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Irreplaceable Farrell sees stock soar in his absence – Andy Goode

By Andy Goode
England’s Owen Farrell.

They say you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone and that was definitely the case with English rugby and Owen Farrell at the weekend.


As a player your stock rises when you play well but sometimes it rises even more when you don’t play and your team misses you. The game at the weekend exposed how badly England miss Farrell’s leadership and game management when he isn’t there and reinforced his world class status.

Before Saturday he had started all 17 Tests he possibly could have done under Eddie Jones. He couldn’t play in the two matches against Argentina in the summer because he was away with the British and Irish Lions and the only other game he had missed was the one against Wales in May 2016, which was played the day after he helped Saracens win the Premiership title.

We knew he was world class already but this showed his true value because of the control that he brings to England’s game. They just aren’t the same team without him.

He is the kind of player and personality who makes others play better as well and it’s clear that the likes of Henry Slade, George Ford and Jonathan Joseph, who didn’t play too badly when you assess them individually, really missed his presence.

He was there alongside them at times in his role as water boy, complete with earpiece, but he isn’t going to have any real impact doing that. Senior players often do that job and it’s just to get a clearer message on because they know the details much better than the physios or strength and conditioning coaches that would otherwise be doing it.

I’m not sure how much you get paid as a water boy but I don’t think it’s £23,000! I hear he wasn’t particularly happy about being rested and nor would I be if I was missing out on that kind of money.


Jones knows how to manage his players and get the best out of them, though, and Farrell is the fulcrum of the team. He will be straight back in this weekend and England will be all the better for it.

Maro Itoje will come back in as well and it’s just whether he resumes his partnership with George Kruis, who had a quiet game, or joins Courtney Lawes.

Lawes made 24 tackles at the weekend and could be used in the back row but Robshaw is an important lieutenant for Jones and, despite not setting the world alight, is likely to keep his place alongside man of the match Sam Underhill.


One bad pass to Nathan Hughes when there was an overlap aside, I thought Slade did alright and he will flourish for England again at some point but he needs more international experience.

It’ll be interesting to see whether he gets the opportunity to occupy the number 13 jersey he has been wearing to such effect for Exeter this season against Australia and benefit from having Farrell inside him but Ford, Farrell and Joseph is the trusted midfield axis and that’s the safe bet.

I thought England were flat and low on energy against Argentina and they can’t afford to be as off the pace this weekend.

There’s no doubt that if we were playing against a better team, such as Australia, they would have lost that game.

They had a week of preparation away in Portugal and Jones said he only actually had four training sessions with the squad but the reports I heard from some of the players were that they got absolutely beasted.

I’ve been to watch England train under him and I’ve never seen anything like it in terms of the intensity and physicality and how much that takes out of the players.

I think you could see that in the performance and they looked lethargic.

Ultimately, it should have been a comfortable victory because the Pumas had only won one of nine games in 2017 leading up to Saturday and that was against Georgia.

In the end, it wasn’t uncomfortable but Juan Martin Hernandez missed three relatively straightforward kicks at goal that would have put England under real pressure, so it could have been a very different story.

They didn’t have the accuracy with ball in hand to trouble us but they had the physical edge in the forwards and were fairly dominant at scrum time, which will have been a concern.

However, the Australia scrum buckled in the closing stages of the Wales game, so England will be working on their set piece in training this week and I fully expect them to target that area and be back to their best on Saturday.

For England to win the game, it always starts with the set piece against the Aussies. Historically, it’s an area where they have almost always dominated them and if they can get that right, it will lead to points with Farrell back.

The Wallabies will come to Twickenham with a load of confidence on the back of beating the All Blacks not so long ago and Wales at the weekend, though, and they will really fancy their chances of handing Eddie Jones a first home defeat as England coach.

They’re a dangerous outfit and were missing two world class operators in Will Genia and Kurtley Beale when England dominated them in the summer of 2016 and last autumn as well. With them back, Australia are a completely different beast and it should be a hell of a Test match.

I’d have loved to have seen Israel Folau, who might well be World Rugby Player of the Year for 2017, playing too but he has been rested for this tour and that might just be the deciding factor and swing it in England’s favour.

One thing’s for sure. Australia won’t have forgotten the 3-0 series whitewash inflicted on them in their own back yard less than 18 months ago and this is a real opportunity to gain some form of revenge.

The performance will have to improve dramatically if England are to make it 21 wins out of 22 since the 2015 World Cup but it’d still be a shock if they didn’t.


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William 2 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Correct analysis of Perofeta’s bungling of the try opportunity Ben. Never ‘fixed’ Steward as he came across in defence and passed too early. Steward didn’t have to break his stride and simply moved on to pressure Telea. Never scanned the easier option of passing to the two supporting players on the inside. Beauden Barrett showed how it is done when he put Telea in for his try. Another point from the game is that the rush defence is hard to maintain as the number of phases increases. From scrums the defensive line only contains backs who all have roughly the same pace. Once forwards are involved, the defence has players with variable speeds often leading to a jagged line. It also tends to lose pace overall giving the attack more time and space. Beauden Barrett’s break to set up Telea’s try came because Baxter went in to tackle McKenzie and Steward went out to cover Telea. Barrett has a massive hole to run through, then commits Steward by passing as late as possible and Telea scores untouched. Another comment I would make is that Ben Earl is a good player and generally an excellent defender but he made three significant misses in the series, two of which led to All Black tries. Got stepped by Perofeta in Dunedin for Savea’s try, missed McKenzie in Auckland leading to what should have been a certain try being set up by Perofeta and was one of the tacklers who couldn’t stop Savea in the leadup to Telea’s first try. Perhaps he should contact Owen Farrell to pick up a few tips from ‘tackle school’.

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