Maroons turn Origin heat on halves

The heat is on halves pairing Ben Hunt and Cameron Munster.Much may have been made of Queensland’s lack of forward firepower in their State of Origin series opening loss.
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But Maroons coach Kevin Walters says the area where his side need to improve in Sunday’s must-win game two in Sydney is clear – their halves.

There was speculation Walters may promote old head Josh McGuire from lock to starting prop and hand livewire bench forward Jai Arrow the No.13 jersey for Origin II after the Maroons big men failed to fire in the opener.

Prop Jarrod Wallace even had to rely on a “second chance” to be retained for game two after an underwhelming 43m from just five carries in their opening 22-12 loss in Melbourne.

But instead of turning up the heat on his forwards, Walters took aim at halves Ben Hunt and Cameron Munster ahead of a game they must win to keep the series alive.

Hunt and Munster were already feeling the heat after failing to spark Queensland’s attack in their opening loss at the MCG – their first game together as Maroons halves.

“They need to be better,” Walters said of his halves.

“Ben Hunt in game one was good likewise Cam Munster but they need to be great (on Sunday night) if we want to win and that has been explained to them.”

Melbourne playmaker Munster threatened early in game one while St George Illawarra No.7 Hunt set up winger Dane Gagai’s second half try with a well-timed grubber but largely failed to test NSW’s defence.

Even Queensland skipper Greg Inglis couldn’t help but have a chip at their maligned halves ahead of game two.

Asked if he felt it was up to him to lift Queensland in their crunch clash, the inspirational centre said: “I have to put the ownership back on our halves”.

But Walters believed Munster and Hunt – who battled a thigh injury before game one – were ready to show what they have got at Origin level.

“I couldn’t think of two better guys in the Maroon jersey than those guys,” Walters said of his halves.

“They are great players. They will show (on Sunday night) just how good they are.”

Queensland have won three of the past four Origins in Sydney, including an 18-16 result in last season’s pivotal game two at ANZ Stadium.

Australian Associated Press

Fifita wants Tonga’s shot at Kangaroos

Andrew Fifita says he and Tonga are ready for a shot at the Kangaroos, declaring it would be a certain crowd puller for international rugby league.
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Fifita helped kickstart a revolution of the global game last year when he walked away from Australia to play for Tonga, creating unprecedented interest in the Pacific nations with the help of Jason Taumalolo.

Tonga are desperate for a maiden Test against the Kangaroos at the end of this year and did their chances no harm in Saturday night’s 38-22 defeat of Samoa in front of almost 18,000 people at Sydney’s Campbelltown Stadium.

It came off the back of last year’s World Cup success, where they drew sold-out crowds against both New Zealand and England as they fell two points short of the final.

“It’d be a massive game if we can get it on,” Fifita told AAP.

“Looking at last year I went and played for Australia (in the representative round) and there was barely anyone in the crowd for Australia and New Zealand down in Canberra.

“Then I came here (to the Pacific Test at Campbelltown) and it was a full house. You look at the crowd tonight, wherever we play the crowd is going to follow.”

Both coach Kristian Woolf and Taumalolo have also been vocal this week about their desire to meet Australia, however, no match is locked in.

The most likely outcome would be in Australia in late October, potentially the week after the Kangaroos face the Kiwis in Auckland on October 13.

“We’re trying to move forward and we want to play the bigger and better teams,” Fifita said.

“It’s not just myself. For the people, Tonga in general, we want to see it.

“We’ll let them play their Test against New Zealand and if they want to back up and face us we’ll be more than happy to

“They’re the current world champions and the missing piece of the puzzle.”

And if they do meet, Fifita is confident they could mix it with his former team of choice after they put 36 points on Samoa on Saturday night in a 40-minute period where they had 70 per cent of possession.

“We’re still building,” Fifita said.

“We”ve got a fair amount of talent off with Fus (David Fusitu’a), Solomone Kata and Tevita Pangai Junior still to come into this team.

“At fully fit, we’re going to be hard to beat. We just want to build the game even more, especially at an international level.”

Meanwhile Woolf said he also wanted a regular Test with New Zealand inserted into the calendar.

“It’s a grudge match,” he said.

“We’ve got certainly plenty of blokes who played for New Zealand and play for us now and that adds to it.

“We just think it’s an event that will get bigger and bigger and has to be a regular on the international calendar.”

Australian Associated Press

Labor won’t be bullied over business tax

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann says the government is pushing ahead with its business tax plans.Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says he won’t be bullied into supporting business tax cuts as the Turnbull government turns up the heat to garner support for its 10-year package.
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Heading into the final parliamentary sitting week before the winter break, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull accused Mr Shorten of leading an anti-jobs, anti-investment, higher-taxing Labor alternative.

“The choice has never been clearer,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Sydney on Sunday, adding that Australia needs to have a competitive a company tax rate.

“That’s why we are continuing to press for a reduction over time to 25 per cent for all companies.”

But Labor isn’t budging.

“Who here is surprised that the government is trying to bully Labor and bully me into voting for these tax cuts this week with some simplistic name calling about being anti-big business?” Mr Shorten asked reporters in Brisbane, where he’s been campaigning ahead of by-elections on July 28.

“This government is spending billions and billions and billions of dollars … they haven’t explained how they pay for it.”

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann wants to secure the necessary support to legislate the business tax cuts in full this week.

“The same as we said we would not be splitting the personal income tax bills … we will not be splitting the company tax cut plan from here,” he told ABC television.

Senator Cormann, who is also leader of the government in the Senate and its chief negotiator, faces a tough time with One Nation’s two senators joining Labor and the Greens in opposing the tax cuts.

“I have no intention of supporting corporate tax cuts,” One Nation leader Pauline Hanson told Fairfax Media.

She wants the government to crack down on multinationals trying to avoid their tax obligations while ending tax deductions for firms that use overseas call centres.

Labor’s finance spokesman Jim Chalmers said a vast majority of these tax cuts would go offshore and be spent on things like executive bonuses and pumping up dividends.

“So we won’t get the ‘bang for buck’ that we need in the Australian economy from these $80 billion in tax cuts,” he told Sky News.

“Treasury says the growth dividend would be negligible at best and felt far down the track and they are unaffordable because we have got that record debt.”

Tax cuts were legislated for firms with a turnover of up to $50 million last year.

The government fell short of two votes when it tried to get the remainder of the tax plan passed just before Easter and prior to Senator Hanson ditching her previous agreement with Senator Cormann to back it.

The government needs the support of eight out of 10 crossbenchers to pass the package.

Australian Associated Press

Trump’s spokesperson kicked out of eatery

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was booted from a Virginia restaurant because she works for President Donald Trump, the latest administration official to experience a brusque reception in a public setting.
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Sanders tweeted that she was told by the owner of the Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia, that she had to “leave because I work for @POTUS and I politely left.” She said the episode Friday evening said far more about the owner of the restaurant than it did about her.

“I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so,” Sanders said in the tweet from her official account, which generated 22,000 replies in about an hour.

The restaurant’s co-owner Stephanie Wilkinson told The Washington Post that her staff had called her to report Sanders was in the restaurant. She cited several reasons, including the concerns of several restaurant employees who were gay and knew Sanders had defended Trump’s desire to bar transgender people from the military.

“Tell me what you want me to do. I can ask her to leave,” Wilkinson told her staff, she said. “They said yes.”

Wilkinson said that she talked to Sanders privately and that Sanders’s response was immediate: “That’s fine. I’ll go.”

Employees at the restaurant told The Associated Press that Wilkinson wasn’t available for further comment.

Lexington, located in the Shenandoah Valley and a three-hour drive from the nation’s capital, is politically a spot of blue in a sea of red. It sided with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, by a 2-1 margin. It’s the county seat of Rockbridge County, which went with Trump by a similar margin. And it is home to Virginia Military Institute and Washington and Lee University.

Sanders’ treatment at the restaurant created a social media commotion with people on both sides weighing in, including her father, Mike Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate.

“Bigotry. On the menu at Red Hen Restaurant in Lexington VA. Or you can ask for the ‘Hate Plate,”‘ Huckabee said in a tweet, quickly generating 2,000 replies in about 30 minutes. “And appetizers are ‘small plates for small minds.”‘

On Yelp, a responder from Los Angeles wrote: “Don’t eat here if you’re a Republican, wearing a MAGA hat or a patriot.”

But many were also supportive of the restaurant owner’s actions.

“12/10 would recommend. Bonus: this place is run by management who stuck up for their beliefs and who are true Americans. THANK YOU!!!!” said a comment from Commerce City, Colorado.

Tom Lomax, a local business owner, brought flowers to the restaurant Saturday afternoon as a show of support. He called Wilkinson a “force of nature” and “one of the biggest drivers of the downtown.”

“We support our own here, great little community we have,” he said.

Australian Associated Press

Bulldogs coach snarls after tight AFL loss

Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge’s pleas during the end of quarters fell on deaf ears.Close enough wasn’t nearly good enough for Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge, who gave his players an almighty spray in the immediate aftermath of their heartbreaking two-point loss to North Melbourne.
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With the final siren of Saturday night’s 12.5 (77) to 11.9 (75) loss still ringing in their ears, Beveridge took his players behind closed doors and conducted a scathing review of the disastrous final minutes.

Billy Gowers appeared to have sealed a memorable win for the undermanned Dogs with his goal about minutes from the end at Etihad Stadium putting his side back in front.

But a Mitch Wallis blunder followed by a team-wide loss of concentration opened the door for Kangaroos skipper Jack Ziebell to kick the winning goal with 20 seconds left on the clock.

“It’s rare that I confront them and raise my voice … I’m a rational person,” Beveridge said.

“There was a lot about tonight’s game we liked especially the way we moved the footy and gave ourselves opportunities.

“But ultimately, as a group, we got ourselves to a point where we could win the game and I don’t want our boys to walk away thinking ‘that was good and we almost got there’.

“All that was good and we should have got there.

“You can’t tiptoe and tread lightly around that when it is such a significant game.”

With skipper Easton Wood and ball magnet Jack Macrae both hamstrung in last week’s loss to Port Adelaide, the Dogs defied the odds to lead at every change.

Even when the Roos hit the front in the last quarter, Beveridge’s men found a way to get their noses back in front.

But the Wallis clanger kick inside 50 that went out on the full with less than a minute left set off a calamitous chain of events.

“We fell apart structurally in the last two minutes after we kicked our last goal,” Beveridge lamented.

“It’s frustrating (actually) it’s more than frustrating … it’s extremely disappointing.

“We got ourselves into a position to win it, that’s a positive sign, but we couldn’t sustain what we’d done in the first half.

“We can say that over time, as we roll we’ll be able to sustain it for longer, but we can’t ourselves an out because we believe we should have won the game but woulda, coulda, shoulda … it’s a pretty disappointing outcome.”

Australian Associated Press

Mexico devotion pays off handsomely

Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio revealed his side put in more preparation for their victory over South Korea than their shock World Cup win against Germany.
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A 2-1 success over Group F rivals South Korea at the Rostov Arena all-but sealed a safe passage into the knockout stage for Mexico.

Carlos Vela opened the scoring with a first-half penalty before Javier Hernandez struck his 50th international goal.

Son Heung-min scored a wonderful last-gasp consolation.

The victory followed on from a 1-0 win over reigning world champions Germany in their opening fixture and means Mexico are set to advance to the round of 16 for the seventh-straight World Cup – but they have not advanced to the quarter-finals since playing at home in 1986.

While they would have been expected to beat their Asian rivals rather than springing a surprise in their first game, Osorio insists they worked harder to prepare for South Korea.

“I believe that we have played very well,” he said at his press conference.

“We have had two good matches and I think we have devoted more attention to this match today with South Korea than our match with Germany.

“Very often, sometimes when you play countries that have less of a footballing history, human beings tend to rest on their laurels a little bit and are too relaxed.”

Sweden are the final group-stage opponents for Mexico, with Osorio keen to remain focused on that test after celebrating another World Cup win.

“Every match, we insist on being fully focused and not losing that message. We have received a lot of praise but remain focused nonetheless,” he said.

South Korea remain without a point after narrow defeats to Sweden and now Mexico.

They are on an eight-match winless run at World Cup finals but coach Shin Tae-yong was pleased with the endeavour of his team.

“Our players I think played a game that they will not regret,” he said.

“All of the players became one and until the last minute they really did their utmost. I really am very grateful that they did their best until the very last minute.

“We don’t have a lot of resources but, nevertheless, just before the World Cup we had a lot of injured players and after the end of this game.

“I thought about these players quite a lot. We could have played a better game if those players were with us.”

Australian Associated Press

US moves 100 coffins to Korean border

The US military said it moved 100 wooden coffins to the inter-Korean border to prepare for North Korea’s returning of the remains of American soldiers who have been missing since the 1950-53 Korean War.
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US Forces Korea spokesman Colonel Chad Carroll also said Saturday that 158 metal transfer cases were sent to a US air base near Seoul, South Korea’s capital, and would be used to send the remains home.

North Korea agreed to return US war remains during the June 12 summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump. While the US military preparations suggest that the repatriation of war remains could be imminent, it remains unclear when and how it would occur.

Earlier Saturday, Carroll denied a report by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency that US military vehicles carrying more than 200 caskets were planning to cross into North Korea on Saturday. He said plans for the repatriation were “still preliminary.”

US Forces Korea said in a statement later in the day that 100 wooden “temporary transit cases” built in Seoul were sent to the Joint Security Area at the border as part of preparations to “receive and transport remains in a dignified manner when we get the call to do so.”

From 1996 to 2005, joint US-North Korea military search teams conducted 33 recovery operations that collected 229 sets of American remains.

But efforts to recover and return other remains have stalled for more than a decade because of the North’s nuclear weapons development and US claims that the safety of recovery teams it sent during the administration of former President George W. Bush was not sufficiently guaranteed.

US officials have said earlier that the remains are believed to be some or all of the more than 200 that the North Koreans have had for some time. But the precise number and the identities – including whether they are US or allied service members – won’t be known until the remains are tested.

The transfer of remains is usually done in a sombre, formal ceremony, and that is what officials said was being planned.

Richard Downes, executive director of the Coalition of Families of Korean & Cold War POW/MIAs, said last week that he had been told the North may have the remains of more than 200 American service members that were likely recovered from land during farming or construction and could be easily returned. But he said the vast majority have yet to be located and retrieved from various cemeteries and battlefields across the countryside.

More than 36,000 US troops died in the conflict, including those listed as missing in action. Close to 7,700 US troops remain unaccounted for from the Korean War, and about 5,300 of those were lost in North Korea.

The last time North Korea turned over remains was in 2007, when Bill Richardson, a former UN ambassador and New Mexico governor, secured the return of six sets.

According to Chuck Prichard, spokesman for the Defence POW/MIA Accounting Agency, once the remains are turned over, they would be sent to one of two Defense Department facilities – Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii and Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska – for tests to determine identification.

Australian Associated Press

Addo-Carr returns to GF origins at ANZ

Josh Addo-Carr is looking forward to Origin II, only the fourth time he’s played at ANZ Stadium.Josh Addo-Carr has only played at ANZ Stadium three times in his life.
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Yet by the time he’s done with his fourth time, the NSW speedster could walk away with an Origin shield to add to his NRL premiership ring.

Talk about a flying start to his career.

“It’s a little kid’s dream. It’s what you dream when you’re younger. It’s what footy’s all about, being number one,” Addo-Carr told AAP.

With Melbourne rarely playing at the Sydney venue, Sunday’s Origin II will be the first time Addo-Carr returns to the arena he lit up with a blazing 75-metre opening try in last year’s grand final triumph.

He identifies standing with his Storm teammates and singing the national anthem in front of thousands of people as one of the proudest moments of his career so far.

“But my favourite memory of that day would have to be scoring that first try. It’s one of the best moments of my life so far, really,” he said.

It would cap a meteoric rise for the 22-year-old, who arrived in Melbourne 18 months ago with just nine NRL games and little fanfare to go with it.

Now, after a 14-tackle bust-out performance in game one, he’s on the cusp of being a state hero, and he credits a former Blues coach for his ascension.

“I went down to Melbourne to seek an opportunity and I knew if I worked really hard down there, they’d turn me into the player I always dreamed to be,” he said.

“Craig Bellamy and the coaching staff down there, they breed rep players. That’s what their club’s about – effort, hard work and your teammates. That’s what we’re about here in the NSW team too this year.”

Addo-Carr is also relishing an Origin shot at Storm teammate Billy Slater, who returns for the clash after missing game one with a hamstring injury.

“It’s going to be a huge honour to join the field with him in the pinnacle of rugby league,” he said.

“Everyone knows he had two years off with his shoulder. But to come back and represent your state and country, and how he’s playing with the Storm again, it’s pretty special.”

Australian Associated Press

Thousands march for Brexit deal referendum

Thousands of pro-EU supporters have marched in London to demand a vote on the final Brexit deal.Around 100,000 supporters of the European Union have marched through central London to demand the British government hold a final public vote on the terms of Brexit.
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Protesters packed the main arteries of the capital on Saturday, waving British, Irish and European flags and colourful banners to call for a “People’s Vote” on the eventual deal in which Britain leaves the world’s biggest trading bloc.

On the second anniversary of the 52 to 48 per cent Brexit vote, polls show political divisions are entrenched. Despite some confusion over what Brexit will actually mean, there has been no clear change of heart.

The “People’s Vote” campaign, which includes several pro-EU groups, is campaigning for a public ballot “so that we can decide if a decision that will affect our lives for generations makes the country better or worse off”.

Neither of Britain’s two main political parties back the idea of holding a referendum on the final deal.

“People have seen politicians making a cataclysmic mess of a really bad deal they didn’t vote for, or even a no deal they didn’t vote for,” a spokesman for the campaign told Reuters.

“This is the people telling the political elite that they got it wrong.”

One banner read: “17 million voted for Adolf Hitler. 17 million voted for Brexit. 17 million can be wrong”. One couple carried a placard which read: “We are doing this for our grandchildren.”

A Survation poll earlier this week found that 48 per cent of respondents supported a referendum on the final deal, while 25 per cent were opposed.

As yet there is no certainty about what the final deal could look like amid infighting in Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative government as well as among some of its opponents about what they want from Britain’s new trading ties with the EU after it leaves in March next year.

Marking the anniversary, Britain’s foreign minister Boris Johnson, one of the main proponents of the “Leave” vote, wrote a column in tabloid newspaper the Sun defending Brexit.

Britain had voted for “the freedom to bust out of the corsets of EU regulation and rules”, he said, and any softening of the final deal – such as continued membership of the single market and customs union – would be unwelcome.

Those who voted for Brexit had not changed their minds, he said. “They don’t want some bog roll Brexit – soft, yielding and seemingly infinitely long”, he said, using a British slang for toilet paper.

Johnson was also quoted in the Telegraph newspaper by two sources as dismissing business leaders’ concerns about the impact of Brexit, using foul language in a meeting with EU diplomats. A spokesperson for the Foreign Office disputed whether he had used bad language and said he had been attacking business lobbyists.

Australian Associated Press

Zimbabwe president escapes blast at rally

A number of people have been injured by a blast at a rally in Zimbabwe but the president was unhurt.President Emmerson Mnangagwa has escaped injury in an explosion at a political rally, and vowed the “cowardly act” would not derail Zimbabwe’s first election since the ouster of former strongman Robert Mugabe.
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Mnangagwa, a former Mugabe loyalist installed after the army ousted his erstwhile patron, said the object had “exploded a few inches away from me, but it is not my time”.

The blast on Saturday came as Zimbabwe prepared to hold its first post-Mugabe presidential election on July 30, with 75-year-old Mnangagwa and 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, the main contenders.

Authorities gave no details of what had caused the explosion at Mnangagwa’s first rally in Bulawayo, an opposition stronghold where the ruling ZANU-PF has not won in national elections since 2000.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast and the run up to this year’s vote had been relatively peaceful, unlike previous elections which were marred by violence, mostly against opposition members by ZANU-PF supporters.

“The campaign so far has been conducted in a free and peaceful environment, and we will not allow this cowardly act to get in our way as we move towards elections,” Mnangagwa said.

“Its just an element of defeatists in the struggle of freedom. The country is peaceful.”

Mnangagwa said the injured included Vice President Kembo Mohadi, the wife of Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, the environment minister and the deputy speaker of parliament.

Several security personnel were also hurt, the state-owned Herald newspaper said.

State television ZBC said 42 people were injured in the explosion, six of them seriously. The broadcaster also showed footage of a jovial Mnangagwa walking around the state house gardens in Bulawayo.

Mnangagwa also visited injured people in hospital alongside Chiwenga. Health Minister David Parirenyatwa said some of the injured had serious stomach wounds.

Opposition leader Chamisa expressed sympathy for the victims of the blast and said no stone should be left unturned in the police investigation.

“Political violence of any nature from any quarter is totally unacceptable. In the past 38 years political violence has been a permanent feature and an anticipated ritual … which we must expunge,” Chamisa said.

Mnangagwa said on Saturday he was “used to these attempts” on his life, noting that he had been poisoned at a rally outside Bulawayo last August when still Mugabe’s vice president.

He spent weeks receiving medical treatment in neighbouring South Africa.

Australian Associated Press