Hello and welcome to Halftime Report, the Herald Sport's daily wrap of the biggest sports news of the day. Sign up here to get it sent to your inbox daily at 1pm. Today, the force is with Steve Hansen, a Panthers young gun's intention to send Simon Mannering into an early retirement, and Tiger Woods is back (again).

Steve Hansen: the Obi-Wan Kenobi of coaches

There's always been a bit of Obi-Wan Kenobi about Steve Hansen as All Blacks coach. Call it a sixth sense or a Jedi ability to use the Force, but Hansen has, since 2012, been uncannily good at blooding and nurturing new players, writes Gregor Paul.

Will Richie Mo'unga be the Luke Skywalker to Hansen's Obi-Wan? This Saturday's test against the Pumas in Nelson will be his best chance to show us why. Before one of the biggest games of his career, Mo'unga opens up about his dramatic rise.

Meanwhile, Argentina have turned away from what was a winning formula in the hope of conquering the All Blacks. After toppling South Africa 32-19 in their last match, coach Mario Ledesma has made five changes to his starting lineup for Saturday's clash at Nelson's Trafalgar Park.


Nathan Cleary to Simon Mannering: Fantastic career but it ends here

The pre-NRL finals chatter continues. Nathan Cleary was cheering for Simon Mannering last time the Warriors made the NRL finals, but seven years on the Penrith young gun plans on sending him into retirement in tomorrow's sudden death clash at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, reports David Skipwith.

Elsewhere in the finals build-up, the NRL has come down hard on the Canterbury Bulldogs, slapping them with a AUD$250,000 ($272,000) fine for their drunken Mad Monday antics.The fine was one of the NRL's toughest ever sanctions, according to a Daily Telegraph report.

Missed all the key Warriors stories this week? David Skipwith's set of six column will get you up to date on Stephen Kearney the comedian, Andrew Voss losing his luggage before the Warriors end-of-season awards, Tohu Harris having to step in for captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, and more.

Other news you need to know

Eliza McCartney's season over following injury: The pole vault star was unable to recover from a painful heel injury during a Diamond League meet in Birmingham last month.

Tiger Woods is back (again): There's something thrilling about watching Tiger even at the twilight of his career. He showed once again that he's capable of wowing the world and that he's deserving of his Ryder Cup wildcard call-up with an emphatic 62 in the first round of the BMW Championship.

Patrick Bevin loses lead: The Kiwi cyclist has lost the leader's jersey at the Tour of Britain after a disappointing team time trial by his BMC Racing squad.

Tai Tuivasa books first UFC main event: The Aussie UFC star talks about his love for "girly songs", shoeys and his quest to conquer the heavyweight division.

The Back Page

The Herald back page
The Herald back page

Hot Take Corner

• Ahead of the Warriors' long awaited return to the NRL finals against Penrith on Saturday, Michael Burgess ranks their top six most memorable playoff matches.


• So, there's a big decision for sports fans tomorrow night: do you watch the Warriors or the All Blacks? Let Martin Devlin talk you through Kiwi sport's impossible decision.

• Anything is possible in sport - as shown when Roger Federer, the graceful and super-gifted tennis technician, lost to some Aussie this week at the US Open. But can the Pumas do the seemingly possible against the All Blacks? Wynne Gray delivers his take.

What we're reading

• Film star and TV star - and former college football athlete - Burt Reynolds died today of a heart attack at the age of 82. Here's a nice piece on The Ringer about how Reynolds invented the athlete–movie star and changed movies forever.

• LeBron James has consistently led the way for athletes both on and off the court. The New Yorker's Vinson Cunningham writes about how LeBron spent another summer redefining the role of pro athletes.

• Double fault: Topless Novak Djokovic picture proves ridiculous double standards in tennis, writes news.com.au's Liz Burke.

Image of the Day

A big collision in the first test between New Zealand Ice Blacks and Australia during the Winter Games NZ in Queenstown. Photo / Photosport
A big collision in the first test between New Zealand Ice Blacks and Australia during the Winter Games NZ in Queenstown. Photo / Photosport

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