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The 'massive impact' promise England have made about Owen Farrell

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Richard Wigglesworth has come out in defence of England skipper Owen Farrell after the suggestion that he should be dropped for this Sunday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final versus Fiji in Marseille.

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The all-time record England points scorer has returned to the fold in recent weeks after the expiry of the four-match ban he received for the red card he was given on August 12 versus Wales in the Summer Nations Series.

Farrell was the starting No10 in the September 23 Pool D rout of Chile, a match that England easily won 71-0. However, he was chosen for last Saturday’s clash with Samoa at inside centre with George Ford instead named at No10 and Manu Tuilagi at No13.

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That was a revival of the 10/12/13 selection that was at the heart of the England success versus the All Blacks in the 2019 World Cup semi-finals but, with that tactic under wraps since a March 2020 Six Nations fixture versus Wales, last weekend’s reunion failed to fire.

Ford was subbed off early in the second half, with Tuilagi following him off midway through the second period. Farrell, who switched into out-half, was kept on until the finish but there were calls post-game for him not to be selected to start versus Fiji if England are to win in the south of France and progress to the World Cup semi-finals in Paris.

Team Form

Last 5 Games

3
Wins
2
1
Streak
2
13
Tries Scored
12
-5
Points Difference
-1
2/5
First Try
1/5
2/5
First Points
1/5
1/5
Race To 10 Points
3/5

Asked on Tuesday in Aix-en-Provence for his assessment on the 10/12 Ford/Farrell partnership that was rolled out by England to start against the Samoans for the first time since March 2021 versus Ireland, assistant coach Richard Wigglesworth said: “They are two guys I would lean on in terms of their knowledge, expertise, how well they know the game. They get on really well which allows them to talk and work things out which I am sure they will do.

“We will adapt, we will pick the best team that will win this weekend. Things change when you are picking a side, whether you have more of a ball playing 12 or a power 12, and that’s right across the back line with different positions.

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“We have to pick a team that is right for this weekend and then it is our job as coaches to give them the best platform that they can go out and show their skills off.”

Asked for his particular view on Farrell, Wigglesworth added: “The term he is a winner probably gets thrown around quite a bit but that is Owen.

“He, under the harshest of pressures and in the biggest of moments, tends to get better and that is a sign of a winner and he doesn’t get just get better, he tends to have more effect on the people around him and what you get out of him.

“We know what gets said about Owen, the highest-ever points scorer, we know what he has delivered time and time again. Those players tend to catch the most flak for some reason but we have got one of the best to do it. We’re lucky to have him and no doubt he will have a massive impact on this week and this game.”

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The assistant admitted England struggled against Samoa, a match where a 73rd-minute converted try was needed by Steve Borthwick’s side to edge 18-17 in front.

Even then a last-gasp Danny Care tackle was required 75 seconds from time to prevent the Samoans from scoring the winning try. “Glimpses is the right way to describe it,” he said about their underwhelming pool-concluding display.

“Definitely, not enough of the good stuff. Too scrappy in a lot of stuff that we know is going to need a significant improvement for this quarter-final.”

Kicking and breakdown were specific aspects Wigglesworth reflected on. “We played with a lot of (kicking) variety against Chile and we got out of our half in a ruthless fashion.

“We definitely want to get back to that. We didn’t do that against Samoa. That was not intentional. That was one of the factors of the game that wasn’t good enough from us and we will make sure we will be looking to improve.

“We need the breakdown to be as clean as we can. We know Fiji is exceptional in that area. To be perfectly honest you will learn something different every game because they all referee it slightly differently because that is human nature, it is going to be slightly different.

“You want guys to get out of that tackle zone before you can compete. Fiji will tend to just compete and then work it out from there, slowing it down or taking it off you. That is going to be a huge area of the game that we need to be the best we have been because it’s definitely a super strength of theirs.”

It was August 16 when England concluded their Summer Nations Series with a 22-30 loss to Fiji at Twickenham. Will they be better when the teams meet next Sunday just seven weeks after that defeat?

“I hope we are because we have spent six weeks trying to get better, trying to fast forward things as quick as possible… we’re working out big game weeks on the run because we are all new together. I would say you have got to create that feeling that right, this is the best week.

“You wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I got that from today (at training). This is where we want to be. This is the game we want. A brilliant test for us to go against a team that beat us pre-World Cup and we were written off for us to then probably not just talk about being better but let’s go and be better.”

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mitch 1 hours ago
The Wallabies team Joe Schmidt must pick to win back Bledisloe Cup

Rodda will be a walk up starter at lock. Frost if you analyse his dominance has little impact and he’s a long way from being physical enough, especially when you compare to Rodda and the work he does. He was quite poor at the World Cup in his lack of physicality. Between Rodda and Skelton we would have locks who can dominate the breakdown and in contact. Frost is maybe next but Schmidt might go for a more physical lock who does their core work better like Ryan or LSL. Swain is no chance unless there’s a load of injuries. Pollard hasn’t got the scrum ability yet to be considered. Nasser dominated him when they went toe to toe and really showed him up. Picking Skelton effects who can play 6 and 8. Ideally Valetini would play 6 as that’s his best position and Wilson at 8 but that’s not ideal for lineout success. Cale isn’t physical enough yet in contact and defence but is the best backrow lineout jumper followed by Wright, Hanigan and Swinton so unfortunately Valetini probably will start at 8 with Wright or Hanigan at 6. Wilson on the bench, he’s got too much quality not to be in the squad. Paisami is leading the way at 12 but Hamish Stewart is playing extremely well also and his ball carrying has improved significantly. Beale is also another option based on the weekend. Beale is class but he’s also the best communicator of any Australian backline player and that can’t be underestimated, he’ll be in the mix.

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