Monday 14 August 2023

Owen Farrell - must be dropped

A bit of Monday Morning Quarterbacking here.  Saturday’s match against Wales confirmed, if confirmation was required – that the liability known as Owen Farrell is one that England’s RWC team does not need. Here’s the Graun’s Robert Kitson

While the braced 63rd-minute shoulder to the head of Taine Basham was not the absolute worst of its type, that defence misses the point. In addition to the obvious player-welfare implications, it was reckless and unnecessary.  Nor was this some helplessly overeager debutant flying in. It was England’s captain, who should have known better with his side reduced to 13 men, playing in his 107th Test. It should also have cost his side any chance of victory. 

To me (and many others) this has been obvious for many years.  At the 2015 [sic] RWC I wrote

I have been boring my rugby drinking buds for three years predicting that, at a crucial moment in the RWC, England will be down to 14 with Farrell cooling his heels in the bin.

And so it transpired, even though the 2015 details were slightly different: in the vital group match vs Wales, with England ahead, well positioned to finish the game off, and a critical penalty already awarded, in steams Farrell with an obviously premeditated late tackle right under the ref's nose, and the penalty is reversed.  As a direct result, Wales go on to win – and England go out ignominiously in the group stage.   On home soil.  Thanks, Owen, and yes, we already knew you're a hard bastard. 

Eight years on, and no lessons have been learned, either by the perennially dull-witted, thuggish player himself nor successive managers.   And so, two days ago he earned the red card that will see him out for at least the next two matches, and maybe more. 

Why are Farrell’s services retained?  Because, we are told, he is “England’s talismanic leader”.  Let’s think that through.  In Martin Johnson, the all-conquering England RWC 2003 team had a truly talismanic leader – no greater captain of any team at any time, I’d say – and Johnson, too, was no stranger to the early trip to the dugout at a particular point in his career.  The dog had been given a (fairly deserved) bad name and, disproportionately, the refs were ever-ready with the whistle.   But Johnson and everyone else knew this couldn’t go on.   By 2003 he had long since fixed it, and the problem period was over.   

Johnson also fulfilled impeccably his role at lock.  So: superb player; outstanding leader; bish-bosh tendencies under control: perfect captain.  By contrast … the petulant Farrell shouldn’t even be in the team as a player – his distribution skills are pedestrian and his kicking unremarkable – and when after all these years and warnings and penalties and red cards he still fails so comprehensively on the control criterion, he has only one box ticked. 

At this level, that ain’t enough.  Borthwick seemed to be mulling the axe for Farrell when he first took over in such awkward, unwanted circumstances.  Well, here’s the perfect opportunity to wield it now. Get on with it, man, oh, and recall Henry Slade forthwith. 


UPDATE:  Hmmm.  My argument stands


Anonymous said...

Moreover no side has ever won a world cup with a captain who had a number on his shirt greater than 9

Oli said...

The more interesting quesiton for me, is this. When England fail to perform at the RWC, despite having the easiest draw ever, whose head will roll? Not Borthwick's surely, he wasn't given enough time. But will we see anyone from the RFU fall on their sword? Will there be any consequence for those men who failed to activate Eddie Jones' break clause when they had the chance, then had to pay through the nose to a) get rid of him and b) buy Borthwick and his team out of their contracts? Not bleeding likely.

All those millions spent on rearrangeing deckhairs, which could have gone into the grassroots game - it pains me to think of it.

The RFU are only good at spending other people's money, pushing the woke stuff, delivering next to nothing, and avoiding accountability. That kind of rings a bell doesn't it?

Nick Drew said...

Anon - yes, captain should always be a forward. Must know the exact mood of the pack at every moment

dearieme said...

The key question is why England produce so few decent fly-halves. England has far more rugby players than any other nation yet ...

dearieme said...

"captain should always be a forward": not my experience. I was a pack leader far more often than I was a captain and thought my captaincy suffered because of the demands of playing as a forward. A back has the opportunity to see the pattern of play and to spot strengths and weaknesses. The chap burrowing into a maul to wrestle for the ball doesn't.

As long as the captain doesn't interfere with the pack leader's job all should be well.

Jeremy Poynton said...

My father was a rugby man through and through. As is my older brother (currently licking his lips at having a world cup he doesn't have to travel half way round the world to watch); both played club rugby till in their 40s.

The old man spent the first ten years of his life or so in Dublin, until his family moved to Manchester. So he supported Ireland. Indeed, back in the day when rugby was still amateur, my brother and he would go together to watch Ireland when they were over here, and tell tales of pub sessions after the match with both teams that went on a very long time...

So whilst I, English born, support England in most sports - I draw the line at Rugby and resolutely support the Emerald Greens.

Frankly I think whether they ban Farrell (as they should) or not, it makes no difference. England are a shambles, with no direction.

Up the Irish!

James Higham said...

Farrell may well be a liability … is he in denial? What’s his view on himself?

Anonymous said...

OTOH the Welsh lineout was a shambles, so neither team are exactly covering themselves with glory. Welsh try was good though.

I see Farrell is innocent!

Anonymous said...

More to the point are our sensible shoe wearers better at footy than Aussie ones?

Anonymous said...

"All eyes on Sam Kerr and Rachel Daly: The World Cup love triangle that pits England midfielder against Australia's superstar... who is dating the Lioness' ex-girlfriend"

Makes you long for the days of Gazza...

Anonymous said...

OT, Challengers are now at the front, fitted with top cages.

Nick Drew said...

are our sensible shoe wearers better at footy than Aussie ones?

looks like it!

you'll have gathered that as a Rugby man, that's the lens I see these things through. To me, this WC has strong echoes of RWC 2003. England were variously pedestrian or crap in the Pool stages, OK in the quarters, and really started to look the part only in the semis (against France, in that case)

and we know what happened in the Finals ..!

is there, perhaps, a parallel with Jonny Wilkinson within the Lioness ranks? Like the team as a whole, he'd been absolute rubbish - until the semis (and of course the Final). It looked like they were going to have to play Grayson or Catt instead

they won the Final playing on absolute muscle-memory - in truth, they were collectively over the hill (2002 was the peak) - but they just had enough to see off the Aussies

Anonymous said...

Only just seen the replay of the TMO even Farrell winced.