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Alex Dombrandt: Could England pick Harlequins number eight for Six Nations?

Alex Dombrandt has started 18 Premiership games for Harlequins, scoring seven tries

Harlequins’ number eight Alex Dombrandt would flourish in an international environment, says England scrum-half and club team-mate Danny Care.

The uncapped 22-year-old is thought to be pushing for a place in England’s Six Nations squad after starring for Quins of late.

“He reads the game so well, he’s smart and makes the right decisions all the time,” Care said.

“You put him in an England shirt and he is only going to excel.”

Care believes Dombrandt would provide England with an extra dimension if he were to make his international debut.

The former university student is on head coach Eddie Jones’ radar after appearing for an England XV in a non-cap game against the Barbarians in May.

“For me he’s got everything. He hungry for it, he’s got the work-rate and the work ethic, and he’s a good boy,” Care told the Rugby Union Weekly podcast.

Dombrandt only broke into the Quins first team a year ago after completing his undergraduate studies at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

But after a breakthrough season last time around, he recently signed a new deal to stay at The Stoop despite firm interest from Northampton Saints.

“He went to uni, did it properly and enjoyed himself, but he’s got a chance to play professional rugby and he’s grasped it with both hands,” Care added.

“I’m not picking the England squad, but 100% [he should be in].

“I just think if you throw him in there, and you have him running lines alongside Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola, Joe Marler – which attacker is the defender going to take?

“I just think he is different and there aren’t many of him around. And he can play six [blind-side flanker], seven [open-side flanker] or [number] eight.”

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Mauricio Pochettino intends to ‘return to manage in Europe’

Pochettino led Spurs to the 2019 Champions League final

Former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino says he is “open to listen to projects” in Europe as he plans a return to management.

The 47-year-old spent five-and-a-half years in charge of Spurs before being sacked last month and replaced by Jose Mourinho.

“There are a lot of clubs and attractive projects for me to take on,” Pochettino told Fox Sports Argentina.

“It is my intention to return to manage in Europe.”

He added: “But now I need to be calm for a few days and see what happens.”

Pochettino led Spurs to four successive top-four finishes and last season’s Champions League final, which they lost to Liverpool.

But Tottenham struggled for consistency under him this term and were 14th in the table when he was dismissed.

He has returned to his native Argentina following his exit from the London club and has been linked with Arsenal and Bayern Munich.

Arsenal are without a manager following the sacking of Unai Emery, while Bayern Munich have Hansi Flick in interim charge following their dismissal of Niko Kovac.

“For the time being the most important thing is for me to clear my head after five-and-a-half incredible seasons with Tottenham,” added Pochettino.

“My aim is to seek the ability to rebuild myself and get my self-motivation back.

“I haven’t had a lot of time to digest what has happened.

“My first decision was to come back to Argentina, return to my home and see family and friends. My best decision was to come to Argentina to switch off for 10 days.

“But I expect to return to Europe to make decisions on my future. At my age I don’t need a lot of time to recover. I am open to listen to projects put before me.”

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The Hundred fixtures: Oval Invincibles host Welsh Fire in inaugural game

What is The Hundred?
The Hundred – 2020 season
Dates: Friday, 17 July – Saturday, 15 August
Coverage: Live on BBC television, iPlayer, the BBC Sport website and app, plus text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app

Oval Invincibles will take on Welsh Fire in the inaugural match of The Hundred at The Oval on 17 July 2020.

The new format, to be shown live on the BBC, begins as Jason Roy’s Invincibles face a Fire side boasting Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc and Jonny Bairstow.

A day later Birmingham Phoenix welcome Eoin Morgan’s London Spirit while Ben Stokes’ Northern Superchargers visit Manchester Originals.

Phoenix host the Originals in the women’s opener on 22 July.

The BBC will have live television coverage of 10 men’s matches and some live matches from the women’s tournament, including both finals on 14 and 15 August.

What is The Hundred?

The format? 100 balls per team, most runs wins. The new competition will be played in the school summer holidays to attract more families to the game and in trial matches held last year, innings were taking just over one hour to complete.

Eight new teams have been formed, representing seven cities from around the UK, with each having both a men’s and women’s side.

A mini-draft saw the men’s teams select three English players before top overseas players joined the main draft on 20 October to fill the remaining places in the 15-man squads.

There will be 32 league matches in total, with the top three finishers competing in the Finals Day (top team automatically reaches the final, with second versus third for the other spot).

Teams will play each other once, apart from their paired ‘rivals’, whom they meet twice (home and away): Northern Superchargers (Leeds) and Manchester Originals, London Spirit and Oval Invincibles, Birmingham Phoenix and Trent Rockets (Nottingham), Southern Brave (Southampton) and Welsh Fire (Cardiff).

Chris Hughes, Lady Ice and Sideman take on Jofra Archer’s kit challenge

Key clashes

England fast bowler Jofra Archer was selected by Southern Brave, with Australian batsman David Warner being one of the team’s picks in the top salary band of £125,000.

So as Brave are paired with Fire, Archer has at least two games against his Ashes rival Smith – in Cardiff on Sunday, 19 July, and Southampton on Friday, 7 August.

Warner will renew his own rivalry with England all-rounder Stokes as Northern Superchargers welcome Brave to Headingley on Thursday, 30 July.

The London sides meet at the Oval on Wednesday, 29 July, with the return at Lord’s on Thursday, 6 August.

After meeting on the opening weekend, Jos Buttler’s Manchester Originals face the Superchargers again in Leeds on Wednesday, 5 August.

And Joe Root’s Trent Rockets, who selected Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan with the first draft pick, host Moeen Ali’s Birmingham Phoenix on Sunday, 19 July, before travelling to Edgbaston on Saturday, 8 August.

The Hundred: Liam Dawson believes competition will press his England case

Full fixture list

Men’s The Hundred

(All games start at 18:30 BST unless stated)

  • Friday, 17 July, 2020 – Oval Invincibles v Welsh Fire (Kia Oval)
  • Saturday, 18 July, 2020 – Birmingham Phoenix v London Spirit (Edgbaston), 14:00 BST
  • Saturday, 18 July, 2020 – Manchester Originals v Northern Superchargers (Emirates Old Trafford), 17:00 BST
  • Sunday, 19 July, 2020 – Welsh Fire v Southern Brave (Sophia Gardens), 14:00 BST
  • Sunday, 19 July, 2020 – Trent Rockets v Birmingham Phoenix (Trent Bridge), 17:00 BST
  • Monday, 20 July, 2020 – Northern Superchargers v Oval Invincibles (Emerald Headingley)
  • Tuesday, 21 July, 2020 – London Spiritv Trent Rockets (Lord’s)
  • Wednesday, 22 July, 2020 – Southern Brave v Manchester Originals (Ageas Bowl)
  • Thursday, 23 July, 2020 – London Spirit v Northern Superchargers (Lord’s)
  • Friday, 24 July, 2020 – Birmingham Phoenix v Southern Brave (Edgbaston)
  • Saturday, 25 July, 2020 – Oval Invincibles v Manchester Originals (Kia Oval), 14:00 BST
  • Saturday, 25 July, 2020 – Trent Rockets v Welsh Fire (Trent Bridge), 17:00 BST
  • Sunday, 26 July, 2020 – Southern Brave v Oval Invincibles (Ageas Bowl), 14:00 BST
  • Sunday, 26 July, 2020 – Northern Superchargers v Birmingham Phoenix (Emerald Headingley), 17:00 BST
  • Monday, 27 July, 2020 – Manchester Originals v Trent Rockets (Emirates Old Trafford)
  • Tuesday, 28 July, 2020 – Welsh Fire v Birmingham Phoenix (Sophia Gardens)
  • Wednesday, 29 July, 2020 – Oval Invincibles v London Spirit (Kia Oval)
  • Thursday, 30 July, 2020 – Northern Superchargers v Southern Brave (Emerald Headingley), 19:00 BST
  • Friday, 31 July, 2020 – Manchester Originals v London Spirit (Emirates Old Trafford), 19:00 BST
  • Saturday, 1 August, 2020 – Welsh Fire v Northern Superchargers (Sophia Gardens), 19:00 BST
  • Sunday, 2 August, 2020 – Trent Rockets v Oval Invincibles (Trent Bridge), 19:00 BST
  • Monday, 3 August, 2020 – Birmingham Phoenix v Manchester Originals (Edgbaston) 19:00 BST
  • Tuesday, 4 August, 2020 – Southern Brave v Trent Rockets (Ageas Bowl)
  • Wednesday, 5 August, 2020 – Northern Superchargers v Manchester Originals (Emerald Headingley)
  • Thursday, 6 August, 2020 – London Spirit v Oval Invincibles (Lord’s)
  • Friday, 7 August, 2020 – Southern Brave v Welsh Fire (Ageas Bowl), 19:00 BST
  • Saturday, 8 August, 2020 – Birmingham Phoenix v Trent Rockets (Edgbaston), 19:00 BST
  • Sunday, 9 August, 2020 – Welsh Fire v London Spirit (Sophia Gardens), 19:00 BST
  • Monday, 10 August, 2020 – Trent Rockets v Northern Superchargers (Trent Bridge), 19:00 BST
  • Tuesday, 11 August, 2020 – Oval Invincibles v Birmingham Phoenix (Kia Oval), 19:00 BST
  • Wednesday, 12 August, 2020 – London Spirit v Southern Brave (Lord’s)
  • Thursday, 13 August, 2020 – Manchester Originals v Welsh Fire (Emirates Old Trafford)
  • Saturday, 15 August, Finals day, venue tbc

Women’s The Hundred

(All games start at 14:00 BST)

  • Wednesday, 22 July, 2020 – Birmingham Phoenix v Manchester Originals (Blackfinch New Road, Worcester)
  • Thursday, 23 July, 2020 – London Spirit v Northern Superchargers (Lord’s)
  • Friday, 24 July, 2020 – Birmingham Phoenix v Southern Brave (Edgbaston)
  • Friday, 24 July, 2020 – Manchester Originals v Oval Invincibles (Sedbergh School)
  • Saturday, 25 July, 2020 – Trent Rockets v Welsh Fire (Trent Bridge)
  • Sunday, 26 July, 2020 – Northern Superchargers v Oval Invincibles (South Northumberland CC)
  • Sunday, 26 July, 2020 – London Spirit v Southern Brave (The Cloudfm County Ground, Chelmsford)
  • Monday, 27 July, 2020 – Manchester Originals v Trent Rockets (Emirates Old Trafford)
  • Tuesday, 28 July, 2020 – Welsh Fire v Birmingham Phoenix (Sophia Gardens)
  • Wednesday, 29 July, 2020 – Oval Invincibles v London Spirit (Kia Oval)
  • Thursday, 30 July, 2020 – Welsh Fire v Northern Superchargers (The Brightside Ground, Bristol)
  • Thursday, 30 July, 2020 – Trent Rockets v Birmingham Phoenix (The Fischer County Ground, Grace Road, Leicester)
  • Friday, 31 July, 2020 – Manchester Originals v London Spirit (Emirates Old Trafford)
  • Friday, 31 July, 2020 – Southern Brave v Oval Invincibles (The 1st Central County Ground, Hove)
  • Saturday, 1 August, 2020 – Trent Rockets v Northern Superchargers (The Pattonair County Ground, Derby)
  • Sunday, 2 August, 2020 – Welsh Fire v Southern Brave (The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton)
  • Sunday, 2 August, 2020 – Oval Invincibles v Birmingham Phoenix (The County Ground, Beckenham)
  • Tuesday, 4 August, 2020 – Southern Brave v Trent Rockets (Ageas Bowl)
  • Wednesday, 5 August, 2020 – Northern Superchargers v Manchester Originals (Emerald Headingley)
  • Thursday, 6 August, 2020 – London Spirit v Welsh Fire (The County Ground Northampton)
  • Friday, 7 August, 2020 – Trent Rockets v Oval Invincibles (The Pattonair County Ground, Derby)
  • Saturday, 8 August, 2020 – Welsh Fire v Manchester Originals (The Brightside Ground, Bristol)
  • Sunday, 9 August, 2020 – Birmingham Phoenix v London Spirit (Blackfinch New Road, Worcester)
  • Sunday, 9 August, 2020 – Northern Superchargers v Southern Brave (York CC)
  • Tuesday, 11 August, 2020 – London Spirit v Trent Rockets (The Cloudfm County Ground, Chelmsford)
  • Tuesday, 11 August, 2020 – Northern Superchargers v Birmingham Phoenix (York CC)
  • Wednesday, 12 August, 2020 – Oval Invincibles v Welsh Fire (The County Ground, Beckenham)
  • Wednesday, 12 August, 2020 – Southern Brave vManchester Originals (The 1st Central County Ground, Hove)
  • Friday, 14 August, 2020 – Finals day, venue tbc

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Rape-accused Joseph McCann ‘caught on CCTV at hotel’

Joseph McCann

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CCTV images allegedly showed Joseph McCann at the Phoenix Lodge Hotel in Watford on 25 April

A man accused of rape was caught on camera at a hotel just before one of his alleged victims smashed him over the head and escaped, a court heard.

Joseph McCann went into the Phoenix Lodge Hotel in Watford on 25 April, leaving two women in a car outside, the Old Bailey was told.

He was allegedly captured on CCTV entering the hotel wearing a tracksuit and a baseball cap.

Mr McCann, 34, from Harrow, denies 37 offences against 11 victims.

After going into the hotel, he held the front door open and glanced repeatedly outside while rapping on the window of the reception desk to speak to staff, the court was told.

He then told his alleged captives to get out of the car and smile as he put his arms around them.

Instead, one of them, a 25-year-old woman, grabbed a bottle of vodka and hit him over the head with it before running for help, jurors heard.

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Met Police

Image caption

Joseph McCann is accused of 37 offences against 11 alleged victims, including children

The trial continues.

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Neil Harris worth a ‘gamble’ as Cardiff City boss – Graham Kavanagh

Ex-Millwall boss Neil Harris has pitted his wits against Neil Warnock but could now replace him at Cardiff

Former Cardiff City captain Graham Kavanagh says Neil Harris could be worth a “gamble” to replace Neil Warnock as manager.

Warnock, 70, parted company with the Championship side on Monday and ex-Millwall boss Harris, 42, is an early favourite to take over.

Although he has only managed the Lions, ex-Republic of Ireland midfielder Kavanagh says Harris could do the job.

“If Neil Harris comes in I think it is a slight gamble,” said Kavanagh.

“He’s been in the Millwall job four years and hasn’t managed anywhere else, but he’s done a magnificent job.”

Harris, who scored 138 goals over two separate spells with Millwall as a player, took over as caretaker manager in March 2015 following their relegation to League One.

The former striker guided the Lions to promotion back to the second tier in 2017, after reaching the League One play-off final for a second consecutive season, while the London club reached the FA Cup quarter-finals twice, in 2017 and 2019.

He stepped down as boss at the Den in October 2019 after a seven-match winless streak left Millwall five points above the relegation zone.

Harris – who briefly played alongside Kavanagh on loan at Cardiff in December 2004 – remains Millwall’s record goalscorer, despite being diagnosed with cancer when he was just 23.

“I know Neil from my time at Cardiff. He’s a great lad, he works very, very hard, he’s very diligent and honest in his work and he does like to play,” Kavanagh, 45, said.

“He’s never had too much money to spend, but what he has spent at Millwall he’s done a remarkable job.”

Midfielder Graham Kavanagh played more than 150 games for Cardiff after joining in June 2001

Whoever does take over the reins at the Cardiff City Stadium, Kavanagh says that Warnock will be a hard act to follow.

“He’s [Warnock] done a phenomenal job at the club, getting it promoted. I know obviously he then got relegated but it’s very, very tough to stay in the Premier League once you’ve been promoted,” Kavanagh said.

“He spent quite a bit of money but it looked like he was buying Championship players with the thought that if they went back down, then they’d be able to jump back up.

“Obviously that hasn’t been how they’ve started the season, so he’s paid the price of that.

“The connection he’s had with the club since moving there, the connection he’s had with the fans, there’s no way he would have wanted to disrupt that.

“If it’s a joint decision I’m not really sure, but if he’s made the decision because he’s felt it’s for the benefit of the club you have to say fair enough.

“A man of his experience and his wealth of knowledge… he’s going to be a massive loss to the club.”

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Cervical screening: DIY alternative to smear test ‘promising’

Clinician transferring cells from a scraper to a vial of preservative solution.

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Science Photo Library

A DIY home urine or swab test could potentially help more women discover whether they are at risk of cervical cancer, researchers say.

The new method could be used as an alternative to the smear test and would not require a visit to the doctor.

Scientists at Queen Mary University of London asked 600 women to provide self-collected samples for screening.

Although larger trials are needed, the work has been called “promising” and a potential “game-changer” by charities.

The findings, being presented at a cancer conference in Glasgow, suggest the method is feasible and popular.

However, larger trials may still be needed before the NHS could decide whether to offer it to patients, say experts.

Even then, it would only be one option for women – as the researchers believe smear tests would continue in their current form.

But the researchers say that in the future, some women could order the test kits online, use them at home and then send their sample by post to be analysed.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionChloe Delevingne had a smear test live on the Victoria Derbyshire programme

The 25% who do not attend

Screening aims to pick up early warning signs of cancer – known as pre-cancers – that can be treated to prevent the disease.

All women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 64 in the UK are invited for NHS cervical screening, but the number of women attending cervical screening in the UK has been falling.

Around one in four UK women do not attend when invited, figures suggest.

Experts have put the low uptake rates down to embarrassment, a lack of awareness or just putting it off.

Dr Belinda Nedjai and colleagues have developed an alternative screening method that does not rely on smear tests.

The S5 test measures chemical changes that are detectable in urine or self-collected vaginal fluid samples to gauge a woman’s cancer risk.

A high score suggests there is an increased risk of a pre-cancer lesion being present.

In the study, the S5 test was good at distinguishing which women had pre-cancerous growths diagnosed following conventional screening.

‘Potential to revolutionise’

The researchers say they are working to improve the test’s accuracy even further, but that it could be a significant advance in cervical screening.

It would offer women who decline smears tests another screening option, they say. It could also be used alongside conventional cervical screening to help improve detection and spare some women from unnecessary investigations.

The NHS is currently moving to primary human papillomavirus (HPV) screening of smears – testing for the presence of this virus in samples before looking for abnormal cell changes. Almost all cases of cervical cancer are linked to HPV.

Dr Manuel Rodriguez-Justo, from University College London, said: “This is exciting research that shows it’s possible to detect cervical pre-cancer that is at high risk of developing into invasive cancer in urine and vaginal samples collected by women in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.

“This has the potential to revolutionise the way a positive HPV test is followed up, as well as making it easier for women in countries with no cervical cancer screening programme to be tested.”

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Getty Images

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Researchers have developed a way to identify pre-cancer lesions by analysing urine and vaginal samples

Sophia Lowes, Cancer Research UK’s health information manager, said: “The results look promising for detecting women with advanced cell changes. But we need to know if this test picks up all changes and if it’s as successful when testing a wider group of people.”

Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said although more research was needed, DIY checks could be a “game-changer”.

“For women who find the current methods of cervical screening difficult, including those with a physical disability or who have experienced trauma, it could mean they can access screening in a far more acceptable and accessible way.”

“It could mean those requiring treatment are identified faster and reduce the number of women having to go for potentially unnecessary investigations at colposcopy.”

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Grenfell Tower fire: ‘Systemic failures’ in fire brigade’s response

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Media captionThe second anniversary of the tragedy was marked last June

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has been condemned for “serious shortcomings” and systemic failures in its response to the Grenfell Tower fire, in a report into the 2017 blaze.

Fewer people would have died in the fire if the LFB had taken certain actions earlier, the report by inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick said.

He also said some evidence given by the LFB at the inquiry was “insensitive”.

The BBC has seen sections of the report ahead of Wednesday’s publication.

The head of the Fire Brigades Union said the inquiry was “back to front” and the focus should be on why the building was dangerous in the first place.

Matt Wrack told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that decisions were made on the night “in the context of a building that [had] completely failed”.

Referring to the flammable cladding, he said: “People will be baffled [as to] why people haven’t already been prosecuted for doing that to a building, which led to the deaths of 72 people, and yet the actions of individual firefighters on the night of a fire are being subject to such scrutiny.”

The inquiry has criticised the Daily Telegraph, which first published leaked details of the report, and other media which followed suit. A spokeswoman said publication had deprived “those most affected by the fire – the bereaved, survivors and residents – of the opportunity to read the report at their own pace”.

The 1,000-page document follows the first phase of the inquiry, which looked at what happened on the night that 72 people died in the tower block fire on 14 June 2017.

The council, the tower’s tenant management organisation, the police and the fire service were all quizzed during the inquiry’s first phase.

Sir Martin’s report praised the courage of firefighters on the night.

But it found many “institutional” failures that meant the LFB’s planning and preparation for the incident was “gravely inadequate”.

For example, Sir Martin said control room staff who fielded 999 calls “undoubtedly saved lives” but “a close examination” of operations revealed “shortcomings in practice, policy and training”.

He said staff that night were in an “invidious” position when they were outnumbered by 999 calls.

“Supervisors were under the most enormous pressure, but the LFB had not provided its senior control room staff with appropriate training on how to manage a large-scale incident with a large number of FSG [Fire Survival Guidance] calls,” he said.

“Mistakes made in responding to the Lakanal House fire were repeated,” he added – referring to a fire in Camberwell, south London, in 2009, which killed three women and three children.


By Lucy Manning, special correspondent

This report could not be more critical of the London Fire Brigade.

The Grenfell families wanted this level of criticism, especially those whose relatives died when they were told for nearly two hours to stay put in the building as it was covered in flames.

But there is also some frustration that this first part of the inquiry wasn’t about those who made the cladding and oversaw the refurbishment of Grenfell.

That will only happen in the second phase of the inquiry next year and then they’ve got even longer to wait for the police investigation to finish.

So they are seeing some blame apportioned and they hope they will eventually see justice but the Grenfell survivors will always suffer the loss and grief and ask the question how did 72 people die in what was supposed to be the safety of their homes?

Sir Martin also criticised the LFB for its “stay put” strategy, where firefighters and 999 operators told residents to stay in their flats for nearly two hours after the blaze broke out.

The strategy was rescinded at 02:47 BST, the report said. Sir Martin wrote: “That decision could and should have been made between 01:30 and 01:50 and would be likely to have resulted in fewer fatalities.”

Firefighters who attended the fire did not have training on how best to combat a cladding fire, the report added.

Four experienced members of the first crews to have fought the blaze had 52 years of combined experience. However, they had not received any training on the risks posed by exterior cladding or the techniques to be deployed in fighting fires involving cladding, the report found.

Sir Martin said the “principal” reason the fire spread so quickly “up, down and around the building was the presence of the aluminium composite material (ACM) rainscreen panels with polyethylene cores, which acted as a source of fuel”.

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Dany Cotton said she would not have changed anything about the way her brigade responded to the blaze

The report also said evidence given by the LFB’s commissioner, Dany Cotton, suggested lessons from the fire might be missed.

Sir Martin wrote: “Quite apart from its remarkable insensitivity to the families of the deceased and to those who escaped from their burning homes with their lives, the Commissioner’s evidence that she would not change anything about the response of the LFB on the night, even with the benefit of hindsight, only serves to demonstrate that the LFB is an institution at risk of not learning the lessons of the Grenfell Tower fire.”

A spokesperson for the LFB said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the report’s findings before they were officially released on Wednesday.

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Getty Images

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The families of the 72 victims contributed to the report

Speaking on Monday, Sir Martin said the report was long and detailed.

He stressed that readers of the report “should understand as clearly as possible the terrifying conditions faced by those who were in the building, at the time”.

The cause of the fire was found by the report to be “an electrical fault in the large fridge freezer in the kitchen” in a fourth-floor flat.

“It occurred without any fault on the part of the tenant… and I am pleased to clear him of any blame, given that some people have unfairly accused him of having some responsibility for what happened,” Sir Martin said.

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Mesut Ozil: What’s happening with the midfielder at Arsenal?

Ozil has been in and out of the Arsenal matchday squad this season, starting just one league game

Where is Mesut Ozil?

It must be a question Arsenal boss Unai Emery is getting tired of answering. Or, sort of answering.

The German midfielder has made just one Premier League start for Arsenal this season and has now been left out of the Gunners’ last four matchday squads.

On Monday, his absence prompted more questions, with Arsenal badly lacking any creativity as they fruitlessly tried to break down a solid Sheffield United defence.

In the end, the Blades won 1-0 while Arsenal slumped to another defeat on the road.

Asked by BBC Sport if Ozil was available, Gunners boss Unai Emery simply replied with: “He can help us, yes.”

BBC Radio 5 Live summariser Chris Sutton, however, believes Emery should be more forthcoming.

“It would be nice if Unai Emery just came out and said and then we would know instead of us guessing,” he said.

“Is it a lack of commitment? We know he’s a quality player but do we think he’s lost his guile? His awareness? His touch?

Of course we don’t – so what’s the problem?

That, it seems, is the question on many people’s lips.

Why has he not played this season?

Since joining Arsenal six years ago, Ozil has missed 101 games for the Gunners but has only had one major injury in that time.

Most of his absences have been explained away by illness or minor niggles, while he missed Arsenal’s season opener against Newcastle along with team-mate Sead Kolasinac because of security concerns after they were involved in an attempted car-jacking.

Kolasinac, however, has long since returned to the squad but Ozil has appeared and then disappeared, sometimes because of fitness, sometimes because Emery has felt other players have been more deserving of a chance.

Mesut Ozil & Sead Kolasinac 100% mentally ready – Emery

Arsenal? Emery? Ozil? Who is to blame?

Former Aston Villa midfielder Lee Hendrie believes this is a situation Arsenal could and should have handled better.

“It’s definitely mismanagement,” he told BBC Radio 5 live.

“This is the problem these days in football, these bumper contracts players are getting and when they’re not performing, it’s coming straight to the headlines of how much money he earns and what he does.

“Whether Mesut Ozil is going to turn a corner – and I don’t think he is – it just seems like there is a massive issue behind the scenes as to why he’s not playing.

“On his day he’s a world-class player but when you’re earning that type of money, then you are going to come under scrutiny for earning that money and not playing.

Sutton, however, believes only Ozil himself can truly resolve the issue.

He said: “I don’t care how much Mesut Ozil is paid, the main thing is how he’s is performing on the pitch in an Arsenal shirt – and he’s not.

“We aren’t party to how Arsenal train or what’s goes on but if Ozil was doing that well – and we know what a superb talent he is – Unai Emery would know what impact he would have on the team, so he would play him, because he wants to win games and improve.

“There must be something amiss and it looks Ozil will have to sort this situation out himself.

“Arsenal have either got to ship him out and just bite the bullet, or they’ve got to get him back playing in the side, but it’s been down to their own doing and I feel they’ve caused their own problems.”

Do Arsenal miss him?

The statistics would suggest so.

Since Ozil made his debut for the Gunners, no player has created more chances than him. In fact, no-one comes even close.

Premier League (since Ozil’s debut)
Player Chances created
Mesut Ozil 522
Aaron Ramsey 272
Santi Cazorla 190
Olivier Giroud 183
Granit Xhaka 121

He has also been the club’s top assist maker in three of their last six seasons, although admittedly did not feature in the top three of the list in the last campaign.

Premier League (since Ozil’s debut)
Season Player Assists
2013-14 Mesut Ozil 9
2014-15 Sanit Cazorla 11
2015-16 Mesut Ozil 19
2016-17 Alexis Sanchez 10
2017-18 Mesut Ozil 8
2018-19 Alexandre Lacazette 8

Against Sheffield United, the influence of the midfield five of Nicolas Pepe, Granit Xhaka, Joe Willock, Matteo Guendouzi and Bukayo Saka paled in comparison to the Blades.

They managed two key passes between them compared to five for the Sheffield United midfield.

What does Ozil say?

Ozil has been quiet on the matter for a long time, but recently provided some insight into the situation he finds himself in.

Speaking to The Athletic,