Mako Vunipola makes his first start since the Six Nations but the most noticeable decision is to drop George Ford and instead use the 10-12-13 combination of Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade that served England so well during the Six Nations this year. This is a decision that has disappointed fans on social media but is not all that surprising.
Jones reprised the Ford-Farrell axis throughout August and the opening stages of the RWC in Slade’s absence and it looked as though Ford had done enough to warrant a starting berth in the big games.
The Leicester Tigers flyhalf has had England’s backline firing, has scored a few tries himself and has shown a masterful tactical kicking game. Although he was not always playing against the highest level opposition, his performance against Argentina was good enough that many would have expected him to start against the Wallabies.
Many fans have pointed out that Ford offers more as a playmaker than Farrell, but the Saracen is more defensively resolute and with Tuilagi at 12, it is a good way to shut down the dangerous Samu Kerevi.
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Tuilagi has proven that he is more potent as a 13, but has equally shown that he has a successful partnership with Slade, which is why Ford has lost out to accommodate Farrell at ten.
It surely came down to very fine margins when selecting the centres and Jones may have simply felt that this was the best combination to face Australia, but some fans have said this has shades of Stuart Lancaster’s selection in 2015.
When the pressure was on the England team, Lancaster reverted to Farrell to start and used Ford as a luxury from the bench.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 17, 2019
This is something that Jones has also done during his tenure, but he stressed the importance of Ford’s role as a finisher. He said: “We have a starting and a finishing team so he’s going to finish for us instead of starting. I spoke to him this morning and obviously he’s disappointed but he knows his role in the team.”
It is for this reason that some fans are not wholly surprised with this decision, as it is something that Ford has had to contend with throughout his England career. This is what has been said:
I think it is mistake dropping Ford. He is a better playmaker than Farrell and Slade hasn’t had enough game time to come in to such a huge game. That midfield was not fantastic in the 6 Nations either. Very nervous now. #AUSvENG
— Dominic Moore (@dommoore31) October 17, 2019
Completely wrong call. Genuinely if I was to drop anyone in the backline, it would be Farrel based on form both here and in the warm ups.
— Tom Tremlett (@TTburgundy) October 17, 2019
Ford dropped and replaced with out of form Farrell?? EJ has gone 2015 Lancaster on the team.
— Tim Tait (@tim_tait) October 17, 2019
Wow! What happened to the Ford/Farrell axis? Ford has been our standout player so far…or was the plan always to do this once we hit the knock out stages to fuck with Australia, All Blacks & Springboks?
— Matthew DeBoise (@Boisey31) October 17, 2019
Eddie has done a Lancaster & bottled it at 10. @George_Fordy has been the standout fly half during RWC. I suspect Jones fears that Faz can’t cope in defence against their 12- if so he should be benched not Ford. Really annoyed.
— T Finn-Kelcey (@TFinnKelcey) October 17, 2019
@George_Fordy has been one of the stand out players of the RWC. Very strange decision from Eddie Jones but sadly not a surprising one.
— David Dyer #FBPE ?? ?? (@dyer145) October 17, 2019
Wrong call not starting Ford. He’s proven himself to be a threat.
— Adam (@ABarrettWrites) October 17, 2019
Liking this team. Hard on Ford, but it was Farrell at 10 and Slade at 13 when England beat Australia last year. Teo was the other centre that day. https://t.co/Hs11gnaXOX
— Nick Winn (@Winn1) October 17, 2019
tough on Ford, but this will allow England to defend the big ball carriers better and open midfield space for ourselves. Ford back on last 20, maybe with JJ to finish it off in style. England 41 Australia 10
— Lt. Gonville Bromhead VC (@BromheadLt) October 17, 2019
Faz at 10 makes sense, despite how good Ford has been. Absolutely stunned, however, that Nowell isn't on the bench.
— Eddie Stephens? (@EddieStephensMD) October 17, 2019
Over the past seven years, Farrell has proven himself to be one of England’s, and indeed world rugby’s most dependable players.
He had an unusually poor game against Argentina with the boot but with more pressure, his performances only improve. Jones and all England fans will hope that is the case this Saturday in Oita.
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