Weekend Sport: Five (other) things to watch, February 1-4

We're barely out of January and Super Rugby is already breathing down our necks.

The competition kicks off on February 15, but all five NZ teams begin their 'competitive' preparation with pre-season hit-outs this weekend.

They'll take place slightly off the beaten track - the Highlanders play at Alexandra, Blues and Chiefs face off at Kaikohe, and Hurricanes vs Crusaders will be staged in Levin.

Don't expect to see any All Blacks on the field - they'll be recovering from their northern tour and dreaming of the World Cup. The standard of play won't be particularly high, as the second and third-stringers on show blow out the summer cobwebs.

Super Rugby pre-season injuries
Super Rugby pre-season injuries officially suck. Photo credit: Photosport

But these trial games may reveal a few intriguing newcomers making the step up from Mitre 10 Cup to play key roles as the Super Rugby season progresses.

And of course, there will be the inevitable season-ending injury before the season actually begins. Sigh!

But if you're not ready for a dose of 15-a-side yet, here are some other sporty morsels to satisfy your appetite.

NBA Trade Deadline

9am Friday, February 8

Technically, this event is still a week away, but the annual musical-chairs madness officially began on Friday, with news that the New York Knicks had traded away their best player, Kristaps Porzingis, to the Dallas Mavericks.

The move has hoops fans frothing over the prospect of Porzingis, known as 'The Unicorn' for his freakish talent, combining with young star Luca Doncic in the post-Dirk Nowtizki era.

Kristaps Porzingis posts up Anthony Davis
Kristaps Porzingis posts up Anthony Davis. Photo credit: Reuters.

The next week is a chance for teams to reshuffle the deck mid-season to either set up a playoff run or begin the rebuild towards next season. It can also totally destroy any fantasy basketball team you've worked for three months (sob!) to construct.

Another developing situation to keep an eye on is Anthony Davis (known as 'The Brow' for his trademark mono-brow), and his bid to escape New Orleans and find a contending team. Will it be LA Lakers or Boston Celtics, or will another team swoop on the game's best big man?

The best place to monitor trades before they even happen is the Twitter account of ESPN Insider Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn), otherwise known as a 'Woj Bomb'.

Strap yourself in for this wild ride.

Grant Chapman


Six Nations

France vs Wales, 9am Saturday (NZT)
Scotland vs Italy, 3:45am Sunday (NZT)
Ireland vs England, 5:45am Sunday (NZT)
Live on Sky Sport

The most exciting and entertaining annual international rugby competition is upon us with the start of the 2019 Six Nations.

Last year's tournament was filled with plenty of drama, including Ireland winning the Grand Slam, while Scotland hoisted the Calcutta Cup first the first time in 10 years, after beating England at Murrayfield.

Scotland celebrate their win over England
Scotland celebrate their win over England during last year's Six Nations. Photo credit: Reuters.

The tournament, which runs until March 17 (NZ time), will be the last time we see the northern hemisphere teams compete till August, when they play pre-World Cup fixtures.

Ben Francis


Jose Aldo vs Renato Moicano

UFC Fight Night, Sunday 2pm (NZT)
Live on ESPN

Did you realise the greatest featherweight in MMA history is fighting free-to-air on Sunday?

Well, now you do, but even fight fans couldn’t be blamed if they didn't.

Jose Aldo - three-time champion and former owner of an 18-fight undefeated streak - has been snuck into the co-main event of Sunday's UFC card, where he'll take on compatriot Renato Moicano in his native Brazil.

If it seems odd that he isn’t headlining this card, it is. Aldo himself requested to be the curtainraiser for Raphael Assuncao vs Marlon Moraes in his hometown of Fortaleza, hoping to ease his way back under the radar.

Jose Aldo takes on Conor McGregor
Jose Aldo takes on Conor McGregor. Photo credit: Reuters.

The 32-year-old has been through testing times lately, with two emphatic losses to phenomenon Max Holloway, but even Holloway himself will tell you he's still a rung below Aldo in the pantheon of featherweights.

Moicano is an enormous and extremely dangerous challenge, but this is a prime opportunity for Aldo to regain some of the attention he deserves. 

Stephen Foote


English Premier League

Manchester City vs Arsenal, 5:30am Monday (NZT)
Liverpool vs West Ham, 9am Tuesday (NZT)
Live on Bein Sports
Live updates on newshub.co.nz

This could be moving week in the Premier League, with two key match-ups played over the weekend - well, the English weekend anyway.

Liverpool stretched their lead at the top to five points, despite only drawing at home with Leicester on Thursday.

Manchester City's 2-1 loss at Newcastle has the Reds in a great spot with 14 games remaining and it could be even better for them come Tuesday morning.

Manchester City star Sergio Aguero
Manchester City star Sergio Aguero against Newcastle. Photo credit: Reuters.

City host Arsenal in the early hours of Monday, with three points crucial to the Sky Blues, as they look to keep the pressure on the Anfield club.

Liverpool travels to London to play West Ham on Tuesday and by the end of the 90 minutes, a win could see them hold an eight-point lead over the reigning EPL champions if they fall to the Gunners.

Brad Lewis


Super Bowl

12:30pm Monday (NZT)
Live on ESPN

It’s the biggest event on the American sporting calendar - Super Bowl.

This year will see the Los Angeles Rams, who are studded with offensive weapons and the best defensive player in the league in Aaron Donald, go up against the greatest dynasty in NFL history, the New England Patriots, with their star quarterback Tom Brady.

These two teams who caused upsets in the conference rounds present a mouth-watering prospect.

The two coaches couldn’t be at different spectrums of the scale - grumpy old Patriots guru Bill Belichick will be the second-oldest coach to go to a Super Bowl (66), while fresh-faced Rams boss Sean McVay will become the youngest (33).

Sometimes the victory celebrations
Sometimes the victory celebrations are more entertaining than the Super Bowl itself. Photo credit: Getty

Regardless of the result, history will be made.

The Super Bowl averages more than 100 million viewers each year - it sure is an event, you don’t want to miss.

Luke Robinson