England will face Pakistan in a three-match Test series throughout August, the ECB has confirmed, with Australia's planned white-ball tour to be rescheduled.

Due to the impact of coronavirus, no international cricket has been played since March, though England will take on West Indies in a three-Test series that starts on Wednesday at the Ageas Bowl and then shifts to Old Trafford.

The Southampton venue will also host three ODIs between England and Ireland and two of the Tests with Pakistan, with the Test series starting at Old Trafford on August 5.

Old Trafford will then act as the venue for three Twenty20 internationals between the sides, starting on August 28. All matches will be played behind closed doors.

 

However, there are as yet no confirmed dates for Australia's white-ball tour, which had initially been planned to start on July 3.

"Confirmation of these matches against Ireland and Pakistan is another important step for our game as we begin to safely stage international cricket again, but also to minimise the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had, and will continue to have, on cricket at all levels," ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said.

"It has taken significant effort and expertise to allow us to reach a position where cricket is now ready and able to return to the field of play from the elite level to recreational cricket.

"We owe a significant debt of gratitude to the players, staff and administrators of the Cricket West Indies, Cricket Ireland, and the Pakistan Cricket Board for their willingness and co-operation to get international cricket back up and running and allow these matches to be staged.

"It must be reiterated that there is still much work for the ECB and the cricket network to do as we try to plot a path through this pandemic.

"We also continue to explore options to play [the] white-ball series against Australia this summer and hope to have news on the series soon."

World Rugby has ruled out the possibility of holding an international invitational tournament in the United Kingdom and Ireland in 2021 to provide relief following the coronavirus pandemic.

Former Rugby Football Union chief executive Francis Baron had proposed the one-off 16-team competition to raise money "for keeping the game of rugby alive around the world", with sport suspended in recent months due to the global crisis.

The event, held in the UK in order to avoid disrupting France's 2023 Rugby World Cup preparations, would see 31 matches across June and July and prompt the postponement of the British and Irish Lions' tour of South Africa.

The suggested tournament - dubbed the 'Coronavirus Cup of World Rugby' as Baron revealed his plan to the Telegraph - would reportedly aim to bring in up to £250million to support the sport as it recovers from the pandemic.

However, the  idea has been dismissed by governing body World Rugby.

A statement read: "World Rugby notes a proposal by former RFU CEO Francis Baron suggesting the organisation of a major international rugby event in the UK in 2021 to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on global rugby.

"World Rugby does not intend to pursue such a proposal.

"All stakeholders continue to progress productive discussions regarding the immediate global COVID-19 financial relief strategy and international rugby calendar optimisation, both of which will further the success of Rugby World Cup 2023 in France."

World Rugby has already postponed all July Tests and set aside a $100million relief fund in a bid to assist those struggling the most.

Ten of the leading international rugby union teams are exploring the possibility of a new aligned schedule.

South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina - the nations that make up SANZAAR - and the half a dozen countries that compete in the Six Nations are aiming to collaborate for the sport's benefit.

Several unions have been affected by the impact of coronavirus, with World Rugby having postponed all July Tests and setting aside a $100million relief fund in a bid to assist those struggling the most.

Now discussions are ongoing between SANZAAR and Six Nations boards over a new calendar designed to limit club-versus-country rows and create more lucrative games between the world's best teams.

A joint statement read: "Even though there may be different preferences, from the outset the nations have adopted a mindset that has sought to eliminate self-interest and recognise that the international and club game have shared mutual benefits that if approached and managed correctly can enable both to flourish."

It added: "The nations, together with other key stakeholders, remain open to shape the options that have been developed in an effort to resolve an issue that has held the game back for many years and are committed to putting rugby on a progressive path."

Last month World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont suggested a Nations Championship - similar to cricket's recently formed ICC Test Championship - could get off the ground after being met with initial resistance.

 

Ireland will not play an international at home in 2020 after limited-overs games against New Zealand and Pakistan were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Black Caps were scheduled to visit in June and early July, playing a trio of Twenty20 fixtures in Bready before a three-match one-day series at Stormont.

A further two T20 contests were due to take place against Pakistan, listed for July 12 and 14 in Malahide, but those will also not go ahead as originally planned.

The latest update from Cricket Ireland follows on from the cancellation of the three ODIs against Bangladesh in May, though chief executive Warren Deutrom revealed there was no other option in the face of an ongoing global health crisis.

"We deeply regret that we can’t provide any international cricket at home to our fans this year, but we were always up against it with our entire home international programme coming in the first half of the season,” Deutrom said in a statement.

"We want to extend once again our sincere thanks to all those that worked so hard to facilitate what would have been 15 matches across seven venues over three months in Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and England.”

New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White remains hopeful the tour can be rearranged for a later date, adding: “I know our players, support staff and Black Caps fans were very much looking forward to the upcoming visit and are disappointed this decision needed to be taken."

Ireland are also set to travel to England for three one-dayers in September. It is possible that series is moved from the original dates, Cricket Ireland confirmed, with discussions still ongoing.

A behind-closed-doors T20 World Cup could rob some players of their only chance to play in front of huge crowds, Ireland head coach Graham Ford has said.

The sprint-format competition is due to begin in mid-October when Ford's Ireland take on Sri Lanka, a team he used to coach, in the first round of a tournament being staged in Australia.

Though cricket across the world is currently suspended due to the spread of coronavirus, the ICC said last month that the aim is for the T20 World Cup to be staged as planned.

However, the presence of fans at those matches remains a different matter as all industries continue to observe social-distancing measures.

Ford admitted he is split on wanting to play cricket as soon as it is safe to do so and the possibility of some of his players featuring in perhaps their only major tournament without fans present.

"A personal preference – I feel for the players – but I would just love to see cricket happening," he told Stats Perform.

"On the other side of it, it's such a fantastic experience for players to play in those sort of tournaments with big crowds. I feel as though those players are being let down.

"If there's a way of structuring it that eventually that tournament takes place with the normal crowds, that's definitely first prize. But if that can't happen, well, let's play cricket.

"I think it's quite sad if you get to one T20 World Cup and it's played behind closed doors; it's quite a downer on everything."

Ford also feels that nations like Ireland, who have to make it past the first round to reach the Super 12s, where Australia, holders West Indies and England will enter, will be the most disadvantaged by disrupted preparations.

Ireland have already seen a tour of Zimbabwe, due to happen in April, and a seven-match series against Bangladesh, scheduled for this month, postponed.

"Going into the year, I felt we could make a huge improvement in our cricket because our programme was really exciting," Ford added.

"All of that cricket would have improved a lot of our young guys and, by the time we got to the World Cup, we would have brought on a lot of those cricketers a great deal.

"Unfortunately, that's not happening, so it makes the challenge that much bigger.

"I suppose on the other side, some of the top teams, some of their gun players haven't played cricket for a while, if it works out that way.

"I think it might be easier for a Steve Smith or somebody to turn his game on than one of our 20-year-old players, so it's a bit of a disadvantage.

"From what I've seen from the Irish character and their commitment to try to make things happen and never-say-die attitude, we'll be up for the challenge."

Ireland back Fergus McFadden has revealed he will retire at the end of the season, calling time on a career that took in World Cup, Six Nations and European club rugby exploits.

The 33-year-old won 34 caps for his country, pulling on the green shirt from 2011 to 2018 and scoring 10 tries as a versatile wing and centre.

He has made 184 appearances to date for Leinster, helping the province become European champions twice, appearing in their 2011 and 2012 Champions Cup final triumphs over Northampton and Ulster respectively.

He missed the 2018 final victory over Racing 92 after injuring himself three weeks earlier when scoring a try in the semi-final win against the Scarlets.

McFadden said: "They say the best time to leave a party is when you're still having fun so the time has come for me to announce my retirement from the end of the season."

He told Leinster's website: "It's hard to put into words what a privilege it has been to have had such a long career playing for the team I grew up supporting and pulling on a green jersey to play for my country. It has been a dream come true."

McFadden went with Ireland to the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand and bagged a try in the group game against Russia in Rotorua, while he also helped his country win the 2014 and 2018 Six Nations and appeared in six campaigns.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen said: “Fergus has been an amazing contributor to lots of great things that have taken place in Leinster and Irish rugby and he's definitely one of the great characters that we’ve had around in the group. He had so many strings to his bow and he's going to be a great loss to the group.

“We are being guided by public health guidelines at the moment but naturally the hope is that Fergus gets the chance to pull on the Leinster jersey again."

April 14 is a date defined by the unexpected in the world of sport.

From a unique edition of one of rugby's most famous competitions, to an Anfield turnaround that defied belief, sporting events on this date have produced their fair share of surprises.

It is also a date that will be forever etched in the memory of arguably the greatest golfer of all time.

Here we look back at some of the best sporting moments to take place on April 14.

1973: France failure ensures five-way tie

April 14, 1973 was the day on which an anomaly in the long and storied history of the Five and Six Nations was secured.

A tournament that saw all five teams struggle for consistency came to a close in Dublin. France had the championship in their sights after seeing off defending champions Wales in their previous encounter.

That victory left them as the only team capable of winning the title outright. Triumph at Lansdowne Road was needed to seal it but, in extremely windy conditions, inaccuracy from the tee cost them.

France missed three penalties and a conversion as Ireland claimed a 6-4 win that ensured every team finished on four points. The lack of a tiebreaker meant there could be no outright winner, with all five teams claiming a share of the championship. Had there been a points difference tiebreaker, Wales would have again prevailed.

2016: Klopp knocks out Dortmund in famous Liverpool comeback

Six months on from taking over at Liverpool, Klopp was reunited with the club where he made his name in the Europa League quarter-finals.

The last-eight tie with Borussia Dortmund was finely poised after a 1-1 draw at Signal Iduna Park.

It was Dortmund that appeared poised to progress to the semi-finals, though, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave them a 2-0 lead.

Divock Origi pulled one back for Liverpool three minutes into the second half but Marco Reus looked to have put the tie beyond doubt, his effort leaving the Reds needing three goals to progress.

However, a rasping low drive from Philippe Coutinho gave Anfield hope and Mamadou Sakho's close-range header in the 77th minute set the stage for a grandstand finish. Dejan Lovren proved the unlikely hero as he towered to turn home James Milner's cross in the 91st minute.

Liverpool went on to defeat Villarreal in the semi-finals but were denied in the showpiece in Basel as Sevilla claimed a 3-1 win.

2019: Tiger caps comeback with remarkable Masters win

One of sport's greatest comeback stories was completed on this day at Augusta last year.

Most had doubted whether Tiger Woods would ever recapture the form that saw him win 14 majors after his well-documented back problems.

Yet, the closest challenger to Jack Nicklaus' major record of 18 inched one closer with the kind of performance many considered consigned to history to win his fifth green jacket.

Woods began the final day two strokes behind Francesco Molinari, but a captivating final day tilted firmly in his favour on the 15th.

Molinari sent his tee shot into the trees and then found the water with a misplaced lay-up, eventually making double bogey.

Woods, by contrast, birdied from two feet to take the outright lead, with a sensational tee shot at 16 leaving him a short putt for a two-stroke advantage.

He made par at 17 to ensure a bogey would be enough on the last, and there would be no last-gasp slip-up, Woods standing on the 18th green with his arms aloft in celebration of a triumph few thought possible.

England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) managing director of men's cricket Ashley Giles is holding out hope for a full international schedule after the coronavirus pandemic.

The ECB announced last month that no professional cricket will be played until May 28 due to the spread of COVID-19, though that date could yet be extended.

England are due to face West Indies in a three-match Test series starting on June 4, with a series against Pakistan to follow. Limited-overs games against Australia, Pakistan and Ireland are also on the schedule.

Giles is trying to retain a positive outlook and is open to trying to cram in as many games as possible rather than trimming back the fixture list.

"I'm positive that we'll get some cricket in later in the summer," said Giles. "What exactly that looks like I don't know. But we have to be [positive] when we're planning, otherwise it becomes ever decreasing circles and we just get more and more down on the situation. 

"In terms of playing across formats at the same time, we will do whatever we have to do. We will be flexible. By no means would that be ideal but this goes far beyond that. There's some bigger picture stuff here, apart from the health crisis that's going on.

"I don't think anything's off the table, I think it is a blank sheet. If we have to do it, we will. In terms of cricket performance, whilst it not be ideal from a playing point of view, in the long run it might give us a better look at more players and a broader group of people that we might have to play in the future anyway.

"In that sense, it would give greater opportunity. Everything's on the table. I think it would be wrong of me to sit in these meetings – as much as I fight the professional and players' side – there is a bigger picture here and we are going to have to adapt and be as flexible as everyone else."

He added: "In terms of cricket, we're looking at all scenarios and probably with a focus on protecting some of our bigger games. The big games for us in terms of international teams, Test matches, one-dayers, T20Is, looking at scenarios where we can push those back as far as possible without losing any cricket.

"That is possible and I think we have to hang on to hope that we will get out there and we will play. Whether that's behind closed doors or in front of full houses, no one of us quite know. The priority is to doing what the government tells us to do and to keep everyone safe."

Bangladesh's tour of Ireland and England in May has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Tigers were scheduled to play in a three-match ODI series and then four Twenty20 Internationals against Ireland during a trip that was to run between May 14-29.

However, the games were already placed in doubt after the England and Wales Cricket Board announced on Friday that they will not stage any fixtures prior to May 28.

Cricket Ireland has now confirmed they will not be taking on Bangladesh as planned, with the T20 games having been scheduled to take place at venues in England.

"Once the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic was understood, and the advice of both Governments and partner boards was sought, it became increasingly unlikely that this series could proceed as scheduled," Warren Deutrom, chief executive of Cricket Ireland, said in a statement.

"We have a responsibility to protect the well-being of players, coaches, fans and the wider community, and will not hesitate to take a safety-first approach to our operations over coming months.

“We will continue monitoring the situation, and will liaise as necessary with relevant sports bodies, public health agencies and our stakeholders here and abroad, and provide further updates on the home season in due course."

The COVID-19 outbreak had already forced Bangladesh to shelve plans for a return trip to Pakistan, where they were due to play a one-off 50-over game and also the second Test of the series in Karachi.

Kevin O'Brien hit a match-winning six as Ireland defeated Afghanistan in a dramatic super over to avoid a Twenty20 series whitewash.

With all three matches being played in Greater Noida, India, the series outcome was already decided after the opening two contests were won by Afghanistan, but that did not prevent a thrilling finale.

Ireland posted 142-8 after winning the toss and electing to bat, Afghanistan debutant Qais Ahmad and Naveen-ul-Haq combining for six wickets as Gareth Delany top-scored with 37.

In response, an innings of 42 from opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz set up an intriguing run chase which left his side needing 16 off the final over.

It looked like it was all over for Afghanistan when captain Asghar Afghan (32) was dismissed with three balls left and 13 runs still needed. 

But Rashid Khan, helped by two wides from bowler Josh Little, hit a four off the last delivery to thrillingly force a super over as they ended on 142-7.

Craig Young then superbly restricted Afghanistan to only eight and although Ireland initially stumbled, leaving them needing three off the final ball, man-of-the-match O'Brien cleared the ropes.

France's decisive Six Nations encounter with Ireland has been postponed due to the spread of coronavirus.

Les Bleus' hopes of a Grand Slam were ended by a defeat to Scotland on Sunday, and they are now level on points with England on 13 points after four matches.

They can still clinch the title with a victory over Ireland at the Stade de France, but now face a wait to have that fixture played.

France's sports minister Roxana Maracineanu announced on Monday that the game will not take place as scheduled on Saturday.

Maracineanu did not confirm a new date for the game, which is the second Ireland match of the tournament to be postponed.

Their clash with Italy, which had been due to go ahead last Saturday in Dublin, was also called off.

France has 1,116 confirmed cases of coronavirus, the second most in Europe behind Italy (7,375).

Afghanistan defeated Ireland by 21 runs to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match Twenty20 series.

Captain Asghar Afghan led the way with 49 from just 28 deliveries as Afghanistan – who won a rain-hit opening game between the teams on Friday - posted 184-4 in Greater Noida.

Openers Hazratullah Zazai and Rahmanullah Gurbaz made 28 and 35 respectively while Mohammad Nabi contributed 27, with all Afghanistan's batsmen reaching double figures against an attack that used seven different bowlers.

Ireland’s reply was restricted by Mujeeb Ur Rahman, the spinner dismissing opening duo Paul Stirling and Kevin O'Brien on his way to figures of 3-38 from four overs.

Andy Balbirnie top-scored with 46 and Harry Tector hit 37, the latter becoming the last of Mujeeb's wickets, but they came well short in the final reckoning, finishing on 163-6.

Afghanistan will have the chance to complete a sweep when the third and final T20 takes place on Tuesday at the same venue.

Najibullah Zadran and Rashid Khan guided Afghanistan to an 11-run DLS victory over Ireland in the first of three Twenty20 International clashes.

Rain stopped play with Afghanistan on 133-5 after 15 overs, needing 40 runs from 30 balls as they chased down a victory target of 173 in Greater Noida, India.

Afghanistan beat West Indies in their most recent T20I series and Zadran ensured they got over the line on Friday, his 42 runs from 21 balls coming in a crucial partnership of 63 with Samiullah Shinwari (28).

Paul Stirling (60) and Kevin O'Brien (35) had earlier given Ireland an electric start, though their innings lost momentum after the openers had been dismissed, with Rashid recording impressive figures of 3-22 from his four overs.

Six Nations organisers say all remaining fixtures in the tournament will go ahead but the situation will continue to be monitored amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.

The round-four clash between Ireland and Italy in Dublin, due to be played this weekend, was postponed last Wednesday in the interest of public health, but the match is due to be rearranged.

No further games have been cancelled following a Six Nations meeting in Paris on Monday.

England's final-weekend trip to Rome to face Italy is schedule to go ahead as planned, but the women's and Under-20 showdowns in Padua and Verona respectively may be relocated.

A Six Nations statement said: "The Six Nations met today in Paris to address the current situation regarding the Covid-19 Virus.

"Six Nations and its six unions and federations are following the situation very closely with their respective governments and relevant health authorities and will strictly follow any directive given that would impact sporting events.

"As it stands today, based on the latest information, all Six Nations matches currently scheduled are set to go ahead.  

"Six Nations is in contact with FIR and RFU regarding the possibility of relocating the Women's and U20 Italy vs England matches to another Italian location and we will make a further announcement on this in due course.

"However, the Italy vs England Senior Men's match in Rome is planned to go ahead as scheduled.

"Six Nations intends to complete all 15 games across all three championships when time allows but we will refrain from making any rescheduling announcements for the time being while we keep assessing the situation."

Ireland's Six Nations clash with Italy in Dublin has been called off amid fears over the spread of the Coronavirus.

Andy Farrell's side had been due to host Italy at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday March 7 in their penultimate game of the tournament.

However, the outbreak of the virus in northern Italy had led to calls for the game to be postponed.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) met with the country's minister for health, Simon Harris, on Tuesday and it was determined the game should not go ahead.

The matches in the Women's Six Nations and the Under-20 Six Nations have also been postponed.

An IRFU statement read: "The IRFU had a positive meeting with Minister Harris and his advisors today, where we requested a formal instruction as to the staging of the Ireland v Italy international matches over the weekend of 6/8 March.

"At the outset we made it clear that the IRFU was supportive of the Governments' need to protect public health in relation to the Coronavirus.

"We were then advised, formally, that The National Public Health Emergency team has determined that the series of matches should not proceed, in the interests of Public Health.

"The IRFU is happy to comply with this instruction.

"We will immediately begin to work with our Six Nations partners to look at the possibility of rescheduling the matches and would hope to have an update on this in the coming days."

Last weekend saw four football matches in Serie A postponed, including Inter's clash with Sampdoria as part of measures to prevent the spread of the virus in Italy.

Inter's Europa League meeting with Ludogorets will be contested behind closed doors on Thursday.

Additionally, this weekend's scheduled Pro14 rugby games between Parma-based club Zebre and Ospreys and Benetton Treviso and Ulster will not go ahead.

Ireland suffered their first defeat of the tournament as they were beaten 24-12 by England at Twickenham last Sunday. 

They are four points behind leaders France in the table. Italy have lost each of their three games and appear destined for another wooden spoon.

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