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08th Nov 2021

‘Front page of Vogue… wearing Christian Dior clothes. All that is a distraction’

Patrick McCarry

emma raducanu

“The young girl who won the US Open… “

Not long after England had smashed Tonga 69-3, at Twickenham on Saturday, Eddie Jones was waxing lyrical about tennis star Emma Raducanu.

The England head coach was fielding questions as to why Marcus Smith had not been given the No.10 jersey after captain Owen Farrell was forced to pull out of the game. Farrell had tested positive for Covid-19, it seemed, but a later test showed the outhalf had received a ‘false positive’ and is cleared to face Australia this weekend.

Instead of pitching Smith in from the start against Tonga, Jones opted for George Furbank of Northampton Saints in the 10 slot. Furbank performed excellently and Smith was able to tear Tonga asunder in the latter stages, especially after they were reduced to 14 men.

Post-match, Jones was quizzed on why Smith, who has been in great form for Harlequins and played for the British & Irish Lions over the summer, was not tasked with starting. He opted to use Raducanu, who won the US Open in August, as an example of how sporting fame at a young age can lead to distractions.

Emma Raducanu pictured at the Neue Eisenbahnbruecke in Linz, Austria. (Photo by Alexander Scheuber/Getty Images)

Eddie Jones warns of increased media exposure

Jones was quite dismissive of how Raducanu, 18, had fared after winning her first Major at Flushing Meadows. The Canadian-born Briton took some time off after her triumph and parted ways with her coach. She lost in her first tournament back as US Open champion but has fared better in recent weeks.

To Jones, who may only have paid slight attention to Raducanu’s outings, failing to go close to titles in the tournaments she has played since suggests she may be distracted by outside influences and commitments. At Twickenham, he told reporters:

“The big thing for good young players is distractions. Marcus is grounded, but they all start out grounded.

“No-one starts with their feet off the ground or they don’t get in the team and they don’t win a US Open.

“But there are a flood of distractions which come in which can make them ungrounded. Those could be exposure they get in the media, the praise, the criticism. There can be agents who see this guy as the next big thing.”

England head coach Eddie Jones has led them to three Six Nations titles after taking over from Stuart Lancaster. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)

‘All that is a distraction,’ Jones says of Emma Raducanu

Jones was not done yet. “There’s a reason why the young girl who won the US Open hasn’t done so well afterwards,” he opined.

“What have you seen her on – the front page of Vogue and Harper Bazaar, or whatever it is, wearing Christian Dior clothes. All that is a distraction around her. It might not be to that degree with Marcus, but potentially it could be.”

Raducanu, who shot from 338th in the world rankings to 23rd after her excellent showing at Wimbledon and US Open success, is top seed at the WTA 250 tournament in Linz this week.

She has spoken about how off-court distractions are not going to interrupt with her training sessions or pre-game preparations. “That is a non-negotiable for me.”

Raducanu proved that her run to the fourth round of Wimbledon was no fluke when, a month later, she stunned the tennis world to win the US Open. For Jones to dismiss her recent outings [two wins and two losses in two tournaments] as someone who ‘hasn’t done so well’ is extremely short-sighted.

When his England team was struggling in the 2018 Six Nations – eventually finishing fifth – he was irate that the press did not understand who he was blooding young players ahead of the 2019 World Cup [where they would reach the final].

Perhaps he should take an overview of Raducanu’s progress over the year as a whole rather than using her as an example of somehow getting distracted, off the back of just two recent tournaments.