Abbott, Hollande meet in Paris

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has rounded out his visit to France by holding wide-ranging talks with the nation’s President Francois Hollande in Paris.

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The pair held their first official meeting at the Elysee Palace on Saturday before Mr Abbott departs for Canada and the US on Sunday morning.

Mr Hollande took the opportunity to express his nation’s “deep appreciation” for Australia’s sacrifices in defending France during two world wars, while a range of global and regional issues were covered.

Security was high on the agenda, with Mr Hollande briefing Mr Abbott on recent high-level diplomacy regarding the situation in Ukraine.

They discussed developments in the South China Sea and agreed on the importance of close intelligence and security co-operation in responding to the threat posed by fighters returning from Syria.

The pair also spoke about the G20 summit in November, when Mr Hollande will become the first French president to visit Australia.

Earlier on Saturday, Mr Abbott travelled to the Western Front, visiting World War I memorials at Villers-Bretonneux, Pozieres and Thiepval.

He spoke at a morning tea held at the historic Victoria School in Villers-Bretonneux, telling locals and officials he wanted to elevate the Western Front – where 46,000 Australians died – to the same cultural status as Anzac Cove in Turkey.

“No place on earth has been more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than these fields in France,” Mr Abbott said.

“Australians should be as familiar with the story of the Western Front as we are with Gallipoli.”

Mr Abbott will attend a Sunday Mass at Paris’ famed Notre Dame cathedral before boarding a flight to Ottawa.

There he will lead a delegation of Australian business people and meet Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper before travelling to the US.

Mr Abbott will meet with US President Barack Obama but the American leg of his tour has been shrouded in controversy with Labor blasting him for cancelling meetings with some top finance officials.

The prime minister has locked in meetings with key US economic policy makers including Reserve Bank governor Janet Yellen and US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

However, planned talks with International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde and World Bank president Jim Yong Kim remain in doubt due to a busy schedule, his advisors said.

Mr Abbott is also expected to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and up and coming politicians from both the Republicans and Democrats.

Australia’s men into hockey semi-finals

Australia’s men swept into the hockey World Cup semi-finals with a 5-0 drubbing of England in The Netherlands on Saturday.

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But the previously undefeated Hockeyroos lost to the home side 2-0 in women’s Group A play.

New Zealand’s women beat Japan 4-1 and will meet Australia on Monday to determine who goes through to the semi-finals with the Dutch.

In the Australian men’s match, Matt Gohdes’ strike inside the opening 30 seconds set the tone for a feast in a first half that finished with Kieran Govers scoring one of the goals of the tournament, knocking a Mark Knowles’ aerial pass into the net with just one second of the half remaining.

In between, two of Australia’s most decorated players – Athens Olympic gold medallists Liam De Young and Jamie Dwyer – showed their enduring talent; De Young knocking home a penalty corner rebound and Dwyer finishing from close range after Jake Whetton’s unselfish pass across goal.

Aran Zalewski’s surging run through the heart of the English defence just three minutes after the re-start made it 5-0, the result taking the undefeated Kookaburras to 12 points with one pool match remaining.

Their nearest challengers Belgium are three points behind after beating Spain 5-2 with England a further two back on seven.

India collected their first win with a 3-2 victory over Malaysia.

England and Belgium meet on Monday to fight for the other semi-final position from Pool A while the Kookaburras play India the same day.

“When I came to the ground I would have been happy with a draw because that was enough for us to qualify for the main games,” said coach Ric Charlesworth.

“We now have the opportunity of a long break before the semi-final but the next game [against India] is important for us to play well again and start preparing for what will be a semi-final next Friday.”

With Pool B a day behind, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Argentina and Germany are all still in the running to progress to the final four from the other half of the draw.

In the women’s Pool A, The Netherlands improved to 4-0-0 for 12 points and a spot in the semis, while Australia remain second after their first defeat.

“In international hockey … you have to take your chances. Unfortunately, we didn’t take ours tonight and the Dutch were able to take theirs and they were very well taken at that, as well,” said Hockeyroos coach Adam Commens.

Third on seven points are the South Koreans, who blasted Belgium 4-2 while New Zealand enjoyed a 4-1 victory over Japan to improve to 2-0-2 and six points.

New Zealand will take on Australia on Monday knowing they could advance to the semi-finals with a win and a loss by South Korea, who face the Netherlands.

Boks hammer World XV 47-13

South Africa survived an early scare to begin their international rugby season with a thumping 47-13 win against a World XV in Cape Town on Saturday.

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A pair of tries from hooker Bismarck du Plessis helped the Springboks see off a star-strewn side.

From the kick-off the World XV — which included All Black legend Carl Hayman and European player of the year Steffon Armitage — quickly disabused any notion that they were at Newlands to make up the numbers.

They challenged the first South African line-out, unperturbed by the presence of reunited veterans Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield, each at two metres tall and with almost 200 Tests between them.

Matfield, 37, was making his return to the international game three years after retiring and was named interim captain in Jean de Villiers’s absence.

The World XV hit the early rucks at ferocious speed and put a startled Boks team on the back foot.

When they were awarded a penalty in the third minute, well within kicking distance, Rory Kockott — an uncapped South African who plays club rugby for Castres in the French Top 14 and will soon be eligible to play for Les Bleus — elected to put it to the corner.

A few bruising phases later the World XV’s ex-Bok lock Alistair Hargreaves spun out of a tackle and managed to ground the ball for the first try of the game.

But as the game progressed the Springboks hit their stride.

“The first half was a little bit difficult,” admitted Springbok man-of-the-match Botha, his side having led by just 18-13 at the break.

“As a Springbok side we were just happy we could get back to structure in the second half.”

Despite the early pressure, the Springboks got their break when a badly fielded box kick allowed them to counter ruck and win possession deep in World XV territory.

With the World XV defence struggling to reorganise the ball went through hands, including a delectable through the legs pass by JP Pietersen, eventually reaching Springbok all-time leading try scorer Bryan Habana who ran it in the corner.

Morne Steyn shanked the conversion wide but the Boks had the lead for the first time, 8-7.

But under severe pressure the Springbok scrum conceded a penalty which was slotted over by James O’Connor, the bad boy of Australian rugby who has refound his head and form at London Irish in the English Premiership.

Then followed some lovely open field running from Habana and eloquent passing between Willie Le Roux, Matfield and Habana, who served up an overhead pass to Botha who slid in over the line.

The sides traded penalties. But trailing 21-13 and with the Springboks gaining momentum the World XV were dealt blow when Georgian flanker Mamuka Gorgodze was shown a yellow card for a ruck infringement.

From that South Africa were able to forge a driving maul with Bismarck du Plessis setting the ball down for his first try. Steyn missed the conversion but the game was effectively beyond reach.

Du Plessis repeated his driving maul manoeuver with 10 minutes to go, with Steyn this time kicking the conversion to make it 33-13.

Two late tries from Johan Goosen and Le Roux sealed the game, the World XV’s replacement scrum-half Jimmy Cowan lucky to escape with only a yellow card late on after seeming to aim some stamps at Duane Vermeulen’s head.

The Springboks will face Wales in two-Test series beginning next weekend.

Rosberg on pole in Canada, Ricciardo sixth

Formula One championship leader Nico Rosberg grabbed pole position for Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix ahead of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.

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Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel qualified third fastest on Saturday, getting the better of young Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo who starts from sixth on the grid.

Two weeks after his controversial pole at the Monaco Grand Prix, Rosberg drove with flawless control to edge beyond his team-mate and nearest title rival by just 0.079 seconds.

The 28-year-old German secured his second successive pole, his third this year and the seventh of his career with a best lap time of one minute and 14.874 seconds.

It was his third pole performance this year and came at a track where Hamilton has always shone and previously claimed three poles. It was also the Mercedes team’s fourth front row lockout this year.

“I know it’s a track where Lewis is really strong,” said Rosberg.

“I’m very happy it worked out. It has been a fantastic day and through the weekend we have been progressing all the time and I’m in the best position for tomorrow so I am very happy.”

Asked how he achieved his success against Hamilton on one of the Briton’s favourite tracks, he added: “It’s just working at it all the time, looking at the data, working with engineers and trying to understand areas where I can do better. It’s just a process and I’m glad it’s worked out.”

Hamilton said: “Nico did a fantastic job so congratulations to him. It was not a particularly bad lap, it just wasn’t the greatest qualifying – sometimes you have a good qualifying, sometimes you have bad one.

“But it’s a great to get a one-two for the team and a fantastic performance. Let’s hope we can make history tomorrow.”

Germany’s Vettel bounced back from an inconsistent weekend to grab third place ahead of Finn Valtteri Bottas and his Williams teammate Felipe Massa of Brazil.

“We’re fighting a very big gap, and it’s difficult to close it in one round,” Vettel said.

“We’re not tickling all the right spots yet.”

Hewitt leads Aussie charge at Queen’s

Queen’s Club typically brings out the best in Lleyton Hewitt and the Australian veteran will look to give his Wimbledon preparations a boost with another strong showing this week.

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The 33-year-old heads a healthy Australian contingent at the prestigious men’s grass court tournament in London, starting on Monday, with Bernard Tomic and Marinko Matosevic also lining up.

A four-time champion at the prestigious ATP event – including winning three straight titles between 2000 and 2002 – Hewitt made an impressive run to the semi-finals last year.

He beat third seed Juan Martin del Potro in the quarter-finals before falling to Croatian Marin Cilic, setting the Australian up for a first-round upset win of Swiss star Stanislas Wawrinka at Wimbledon.

Australian Open champion Wawrinka is the top seed this year in a strong Queen’s field that also includes Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

World No.46 Hewitt will open his campaign against Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver and he’ll also play in doubles alongside Chris Guccione.

The veteran wasn’t overly concerned by a first-round loss at last month’s French Open, feeling like he is fully fit and hitting the ball well.

“The grass, preparing for Wimbledon, and then obviously the US hard courts leading into the US Open is where I’d like to play my best tennis,” Hewitt said.

Tomic, looking to rebound from a heavy first-round defeat at Roland Garros as he continues to recovery from hip surgery, drew American Tim Smyczek while Matosevic landed a tough first-round assignment against 2012 champion Cilic.

Meanwhile, Australia’s women will also ramp up their Wimbledon build-up this week with Samantha Stosur and Casey Dellacqua competing on grass in Birmingham.

Stosur, who reached the fourth round of the French Open before falling to eventual champion Maria Sharapova, has a first-round bye as the second seed behind Ana Ivanovic while Dellacqua faces Urszula Radwanska in the first round.

Brisbane claim shock AFL win over Bulldogs

Disappointed coach Brendan McCartney is ruing a horror patch which saw the Western Bulldogs slump to a shock eight-point home loss to Brisbane.

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The Lions’ second win on the trot saw them climb off the bottom of the AFL table and above St Kilda and Greater Western Sydney.

With “the three amigos” of Josh Green, Lewis Taylor and Dayne Zorko running riot in the midfield, the Lions outscored the Bulldogs by nine goals to three in a dominant period stretching from late in the first term until halftime.

The Bulldogs did kick four of the last five goals of Saturday night’s match against the flagging young Brisbane outfit, but McCartney acknowledged that was too little, too late.

“There were periods in the game tonight where all the areas of our game weren’t up to scratch,” he said.

“Because of that, as a football club we missed a great opportunity to take another step forward.

“And because of that we end up with another loss under 10 points that we deserved.

“The development that hasn’t taken place is to not let a horror five minutes become a horror 25 minutes.

” … in the end we weren’t good enough for 40 minutes and we’ve got to accept responsibility for that – I take responsibility for it.

“We’re disappointed in how we played tonight, we’re disappointed as a footy club.

“It was a similar tale to most weeks, unfortunately for us.”

Brisbane coach Justin Leppitsch was thrilled with the contribution of third-string ruckman Stefan Martin, playing his first senior game of the year.

Standing in for injured duo Matthew Leuenberger and Trent West, the former Demon had the best of his duel with last year’s All-Australian ruckman Will Minson.

“He was terrific,” said Leppitsch after the 14.11 (95) to 13.9 (87) win at Etihad Stadium.

“Both of the boys we brought in, Stef and Rohan Bewick, were probably our best two players in the end.”

The Lions will now take the unfamiliar tag of favourites into next weekend’s home clash with Giants.

“That’s a whole new pressure,” said the first-year coach.

“We have to handle this well and you can’t get ahead of yourselves.”

The Bulldogs must regroup ahead of a tough encounter against premiership contenders Collingwood.

Ireland begin life after O’Driscoll with Argentina win

After O’Driscoll finally called time on his a storied career, Ulster’s Darren Cave got the first shot at filling the number 13 jersey and stated his intentions with an early break, but the visitors had just two Sexton penalties to show for the bulk of the play.

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Argentina, who chose to reserve their elite overseas-based players ahead of the upcoming Rugby Championship, looked more threatening in possession and cut the Irish defence into pieces on the half hour to pull in front.

Flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez, one of a handful of experienced starters, broke through the centre before finding the imposing Montero, who brushed Sexton aside with ease to superbly finish in the corner for his 12th try in 11 internationals.

Sanchez added the tricky conversion but Ireland, playing with an extra man after Benjamin Macome was sent to the sin bin, replied immediately to retake the lead as Henry emerged with the ball following a furious drive over the try line.

Ireland had a second try two minutes after the break. The impressive debutant Robbie Diack robbed a lineout, back row partner Jordi Murphy streamrollered his way through the middle and Sexton created some space before blasting his way over.

It was the Racing Metro flyhalf’s fifth try in his last three internationals and, after weathering some more pressure from the home side, Sexton finally got an easy conversion after wing Trimble intercepted on the halfway line to run clear.

Ireland, who were also without a number of the first choice players and for whom lock Iain Henderson impressed greatly, added a couple more penalties through replacement Ian Madigan before Tomas De la Vega got a late and deserved consolation try.

(Writing by Padraic Halpin in Dublin, editing by Mitch Phillips)

US poet Maya Angelou remembered

Former President Bill Clinton has remembered poet, orator and sage Maya Angelou as a woman who seemed to have lived five lifetimes in one, with a sweeping experience that defined modern America.

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Family, friends and famous admirers led by Clinton, first lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey gathered in a chapel at Wake Forest University on Saturday to remember Angelou, one of the 20th century’s most famous black writers.

She died on May 28 aged 86 after a remarkable life with important roles in civil rights and the arts.

“We could just all be up here talking about how Maya Angelou represented a big piece of American history, and triumphed over adversity, and proved how dumb racism is,” Clinton said at the private memorial service.

Tall and majestic, Angelou added heft to her spoken words with a deep and sonorous voice, describing herself as a poet in love with “the music of language”.

She recited the most popular presidential inaugural poem in history, On the Pulse of Morning, when Clinton opened his first term in 1993, and became a mentor to Winfrey before she became a talk show host.

Clinton remembered that voice, and how Angelou chose not to speak for five years after she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend as a child.

“She was without a voice for five years and then she developed he greatest voice on the planet. God loaned her His voice,” Clinton said.

Clinton compared Angelou to a firefly, who would light up at the most unexpected time, illuminating “something right before your nose you’ve been overlooking something in your mind you’ve been burying. Something in your heart you were afraid to face.”

Earlier, Angelou’s grandson Elliott Jones welcomed the audience by telling them they were celebrating “an amazing life – a life well-lived”.

Born into poverty and segregation, Angelou rose to become an accomplished actress, singer, dancer and writer. Although she never graduated from college, she taught for more than 30 years at the private North Carolina university, where she was regularly addressed as Dr Angelou.

Her magnetism also drew her into friendships with famous figures from Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela to Clinton and Winfrey.

Demons, Pies aim to heat up AFL rivalry

Collingwood hold no fear for Melbourne, as the two AFL clubs attempt to reignite a rivalry that has turned tepid in recent years.

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A crowd of 50,835 watched the sides square off at the MCG last year, the lowest attendance on Queen’s Birthday since the clash became a regular fixture in 2001.

It came five years after then chief executive Andrew Demetriou warned Melbourne’s supporters to turn up, otherwise the AFL would look at handing the date over to “other clubs who are desperate to have an event”.

With the Demons now the league’s feel-good story following a sudden resurgence under new coach Paul Roos, the club’s annual cash cow is expected to deliver a much greater return.

Roos spoke earlier in the week of how he was hoping to attract up to 80,000 to Australia’s most storied stadium.

Defender Colin Garland wants to play in front of the sort of large crowds the Magpies enjoy most rounds.

But Garland told AAP that was very much up to he and his teammates.

“And when it comes to Queen’s Birthday, we haven’t really held up our side of the bargain recently,” Garland said, referencing an average losing margin of 71 points in the past three encounters.

“Win, loss or draw I hope our supporters walk away saying ‘the guys looked good’.

“We know we’ll be up against it. They’re a top-four side in good form, but we don’t fear the ‘Pies.”

The Demons’ new-found defensive steel has underlined their improvement this season.

At the start of round 12 they were ranked sixth for fewest goals conceded, letting in an average of 11.2 a game.

In 2013, that number was 17.9 and they bettered only GWS.

Garland said an adherence to Roos’ non-negotiables – tackling, pressure and quick defensive transition – were partly responsible.

“It’s pretty clear. If you don’t do that, you don’t play,” he said.

But the 26-year-old added that time spent building “respect and relationships” during pre-season was just as important.

“The time we put in was pretty immense. Not just meetings and footy, but time off the field,” he said.

“We had more time around the club together. We talked a lot about leaving the past behind.

“In previous years we defended as a back six. Now we’re defending as 22 players.”

PM Abbott heads to Canada

Trade and investment will be on the agenda when Prime Minister Tony Abbott meets his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper in Ottawa.

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Mr Abbott will wrap up his visit to France with Sunday Mass at Notre Dame cathedral before heading to Canada.

He will be the first Australian leader to visit Ottawa since 2006.

The Abbott and Harper governments have much in common, treading cautiously on climate policy and having economies heavily reliant on the resources industry.

Climate protesters who gathered outside the parliament in Ottawa on Saturday were well aware of the Abbott government’s policy of scrapping the carbon tax and other climate programs.

Regulations on Canada’s largest oil and gas emitters have yet to be released, seven years after they were first discussed.

“Australia is on the frontline in terms of climate change,” Cool It for the Kids spokeswoman Gaye Taylor told AAP.

“You are facing worse bushfires and floods.”

One of the protesters from the group For Our Grandchildren told AAP: “Abbott and Harper are like Siamese twins when it comes to climate change. It’s tragic.”

The protesters sang a song by Australian composer Glyn Lehmann called “I am the earth”.

Mr Harper’s spokesman said the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a 12-nation deal to set up an Asia-Pacific free trade area – would be on the agenda, as well as security issues.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb, who will also be visiting Canada and the United States with a business delegation, told AAP he believed the TPP could be concluded by the end of 2015.

Mr Abbott finished the official part of his visit to France holding talks with President Francois Hollande.

Mr Hollande expressed his nation’s “deep appreciation” for Australia’s sacrifices in defending France during two world wars, while a range of global and regional issues were covered.

He briefed Mr Abbott on recent high-level diplomacy regarding the situation in Ukraine.

They discussed developments in the South China Sea and intelligence and security co-operation in responding to the threat posed by fighters returning from Syria.

The pair also spoke about the G20 summit in November, when Mr Hollande will become the first French president to visit Australia.

Earlier on Saturday, Mr Abbott travelled to the Western Front, visiting World War I memorials at Villers-Bretonneux, Pozieres and Thiepval.

Following his visit to Canada, Mr Abbott will travel to New York and Washington DC where he will meet with US President Barack Obama.

The prime minister will also meet with key US economic policy makers including Reserve Bank governor Janet Yellen and US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, as well as US Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and up and coming Republican and Democrat politicians.