Former England scrum-half Matt Dawson is the latest big name in English rugby to call for skipper Owen Farrell to be dropped, despite Eddie Jones’ men coming away with a comfortable victory against Italy in Twickenham.
England got off to a rocky start with an early try for Monty Ioane, but England soon hit their straps and opened up on the scoreboard with tries from Jonny May, Anthony Watson, Jonny Hill, Jack Willis and Elliot Daly.
However, writing in his BBC Sport column, the former scrumhalf has called on Farrell to be dropped from the matchday squad entirely.
“Farrell was scrapping, fighting and was lucky he was not punished for a late tackle on Italy scrum-half Stephen Varney,” wrote the 2003 World Cup winner. “He is on the edge. He will not like it, but we have all been there and it has got to be recognised by selection.
“It does not mean Farrell is not going to be a world-class player, but there just needs to be a bit of coaching and training – maybe away from the side. Something needs to happen, because it is holding England back.
“There were moments when he was not sharp, dropping the ball or knocking it on. That may be because he has not been playing while Saracens wait for the Championship to begin.
“You do not lose your world-class status and talent because of a couple of poor games, but it has been an extended period where he has not been lighting it up.”
“Against Italy, you had fly-half George Ford zipping around, the ball was getting moved really quickly but 12 – where Farrell played against Italy – is a real problem for England,” said Dawson, who played his last game for England in 2006.
“There is not that link to the outside backs, so everything becomes very lateral and there are no decoys or threat to hold the defence.”
Dawson is not the first former England player to call for Farrell to be dropped, with Harlequins fullback Mike Brown suggesting the very same in the aftermath of the Calcutta Cup defeat to Scotland, albeit suggesting the Saracens playmaker could be benched to allow Ollie Lawrence to play outside George Ford.
“I would rather see England get some of their dangerous players into the match and give them a chance to express themselves — I don’t enjoy watching kick-chase all the time and I am sure people at home don’t either.”
“I don’t think Ollie Lawrence at centre and Watson on the wing had touched the ball by then and England need to get these players into the game. Leaving Farrell on the bench would give Lawrence the chance to show what he can do — he has hardly had an opportunity in his short career.”
It’s been a remarkable sea change in public perception for the Saracen, who has been a key leader for England since breaking into the side back in 2012. England head coach Eddie Jones was pressed about his selection prior to the Italy game and he came out firing in defence of his captain.
“Every player is up for selection and it is all dependant on form,” said Jones when asked how he goes about selection. “You look at historical form, you look at present form and you try to make the right decisions for the team – and Owen is no different from any other player.”
“He has been a highly consistent, highly successful player for us. Like a number of players on Saturday, he wasn’t at his best. I know there is a bandwagon, but he is an outstanding player and like any outstanding player they can have a game where they are not at their best. Is that a reason to drop the player? I wouldn’t think so.
“There is no set law or rule for that,” added Jones when asked if Farrell received preferential treatment. “We are always trying to make the right assessment. We had to go through a difficult stage with Dylan (Hartley) when his form was starting to tail off.”
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