The Sports Matrix: Wednesday 5 October 2011

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Falcons face fight to stay in top flight

Last week’s win over Wasps gave Newcastle a first victory in 12 but they face a struggle to retain their Premiership status. The Falcons have been in the top flight since 1997 but have failed to finish in the top half in a decade and attendances are dwindling. MORE

Welbeck set for England start

Danny Welbeck feels his career has room for improvement, despite being favoured for a start in England’s Euro 2012 qualifier in Montenegro. “I’m not seeing it as like ‘Whoa, I’ve got to this stage’,” he said. “I’m just starting out, I want to keep improving.” MORE

England arrive to uncertain schedule

England’s one-day team arrived in India yesterday for their tour of the country, still unsure whom they will face in Saturday’s warm-up match. “We’re struggling to find a team to play against,” coach Richard Halsall said. MORE

Slade backed to replace Carter

Colin Slade has been backed to fill the gap left by Dan Carter in the All Blacks line-up. “He’s got a good skill set,” coach Wayne Smith said ahead of Sunday’s match with Argentina. “He’s brave, strong in the defensive channel. So not too different to Daniel.” MORE

Rodwell has derby dismissal rescinded

Everton midfielder Jack Rodwell has had his dismissal against Liverpool in Saturday’s derby defeat rescinded following an appeal to the Football Association. The 20-year-old was sent off for a tackle on Liverpool’s Luis Suarez during the 2-0 loss. MORE

Ireland ready for North challenge

Ireland winger Andrew Trimble admits George North presents Wales’ major threat ahead of their last eight meeting on Sunday. “He’s a big man, fast and powerful,” Trimble said. “He has such quick feet. We’ll be doing a lot of work this week.” MORE

Ferguson ‘expected City to challenge’

The Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, says he always expected neighbours City to begin the season well. “I’ve said all along that would happen,” he said. “They are a good team and they were always going to be there or thereabouts.” MORE

Feature: Kevin Phillips

The family support me in everything. I was close to going back to Sunderland a few years ago but I sat them down and chatted about it and it became a family decision. The kids didn’t want to move school again. MORE

Wilkinson trains but Tindall remains doubt

England manager Martin Johnson received mixed injury news yesterday after Jonny Wilkinson returned to training while Mike Tindall failed to figure. Wilkinson safely negotiated a training session without aggravating the elbow injury he picked up during Saturday’s win over Scotland and could be available for this weekend’s quarter-final with France. Tindall did not train at all following his dead leg in the Scotland match and there are concerns he will struggle to make the last-eight tie. The former champions again found themselves on the disciplinary back foot after it was confirmed Leicester midfielder Manu Tuilagi was fined £5,000 for sporting a gumshield bearing a sponsor’s logo, in defiance of tournament regulations. A number of players from other competing countries are believed to have fallen foul of the rule, including Tuilagi’s brother, Alesana, who represented Samoa. “A couple of the guys have let the squad down but it’s not like anyone killed anyone,” centre Shontayne Hape said. “We want to focus on the rugby now.” MORE

‘France are like a wild, crazy chariot’

France’s preparations for Saturday’s match with England have been hit by internal strife, with Dimitri Yachvili said to be leading a players’ revolt. “There is no one in control,” one French commentator said. “It is like a wild, crazy chariot – there is no direction.” MORE

Proud Peacock set for Grand Final

An appearance in Saturday’s Super League Grand Final represents a fine turnaround in the fortunes of Leeds prop Jamie Peacock. The England captain struggled to hit top form on his return from a knee operation in April. MORE