Farrell takes No.10 jersey: Right decision?
England has dropped fly-half George Ford for this weekend’s crunch match against Wales at Twickenham and will be replacing him with Owen Farrell.
The two were in heavy competition before the tournament on who was going to start the opening game of the tournament against Fiji.
Ford got the nod but head coach Stuart Lancaster has been critical saying his side were to ‘lateral’.
It will be the biggest game of the tournament so far as the two heavyweights of world rugby know a win would be one step closer to the quarter-finals, meaning the call to start Farrell could be a crucial one, but was it the right one?
After a mistake littered game against France in a 25-20 loss before the tournament even began, the England side were heavily criticised and Ford was not spared.
To many handling errors and miss timed passes cost the side in the game and there were calls for Lancaster to start Farrell for the first game.
Despite this, Ford has overcome many obstacles to get himself into this position, after claims he was not big enough or strong enough to play to an international rugby standard.
He has the pace and the ability to break through any defence in the world and get England’s other playmakers on the ball as quickly as possible.
Former England scrum-half Dewi Morris said the 22-year-old “has the potential to become the greatest fly-half in English rugby history. Even better than Jonny Wilkinson.”
Wilkinson himself has backed Ford to make the number ten shirt his own and edge out Farrell for the jersey.
He had proven he can do it at international level and hack it with the larger athletes in rugby by outwitting them with his speed and great rugby intelligence.
Farrell, on the other hand, is excellent from the tee. His all-around kicking ability is one of the best in the world so if he can find his rhythm he will be able to stretch Wales and put them on the back foot from any position on the pitch.
The world witnessed how dominant England was against Fiji towards the latter stages of the game when their replacements came on, fully capitalising on a tiring side to put more points on the board, even claiming a bonus point.
With Farrell playing, he can get the Welsh facing their own goal, chasing the ball all over the pitch hopefully causing them to tire.
Roared on by the home crowd, they should be inspired to compete for the 80 minutes and against a fatigued Wales side they have every chance of doing so.
Since recovering from a serious knee injury that ruled the Saracens man out of the Six Nations he has been recalled to the England side and started the first warm-up against France at Twickenham, helping the men in white to a 19-14 win, kicking two out of three conversions.
The 23-year-old has been in staggering form for the Saracens since debuting in 2008, surpassing the 1000 point mark (1112) in just 113 games. He has continued that form to International level, with 307 points in 32 caps.
Farrell averages more points per game for England than Ford, with 9.5, but the latter is close behind with 9.4 per game. The record is identically but the style of play almost certainly is not.
Comparing England’s last two Six Nations campaigns, where Farrell started every game in 2014 and Ford played every game in 2015, there are some differences.
Ford assembled 75 points during the tournament, the most of any player, while Farrell managed 11 fewer during his tournament, second behind Ireland’s Johnny Sexton in the rankings
Ford also managed to get the best out his team in an attacking sense during his Six Nation’s tournament. England managed 157 points during their five games, averaging 31.4.
On the other hands, Farrell England side averaged about four points few with just 27.6 during their five games, managing a total of 138 points.
However, there is an enormous difference in terms of defence when the two fly half’s are on the field, and this could be the reason Lancaster has gone for Farrell and not Ford.
While under Farrell, England conceded just 65 points during the tournament, which is an average of just 13 a game. Ford’s team allowed 35 more with 100 which is an average of 20 points a game.
You could argue that England scored more points with Ford in the number ten positions because they had to due to their leaky defence. .
Both players have a long future with England, and it was a massive call Lancaster had to make, but it just might be the right one.
His kicking ability will make a significant impact while defensively they should be more stable if not as electric in the back line.
All eyes now turn to Twickenham on Saturday to see if this big decision by the boss will pay off.