I’m not saying we need to drop one of the best play-makers in the world. Yet. But do England still need Owen Farrell? One thing that was exposed against Scotland is that England lack spark and no one to turn to when they need one. Owen Farrell is like a lighter that is losing its flint.
The start of the Six Nations is one of the most exciting days of my year. England went in as Champions and fresh from the Autumn Nations Cup Victory. Expectations were high. Although there was no fans, its still England vs Scotland, its still the Calcutta Cup. The 150-year anniversary in fact. England even had a special shirt for the occasion. I’m not sure I’m a fan. Mainly because it’s made by Umbro. My excitement however, turned to sour disappointment and frustration. On a line-up that consists of the Masked Singer and the Voice, England managed to be the worst thing on the ITV Saturday Schedule. They didn’t look like they have anything to give. No ambition, no bite, no passion. Owen Farrell, the playmaker, the talisman, the man England build everything around had left his tools at home. I feel this is the beginning of the end of the Farrell era.
It was obvious early on that the kicking game is not going to work. Scotland have one of the best Fullbacks in the world. Stuart Hogg must have had the easiest game of his career. Plucking out stray ball after stray ball and pinging it straight back into the England 5-meter. One stat that England were excelling at was the penalty count. It was the worst England display under Eddie Jones. I starting to do some research to see if I have any Scottish blood in me. Can I change allegiances half way through the game? If you care, I do apparently. Only enough to fill my little toe, not enough to claim I’m Scottish. Everyone is excited that Ollie Lawrence has his chance. Apparently, he has started a few times for England. You wouldn’t know it though. He hasn’t been given the platform to show us what he’s all about. The ball is often hacked away before he can touch it. We have proven players in Anthony Watson and Jonny May itching to be put in space. Did they even touch the ball against Scotland? We have the players we just need something special to break the gain line and put them in space.
Maybe the bench will have the answers? No, it doesn’t, its full of players who come on and do the exact same job, as the ones they are replacing. When England are winning this is fine, you’re confident they can come on and see a game out. When we’re losing though it’s the opposite. I knew we had lost the game as soon as Robson trudged on to replace Ben Youngs. His first kick reminded me of myself, panicking in my own 22 playing for Wetherby two’s. Not exactly inspiring. We need that impact player to inject the team and change things up, add something new.
It’s easy to get carried away after a loss and lose sight of the work that Eddie Jones has done. The records speak for themselves. We shouldn’t be looking to make any knee jerk reactions just yet, but Eddie does frustrate me with his selections. Where’s the excitement? Where’s the risk? We should all know by now that this is not Eddies style. He continues to put all his faith in Owen Farrell. You do have to credit the gaffer for blooding new players into the squad and giving them ago. One position he has never played with too much is the 10. Its always been Farrell or Ford and every team is always built around them. The Ciprianni debate raged on until Eddie couldn’t ignore it any longer. Danny was finally picked for the tour of South Africa. The little opportunity that he got proved that we can play without Farrell. The reaction from Farrell, when Ciprianni dinked the ball over the top for May’s try, spoke volumes. I think he felt threatened by the brilliance. After that tour we never saw Ciprianni again and we went back to the Farrell – Ford combination. It was backed up by a place in the World Cup Final and another Six Nations title. Saturday, however shone a light on what England lack. Losing to Scotland at Twickenham hurts. Especially when there was no fight and no plan B. It’s time to try new players in the position Eddie is too stubborn to change.
England don’t have to look far, he’s literally across the road. 22 year old Harlequin, Marcus Smith. The hype has been bubbling for a while now, his name is starting to be mentioned more often. He has proved at club level he can lead, control a game, and compete with the best. He is undoubtedly the most exciting 10 in England right now. Clutching the keys that can unlock any defence. His killer step and soft hands leave defenders behind in the dirt. He is the new flint for England’s lighter.
Smith has just penned a contract extension with Harlequins following interest from clubs both home and abroad. This is an indication that the hype is real. Eddie has included him in England training camps so he is firmly on the Australians radar. I guess he doesn’t think he’s ready, I disagree. He is currently the highest point scorer in the premiership, involved in everything good Harlequins have done this season and the first name you look for on the Harlequins team sheet. There is excitement every time he has the ball. Dancing past defenders with ease. The little disguised passes, expose gaping holes in the opposition lines. He has a reliable boot too. Currently boasting a 92% success rate from the tee this season. His most impressive stat? He is the second-youngest player, in history, to reach 500 points, behind Johnny Wilkinson.
Its not just his play that impresses me. I watch him every week. He is surrounded by the likes of Mike Brown, Danny Care, Joe Marler. Players with more Caps than Samuel L Jackson. These players would intimidate any 22-year-old. Marcus though is there, in the middle of the huddle, pointing his finger, setting out the game plan. He was in nappies when these players started playing rugby. He’s not ready? He’s ready!
The game is changing, the laws are becoming stricter on the tackle area. Players need the ability to bring more to the party, than just a rock solid shoulder. England need a new dimension. I hate to say it but they no longer need Owen Farrell. They need to introduce a young, energetic magician who can change things up. It’s time to give Marcus Smith a chance.