Warm Tyneside welcome for Wilkinson
Newcastle may be bottom of the Premiership and facing another exhausting fight against relegation, but they are far from deflated about the prospects of two world-class players seeking to undermine their comparatively serene European campaign at Kingston Park tonight. Carl Hayman, the long-serving All Black prop, and a bloke by the name of Wilkinson are in the Toulon squad for an intriguing Amlin Challenge Cup pool game, and as both Falcons old boys are revered by rugby-loving Tynesiders – they did, after all, do more than their fair share for the club during their time in the North-east – their every move will be applauded.
Hayman is in the starting line-up while Jonny boy, still the biggest box-office draw in northern hemisphere rugby, is among the French club's replacements, having been asked to make room for the rather less celebrated outside-half Julien Dumora. Among the other former Premiership hands in the visiting line-up are the ex-Sale tight forwards Eiffion Lewis-Roberts and Dean Schofield, and the one-time Bristol flanker Joe El Abd.
Talking of Sale, their game in Agen this evening is of the must-win variety, for Brive, the other French side in a tough group, are in a commanding position at the top of the pool. Steve Diamond, the head cook and bottlewasher at Edgeley Park, has given the Russian international forward Andrei Ostrikov a debut in the second row, while the scrum-half Cillian Willis gets his second start at European level.
Meanwhile, the exceptional New Zealand coach Wayne Smith has registered his interest – not for the first time – in working with England from next summer as part of the back-room team. An influential figure behind the All Blacks at the recent World Cup, he has agreed a two-term deal with the Waikato Chiefs. Dave Rennie, head coach with the Super 15 side, confirmed yesterday that he would not hold Smith to the second half of the contract if an international opportunity arose. Smith is a high achiever, as is the South African Nick Mallett, widely considered to be the front-runner for the head coach's job. Some at Twickenham consider the two men as an England "dream team".
filmFilm producers sue Warner Bros for $75m over Hobbit films
voicesJust when you thought you could find a man, get married, and have a baby by the age of 35... it turns out you’re too late, says Grace Dent
Swedish stars ask fans for £195 pledges on crowd-funding website
musicAs Mariah Carey and Noddy Holder rake in the royalties from their classics, why there hasn't been a decent festive hit for 20 years?
theatreAuthor Daniel Rosenthal recalls the mishaps that almost brought the curtain down on the likes of John Gielgud and Diana Rigg
lifeAs the Royal Mail plans to phase out deliveries on two wheels, it's no wonder posties are in a spin
musicThe 21-year-old beat Ella Eyre and Chlöe Howl to win the honour
lifeFull of the joys and want to help your fellow man? December isn't the time to do it
Tottenham to use controversial blood-spinning technique to speed Jan Vertonghen return
World Cup 2014: Football Manager developers predict the team of the tournament - but which England player makes it into the XI?
Roy Keane omits Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs from 'greatest' Manchester United team
Napoli 2 Arsenal 0 match report: Nightmare in Naples leaves Arsenal to battle giants
Transfer news: Wayne Rooney sparks Manchester United exit rumours after rejecting new contract talks - reports
- 1 Nelson Mandela memorial: ‘Bogus’ interpreter made mockery of Barack Obama’s tribute in Soweto
- 2 French café starts charging extra to rude customers
- 3 Australia: Gay marriage law reversed by high court less than a week after first weddings
- 4 Exeter to Edinburgh and back in a day: How one fresher's lost bet left him facing a 900-mile round trip
- 5 Australia incest case: Severely deformed children found in remote farming community after generations of inbreeding