Owen Farrell and George Ford can “Bring the best out of each other”
George Ford will make his first International start for England this weekend against Samoa in front of an expectant and intrigued Twickenham crowd. Although Owen Farrell has started England's first two tests of this season’s Autumn Internationals at ten, many have questioned both the fitness and overall form of Farrell. Having lost narrowly both to New Zealand and then South Africa, this weekend’s test is a real opportunity for Lancaster to not only register England’s first win of the series but experiment slightly with his squad.
England's game against Samoa presents the perfect opportunity for Stuart Lancaster to try Ford at fly half, but also the combination between Ford and Owen Farrell, who will be starting at inside centre. However, contrary to popular belief, this Saturday will not be the first time this combination has been deployed for England.
The 10 - 12 pairing of Ford and Farrell was in fact first trialled when both were part of the England set up at under 16’s level. At the time George was 15 and Owen was 16. However since then and as they’ve got older, they have continued to play together in the same roles for England at various different age groups. Questioned on the combination, Mike Ford commented “Both bring the best out of each other, they get on really well.”
Mike ford is of course not only George’s head coach at Bath Rugby but is also his father and has seen both George and Owen grow up together whilst Mike coached Saracens. “We lived opposite in London when I signed for Saracens as Head Coach in 2005, I signed Andy (Farrell) as a player and we ended up living on the same street so they went to school together.”
“They became good mates when we were both at Saracens together.”
There are many questioning if Lancaster should have both players on the field at the same time, however Mike Ford can see the positive repercussions of playing both Ford and Farrell at the same time. “Two tens on the field, it gives the opposition so many things to think about. If you only have one ten it’s pretty easy to defend against, so they both bring that organisation, that ability to make the right decision, the ability to; do you kick it, do you run it, do you go down the left side, do you go down the right side.”
“They've both got the ability to say - well it’s not on for me so we will go down this side. Where as if there’s only one you have to go that way.”
The reception from England fans has been mixed with many questioning if Farrell should even be in the team due to his current run of poor form. It was always going to be a talking point once Lancaster selected Farrell for the Autumn Internationals due to the fact that Owen has had very little game time overall for Saracens this season.
Farrell’s Saracens teammate Charlie Hodgson questioned if the move would benefit both players equally, telling Radio 5 live "Owen is a strong character himself and he wants to have control of what's going on.” Through having two characters like Ford and Farrell on the pitch at the same time, both will have to compromise with the style of rugby they want to be playing and how they can dictate the match.
However Mike Ford, head coach of Bath Rugby, says that’s something that George and Owen can work out whilst they're playing “If they don't get it right they'll tell each other on the run, they'll tell each other during the game and get it right the next time.” The overall combination of Ford and Farrell is one that Lancaster has tried to introduce for a while now and its one that Mike Ford thinks he's looked at “I think he's had it in his mind, Stuart, for a while and he just probably didn't have the opportunity until now to do it.”
Furthermore the suggestion that either Stuart Lancaster or Andy Farrell is trying to keep Owen Farrell in the team by moving him to 12 is ridiculous. Through having both Ford and Farrell on the field of play at the same time, England are able to harness the best of both worlds; Ford’s attacking ability and Farrell's defensive qualities, whilst both also bring with them incredibly consistent and impressive kicking games.
The media pressure that has been applied on Lancaster and his England side is completely unnecessary. Although defeat to South Africa resulted in a fifth consecutive loss, 4 of those games were against the All Blacks with 3 being a tour to New Zealand. England have had five games in which they have played the two best sides in World Rugby and have narrowly come off second best.
Admittedly it was disappointing not to see Lancaster experimenting with the Bath trio of Ford, Eastmond and Joseph. Eastmond is an incredibly different prospect at 12 to Farrell and although he hasn't been able to create much during the first two games of this Autumn series, he is still seen by many as the premierships inform inside centre. With this in mind it is slightly frustrating that Lancaster hasn't then partnered the premierships inform fly half with the premierships inform centre. “George and Kyle will bring something different, that works really well together as well. I’ll be pretty disappointed if Kyle's not involved.” Mike Ford said.
Alongside him Joseph has been in fine form for his club and has scored in each of Bath's last three Premiership matches. Both Joseph and Eastmond are in terrific form and so it is slightly confusing as to why Lancaster hasn't even involved Joseph in England's upcoming match against Samoa. Having already formed an incredibly effective centre partnership at Club level the obvious option for England would be to have Ford, Eastmond and Joseph all lining up alongside each other. However the way Bath play may not necessarily be the way England are set up to play.
Nevertheless, there is no questioning the selection of George Ford. Since joining Bath in 2013 he has been seen as the premierships inform fly half and has continued to impress into his second season with the Club. “The only thing he can do is go out and train well every day making sure he gets better, making sure that he's ready. That’s all he can do, he can’t worry about what people think, about who should play Ten; Freddie Burns, Cipriani, Farrell, Myler.” Mike Ford commented.
Ford adds an attacking element to an England set up that has been accused of not setting out to win games but to simply not lose them, and could be the perfect solution to England's attacking woes. Ultimately fans and pundits alike will have to wait until Saturday to see how the combination of Ford and Farrell performs. It’s a partnership that many have seen work at various different levels including Ford senior, and in my opinion there is no reason why it therefore couldn't work for Stuart Lancaster's England side.
Article Written by Stephen Trenchard
Twitter - @trenchianiooo