Wallabies scrum demands WC domination

The Wallabies scrum resurgence was made even more special because it came at a ground where they’ve suffered so much humiliation, according to vice-captain Michael Hooper.

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His back-row partner-in-crime David Pocock, meanwhile, said it was important that Australia’s scrum prepared for a “totally different set of threats” to be posed by Wales.

But for Hooper, who packed into the Wallabies scrum at Twickenham 11 months ago, it was hard to hide his joy at the improvement shown this year under scrum doctor Mario Ledesma.

The Australian pack which was bullied by England on last year’s spring tour included six members of the Wallabies’ victorious team on Saturday night.

Sekope Kepu and James Slipper were the starting props last year, while Hooper shared the back-row with Ben McCalman and lock Rob Simmons is another to have survived from that team.

“It was particularly pleasing considering the last time we were here we really struggled,” said Hooper, who also challenged the pack to produce that level of domination for the remainder of the tournament.

“The guys have done a great job in turning that around.

“They’ve copped a lot of criticism and it’s been a really tough ten months for them, working hard against each other week in, week out.

“To get a good performance is great and really pleasing for them to get some hard work to pay off there.

“But now they’ve set that benchmark for themselves they’ve got to keep that going.

“We want to get used to them playing like that and it starts again this week when we train against each other.”

Pocock, whose incredible ball-hunting ability again proved valuable in the win over England, said Wales would present a different set of problems to solve.

“You don’t want to get too carried away on one performance and there’s still plenty to go,” he said.

“I think the Welsh have a totally different set of threats there with the back row that they have.

“Their back row is pretty good on the ball so that’s obviously a focus for us.

“I feel they got some pretty good play against England. Taulupe Faletau is big and strong.

“He gets around, he’s a good ball carrier, solid in defence, everything you want from a No.8.”

Knives come out after England leave the party early

England’s abiding unpopularity in the rest of the rugby world ensured a tsunami of jokes swamped social media and landed in the in-boxes of grieving Englishmen, most playing on the theme of an inability to get out of a pool.

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It was in the English media, however, that the knives really came out for those responsible for the debacle of a host nation being knocked out before the completion of the pool matches.

Wales bowed out at a similar stage as one of five co-host nations at the 1991 World Cup but even that lacked the ignominy of the departure of the 2003 champions.

“Maul Over, World Ends,” read the backpage headline in the Sun with “The Great Barrier grief” on the inside pages, while the Sunday Times chose “Hosts bounced out by ruthless Wallabies” and the Daily Telegraph “Humiliated on home turf”.

“England’s rugby players invited the world to an all-night party and were safely tucked up in bed, alone, before 10pm,” Michael Calvin wrote in the Independent on Sunday.

“Their friends slunk into the shadows, and their guests pillaged the drinks cabinet until they could barely stand.

“The failure of Chris Robshaw’s team is cataclysmic, individually and collectively. They have no one to blame but themselves.”

INQUEST NEEDED

Former England coach Clive Woodward said there should be an inquest with “consequences” for those in charge, as well as those who appointed them, but said it should happen only after the tournament was over.

“Yes it was a tough pool but England should have been well capable of beating both Wales and Australia,” wrote the World Cup winner.

“No expense has been spared in England’s preparation and they were at home in both matches. Everything was in England’s favour and they should have cashed in.”

Influential Welsh writer Stephen Jones called for England coach Stuart Lancaster to be axed and for Woodward to oversee the appointment of a coach with “experience, charisma and stature”.

“It is the low point in their history,” he wrote in the Sunday Times. “Change must be rapid and profound.”

The Sunday Telegraph agreed with the headline “Stuart Lancaster’s men were not ready, not clever and not good enough.”

Japan’s coach Eddie Jones, Warren Gatland of Wales, former South Africa coach Nick Mallett and Englishman Jim Mallinder were named possible candidates by that paper, one of several who rushed a “blueprint for the future” to the presses.

Replacing Lancaster and captain Robshaw were common solutions, while other popular themes were a change to the rules to allow overseas-based Englishmen to represent their country.

Rugby Football Union Chief Executive Ian Ritchie said on Sunday there would be no knee-jerk decision over the future of Lancaster but former England forward Dean Ryan said it was naive to think he could survive.

“There will be blood. Of course there will,” he wrote on the Guardian website. “You don’t fumble your own World Cup without even getting to the end of the pool stage and then survive.”

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

Monkeys still misused by scientists

A law that is supposed to give laboratory monkeys special protection has failed to prevent large numbers of the primates being subjected to “unnecessary and unjustifiable” testing in the UK, a leading animal rights organisation claims.

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The research is largely conducted in secret in universities, hospitals, contract testing facilities and Government laboratories, according to Cruelty Free International, formerly the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV).

A review of monkey experiments had found evidence of alleged “distressing, invasive and harmful” treatment that made a mockery of the animals’ “special protection” status, the organisation said.

Dr Katy Taylor, director of science at Cruelty Free International, said: “‘Our report shows that it is still far too easy for these highly intelligent and social animals to be used in extremely cruel and distressing experiments that are wasteful and even frivolous in their design.

“Far from helping produce cures for debilitating human diseases, most of the experiments appear to have minimal benefits for humans and give the impression of having more to do with defending the continued use of primates or satisfying the curiosity of researchers than advancing medical science.”

While experiments on great apes such as chimpanzees are banned in the UK, testing of other non-human primates is allowed.

A European Union directive says monkey testing should be permitted only when it involves basic research, life-threatening or debilitating human conditions, or preservation of the relevant primate species.

The UK is the third largest user of primates in the EU, conducting experiments on more than 2,000 animals each year, Cruelty Free International said.

Most of the tests were to assess the long-term toxicity of drugs and their results were generally not published, it alleged.

Their effects were said to include vomiting, internal bleeding, respiratory distress, fever, weight loss, lethargy, skin problems and death.

Other work involved HIV/Aids, Parkinson’s disease, neurological disorders and behaviour experiments.

Military studies also exposed monkeys to biological warfare agents, it was claimed.

A Home Office spokesman said: “We are working with the scientific community and with international regulators to promote alternative measures that replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research and testing.”

Fiji intend to finish with a flourish

Having faced England, Australia and Wales, the Pacific Islanders bow out against Uruguay in Milton Keynes on Tuesday, knowing that things might have turned out differently had the Flying Fijians not been drawn in the toughest pool.

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“It’s just the luck of the draw, isn’t it?,” McKee said. “Looking at the teams we came up against and looking at the others pools, hypothetically we may have had a pathway to the quarter-finals, or at least an easier pathway.”

Fiji caused England more than a few nervous moments in the second half of the tournament’s opening game and the final 35-11 scoreline might have been much tighter but for missed kicks.

Perhaps jaded, they lined up against the Wallabies five days later and battled hard in a 28-13 defeat in which flyhalf Ben Volavola scored a fine try.

Defeat against injury-hit Wales was one that perhaps got away for Fiji, who dominated the scrums in an epic battle in Cardiff, scored one of the tries of the tournament through Niki Goneva but still lost 23-13.

“I am really pleased with the way we have played in terms of the effort the players have put into the three games. It is a credit to everyone involved, albeit frustrating that we haven’t got a result in at least one of those matches,” McKee said.

“We came here with high ambitions and wanted to get one or two scalps in the first three games. But that doesn’t take away from this last game on Tuesday against Uruguay.

“They are a very tricky opponent and we will need to be at our best to beat them.”

One sour note for Fiji came with prop Manasa Saulo’s 10-week ban on Sunday for stamping on Wales lock Luke Charteris.

Uruguay’s predominantly amateur team, beaten 54-9 by Wales and 65-3 by Australia, got a glimpse of what to expect from the unpredictable Pacific Islanders when they lost 42-22 to a Fijian XV in a non-capped international in Montevideo in June.

“They don’t have a game plan, it is a disorderly team. Playing against a disorderly team often means that you end up disorderly too,” Uruguay back-row forward Agustin Alonso said.

Fiji: 1-Campese Ma’afu, 2-Sunia Koto, 3-Leroy Atalifo, 4-Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 5-Leone Nakarawa, 6-Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 7-Akapusi Qera (captain), 8-Sakiusa Matadigo; 9-Nemia Kenatale,

10-Ben Volavola, 11-Nemani Nadolo, 12-Lepani Botia, 13-Vereniki Goneva, 14-Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 15-Kini Murimurivalu

Replacements: 16-Wiliame Veikoso, 17-Peni Ravai, 18-Taniela Koroi, 19-Tevita Cavubati, 20-Netani Talei, 21-Henry Seniloli,

22-Josh Matavesi, 23-Timoci Nagusa

Uruguay: 1-Alejo Corral, 2-Carlos Arboleya, 3-Mario Sagario, 4-Santiago Vilaseca (captain), 5-Jorge Zerbino, 6-Juan Manuel Gaminara, 7-Matias Beer, 8-Alejandro Nieto; 9-Agustin Ormaechea

10-Alejo Duran, 11-Rodrigo Silva, 12-Andres Vilaseca, 13-Joaquin Prada, 14-Santiago Gibernau, 15- Gaston Mieres

Replacements: 16-German Kessler, 17-Oscar Duran, 18-Mateo Sanguinetti, 19-Mathias Palomeque, 20-Franco Lamanna, 21-Juan De Freitas, 22-Jeronimo Etcheverry, 23-Francisco Bulanti

(Editing by David Goodman)

Cowboys’ Feldt the unlikely GF hero

North Queensland’s unlikely grand final hero, Kyle Feldt, knew before anyone else that Brisbane halfback Ben Hunt was going to drop his golden point kickoff.

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Minutes after the Cowboys winger had levelled the match with an extraordinary try on the full-time siren, Hunt grassed Feldt’s spiral restart to the extra period, gifting skipper Johnathan Thurston the match-winning field goal four tackles later.

The 23-year-old revealed he had spent hours working on perfecting what has now become both his trademark kickoff, and a significant turning point in the club’s historic first premiership.

“I do about 30 kickoffs during the week, just practising the kickoff to get that nice spiral I got in the end there,” he said.

“As soon as I hit that one I had a feeling it would be hard to catch. With the wind blowing in my face, it just held up a bit more for him.”

It was a fairytale finish for the Townsville junior, who had struggled to make any genuine impact in the match until the final minute of the match.

He then fumbled a standard Hunt kick that gave Brisbane a precious repeat set on the Cowboys line late in the second half.

Another Brisbane try would’ve sealed the seventh premiership for the club.

“I felt dirty I had let my team down,” Feldt said.

“(But) a lot of the boys just came over and said ‘Look, we’re going to make up for it for you’.

“I just thought to myself ‘All right then, I’m going to give it my all’.

“That was about eight minutes to go, and then we ended up scoring a try in the corner.

“The rest is history.”

The dramatic win will also erase Feldt’s under-20s grand final heartache of 2011, when he missed a relatively easy game-winning conversion after the buzzer and then watched the Warriors slot a premiership-deciding field goal in golden point.

But despite the eerily similar circumstances of Sunday’s decider, Feldt said he couldn’t even recall the haunting memories of that day.

“I got a bloody NRL ring on my finger now,” he said.

“I don’t even remember what happened that day. This feeling here is the best feeling in my life and I’ll remember it forever.”

Many new species discovered

A monkey which sneezes in the rain and a “walking” fish are among more than 200 new species discovered in the Eastern Himalayas in recent years.

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A report on wildlife in Nepal, Bhutan, the far north of Burma, southern Tibet and north-eastern India has revealed discoveries in the past five years including 133 plants, 26 species of fish, 10 new amphibians, one reptile, one bird and one mammal.

The discoveries include a new bird named the spotted wren-babbler, a striking blue-eyed frog and a lance-headed pit viper snake with an ornate yellow, red and orange pattern that could pass for a piece of jewellery, conservation organisation WWF said.

And scientists learned of the snub-nosed monkey – or “Snubby” as they nicknamed the species – from locals in the remote forests of northern Burma, who said it was easy to find when it was raining because it often got rainwater in its upturned nose, causing it to sneeze.

To avoid the problem, snub-nosed monkeys spend rainy days sitting with their heads tucked between their knees, the report said.

Among the new fish found is a vibrant blue dwarf “walking” snakehead fish, found in West Bengal, India, which breathes air, can survive on land for up to four days and can writhe and wriggle nearly half a kilometre over wet ground between bodies of water.

But the report also warns of the threats facing the newly-discovered species, with just a quarter of the original habitats in the region still intact and hundreds of plants and animals living in the Eastern Himalayas considered to be globally threatened.

Climate change is the most serious threat to the region, while population growth, deforestation, poaching, mining, overgrazing, the wildlife trade, pollution and development of hydroelectric dams are all putting pressure on nature in the Eastern Himalayas.

Heather Sohl, WWF-UK’s chief adviser of species, said: “These discoveries show that there is still a huge amount to learn about the species that share our world.

“It is a stark reminder that if we don’t act now to protect these fragile ecosystems, untold natural riches could be lost forever

Cat and dog populations on the decline

It’s raining cats and dogs no more according to new research.

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Australia’s passion for pet ownership is slipping, according to new research that shows the population of four-legged friends is in steep decline.

In the 12 months to December 2014, cat numbers nationwide fell by 200,000 and dog numbers by 100,000, research commissioned by a pet care company and released on Monday shows.

Despite the published benefits of pet ownership, including fitness for dog owners and greater self-esteem, it seems social issues are standing in the way of Australians adopting a canine or feline family member.

“This new data is an early warning that pet populations will decline further unless we address some of the factors affecting the pet ownership decision – for example, with more people renting we should look at encouraging more pet-friendly properties,” researcher Tim McCallum said.

“There is still time to turn this situation around, but we can’t take pet ownership in Australia for granted or lose sight of the enormous value pets bring to our lives.”

Tasmania was the aberration among the findings, where both cat and dog ownership showed a small increase during 2014.

South Australia and Western Australia both showed an increase in dog ownership.

New South Wales boasts the highest populations of cats and dogs, with 642,000 and 1,304,000 respectively.

Like Australia’s human population, Mr McCallum said the nation’s pet population is ageing.

CHANGES IN AUSTRALIAN CAT AND DOG POPULATIONS (2014)

STATE DOG CAT

NSW -1.2% -7.9%

VIC -11.1% -14.2%

QLD -4.3% -11.6%

SA 9.6% -5.1%

WA 6.4% -15.8%

TAS 4.0% 3.0%

TOTAL -2.9% -11.0%

SOURCE: Mars Petcare Australia

Wyatt’s ministry positions offers Indigenous new hope

The elevation of Ken Wyatt to assistant health minister has prompted calls for better paths to ensuring greater representation of Indigenous Australians in parliament.

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Australia’s first federal Indigenous frontbencher, Ken Wyatt, admits there was a time he never thought an Indigenous Australian would rise to the ministry.

Describing the experience as surreal, he acknowledges the symbolism of his promotion in Malcolm Turnbull’s new Coalition government.

But he says there will be a practical impact, too.

Before entering politics, Mr Wyatt was director of Aboriginal health within both the New South Wales and West Australian health departments.

He has told NITV News he hopes to take that experience of working with and for Indigenous communities to his new role as assistant health minister.

“I found that, when you sat with them and worked through the issues, they had practical solutions and committed to them. I would just like to see more of that being done across the nation. Every single Member should get out into their electorate and meet with Aboriginal communities and organisations and get time to understand what are the gaps within their own electorates. Because, when you understand what a gap is, then you tend to come back and fight for the change, or fight for resources.”

Ken Wyatt’s nephew, West Australian Labor M-P Ben Wyatt, says his uncle’s rise to assistant minister is a significant development.

“Not just is he more than competent to fulfil that role of assistant minister, but he does give, if you like, a broader inspiration to Aboriginal people considering getting into elected politics at whatever level of government. And what Ken has shown is that, regardless of who you are, if you’re competent and persevere, you can, indeed, reach the significant heights of senior people in government. And I’m delighted for Ken.”

Ben Wyatt says the fact it has taken until 2015 to get Australia’s first federal Indigenous frontbencher shows there is much more work to be done.

“I think, ultimately, the mainstream political parties have, for a long time, been unable to attract Aboriginal people into their structures and, therefore, into parliaments and encourage them to pursue frontbench positions. I’d like to think the parties are getting better at it, but we still have very small numbers when you consider the size of the population of Aboriginal people entering the parliament, whether it be state or federal, and that’s the reality.”

The first Indigenous woman elected to the New South Wales parliament says too many Indigenous leaders fail to advance in politics because of the preselection process.

But deputy state Labor leader Linda Burney says she sees hope for change.

“There are, you know, some fabulous Aboriginal people interested in politics who have stood in many seats for all parties, but they were not seats that were winnable for that party. And with the resolution at Labor’s national conference down in Melbourne recently, hopefully that will change for the Labor Party. I mean the Liberals have this sort of idea, particularly when it comes to women — I’m not sure about when it comes to preselecting Aboriginal people — that it all has to be on merit. Well, I agree that merit’s important, but, when there is such a dearth of Aboriginal people across the political spectrum, then special measures need to be put in place. And one of those is making sure that the preselection processes recognise that there is a responsibility on all major parties to preselect Aboriginal people into winnable seats.”

James Cook University doctoral candidate Michelle Deshong has spent four years researching the barriers and enablers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander political participation.

She says the barriers facing Indigenous Australians stretch back through history as voting rights for some came and went over the years.

She says there are number of lessons to be learnt now from Ken Wyatt’s elevation.

“One of the things that was really significant, particularly in the (West Australian) seat of Hasluck, was, when Ken was elected (in 2010), there were actually three Aboriginal people standing at the same time. Therefore, there was probably a higher likelihood of getting an Indigenous Member. But some of that also comes from having a bit of a strategy — obviously, Ken’s position in the party and some of the work that goes on behind the scenes in party politics around preselections, about getting the party’s support. Even things like fundraising and campaigning, I mean, obviously, those are skills and areas that people need to develop in.”

With 226 Members in parliament, and Indigenous Australians accounting for three per cent of the population, proportional representation would mean at least six Indigenous federal MPs.

At the moment, there are three — the Liberal Ken Wyatt, Labor senator Nova Peris and Liberal senator Joanna Lindgren.

 

Services sector give jobs market a boost

The jobs market is being boosted by the falling dollar and the housing boom.

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The number of job advertisements on the internet and in newspapers jumped 3.9 per cent in September, building on the 1.3 per cent gain made in August, seasonally adjusted, figures from ANZ show.

Job ads in the 12 months to September were up 12.8 per cent.

ANZ chief economist Warren Hogan said while many non mining companies are reluctant to hire, demand for labour in a range of service industries has strengthened.

“Activity in these industries has been supported by the sharp depreciation of the Australian dollar, which has redirected spending back towards the domestic economy, and by low interest rates, particularly through robust housing market activity and its flow on effects,” he said.

“Hiring in the services sector also looks to have displayed some catch up over the past year or so following unusually weak outcomes.”

The strength of the services sector was backed up by other data out on Monday which showed that services sector is enjoying its longest period of expansion in seven years.

The Australian Industry Group’s Performance of Services Index (PSI) fell 3.4 points to 52.3 points in September, but still managed to stay above 50, showing that activity is rising at a slower pace.

Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox said local tourism, retail and consumer services are benefiting from the lower exchange rate.

“Still-buoyant housing market activity is clearly a factor in the growth of some sub-sectors and there is some early evidence that changes in the political environment may have supported consumer confidence and sales,” he said.

ANZ’s Mr Hogan expects activity in the non mining parts of the economy to remain solid in the coming month but expects it to fade heading into 2016.

“For this reason, we expect employment growth to remain reasonably healthy over the remainder of 2015 but to then soften next year,” he said.

“This is likely to prompt the Reserve Bank to provide a little more monetary policy support to prevent the unemployment rate from rising further.”

Almost two weeks ago, ANZ was the first of the major banks to forecast an interest rate cut by the RBA, saying the boost to the domestic economy from housing construction and the lower Australian dollar will wane.

ANZ is predicting a quarter of a percentage point cut in February and another in May, which would take the cash rate down to 1.5 per cent.

MSF demands international investigation of Afghan hospital bombing

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

The international medical agency Medecins Sans Frontiers says it hopes to return to northern Afghanistan following an air attack on its hospital that killed both staff and patients.

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MSF has condemned the bombing in Kunduz as a war crime and is demanding an independent international investigation into the event.

As Kristina Kukolja reports, MSF is withdrawing its surviving workers from the city, leaving civilians in the war-ravaged region without access to critical medical care.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

Medecins Sans Frontiers says children were among the more than 20 people killed when a hospital run by its staff in Kunduz came under repeated aerial bombardment.

The medical agency has condemned the attack, believed to be by United States forces, calling it a war crime and a grave breach of international humanitarian law.

The US government is promising a full investigation.

But MSF General Director Christopher Stokes says that is not enough, and it wants an independent and transparent international inquiry to establish the course of events.

He has told the Russian news agency Sputnik, MSF cannot accept a US army statement that a strike at Taliban targets in the vicinity may have caused what it termed “collateral damage”.

“We completely condemn this view that, somehow, this was, perhaps, collateral damage. Collateral damage suggests that one bomb, the shrapnel, hit the wrong target. But, this was a repeated strike against a clearly identifed hospital. We had sent the exact coordinates of the hospital to all the warring parties, both the Afghan opposition and also the Afghan government and the American forces.”

Despite that, MSF says, the bombing went on for over an hour, leaving the medical facility no longer functional and forcing patients and staff to evacuate.

Under international humanitarian law, hospitals are among protected civilian sites during armed conflict.

And the United Nations-backed International Criminal Court in The Hague, with jurisdiction over war crimes, lists intentionally directing attacks against hospitals as a prohibited act.

The world body, itself, has acknowledged the incident may constitute such a violation.

Christopher Stokes says MSF staff undertook all necessary measures in notifying the warring sides of the hospital’s location.

“We work in a number of conflict settings, and we’ve done so for a long time, and experiences show that you have to identify your building quite clearly, you have to inform all parties to the conflict, and you must make sure to guarantee the safety and security of your patients. We did everything that we were supposed to do, but those were not enough to prevent this attack.”

As residents of Kunduz inspect the damage caused by the latest fighting, there are warnings of a dire humanitarian situation in the city.

Hospitals are short on doctors and medical supplies, and food is reportedly running out.

MSF says its centre was the only one of its kind in northern Afghanistan providing free high-level trauma care.

It has also denied claims from Afghan government officials that Taliban fighters were firing weapons from inside the buildings at the time of the attack.

The province of Kunduz is a former Taliban stronghold and has recently been the site of the most significant Taliban gains since the United States drove the group from power.

Coalition forces are backing the Afghan military from the air in a bid to push back against its advances.

President Ashraf Ghani, meanwhile, has faced heavy criticism over the Afghan government’s allegedly inadequate response to the Taliban resurgence.

In Kabul, a member of parliament, Fatima Aziz, says President Ghani should be held responsible for the suffering in Kunduz.

(Translated)”I want to say clearly and without any fear that the presidential palace was behind the fall of Kunduz city to the Taliban. Right now, as I am talking with you, the dead bodies of my people are rotting in the streets of Kunduz. A resident of Kunduz phoned me and said he has buried a member of his family inside the yard of his house, and they were saying that they will die because of hunger. I don’t know what President Ashraf Ghani wants, but it is better for him that he apologises to the residents of Kunduz.”

MSF says, at the time of the attack, there were more than a hundred patients and their caretakers in the hospital, along with more than 80 international and national staff.