It’s fair to say that things haven’t exactly gone to plan for England in this year’s Six Nations. The 40-24 defeat to Wales has left the defence of their title well and truly in tatters, and the odds for the Six Nations Championship have now shifted in favour of Wayne Pivac’s side.
Of course, Wales still have their work cut out if they are to put last year’s dreadful performances behind them and add a potential Grand Slam title to their Triple Crown, which they secured by beating Eddie Jones’ men in Cardiff.
For England, however, this campaign will be a bitter pill to swallow. They failed to get out of the blocks as they conceded the Calcutta Cup to Scotland in what was a first home defeat against their rivals in 38 years. Even against Italy, Jones’ side weren’t always that convincing. Yes, they won the game and scored their fair share of tries as you’d expect.
However, they allowed the Italians to score the first try of the game and rack up 18 points. It’s worth noting that that’s the most England have conceded against the Six Nations whipping boys since their narrow 23-19 victory in 2008.
The defeat against Wales marked England’s second defeat in their opening three games of the tournament, and as a result people have started questioning both Jones’ position as head coach and Owen Farrell’s ability as captain of the side.
Farrell was given the captaincy by Jones in 2018 and he has led England to the World Cup final in Japan, where they subsequently lost to South Africa, before winning both the 2020 Six Nations and the inaugural Autumns Nations Cup.
So, whilst his tenure hasn’t exactly been a failure on the whole, the fly-half has arguably not played to his normal high standard thus far in the Six Nations, and he has come under scrutiny for the manner in which he has talked to the match officials in some of this year’s games. Alongside that, there are also concerns that he fails to lead the team to the best of his ability as he is a back, and usually forwards tend to hold the captaincy.
Former England skipper Lawrence Dallaglio is one of the most high-profile people to have called for Farrell to be removed from the post. “I am a massive Owen Farrell fan. I like him a lot. I think he is a warrior and I think he is a champion,” the 48-year-old said.
“But I just don’t think he is the best person to captain England at this moment in time. I just don’t think the fly-half is the best place to captain a rugby team. “If you look at the history of the game of rugby nearly every successful team has been captained by a forward. Most World Cups have been won by a team that’s captained by a forward and I just think it is a much more comfortable conversation for both you and the referee.”
Jones has since jumped to the defence of his side’s leader, claiming that Farrell ‘is still learning to be a good captain.’
“Owen is still learning to be a good captain, there is no doubt about that,” the Australian coach said. “And it is a hard art and you have got to keep developing. Every experience he has will make him a better captain.”
Given what the 29-year-old has achieved since taking the captaincy from Dylan Hartley in mid-2018, the criticism he is receiving now, after one bad championship, is rather harsh. After all, whilst the team’s overall performance has been subpar, Farrell has continued to put points on the board with his top-class kicking, which has kept England in games at times.
If Wales do go on to win the title, as suggested in the Six Nations Betting Tips, it certainly wouldn’t soften any blow for England nor relieve the pressure on the shoulders of Jones and Farrell. However, the Red Rose have bounced back from lows before, and we’re sure the coach and captain can inspire England once again.