Eddie Jones outlines his plan for how to improve rugby union – including fewer subs and scrum resets

England rugby coach Eddie Jones says stoppages and too many reserve players are making rugby too much like American football and steps need to be taken to speed up the game.

In an interview on New Zealand television, Jones said matches of two scheduled 40-minute halves now regularly take more than 110 minutes to complete because of stoppages for scrum resets, head injury assessments and reviews of referee’s decisions. He said the ball was generally in play for only 35 minutes, a statistic which hasn’t changed for 20 years.

Jones has been head coach of national teams in Australia, Japan and England and was part of the coaching group in South Africa’s winning Rugby World Cup campaign in 2007.

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“We need to make the game faster,” Jones, who took over as England coach after a group-stage exit in the 2015 World Cup and guided the team to the final of the 2019 World Cup in Japan, told Sky’s The Breakdown.

He advocates eliminating scrum resets in favour of free kicks and reducing the number of replacement players from eight to six to help make rugby more attractive to fans.

Jones highlighted the recently-introduced “six again” rule in Australia’s National Rugby League, which prevents teams slowing down play at the rucks, as an example of how simple rule changes can improve a sport. He said rugby union has “gone too far down the power line and we need to get some more continuity back in the game.”

“The NRL is a good example of when you make one adjustment to a law and you change the game for the better,” he said of last week’s change in the rules for the 13-a-side version of rugby. “It’s definitely become less of a wrestle in the NRL and a faster more continuous game and I think we need to make that adjustment.”

Jones said reducing the number of bench players in rugby would also help improve the game. The ability to replace almost half a team late in the second half changed how coaches and teams approached matches.

“I’d only have six reserves and I reckon that’d make a hell of a difference,” he said, listing cover for all three front-row positions, another forward for the back five, and two for the backline. “That would introduce some fatigue into the game.”

Endless scrum resets had become the most contentious part of rugby for fans, Jones said.

“We need to go to a differential penalty (free kick) where you can’t kick for goal and you’ve got to take a quick tap or kick to the line,” he said. “We’ve got to try and get some more movement in the game.”

Asked if England would be disadvantage by the rule changes he advocates, because England plays a power game, Jones said all teams should be able to adapt. AP

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England v Australia series in October and November cancelled

England’s Ashes series against Australia, scheduled for October and November, has been cancelled.

New England coach Shaun Wane was due to take charge of three Tests against the World Cup holders in Bolton, Leeds and Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium in London.

It would have been the first Ashes series in 17 years.

However, the Rugby Football League and Australia’s Rugby League Commission have confirmed it will not go ahead because of the coronavirus pandemic.

They pinpointed complications for global travel and the need to extend domestic competitions in both countries as reasons for the decision.

With the World Cup due to take place in the UK in 2021, talks have begun about possibly rescheduling the Ashes series for 2022.

RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer said: “We make this announcement with great reluctance and disappointment, as we had been looking forward so much to welcoming the Kangaroos for the revival of the Rugby League Ashes in 2020 – and the prospect of the series had captured the imagination of our players, broadcast & commercial partners, supporters and media alike.

“However, the current circumstances have had a seismic impact on rugby league, as on all other sports, and we all now need to give, in order to find solutions for the greater and longer term good of the game.

“After regular discussions with the ARLC over the last few months, combined with those within our domestic competitions, we have concluded that the right thing to do for the game as a whole is to make this decision now.”

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A financially stretched RFL were, in part, dependent on the Ashes tour happening to help swell their coffers. All matches were also to be broadcast live on BBC television.

Rimmer has acknowledged that the cancellation is a financial blow, adding: “It will have a considerable impact on the finances of rugby league here in England, as we were banking on a significant boost from Australia’s first full tour since 2003.

“But as I have said regularly to all parts of the game since the seriousness of the situation became clear, we are all going to have to make sacrifices, and financial adjustments – and we should stress again our gratitude to the government for the significant support they provided at the start of May, which will help us to deal with this major setback.”

The cancellation also leaves England, at this stage, without any games planned for new coach Wane ahead of next year’s World Cup. The RFL will be under pressure to organise a worthwhile fixture for mid-season next year.

Andrew Abdo, the interim chief executive of the NRL, said: “It is disappointing that the historic Kangaroos tour to the UK can no longer take place in 2020. We look forward to the Rugby League World Cup in 2021 and hopefully a tour to the UK by the Kangaroos in a future season.”

Fans who have already purchased tickets to the Ashes are able to either claim a credit for a ticket to attend any major rugby league event in 2020 or 2021, including the 2021 World Cup, or claim a full refund.

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Michael Jordan’s honesty in ‘The Last Dance’ called into question by author Sam Smith

His Airness might actually be His Unfairness.

ESPN’s “The Last Dance” wrapped up on Sunday, and the 10-part series did a great job at painting Michael Jordan in a mythological light — but apparently a less-than-good job at telling the truth, according to “The Jordan Rules” author and “The Last Dance” commentator Sam Smith.

Smith, who was given airtime at various points during the series, called Jordan’s claim that the Bulls would have reunited for one more season following their 1997-98 championship run “a complete and blatant lie.”

“There were several things in the documentary that I saw, I would know, that (Jordan) made up or he lied about,” Smith said in an interview with Bonta, Steiny and Guru of 95.7 The Game. “They weren’t major things, but it was like when a TV movie comes on and they say, ‘This is based on a true story.’ That’s what that was. It was based on a true story.”

Smith said the idea that players might reunite for one more season was hogwash, in so many words, and that the producers “had the outlines” of the events but the details were a bit murky. 

He also said the infamous Pizza Game/Flu Game/Food Poisoning Game story — in which Jordan and his trainer alluded to a late-night snack potentially being poisoned — was “complete nonsense,” adding that Jordan was certainly sick but it wasn’t from the pizza (or a hangover).

The series wasn’t without its flaws, and as Smith notes in the interview, the docuseries was a “Michael Jordan hagiography” more than it was a revelatory or investigative documentary surrounding the Jordan-era Bulls. Since its conclusion, Smith, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant and Pizza Hut employees have all either called into question Jordan’s veracity or the portrayals of one another during the doc.

While the legend of Jordan certainly grew throughout “The Last Dance,” maybe we are now further from the truth than we wanted to be.

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Vidal follows Balotelli in blasting Chiellini's new book

‘I don’t see why one should say those things, it annoyed me’: Arturo Vidal follows Mario Balotelli in blasting Giorgio Chiellini after former Juventus team-mate accused him of drinking too much alcohol in his book

  • Giorgio Chiellini’s new book has come in for criticism from former team-mates
  • The Juventus captain claimed Arturo Vidal had drunk too much alcohol
  • But Chile star hit back at his former Juve team-mate claiming he broke no rules
  • Vidal, now at Barcelona, claimed Chiellini had broken a dressing room code 

Giorgio Chiellini’s book continues to create controversy and negative reactions with Arturo Vidal the latest to hit back at his former Juventus team-mate.

It follows on from criticisms made by Mario Balotelli and Felipe Melo following their supposed negative portrayals in the book.

The former Juventus midfielder, now with Barcelona, had been accused of drinking too much alcohol.

Arturo Vidal took to Instagram to criticise former Juventus team-mate Giorgio Chiellini

Vidal believes Chiellini was wrong to criticise his off-pitch conduct concerning alcohol

During a direct Instagram Vidal said: ‘People have focused on the worst things Chiellini said. And I don’t see why one should say those things, it annoyed me.

‘But he also said that I was a champion. He called me and explained to me. I didn’t do anything I couldn’t do. I was allowed to go out. I am a human being like everyone else. I work hard and if friends meet for an asado with the club’s permission, I’ll go too.

‘If I have to stay focused, I do it. But when it’s my turn to have fun I take advantage of it, I’m just like the others. And when I was wrong, I paid and got up’.

Vidal ended his verbal tirade by hinting that Chiellini had broken an unwritten rule of ‘what happens in the dressing room stays in the dressing room’ by saying: ‘In football there are codes…’. 

Chiellini raises a high foot against Vidal during a Juventus game against Cagliari in 2013

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In a world of social media abuse, Madison Keys wants to spread kindness

In the life of a tennis player, it’s not always obvious to see kindness.

Hardened pros are taught to fight for every point – battle is hardly synonymous with being kind.  

But for Madison Keys, the world No. 13 from the USA, spreading kindness has been at the forefront of her mind as professional tennis takes a collective pause amid the coronavirus crisis.

Professional athletes like Keys are not always on the receiving end of kindness.

Behind their computer shields, keyboard warriors regularly fire abuse into the social media sphere, which remains laxly moderated. Keys has had her fair share.

‘Honestly, for me, a lot of the time it’s sort of more anger after I lose matches from people who have bet on the matches. It’s just very nasty stuff,’ Keys, 25, tells Metro.co.uk over the phone from her Florida base.

‘Often it’s bad stuff about my family, wishing harm to them and things like that. It’s not something I would wish on anyone else.

‘I’ve dealt with it personally, but also know that pretty much every other tennis player on the tour has dealt with it.

‘But I’m sure even though we all are used to getting it, every once in a while you are cut deep a little bit.’

The problem is far from limited to tennis. Earlier this month, former Arsenal striker Ian Wright highlighted vile racist abuse directed at him on Instagram; many athletes are subjected to vitriol on a daily basis.

On Friday, Keys hopes to reset the balance.

Her foundation, Kindness Wins, wants to celebrate and spread kindness across the internet on a special day of recognition – aptly named #KindnessWinsDay.

Each ‘kindness call-out’ will recognise an individual who has done something kind for others, while nominating others to do the same.

‘So often you see negative comments on social media,’ she adds. ‘I really just wanted to have a day where all we were trying to do was put out positive messages for other people and acknowledge the great things they are doing.’

Her initiative was not driven from her own experiences. In her work with Fearlessly Girl – the name of the foundation before it was rebranded to become ‘broader and more open to everyone’ – she engaged with young girls who had become accustomed to witnessing negative messaging on social media. According to statistics gathered by her foundation, 87% of young people have witnessed cyberbullying.

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Many of you know that I’ve been the face of Fearlessly GiRL for several years. Together we reached so many young girls and I learned so much during our partnership. Now I’ve decided to launch my very own new initiative called Kindness Wins. Spreading kindness is and always will be my passion. Everyone has something they’re going through or have gone through or something they’re being negatively affected by. Including me. I want everyone to know they’re not alone and that there is something we can do about it – spread kindness. I want to be a champion of kindness and encourage others to do the same – being kind to themselves and kind to others. Soon I will be joined by some of my fellow champions to continue this mission of spreading kindness. Kindness doesn’t know one sport, gender, age or ethnicity so I’m excited for the greater impact we’ll all have together! I can’t wait to share more information with you on how we can do this together. I hope you’ll join me on this journey of positivity so we can show everyone that Kindness Wins. 🤍 @kindnesswinsfoundation

A post shared by Madison Keys (@madisonkeys) on

‘We’d open questions for younger kids and they were asking about “how do you deal with cyber bullying? We’re dealing with it right now”. It was so sad that at such a young age they’re already dealing with it,’ says the former US Open finalist.

Her organisation works with other athletes – skier Mikaela Shiffrin is the latest on board – to show that kindness can still thrive, even in the most competitive of environments.

‘I think you can want to win and you can try your best and be as competitive as you possibly can be but also still be nice to people,’ says Keys. ‘I don’t think it’s one or the other. I think it can be both.

‘For the most part, I think it is both. On the tour we’re all pretty close. We see each other more than we see our families most of the time so we’re definitely there for each other most of the time.

‘We can go out and play each other and you want to win the match that day but once the match is over and you’re back in the locker room, you’re just people.’

In her own sport, one example of kindness sticks out above the rest.

At the US Open last year, teenage sensation Coco Gauff was beaten comfortably by defending champion Naomi Osaka. As the tearful youngster attempted to head off court, Osaka invited her for an emotional dual on-court interview after the match.

‘The way they both just talked to each other – it was a real moment,’ says Keys. ‘I always get really happy when I see those.’

At the same tournament, two years earlier, Keys was the recipient of kindness from her compatriot and good friend Sloane Stephens.

Both were playing in their first Grand Slam final, on home soil, but it was a one-sided affair, with Stephens claiming her first major title.

After a heartfelt embrace at the net, Stephens sat next to her friend – rather than in her own seating area, as is typically custom – in a touching moment that still resonates with Keys.

‘In the moment it was really tough for me to handle, obviously, in public, with so many people watching and all that,’ she adds.

‘For Sloane to comfort me and give me all of her support in that moment was really nice and special. It’s one of the reasons she’s one of my closest friends.’

While all too aware of the negativity in the online realm, Keys is appreciative of how it has allowed her to be better connected to her fan base and is still adamant that the positives of social media outweigh the negatives.

The message of spreading kindness is particularly pertinent, she feels, in the current Covid-19 climate.

‘I definitely think we’re more appreciative of people because we’re not really busy, we’re not running around, we’re not preoccupied with other things and I think we’ve been able to take a pause and think about how grateful we are for so many things that we take for granted,’ she says.

‘So I definitely think there’s a gratitude and an appreciation that’s been pretty apparent during this time period. Hopefully it can stick around.

‘If someone is kind to you then it makes you happy and it makes you acknowledge, “Wow, that was something so small but it meant a lot to me”. Just having that happen to you, it makes you think about how you could do that for someone else.

‘When you’re doing that, it might start off as something you’re thinking about but eventually it just becomes a habit and I think that would be a great thing for basically the entire world right now, just to be a little bit kinder to each other.’

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What’s it like to drive in a NASCAR race with no fans and social distancing rules?

Matt DiBenedetto said the drive before the drive brought nerves.

On his way to Darlington Raceway on Sunday, rolling down the highway at the speed limit rather than 200 mph, he felt freed from his house but also anxious for the Real Heroes 400 ahead. He hadn’t competed in a live NASCAR Cup Series event for more than two months.

Without fans in attendance, there was also a different vibe after the pre-race national anthem: “Just dead silent when you get in the car. We’re usually hearing the flyover and the fans are going crazy.”

But when the engines fired, it was business as usual in a world that’s been anything but lately. DiBenedetto said there wasn’t any rust from competitors, nor unexpected hiccups with social distancing measures in place among crewmembers to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“At the cup level, I think everyone’s just so good,” DiBenedetto told Sporting News. “I mean, they’re all professionals and they’re all so experienced and so talented at this level, so there really wasn’t any of that rust to knock off necessarily. It’s a testament how good the teams are that we were able to do that with no practice.”

NASCAR is among the first sports to return to live action in the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic. That’s led to a boost in excitement surrounding stock car driving on social media from an audience largely understanding of not being allowed back at the track yet.

DiBenedetto and others have noticed the enthusiasm.

“We appreciate the fans so dang much,” DiBenedetto said. “This gives a whole other level of appreciation (for supporters) that we possibly couldn’t have even felt otherwise.”

DiBenedetto placed 14th in the Real Heroes 400. Kevin Harvick won the race, while Alex Bowman and Kurt Busch rounded out the top three.

The 28-year-old said coronavirus-related rules changes on pit road and in garages had little effect on his placement and was surprised at the effectiveness of the altered process. Masks and temperature checks were required for everyone involved in the race, and NASCAR implemented rules to spread out spotters and crewmembers.

“What stood out to me more than anything was how smoothly everything went from start to finish,” DiBenedetto said. “How much work NASCAR and everybody put in to make sure that we did this all right, how on the same page every single crew member in the whole garage was. I mean, you couldn’t find anyone without their mask on.”

NASCAR returns to the track Wednesday afternoon for the Toyota 500.

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Eli Manning sees coaching in his post-retirement life — just not in the NFL

Eli Manning has been doing what many people have been doing these days: homeschooling his kids. 

He’s more than 12 years removed from leading the Giants over Tom Brady and the Patriots to win the Super Bowl in 2008, eight years removed from doing it again in 2012 and just a few months removed from taking the last snap of his NFL career. 

Now, he’s tucked away in Mississippi with his family, far away from the football fields and bright lights of New York, trying to figure out what’s next.

Last week, the former Giants quarterback gave some insight when he joined 115 military members from across the globe and their families for an online Q&A. 

“I know one thing: I don’t want to be an NFL coach,” Manning said during a USO Zoom call (per ESPN). “I’ve seen what our coaches do and the hours they put in, and I enjoy being with my family and enjoy coaching some of their sports teams.”

Manning said he hasn’t even thrown a football since his retirement began. Instead, he’s spent his time with his four kids while he considers the possibilities for the next chapter in his life.

“I really wanted to try to take a year off and just try to gather my bearings and get settled with my family and figure out what I want to do in that next chapter,” Manning said.

Broadcasting could be an option. After all, his brother Peyton just turned down a lucrative offer to be in the “Monday Night Football” booth. It might be easier to start with figuring out what he doesn’t want to do, and he appears to have one thing at the top of that list.

Manning ruled out coaching at the NFL level, but he also seemed intrigued by the possibility of coaching high schoolers. He has helped run the famous Manning Passing Academy with his family and gotten experience coaching that age range. 

“I always really enjoy working with freshmen in high school and getting them to learn how to play quarterback at a higher level,” he said. “You see the difference when they come in that first day and leave four days later, and the growth that they’ve made in that time.”

For now, though, Manning says he will take the year off and enjoy retirement. At some point, he expects to be involved in some capacity with the Giants, the organization for which he played his entire 16-year pro career.

“Football is my love and passion,” Manning said. “It is all I’ve known for the last 25 years and all I’ve been doing. I don’t think I can stray too far away from that.”

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Man Utd in talks to sign Mohammed Salisu in £10.4m deal

Manchester United are looking to sign competition for Victor Lindelof and have begun initial talks over a deal for Real Valladolid centre-back Mohammed Salisu, according to reports.

Lindelof has made 35 appearances for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side this season and has been the preferred partner in central defence for captain Harry Maguire.

But according to ESPN, United still have ‘concerns’ over the Sweden international’s performances.

The report claims that Solskjaer is prioritising a move for a new attacker in the next transfer window and is also in the market for a new winger.

But United have also made an enquiry for Valladolid’s Salisu, who has a €12 million (£10.4m) release clause in his deal with the Spanish club.

Salisu, who is represented by Juan Mata’s father, is rated as one of the best young defenders in La Liga following his impressive performances this season.

Real Madrid are also interested in the 21-year-old, while Juan Mata Sr has already admitted that the defender could be moving clubs in the next transfer window.

Speaking about Salisu’s drastic improvement earlier this season, Valladolid’s sporting director, Miguel Angel Gomez, said: ‘Salisu came to us as a youth. I was at the African academy and we bought him for €50,000.

‘Many teams and foreign clubs come to see him every weekend. He is a pure talent.

‘It’s normal that there are so many people following him because he has a brutal potential. In addition to genetics, he has a high capacity to learn.’

ESPN also report that United have opened the door for agents to ‘pitch’ defenders as potential signings.

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Cristiano Ronaldo stuck in Maderia and unable to return to Italy

Cristiano Ronaldo stuck in Madeira and unable to return to Turin for Juventus training with his £30m private jet grounded in Madrid due to Spanish travel restrictions

  • The Juventus forward is unable to return from his native Madeira to Italy
  • Ronaldo’s £30million Gulfstream G650 private jet is unable to leave in Madrid
  • The plane has been stopped from flying due to Spanish travel restrictions 
  • Italian government gave the green light for Serie A teams to resume training 

Cristiano Ronaldo is unable to fly back to Italy from Madeira as his £30 private plane remains grounded in Madrid.

The news comes after Juventus called all players to head back to Turin, after the Italian government gave the green light for Serie A teams to return to training.

However TVI have reported that the Portuguese superstar is grounded back home in Madeira as his private plane is currently unable to leave Madrid.

Cristiano Ronaldo is stuck in Maderia and unable to return to Italy due to flight restrictions

The Juventus star has been told to come back to Turin but faces a logistical nightmare 

The Portuguese star has his own G650 Gulfstream jet but it remains grounded at the moment


Model – G650 Gulfstream

Cost – £30m 

Capacity – 18 passengers

Top speed – 610mph  

His plane has attempted to take off on three occasions, but due to Spanish travel restrictions, it cannot leave the city to go and pick Ronaldo up to take him back to Italy.

Ronaldo owns a £30million G650 Gulfstream jet that is regarded as the highest quality private plane money can buy. 

It can carry 18 passengers and reaches a top speed of 610mph. 

The news means that Ronaldo could be forced to stay in Portugal for the next few days as he attempts to find a way back to Italy, where flights are authorised through special permits.

The Italian government gave permission for teams to return back to training after a number of Serie A sides announced their intentions to get back together on Monday.

Sassuolo were the first top-flight club to confirm a return to training before Bologna, Parma and Roma followed suit.

The government had originally decreed that athletes in team sports were different from those involved in individual disciplines, such as tennis or athletics, even if their training exercises were identical.

This meant the public could go for a run in local parks from Monday next week but team sports remained banned until May 18.

No doubt Ronaldo will be pleased to work with his team-mates when he can eventually return

The 35-year-old forward has been staying in his native Madeira with his family since March 9

Ronaldo enjoyed a few days with his nine-year-old son Cristiano Jr before heading back to Italy

But with some regional assemblies deciding to re-open all sports facilities from Monday rather than waiting until May 18, the government conceded it was pointless to limit some areas while others had the go-ahead.

The Serie A clubs and the Italian players’ association successfully argued that it is safer to train inside a training ground where social distancing can be guaranteed rather than in a local park.

Though despite the planned return to training, there are no guarantees the Serie A season will actually restart despite all 20 clubs voting that they wish to complete the 2019-20 campaign.

Once Ronaldo eventually arrives back in Italy, he will be required to stay in isolation for another 14 days.

All players staying in Italy will be able to immediately return to training while those who are travelling in like Ronaldo will have to wait a further two weeks once they return to the country before they can take part.

Cristiano Ronaldo treated his mum, Maria Dolores, to a new Mercedes for Mother’s Day

The Portuguese star wished Maria and his partner, Georgina Rodriguez, a happy Mother’s Day

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