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The Sport Matrix: Friday 31 January

Lancaster believes newcomers are ready for big stage

The England head coach Stuart Lancaster believes his debutants, Exeter wing Jack Nowell and Northampton midfielder Luther Burrell, are ready for tomorrow’s Six Nations opener against France at the Stade de France.

“There are no warm-up games in international rugby – no friendly matches,” Lancaster (above) said as he explained his decision-making. “If you want to give opportunities to these people – and we do, because they’re ready to play at this level – there is no easy time to do it.”

Inside centre Billy Twelvetrees also earned praise ahead of the match. “We’ve seen a change in Billy,” said Lancaster. “The real change was between the Australia and Argentina games back in November.

“Things didn’t go quite the way he wanted them to go against the Wallabies and after that, I put it on him a little bit. I told him, ‘I’m picking you, but I need you to be a bigger voice out there. You can’t leave all the talking to Owen’.”

Lancaster added: “We thought he had those leadership qualities in him. He’s much more confident in that area now.” MORE

Forest come back to beat Watford 4-2

Nottingham Forest produced a remarkable comeback to beat Watford 4-2. Gabriele Angella put Watford 2-0 up before Simon Cox scored and Darius Henderson drew Forest level. Jamie Mackie found the net with eight minutes left and Cox’s second goal embellished the scoreline.

Chelsea set to sign £12.5m Zouma

Chelsea will sign defender Kurt Zouma from St Etienne for £12.5m today with a view to him spending the rest of the season on loan in France before coming to London in the summer. The deal puts pressure on John Terry, whose future at the club is yet to be resolved. MORE

City consider move for Porto’s Mangala

Manchester City will seek to avoid an expensive summer transfer battle with a move for in-demand Porto defender Eliaquim Mangala before the window closes tonight. Manager Manuel Pellegrini and director of football Txiki Begiristain are keen on the 22-year-old. MORE

Hibbard: Wales must start well

Hooker Richard Hibbard wants Wales to begin their Six Nations title hat-trick challenge with a positive showing against Italy  tomorrow. Hibbard said: “We want to go out, do our best and really get our show on the road and let everyone stand back and think, ‘Wales are here’.” MORE

QPR top scorer Austin sidelined

Queen’s Park Rangers’ promotion ambitions have been hit by news that their top scorer Charlie Austin faces surgery on a shoulder injury that will rule him out for a “prolonged period”. The striker suffered the problem in the win over Bolton.

Draxler deal falters over fee

Arsenal’s hopes of signing the Schalke midfielder Julian Draxler were fading last night as the two clubs found themselves too far apart on a transfer fee. Schalke stuck to their valuation of €45m (£37m), which has been too high for Arsenal. MORE

Mcllroy dazzles in Dubai by hitting 63

Rory McIlroy impressed on the opening day of the Dubai Desert

Classic, posting a brilliant nine-under-par 63 to lead by two shots. “It inspires you to play better yourself,” said defending champion Stephen Gallacher, who posted 66. MORE

Hales: confidence high in T20 team

Opener Alex Hales believes England’s wretched tour Down Under has not affected the T20 team, who face Australia in the second match of their three-game series today. Hales said: “The confidence in this [T20] group is very high.” MORE

Certify back from ban with a bang

Certify became the first of the Godolphin 22 to return from a ban and win, taking the Group Two Cape Verdi at Meydan. Trainer Charlie Appleby said: “Hopefully, she’s got a lovely career ahead of her.” MORE

Bunce on boxing

It is inevitable that either Dereck Chisora or Tyson Fury will get a world title fight this year and they deserve praise for agreeing to meet. There will no be need to sell it with cheap stunts. MORE

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