#360debate: Should Owen Farrell be axed?

After a poor display against South Africa, questions have been raised about Owen Farrell's place in the England team ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

Matt Jones and Martyn Thomas
by Matt Jones and Martyn Thomas
17th November 2014

article:17th November 2014

Under pressure: Owen Farrell tries to escape the attentions of Victor Matfield at Twickenham on Saturday.
Under pressure: Owen Farrell tries to escape the attentions of Victor Matfield at Twickenham on Saturday.

After a poor display against South Africa, questions have been raised about Owen Farrell's place in the England team ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

Our #360debate today is: Should Farrell be axed?


Martyn Thomas, Reporter, thinks YES

England’s disappointing autumn has been characterised by indecision and indifference behind the scrum. 

Owen Farrell has been ponderous and his decision-making poor, and while not the only player under performing, it is time to look at alternatives.

Fly-half is a pivotal position at the top level as it is the No10 who sets the pace and tempo of the game, and ultimately provides the territory that is so important.

On too many occasions against South Africa, Farrell simply chose the wrong option and put his side in danger.

Early on he eschewed a kick to run the ball out from under his posts. The Saracens man did the first bit well, but then inexplicably played Anthony Watson into trouble instead of clearing his lines.

In the second half he made a complete hash of a couple of cross-field kicks when he had numbers out wide, and in general the Red Rose looked more dangerous when their pack decided to take on playmaking responsibilities themselves.

That does not mean that Stuart Lancaster does not possess ability in his backline, but by persisting with Farrell he is not getting the most out of them. Game management is not a strong point for the Saracens man and he requires someone outside of him to help take the burden of decision making off him. 

Unfortunately, Kyle Eastmond, while an exciting player, does not possess the requisite kicking game to do that. One man who does is Billy Twelvetrees, and Lancaster may well decide to bring him back in but that would seem a regressive measure – diminishing the overall quality of the midfield, to mask the deficiencies of the golden boy.

Instead, England must be brave and give a chance to George Ford, who has forged a frightening relationship with Eastmond at club level and could hold the key to unlocking the side’s potential. Changes will be made for the Samoa test on Saturday, but Ford must be allowed to show what he can do against Australia a week later.

With time running out ahead of the World Cup, and with the likes of Danny Cipriani, Stephen Myler and Freddie Burns also available, Lancaster’s blind faith in Farrell is verging on the ridiculous.

 

Matthew Jones, Reporter, thinks NO

Owen Farrell did not have a great game against South Africa, but dropping him is not the answer.

There were plenty of other miscreants in white guilty of sinning against the Springboks, and far more senior, experienced internationals than the 23-year-old fly-half.

Farrell is a solid goal-kicker, a physical specimen, a natural leader and a strong character who relishes the big occasion.

Critics are clamouring for coach Stuart Lancaster to give in-form Bath back George Ford the nod against Samoa, but is the 21-year-old the answer?

And if Ford does play, it should not be at the expense of Farrell, but alongside him. Switch Farrell to inside centre, to provide England with a natural kicker, and put Ford at 10.

The pair were a devastating combination at age-group level, when they lost just two games in five years. Ford was the Premiership’s top points scorer in 2013/14 with 250.

Farrell was fifth but played seven games fewer and his 157 points in comparison still project him in a favourable light, giving him 11.2 average points a game, compared to Ford’s 11.9.

It was an injury-hit campaign for Farrell and it must be remembered he is coming back from a lay-off at the moment. He is rusty, but fitness and form will return.

What he won’t lose and what other players will fail to match is his intensity and spirit.

He scored nearly half of England’s points (17) when they pulled off one of the greatest victories of recent times less than two years ago, dismantling New Zealand 38-21.

When he was 19 he led Sarries to their first trophy since 1998 with a 17-point match-winning display in the 2011 Premiership final win over Leicester Tigers.

England have lost their last five games, but four of those defeats came against the world champions, the other against the Springboks.

The Red Rose have no other fly-half who can match Farrell’s drive.

Lancaster needs as many leaders as possible at the moment and Farrell fits that mould. He has proven he has the character to bounce back from this dip in form.

What is your opinion? Leave your comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #360debate.


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