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Hundreds farewell Vietnam pilot, 39 years on

Pilot Officer Carver’s family and friends took part in a full military funeral service at St Luke’s Church in Toowoomba, Queensland, almost 40 years after the airman’s death.

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The 24-year-old pilot, and his colleague, Flying Officer Michael Herbert, also 24, disappeared while on a bombing mission near the Vietnam-Laos border in November 1970.

Their remains were finally found – alongside the wreckage of their bomber – in dense jungle last month, allowing them to be returned to their families.

“Freddy, welcome home,” said Lieutenant Colonel Tony Ralph (retired) who was a member of the cadets with Pilot Officer Carver four decades ago.

“It’s taken a long time, but we are glad you’re here,” he said, speaking on behalf of the Carver family.

Acting parish priest Father Geoff Poliness said the funeral was of national significance, because Pilot Officer Carter was one of “the last men home”.

RAAF fly-past tribute

“But let us not forget that behind it all there is the life of a human being that we’ve come to honour.”

Defence Minister John Faulkner and Air Force Chief Air Marshal Mark Binskin were among the mourners, and later presented the Carver family with the RAAF Ensign that had adorned the coffin.

At the conclusion of the service in the sun outside the church, three volleys were fired by a special guard of airmen and women before the Last Post and Reveille were played.

Then, in a final, roaring tribute, an RAAF F-111 performed a fly-past.

The Anglican Bishop to the Defence Forces, Bishop Len Eacott, led the committal outside and provided a sense of final resolution for mourners after so many years of waiting.

“As a family, as a nation, as a community, we now leave Robert Carver to rest in peace,” he said. “Rest in peace Freddy.”

Pilot Officer Carver’s remains were later cremated in Toowoomba.

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Aussie Mark Renshaw kicked off Tour

Australian Mark Renshaw paid the price for his team’s win-at-all-costs approach to the Tour de France 11th stage on Thursday when he was excluded from the race for headbutting.

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Renshaw, the lead-out man for HTC-Columbia team-mate Mark Cavendish, played a crucial role in Cavendish’s six stage wins on the race last year.

VIDEO: Chaotic sprint to the finish

VIDEO: Mark Renshaw describes the action

But in the final 500 metres of the 184.5km stage from Sisteron, the normally affable Australian lost his head when he tried to headbutt Garmin-Transitions’ Kiwi lead-out man Julian Dean three times.

Cavendish eventually raced on towards his third stage win of the race, and 13th of his career, as Renshaw then produced another blatant blunder by trying to block Dean’s sprinter, Tyler Farrar, as the American tried to come up the inside of the barriers.

Top race official Jean-Francois Pescheux said they only needed to look at the television pictures once to make their decision.

“Renshaw was declassified immediately but we have decided to also throw him off the race,” said Pescheux.

“We’ve only seen the pictures once, but his actions are plain for all to see. They were blatant. This is a bike race, not a gladiator’s arena.”

Television pictures show Dean getting very close to Renshaw as he tried to bring Farrar into position, although elbows and shoulders are certainly not unknown to clash in the hotly-contested bunch sprints.

For Dean, a former team-mate of Renshaw’s at Credit Agricole, Renshaw’s actions were simply uncalled for.

However, the Kiwi suggested it was Renshaw’s second error, closing the door on Farrar, that was most dangerous.

“All the other (HTC-Columbia) guys were fine, it was just Renshaw’s behaviour that was inappropriate,” said Dean.

“I jumped my front wheel in Cav’s wheel. I went past Renshaw and tried to keep the speed high and while I was coming out of Renshaw, he didn’t seem to like it too much.

“I didn’t make any movement at all. Next thing I felt like he was leaning on me and hitting me with his head.”

He added: “And then he carried on afterwards and came across on Tyler’s line and stopped Tyler from possibly winning the stage. He shouldn’t have done that. It’s not appropriate.

“It’s dangerous behaviour and if there had been a crash there it would have caused some guys some serious damage.

“What we do is very dangerous and we don’t need behaviour like that to make it even more dangerous.”

Speaking before being informed of the decision, Renshaw claimed he had been in danger of being put into the barriers by Dean; a claim that television pictures did not appear to corroborate.

“The guy (Dean) came across from me… either he keeps turning left, puts me in the barrier and I crash, or I try to lean against him,” he said.

“I didn’t have another option. It’s all about sprinting straight.”

Although saddened by the decision, Cavendish laid some of the blame on Dean, claiming the Kiwi “hooked his elbow over Mark’s right elbow”.

“Mark used his head to try and get away. There’s a risk when the elbows are that close (that) the handlebars are going to tangle,” said Cavendish.

“That puts everyone behind in danger. Mark (Renshaw) gave us a bit of space that kept us upright.”

He added: “I’m very happy to win. The team did a great job.”

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Most long-haul first class seats ‘axed’

Australia’s flag carrier Qantas is planning to dump two-thirds of its first-class airline seats as part of a radical 350 million US dollar overhaul of its long-haul fleet, a report said Monday.

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The changes, which could increase economy seating areas on planes by up to 20 percent, comes after the world financial crisis sparked a dramatic slump in demand for expensive premium seating on long-distance flights.

Under the scheme that could be announced within weeks, Qantas would retain first class seats only on its London and Los Angeles flights, slashing the number of its first-class planes to 12 from 30, the Australian Financial Review said.

The paper, quoting a leaked reconfiguration plan, said the changes would mean that sumptuous first class bed-seats would be stripped out of all the airline’s Boeing 747-400s, leaving 14 first class seats in just 12 Airbus A380 super jumbos.

‘Number of changes’

Qantas confirmed it was in talks with suppliers and manufacturers about implementing changes to its fleet, but declined to offer further details or to confirm the Review story.

“We are considering a number of changes to our fleet including the 747-400 and we are still in early discussions with suppliers and manufacturers,” a Qantas spokeswoman told AFP.

“We have flagged previously that Qantas is considering a number of options for our fleet, but it’s too premature to provide further details on changes that Qantas may make in the future,” she said.

The airline’s Chief Executive Alan Joyce said Qantas would continue to offer first class seats after it completes a new seat configuration, the details of which he said were expected to be announced in a few weeks.

“There is a role for first class but it’s not as extensive it was in the past,” Joyce told CNBC television.

The airline’s international business is continuing to suffer, he conceded, adding however that demand for air travel in the domestic market was recovering.

Qantas said last month that its international patronage was down 22.6 percent in the 12 months to November compared with a year earlier.

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Danger of ignoring roadworks revealed

Film footage showing the shocking consequences of motorists not slowing down or paying attention when driving through roadworks has been released by Britain’s Highways Agency.

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One bit of film shows a lorry overturning, while another shows a truck ploughing into the back of a car.

The footage prompted a government minister to warn drivers that “saving a few seconds on your journey is simply not worth it”.

The footage has been taken from cameras situated within roadworks on England’s motorways and major A roads.

It has been made available in a bid to remind drivers of the importance of taking extra care through roadworks.

The footage includes a motorist failing to spot traffic slowing ahead and crashing into the back of queuing traffic and a lorry ploughing into the back of a car, sending it crashing into roadworks just metres away from roadworkers.

The agency highlighted some cases of those affected by roadworks’ crashes.

In one case, Roger Pomeroy was helping direct traffic past the scene of an overturned vehicle on the A303 in southwest England shortly before midnight.

He was hit by a car travelling about 64km/h. The car carried him almost 100m and then threw him to the ground. He suffered head injuries and broke his leg in two places.

“My most vivid memory was of Maxine [my partner] at the hospital just crying and crying. I didn’t know whether I was going to survive or die,” he said.

Mr Pomeroy needed 38 stitches in his leg and head and was off work for six months while his leg healed. He underwent extensive physiotherapy and counselling and has since returned to full duties.

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EU beefs up data protection laws

A European parliament committee has approved sweeping new data protection rules that would strengthen online privacy and outlaw the kind of data transfers that the US used for its secret spying program.

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The draft regulation was beefed up after American defence contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks about allegedly widespread US online snooping to include even more stringent privacy protection and stiff fines for violations. The legislation will have significant implications for US internet companies, too.

After 18 months of wrangling and fierce industry lobbying, the legislation easily passed late on Monday with a 49-3 committee vote, with one abstention. Parliament still needs to hold a plenary vote and seek agreement with the EU’s 28 member states though – which is likely to result in some changes.

The rules would for the first time create a strong data protection law for Europe’s 500 million citizens, replacing an outdated patchwork of national rules that only allow for tiny fines in cases of violation.

“Tonight’s vote also sends a clear signal: as of today, data protection is made in Europe,” said EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding.

Supporters have hailed the legislation as a milestone toward establishing genuine online privacy rights, while opponents have warned of creating a hugely bureaucratic regulation that will overwhelm businesses and consumers.

“In the future, only EU law will be applicable when citizens’ data in the EU will be used, independently of where the company using the data is based, be it in Germany, Ireland or the USA,” said MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht, who led the negotiations on the legislation.

The legislation, among other things, aims at enabling users to ask companies to fully erase their personal data, handing them a so-called right to be forgotten. It would also limit user profiling, require companies to explain their use of personal data in detail to customers, and mandate that companies seek prior consent. In addition, most businesses would have to designate or hire data protection officers to ensure the regulation is properly applied.

Grave compliance failures could be subject to a fine worth up to 5 per cent of a company’s annual revenue – which could be hundreds of millions of dollars, or even a few billion dollars for internet giants such as Google.

“Those companies are making billions from European citizens’ data. So if you want them to comply, you have to give them the right incentives,” said Giacomo Luchetta of the Centre for European Policy Studies.

In response to the revelations of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) online spying activities, MEPs also toughened the initial draft regulation, prepared by the European Commission, to make sure companies no longer share European citizens’ data with authorities of a third country, unless explicitly allowed by EU law or an international treaty.

That means US tech companies would no longer be allowed to hand over private data of their European customers to US authorities as they did for Prism, the secret spying program led by the NSA.

“Companies that still do it – if for example pressured by the NSA – will have to face drastic sanctions,” Albrecht said.

In a move welcomed by consumer groups and businesses, the regulation also introduces a so-called one-stop-shop approach, meaning companies would only have to deal with the national data protection authority where they are based in the EU, not with 28 national watchdogs.

Consumers, in turn, would be able to file complaints with their national authority, regardless of where the targeted service provider is based. For example that would make it easier for an Austrian consumer to complain about a social media site such as Facebook, which has its EU headquarters in Ireland.

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Vector eyes Australian acquisitions

Auckland electricity, gas and telecommunications network owner Vector says it is looking for opportunities in Australia rather than acquisitions in New Zealand, where it says the tax laws favour foreign owners of utility assets.

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Vector chairman Michael Stiassny told shareholders at the annual meeting in Auckland that acquiring network businesses in New Zealand would “imperil” the company’s prospects.

“Infrastructure assets such as Vector’s are highly coveted by international investors, especially those who are able to benefit from capital structures that minimise their tax obligations,” said Mr Stiassny.

“This lower tax burden allows them to pay prices for infrastructure well above the level that would make economic sense for Vector.

“Without a change to taxation rules that puts our international competitors on the same footing as Vector, acquisitions would imperil our commitments to customers and you, our investors.”

That meant Vector’s regulated businesses, which provide some 64 per cent of annual revenue and 80 per cent of operating earnings, would rely for improving returns on population growth and squeezing further efficiencies from its network.

Labour Party revenue spokesman David Clark earlier this month raised the issue of multi-national investors in New Zealand being able to make paying corporate tax “optional”.

He cited the Wellington network company WE, owned by Hong Kong-based Cheung Kong Group, controlled by Asia’s richest man, Li Ka-Shing, as an example.

WE has paid no corporate tax since 2008, when Vector sold it to Cheung Kong for $NZ785 million ($A694.38 million).

Chief executive Simon Mackenzie gave shareholders the glimpse of a future in which solar-powered electricity generation, backed up by on-site batteries, would not only continue to reduce demand for conventionally delivered electricity, but could take cost pressures off companies like Vector.

“If enough customers sign up for a long-term solution within any given area, we will not need to build as much capacity into our networks,” he said.

“Meanwhile, we also gain new investment opportunities.”

Mr Mackenzie identified Australia as a possible revenue source for Vector, saying the “seamless deployment” of more than half a million smart meters was being recognised “internationally as a model deployment”.

“Overseas jurisdictions, such as Australia, which have not had the same experience, are increasingly looking at the New Zealand model and Vector is investigating the opportunities that this may create,” he said.

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Kirwan signs Nonu to Blues rugby deal

Sir John Kirwan says he approached Ma’a Nonu to get him into the Blues next year without any NZ Rugby pressure, but he had to get over himself to do it.

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The centre confirmed on Tuesday he had signed a two-year contract with the Blues, meaning his third Super Rugby team in as many seasons.

Kirwan was unhappy Nonu this year reneged on an earlier handshake agreement to stay and instead went to the Highlanders, for whom he had a miserable season.

The Blues’ coach said the pair “cleared the air a wee bit” in Auckland a couple of weeks after Nonu left, and the player’s form with the All Blacks convinced Kirwan to make an approach five weeks ago.

“I thought ‘get over yourself JK, move on’,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

“I just decided to put the Blues first and say ‘well, if there’s a world-class number 12 available, why wouldn’t you go and talk to him?’.”

Nonu has been seen as something of a problem child in Super Rugby after being forced out of the Hurricanes in 2011, having an ordinary half-season with the Blues in 2012 after returning from Japan and a less than stellar 2013 with the Highlanders.

But Kirwan said he wasn’t worried about Nonu’s reputation.

“People told me that about Rene Ranger last year as well, and I found Rene fantastic,” he said.

“I look at what Ma’a’s doing in the All Blacks and there’s not a bad word coming out of that environment, and I think it’s really up to us at the Blues and our environment to get the best out of Ma’a.”

There was a prospect no New Zealand franchise would pick Nonu and he would be forced to play overseas, but Kirwan said there was no pressure from NZ Rugby.

Aiding his cause is the fact former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry and skills coach Mick Byrne, who have both had success with Nonu, are part of the Blues’ set-up.

Kirwan didn’t see a problem with having Nonu and 2013 All Black Francis Saili in the same team, saying he could see Saili thriving at centre.

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Sentence increased for WA murdering pair

Two men who savagely strangled and beat a Perth drug dealer to death before covering him in acid and burying him in a shallow grave, have had their minimum jail terms increased to 21 years on appeal.

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Sam Jacob Walker and Jonathan Robert Lee pleaded guilty to murdering David Houston, 24, in May last year and were sentenced to life in prison with a 12-year minimum.

But prosecutors appealed the sentence claiming it was too lenient, and on Tuesday, the Court of Appeal agreed, increasing the sentence by nine years.

The pair must now serve at least 21 years before becoming eligible for parole.

Justice Carmel McLure said the murder was at the high end of the scale of seriousness.

“The killing of the deceased was intentional, unprovoked, ferocious and sustained, and merciless in its execution,” she said.

“It is further aggravated by the fact that the offence was committed in company against a defenceless, unsuspecting victim, and deliberate steps were taken to conceal the crime.

“Their capacity to behave with such savagery and detachment cannot be laid solely at the door of their methylamphetamine-fuelled intoxication.”

The court heard Walker, then aged 26, told Lee’s girlfriend: “I’m going to kill David.”

The woman took Lee, then aged 23, into the bathroom where they had sex. Upon hearing Mr Houston scream, they went out into the kitchen area where they found Walker choking the victim.

Lee then began kicking and stomping on Mr Houston’s head and chest, causing one eye to bulge out of its socket.

Believing they had killed Mr Houston, the men dragged his body to the shower but Mr Houston regained consciousness, prompting Lee to kick him again.

A post-mortem examination found Mr Houston had severe head and chest injuries, but died from neck compression.

The men then wrapped the body in a barbecue cover and Walker drove the corpse to a remote site where it was buried with acid.

Police later used the vehicle’s GPS to find the body near the coastal town of Binningup, 130km south of Perth.

Justice McLure said Walker’s conduct was premeditated and he struck the fatal blow.

“However, Lee fully and enthusiastically participated in and facilitated the violence inflicted on the deceased with an intention to kill him,” she said.

“The fact that he did not inflict the ultimately fatal injury was not for want of trying on his part.”

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Mundine devastated by Mosley walkout

A devastated Anthony Mundine hopes his aborted fight with Shane Mosley can be resurrected, and plans to fly with his manager Khoder Nasser to Los Angeles this week to try to make the contest happen in December.

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Mosley jetted back to the US on Tuesday morning after promoter Vlad Warton, who’d put the fight together, failed to pay the former three-time world champion an upfront fee of $700,000 as stipulated in his $1 million contract.

Mundine said he fell into a temporary state of depression when he was told the fight was off having made weight for the WBA light-middleweight contest just hours before the official weigh-in which had been scheduled for 1pm (AEDT) on Tuesday.

It was the first time in his 45-fight career that one of his contests had not been promoted by Nasser and hoped the fight could take place in Sydney before Christmas.

“We will do all we can to try and bring this promotion back to life in our hands … and we’re already in talks with Golden Boy Promotions,” Nasser said.

“Anthony is devastated and has waited all his career to fight someone who of this stature and someone who has been in the mix with the best fighters over the last five years.

“All I can say is that the fight came about because Vlad Warton was able to deliver Shane Mosley and that was too good an offer to ignore.

“We thought this man could deliver but, at the last minute, it hasn’t happened.”

Mundine said he’d spent three months preparing for the fight and was bitterly disappointed.

“Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be, maybe it’s a blessing in disguise and maybe we can salvage the event,” Mundine said.

“We’ve always run our promotions; I’ve had 45 fights and never had a problem. I just want to make it clear, it was nothing to do with us.

“I am just a fighter and I want to take it into my hands and make it happen.”

Mundine refused to put the boot into Warton, who was Kostya Tszyu’s former promoter, and didn’t blame Mosley for walking away.

“Vlad saw an opportunity and he put it together,” he said.

“He’s been cool with me. I didn’t find out until the 11th hour last night … and I didn’t know if it was on or off until I heard he was on the plane. I am devastated.

“I lay no blame on Mosley. He is just a fighter himself and he just wants to make sure he gets paid.”

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Form means nothing in derbies: Popovic

Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic says Sydney FC’s miserable form will be irrelevant in the cauldron of Saturday’s A-League derby.

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Honours are even in the brief history of the Sydney derby, with the teams meeting three times last season for one win each and a draw.

Sydney FC’s were drubbed 4-0 by Brisbane Roar on Sunday after losing skipper Alessandro Del Piero to a calf strain that is likely to rule him out of the derby match at Allianz Stadium.

The Wanderers scored a 2-0 win when the two teams met at Allianz Stadium in round 11 last year.

“What I learned as a first-time coach is that those games are very unpredictable,” Popovic said on Tuesday.

“Form goes out the window and derbies are special games on the field and off the field for the fans.

“We had a great result there last year and we played a great game of football and we’d love to do that again.”

Popovic was willing to admit losing del Piero would be a huge blow for Sydney FC.

The continued individual brilliance of the 38-year-old Italian has been the only constant in what is already shaping as another rollercoaster season for the Sky Blues.

He scored the winner in Sydney’s win over the Wanderers in round three last year and netted the only goal in their 1-1 draw in the final round.

“He’s a special player and, going back to the derbies last year, he scored in two of them. He’s a great player,” Popovic said.

“It’s a shame for the fans in such a big game that a top player like him may not be able to be there, but I’m sure if he’s not there it will still be a great game.”

Wanderers skipper Michael Beauchamp insisted his job in defence would be no easier without the dangerous Del Piero, with former Socceroo Brett Emerton likely to take his place should he be ruled out.

He said the humiliating loss to the Roar would be powerful motivation for Sydney FC.

“They’re going to have a lot to prove after a loss like that. They’ll be fired up being a derby and playing at home,” he said.

A record crowd is expected at Allianz Stadium for the clash with figures set to trump the current club record for a regular season match of 35,419, set for Del Piero’s first home game against Newcastle last October.

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Kirwan takes gamble on New Zealand rugby’s most enigmatic player

Nonu’s decision to sign with the NZRU and rejoin Super Rugby’s Auckland Blues until the 2015 World Cup ensured the national body would avoid some murky bending of eligibility rules and provided the All Blacks with a proven matchwinner as they look to defend the Webb Ellis trophy.

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The decision to sign Nonu, whether the NZRU was twisting his arm or not, is a gamble for Blues coach John Kirwan who is welcoming back a player who has already walked away from the team once and could upset the culture the former All Blacks winger is trying to develop.

Nonu after all has always been a player that marched to the beat of his own drum. He openly admitted to wearing eye liner early in his career and his dreadlocked hairstyle has often supported garishly coloured braids.

He was one of the first All Blacks to choose fluorescent coloured boots rather than the traditional black and this year he appeared to have bleached one of his eyebrows.

Originally making the All Blacks in 2003, he was singled out by then centre Tana Umaga who said he felt that at aged 21 his Wellington team mate had “it”, the indescribable quality that would make him stand out as a great All Blacks player.

He initially struggled for regular game time early in his international career with Aaron Mauger often paired with Umaga in the All Blacks’ midfield and was preferred as an impact player coming off the bench.

He was dropped for the 2007 World Cup and suggested at the time the door to rugby league was open, though he became a more permanent fixture from 2008 onwards and short of Sonny Bill Williams’ cameo in rugby union, has barely been challenged for the inside centre role in the national side since.

Critics have suggested it is that knowledge that no-one was realistically challenging him for his All Blacks place meant he felt he could coast into the national setup without having to perform on the Super Rugby field.

Nonu’s initial Super Rugby difficulties, however, were not performance related when he was told in 2011 by Wellington Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett to seek employment elsewhere.

SECOND CHANCES

Local media reported Hammett had fallen out with Nonu due to his persistent challenging of authority, hazing of younger players and poor discipline on the field, with the centre receiving too many yellow cards for the coach’s liking.

He was given a lifeline by then Blues coach Pat Lam in 2012, though he joined them late after spending a season in Japan and his performances were poor, however, many felt fatigue was a factor after 18 months of non-stop rugby.

He then walked away from a handshake agreement he had with new Blues coach Kirwan for 2013, instead venturing south to Dunedin where he again under-performed for a Highlanders side that struggled under coach Jamie Joseph.

His last act in a Highlanders jersey was being sent off in their final game of the season and he declined a contract extension, prompting consternation at NZRU headquarters with none of the five Super Rugby teams saying they wanted him.

The national body had been increasingly resigned to him playing abroad in the first part of 2014, creating issues for All Blacks coach Steve Hansen due to the policy that restricts the team to players contracted to New Zealand-based sides.

NZRU chief executive Steve Tew and Hansen both said publicly they wanted Nonu to remain in New Zealand and they urged the franchises to find a solution, which irked Nonu’s critics.

“The desperation with which the All Blacks and the NZRU are trying to accommodate Nonu is in danger of undermining their whole ethos,” Fairfax Media sports columnist Mark Reason wrote last month when it was unclear where Nonu would end up.

“It is shameful that senior figures are bewailing the fact that Nonu can’t find a Super Rugby franchise.

“The fault is Nonu’s. He has had enough second chances.”

Tuesday’s decision has given him another.

(Editing by Patrick Johnston)

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Open speed limits irresponsible: doctors

The Northern Territory’s plan to trial open speed limits could pose significant dangers to motorists and pedestrians.

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The NT government plans to trial an open speed limit for 12 months from February on a 200km stretch of the Stuart Highway near Alice Springs, but the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) is urging it to reconsider what it believes is an irresponsible decision.

“Open speed limits have been removed from the vast majority of jurisdictions (worldwide) because of consistent evidence linking speed to car crashes, deaths and injuries,” Chair of the RACP NT State Committee, Dr Christine Connors, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“By allowing motorists to travel at very high speeds, the Northern Territory government is putting the lives of Territorians at unnecessary risk.”

In the 10 years between 2001-2011, there were no speed-related fatalities on the proposed stretch of road, NT Minister for Transport Peter Styles said last week.

“We are bringing responsibility back to motorists. They need to be able to drive to the road conditions and their capabilities,” he said.

He stressed that motorists should consider the condition of the road, weather and the standard of their vehicle.

But risk-taking young men are most likely to be killed driving too fast on rural roads, and an open speed limit is giving them permission to drive even more recklessly, Dr Connors said.

“As a community, we should be protecting these young men as well as others using our roads,” she said.

The RACP says that, prior to the introduction of speed limits on certain roads in 2007, the NT had the highest per-capita fatality rate across the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development – and twice the Australian average.

In 2012, more than a third of all Territory road fatalities and serious injuries were attributed to speed.

Of the 212 recorded driver fatalities in the NT from 2002-2012, a quarter were males aged between 16 and 25 years, the RACP says.

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RLWC a fitting finale for Civoniceva

More than 30 years after his first game of rugby league, Petero Civoniceva is finally ready to hang up his boots for good.

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But not before one final – and fitting – challenge.

The 37-year-old will lead his country of birth Fiji at the rugby league World Cup, writing the final chapter in a career which has featured 45 Tests for Australia, 33 State of Origins for Queensland and 309 NRL games for Brisbane and Penrith.

Civoniceva retired from the NRL at the end of 2012 but he wasn’t lost to the sport.

The hulking prop continued to play for his local club Redcliffe in the Qld Cup and his form and fitness in that competition led to him being offered a swan song on the international stage.

Civoniceva, like his father, played rugby union in his early years before taking up league at school in Brisbane aged seven.

He hasn’t looked back but is adamant his journey will end at the tournament in the UK and Ireland.

“This is it,” Civoniceva said.

“I told my wife I’m leaving the boots behind and playing my last game for Fiji and that’s it.

“She’ll never see the football boots again.”

Fiji will face Australia in their second pool match and Civoniceva admits it will be “strange” coming up against the side for which he gave so much over the years.

But he can hardly think of a better way to bow out than by honouring his heritage – and the decision of his mother and father to move to Australia from Fiji when he was just six months old.

“My parents came to Australia to get a better standard of life for myself and my two younger sisters,” he said.

“It hits you and it hits you deep because you know they made a sacrifice in their lives to give us the best.

“It’s certainly done that and now I get a chance to thank them for that by honouring my heritage and learning more about it.”

The squad, coached by former Newcastle mentor Rick Stone, spent a week in Fiji as part of preparations for the tournament and Civoniceva was moved by the level of passion for rugby league.

He also been taken back by the support at the squad’s UK base of Rochdale, which boasts a healthy rugby league-loving Fiji community.

Civoniceva is one of a host of former Australian Test players playing for other nations but insists spirit and drive won’t be lacking among the ex-Kangaroos.

“We’re professionals and we’re here to do a job,” he said.

“To link in to your heritage, that in itself builds that passion and brings it out.”

Not that Civoniceva’s professionalism has ever been in question.

Unsurprisingly, he arrives at the tournament fully fit having played every game for Redcliffe this season and been one of the side’s best players.

Fiji reached the semi-finals of the 2008 World Cup and are again expected to be competitive with a squad possessing plenty of NRL talent including Akuila Uate, Ashton, Tariq and Korbin Sims, Wes and Kevin Naiqama, Jayson Bukuya and Marika Koroibete.

They face Ireland in Rochdale on Monday.

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