Federer plots his way to first-round rout

“Looking ahead, it definitely looked like a very tough draw in the first round,” Federer said about the prospects of facing the 34th-ranked Argentine, who had five match points against him last year in Shanghai before falling.


Seventy-seven minutes after the opening serve at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the 34-year-old Federer walked away from the Flushing Meadows heat with a glow from his 6-1 6-2 6-2 victory.

“I feel good now,” said Federer, who is seeking a sixth U.S. Open triumph to add to his record 17 grand slam singles titles.

“I actually wasn’t so confident yesterday and today. I just felt like maybe could be one of those matches I just couldn’t see coming.”

Federer, whose fluid grace and inventiveness on the court make his game seem so natural, revealed some of the calculations he does in preparing for an opponent.

“Thankfully I took this match extremely serious. I thought at times almost I was taking it a bit too serious. I got lucky in Shanghai, so that’s why … it was just creeping around in my mind that maybe today was going to be a bad day.

“Plus I had practiced with him here … the day of the draw, and he was playing very well in practise, too.”

Federer decided Mayer could be dangerous when given time to set up his shot, so he decided to rush him into mistakes.

“Today was much faster than Shanghai. It’s a different place and different conditions. It allowed me to play fast-court tennis against him, which wasn’t really the case in Shanghai.”

Federer has of late been selectively taking advantage of second serves to charge in with a half-volley to apply surprise pressure. He used it to advantage again on Tuesday.

“The good thing is when you do it, you have to play committed. There’s no way around it. So when you do it, you’re fully committed … I kind of really like it, because whatever is committed in tennis is a good thing,” said Federer.

Playing aggressively, Federer has reached the finals of his last three events, including Wimbledon, where he lost to world number one Novak Djokovic, and a U.S. Open tune-up in Cincinnati where he beat Djokovic for the title.

Asked if he may be playing his best tennis, Federer said: “If I win the tournament here yes, maybe.”

(Editing by Frank Pingue)


Day’s new fitness regime paying dividends

Jason Day’s charge toward the US PGA Tour playoffs’ $US10 million bonus and world No.


1 ranking would already be over if he hadn’t transformed his body.

That’s the firm belief of trainer Cornel Driessen, who has overseen a dramatic increase in world No.3 Day’s core strength and stability, while adding 15 pounds of lean muscle and stripping away over six pounds of fat.

The hottest golfer on the planet, Day has won three of his last four tournaments, including his six-shot triumph in the playoffs series opener in New Jersey on Sunday.

But Driessen says the back twinge that forced him out of last week’s pre-tournament pro-am would likely have spelled major trouble if the 27-year-old Australian didn’t have the physical preparation he’s adopted.

“If Jason had the same strength profile that he had last year he would likely be out of the FedEx Cup, that’s my professional opinion,” Driessen told AAP.

“If he did not take the three months off after the Fed Ex Cup last year, which was hard because he wanted to play in Australia especially, and do the work he needed to do, he would not have been as resilient as he is now.

“He would have played through the pain because he’s gutsy like that but in all likelihood he would have injured himself further.

“As it was he wasn’t out of the woods until the weekend so it was a truly remarkable and courageous performance.”

complaint Day suffered in the lead up to the Barclays had he not changed his ways.

Day took on South African Driessen, who also works with the likes of Henrik Stenson and Charl Schwartzel, after last year’s FedEx Cup and the trainer pinpointed core weakness as a huge limiter to his injury prevention routines.

Day bought into the training philosophy and is reaping the benefits.

“Jason is a complete professional and has done everything asked of him when it comes to what his coach Colin (Swatton) wants, to changing his diet, to doing his exercise prescriptions,” Driessen said.

“His lower core and abs are now incredible and they were close to non-existent in comparison a year ago.

“He is showing as much as 800 percent improvement in dynamic core flexion strength and significant improvements across the board.”

Day heads to the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston this week as the FedEx Cup leader with a chance to become world No.1 firmly in his grasp.

He takes confidence from three previous top 10s at the venue including a second and third.

Should he win again, he would likely be the new world No.1 as long as current No.1 and No.2 Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth aren’t right on his tail.

Steven Bowditch (20th) is the only other Australian certain to survive week two of the playoffs with Matt Jones (57th), Marc Leishman (61st) and John Senden (81st) left with work to be done to be in the top 70 for the BMW Championship.


Cricket umpires risking death, warns Marsh

Australian chairman of selectors Rod Marsh fears it’s a matter of time before an umpire is killed or seriously injured, unless the no-ball rule is changed.


The former Test wicketkeeper says reverting to the back-foot no-ball rule, which was abandoned in the early 1960s, could save lives.

“It’s only a matter of time before an umpire in an international or first-class match is seriously hurt, if not killed,” warned Marsh while delivering the annual MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s.

“This appears most likely to occur in T20 cricket, but looking at the World Cup earlier this year, it could happen at any time.”

Marsh said if he was umpiring he would wear a baseball catcher’s helmet, chest pad and shin guards.

“Maybe we have to make this safety gear for umpires compulsory for all international and first class games,” Marsh said.

Marsh said reverting to the back-foot law would give umpires a chance to stand at least two metres further back.

“I can’t see why we ever went to the front-foot law and just quietly I can reveal there are a few umpires out there beginning to wish it would revert back to the back-foot law,” he said.

“You put yourself in their position when a batsman with a massive weapon runs at the bowler and smashes a straight drive at about chest height.”

Marsh’s comments come after former Israel cricket captain Hillel Oscar died after being struck by a ball hit by a batsman while umpiring a national league game in Israel last year.

Marsh added that cricket should follow the lead of golf and restrict the size of bats at the elite level.

“I’d put a restriction on the width of the edges because I’ll never condone a player being beaten, yet the ball still travelling 70 or 80 metres for a four or a six off the fat edge.”


Guam, Hong Kong face stern World Cup road trips

Buoyed by their first ever wins at this level in June — 1-0 over Turkmenistan and 2-1 against India — English coach Gary White believes his side, who top Group D, are ready to take on the three-times Asian champions.


“We know the size of the challenge we are faced with, up against a team that has won several Asian Cups and which has been a regular qualifier for World Cups,” he told Pacific Daily News.

“(But) that’s the position that we want to put ourselves in.”

The fixture was in doubt at one point after Guam complained that Iran were delaying visa applications, requiring the Asian Football Confederation to step in and mediate.

Some in Hong Kong have also been angered ahead of their Group C fixture in China, with complaints that tickets for the Shenzhen clash have been made unnecessarily difficult to buy.

The fixture is likely to be a tense affair after Hong Kong fans booed the Chinese anthem, adopted by the territory in 1997, before they beat Bhutan 7-0 and Maldives 2-0 in June to top the group with FIFA warning of punishments if there is a repeat.

The tie has seen Hong Kong fans reminisce over one of their rare successes against China when they won a World Cup qualifier in Beijing 30 years ago, but China boss Alain Perrin is not expecting an upset nor five days later when they host Maldives.

“Our target is to collect six points in the two matches and to score as many goals as possible against the weaker teams,” the Frenchman was quoted as saying by the South China Morning Post.

They are two of 15 matches taking place on Thursday in the joint 2019 Asian Cup qualifying campaign that has minnows and giants clashing but only the eight group winners guaranteed a spot in the second round of Asian qualifying for Russia 2018.

Four-times Asian champions Japan host lowly Cambodia, perennial World Cup qualifiers South Korea welcome Laos, Saudi Arabia, under the guidance of Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk for the first time, take on East Timor, while Asian champions Australia host Bangladesh.

(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by John O’Brien)


Mums say leave crackdown devalues women

Lieutenant Commander Sandra Croft has fought for Australia and now she is fighting to be able to spend six months at home with her baby.


The military has a rigid maternity leave system requiring women to take either 14 weeks at full pay or 28 weeks on half pay.

The half-pay option would leave Lt Cmdr Croft with just $120 a fortnight after bills, she told a Senate committee on Tuesday.

“You just can’t live on that,” she told senators examining the government’s plan to crack down on so-called double dipping of government and employer paid parental leave schemes.

The only reason she could take six months off with her son was because of the taxpayer-funded minimum wage leave scheme topping up that $120.

Lt Cmdr Croft is now contemplating having a second child.

If the government passes its changes, which will cut women off from the taxpayer-funded scheme if their employer offers leave worth $11,800 or more, she will only be able to spend 14 weeks at home with the new baby.

“I just can’t imagine leaving for work at seven in the morning and not getting home until six o’clock at night and having that three-month-old baby bond with somebody else,” Lt Cmdr Croft said.

Another mother, Rachel Green, who like Lt Cmdr Croft is a member of advocacy group The Parenthood, told the committee women’s salaries mattered to family budgets.

“To have, in my case, 70 per cent of the household income disappear for a time, that creates a massive hole,” she said.

“Every bit of support to be able to stay afloat is essential.”

Ms Green said it was distressing on her first Mother’s Day back in May to hear ministers describe her as a rorter and double dipper because she intended to access all the leave she was legally entitled to.

She warned of a “stampede on childcare places” if women were forced back to work earlier because they couldn’t afford to have as much time off.

Those concerns are shared by unions and advocacy group Women On Boards, which said the measures could force women into work earlier or create a shortfall in childcare places.

Mums may decide it’s too hard to get a place and end up falling back on parental welfare payments.

“That’s very undesirable,” chair Ruth Medd said.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry boss Kate Carnell believes the government won’t achieve most of the billion-dollar saving from the changes.

She conceded women working for small businesses were less likely to get parental leave.

Ms Carnell said employers were likely to rejig the way they pay parental leave to employees.

“They’re not going to sit back and allow their female employees to lose $11,800 and say well that was just a bit bad,” she told ABC radio ahead of the inquiry.

AI Group warned the changes could make it difficult to determine if employers were legally obliged to pay leave.

The proposed changes could also create industrial claims for employers to meet the cost of the government’s leave payments, it added.


China state media announce confessions in stock market investigations

Chinese state media announced a slew of confessions on Monday following investigations into dramatic stock market fluctuations, including from a reporter who said he had spread false information that had caused “panic and disorder”.


An official from China’s securities regulator and four senior executives from China’s largest brokerage, CITIC Securities, confessed to insider dealing, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

China is trying to restore value to its stock markets, where shares have lost around 40 per cent since mid-June on concerns over the slowing economy and a devaluation of the yuan in mid-August.

Authorities have announced crackdowns on fabricated trading information, alleged malicious short selling and other strategies seen as weakening confidence in the stock market.

Wang Xiaolu, a reporter at the respected Caijing business magazine, read a confession about his reporting on the stock market on a national state television broadcast on Monday.

“I shouldn’t have sought to make a big splash just for the sake of sensationalism,” he said on China Central Television, adding that his actions had “brought great harm upon the country and investors”.

It was not possible to verify whether Wang was forced to make the confession or did so of his own free will.

Chinese state media often publish confessions of those detained in high-profile cases before they are tried in court, a practice that rule of law advocates say violates the rights of the accused to due process.

Xinhua said Wang had confessed to writing about the Chinese stock market “based on hearsay and his own subjective guesses”.

Caijing could not be reached for comment. In a statement last Wednesday, a day after Xinhua said Wang was being held, Caijing said it had not been given a reason for his detention, adding it would support his actions within the normal course of reporting. It was unclear if Wang had a lawyer.

Xinhua also said Liu Shufan, an official with the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), had confessed to insider trading, forging official seals and using his position to boost a company’s share price in return for several million yuan of bribes. It was unclear if Liu had been detained or had a lawyer.

The CSRC could not be reached for comment.

Xinhua added that Xu Gang, Liu Wei, Fang Qingli and Chen Rongjie, whom it described as senior executives at CITIC Securities, had confessed to insider trading, although it gave few details.

A CITIC Securities spokesman declined to comment. On Sunday, the brokerage said several senior managers had been asked to assist with a public security investigation and that the company was actively cooperating with the request.

It was unclear if the four were being detained or had legal representation.

Eight CITIC employees were being investigated for suspected illegal securities trading, Xinhua has previously said.

It has not said if that investigation is linked to the one involving the CSRC official.


Forecast warns of increased bushfire risk

Australia’s east coast, much of Victoria and large parts of Western Australia face a higher risk of severe bushfires this summer.


Large parts of the country have experienced below-average rainfall across successive years while a developing El Nino weather system in the Pacific could bring drier conditions and higher temperatures.

Together, these factors could increase the severity and duration of the bushfire season, the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Co-operative Research Centre said on Tuesday.

“Such impacts will challenge the limited resources of the fire and land management agencies and have created the situation where each fire season is likely to be more demanding than the last, both in economic and human costs,” it said.

Victorian Fire Authority emergency management commissioner Craig Lapsley said central and western parts of the state were already dry, almost in a mini-drought.

“We’ve got dry fuels, dry soils already,” he said.

“El Nino is strong and getting stronger, which says we’ll have a dry, hot summer and it will be a long summer.

“We shouldn’t be scaring Victorians but they should understand that October and November is the time to do fire prevention work.”

South Australian Country Fire Service chief officer Greg Nettleton said the state’s southeast has an above-average chance of fires but other areas could also be hit.

“All we need is one afternoon of high temperatures, low humidity and very strong winds and we can have a serious and dangerous fire anywhere in the state,” he said.

The east coast of Tasmania, which was hit by serious fires two years ago, is forecast to have an increased risk.

In WA below-average rainfall and high fuel loads point to a higher risk in a large section of the state, including the area around Perth.


Top seeds in a hurry on day of U.S. Open upsets

Opening day at Flushing Meadows produced plenty of shock and awe as Djokovic delivered a jaw-dropping performance, speeding past Joao Souza of Brazil 6-1 6-1 6-1 as if the Serb had a taxi metre running outside the National Tennis Center.


Williams also played as if she had an appointment to keep as she began her final push towards a calendar year Grand Slam by pounding Vitalia Diatchenko 6-0 2-0 before the ailing Russian waved the white flag and retired injured.

Eighth seed Rafa Nadal, a two-time U.S. Open champion, needed a bit more time to get the job done, the Spaniard taking nearly three hours to fight off a challenge from 18-year-old Croatian prospect Borna Coric 6-3 6-2 4-6 6-4.

Following a Broadway-style opening ceremony complete with orchestra and choir, Williams stepped onto centre court under a spotlight to loud applause from an adoring New York crowd just seven matches from her quest to sweep this season’s slams.

The six-time champion would exit Arthur Ashe Stadium just 30 minutes later to more applause and her target reduced to six more wins to join the exclusive club of calendar Grand Slam winners Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court and Steffi Graf.

“It’s been really amazing, I can feel the support and the love on my journey for this milestone,” said Williams, who won the first of her 21 majors at Flushing Meadows 16 years ago.

“I’m so ready. Whatever happens I’m here, I’m at home where it all began in 1999, so this is incredible for me to still be here and playing well.

“It’s kind of awesome that this is the last grand slam of the year, because if it were in a different country, I think I would still love it but it’s not the same as being an American playing in New York, playing for that ultimate goal.”


Frenchman Benoit Paire provided the big shock of the day, grinding out a 6-4 3-6 4-6 7-6(6) 6-4 win over Nishikori, after the Japanese fourth seed squandered two match points in the fourth set tiebreak.

Marin Cilic, who beat Nishikori in last year’s final, had no such opening day hiccups as the ninth-seeded Croat began the defence of his title with a 6-3 7-6(3) 7-6(3) win over Argentine qualifier Guido Pella.

“It’s always very sad to lose in the first round, but I think he was playing good tennis,” Nishikori lamented. “I

don’t think I played badly. Didn’t play great, but still, it’s never easy first match.”

The 25-year-old had plenty of company at the departure lounge following a string of shocks that included Serbian seventh seed and former world number one Ana Ivanovic, eighth seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova and 10th-seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain.

A hot, muggy day got off to an ominous start when 50th-ranked Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova dispatched Ivanovic 6-3 3-6 6-3 on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court.

Anna Tatishvili gave the home fans a reason to get excited as the 121st-ranked American qualifier destroyed Pliskova 6-2 6-1 while Frenchwoman Oceane Dodin kept the upsets trending with 2-6 7-5 6-3 victory over Jelena Jankovic, the 21st seed and 2008 U.S. Open runner-up.

Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic, one of just two players to beat Serena Williams this season, strolled past Bulgarian Sesil Karatantcheva to stay on track for a quarter-final showdown with the 33-year-old American.

(Editing by John O’Brien)


SA premier wants changes to abuse reports

Mandatory reporting of child abuse is clogging up the system and putting children experiencing severe abuse at even greater risk, says South Australia’s premier.


Jay Weatherill has called for a winding back of mandatory reporting as the state’s child abuse hotline struggles with tens of thousands of unanswered and abandoned calls.

A leading child advocacy group says the state government needs to get its act together, but the premier says that while mandatory reporting sounds good, it is swamping the child protection system.

“It’s the equivalent of having everyone going into the emergency waiting room at a busy hospital, everybody that’s got a heart attack all the way through to an ingrown toenail,” Mr Weatherill told radio station 5AA on Tuesday.

Mr Weatherill’s comments came as Family First MLC Robert Brokenshire revealed more than 15,000 calls to SA’s child abuse hotline had been abandoned in the past financial year and 85,000 went unanswered over the past four years.

Mr Brokenshire said the premier’s remarks were “outrageous” and the problem was with the system itself.

“Don’t blame mandatory reporters for clogging the system,” he said.

“If a teacher or police officer or doctor believe that a child is at risk, then they mandatory report it and it’s up to the experts to work out the level of risk and the priority for attending to that child.”

Hetty Johnston, from child advocacy group Bravehearts, agreed the problem was not with mandatory reporting but with how the government manages information.

“Do we want mandatory reports to only apply if a child is nearly dead?” she told AAP.

“At what point does the child become at great risk and require a mandatory report?

“How many children are out there and being exposed to the most heinous of harm that we can’t respond to because we can’t get our act together?”

Opposition child protection spokeswoman Rachel Sanderson called on the government to increase funding for the child abuse hotline.

“An effective child protection system begins with an efficient reporting mechanism,” Ms Sanderson said.


Nadal flashes old form in win over Coric

The first two sets brought a vintage performance on a sultry night from Nadal, who has dropped to world number eight in what has been a lacklustre season for the 29-year-old Spaniard.


Given his last chance to keep alive a 10-year streak of winning at least one grand slam title, 14-times major winner Nadal schooled the 18-year-old Coric over the first two sets.

But Coric responded with his best tennis and broke the Spaniard in the 10th game of the third set to send the match to a hard-fought fourth set.

The Spaniard finally prevailed thanks to a service break on a forehand service return winner in the seventh game.

“It’s a very happy moment for me,” said Nadal, returning to Flushing Meadows for the first time since his 2013 U.S. Open triumph after missing last year with a wrist injury.

“Last year was very hard not having chance to being back in one of my favourite tournaments.”

Nadal avenged a 6-2 7-6 loss to Coric last year at Basel in his only previous encounter with the up-and-coming Coric, who at number 33 is the youngest player in the world’s top-50.

“I think I played great. The first two sets I played a very high level of tennis,” said Nadal, who served brilliantly over the first two sets and in the fourth.

“Then I get a little bit tired. I was sweating a lot.

“He is a great player and has an amazing future.”

Coric, who reached the semi-finals this year in Dubai and Nice, leads all teenagers with 22 wins this season on the ATP Tour, nine more than Alexander Zverev of Germany.

“It was the first time in my life on such a big court,” said Coric, who two years ago won the U.S. Open junior title. “I played a solid match, so very good.”

Nadal next meets Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, a 6-3 6-2 6-2 winner over Swedish qualifier Elias Ymer.

(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)


Strain comeback behind Qld horror flu year

Queensland’s horror flu season should pass soon despite a strain that was previously vaccinated against making an unexpected comeback, health authorities say.


More than 18,000 cases of influenza have been reported in the state so far this year, with roughly 3000 reported last week alone.

This is partly due to the resurgence of the so-called B Brisbane flu, which wasn’t included in this year’s three-strain subsidised vaccine.

Instead, the government-funded dose provided protection against Influenza A California, Influenza A Switzerland and Influenza B Phuket.

While the nominated strains are set in February in anticipation of each year’s flu season, people can pay more for a four-strain vaccine for extra protection.

Executive Director of Queensland Health’s Communicable Diseases Unit Dr Sonya Bennett said the surprising prevalence of the Brisbane strain was partly to blame for this year’s spike in overall cases.

“The proportion of B Brisbane does seem to be rising,” she said on Tuesday.

She said the secondary B strain typically only accounted for about five per cent of cases and was less severe than an A-strain virus.

The Brisbane strain had been in the subsidised vaccine mix between 2010 and 2012.

Despite its shock revival, Dr Bennett said the department expected the worst to be over soon.

“It is difficult to predict when the flu season will be over but figures suggest we are nearing or have reached the peak,” she said.

But some experts are calling for the federal government to consider coughing up for a four-strain flu vaccine to ensure future flu seasons aren’t so severe.

Influenza Specialist Group chairman Dr Alan Hampson anticipated this could happen in coming years after the government begins a new tender process with manufacturers.

He conceded it was rare for B-strain infections to outweigh their A-strain counterparts, but said this year’s experience just reinforced the need for a four-strain vaccine.

“Influenza is really unpredictable,” Dr Hampson said.

“You just don’t know until the last moment, until the virus is out there and circulating.”


Fire brings Adelaide CBD to a standstill

Four people were hospitalised for smoke inhalation and another was treated at the scene.


The blaze broke out in the Wing Chun Academy, a martial arts centre off Hindley Street, just after midday on Tuesday.

It forced the evacuation of nearby buildings, including the Hotel Grand Chancellor, as about 80 firefighters and 18 fire trucks battled to bring it under control.

Several streets cleared in Adelaide CBD due to large fire. pic.twitter杭州桑拿会所,/XNxxoGOzmX

— Rhiannon Elston SBS (@rhiannonelston) September 1, 2015

Several roads were closed and people were urged to avoid the area as smoke billowed from the building.

The blaze took half the city’s firefighters about two hours to contain and a Metropolitan Fire Service spokeswoman said it had caused significant damage.

“Crews are currently digging away in the roof up there so they can make sure the fire is thoroughly out,” she said.

“There’s still some concern that the front facade of the building may collapse.”

Photo: Smoke from structure fire in Adelaide, Australia, continues to fill city skyline; officials confirm fire ha… pic.twitter杭州桑拿会所,/54wAFav2xo

— Eugenio Bertolaccini (@EBertolaccini) September 1, 2015

A guest at the Hotel Grand Chancellor, Sydneysider Molly Cooper, said she was doing her make-up when the alarms went off.

“I smelled smoke through the whole building,” she told AAP.

“I think I was the last person to leave. I didn’t expect it to be such a huge thing until I came outside.

“There were crowds everywhere, fireman everywhere, photographers.”

Adelaide fire view from Leigh Street before shut to public #adelaidefire pic.twitter杭州桑拿会所,/X8JdAAdQE0

— David Maegraith (@DavidMaegraith) September 1, 2015


Fire trucks all over Hindley St #Adelaide as fire continues to blaze pic.twitter杭州桑拿会所,/hOzChl4D38

— Matthew Pantelis (@MatthewPantelis) September 1, 2015

The owner of a nearby skate store, Allan Mawer, said the fire was “full on”.

“All of a sudden they were pulling everyone back,” he told AAP as the fire raged.

“That guy on the cherry picker’s been up there for a good 20 minutes absolutely blasting the whole building (with water).”

Fire crews using cranes to contain building fire from above #adelaidefire @7NewsAdelaide @Y7News pic.twitter杭州桑拿会所,/HIPMG7JpJk

— Stacey Lee (@Staceylee_) September 1, 2015

MFS assistant chief officer Roy Thompson said no one was inside the building when the fire started.

“Our main concern was the building collapsing,” he said.

“That facade on the front of the Win Chung Academy was a major concern – bits and pieces actually started to fall off in the laneway.”


Slade hurts knee but should be fine – All Blacks

The 27-year-old, however, was quickly cleared of anything serious, assistant coach Ian Foster said when asked if it was shades of deja vu after the 2011 World Cup when the All Blacks lost three flyhalves, including Slade, to injury during the tournament.


“He slipped over during training and landed awkwardly on his knee and gave it a bit of a tweak,” Foster told reporters in Wellington. “He was walking around the shed afterwards.

“He’s fine.”

Foster added that inside centre Sonny Bill Williams had missed the session due to a cold while Waisake Naholo, who is still recovering from a broken leg, and Liam Messam only had light training by themselves.

Prop Charlie Faumuina, who missed several months as he recovered from neck surgery and was then concussed when training with the Auckland provincial team two weeks ago, came through the session fine.

“It was good to be back out there with the boys, it was pretty physical,” Faumuina told reporters. “I’m a little bit banged up and a little bit sore but it’s all good.”

Faumuina underwent surgery towards the end of the Super Rugby season to relieve pressure on a pinched nerve in his neck that was causing him pain and diminishing his strength.

That strength was slowly returning, he said, with a special neck harness allowing him to build up his power in the gym during weights sessions, he said.

“Like any other muscle it just needs time in the gym to get tougher,” he added. “I have that harness and just jump on one of the cable machines and do rotations.”

Faumuina could possibly play for Auckland this week against Waikato in an effort to regain match fitness after he had been involved in a head clash with a provincial team mate at training on Aug. 18 and concussed, which had delayed his recovery.

“It’s been a bit frustrating with the neck surgery and then coming back and potentially playing and then getting concussed,” the 28-year-old said.

“It slowed me down a little bit but I’m just so happy to be back in the team and looking forward to getting on with it.”

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)