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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Marshall's wish

WELLINGTON - Former NRL star Benji Marshall will get his wish to be tried at playmaker when he plays his first game for Super Rugby's Blues since switching codes. Blues coach Sir John Kirwan says ex-Wests Tigers superstar Marshall is set to get some game time when his Auckland-based team face the Hurricanes in their first pre-season hitout on Saturday.

Strike seals win

MADRID - Real Madrid eased into the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey with a 1-0 win over Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu to progress 2-0 on aggregate. Jese Rodriguez got the only goal of the game after just eight minutes as he confidently slotted home Xabi Alonso's ball over the top of the Espanyol defence. Espanyol keeper Kiko Casilla managed to keep the score down as he frustrated Cristiano Ronaldo on a number of occasions.

Mehrtens hired

SYDNEY - The NSW Waratahs have hired All Blacks great Andrew Mehrtens as kicking coach for the upcoming Super Rugby season. One of the most prolific point-scorers in rugby history, 40-year-old Mehrtens is now based in Sydney for business and will assist the Waratahs on a part-time basis advising kickers Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley and Brendan McKibbin.

Life decisions

DUBLIN - Brian O'Driscoll has postponed all decisions about life after rugby until he retires at the end of the season. Ireland's stalwart centre is desperate to get on with life after the British and Irish Lions, though, and certainly the furore over being dropped by head coach Warren Gatland on last year's tour Down Under.

Hamilton unhurt

JEREZ - Lewis Hamilton has driven his new Mercedes into the barrier during Formula One's first pre-season session, only hours after its unveiling. He emerged unscathed from the crash that his team said was caused by a front wing failure. Hamilton and teammate Nico Rosberg presented Mercedes' silver-and-turquoise W05 before testing got underway, and the former champion was the first to take his car out.

Quick clarity

SYDNEY - Michael Clarke wants Australia's injury uncertainty sorted out quickly so the team can prepare as well as possible to take on world Test No.1 South Africa. The captain spoke before flying out for South Africa. Shaun Marsh (calf) and Jackson Bird (back) have been kept behind to prove their fitness.

Gill's challenge

BRISBANE - Simply earning the Queensland No.7 jersey for the Super Rugby season will be challenging enough, according to Liam Gill. But Reds coach Richard Graham believed Gill had already shown he could have pulled off Wallabies openside flanker Michael Hooper's meteoric rise to the 2013 John Eales Medal if given the same chance last year.

Anstey fined

MELBOURNE - The National Basketball League won't say how much it has fined Melbourne Tigers coach Chris Anstey for criticising match officials after a recent loss. He was found guilty of using offensive language and publicly criticising umpires by the NBL. He admitted using offensive language in a tribunal hearing, held by phone last week.

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