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Lions face ‘fourth Test’ as big guns to lead South Africa ‘A’ side

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British & Irish lions tour preview 
Venue:
Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town 
Kick-off: 7pm 
On TV: Live on Sky Sports

Necessity being the mother of invention after being restricted to just one outing together in 21 months, Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber have had to dip heavily into their front-line World Cup-winning team tonight. Hence to call them their previous incarnation, Emerging Springboks, would be a misnomer.

A dozen of the players who played against England in the World Cup final feature for the “As”, including nine of the starting line-up that night in Tokyo: Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Faf de Klerk, Steven Kitshoff, Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert and Pieter-Steph du Toit, as well as Morne Steyn, who kicked the winning penalty to seal the series 12 years ago.

The pre-Test series mind games having started, “bring it on” was the gist of Warren Gatland’s response, while at the same time rejecting Erasmus’ entreaties for a sequel next Saturday as the Lions fulfil their obligations to play the Stormers.

Instead, a match against the Bulls this Saturday is being lined up for the Springboks in order to afford them some more match preparation when others, such as Handre Pollard, can be given a badly needed run-out. However, Siya Kolisi appears to be in a race against time for the first Test following a lengthy period in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19.

Meaningful game

That first Test is but 10 days away and so, for the vast majority of this Lions team and possibly all, this is their last chance to state their Test credentials. At least it will be the most meaningful game of the tour to date, and how.

As well as drawing 13-all with the Emerging Boks 12 years ago, the Lions won all six provincial games, and a fat lot of good it did them come the first Test.

So far the tourists have racked up 26 tries and 181 points, while conceding eight tries, in three wins. But this will be no romp, and it is the generous sprinkling of spice which the tour probably needed.

The level of physicality will likely make it look like a different sport and with the additional risk of injuries Gatland was assuredly correct in rejecting another meeting on Saturday. Two of these in advance of a three-Test series would be bordering on reckless for it will be widely felt Boks would like nothing more than to soften up the tourists.

“Emm, yeah, who knows,” said Lions kicking coach Neil Jenkins when that was put to him yesterday. “At the end of the day the games are tough anyway, no matter which country you are touring.

“There was the Maori All Blacks four years ago and there’s been Aussie ‘As’ and different things on other tours, the Emerging Springboks in ’09 and South Africa ‘A’ tomorrow.”

Conor Murray was quick to label this game the unofficial fourth Test before finally leading out the Lions for the first time since being named tour captain. With Finn Russell’s tour in doubt, alongside the skipper Dan Biggar, he has another chance to nail down the “10” Test spot.

Big game

For the other two Irish starters, Bundee Aki can offer compelling evidence for his inclusion in the first Test matchday squad, and should it come to pass that Alun Wyn Jones does rejoin the squad, Iain Henderson needs a big game here against Etzebeth and Mostert.

Then again that’s true to varying extents for most of these Lions.

“I think the game will be very tight and very tough, and could go either way,” ventured Jenkins. “We will do our utmost to win and perform to the level we need to and give ourselves a good understanding of where we are at. It’s not the be-all and end-all. It’s all about the Test series. That’s what you generally get remembered for on Lions tours. Tomorrow is important, so is Saturday. We’ll be doing our utmost to win.”

In the heel of the hunt the Lions may have enough cohesion to shade it, although perhaps the Springboks will get more from it.

SOUTH AFRICA ‘A’: Willie le Roux; Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am (captain), Damian de Allende, Sbu Nkosi; Morné Steyn, Faf de Klerk; Steven Kitshoff, Joseph Dweba, Trevor Nyakane; Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert; Marco van Staden, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jasper Wiese.

Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Coenie Oosthuizen, Vincent Koch, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Rynhardt Elstadt, Herschel Jantjies, Jesse Kriel, Damian Willemse, Kwagga Smith, Elton Jantjies.

BRITISH & IRISH LIONS: Anthony Watson (Bath, England); Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester, Wales), Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby, Scotland), Bundee Aki (Connacht, Ireland), Josh Adams (Cardiff, Wales); Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales), Conor Murray – captain (Munster, Ireland); Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales), Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales), Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, England); Maro Itoje (Saracens, England), Iain Henderson (Ulster, Ireland); Josh Navidi (Cardiff, Wales), Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, England), Taulupe Faletau (Bath, Wales). Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England), Mako Vunipola (Saracens, England), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland), Adam Beard (Ospreys, Wales), Tadhg Beirne (Munster, Ireland), Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, England), Gareth Davies (Scarlets, Wales), Elliot Daly (Saracens, England).

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa).

Betting (Paddy Power): 5/4 South Africa ‘A’, 19/1 Draw, 4/6 Lions. Handicap odds (South Africa A + 3pts) 10/11 South Africa A, 22/1 Draw, 10/11 Lions.

Forecast: Lions to win.

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Macron presses Biden for ‘clarifications’ over submarine snub

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Macron was left furious by Australia’s decision last week to ditch a 2016 deal to buy diesel submarines from France in favour of nuclear-powered ones from the United States and Britain.

After a cabinet meeting, government spokesman Gabriel Attal made clear French anger had not abated with an unusually frank statement of Macron’s expectations from the scheduled conversation with 78-year-old Biden.

The exchange would be an opportunity to “clarify both the way in which this announcement was made and the way for an American re-engagement in its relationship with an ally,” Attal said.

Paris was particularly outraged that Australia negotiated with Washington and London in secret, which French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian denounced as “treachery” and a “stab in the back”.

French officials were notified about the loss of the contract just hours before Biden unveiled the new AUKUS security and defence partnership between the three English-speaking countries.

READ ALSO OPINION: France’s Australian submarine row shows that Macron was right about NATO

Macron was expecting “clarifications about the American decision to keep a European ally outside of fundamental talks about cooperation in the Indo-Pacific,” Attal added, without giving the schedule time for the exchange.

“We expect our allies to acknowledge that the exchanges and consultations that should have taken place did not, and that this poses a question about confidence, which all of us need to draw conclusions about now.”

Showdown

The submarine row has plunged Franco-US ties into what some analysts view as the most acute crisis since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, which Paris opposed.

After four years of tumultuous relations with ex-president Donald Trump, the spat has also dashed hopes of a complete reset under Biden, who took office in January aiming to rebuild frazzled ties with Europe.

As the row drags on, observers and some of France’s European partners are wondering how and when the French leader will call an end to the face-off, which is playing out just seven months ahead of presidential elections.

British Prime Minister Johnson said it was “time for some of our dearest friends around the world to ‘prenez un grip’ (get a grip)” in comments in Washington that mixed French and English.

“‘Donnez-moi un break’ because this is fundamentally a great step forward for global security,” he told Sky News.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, whose country is staunchly pro-American, defended Biden as “very loyal” and warned against turning “challenges which will always exist between allies into something they should not be.”

Conditions

Attal said that France and the US needed to begin a process “to create the conditions for confidence to be restored”.

As well as an acknowledgement of French interests in the Pacific region, the process should include “full recognition by our American allies of the need to boost European sovereignty as well as the importance of the growing commitment by the Europeans to their own defence and security.”

This latter point is a source of tension between Biden and Macron, who has pushed hard during his four-and-a-half years in office for Europeans to invest more in defence and pool resources in order to increase their joint military capabilities.

The US, and some EU members including Denmark and Baltic countries, see this as a potential challenge to NATO, the US-led transatlantic military alliance that has been the cornerstone of European defence since World War II.

French Defence Minister Florence Parly argued against the idea of France withdrawing from NATO command structures, which some politicians in France have suggested in the wake of the submarines snub.

“Is it worth slamming the door on NATO? I don’t think so,” she said, while adding that “political dialogue is non-existent in NATO.”

Australia’s decision to order nuclear-powered submarines was driven by concern about China’s commercial and military assertiveness in the Pacific region, where Biden is seeking to build an alliance of democratic states to help contain Beijing.



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Paschal Donohoe plans bank levy extension but lower haul

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Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe will continue the Irish banking levy beyond its scheduled conclusion date at the end of this year, but plans to lower the targeted annual haul from the current €150 million as overseas lenders Ulster Bank and KBC Bank Ireland retreat from the market, according to sources.

Reducing the industry overall levy target will avoid the remaining three banks facing higher levy bills at a time when the Government is seeking to lower its stakes in the bailed-out lenders.

AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB paid a combined €93 million levy in each of the last two years, according to their latest annual reports. A decision on the new targeted yield, currently linked to deposit interest retention tax (DIRT) collected by banks on customers’ savings, will be announced at the unveiling of Budget 2022 on October 12th.

Originally introduced in 2014 by then minister for finance Michael Noonan for three years to ensure banks made a “contribution” to a recovering economy after the sector’s multibillion-euro taxpayer bailout, the annual banking levy has since been extended to the end of 2021.

A further extension of the levy has largely been expected by the banks and industry analysts, as the sector has been able to use multibillion euro losses racked up during the financial crisis to reduce their tax bills. A spokesman for the Department of Finance declined to comment on the future status of the banking levy as planning for Budget 2022 continues.

AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB (PTSB) alone have utilised almost €500 million of tax losses against their corporation tax bills between 2017 and 2019, according to Department of Finance figures.

Sources said that the Government will be keen not to land a levy increase on the three lenders at a time when it is currently selling down its stake in Bank of Ireland and plotting a course for the reduction of its positions in AIB and PTSB in time.

The Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), which holds the Bank of Ireland stake on behalf of the Minister for Finance, sold 2 percentage points of holding in the market between July and August, reducing its interest to just below 12 per cent.

Meanwhile, it has been reported in recent days that the UK government is planning to lower an 8 per cent surcharge that it has applied to bank profits since the start of 2016. It comes as the general UK corporation tax is set to rise from 19 per cent to 25 per cent in 2023.

“The optics of reducing the surcharge might still be bad politically, but it would signal the partial rehabilitation for the nation’s banking sector,” said Eamonn Hughes, an analyst with Goodbody Stockbrokers, in a note to clients on Tuesday, adding that he continues to factor in a retention of the Irish banking levy in his financial estimates for banks over the medium term.

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‘Covid light’: How to get Switzerland’s data-safe Covid certificate

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One of the major concerns surrounding Switzerland’s Covid certificate, as with other Covid passports, has been privacy. 

In order to respond to these concerns, Switzerland in summer launched the ‘Covid light’ certificate. 

Unlike the Covid certificate itself, which displays which vaccine they had, the date on which they were vaccinated, whether they have recovered from the virus or whether they tested negative, the Covid light certificate simply shows whether or not a person’s credentials are valid. 

As noted directly by the government “the certificate light does not contain any health data; it merely shows that the holder has a valid COVID certificate.”

More information about the certificate itself can be found at the following link. 

UPDATE: What is Switzerland’s data-safe ‘light’ Covid certificate?

Importantly, the Covid light certificate only works in Switzerland, i.e. it cannot be used for travel purposes or in other countries. 

What exactly is the certificate light and is it in digital form? 

The ‘certificate light’ might sound like a separate document from the main Covid certificate, but in reality is effectively a data-safe function of the app itself. 

This function can be switched on, from which point the certificate only provides minimal data, including your name, date of birth, electronic signature and whether the certificate is valid or not. 

While this is done in the app, it can also be printed out. 

How do I get the certificate light?

If you go into your Covid certificate app, you can see there is an option to get a ‘certificate light’ if you tap on the certificate itself. 

Once the certificate is activated, it will be valid for 48 hours. After that 48 hour period, it must be activated again. 

UPDATED: A step-by-step guide to getting the Swiss Covid certificate

If you need to show your actual Covid certificate after you have activated certificate light (for instance for travel), you will need to deactivate it. 

The certificate light can be activated and deactivated again and again at no cost. 

The following diagram, produced by the Swiss government, shows how the certificate can be activated and deactivated (albeit in relatively shabby resolution). 

Switzerland’s Covid light certificate. Image: FOPH.



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