Rugby action at Kampala’s international Kyadondo ground. PHOTOS MEDIAPROSome players have endured extraordinary conditions in far-flung outposts of the rugby world — Morocco, Nigeria, Uganda. “They played on a pitch one day with electric cables running straight down the middle. The ref said if it hits the cable, we’ll put down a scrum.”Tokyo, Japan | AFP | Siua Maile was working as a roofer in Christchurch when he got a call from Tonga’s national rugby team: they needed a hooker. Three weeks later, he was playing against the All Blacks.Maile is one of dozens of soldiers, accountants, students and even vets that are not full-time professionals at the Rugby World Cup — harking back to the game’s cherished amateur origins.Samoan flanker Chris Vui is a painter. Fiji’s number eight Viliame Mata was working as a joiner before being spotted by the country’s sevens coach and winning Olympic gold in 2016. Teammate Mosese Voka is a fireman, while Namibia’s PJ van Lill is a dentist.The lower-ranked teams are dotted with players who have to earn their crust off the field, with many of them making significant financial sacrifices to feature in Japan — a far cry from the comfortable salaries enjoyed by the richer nations.“I would say 15 to 20 players made themselves unavailable. We can’t pay our players much,” coach Toutai Kefu told Britain’s Daily Mail, revealing they are paid “about $600 per week” during the tournament.Assistant coach Dan Cron revealed that they discovered Maile via Facebook.“I know that sounds funny, but it’s much what it is,” he told local media in New Zealand. “We had a hooking crisis when we were in Tonga and we had to find one.”“He met us when we landed at Auckland Airport, but no one knew what he looked like.”Thrown into the deep end during Tonga’s 92-7 obliteration at the hands of World Champions the All Blacks, the new dad did enough to win a place on the plane to Japan.– ‘Pay to play’ –It’s not just the poor Pacific Island nations that have to make do on a shoestring. During a Japanese national team tour to England, it emerged the amateur players were getting a daily allowance of just 2,000 yen ($19).Uruguay fly-half Felipe Berchesi is one of the lucky ones, with a professional contract in France for Dax, but he says that some of his amateur teammates struggle.“You have to be crazy to play rugby in Uruguay. You have to really want to play. They are mad,” Berchesi told AFP.“You have to pay to play here. They train in the evenings or morning, after or before work,” he added.Matchday appearance fees allow some of the players to spend a bit less time at work and more time playing, but many players still face a battle to make ends meet, he said.“Our federation is not very rich. We make do with the resources we have,” said Berchesi, with rugby massively outgunned by football in a country that worships the likes of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.Ugandan players try to stop a Namibian player in recent action.The Namibia team that put up a brave fight against Six Nations side Italy, even taking the lead, have only a handful of professional players.“We’ve trained in the morning and at night and their recovery sessions have been in their lunch break for some of them,” said defence coach Dale McIntosh.McIntosh said some of his players have endured extraordinary conditions in far-flung outposts of the rugby world — Morocco, Nigeria, Uganda.“They played on a pitch one day with electric cables running straight down the middle. The ref said if it hits the cable, we’ll put down a scrum.“I’ve never heard of that. No one has heard of that.”Share on: WhatsApp
Pittsburgh Pirates’ Gregory Polanco waits his turn to hit against live pitching during the team’s baseball spring training workout in Bradenton, Fla., Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) – Outfielder Gregory Polanco, considered the Pittsburgh Pirates’ top prospect, was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis on Friday along with right-handed reliever Duke Welker.Polanco hit .273 (6-for-22) with two doubles and one home run this spring. Last season, he batted a combined .285 with 12 homers and 38 stolen bases in 127 games with Indianapolis, Double-A Altoona and Class A Bradenton.Welker struggled throughout the exhibition season, giving up six runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings for a 10.13 ERA. He walked five and struck out four. He made his major league debut last season with a pair of relief appearances.The Pirates have 51 players remaining in camp.
SAN DIEGO (AP) — With nothing to gain, Tiger Woods was happy to take whatever victory he could find at Torrey Pines. Tiger Woods waits to hit his tee shot on the 11th hole of the South Course at Torrey Pines Golf Course during the final round of the Farmers Insurance golf tournament Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull) His goal Sunday in the Farmers Insurance Open, where he started the final round 13 shots behind, was to reach double digits under par. Woods birdied his last two holes for a 31 on the front nine of the South Course and finished at 10-under par.“Got to have these little goals when I’m not in contention to win a tournament,” Woods said. “Still something positive to end the week on.”Another tiny victory: It was the first time since 2008 that Woods broke par all four rounds at Torrey Pines.Woods closed with a 5-under 67 and tied for 20th.It was never going to be enough to catch Justin Rose, though Woods believes he got enough out of the week to feel reasonably well about the start of his year.“I feel like I knocked some rust off, which was great this week,” Woods said. “Figured a few things out as the week was going along. I just felt like I got better each and every day. My rounds got cleaner, and that’s what I want to have happen. I’ll be ready in a couple weeks.”His performance at a tournament he has won seven times was about the same as last year, when he shot 72 in the final round on a much tougher South course and tied for 23rd, never a threat to the win the tournament but picking up spots on the leaderboard.The difference was his outlook the rest of the year.He was just returning to the PGA Tour from his fourth back surgery last year, and Woods says he wasn’t sure how his back was going to hold up the early part of the year until he made it to Florida without any physical issues.While he conceded to some tournament rust — this was only his second event since he won the Tour Championship on Sept. 23 — Woods says there is far less uncertainty about what he expects out of his game.“Finishing the year the way I did, hitting it like I did was great because I finally built it to a place where I can take a little time off and I know what I’ll have when I come back,” Woods said. “I don’t have to go looking, searching for something. So that helps a lot.”Woods was stuck in neutral for much of the day after starting on No. 10. And then he made a pair of 12-foot birdie putts early on the front nine, saved par with a 10-foot putt on No. 4 and hit it tight on No. 5 for another birdie. After a three-putt par on the par-5 sixth, Woods closed with two birdies for his 67, his best score on the South course at Torrey since a 66 on Saturday in 2008, when he won this PGA Tour event by eight shots.The biggest question about Woods was the color of his Sunday shirt, which up close was red-and-white stripes, but with enough tiny streaks in the red that from a distance it appeared to be pink.So, was it pink or red?“Yeah,” Woods said with a smile.He now heads home to Florida for two weeks before returning at Riviera for the Genesis Open, where last year he missed the cut.