‘Gut feel’ as Jones rests Farrell, Itoje for Pumas
‘Gut feel’ as Jones rests Farrell, Itoje for Pumas
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.”
‘We want to make Saudi Arabia proud’: Pizzi promises better showing against Egypt
- Saudi Arabia cannot progress from Group A even if they defeat Egypt in their final game on Monday
- Wednesday’s overall performance was much improved, yet a lack of penetrative passing was obvious
ROSTOV-ON-DON: “Keeping possession of the ball seems to be the absolute and most important thing, but then when you sometimes find issues in getting the ball into your opponent’s half, you have to find other movements and ways of doing that,” said Oscar Tabarez after watching his lackluster Uruguay rely on a solitary Luis Suarez goal to eliminate Saudi Arabia from the World Cup.
Tabarez was talking about his own team’s struggles, yet the assessment is considerably more applicable to the Green Falcons, who dominated possession and retained the ball with ease in midfield, yet for the second match running looked absolutely bereft of ideas in the final third. With Uruguay and Russia now on six points, Saudi Arabia cannot progress from Group A even if they defeat Egypt in their final game on Monday.
The Green Falcons coach Juan Antonio Pizzi confirmed he intends to stay at the helm of the side for the long-haul, yet is only too aware that the potential of this team is being hamstrung by its inability to score. He called it “our weakness”, adding that his side enjoyed “good ball possession, but no effectiveness”. They, he said, did not have the sufficient “weapons or tools” to equalize.
Pizzi’s side have found the net now just twice in their past five games and against Uruguay managed only three shots on target in 90 minutes — two of which came in added time and were so tame they would hardly have troubled the opposition goalkeeper Fernando Muslera had he been relaxing at his far post sipping a drink. In the 5-0 defeat to Russia last week, they failed to muster a single shot on target.
Wednesday’s overall performance was much improved, yet a lack of penetrative passing was obvious. One passage of play in the opening exchanges saw Saudi Arabia complete 16 passes untroubled without the ball entering the opposition penalty box. When Uruguay finally won possession, they required only four quick exchanges to find Edinson Cavani on the left wing drilling the ball across the front of goal.
“I don’t share that assessment,” said Pizzi, when it was put to him that his team was too slow to attack. “We played at the speed that was necessary. We need to be accurate, but if you step up the speed you lose accuracy with your passes. We had control of the game and that was why.”
Striker Mohammed Al-Sahlawi had been the focal point of much criticism from Turki Al-Sheikh, the head of Saudi’s General Sports Authority, after the Russia “fiasco” and was dropped from the side against Uruguay. So too was goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf, another who Al-Sheikh name-checked as having been at fault.
Pizzi, asked whether the scathing assessment from his bosses had forced his hand when it came to team selection, calmly dismissed the suggestion. He also ruled out the notion that administrative issues between the players and the country’s football federation had caused unrest in his squad.
“I have a list of 23 players here and they are all available to play. We are here together and pushing in the same direction.
“I wanted — and still want — to make the Saudi Arabian people feel proud of our energy and the desire we show in matches. Unfortunately we were unable to do that against Russia and will be playing our next match without any hope of progressing. I hope now they will feel a little more proud even though we are out of the World Cup,” he said.