Sport in brief
• Ireland produced the most eyecatching result in the first weekend of rugby union’s northern hemisphere autumn internationals, thrashing South Africa 38-3 in Dublin. Three Irish tries in the last nine minutes underlined their superiority over opponents who still looked jetlagged from the flight. In Cardiff, Australia came through a tricky test against an injury-weakened Wales side to win 29-21, while at Twickenham, England dispatched Argentina 21-8 without ever getting out of first gear. In Paris, New Zealand made a comfortable start with a 38-18 win over France, while Scotland edged out Samoa in Edinburgh, 44-38.
Italy have failed to reach the football World Cup for the first time since 1958 after Sweden held them 0-0 in a play-off second leg, having gone in with a one-goal advantage. After the match Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli and Daniele De Rossi all announced their international retirements. Italy won their fourth title in 2006, which was also Sweden’s last appearance in a World Cup finals. Switzerland and Croatia were others to qualify for next year’s tournament in Russia via the play-off route.
British Gymnastics is facing a crisis with its biggest stars, including the double Olympic champion Max Whitlock, refusing to sign World Class Performance Programme contracts and being threatened with having their funding withdrawn. An internal power struggle between the performance, commercial and management teams about the content of the contract has led to a rebellion among the athletes. The Guardian understands almost all of the team, which won a record seven medals at the Rio Olympics last summer, have refused to sign the contract. British Gymnastics said in a statement that it was currently “involved in consultation” with the athletes regarding the World Class Performance Programme agreements.
Andy Murray came through his first match in four months, a charity exhibition event against Roger Federer in Glasgow, and confirmed he hopes to return from a hip injury to playing top-level tennis in January, first at a Brisbane ATP tournament and then at the Australian Open. “I felt better than I expected,” he said, around a year after he rose to No 1 in the world. “I thought I did OK. I’ve really missed it and I’m just so happy to be back.”
The big guns all made it through safely to the knockout quarter-finals at the Rugby League World Cup, where Australia face Samoa, New Zealand take on Fiji, Tonga play Lebanon and England meet Papua New Guinea. The shock of the group stages came with Tonga’s 28-22 win over New Zealand, a result that puts them on course for a possible semifinal against England.
Charity comeback … Andy Murray