Spanish female referee Alhambra Nievas to officiate men’s international match

Nievas will become the first woman to referee a competitive men’s international game in Europe.

By PA Sport Staff

Rugby union history will be made in Helsinki on Saturday when Spanish female referee Alhambra Nievas takes charge of a men’s international match between Finland and Norway.

It will be the first time a woman has refereed a competitive men’s international game in Europe.

The Conference Two of Rugby Europe fixture sees the 34-year-old follow female officials in other sports such as Sian Massey-Ellis, who was the first Premier League assistant referee, and Bibiana Steinhaus, who refereed in Germany’s Bundesliga.

Reflecting on Nievas’ appointment, Wormen in Sport chief executive Ruth Holdaway told The Daily Telegraph: “It builds on the momentum created over the summer where we saw viewing figures, victories and the visibility of women’s sport at an all-time high.

“It’s a real breakthrough as rugby is traditionally a male-dominated sport.”

Ireland’s Joy Neville, meanwhile, will referee the men’s match between Norway and Denmark later this month, and she will be an assistant official when France face Japan in Lens on November 25.Sian Massey-Ellis officiates in the Premier League (John Walton/Empics)

Nievas’ involvement in rugby began when she started playing for her university team. She has gone to referee such games as the Olympic women’s sevens gold medal match in Rio last year.

“The most important thing is not to be the first, but that this continues and that we keep moving forward,” Nievas told the Telegraph.

“It is an honour and I appreciate the compliment and trust in my ability but, if this is only one match, I won’t be happy.

“This is a way to change our system – that this opportunity is open to more females interested in having refereeing careers.”

Angelique Kerber battles into Australian Open quarter-finals

The 2016 champion survived a very tricky match against Hsieh Su-wei

By Eleanor Crooks, Press Association Sport Tennis Correspondent, Melbourne

Title favourite Angelique Kerber withstood the unique challenge of Hsieh Su-wei to move into the Australian Open quarter-finals.

Hsieh plays a completely different game from most of her rivals, relying not on power but a mixture of spins and slices and ball placement that bamboozle opponents and frequently drive them to distraction.

Her scalps in Melbourne had already included Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza and Agnieszka Radwanska, and for a long time it looked like Kerber might join them.

But the German has a deep well of confidence after her unbeaten start to the season and kept her composure to turn the match around and win 4-6 7-5 6-2.

The 2016 champion seemed close to losing it as Hsieh continued to spin her magic late in the second set, and the Kerber of last year would surely have crumbled.

But this is a different model and she let out a huge scream of joy and relief after sending a forehand winner down the line to level the match before racing quickly through the decider.

In the last eight Kerber will face US Open finalist Madison Keys, who has played superbly so far this fortnight and blasted her way past eighth seed Caroline Garcia, winning 6-3 6-2.

Keys, who hit 32 winners compared to just nine for her opponent, said: “I’m feeling really good. I feel like I’m playing just solid, consistent tennis. I think today was a good example of that. I served well. I returned well. But I don’t think I played unbelievable. I think I just played really solid and smart.”

The 22-year-old has long been marked out as a potential grand slam winner but her first final experience in New York last summer was something of a horror show as she won just three games against friend Sloane Stephens.

“To have such a great two weeks and then have it end the way that it did, it was really devastating for me, so it definitely took some time to get over,” said Keys.

“More than that, it was realising that it was so unexpected, and I was so happy to even get there in the first place after having such a rough beginning of my season, that after telling myself that a couple of times I definitely finally moved on and just wanted to put myself in the same position again so that maybe I could have a different outcome.”

Plain sailing for Simona Halep

The world number one defeated Naomi Osaka to reach the last eight at Melbourne Park.

By Eleanor Crooks, Press Association Sport Tennis Correspondent, Melbourne

World number one Simona Halep avoided the dramas of her third round to ease into the quarter-finals of the Australian Open with a 6-3 6-2 victory over Naomi Osaka.

The 26-year-old looked to be heading home when Lauren Davis held three match points in their titanic encounter on Saturday but recovered to win 15-13 in the deciding set.

With Halep already troubled by the ankle injury she suffered in her first-round win, Japanese-American Osaka, one of the brightest young talents – and biggest hitters – in the game, looked a potentially tricky obstacle.

The 20-year-old began well and had an early break but Halep quickly began to break down Osaka’s game with her variety, athleticism and ability to turn defence into attack.

Halep needed just an hour and 19 minutes to wrap up victory and will play either sixth seed Karolina Pliskova or her fellow Czech Barbora Strycova in the last eight.

The top seed, who has made no secret that her focus is solely trained on winning a first grand slam title, said: “It was a great match. I’m really happy that I’m in the quarter-finals. I didn’t expect that when I started the tournament because of the injury but today I played well.

“This tournament looks like a marathon for me. The injury is still there but I try not to think too much about it and give everything because after this hopefully I’ll have a few days off.”

Phil Neville confirms interest in England Women job

The Football Association has been searching for Mark Sampson’s permanent successor since September

By Press Association Sport Staff

Phil Neville has confirmed he wants to be the next manager of England Women.

The former England, Everton and Manchester United player has been in talks with the Football Association about taking on the role.

The FA has been tight-lipped on plans for the permanent successor to Mark Sampson, who was sacked last September.Phil Neville has coaching experience from his time at Valencia (Nick Potts/Empics)

But Neville has emerged as the most likely candidate after a host of names linked with the job pulled out of the running.

He has never worked in the women’s game but said: “I am in talks with the FA and the discussions will continue. I’m excited to see how those discussions turn out.”

He added: “Hopefully the process will end up with me getting the job. It’s been rigorous, it’s been tough, but I think I’ve shown my commitment in the fact that I do want the job.”

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, the former Manchester United and Valencia coach added: “I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to get back into football. Number one on the list was I wanted to be a manager.

“I wanted to be a manager in a club or system that would allow me to develop, would give me the best chance to succeed.

“I’ve got the opportunity if the talks come off that I can go to a World Cup and be successful and have a chance of winning a World Cup with a group of girls who are extremely driven, extremely professional. And in terms of my development as a coach I think this is the best job I could wish to ask for.”

Neville said he has turned down “two or three offers in the past 18 months” to get back into the game, saying they did not feel “right for my career”.England Women have been without a permanent boss since last September (Adam Davy/PA)

He knows there will be some who question his inexperience in women’s football.

Neville, 40, added: “I think (Baroness) Sue Campbell (the FA head of women’s football) said it a few weeks ago or in an interview that you want the best man for the job or the best person for the job whether that’s female or male, and I’m going through the process at the moment.”