Fresh play­ers for Eng­land opener

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - SPORT -

ED­DIE Jones is bank­ing on his race­horse trainer-style “gut feel” pay­ing div­i­dends against Ar­gentina at Twick­en­ham to­day 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.

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 cen­tre, 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 that 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.”

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 to­day’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.

“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 fly­half 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”.

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 for­wards 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.” – AFP

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