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Griffiths upbeat on reform deal

RUGBY: English and French clubs have dismissed enough "demons and ghosts" to usher in European rugby reform, according to Saracens chief executive Edward Griffiths.

Griffiths is confident an accord on the competition to replace the Heineken Cup next season is on the verge of completion.

A 20-team top-tier tournament will replace the Heineken Cup, with seven Pro12 teams, six Aviva Premiership and six Top 14 clubs all qualifying.

The final spot will be claimed by the winner of a play-off between the seventh-placed finishers in the Premiership and the Top 14.

After two years of wrangling, now only finer details are left to be resolved on a heads of agreement document to be signed by the clubs from all six frontline European countries.

Griffiths said: "This was a tournament played by clubs, but run by unions, but now it's going to be a tournament that is largely played by clubs and run by clubs."


TENNIS: Andy Murray will try to defend his Sony Open title without coach Ivan Lendl in his corner starting today after the two abruptly ended their two-year partnership.

Murray, who will face Australian Matthew Ebden after receiving a first-round bye, offered few clues as to why he and Lendl had split when addressing a news conference yesterday, but he reiterated that it had been a mutual decision.

"We sat down Saturday evening. We went and had dinner. We chatted for an hour about other stuff and then we chatted about us moving forward," said Murray, who has struggled for form since returning from back surgery.

"We planned to sit down when I got to Miami to discuss moving forward. The best thing to do was just to move on."


ATHLETICS: Usain Bolt is being failed by Jamaican athletics chiefs, according to US Anti-doping Association chief executive Travis Tygart.

Jamaican athletics has recently come under global pressure to revamp its under-fire drugs testing regime following a number of high-profile cases.

And Tygart believes the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association's lack of action condemns stars like Bolt to doubts about his stunning sprint record.

"Absolutely it lets him down," said Tygart of Jamaica's lacklustre anti-doping policy.