Fly-half Owen Farrell has reflected on the contrast between his England debut last year and the growth within the squad.
England fly-half Owen Farrell has reflected on the contrast between his debut in the Six Nations last year and the growth within the squad.
Farrell was one of several new caps ahead of the Calcutta Cup clash at Murrayfield in 2012 and has grown into Test rugby, one of the many star performers in the win over New Zealand last November.
Now with 12 caps to his name and in a rich vein of form for his club Saracens, Farrell notes that the squad are acting on instinct rather than learning as they go along, making the integration of the uncapped Billy Twelvetrees at inside centre a lot more simple.
“Last year we were just starting out and there's a big difference between now and twelve months ago,” said Farrell.
“We've really hit the ground running this time and it only took less than a week to get back on track, whereas we were still building at this point last year in terms of working out the calls. Now everybody is acting on instinct.
“It's a bit different having only one new cap in Billy instead of eight in the 22. He knows his job inside out already and everybody has been helping him out.
“Billy is an outstanding player. He's a centre with a fly-half's brain – a big physical lad but with silky touches at the same time, so it will be a lot easier for him to slot in than people think. We won't change the way we play because of his selection and Billy will bring what he does for his club to the table.”
England may have finished 2012 on a high but for Scotland a shock defeat against Tonga saw the resignation of Andy Robinson. With Scott Johnson now at the helm along with Dean Ryan, Farrell is wary of what the interim coaching duo can produce and of the threat that Scotland will pose.
“Scotland have got good players. They're going to be fired up and passionate and come out flying and we are looking to do the same and take the game to them,” added Farrell.
“They have two very sharp half-backs who are threats all the time. They've got a big pack and two very physical centres and can strike from anywhere.
“They will be different from the loss to Tonga due to the new coaching staff, but you look at them as a whole rather than as the side who beat Australia and then lost to Tonga.”
England have received ample praise and also criticism for their performance against New Zealand, along with being described as “arrogant” earlier in the week by former Scotland coach Jim Telfer.
Rather than being content to reflect on the victory over the All Blacks, Farrell states that the memory simply stirs his excitement for the next opportunity to play for England this weekend.
“With ourselves, the challenge is trying to improve on that New Zealand result,” clarified Farrell.
“Looking back on that day just makes me excited about playing the next game and getting back on the pitch at Twickenham in front of a home crowd.
“We're not looking ahead or behind us – just at the task in front which is Scotland this week.”
by Ben Coles