Heinz to make England debut in Wales warm-up opener

England’s Willi Heinz during a training session in Bagshot. (Reuters)
Updated 09 August 2019

Heinz to make England debut in Wales warm-up opener

BAGSHOT: Gloucester scrum-half Willi Heinz was handed a chance to force his way into England’s World Cup squad after being given a Test debut in the starting side to play Wales at Twickenham on Sunday.

The 32-year-old Heinz, born in Christchurch, New Zealand, has also been selected as vice-captain for this weekend’s match against Grand Slam champions Wales, a fixture that takes place just a day before coach Eddie Jones names his 31-man World Cup squad for Japan 2019.

Fly-half George Ford will captain the team in the first of England’s four World Cup warm-up matches.

“Willi has earned the opportunity, he’s been good with Gloucester and he deserves this chance,” England attack coach Scott Wisemantel told reporters at the squad’s training base outside in Bagshot, after Jones named his team on Friday.

“We’ve got a good pool of good half-backs. He’s in that pool. We know what the others can do, let’s see what Willi can do. Willi’s quite aggressive and forceful. That’s a different profile for us.”

In spite of being born and bred in New Zealand, Heinz qualifies to play for England through his grandmother, Aylieff, who came from Southampton.

Heinz has impressed since joining Gloucester in 2015 and took part in an England training session two years ago without being given a debut by Jones.

“Willi’s been brilliant since he came in and has been brilliant for Gloucester up until this point. He’s captained them as well,” said Ford who will lead the side in place of Owen Farrell who is sitting out the Test.

“He has so much energy and everything you want from a nine, such as the strong execution of the basics.”

Ben Youngs, England’s first-choice scrum-half, is on the bench.

Bath wing Ruaridh McConnochie is also set to win his first cap after impressing in the English Premiership last season.

Meanwhile, left wing Anthony Watson will be making his first appearance for England since damaging his achilles at the end of the 2018 Six Nations.

Sam Underhill and Tom Curry start in the same back row despite being specialist opensides with Curry packing down at blindside flanker.

Iran assures FIFA that women can attend football qualifier

Updated 22 September 2019

Iran assures FIFA that women can attend football qualifier

  • FIFA traveled to Iran ahead of the weekend for talks on the matter of women and football
  • The Islamic republic has barred female spectators from football and other stadiums since 1981

MILAN: FIFA has been “assured” that Iran will lift its 40-year ban and allow women to attend a World Cup qualifying game next month.

Football’s governing body wants Iran to end its ban on women entering stadiums that breaches international football statutes prohibiting discrimination.

Global attention on the ban followed the death this month of a 29-year-old activist, Sahar Khodayari, who set herself on fire outside a courthouse. She had been detained for dressing as a man to enter a football stadium in Tehran and faced six months in prison.

“There is women’s football in Iran but we need Iranian women as well to be able to attend the men’s game,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a speech at a conference on women’s football on Sunday. “And we need to push for that with respect but in a strong and forceful way. We cannot wait anymore.

“We have been assured, that as of the next international game of Iran, women will be allowed to enter football stadiums. This is something very important, it is 40 years that this has not happened, with a couple of exceptions, but it is important to move to the next level and to the next stage.”

FIFA sent an inspection team to Iran this week to meet government and football officials ahead of Iran’s match against Cambodia at the 78,000-capacity Azadi Stadium on Oct. 10 — its first home match of the 2022 qualifying competition.

Infantino’s comments drew praise from United States outgoing coach Jill Ellis, who was at the same FIFA conference in Milan, two months after leading the American women’s team to a second successive World Cup title.

“I think it’s huge,” Ellis said. “FIFA has enough of a pull and ability to influence change and I think it’s absolutely the right thing. I mean I don’t think there should be any discrimination period and to not allow women to go see football I think is, I just can’t even wrap my brain around it in terms of it being something. I think if FIFA can influence that, I think it’s great.”