‘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.”


Saudi Arabia’s Young Falcons through to Asian Games knockout stages despite 3-0 defeat to North Korea

Updated 20 August 2018
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Saudi Arabia’s Young Falcons through to Asian Games knockout stages despite 3-0 defeat to North Korea

  • Young Falcons have wings clipped but still fly into second round after heavy defeat.
  • Saudi Arabia qualify as one of the best third-placed teams.

JAKARTA: From flying high to almost flying home, Saudi Arabia’s Young Falcons came within a goal of going from group leaders to bottom of the table after losing 3-0 to North Korea in their final Group F match at the Asian Games. They ultimately squeaked through as one of the best third-placed teams.
Arriving full of confidence and with one foot already in the knockout stages, coach Saad Al-Shehri rested seven of the 11 players who started the win against Myanmar on Friday. That meant a much-changed back five, with Al-Ittihad’s Amin Al-Bukhari in goal and Al-Ahli duo Mohammed Al-Zubaidi and Mohammed Al-Bassas, both making their Asian Games debuts alongside ever-presents Abdullah Tarmin and Awn Al-Saluli.
The rejig, however, backfired as, inside two minutes and with their first effort on goal, North Korea were ahead. A corner from Kwang-myong Jo was met by the head of Yong-il Kim who directed it past Al-Bukhari with ease while his defenders looked on in confusion; the marking as tight as a wizard’s sleeve.
The Young Falcons had arrived at the Wibawa Mukti Stadium top of Group F and virtually assured of a place in the Round of 16, yet the strike shifted everything. Suddenly, a three-goal Myanmar win against Iran would put the Saudi Arabia’s place in the knockout stages in serious jeopardy. 
The players seemed to understand the consequences of conceding that early goal as nerves took hold. Al-Bukhari, the debutant goalkeeper, allowed a pass to run under his foot, scrambling back desperately to avoid further embarrassment, while loose balls were hoofed clear in panic. Al-Shehri crouched on the sideline, as motionless as his midfield.
North Korea, well-beaten by the Iranians three days earlier, looked more dynamic and determined, pressing intensely and holding back nothing in their tackles. Saudi Arabia, in contrast, were meek. In the 25th minute, they fell further behind. Woeful defending allowed Korea a free shot at goal from close range and Al-Bukhari’s parried save was turned into the net by striker Yu-song Kim.
Al-Shehri refrained from making changes at half-time, yet his side did not improve. Just six minutes after the restart, and again from a corner, Korea notched their third. At 1.94m, Ittihad’s Awn Al-Saluli was the tallest outfield player by some distance, yet he was slow to react when Yu-song Kim squeezed in front of him to header home his second goal of the afternoon.
The rushed introduction of Nawaf Al-Habasi and Haroune Camara gave the Young Falcons more of a physical presence and Abdulrahman Ghareeb saw his shot tipped around the post, but it was Korea who came closest to the game’s fourth. Al-Zubaidi was dispossessed while playing out from the back and raced back to make a last-ditch tackle, winning the ball cleanly. Tajikstani referee Nasrullo Kabirov, however, deemed it a foul and produced a red card only to change his mind after speaking with his fourth official.
With news filtering through that Myanmar were beating Iran 2-0 and chasing a third, Saudi pushed forward seeking a lifeline. It was not to arrive, but neither was Myanmar’s, allowing the Young Falcons, wings clipped, to stumble through to the knock-out stages.