Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor: Latest odds news, predictions and what are the most popular bets?

The fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor is set to become the most lucrative event in the history of combat sports.

The fight – which will take place on August 26 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas – was announced on May 18 and a flurry of bets was immediately placed on the outcome.

The contest is now expected to become the biggest betting event of the year in the United States and several other international markets, surpassing even the Super Bowl LII.

Mayweather is the overwhelming favourite to beat McGregor and preserve his flawless professional boxing record come fight night, although because of his long odds, the majority of bets placed have been on McGregor to win.

What are the latest odds?

Unsurprisingly, Floyd Mayweather is the favourite to win and can be backed at odds of 1/6.

Conor McGregor is the underdog, although his odds have shortened dramatically since the promotional tour, which he is widely adjudged to have won. He can now be backed at 4/1.

The odds on a draw are currently 50/1.

The fight is expected to become the most lucrative boxing match of all time (Independent)
What are the most popular bets?

According to the website Oddschecker, the most popular bet is on McGregor to win, at odds of 11/2 (Black Type).

That’s followed by Mayweather to win at 2/11 (SportingBet) and then a draw at 50/1 (Paddy Power).

McGregor will make his professional boxing debut on August 26 (Getty)
How did the promotional tour affect the odds?

During the press tour, McGregor confidently announced: “He has little legs, a little core, a little head – I’m going to knock him out inside four rounds, mark my words”.

The bookies currently have McGregor to win by knockout priced at best price 13/2. But bettors seem convinced by McGregor’s confidence as Oddschecker say that 44% of all round bets have backed the Irishman to win inside 4 rounds.

Of all bets on the fight, the most money has been staked on Mayweather to win in round 1 at 33/1, followed by Mayweather to win in rounds 2 and 3, priced at 25/1 and 20/1 respectively.

In the last six months, McGregor has accounted for 62% of bets between the pair, but the money has been split almost exactly 50:50. Bettors clearly fancy the value in McGregor, with the confident punters backing Mayweather with bigger stakes.

What are the best signup offers?

Paddy Power are offering Conor McGregor to win at 40/1 and Floyd Mayweather to win at 20/1.

In both instances, the offer is for new customers only with a £1 max stake, with winnings paid in free bets.

How many people are going to bet on the fight?

Simple answer: lots.

The fight is expected to be the biggest betting event of 2017 (Getty)
Year after year, the Super Bowl is the biggest betting event of the year in the United States. But this year it could well be eclipsed by Mayweather’s fight with McGregor.

Kevin Bradley, the sports book manager at Bovada, recently told Yahoo:

“We knew this fight would be big, potentially even bigger than the Super Bowl, but now we are almost certain it will be. The recent trash talking and promotional tour is only encouraging bets and at this rate we cannot even imagine how much we will take on it.

“One thing is for sure though, we will need Mayweather huge. A McGregor early round KO as he promised would be a potential disaster and is partly a reason we are giving a great price on Mayweather at the moment.”

Coutinho wants clear-the-air talks with Liverpool as he begins to accept Barcelona move may be impossible

Coutinho is ready to smooth over the summer’s events Getty Images
Philippe Coutinho is ready to hold clear-the-air talks with Liverpool as he looks to return to the fold with Jurgen Klopp’s side.

The Brazilian international emailed a transfer request to the clubearlier this month, a request rejected by Liverpool, after interest from Barcelona turned his head.

Barca have had a number of bids rejected for the playmaker and have been surprised by the Anfield club’s resolve, they have ended their interest in order to analyse other options and sounded out Christian Eriksen’s interest in a move as well as talking to the representatives of Nice midfielder Jean-Michel Seri – with whom they have outlined personal terms.

Which all leaves Coutinho in an awkward position on Merseyside, where he has asked to leave the club but looks certain to still be a Liverpool player on 1 September.

The Independent understands that the player and his representatives are ready to admit defeat and will look to talk to key Liverpool figures to smooth over the summer’s events. People within the 25-year-old midfielder’s entourage are pointing the finger at Barcelona for manipulating their client and have suggested the Nou Camp club used family members to provide additional pressure. They insist the ill-conceived email was Barca’s idea.

Jurgen Klopp has been clear throughout this saga that the player was not for sale and that, had it not been for a back injury, he would have been playing. When Coutinho is fit again he is now expected to return to the Liverpool team but not before some uncomfortable conversations with Liverpool. The players are expected to welcome back their teammate with open arms.

The Reds managed to bring in just one of their top targets this summer, succeeding in recruiting Mohamed Salah but finding Southampton and RB Leipzig absolutely unwilling to deal Virgil van Dijk or Naby Keita respectively.

Wayne Rooney still has goals to offer for England, insists Everton teammate Phil Jagielka

Wayne Rooney celebrates after putting Everton ahead against Manchester City on Monday evening Getty

Phil Jagielka believes Everton teammate Wayne Rooney still has unfinished business with England and insists that the player “looks as good as ever” following his return to Goodison Park this summer.

Rooney, who rejoined his boyhood club for an undisclosed fee following a 13-year stint at Manchester United, has made a strong start to life with the Toffees, scoring two goals in as many games after an encouraging offseason with the club.

The decision to leave United for Everton was met with a mixed response, however, with certain critics questioning whether England’s all-time top goalscorer would be capable of carving out a place in Ronald Koeman’s squad.

But Rooney has impressed to date with Everton and Jagielka believes that the forward, who he describes as one of the club’s “best players”, still “has more goals to go for” with the national side.

“Wayne and his team mates never doubt him, so I am not sure why people would doubt him,” the defender said after Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw against Manchester City.

“He has proven when he is given a chance to play a number of games, he normally scores a number of goals, so his record for his country and his teams has been second to none and so far for us, in pre-season and in the league and in our brief European stint, he has been one of our best players and hopefully that will continue.

“I think Wayne with the season he had last season, with him not being given the chance to play [for England] as much as he would have liked, and he is concentrating on his football at Everton and if England comes knocking, obviously he is younger than me and he has more goals to go for. I am sure he will be happy.”

Jagielka added that Rooney’s form bodes well for Everton as they bid to build upon last season’s success and push for a spot in the Champions League.

“Like I said before, game-wise I think he ran the most today, he has been putting it in, he has been pretty much our best player throughout pre-season, so he looks fit and sharp, scores goals, so there is not much more that we will be looking for him to do.

“I have been lucky enough to play with Wayne a number of times and he looks as good as ever now, as hungry as ever and hopefully that is a good sign for us.

Celtic book spot in Champions League group stage despite narrow second-leg defeat by Astana

Celtic progressed into the Champions League as expected with an 8-4 aggregate win over Astana, but they were made to sweat in their 4-3 second-leg defeat in Kazakhstan.

The Hoops’ progress was never in serious doubt following their 5-0 thrashing of the Kazakhstan champions at Parkhead last week, but there were some nervy moments for the Scottish champions as they slipped to a first defeat of the season in a pulsating encounter at the Astana Arena.

Celtic’s 19-year-old defender Kristoffer Ajer, in for injured Jozo Simunovic, deflected a shot from defender Dmitri Shomko past goalkeeper Craig Gordon in the 26th minute to give the Kazakh side the merest glimmer of hope, quashed, it appeared, eight minutes later when Hoops attacker Scott Sinclair curled in the equaliser.

Two goals in a minute at the start of the second-half from attackers Serikzhan Muzhikov and Patrick Twumasi brought the home side back to life and, when Ghanaian Twumasi grabbed his second, the visitors were on the ropes.

james-forrest.jpg
James Forrest of Celtic scores his team’s fourth goal (Getty)

However, late goals from Olivier Ntcham and Leigh Griffiths confirmed Brendan Rodgers’ side’s passage into the group stages for the second successive season.

The Northern Irishman was again forced to start with a makeshift central defence due to injuries.

Nir Bitton, essentially a midfielder, had passed a fitness test on an ankle injury and the midfielder was paired with Ajer, who had played in the 2-0 win over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on Saturday.

The only other Celtic change from the first leg saw midfielder Callum McGregor take over from Tom Rogic, who started on the bench.

If anything, the Scottish champions looked more like getting the first goal than their hosts in the early exchanges.

Twumasi drilled a shot from 20 yards just past the post in the 10th minute but it was not the whirlwind start a side needing five goals might have been expected to make.

Sinclair and McGregor both had good efforts as Celtic moved with menace.

The home side got in front slightly against the run of play when Shomko edged towards the Celtic box and drilled in a left-footed drive which came off Ajer leaving Gordon with no chance.

Astana’s supporters were energised with optimism but that should have been extinguished seconds later when Sinclair burst through the fragile Kazakh defence only to blast his shot against home goalkeeper Nenad Eric.

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Scott Sinclair of Celtic vies with Laszlo Kleinheisler of FC Astana (Getty)

However, the former Manchester City and Aston Villa player was so much more accurate in the 33rd minute when, from the edge of the box, in trademark style, he curled the ball high past the Astana stopper and into the far corner before running to take the acclaim of the couple of hundred Hoops fans who had made the long journey east.

Both sides continued to go forward. Moments later James Forrest headed a Kieran Tierney cross past the near post before Gordon brilliantly tipped a powerful header from Marin Anicic over the bar following a Muzhikov corner.

 Muzhikov’s early second-half goal came after an uncharacteristic mistake by Scott Brown in giving away possession then heading a cross on to the Astana player who poked the ball in from close range.

A minute later the unmarked Twumasi headed a Shomko cross past Gordon and suddenly some hope was restored although four more goals were required.

Rodgers replaced McGregor with Rogic and Forrest with teenage defender Anthony Ralston before Stuart Armstrong came on for Sinclair.

own-goal.jpg
Evgeni Postnikov of FC Astana scores an own goal (Getty)

Griffiths missed a great chance when he controlled a Tierney cross on his chest before thrashing the ball over the bar and looked further aghast seconds later as Twumasi raced in from the right and squeezed the ball past Gordon from a tight angle.

There was bedlam among the home fans.

Eric made a fine save from Griffiths’ free-kick just before Gordon prevented Twumasi and Muzhikov adding further to Astana’s lead.

Twumasi then blazed over the bar from 10 yards with the Hoops defence reeling but, on an 80th-minute breakm Ntcham steered a shot past Eric which allowed everyone of a green and white persuasion to breath more comfortably.

Griffiths, with two minutes of regulation time remaining, then helped himself to a goal on the break with a fine angled-drive.

UFC confirms that Jon Jones failed a USADA drugs test before his title fight with Daniel Cormier

The light-heavyweight’s career has been left in tatters by the news Getty
Jon Jones failed a US Anti-Doping Agency test ahead of his light-heavyweight title fight with Daniel Cormier at UFC 214, it has been revealed.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, the UFC released a statement confirming a story broken on TMZ that Jones, 30, had failed a USADA test for the second time in his career.

“The UFC organization was notified today that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has informed Jon Jones of a potential Anti-Doping Policy violation stemming from an in-competition sample collected following his weigh-in on July 28, 2017,” the UFC confirmed in a short statement.

“USADA, the independent administrator of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, will handle the results management and appropriate adjudication of this case involving Jones, as it relates to the UFC Anti-Doping Policy and future UFC participation.

“Under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, there is a full and fair legal process that is afforded to all athletes before any sanctions are imposed.

“The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) also retains jurisdiction over this matter as the sample collection was performed the day before Jones’ bout at UFC 214 in Anaheim, CA, and USADA will work to ensure that the CSAC has the necessary information to determine its proper judgment of Jones’ potential anti-doping violation.”

This is not the first time Jones has failed a USADA test (Getty)
TMZ broke the story and claimed that Jones will be stripped of his belt following a positive test for Turinabol, an anabolic steroid.

This is the second time that Jones has failed a USADA drugs test, having tested for banned substances in the build-up to UFC 200, when he was scheduled to fight Cormier for a second time.

Jones was pulled from the event and banned for one year. He could now face a ban four-times that in length, which would likely leave his MMA career in tatters.

Conner a big piece of NDSU’s line puzzle

FARGO — The football season opener vs. Mississippi Valley State is two weeks away. Although North Dakota State hasn’t formally named its starting offensive line, an educated guess at it is getting easier by the day.

At heart of any kind of debate: Will junior Colin Conner be a tackle or a guard? The answer as of the end of practice this week was both.

“He is absolutely both and he’s continually progressed at guard,” said offensive line coach Conor Riley.

Conner, last year’s starting left tackle, may move one spot over to guard to make way for redshirt freshman Dillon Radunz, who has been making a push for that spot since spring football. That’s fine with Conner, who said he’s been trying to help Radunz in every way possible.

It’s also meant a change in comfort level for Conner.

“Obviously I like tackle, I’ve been used to tackle,” he said. “But I’m going to have to play guard. I have to step up.”

If that’s the case, the best guess for a starting five would be Radunz at left tackle, Conner at left guard, junior Tanner Volson at center, senior Austin Kuhnert at right guard and sophomore Zack Johnson at right tackle.

Riley said Johnson has “solidified” his starting role. Kuhnert, last year’s starting center, has missed some practice time with a minor injury but has played guard before and the transition is expected to be seamless.

Riley also said he expects at least seven players to see significant time, at least in the season opener.

“I see a lot of athletic guys up there,” he said Friday. “I see a lot of ability — still seeing some inconsistency — but yesterday especially I saw a lot of competition and that was the most exciting thing. I saw guys beginning to take ownership of things. I saw communication improving — it’s still a work in progress with a lot of these young guys — but we’re taking the steps we need to be taking.”

At 6-foot-5 and 309 pounds, Conner has the size for an interior lineman. Radunz has more reach at 6-6 and 287. The key for Radunz, Riley said, is how many snaps he can take in a game.

“He’s going to play a lot of football for us and when I talked with Dillon the other day, the question is if he’s going to be a 75 snaps-a-game guy,” Riley said. “That will be more up to him and how he continues to progress.”

In comparison, Riley said Kuhnert — in his fourth year as a starter — played about 45 snaps when he first broke into the lineup.

“Then it was 50 and then it was 60,” Riley said. “By the time we played in the national championship game that year, he didn’t come out of the football game.”

Klieman points to the difficulty of learning the playbook. It’s a fire drill as a true freshman but becomes a little more clear during spring football.

“Then you come out in the fall and take a guy like Dillon (Radunz), now is the third time he’s heard the same playbook from coach Riley. And it does start to slow down and as the body starts to mature, the game slows down.”

Kuntz heads south to NDSU

FARGO — As a principal architect for ICON Architectural Group based in Grand Forks, Mike Kuntz has worked on some of the area’s sports landmarks like Ralph Engelstad Arena, Scheels Arena and the Fargodome.

When it came to the dome, the project required him to do some research on the tradition and history of North Dakota State football.

In the next four years, he’ll get a personal tour of Bison football. His son, Zak Kuntz, is a redshirt freshman fullback who is expected to see the field in some capacity this season. It promises to be a lot of green and yellow for the father who played the college game in the kelly green and white at the UND.

He’s a former all-conference linebacker for the University of North Dakota.

“Family is stronger than anything else,” said Mike, who is a former all-conference linebacker at UND.

The obvious question is how does the son of a former UND great dare go to the rival school. But the No. 1 answer is rather basic: Zak is an architecture major who wants to follow his father’s footsteps in the real world. NDSU has a nationally-reputed architecture program.

“So NDSU was just the right fit overall with football, academics, location and people,” Zak said. “It was all perfect for me. To be honest, my dad was supportive of the whole process.”

Mike said he generally let his oldest of six children handle the recruiting process. He said that’s just the way Zak is built — a deep thinker who does well academically and is driven to succeed.

“We enjoyed watching him go through it,” Mike said. “It’s a heck of an opportunity to play for that program and we just fully supported him.”

So did Mike’s friends in Grand Forks and former teammates, whom he said recognized what it takes to get to that level of football. NDSU and UND were Division II programs during Mike’s career that ended in 1993.

Both are Division I FCS programs now that are nationally ranked. They are slated to play a non-conference game in 2019 and will both will be in the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2020 when UND joins the league.

“It’s a big rivalry and everyone will always jab and poke,” Mike said. “But I think for the guys that have gone through it and really know how competitive it is and how hard it is to get to that level, it’s good for him and we will always support him.”

Kuntz is the third Bison player from Grand Forks in the Division I era, joining center Hugh Medal (2004-05) from Central and linebacker Tyler Gefroh (2011-12) from Red River.

Zak, also from Red River, is a classically-built NDSU fullback at 6-foot-2 and 249 pounds. Sophomore Garrett Malstrom is the physical, bruising blocker and sophomore Brock Robbins is more of the multi-use fullback/tight end who may see the ball more this year.

Kuntz sees himself as somewhere between those two.

“We all have our unique skill sets,” Kuntz said. “You have to be going 110 percent at all times. You have to be in control but you can’t let off the throttle. It’s more than just running through people. The problem for me is keeping my pads low. I have a lot of things to work on and it’s a challenge for sure.”

Kuntz is also a prime candidate to be one of the “shield” blockers on the punt team and for one of the spots on the kickoff return team. Players consider being one of the three shield blockers in front of the punter as a marquee special teams job, a badge-of-honor of sorts because of its tough-guy image.

“It’s a tough job but, I mean, anything to get on the special teams units and find my role on the team,” Kuntz said.

Mike Kuntz had a big role on the 1993 UND team that had a breakthrough season for the program. North Dakota reached the semifinals of the NCAA Division II playoffs and broke a 12-game series losing streak to NDSU in the regular season.

Times have changed for the family, however, and all eyes this season will be on NDSU.

“I’ve seen film of his days and he was a pretty impressive guy,” Zak said. “He was a lot smaller than me and he always reminded me of that but I’ve always looked up to my dad.”

The science of F1 pit stops: how Williams smashed the two-second barrier

AFormula One race can be won or lost in a single pit stop. For a few brief moments every Grand Prix, the race becomes about more than just a driver and his car – twenty mechanics move with perfect choreography, crowding around the impossibly small car to change a set of tyres in as little time as possible. For the pit crews, who practise this manoeuvre thousands of times in a season, a delay of one tenth of a second feels like hours.

Since mid-race refuelling was banned in 2010, the margins of error for pit crews have become increasingly narrower. “Last year, and the year before, we were really impressed by a sub-three second pit stop and now we’re looking at sub-two seconds,” says Gemma Fisher, a human performance specialist for Williams Martini Racing. In the 2016 season, Fisher’s team was the fastest pit crew in fourteen races and in the Baku Grand Prix they equalled the record for the fastest in-race pit stop ever, clocking in at just 1.92 seconds.

Once her team has finished doing a set of practice pit stops, Fisher analyses every aspect of the manoeuvre, searching for areas where time savings could be made. “We break what happens down into every single aspect and look for areas where we can improve – that’s everything from the people using the kit, down to the ergonomics of the kit we’re using,” she says.

Nothing is left to chance – even the seating location of every crew member in the garage is mapped out in advance in order to minimise collisions and make sure each mechanic knows exactly the route they’ll take out onto the pit lane.

A mistake in the garage could be devastating. When Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo entered the pits in pole position at the Monaco Grand Prix in May 2016, his team didn’t have his tyres ready in time. Ricciardo sat in the pit lane as seconds ticked by and his lead went to Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton went on to win the race, and was just pipped to the 2016 Championship by teammate Nico Rosberg, while Ricciardo was left complaining he’d been ‘screwed’ by his team.

One way to avoid situations like the one Riccardio found himself in, Fisher explains, is to drill pit stops until they become second nature. “The skill needs to be on a level where it’s autonomous – it needs to be learned as a matter of course,” she says. Her team will train for unlikely situations that might put a less prepared crew off their kilter; a last-minute change of tyre type or nose change. “If you train to the most complex scenarios in your practice then hopefully, on race day, the pit stop is relatively straightforward,” she continues. In perfect conditions, she says her crew can perform an entire pit stop in just 1.6 seconds.
A phenomenal amount of activity goes on in those brief seconds. The car pulls into the pit and comes to a complete stop, the front and rear jacks are fitted and lifted, the gunner loosens the wheel nuts, the first tyre carrier takes away the worn tyre and the second replaces it with a fresh tyre, the gunner tightens the wheel nuts, the jacks drop and the driver pulls away. Each of these stages has to be completed before the next can begin. There is no room for mistakes.

When you’ve only got two seconds to play with, squeezing every millisecond counts. The average human reaction time is around 200 milliseconds, exactly the same length of time the gunners need to spend loosening or tightening the wheel nuts. Too tight means wasting time undoing them at the next pit stop while too loose could mean losing a wheel while the car is on the track. “Within a normal human reaction time [the gunner] has to not only do the operation but decide that he’s achieved it, and come off,” says Steve Nielsen, Williams’ sporting manager.

Felipe Massa pulls in for a pit stop at the Spanish Grand Prix
Williams Martini Racing
Achieving these near-superhuman reaction times requires constant practice but drivers can also do their bit to make their pit crew’s jobs as smooth as possible. “The pit stop begins before the car stops – if the driver comes in with a jerky motion the guys on the guns can’t get to the nuts. If he comes in in a very predictable straight line and slows down a uniform manner the nuts are undone before he actually stops,” Nielsen says.

After every practice, Nielsen, Fisher and the Williams team trawl through video footage and data from the car and equipment to look for areas where they can shave fractions of a second off of their time. “We can tell how long someone’s been gunning on, or gunning off, or how long the jacks have been raised,” says Fisher. In the early years of F1, gunners would raise their hands to indicate to the jack man they’d tightened the nuts on the wheel, but automation has cut out the time it takes for the jack man to register four crew members with their hands in the air. Now, when the last gunner presses the completion switch on their gun, the jacks automatically drop and the car can leave as soon as a green light indicates it’s safe.

Williams Martini Racing
But Williams isn’t just crunching data to make its equipment more sophisticated. Last season the team began using biometrics to assess how pit crews perform under pressure with experts Avanade. Four members of the Williams pit crew wore a range of sensors over the 2016 season in order to, Fisher hopes, make training more specific to each crew member’s needs. “We’re looking at heart rate variability, recovery times, breathing rate and estimated core temperature,” Fisher says.

This information, paired with data from video footage and equipment, will shed light on what each crew member requires to perform at their very best. Some seem to thrive on the stress of a pit stop, but for others that pressure can be detrimental to their performance. The more Williams understands about its pit crew’s psychological state, the more it can do to help crew members use that race-day stress to their advantage. “We need adrenaline, that’s great, but if they’re operating on the limit they have no capacity to take in any more information or react to what’s going on,” Fisher says.

Williams driver Felipe Massa retired from F1 at the end of the 2016 season only to return to replace teammate Valtteri Bottas who made a surprise move to Mercedes
Williams Martini Racing
This winter, the Williams team went through the biometric data to start considering how to supplement the intense physical training that pit crews go through to prepare for races. “We look at all the aspects of fitness that we need for a pit stop. We look at what that individual might be doing – everything from explosive power to hand-eye coordination, agility, speed, reaction time, flexibility,” Fisher says. But their pre-season training for 2017 also included more of a focus on remaining cool under pressure and using adrenaline to their advantage.

So what’s the limit for a super-fast pit stop? In 2011, the two-second pit stop barrier seemed insurmountable, but Williams – and Red Bull before it – has shown that laser-focused training will cause pit stop times to tumble. Rule changes for the 2017 season, however, promise to change the dynamics of the pit stop once again. Fatter, heavier tyres will mean pit crews will have to focus their training on strength and tweaking their approach to suit the new rubber. For Fisher, biometric data may well prove critical in helping the Williams crew adjust to the new kit and stay on pole position in the pit crew rankings.

“We want to make sure we stay ahead next year, it’s going to present a lot of different challenges, especially with the size of the wheels and therefore the added weight,” she says. “There will be physical challenges so we need to make sure the guys can perform and keep them in the best shape possible.”

The Rise of Women’s XVs Rugby in Canada

ON THE EVE OF THE 2017 WOMEN’S RUGBY WORLD CUP RETIRED CANADIAN TEAM HOOKER KIM DONALDSON REFLECTS ON THE GROWTH AND SUCCESS OF RUGBY IN CANADA

Aside from Canadian’s coveted National Women’s’ Hockey Team, female sports are not widely followed in Canada. Nor is the sport of rugby a national past time. It’s a bizarre game where an oddly shaped ball is passed backwards and there are an awful lot of people running into each other. The pairing meant that, until recently, fifteen-a-side women’s rugby in Canada has not been given much attention. On the backs of supportive clubs across the country, women’s rugby has grown exponentially over the past decade. Women are more skilled, faster, and stronger at a younger age, helping raise the level of play. Canada enters the Women’s Rugby World Cup on Wednesday ranked 3rd in the world. Canadian rugby is changing and the world is watching.

Since the inaugural 2012-2013 World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, Canada’s ranking has never dipped below 3rd in the world.

LISTEN to Kim and her former teammate Maria Samson on

RUCK ON – the Rugby Show Podcast

High Performance
Canadian women’s rugby teams have been consistent competitors for decades, but have recently become leaders in the sport. Of the past 5 World Cups, the lowest ranking they have placed is 6th. Canadian rugby is known for consistency and resiliency, but not flashy play or stand out performances. This made Canada a dark horse in the 2014 World Cup, surprising rugby nations the world over with dominating pool play and upsetting France in front of 20,000 of their own fans in the semi-final. Sports networks repeatedly aired one particular play of Magali Harvey’s speedy, bow-legged, 80 metre run, after the forward pack had stolen the ball from France in an impressive display of scrummaging power on their own try line. High level of play has helped build the popularity and support for our senior women’s national teams. Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broadcast his well wishes bilingually, acknowledging the women’s’ already impressive finishes at the 2014 XVs World Cup and in Sevens at the 2016 Olympic Games.

Preview of the Canadian Team for the 2017 World Cup

Follow the 2017 Rugby World Cup

READ more of Kim’s blog – The Offload

The Influence of the Sevens Game
Although Sevens Rugby was just recently adopted into the summer Olympic Games, the effect it had on Canadian women’s rugby started several years before. In 2012, female athletes were centralized in Langford, British Columbia and Rugby Canada sought out funding from Canada’s Own the Podium (OTP) program (a not-for-profit organization that financially supports teams on track to the Olympics). The best female rugby players were recruited from the existing sevens and fifteens programs, as well as from universities around the country. Since the inaugural 2012-2013 World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, Canada’s ranking has never dipped below 3rd in the world. The circuit has grown to hold six stops, including Canada’s own tournament in Langford, British Columbia. Women are now recruited for the National Sevens Program from universities, colleges, and even high schools, helping develop skills, professionalism, and team cohesion from an early age. An early start in preparation led Canada to a bronze medal performance in the debut Olympic Games even last year, attracting thousands of new fans and players to the sport.

At the urging of loose head prop Marie-Pier Pinault-Reid, the team switched their version of the national anthem they sang to include in both languages, making it more representative of the Canadian squad

Media Coverage
Female rugby players now have more access to their role models than ever before. Social media is a large part of this. Seven’s all star Jen Kish has over 10,000 Twitter followers (@jen_kish) and Fifteen’s veteran Andrea Burk has her own branded website (anreaburk.ca). Fans can follow athlete’s daily trainings or book their favorite heroine to speak at an event. In recent years TSN has aired Canadian women’s fifteens games, while Canada’s Olympic women’s Sevens team became celebrities on CBC during the Olympic Games. For several weeks after the 2014 World Cup, Magali Harvey’s run was aired in sports highlights. Harvey is also one of four female faces to take the cover of leading rugby magazine Rugby World for the first time in the magazine’s 57-year history (www.rugbyworld.com). Inside the issue, Canadian prop gets a shout out as an “engaging character” for her interesting switch to rugby from pairs figure skating. Fans around the world want to learn more about Canadian athletes.

Follow Kim on Twitter @kimmydonaldson Instagram @ kimmya_donaldson

University Pathway
The main pathway for female rugby players to reach the world stage is by playing in university competition (U Sports). The influx of national team alumnae coaching university teams (Colette McCauley, Maria Gallo, Jen Boyd to name a few), means that aspiring athletes can learn directly from their role models and get first hand knowledge of what it takes to make it to the top, as well as be placed in an environment that supports their athletic development. For the 2017 university season more names big names join the U Sports coaching roster as Harvey will head McGill University and Sevens superwoman Ashley Stacey will join Neil Langevin at her alma mater, the University of Lethbridge, furthering this trend. As competition raises, so do budgets and scholarship opportunities for female athletes (the University of Ottawa’s operational budget is over $100,000), making rugby a viable option as part of a woman’s scholastic experience. Also being recognized internationally, the 2016 university national championship was watched by over 16,000 viewers from over 20 different countries.

Community Leaders
Current and alumnae national players work to promote women’s rugby in other ways. Current national team flanker Barbara Mervin runs a internationally successful women’s’ rugby clothing line, Aptoella (aptoella.com) allowing, “women and girls to look and feel incredible while splaying the sport they love.” Alumna Steph White chairs the Monty Heald National Women’s Team Fund, which has ensured that the Canadian XVs team has not had to pay out of pocket for their road to the upcoming World Cup in Ireland. National team players continue to promote the sport and community they have already given to so richly.

Diversity and Unity
The Canadian Women’s XVs rugby team is also representative of both Anglophone and Francophone cultures. At the urging of loose head prop Marie-Pier Pinault-Reid, the team switched their version of the national anthem they sang to include in both languages, making it more representative of the Canadian squad, a third of which (including head coach Francois Ratier) have lived à Québec. Incredible people, both on and off of the field, Canada’s female rugby athletes are strong role models, making it easy to attract fans both at home and abroad.

2017 World Cup Preview…

Kim Donaldson

Kim Donaldson is a retired Canadian team front row player.  She participated in two World Cups, accumulating 45 caps over her ten year career and has since turned her attention towards coaching.  She coached the Concordia Stingers for three years helping them climb to a fourth place national ranking, and has worked with the Canada U20 Women for the past two years.  Recently Kim has relocated to Victoria, BC, where she has landed with the University of Victoria Vikes.

The Circle with Ash Nelson & Nikki Hudson

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Ash Nelson talks to a former teammate and Hockeyroos Captain Nikki Hudson who retired in 2009 with 303 caps for Australia — the second highest for a female hockey player. Nikki tells us how, despite her success, some of her biggest challenges were off the field. It’s a candid conversation about the realities of being an elite athlete, of being on top of your game and a dependable team player, and then what happens when the applause dies down. Nikki has now found what she believes is her calling and is happier than she’s ever been driving a tractor on 180 acres in NSW.

“I’m the life of the party without having to have a drop of alcohol. It’s funny I didn’t realize how bad a dancer I was until I now have to dance sober. Oh my God, I thought I had moves, I really don’t.”

“By the time we got to the Sydney Olympic, and of course at the previous Olympics that the girls had won at, we almost knew that we were unbeatable because  we had done everything possible to ensure we were in the best form of our lives.

“People keep saying how did you do it for so long and you have your setbacks and all that but for me I made the choice, along with everyone else that did it, and the choice to do it not because it’s easy but because it’s hard, you make the choice to being an elite athlete so that what you have to be and the discipline that you have to have, the training ethic, the work ethic, all of that is that of an elite athlete and so it’s never going to be easy and so I look back at it now and wonder how I did half of the stuff I ever did. I must have been extremely, extremely motivated and focused because there’s no way I think I could do it now or even do half of it and I guess that’s what keeps you being driven and all of thats that you have this one focus to number one be the best you can and then be the best you can as a member of a team. I don’t know, maybe it’s just a different mindset that sets athletes apart from other people. I was never entirely happy with the way I played, there was always something I could have done better, even though I retired with an Olympic gold medal and a lot of other personal achievements, you know I still look back and think there were things I could have done a lot better, I could have been a much better player and so I guess you’re never fully satisfied, you’re always looking for the next challenge in life.

“We’ve got a 180 acres here and we actually…and we farm Canary Island Palm Trees and we got about 3000 of them on our property here, I’m basically out driving tractors, bobcats, farm trucks getting dirty every day and I could not be happier, it’s my calling in life I believe. I’m happier than I’ve ever been, a lady living on the land. “

She made her debut for Australia in 1993 and won gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Her AHL team is the Queensland Scorchers. At the 2008 Summer Olympics, she scored in Australia’s first two games, scoring the second goal in an epic comeback to win 5-4 against Korea, and a skillful individual effort against Spain. The goal against Spain was her 98th international goal, in her 299th international appearance. Her 99th goal for Australia came against South Africa in the following match. The match was Hudson’s 300th appearance for her country, as she became the first woman to play 300 international Hockey matches for Australia.