Ulster hooker Rory Best also declined offers from France earlier this season and Cardiff Blues number eight Robin Copeland has signed a deal to join Munster next term. Fly-half Johnny Sexton will remain Ireland’s only frontline star plying his trade abroad next season. Heaslip’s decision to commit his future to Leinster ends a period of speculation and uncertainty for the IRFU who had feared a number of stars joining Sexton in France. Sexton has played significantly more club rugby with Racing Metro than he would in Ireland’s provincial set-up, with head coach Joe Schmidt admitting Ireland had “lost control” of the player during the autumn Test series. Ireland’s careful player management has been central to their ability to retain this latest nucleus of talent then, especially given Wales’ continued talent drain to the unrivalled salaries on offer in France’s Top 14. Penning a deal to run until 2017 is a clear indication the 30-year-old will now complete his career at his home province. Relieved he can now concentrate on the upcoming RBS 6 Nations, he said: “Leinster is where I wanted to continue playing and I am happy that the process is now at end,” said Heaslip. “I am looking forward to playing my role in driving success for both Leinster and Ireland.” Press Association Heaslip is the final frontline Ireland star to tie down new terms, following quickly on for deals for captain Paul O’Connell and Keith Earls announced earlier this week. Heaslip joins Leinster team-mate Sean O’Brien in rejecting the advances of Heineken Cup champions Toulon, and he also turned down an approach from Montpellier. British Lion Heaslip made his Leinster debut in 2005 and has since amassed 176 appearances, scoring 34 tries. The 60-cap loose-forward first featured for Ireland against the Pacific Islanders in November 2006, and has claimed a Grand Slam and three Heineken Cup titles in his career. “We are delighted that Jamie has committed his future to Leinster and Ireland for the next three years,” said IRFU chief executive Philip Brown. “He has been one of most consistent performers and top number eights in world rugby for many years and has played a starring role for Leinster, Ireland and the Lions. Plotting further silverware raids at club rugby, Leinster CEO Mick Dawson said Heaslip will be central to the province’s future. “Jamie has played a massive role in Leinster’s success over the past six or seven years,” said Dawson. “He is a key leader within the squad and he will play an integral part in the club’s plans to compete for silverware in the years to come.” Leinster number eight Jamie Heaslip is the latest Ireland star to reject a big-money offer from France and commit to Ireland by signing a three-year contract.
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… added incentives for participating playersBy Frederick HalleyTORONTO, Canada – Despite the somewhat unseasonal weather and what is expected to be soggy outfields, occasioned by last weekend’s consistent showers, the Scarborough Cricket Association (SCA) 2017 season is set to get underway here on Saturday with matches in the premier, first and second divisions.The Elite League, which was introduced in 2016, commences on Sunday while the women go into action on Sunday, June 4.Still battling with the loss of one of its premier venue, Ellesemere, which according to SCA president Shiv Persaud affected the T20 competition and the regular season playoffs last year, the SCA is aiming for a September ending instead of what took place in 2016 when it was forced to extend the season to October.The introduction of the eight-team Elite League in 2016 which followed a six-year dominance by Hawaiian Arctic Cricket Club (HACC) in the Premiere League, also saw a changing of the guard with Victoria Park Cricket Club (VPCC) enjoying a fruitful season and emerging as the undisputed champions.VPCC, which included former Guyana Under-19 all-rounder and captain Eugene LaFleur made light work of Scarborough Cricket Club (SCC) in a lopsided final, played at the Ashtonbee ground, after earlier disposing of HACC in the previous weekend’s semi-final encounter, which was played at the same venue.It was also a second consecutive final defeat for SCC following their loss to HACC in the 2015 Premiere League final.While Victoria Park were celebrating in grand style, Toronto Cricketers were also marking their entry into the Elite League with a hard-fought 29-run win over archrivals Islanders in the Premiere League final, played on the adjoining ground.VPCC are expected once more to feature the bowlers who were responsible for the destruction of both SCC and HACC – left-arm spinner Parth Desai and leg-spinner Shailesh Patel, who spun webs around their opponents. Their batting hinges on LaFleur, Krunal Patel, Shailesh Patel, Anand Erramilli and Aashin Patwari.HACC, who are aiming to bounce back into the reckoning this year, will see a new player at the helm, with former Guyana wicketkeeper/batsman Azib Ali Hanif taking over the reins from long-standing skipper Hemnarine Chattergoon who announced his retirement at the end of last season.However, while one Chattergoon is leaving, another in the form of his brother, former Guyana Under-19 opener Harrinarine Chattergoon is returning after a one-year hiatus.It will be recalled that Chattergoon holds the record for the highest individual score in the Premiere League, a record-breaking 268 against Durham in the 2015 which saw HACC rack up a whopping 618 for six in their allotted 50 overs. He is also a useful off-spinner.Among the other batsmen, who are expected to feature prominently are former Guyana and West Indies B team player Krishna Arjune, Hanif, Azhad Amidon, Reyaz Prahalad, who missed most of last year because of injury, Damodar Daesrath, Zaheer Allard, Farook Hussain and Looknauth Ramsuchit. Former Guyana and West Indies One-day player Royston Crandon is also expected to be available for some matches.Among the bowlers expected to feature are left-arm spinner Imran Khan, who claimed the most wickets last year, Allard, Daesrath, Bim Bodhoo and Chattergoon.Not to be outdone, the other clubs, Ambassadors, Maple, Superstars/Islanders, Highland Creek and Toronto Cricketers are all raring to go in what should be a highly contested Elite League.It also promises to be keen rivalry between defending champions Kaisoca and Superstars for supremacy among the four women’s teams, with the latter vowing to dethrone their opponents and regain championship honours following defeat in last year’s final.An added incentive for clubs this year is the SCA’s stated intention of approaching Cricket Canada, the governing body for cricket here with a view of exploring the way forward regarding players’ eligibility to represent Canada.The SCA’s decision was sparked after its women cricketers were shunned by Cricket Canada when their scheduled game against the touring MCC women’s team was called off a few days before it was scheduled to be played last September, prompting president Persaud to declare that although his members were disappointed and heartbroken, they became more united.Reflecting on the 2016 season, Persaud disclosed that there were many areas “that we have started planning and exploring to build on our successes in 2017, for example, structuring our junior division for Under-13, Under-16 and Under-19; contesting regular season finals at different times during the season and allowing our women cricketers to play at different venues and possibly games under lights.”
Sergio Ramos celebrates with Dani Carvajal after scoring in Real Madrid’s 3-1 win over Eibar that kept them on the tails of La Liga leaders Barcelona.Madrid, Spain | AFP | Real Madrid and Barcelona will have tougher tests to come but emphatic victories on their return to action at the weekend suggest there may not be much margin for error in what is left of La Liga’s title race.Leaders Barca hammered Real Mallorca 4-0 on Saturday before second-placed Madrid swept Eibar aside 3-1 a day later, having led 3-0 at the end of the first half, only to ease off in the second.Both performances erased fears that had arisen during the three-month suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic, which saw La Liga go without competitive matches for 93 days.Madrid looked comfortable in their new home at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium — part of their training complex — while Lionel Messi looked fit, with no sign of the tightness in his thigh that was bothering him earlier this month.Two assists, a goal and 90 minutes played suggested Barcelona’s captain is in good shape.“There were many uncertainties,” said coach Quique Setien. “Nobody was clear what was going to happen. We had some bad touches but we will improve with more contact with the ball over time.“Overcoming this match like this gives us confidence and momentum with the advantage we already had.”Mallorca and Eibar, sitting 18th and 16th respectively, were always going to represent relatively kind reintroductions for La Liga’s title contenders.Barcelona are at home on Tuesday to Leganes, who increasingly look the most likely side to finish bottom after they lost at home on Saturday to Real Valladolid.But games away at Sevilla and home to Athletic Bilbao then follow, when perhaps the fitness and form of Setien’s side will be better tested.For Madrid, the challenge intensifies immediately with a home game on Thursday against Valencia, who can ill-afford another stumble after a draw with Levante on Friday left them four points adrift of the top four.– Conditions favour top sides –Yet the early indications are that without fans and with key players fit again, Barcelona and Real Madrid may be set for a more consistent finish to the season.Without supporters at San Moix to rattle Barca or invigorate Mallorca, all that was left was for the superior technical ability and squad depth of the defending champions to prove decisive.That will be the case again when they face Sevilla at the usually bouncing Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Friday while Madrid will likewise avoid the roar of the crowd when they go to Bilbao’s San Mames in a few weeks.With five substitutions permitted, even when Eibar pulled a goal back in the second half, Real coach Zinedine Zidane was able instantly to bring on three players. By the end he had introduced Gareth Bale, Ferland Mendy, Eder Militao, Vinicius Junior and Fede Valverde. The total cost of those five players was close to 250 million euros ($281m) while the five Eibar brought on were worth five million euros, three of them free transfers.The cost of the 10 players Barcelona and Madrid brought on combined over the weekend was almost 400 million euros while Eibar and Mallorca’s 10 cost just over seven million euros.It means the conditions are more in favour of the top teams finding greater consistency over the remaining games and any mistakes that are made may also prove more costly.“We know the situation is a bit strange,” said Zidane, whose side are two points off top spot, on Sunday.“But the players are all champions and they can adapt to the situation. We have to get our heads around it, which is what we’re going to do until the end of the season.”Sevilla will try to strengthen their hold on third place by beating Levante on Monday. Getafe are at home to struggling Espanyol on Tuesday, Atletico Madrid visit Osasuna on Wednesday while on Thursday, Real Sociedad — currently fourth — travel to Alaves.La Liga midweek fixtures (times GMT)MondayLevante v Sevilla (1730), Real Betis v Granada (2000)TuesdayGetafe v Espanyol, Villarreal v Mallorca (both 1730), Barcelona v Leganes (2000)WednesdayEibar v Athletic Bilbao, Real Valladolid v Celta Vigo (both 1730), Osasuna v Atletico Madrid (2000)ThursdayAlaves v Real Sociedad (1730), Real Madrid v Valencia (2000)Share on: WhatsApp