Is this perfect holiday for England rugby fans?

The Baglioni Hotel Regina does not resemble an obvious venue for rugby union. Tucked on to the Via Vittorio Veneto, immediately opposite the American embassy in Rome, it is a place of understated five-star elegance, spotless mirrors and the click of pricey heels on polished marble floors. If it ever dreams of scrums and line-outs – of the battle-bloodied foreheads of the swarthy warriors of the modern game – it is far too discreet to discuss it. And yet, just beyond the gilded lobby, Ugo Monye is holding court in a salon room where light cascades from chandeliers on to walls lined with paintings that swirl with 19th-century Romanticism. Not, I sense, that he feels remotely out of place. He is standing on a low stage, expressing his opinion on matters such as who should be England captain, and the same team’s chances of winning next year’s World Cup. As he talks, he fields questions from an audience that is semi-distracted by canapés and glasses of valpolicella. This, surprisingly, is what a mini-break with England Rugby Travel – the specialist tour operator that offers trips for those who want to see the titans of Twickenham play – looks like. Everybody here is enjoying the first evening of a three-night sojourn in the Eternal City, which will end with a fixture against Italy at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico. That this will be the easiest match of a Six Nations campaign which will, ultimately, prove disappointing (when England walked out on home turf yesterday afternoon to face Ireland, the visitors had already won the championship) only adds to the air of relaxation. The game is the main reason to travel, but this event for England Rugby Travel clients is also a key element of the fun.   “It’s great to be involved with things like this,” says Monye – an affable, engaging figure, only recently retired (in 2015), who played on the wing for England from 2008 to 2012, and was part of the British and Continue Reading

Ireland forced to postpone Grand Slam homecoming event due to adverse weather

The Ireland team homecoming planned for Sunday afternoon has been cancelled due to heavy snowfall. Free tickets for the event were made available following Ireland's win at Twickenham on Saturday for a presentation with the squad for the public at 4:30pm at the Aviva Stadium. "We regret to advise that the Grand Slam Homecoming celebrations has been cancelled due to adverse weather," Irish Rugby said in a statement. "Irish Rugby would thank supporters for their continued support throughout this campaign." Meanwhile winger Jacob Stockdale, who scored a record seven tries in a single Six Nations tournament, has revealed that Irish attention has already turned to challenging New Zealand later this year. The top two sides in the world, after Ireland overtook England into second place during this year's championship, next face each other in Dublin at the Aviva Stadium on November 17. "We've won a Grand Slam, and that's the first stepping stone to being a dominant team in world rugby," said Stockdale. "We're sitting number two in the world, and we're excited to have a crack at New Zealand. "We're in a really good place right now but there's still a lot to work on. We can look forward to next year's Six Nations and then the World Cup. "Look, Joe (Schmidt) hasn't said 'New Zealand is the target' but your ambition is to be the best team in the world and to do that you have to beat the best team in the world. At the minute that's New Zealand. "We're going to keep training and working as hard as we can." Continue Reading

Peter O’Mahony gives away Six Nations winners’ medal in heartwarming gesture

Clinching a Grand Slam at Twickenham on St Patrick's Day is the stuff of dreams for any Irish rugby fan, but the day was made even sweeter for one young supporter by the classy Peter O'Mahony.  The Ireland flanker gave his Six Nations winners' medal to youngster Jennifer Malone from Co. Kildare and stopped for a picture with the trophy.  Jennifer has regularly visited Ireland's training camp at Carton House, and is a follower of all sports.  She caught the eye of Irish sports lovers in 2016 when she consoled hurler Pauric Mahony after his Watferford team had lost an All-Ireland semi-final replay to Kilkenny.  O'Mahony spotted the committed fan in the stands at Twickenham after Ireland's 25-15 victory over England, letting her lift the trophy and take home his medal as a souvenir.  Yes my sister got to lift the six nations trophy today in Twickenham and got Peter O’Mahoney’s medal and yes I am extremelyyyyy jealous— Rachel Malone (@RachelMalone976) March 17, 2018 The Irish team were set for a homecoming victory parade on Sunday, but the event was cancelled due to heavy snowfall.   Victory over England will go down as possibly the greatest day in Irish rugby history, with the 'Fields of Athenry' booming around Twickenham in the games closing stages.  It was Ireland's first Grand Slam since 2009, with Wales' narrow win over France in Cardiff later consigning England to fifth - their lowest finish since 1983.  "Words can't describe how delighted we are," said Ireland captain Rory Best, who was also a part of the 2009 side. "It was a ferocious test match. We had to make every moment count and we knew the reward would be worth the massive effort required." "It's a pretty exuberant dressing-room but I've managed to stay relatively calm," said Ireland coach Joe Schmidt. "It's more a feeling of relief than anything else - you are willing it and Continue Reading

Turkey’s Erdogan says city centre under ‘total’ control in Syria as Kurdish forces ousted

Turkish-backed Syrian rebels have taken "total" control of the centre of Afrin, a Kurdish-majority city in northern Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday. "Units of the Free Syrian Army, which are backed by Turkish armed forces, took control of the centre of Afrin this morning at 8.30 am," Erdogan said, adding that de-mining operations were under way. Taking Afrin has been the main objective of Turkey's operation Olive Branch, a deadly ground and air offensive launched on January 20 with the aim of ousting the People's Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militia. News of Afrin's capture was also confirmed by the Turkish military, which released a statement saying the city centre was "under control". "Search operations to locate mines and other explosives are under way," it said. "Now the Turkish flag will fly over there! The flag of the Free Syrian Army will fly over there!" said Erdogan who was speaking at a ceremony marking the battle to open the Dardanelles during World War I. As the Turkish operation intensified, more than 200,000 civilians fled the Kurdish-majority city in less than three days, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Ankara sees the YPG as a Syrian offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been waging an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984. But Washington has provided weapons to the YPG, which it sees as a key ally in the fight against jihadists in Syria and Turkey, with Ankara's military operation hiking tensions between the two NATO allies. According to figures released by the Turkish army, 46 Turkish soldiers have been killed since the start of the Afrin offensive. A senior Syrian Kurdish official on Sunday said that Kurdish fighters had withdrawn from Afrin. Salih Muslim, a senior official living in exile in Europe, tweeted Sunday that the withdrawal from Afrin doesn't mean his group has given up, saying "the struggle will continue Continue Reading

MPs are trying to stop Brexit with partisan report, says Jacob Rees-Mogg

The Commons committee scrutinising Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union is engulfed in a row over a new report that a leading Conservative member claimed was intended to “negate the referendum result” and damage the Government’s negotiating position amid crucial talks in Brussels. The report, published on Sunday by the Commons Brexit committee, recommends postponing Britain’s exit from the EU if “substantial aspects” of an agreement have not been ratified by October, as well as giving Parliament the power to extend the implementation period of a trade deal. The proposals were opposed by seven, mainly Leave-supporting, Conservative members of the committee but were passed with the support... To continue reading this article Start your free trial of Premium Access all Premium articles  Subscriber-only events  Cancel any time Free for 30 days then only £2 per week Try Premium Access one Premium article per week Register for free To continue reading this article log in to your Telegraph account. Or register now, it's free. Register Log in Registered customers can access one Premium article per week HALF-PRICE OFFER Unlimited access to exclusive stories. Half price for one year. Access all Premium articles Subscriber only events Cancel any time Free for 30 days, then just £1 per week Start free trial Enjoy a year of Amazon Prime, worth £79, with an annual subscription Continue Reading

Darron Gibson suspended by Sunderland after drink driving charge

Sunderland have suspended midfielder Darron Gibson after he was charged with drink driving following a multi-car crash on a pedestrian street in the city. Pictures emerged over the weekend of damage to several cars, including the former Manchester United and Everton player’s own £75,000 Mercedes, as well as shots of Gibson speaking to police officers. Sunderland, who are bottom of the Championship and facing a second successive relegation after dropping out of the top flight last year, decided to order the player to stay away from the training ground because of the seriousness of the offence. Gibson is currently injured and would not have played in the Black Cats’ 2-0 home defeat to Preston North End, even if he had not been arrested just three hours before kick-off. The club said in a statement on Sunday morning:  “Sunderland AFC has suspended Darron Gibson with immediate effect, after the player was charged with driving with excess alcohol on Saturday 17 March. The football club has commenced a full investigation into the matter. Sunderland’s chief executive, Martin Bain added: “We expect the highest standard of behaviour from our players and should any individual fall short of those standards then robust action must be taken." Gibson was taken away by police after his luxury 4×4 clipped a Nissan Note as he drove down a quiet street in the city. He then collided with other parked cars, including a white Seat Ibiza, which was propelled 40 feet down the road by the force. Police were called to Dovedale Road, Sunderland, shortly before noon on Saturday and Gibson was arrested on suspicion of drink driving. In September 2015, the Republic of Ireland international admitted drink driving after he crashed his £125,000 Nissan Skyline GT-R Nismo into three cyclists at a petrol station close to his home in Bowdon, Cheshire. He was banned from driving for 20 Continue Reading

Liverpool players love watching Mohamed Salah as much as the fans, says Joe Gomez

Defender Joe Gomez admits Liverpool's players enjoy watching forward Mohamed Salah in full flow as much as their fans do. The Egypt international became the first Reds player since Luis Suarez in December 2013 against Norwich to score four times in a game as Watford were demolished 5-0 at Anfield. Salah is close to recreating the magic effect the Uruguayan had over the team when they almost won the league in 2013-14 and he is just three away from Suarez's total of 31 league goals in a single season, having already taken his tally in all competitions to 36. The first and third goals of his first Reds hat-trick had a Lionel Messi-like quality to them; dumping Miguel Britos on his backside for the opener before sneaking in a shot through a crowd of players while falling over for the third. Asked what effect Salah, who also provided the assist for Roberto Firmino's audacious backheel through his legs for Liverpool's third on the night, has on the team Gomez said: "It is indescribable. "The goals he brings are invaluable and he is just so good to play with. It was a pleasure to be out there," he told LFCTV. "He's a special player; he is special to watch and I think we on the pitch enjoy it as much as the fans do. "The fact he has so many assists (nine in the Premier League) shows he is bringing more than just his goals. "He's a positive person and a great guy to be around. He just gets on the ball and does what he does. "He complements the team so well with Bobby (Firmino) and Sadio (Mane) and the front three anyone in the world would fear them. They all showed their quality in different ways." Firmino's 23rd of the season marked the best goalscoring campaign of his career, beating the 22 he managed in 2013-14, and while Mane did not get on the scoresheet it was another performance which showed he is starting to rediscover the form of last year. Liverpool have now scored 206 goals in 99 Premier League matches under Jurgen Klopp but Salah's hat-trick was the Continue Reading

Russia’s ‘Putin generation’ more active than their parents

When he's not focused on his legal studies at Novgorod state university, Dmitry Petrov campaigns against Russia's pervasive alcoholism, speaking to schoolkids about the dangers of drinking and staging vigilante raids to catch illegal liquor sellers.  The 21-year-old believes people should be the change they want to see in the world and successfully petitioned city authorities to build a street workout court last year where he and his healthy-living comrades can practise their muscular stunts. But on Sunday, he will vote for a fourth term for Vladimir Putin, who after 18 years in power is essentially offering Russians more of the same.  Having just turned 21, Mr Petrov has no memories of any other... To continue reading this article Start your free trial of Premium Access all Premium articles  Subscriber-only events  Cancel any time Free for 30 days then only £2 per week Try Premium Access one Premium article per week Register for free To continue reading this article log in to your Telegraph account. Or register now, it's free. Register Log in Registered customers can access one Premium article per week HALF-PRICE OFFER Unlimited access to exclusive stories. Half price for one year. Access all Premium articles Subscriber only events Cancel any time Free for 30 days, then just £1 per week Start free trial Enjoy a year of Amazon Prime, worth £79, with an annual subscription Continue Reading

Jose Mourinho accuses Man Utd players of lack of personality and class after reaching FA Cup semis

First came the Champions League defeat to Sevilla that stung Jose Mourinho and then came the passionate defence of his achievements that it provoked, but this was not the sort of victory that was ever going to do anything to improve his mood. Having kept his facial expressions hidden on the touchline during the game with a snood that covered half his face, as United made tough work of knocking Brighton out of the FA Cup, Mourinho did not try to mask his thoughts after it. Even after his name had been sung by United supporters throughout, Mourinho went on the attack, criticising the quality of the performance, as well as the mentality of his players. He knows he is taking a risk doing so, calling out players in public always takes you on to uncertain ground, but the Portuguese seems determined to challenge them. He is testing them, probing for a response, poking and prodding egos, watching for the reaction.   This was another insipid, timid display. They may be in the semi-final, their third in less than two years under him, but United will not win either that or the final playing like this. So, Mourinho did not mince his words. [email protected]: "Was you happy with that response?"— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) March 17, 2018 “A few of guys I saw them scared to play,” he said after singling out Nemanja Matic for praise. “I cannot say much more. It is a relation with personality, is a relation to trust, is a relation to class. “When the sun is shining and everything goes well, you win matches, you score goals, everything goes in your direction, every player is a good player and wants to play and wants the ball and looks amazing and is confident. “When it is dark and cold and in football that means a period of bad results or a bad result, not everybody has the confidence and personality to play. To be on the pitch and touch the ball every five minutes, everyone can do Continue Reading

Eddie Jones warns some players may not turn out for England again after fifth-place finish

England’s 24-15 defeat to Ireland, their third championship loss in a row, prompted Eddie Jones to warn his squad that some of them may not make it to the 2019 World Cup. It is England’s worst run since 2006. France’s losing bonus point in their 14-13 loss to Wales in Cardiff consigned England to a fifth-place finish in the 2018 NatWest Six Nations Championship, their lowest position since 1983. Jones acknowledged Ireland’s achievement in securing only the third Grand Slam in their history, but was at pains to point out that England’s fall from grace was misleading in that he had never believed his team were as good as their record (23 wins in 24 Tests prior to this losing sequence) had suggested. Jeers rang around Twickenham at the final whistle. England have a three-Test tour in South Africa and it is clear there will be changes. “Some (players) may struggle to participate in the future,” said Jones, who experienced his first ever defeat at Twickenham as England coach. “There are some guys who are starting their international careers and they need time. I have to decide whether I have time to get them ready for the World Cup. “We weren’t happy being the team we were because we knew whatever we had won (in terms of previous results) we weren’t good enough to get to where we wanted to get. We knew we had to change and sometimes that hurts. It’s not nice but it is part of the process of being a better team. “You never find out about yourself unless you have these runs. When you take over it is quite easy to improve because you can fix things quickly. But internal mechanisms take time to fix. Unless you fix them they catch up with you when you get to the big tournaments, such as the World Cup. So for us it has been an enormously beneficial tournament, if disappointing.” England were always ‘chasing tails’, as Jones put it, after Garry Ringrose scored the first Continue Reading