World Championship

Judd Trump brands Ronnie O’Sullivan ‘selfish’ as Neil Robertson rubbishes Rocket’s ‘lab rat’ rant

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Judd Trump, Ronnie O'Sullivan and Neil Robertson.

Image credit: Eurosport

30/07/2020 at 20:28 | Updated 31/07/2020 at 08:50

The 2020 Snooker World Championship will begin on Friday set against the backdrop of a war of words between the three tournament favourites over fans being allowed entry.

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World champion Judd Trump and world number two Neil Robertson did not hold back when asked what they thought about five-times winner Ronnie O’Sullivan’s claims that the players at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield were being treated like “lab rats”.

O’Sullivan prompted controversy after hitting out at event organisers World Snooker Tour prior to former German Masters winner Anthony Hamilton’s decision to withdraw from the 44th staging of the event citing health fears over the coronavirus crisis.

The tournament will go ahead with the 981-seat Crucible only at a third of its capacity and social distancing measures in place under UK government health guidelines with O’Sullivan scathing about the decision.

“I defy anybody if they have been keeping their distance from people for four months to say, oh right, now you've got to go into a room full of people - unless you have got a death wish, and some people have in many ways and they just don't care,” said O’Sullivan.

"We have a choice - we don't have to go and play. We all run a bit of a risk.

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"I have the option not to play, but I've decided to play. Maybe with 5,000 fans I could see it's a bit of an income you're going to lose, but 200 fans, is it really?

"Maybe they have to start doing a test on crowds at some point and I've heard people say they're treating the snooker event a little bit like lab rats - you've got to start somewhere, start with snooker players.

"Less insurance to pay out for Anthony Hamilton than there is for Lewis Hamilton."

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Hamilton has since apologised for playing two rounds of qualifying before opting to withdraw on the eve of the event which Trump slammed as “selfish” for denying other players the chance to participate, most notably his opponents Sam Craigie and Scott Donaldson at the qualifiers.

But he was also not impressed by O’Sullivan, who he believes should have the courage of his convictions and withdraw from the event if he is so worried about his health.

“I heard that Hamilton had pulled out. The Ronnie thing I saw briefly,” said world number one Trump. “It is hard to comment because everyone had the choice to play in it.

“Of all people, Ronnie is probably the only one who doesn’t need the money so I find it quite hard that he can enter it and have a go at what is going on. Just pull out and let someone else have a go.

“They (the comments) don’t annoy me personally because I have been around the game long enough to know that if there is a World Championship coming up he is going to try and get the headlines.

“It doesn’t annoy me. Just on behalf of some of the lower-ranked players I am friends with, who would love the opportunity to be here.

For him to say he wasn’t going to play if there was a crowd, then change his mind, then slate it, just give someone else the opportunity if it doesn’t mean enough to you. It’s that simple really. Some of the younger players, maybe from China, that didn’t get the opportunity who are good enough to be here but couldn’t find their way here, I think it’s just a bit selfish in my eyes.

Trump – who begins his bid to become the first maiden winner to claim back-to-back titles against Tom Ford on Friday morning – supports Robertson’s belief that the game’s authorities deserve nothing but praise for getting the game back into working order.

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“It is amazing that snooker is leading the way. If it was another sport leading the way then all the players will be asking questions about why it wasn’t us,” said Trump.

“We are at the forefront of the whole world of sport at the moment and at some point there has to be a crowd. When is too soon, nobody knows, but you have got to get back to it at some point and there is always going to be the same questions asked when it did come back, so why not now?

“They have taken some extraordinary measures with safety and all the players should feel very safe.

“As Neil said, I think they have done a brilliant job and if you are not happy with what is taking place, just simply don’t enter the event.”

2010 world champion Robertson has been a strong advocate of getting fans back into venues – and was also unimpressed with O’Sullivan’s claim that the players are being treated like “lab rats”.

“I don’t see us getting bleach poured down our throats or getting tested for cosmetics. I don’t think we are like lab rats at all,” said Australia's leading player Robertson. “I understand it from the point of view of it being a bit of an experiment because it has never been done before.

“The Tour Championship and the Championship League was a great way of seeing what it was like moving forward in terms of the players social distancing while we play and how its going to be around the venues.

“You could say that about football starting up again. They are crowding together in a penalty box and are all high fiving.

“The managers are doing an elbow pump. It’s strange. As we start moving forward and slowly start relaxing things and actually calm down a bit we can all get back to normal.

“It makes a good headline, but I don’t think it is anything to worry about from a players’ perspective.

“The only thing I don’t like is that players have to get tested again before the quarter-finals and if they fail the test they are out of the tournament. That is pretty brutal.”

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