• Wed. Dec 1st, 2021

Mike Brown: It’s hard to see how Owen Farrell returns to England’s starting XV

ByJanice K. Merrill

Nov 21, 2021

It felt like a real changing of the guard moment at Twickenham. We went through a similar transition four years ago, when Sam Underhill and Tom Curry replaced James Haskell and Chris Robshaw. This time around, however, it looks like an even bigger turnover.

With new talent arriving, it’s hard to see how Owen Farrell can get back into the starting XV.

Farrell is on the squad for his leadership qualities but, as of now, he’s not the outstanding No.10 or No.12 in the country and only deserves a place on the bench. Marcus Smith and Henry Slade are fit players and you have to let their partnership flourish.

It’s hard to see how Owen Farrell (right) can return to England’s starting XV

Slade could have been the man of the match. He looked brilliant and was the architect of two trials in England. It makes such a difference when it is allowed to play with freedom. He has a rugby brain like Will Greenwood. So smart.

I would say he’s better than Greenwood in terms of athletic ability and distribution skills: long pass, short pass, kicking. If he was New Zealander, he would start for the All Blacks.

Last week Smith didn’t have full attack control with Farrell at No.12. Last night he looked confident and in control. If everyone’s in good shape, you’ve got Smith, Slade, and Manu Tuilagi.

Opening half Marcus Smith dealt the fatal blow as England toppled South Africa on Saturday

It has been a long time since England played so well. You probably have to come back to the World Cup for such a tough performance. They played with speed when they got into the right areas and I was impressed with the restarts; mixing it up, kicking short and middle so South Africa couldn’t box straight back.

They must have taken a few phases to work through, allowing the English D to shoot and get some turnover at some point by Curry.

The game could have fled England when the Bomb Squad arrived, but they fought for each other. It’s a good sign for a new-look team. Courtney Lawes led the youth with flying colors. He has found another level and should be captain of the Six Nations.

Henry Slade was brilliant and was also the architect of two England tries against South Africa

Freddie Steward is a rock and now is the man who wears my old # 15 jersey. No one else comes near it. The Springboks are always the toughest challenge for a full-back and he’s done it with flying colors – all but one or two in the end. He could have gotten more help from his teammates with better escort lines and better protection.

England have to watch their discipline because it almost cost them the game.

In the end, it is three victories out of three and England will be delighted with the direction they take. There are so many promises. A mix of new and old. If they continue as they do, they will be hard to beat.


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