexton, Alabama; Allonzo Trier, Arizona.
No 14 Arizonas Trier Suspended For Trace Amount Of Ped
The NCAA has declared No. 14 Arizona’s Allonzo Trier ineligible for the reappearance of the banned substance that led to a 19-game suspension last season.
The school said the NCAA notified the Wildcats on Thursday that the junior guard had a trace amount of the substance from a drug test late last month. Arizona did not specify the drug, saying only it was a banned substance.
Arizona says the amount detected was minuscule by scientific standards and appeared to be a remnant of the performance-enhancing drug Trier unknowingly ingested last season. The NCAA agreed, the school said.
Arizona is appealing the decision and hoping Trier will regain his eligibility soon.
Trier sat out the first 19 games in 2016-17 after testing positive for the drug, which he said came from a well-intentioned person not affiliated with the university following an injury.
For more AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP—Top25
Alan Pardew Begs West Brom Fans To Forgive ‘cab Four’ Jonny Evans, Jake Livermore, Gareth Barry And Boaz Myhill
ALAN PARDEW begged West Brom’s furious fans to follow his lead and find it in their hearts to forgive his Barcelona bad boys.
Shamed Jonny Evans, Jake Livermore, Gareth Barry and Boaz Myhill have been read the riot act and copped a combined club fine believed to be close to £500,000 for their part in Taxi-gate.
AFP Alan Pardew is calling on West Brom fans to forgive ‘Cab Four’
Jake Livermore, Gareth Barry, Johnny Evans and Boaz Myhill were in town for a match
But Baggies boss Pardew is set to hand captain chaos Evans his armband back for the vital home clash with Huddersfield, one week after stripping him of the honour.
Pards said: “This weekend he needs to prove to me, the fans and the club that he’s the right man to lead us.
“Jonny will be captain subject to him coming through fitness-wise over the next couple of days.
“Of course I’m angry about the situation. But it’s tempered with the reality that this is a results business and we need to get results.
Reuters Jonny Evans was part of the West Brom group that stole a taxi in Barcelona
PA:Empics Sport Jake Livermore was among four player fined total of £500,000 by West Brom
“That incident magnified our situation and the only way we can get ourselves out of the spotlight is to win games — and this is a massive one against Huddersfield.
“I sense with our fans, they’re disappointed as I am. But they want the team to win and I don’t expect that stadium to be anything but positive when we walk out.
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“We need to repay that faith and win for the fans, for ourselves, for our own pride.”
Albion’s ‘Cab Four’ allegedly nicked a taxi during a club trip to Barca.
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