Six Nations 2019: England’s ‘remarkable’ depth softens Maro Itoje loss

first_img“This is no discredit to Maro because he’s an absolutely wonderful player and I love watching him, but where England are at the minute compared to other home nations is just the remarkable strength in depth,” Moody, speaking on behalf of Land Rover, told Omnisport.”Maro went off and you ended up with [number eight] Nathan Hughes playing in the second row. To bring Courtney Lawes on — he’s a world-class player, in any other side in the world he’d be starting and there’s also Joe Launchbury. “You’ve got four second-rows there that could start in any other team in the home nations, they are absolutely brilliant.”So, the amount of pressure coming on each and every player to perform week in and week out [is high] because the amount of players queueing up underneath them is remarkable.”As a coach that is exactly what you want, you don’t want players resting on their laurels thinking their place is assured, you want everyone thinking ‘Christ, if I don’t play well today I could potentially lose my spot.’ “And that just drives everyone’s performance and that’s why we’re seeing England play as they did at the weekend because it’s not just in the second row, it’s in the back row, the front row, fly-half, centres, wing, it’s just wonderful to watch at the minute and wonderful to watch Eddie Jones pick from virtually a fully fit squad.”Countdown to #LeCrunch #ENGvFRA #CarryThemHome  pic.twitter.com/IcSr79jzeE— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) February 6, 2019Powerhouses Manu Tuilagi and Billy Vunipola have seen their respective England careers marred by injuries in recent years, but both started in Dublin and Moody believes the duo make a huge difference to Jones’ side.”There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that without Billy Vunipola, England are a different team,” he said.”I think the players he plays against, they know how dangerous he is and it’s not just the danger he poses of running over you as a defender, it’s getting past the gainline and being able to offload out of contact.”His presence creates space outside him because it attracts more defenders into the hit. It’s one thing trying to make the tackle [but] it’s another trying to stop the offload, all of a sudden that drags defenders in and creates space out wide for everyone else. “It’s the same case for Manu Tuilagi, you look at the opportunities created at the weekend and many of them were off the back of them two carrying the ball hard and creating space out wide in attack for others.”On the flip side in defense, look at some of the hits Manu put in. So many were just well timed and that’s what he can bring, that destructive power in the tackle in the centres. “It wasn’t just Manu or Bill on Saturday, you look at the defensive prowess across the board. The stat that blew me away at the weekend – the tackle count was quite equal – but it was the dominant hits, it was nearly 50 dominant hits, which is a crazy amount.”Normally you’re looking at 10 to 20 if you’re lucky. Nearly 50 in a game, you as a defender smashing the attacker back over his own gainline, that to me just says this is a proper team performance.”Lewis Moody is a Land Rover ambassador. Land Rover shares and understands the values of rugby. @LandRoverRugby England confirmed Tuesday that Itoje definitely will miss this weekend’s contest against France at Twickenham, while reports suggest he also will be out for the trip to Wales on Feb. 23.Itoje is expected to play a part in the closing rounds of the tournament and, in the meantime, Moody — a member of England’s victorious 2003 World Cup team — is sure the likes of George Kruis, Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes will fill the void. Related News Maro Itoje’s absence will not hit England too hard because of the “remarkable” depth at coach Eddie Jones’ disposal, Rugby World Cup winner Lewis Moody says.Itoje, considered one of the best locks in rugby, sustained a ligament injury to his right knee during the superb 32-20 opening-round Six Nations win Saturday against defending Grand Slam champion Ireland.center_img Six Nations 2019: Camille Chat replaces injured Julien Marchand (knee) for France Six Nations 2019: England forward Itoje (knee) to miss France clashlast_img read more

Lonzo Ball’s cleaned-up shot draws approval from Lakers brass

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error EL SEGUNDO — What can Lonzo Ball do to improve his shot? If you asked 10 different people, you’re likely to get 10 different answers.But it seems Ball went in search of his own answers to that question after shooting just 36 percent from the field last year, one of the worst guard efficiencies in the league. And watching Ball lately, the powers-that-be in the Lakers’ front office seem satisfied that he’s come a long way.“Man,” said Magic Johnson, pantomiming Ball’s adjustments Thursday afternoon, “it is beautiful.”Ball’s stroke has always been unconventional, and even in recently released team footage, it’s still odd-looking: The 20-year-old holds the ball further left than most right-handed shooters, and he flicks his wrist sideways from his set hand. Trail Blazers, Grizzlies advance to NBA play-in game; Suns, Spurs see playoff dreams dashed Lakers practice early hoping to answer all questions How athletes protesting the national anthem has evolved over 17 years AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersThe new motion has traces of the old motion, but cleaned up: The Lakers like that he sets more to the center than he used to, and General Manager Rob Pelinka thinks the release is a little less clunky.Pelinka, who used to have shooting contests with former Michigan teammate and 3-point ace Glen Rice, admitted he has talked to Ball a lot about shooting. But he insisted the team hasn’t pushed him to make huge changes in mechanics, only to find a more consistent, fluid stroke.“I feel like you can boil it down to release, the spin on the ball and arch,” Pelinka said. “So I had many conversations with Zo of, just get those things right where you feel fluid about it. He would take things in. The way he’s shooting the ball looks a lot more fluid now.“Before he was the No. 2 overall pick back in 2017, Ball had a transcendent one-and-done year at UCLA, during which he shot 41 percent from 3-point range. The Lakers hope he finds the touch he once had as a prospect, which could help him play more off the ball – a necessary role since he’ll be sharing the court with playmakers LeBron James and Rajon Rondo next season. Pelinka said he thinks Ball could be valuable as a catch-and-shoot player in those instances, as long as the shot continues to improve.center_img Sign up for Home Turf and get exclusive stories every SoCal sports fan must read, sent daily. Subscribe here.It’s not the only thing Ball has worked on, of course: Johnson cited Ball’s rapt attention for film study, including a handful of sessions with Magic himself. While he spent the summer recovering from knee surgery, he was often in the team’s weight room, watching his teammates play scrimmages on the court feet away. Johnson thinks the development of other young players, especially Kyle Kuzma, could be a motivating force for Ball.Johnson, the president of basketball operations, famously said last summer he expected Ball’s jersey to hang from the rafters one day. He was more tempered Thursday when evaluating the second-year point guard, but still confident.“I am excited for Lonzo,” he said, “and he is going to be fine.”OFF-CENTERMore than a few people have noticed the Lakers seem precariously thin close to the basket.While the team’s wing options are robust, the only center with significant NBA experience on the roster is JaVale McGee, a 10-year vet who averaged less than 10 minutes per game the past two seasons for the Golden State Warriors. While Croatian big man Ivica Zubac is also a traditional center, the roster structure has fueled speculation that other forwards (including LeBron James) might play more small-ball center.Johnson and Pelinka didn’t seem to sense a weakness: In an era when the “positionless” basketball the Warriors often play is a goal for many teams, a traditional big man takes on less importance, Johnson suggested.“You know the game has gone to (smaller play),” he said. “There’s not a true center playing backup, and we’ve got one of the best going to be there.”McGee, a long-limbed shot-blocker, hasn’t averaged double-digit points since 2012. But defensively, he’s expected to make a difference, and the Lakers think he’s gained character from his runs with the Warriors.Outside of McGee, Pelinka said the front office wanted to design the roster with “thrust”: a variety of players who could attack and pounce the length of the court to pressure opponents. Just because the Lakers don’t have a ton of big man experience doesn’t mean they lack length. Pelinka also pointed out the team has seven players who are 6-foot-9 or taller (even though some of those players are guards).“As the game is moving to be more positionless, we really don’t talk about center or point guard,” he said. “It is a positionless game and we have a long roster with adequate size for sure.”ROSTER SPOT REMAINS OPENIt was notable that Pelinka said Thursday he feels the Lakers’ roster is especially deep from “one to 14.” Because there’s a 15th spot that so far is unfilled.Related Articles Lakers, Clippers schedules set for first round of NBA playoffs Trail Blazers beat Grizzlies in play-in, earn first-round series with the Lakers Expect that spot to remain empty for at least a little while longer. Even as training camp begins Tuesday, the Lakers want to keep a spot open. It could serve as spot help for a need identified in camp, Pelinka said, or if the team gets into a trade discussion, they could receive two players for one.The Lakers want to keep their options on the table.“We do want to have that flexibility, and we just want to keep it open because the team is so deep,” he said. “We don’t have any current needs right now.”last_img read more