Why England will beat the Springboks because of the absence of Owen Farrell - Ruck

Why England will beat the Springboks because of the absence of Owen Farrell

By Thomas Baker

As news broke out of the England camp on Monday that Captain Owen Farrell will be unavailable for selection for the upcoming match against the Springboks I couldn’t help but think positively about his absence.

Although the 100 cap international has found himself a pivotal player during Eddie Jones’ tenure as England coach, there are a couple of aspects about his inclusion that tend to hold England back.

The first problem is a positional one. Farrell is a fly-half, which is where he plays most of his club rugby at Saracens, and a very good one at that. He isn’t a multiple time premiership and European champion for nothing. Farrell is an expert play-maker and controls the pace and field position of the game extremely well.

However, Eddie Jones insists on picking Farrell in the inside-centre position alongside another fly-half, which against Australia was Marcus Smith where England went for a dual playmaker approach. It is often said that too many cooks spoil the broth which I feel has been the case for the way England play for a while now.

The dual playmaker approach has worked on occasion but also leads to confusion in the way England play the game. Against Australia Farrell was often seen standing in the first receiver position and would then pull the ball back to Smith who would ship the ball on to his outside centre, Henry Slade.

However, if a singular playmaker was chosen to run the show in the form of Marcus Smith, he would have more time to assess the situation and manipulate the opposition defence in the way that we are used to seeing him do for his club side, Harlequins.The absence of Farrell will also most likely force England to play with two genuine centre options, in the form of Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade.

This will give England more options in the mid-field with Tuilagi holding defences with his trade-mark aggressive straight running which will allow Slade space to run the out-side arc, at which he is tremendous at. Furthermore, moving Tuilagi back into the centres allows for two genuine wingers to be selected.


These are expected to be Adam Radwan or Max Malins, who will be picked alongside Jonny May, with the Gloucester winger making the England number eleven shirt his own over the past number of years. This will allow England to exploit the back field and outside channels where South Africa have looked vulnerable throughout the Autumn series.In what is expected to be a tight encounter against the Springboks, England will look to Marcus Smith, as opposed to Farrell, to take the place kicks.

Although Farrell is usually exemplary from the tee for both club and country, he has shown a tendency to persist with his place kicking even when he is having a rare off-day. This ability not to give up the kicking duties was highlighted in the Autumn Nations Cup finale against France in December 2020 when Farrell missed multiple attempts at goal in what should have been a straightforward win for England at Twickenham.

In the absence of Farrell, Smith will take up the kicking duties, but should he fail on with multiple kicks in a tight encounter, I would expect the stand-in captain to choose another capable player to undertake the kicking duties, notably, Henry Slade or Max Malins.Therefore, due to the positional clarity, kicking accuracy of Smith and higher objectivity of the stand in England captain I expect England to pull off a win against the Springboks on Saturday at around 17:30.

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