Daily Briefing

Sport shorts: Joe Marler gets ten-week ban for testicle grab and Wales vs. Scotland is off

Ten things from the world of sport on Friday 13 March

1. Ten-week ban for Marler

England prop Joe Marler has been slapped with a ten-week ban for interfering with the testicles of Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones in last weekend’s Six Nations rugby championship clash. 

Marler’s England team-mate Manu Tuilagi, who was sent off late on for a dangerous tackle on George North, has been banned for four weeks while Courtney Lawes, also cited for a dangerous tackle, escaped punishment. 

Describing yesterday’s disciplinary hearing in Dublin as “highly unusual” The Times reports that the panel found Marler guilty of “grabbing, twisting or squeezing” Jones by the genitals and banned him until Monday 8 June. 

French prop Mohamed Haouas, who was sent off for punching Scotland flanker Jamie Ritchie in the face, was banned for a surprisingly lenient three weeks.

2. Wales vs. Scotland called off

Tomorrow’s Six Nations clash between Wales and Scotland has been called off. 

“The Welsh Rugby Union [WRU] has maintained an open dialogue with, and continued to seek advice and direction from, the Welsh Government and other stakeholders, including the Six Nations, on this fast-moving issue,” the WRU said in a statement. 

“Whilst medical advice remains consistent, we have decided that it is in the best interests of supporters, players and staff to fall in line with recent measures taken across the UK and global sports industries. 

“The WRU would like to thank all parties for their counsel on the subject and will make further announcements with respect to rescheduling the fixture in the coming days. 

“Every effort has been made to stage this game and we appreciate that individuals will have been inconvenienced. Given the fluid and unprecedented nature of this issue a postponement became the only viable option.”

3. Bahrain and Vietnam races postponed

Late last night it was confirmed that this Sunday’s Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix was cancelled. McLaren withdrew after a team member had tested positive for coronavirus. 

Today, F1 has also announced that next week’s race in Bahrain and the inaugural grand prix in Vietnam are postponed. 

A statement said: “As a result, Formula 1 and the FIA expect to begin the [2020] championship in Europe at the end of May but given the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Europe in recent days, this will be regularly reviewed.”

‘FIAsco’: F1 slammed for handling of Australian Grand Prix cancellation

4. England won’t tour Sri Lanka

England’s cricket team are returning home after their tour of Sri Lanka was cancelled because of coronavirus. 

Two Test matches were scheduled for the tour but the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said in a statement: “Due to the Covid-19 pandemic worsening globally, and after discussions with Sri Lanka Cricket, we have today made the decision to return our players to the UK and postpone the forthcoming Test series between Sri Lanka and England. 

“At this time, the physical and mental wellbeing of our players and support teams is paramount. We will now look to bring them home to their families as soon as possible. These are completely unprecedented times, and decisions like this go beyond cricket.” 

5. IPL start delayed 

The Indian Premier League (IPL) has announced that the start of the 2020 season will be delayed. The Twenty20 cricket tournament had been scheduled to start on 29 March but it will now begin on 15 April.

6. EPL, EFL and WSL fixtures suspended 

Following Mikel Arteta and Callum Hudson-Odoi testing positive for coronavirus the Premier League, Football Association (FA), English Football League (EFL) and the Women’s Super League (WSL) have collectively agreed to postpone the professional game in England until 3 April at the earliest.

A statement said: “Following a meeting of shareholders today, it was unanimously decided to suspend the Premier League with the intention of returning on 4 April, subject to medical advice and conditions at the time.” 

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: “Above all, we wish Mikel Arteta and Callum Hudson-Odoi speedy recoveries, and everyone else affected by COVID-19. 

“In this unprecedented situation, we are working closely with our clubs, Government, The FA and EFL and can reassure everyone the health and welfare of players, staff and supporters are our priority.

“Despite the challenges, it is the Premier League’s aim to reschedule the displaced fixtures, including those played by Academy sides, when it is safe to do so. In this fast-moving environment, further updates will be provided when appropriate.”

Coronavirus crisis: football suspended in England and Scotland

7. Scottish football is also off 

The Scottish Football Association has also announced that all professional and grassroots football is suspended until further notice.

Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell said: “Today’s announcement is made in the interests of public health but, equally, the health and safety of players, match officials, and staff across the game. This is of paramount importance as the country enters the ‘delay’ phase of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“It is also why the Scottish FA is compelled to ensure that the suspension is cascaded through the non-professional and grassroots games until further notice.”

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8. Uefa suspends competitions

Next week’s Uefa Champions League and Uefa Europa League matches are postponed. This includes the remaining Champions League round of 16 second legs on 17-18 March; all Europa League round of 16 second legs on 19 March 2020; and all Uefa Youth League quarter-final matches scheduled on 17-18 March.

9. Solskjaer: Pogba will be at United next season

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Paul Pogba will still be with the club next season. 

French midfielder Pogba has been linked with Real Madrid and Juventus, but Solskjaer said: “Paul’s our player. He has two years left on his contract, a year plus the option of another. You can expect Paul to be here [next season], yeah.”

10. Back pages: Man Utd hit five in Austria 

On a normal day Manchester United’s 5-0 thrashing of LASK in their Europa League last-16 first leg would dominate the back pages, but these are not normal times and most papers struggle to squeeze in a report of their dominant display. 

The Daily Mirror does with its headline “the...err....crowd pleasers” above a photo of Odion Ighalo celebrating his goal in front of an empty stand. 

The match was played behind closed doors in an attempt by the Austrian government to contain the spread of coronavirus and so United’s latest emphatic victory didn’t get the applause it deserved.

Today’s sport headlines 

Five-star Man Utd march on and Euro 2020 could be put back a year

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