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Forlan, symbol of Uruguay renaissance, quits national team

Forlan, who scored 36 goals in 112 matches for Uruguay during a 13-year international career that included three World Cups, announced his decision at a news conference in Japan where he plays for Cerezo Osaka.

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“It was a very difficult decision, having worn the Uruguay shirt for so many years, more than I could have dreamed of,” the 35-year-old said in the conference broadcast on his personal website (南宁夜网.diegoforlan广西桑拿,).

“I know it’s an opportune moment to retire from the ‘seleccion’. Lots of important things are coming up like the Copa America and the qualifiers for the next World Cup.

“I believe it’s important to make way for the new generations and this generational change that is going on in the national team,” said Forlan, who last played for Uruguay at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.

Forlan, son and grandson of former Uruguay internationals, reached his peak at the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa, where he was voted best player in FIFA poll.

Uruguay, world champions in 1930 and 1950, had enjoyed little international success since their semi-final place at the 1970 tournament in Mexico.

Forlan was the symbol of Uruguay’s revival under coach Oscar Washington Tabarez, also winning the Copa America in Argentina four years ago.

Uruguay will defend their Copa America title in Chile in the tournament starting on June 11.

Forlan joined Osaka last year, having played for Independiente, Manchester United, Villarreal, Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan and Internacional.

(Reporting by Esteban Farat; Writing by Rex Gowar in Buenos Aires; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

Arthur silent on Foran’s move to Eels

Parramatta coach Brad Arthur is more comfortable talking about the recruit that is rather than the big-name recruit that may be.

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While Danny Wicks prepares to play his first NRL game in five years following jail time, speculation is rife that Manly five-eighth Keiran Foran is close to confirming a four-year, $4.7 million deal this week to switch to NRL rivals the Eels from next season.

Arthur, a former assistant coach at Manly, admitted on Thursday he’s been in contact with Foran, but pressed by journalists over the reports Foran was on the verge of announcing the long-term deal, he had his poker face on.

“Nah, there’s nothing to tell,” said Arthur bluntly.

There’s no contract done?

“No.”

Don’t want to touch it?

“I don’t comment on recruitment unfortunately.”

Why not?

“It’s just my policy.”

Arthur was, conversely, happy to chat about former Newcastle forward Wicks, who will line up against Canterbury on Friday night after serving an 18-month jail term for drug trafficking.

“Danny will get his opportunity if he comes through training well today and we are looking forward to seeing how he goes,” Arthur said.

“He has trained really well through the off season and I am really excited to give him an opportunity to play.

“Danny is pretty much old school, very tough, good leg speed for a front rower but he is one of those blokes that you know the boys just want to play with.

“We will probably only give him 20 minutes just to get him through his first game.”

Wicks will take the place of Junior Paulo who was outed for nine weeks for a dangerous throw at the NRL judiciary on Wednesday night.

New boy Vettel plays down Ferrari hopes in Melbourne

The four-times world champion has joined Kimi Raikkonen at Formula One’s glamour team and has also something to prove after failing to win a race in his final season with Red Bull.

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Ferrari enjoyed a solid winter testing but constructors’ champions Mercedes set the benchmark and are tipped to carry their dominance into Sunday’s race at Albert Park.

“I didn’t try last year’s car but I think it’s a step forward,” Vettel told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday.

“In fact, compared to where I was last year, it really feels like a good car. I think people have been pushing on all fronts trying to improve and so far they’ve succeeded but equally we know we have work to do.

“I think it would be a bit too aggressive (to say that),” Vettel added, when asked whether Ferrari could beat Mercedes in Melbourne.

“I think we have to keep our feet on the ground. After winter testing it will be interesting to find out where we are, to find out where we are compared to other people. The most important is we have a solid start and work from there.

“We need to go step-by-step.”

Dressed in Ferrari red and sporting a new cropped haircut, the 27-year-old arrives at Albert Park as just one of the chasing pack, a new feeling after three consecutive years as defending champion with Red Bull.

Fitting into the Maranello way of doing things had been “fun”, said the German, but there was plenty more to learn.

“Every team has got it’s own way to operate and to work,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff I’ve had to get used to and still probably have to.

“I need to get to know the team better and the team to know me which will still probably take some time.”

Vettel has replaced twice world champion Fernando Alonso, now departed for McLaren, to join up with 2007 world champion Raikkonen, nicknamed ‘Ice Man’.

How the new pair interact will be closely watched at Melbourne and Vettel joked when asked whether he was friendly with the Finn.

“It depends on your understanding of friends,” he said.

“I don’t expect any difficulties on a personal level. I’m sure we’ll try to beat each other on the track.”

(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

Ambrose enjoying stress-free V8 meet

For most drivers, a Grand Prix is the ultimate high-octane and high-stakes event.

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But for V8 Supercars driver Marcos Ambrose, it’s nothing compared with last month’s Clipsal 500.

Ambrose made his return to the V8 Supercars tour around the Adelaide street circuit, under the watchful eye of team owners Dick Johnson and billionaire American Roger Penske.

Ambrose said he was aware of the expectations as he strapped himself into a Falcon for the first time in nine years.

“Of course you feel the pressure,” he said.

“You’d be blind freddy if you didn’t.

“But this weekend is really a grand prix-dominated weekend so it’s a relaxed environment for us, better than the high pressure we had in Adelaide.”

For DJR Team Penske, a relaxed weekend doesn’t mean a holiday.

There’s no competition points up for grabs in four short V8 races around the Albert Park Formula One circuit, but there’s plenty to gain.

Ambrose arguably benefits most from this weekend, with a focus purely on car and driver development.

“All the teams are using it as a really good test session,” he said.

“When your practice is so limited, you use any on-track time you can to try some new stuff.

“We got some good direction from Clipsal and hopefully we can come out of here with more confidence and take the fight to them at Symmons Plains.

Ambrose has set himself the goal of finishing every race at Albert Park, with “some good top 10 finishes”.

It’s where Penske wants him to be by the end of the season, although he nearly pulled off that result on the first weekend of the season.

The Falcon driver was agonisingly close to a top-10 finish in Adelaide, placing 12th in Sunday’s 250km race.

A decade in Nascar racing has given ambitions beyond finishing mid-pack.

“I’ve come here to be in the mix of it all and I know it’s going to take time, but growing pains are never easy,” he said.

At least Ambrose will be buoyed by his next meet, a first race on Tasmanian soil for 11 years.

“It’s going to be good to go home, see the support, and hang out with some friends and family and enjoy the race,” he said.

Larkham avoiding war of words with Reds

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham says he doesn’t want to engage in a “war of words” with the Queensland Reds after an inflammatory comment of his was dug up and used as a fuse.

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Serial verbal sparring partners Jake White and Ewen McKenzie might have moved on from the two rival Super Rugby clubs but the mind games and broadsides appear fiercer than ever ahead of Saturday night’s clash.

Larkham declared the Reds were not “up to the standard of Super Rugby” following their 47-3 demolition of a hapless Queensland four weeks ago in Canberra – an accusation his counterpart Richard Graham labelled “ridiculous”.

Reds backrower Jake Schatz on Wednesday then chimed in by saying his side would be using Larkham’s comments as motivation ahead of the Suncorp Stadium grudge derby.

Larkham has previously said he was taken out of context and meant to say Queensland’s performance level was not up to their usual high standards.

When pressed further on Thursday he said the comment, which he believes was dug up by journalists and not the Reds camp itself, would not be featuring at the forefront of his upcoming opponents’ minds.

“I’m sure internally they’ve got a good focus on the game – they’re not worried about external comments,” Larkham said.

“We’re not trying to get into any war of words with coaches or players or anything like that.

“We’re very focused on trying to take our game to the next level, which is, I’m sure, also their focus.”

The Reds will be missing James O’Connor for the clash, but Larkham is still expecting the Queenslanders to put on a much better performance – despite their lacklustre loss to the Waratahs on Saturday.

“I wouldn’t say they’ve gotten worse since round one. They’ve certainly improved,” he said.

“There is plenty of comment on how poorly they played in that first round, but they’re certainly a very dangerous side if they can get it together.”

Brumbies (15-1): Robbie Coleman, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Joe Tomane, Matt Toomua, Nic White, Ita Vaea, Jarrad Butler, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter, Rory Arnold, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore (c), Scott Sio. Reserves: Josh Mann-Rea, Ruan Smith, JP Smith, Jordan Smiler, Blake Enever, Michael Dowsett, Lausii Taliauli, James Dargaville.

Queensland : Ben Tapuai, Chris Kuridrani, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Anthony Fainga’a, Campbell Magnay, Nick Frisby, Will Genia, Jake Schatz, Liam Gill, Adam Thomson, James Horwill, Marco Kotze, Sam Talakai, Saia Fainga’a, James Slipper (capt). Res: James Hanson, Ben Daley, Sef Faagase, Dave McDuling, Curtis Browning, Scott Gale, Sam Johnson, Tom Banks.