A new Life of Tech


Cheika holds Wallabies cards close ahead of Bledisloe Cup clash

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika speaks to his players during a training session
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika speaks to his players during a training session in Sydney ahead of Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup clash with New Zealand. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is considering using Reece Hodge’s strength and skills in the centres in a backline reshuffle for Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup clash with the All Blacks in Auckland.

Cheika has kept the All Blacks guessing, delaying his team naming until the eve of the final trans-Tasman showdown of the year.

As well as agonising over whether or not to thrust rookie locks Rory Arnold and Adam Coleman into the Eden Park cauldron or recalling the reliable second-row pairing of Kane Douglas and chief lineout caller Rob Simmons, Cheika is toying with the idea of maximising Hodge’s value.

The Wallabies have been super impressed with the young Melbourne Rebels utility since his international debut earlier this year and may shift the 22-year-old into his preferred inside centre position.

Defence coach Nathan Grey said playing Hodge at No12 in a powerful midfield role that former captain Stirling Mortlock once filled with great success was “definitely” an option.

“We’ve been trying guys in different combinations at training and trying to find the best ways to maximise the talents of the guys that we have,” Grey said.

“He’s got a lot of experience playing in that position at Super Rugby.

“He’s a big body, carries the ball very well and he’s got a good passing game that he uses, and he’s got good speed.

“All those attributes are very positive to have in a No12. He defends there at No12 anyway for us so he’s used to being in that environment.”

But moving Hodge to the midfield would necessitate either dropping Bernard Foley to the bench – or relegating Quade Cooper

If Hodge is shifted, either Henry Speight or fellow Fiji-born flyer Sefa Naivalu would replace him on the wing.

Israel Folau is again likely to start at fullback despite more calls for the two-time John Eales Medallist to be shifted to outside centre.

Nick Phipps is expected to replace Will Genia after the in-form halfback’s return to his French club commitments, though Cheika could decide to give Nick Frisby a start.

Cheika has shuffled his second row all year, mixing and matching Coleman and Arnold with Simmons, Douglas, Sam Carter and Will Skelton.

He worked Douglas and Simmons in tandem at Thursday’s training session in Sydney, alternating the experienced duo with first-year internationals Coleman and Arnold.

Coleman and Arnold started in Australia’s last-up win over Argentina at Twickenham but staring down the world champions for the first time together – on their home turf and at a venue where they are unbeaten against all comers since – is a whole new proposition.

Cheika is also weighing up whether to rush star loose forward David Pocock straight back into his starting line-up after a month out following hand surgery.

Lopeti Timani started at No8 against the Pumas, but Cheika is likely to revert to a back row of Pocock, Hooper and either Scott Fardy or fellow lineout option Dean Mumm as blindside flanker.


Arsène Wenger warns Arsenal to avoid complacency in Premier League ‘jungle’

Arsène Wenger feels there is more to come from his Arsenal team
Arsène Wenger feels there is more to come from his Arsenal team. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

On the back of a run of seven consecutive wins, Arsène Wenger is urging his players to keep their wits about them within the pack at the top of the Premier League. He warns them against the perils of complacency.

“We live in a jungle where everybody wants to eat you, and you have to survive by keeping your vigilance,” he said. “That’s what competition is about. Every day you have to fight again to survive. I believe that humility is to understand that you start again from zero.”

Arsenal take on Middlesbrough at home on Saturday hoping to extend a winning streak which currently stands at six in a row in the Premier League. “I feel there is more to come out from our team,” Wenger said. “We have the squad and we have to show that we have the quality. To maintain that in the team for 10 months will depend on the players, on me and also on injuries.”

Wenger is optimistic that the club is seeing progress in the numbers of injuries that have been so problematic in recent seasons. “I believe we have improved tremendously on the muscular injury front in the last two three or years,” he says. “Last year we were a bit unlucky with the knocks we got, and the joint injuries we got. It was down to blocks in the game. On the muscular front, I think we have done much better and hopefully we can continue that.

“It is not one measure, it is to analyse the level of fatigue, of recovery, the preparation, the prevention. Everything is a bit more scientific and maybe that makes you a bit more predictable to what will happen. We know the players very well because we have data for a few years and we can analyse when he got injured, the repetition of a few signs of some warnings that we can now know much better about them now.”

Wenger added that Danny Welbeck was ahead of schedule and should be ready to return in January. Shorter term, Olivier Giroud is expected to be in contention for Tuesday night’s EFL Cup tie against Reading, with Aaron Ramsey pushing for contention next weekend at Sunderland.


Can I still buy a ‘dumb’ TV?

TV watching

I’m still running a 12-year-old Sony LCD TV and fancy something a bit bigger, but I don’t want “smart” features that that will be dead before I buy another TV. I am a Virgin TV subscriber so my TiVo is smarter than most TVs, and I use an Amazon Prime TV Stick for streaming. I prefer to be able to upgrade these external devices as and when I please, rather than upgrade the whole TV when the smart part is no longer smart. Lloyd

As the co-owner of another old but good Sony LCD TV, I feel your pain. It seems obvious to us that the TV industry should offer some reasonably priced, high-quality TV displays with lots of HDMI inputs and – hello Sony – a simple way to switch between feeds using a remote control. But if it does, they are hard to find in the UK.

The TV industry understands the problem perfectly. Longtime TV and monitor expert Bob Raikes tells me that one of the standard sayings in the TV business is that “your smart TV is your stupid TV in two years time”.

He says: “The reality is that smart TV apps often start off looking slightly clunky compared to the latest tablet and smartphone apps. In two to three years, they will look even worse in comparison. Some TV makers have tried to fix this – well, Samsung, at least – by offering a modular upgrade for the smarts. I suspect almost nobody bought them, so they have stopped offering this feature.

“TV makers often claim that set-top boxes will be wiped out very soon. They won’t. The key reason is that the upgrade cycle for the ‘smarts’ is 2-3 years, but the replacement cycle for TVs is 8-10 years.

“The downside of buying a ‘dumb’ TV is that TV makers tend to put the best video processing and panels into their high-end sets. TVs with no smarts tend to be “entry level”, where everything is built down to a price. I have believed for years that there is an enthusiast market for really good TVs (in visual quality) with only HDMI, but nobody seems to want to make them.”

Fortunately, it is easy to find relatively dumb TVs. That is to say, TV sets that usually offer a Freeview tuner or two, but no WebOS, Android or other operating system running apps. It’s hard to complain about this. Free-to-air television is only available in the UK if you have a Freeview or Freesat tuner. A TV that didn’t include a tuner would not be a TV set.

In this case, Currys offers salvation. One of the product filters on its website is “Smart TV”. If you pick yes, you get a list of 167 TV sets. If you pick no, you get a choice of 40. This is more than I expected.

Argos also lets you filter “by Smart TV”. In this case, yes gets you 180 options while no provides 80. The Argos offerings include its Alba and Bush brands, plus the odd set by Hisense, which is a giant supplier in the US. (By the way, John Lewis failed me for once. At least, I can’t see a dumb TV filter on its website.)

As you’d expect, most dumb TVs have relatively small screen sizes. The TV business wants to sell large and expensive super-smart 4K TV sets. But at Currys, you still have a choice of one 48in Samsung TV (£359), one 49in JVC TV (£269), two 50in TV sets from Seiki (£260 and £279), and two 55in sets from Seiki (£309) and JVC (£349). All the online stores offer plenty of dumb TVs with smaller screens.

You don’t say how big a screen you want, but 48in seems a good step up from 32in.

The selection of 40 dumb TVs at Currys includes 10 models with three HDMI ports. There is one model with four HDMI ports: the 42in Seiki SE42UA01UK LED TV at £289. That looks like a good price for a 4K Ultra HD TV, but Argos has a top-brand model – a 43in Philips 4K Ultra HD TV – for even less: £279.99.

If you fancy another Sony (which my wife usually does), then your best bet is the 40in Bravia KDL40RD453BU, which costs £299 at Currys. However, a 40in screen may not be a big enough jump on your 32in model, and it only has two HDMI ports.

Samsung fans might prefer the 48in UE48J5100 (Full HD, 1080p), which currently costs £359 at Currys. There’s a 40in version of the same TV at £289. Argos has a similar 55in Samsung UE55K5100 for £619.

Your next task is to visit a few shops and see what your fancied TVs look like in real life. Obviously, prices may vary, and they can go up (thanks to a decline in the value of sterling) as well as down.