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The Malaysian Insider :: Sports

England eye grand slam on Six Nations ‘Super Saturday’

Posted: 18 Mar 2011 07:29 PM PDT

LONDON, March 19 — England face Ireland in Dublin today almost assured of their first Six Nations title for eight years while also desperate for the victory that would complete a grand slam of five wins out of five.

The game is the highlight of the competition's "Super Saturday" finale, with all six teams in action in back-to-back matches.

The action begins in Edinburgh (1430 GMT) when Scotland take on Italy in what has become the competition's traditional wooden spoon decider.

The Scots, who have lost all four games, need to win by eight points to leapfrog their opponents in the standings. The Italians, still on a high from their first win over France last week, need victory or a defeat by less than eight points to avoid finishing last for the fourth year in a row.

All eyes will turn to Dublin (1700) as England, who have lost six of their last seven games to Ireland, seek the victory that would make them the fourth different nation in four years to complete a clean sweep.

The only team who can deny England the title are Wales but to take the honours they would need to follow an Irish victory by beating France in Paris (1945), with the two results overturning a 42-point differential. — Reuters

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Couch, Willis share second-round Transitions lead

Posted: 18 Mar 2011 06:13 PM PDT

Chris Couch of the US hits out of the sand trap on the eighth hole during the third round of play in the PGA Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, Arizona in this file photo. — Reuters pic

TAMPA, Florida, March 19 — American Chris Couch posted three pairs of birdies in a blistering back nine of 29 today to tie compatriot Garrett Willis for the second round lead at the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook.

Couch fired a seven-under-par 64 and nearby resident Willis posted 67 for nine-under-par 133 totals to share a one-stroke lead over Spain's Sergio Garcia and American Webb Simpson.

Another stroke off the pace at seven under par were overnight leader Paul Casey, who shot level-par 71, and fellow-Briton Justin Rose, who birdied seven of 10 holes from the seventh to roar up the leaderboard with a 65.

Joining them on 135 were Brendon de Jonge of Zimbabwe and Americans Marc Turnesa, Roland Thatcher and Gary Woodland.

Willis and Couch, both one-time winners on the US PGA Tour who have had a long wait for a follow-up victory, took best advantage of the usually challenging Copperhead course, defanged so far this week by benign conditions.

"To have to days like this, this calm, is crazy," said Willis, who lives a one-hour drive from the course and led last year after the first round before soaring to a 77.

"I think we are in for a pretty windy weekend, because there's no way it's going to continue."

Couch said he was driving the ball well and putting his approaches into good spots on the fast, sloping greens.

"Just got her going on the back nine today," he said. "Made a few long putts, and had a little 29 there to show for it."

Couch notched his only US Tour victory in New Orleans in 2006, while Willis won his only title at the 2001 Tucson Open.

Garcia used his latest putting style, a claw grip, to shoot 66 after making birdies on three of his first four holes as he registered his second bogey-free round.

"I hit the ball nicely. I hit a lot of fairways, I hit a lot of greens and been chipping and putting nicely," said Garcia, who shrugged off a bee sting on his finger early in the round. "So everything seems to be on the right way."

Rose is using a different putter this week, a blade with no lines on it that he used to good effect at the 2008 Masters.

"I'm trying to be more instinctive," the 30-year-old Englishman said. "I feel like I'm threatening the hole from 20, 25 feet more than I have been all year." — Reuters

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