World Cup winner believes that England without Owen Farrell provides ‘clarity’

Colin Newboult

Owen Farrell and George Ford in England training in 2023.

Former England international Matt Dawson believes that it could be difficult for Owen Farrell to force his way back into Steve Borthwick’s starting XV.

The playmaker is currently serving a four-match ban, but he will return following this weekend’s clash with Japan.

In his absence, George Ford was handed the reins at fly-half and shone as the Red Rose claimed a 27-10 victory over Argentina in their opening Rugby World Cup encounter.

Settled midfield

Ford starts again on Sunday alongside centres Manu Tuilagi and Joe Marchant in what is becoming a settled midfield unit.

Although it would be a big call for Borthwick to leave his captain on the bench, Dawson, who won the World Cup in 2003, believes that it is England’s only option at the moment.

“It’s great to have two or more than two ballplayers. Some of our best rugby back in the day was when we had multiple players who could come in to first receiver,” he told i.

“But ultimately, your fly-half has to dictate the game. And what we saw at the weekend was a George Ford, who had no distractions was incredibly focused on what he needed to do, even under the pressures of 14 men.

“It was his decision, nobody else’s decision. He didn’t have a Ben Youngs or an Owen Farrell, either side of him, suggesting different ideas. It was just ‘Well, this is how it’s gonna happen’. And I think, potentially, it created clarity for his team.

“So as much as it would be an enormous call not to play Owen Farrell, I think the dynamic of 9, 10, 12, 13 or even put number eight in there as well, is pretty solid.

“It’s a really decent, middle third that you’ve got there of the team that England have been clamouring for a long, long time. It’s going to be a big call just to disrupt that.”


Japan game to decide team’s direction

Ultimately, how England go against Japan will provide a big indicator as to what the make-up of the midfield will be going forward.

And if it once again goes well, Dawson believes that it would be a “big call” for Borthwick to alter the XV.

“If England put in as dominant a performance as they did against Argentina, I think life is going to be very tricky for Steve Borthwick with the selection, because to disrupt that flow in the midfield, which England have craved for decades, would be a big move,” he added.

“It would be a big move from the physical nature of the team dynamic, but it will also be quite a big move, and a big decision from the team’s perspective.

“You would be thinking, ‘Well, things are going pretty well, we’re all playing well, we’re winning two games from two’ [and then there is a change].”

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