‘Gut feel’ as Jones rests Farrell, Itoje for Pumas

England’s Owen Farrell during training (Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers)
Updated 10 November 2017
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‘Gut feel’ as Jones rests Farrell, Itoje for Pumas

BAGSHOT, United Kingdom: Eddie Jones is banking on his racehorse trainer-style “gut feel” paying dividends against Argentina at Twickenham on Saturday after leaving out both Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje for England’s end-of-year Test series opener.
The Australian has omitted the Saracens duo on the grounds of their “exceptional workloads” this season, after saying he would rest some of those England players involved in the gruelling British and Irish Lions 1-1 series win in New Zealand earlier this year.
Former Australia and Japan coach Jones was glad of the way the pair had reacted to missing the Argentina match, while insisting he had no qualms over his decision.
“They hated it, which is a great reaction,” Jones told reporters at England’s hotel in Bagshot, southwest of London, on Thursday. “They hate it because they want to play every Test.”
Jones, however, added: “At the end of the day they have got to understand I run the team.
“I make the decisions. And I make those decisions in the best interests of the team and for the individual.”


As with all leading international coaches, Jones receives vast amounts of information on all his players but he insisted there was still a place for old-fashioned intuition.
“I’ve got wellness stats, urine stats, psychological stats, reload, reform stats, GPS stats,” he explained.
“It’s a bit like being a horse-trainer. You get all this information, you see all these things but you’ve got to look at the person and see what they are ready to do.
“I can’t explain it because it comes down to my gut feel for what they need.”
Henry Slade has replaced Farrell at inside center, while Sam Underhill starts at openside flanker.
England have won all three of their Tests against 2019 World Cup pool opponents Argentina since Jones took charge, including a 2-0 series win in two tight matches in Argentina in June.
The Pumas have had a miserable 2017 so far, winning just one out of nine Tests — against Georgia in June.
“Argentina are coming off the back of not a good season. Their coach (Daniel Hourcade) is under pressure, their players are under pressure,” said Jones.
“But they know if they beat England at Twickenham then their whole season turns around.
“They can go back to Buenos Aires and sit on the beach as heroes. Everyone will want to buy them a beer. Everyone will want to buy them a steak.”

England and Argentina have been drawn in the same pool at the 2019 World Cup in Japan but Jones said he did not expect the outcome of Saturday’s match to have a huge bearing on events in two years’ time.
“These are all sparring matches,” said Jones. “You can win sparring matches but when you get to the heavyweight contests in the World Cup, it’s going to be a different kettle of fish.”
Meanwhile Hourcade insisted the burden of expectation was all on an England side who’ve lost just once since Jones took over following their first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup on home soil.
“You are always under pressure at the top level,” he said. “The pressure is perhaps more on England. They are number two in the world, we are number 10. If we lose it would be logical but if they lose it wouldn’t.”
Hourcade has recalled veteran fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez, a star of the Pumas’ lone previous Test win against England at Twickenham — a 25-18 success in 2006.
“We want to take advantage of Juan Martin’s experience,” said Hourcade of the 35-year-old Hernandez, nicknamed ‘The Magician’.
“Everyone knows how good a player he is. Time moves for everyone but he is a player with the capacity to adapt to any sort of game.”
But in order for Hernandez to be at his most effective, Hourcade knows Argentina must win the battle up front.
“We have a very heavy pack of forward because we know that’s a strength of the English team,” he said.
“The breakdown will be key and I think whoever succeeds in dominating this area will have the initiative.”


Meet the Saudi Arabian businessman shaping squash’s Olympic dream

Updated 10 min 23 sec ago
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Meet the Saudi Arabian businessman shaping squash’s Olympic dream

LONDON: A Saudi Arabian businessman is driving the bid to get squash included in the Olympics for the first time.
The World Squash Federation has petitioned three times for squash to join the Games, but each bid has been rejected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The decision has prompted frustration in the squash community, particularly as sports such as climbing, surfing and skateboarding have been admitted.
Ziad Al-Turki is the Chairman of the Professional Squash Association (PSA) and has done wonders in marketing the game and broadening its appeal. He is now pushing hard for the game to be showcased on the biggest stage of all at the 2024 Olympics Games in Paris.
Squash has huge global appeal, with the men’s singles final in the last Commonwealth Games attracting a TV audience of more than one million.
“Everyone’s ultimate goal is the Olympics,” said Al-Turki. “The main push comes from the World Squash Federation (WSF) and for many years they were stuck in their ways. We changed a lot at the PSA and ticked every box with the IOC. The WSF just stayed stagnant and didn’t do anything. They didn’t want to put our hand in their hand and work together.”
Relations between the PSA and the WSF came to a head in 2015 in the wake of squash losing out to wrestling for a spot at the 2020 Olympics. A statement from the PSA described the then president of WSF, Narayana Ramachandran, as an “embarrassment to the sport.”
“Nothing could happen with the president of the WSF. Nothing would change. It was just a one-man show. We tried to help but he wouldn’t accept any help,” Al-Turki said. “We have a new president now and they are all very keen,” he added.
Jacques Fontaine is the new president and at his coronation in 2016 he encouragingly said “the Olympic agenda remains a priority.”
“The WSF love the sport and they understand the needs of the IOC,” said Al-Turki.
“They understand the PSA is at a completely different level to the WSF and we’ve now joined forces and are working together. Hopefully 2024 will be the year squash is in the Olympics. Right now, the way we are working together is the strongest collaboration ever and hopefully we can tick all the boxes for the IOC.
“We ticked all the right bodies as a professional association but the WSF didn’t. Now they are putting their hands in ours and we will tick all the right boxes for the ICO.”
Al-Turki, once described as the Bernie Ecclestone of squash, has certainly transformed the sport since he took up office in 2008.
“When I joined the PSA we didn’t have any media coverage,” he said. “Right now we are live in 154 countries. the women’s tour has just grown stronger and stronger — the income has gone up by 74 percent.
“I just love the squash players. I think they are incredible athletes are are some of the fittest athletes in the world. I felt they deserved better and I wanted them to have better.
“I don’t think we’ll be able to reach the levels of football and tennis in terms of exposure and prize money, but I want to reach a level where they will retire comfortably. It’s one of the fastest growing sports in the world right now.
“It’s all about the player and their well being. Nick Matthew retired recently and I think he’s retired comfortably. I think I’ve contributed to this as the income has improved. That’s all I want – nothing more.”