Farrell wins Battle of the Boot to silence critics

Owen Farrell in action for England

In any World Cup year, there will always be a battle for places. Over in the England camp, there is an ongoing question of who should fill the number ten jersey, but it’s firmly in the hands of Owen Farrell for now.

On March 25th, Farrell faced a critical match as his Saracens side took on Harlequins at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Sarries needed to win in order to secure a home semi-final, and a solid kicking display by Farrell has answered his critics for now.

England Expects

New England coach Steve Borthwick has two clear aims for the next few months. He must make the 2019 finalists competitive at this year’s World Cup while preparing his squad for a more genuine attempt at the Six Nations next year.

The neutral viewpoint doesn’t offer much encouragement. In the current World Cup betting markets, England are 7/1 outsiders behind 3/1 joint favourites France and New Zealand. According to Six Nations Odds from Paddy Power, France are in the lead once again at 6/5 with Ireland just behind at 5/4.

England may be flattered by their price of 6/1, considering that they were soundly beaten by 16/1 outsiders Scotland in the 2023 tournament. It’s a market that underlines England’s rebuilding programme under Borthwick, but could key decisions in terms of personnel give the squad a better chance in France?

Battle of the Boot

Owen Farrell’s kicking drew the most criticism following England’s win over Wales, as reported by the BBC. The final scoreline of 20-10 in Cardiff may seem comfortable, but it needed a late Ollie Lawrence try to make things safe.

Had Farrell not missed four kicks off the tee, England fans would have felt more confident as the second half progressed. Having been entrusted with the number 10 shirt for the entire campaign, the skipper was under higher levels of scrutiny. His all-round performances were solid enough, but those missed points counted against him.

As Saracens took on Harlequins, Farrell won a key battle as his side confirmed second place in the Premiership table. Sarries always stayed one step ahead as they completed an entertaining 36-24 victory, which smashed viewing figures for the league, according to the Daily Mail.

Owen Farrell was almost perfect as he converted four of the five tries while adding a penalty. Kicking wasn't quite the difference between the two sides on the day, but Owen Farrell's calm display certainly made the scoreline more comfortable.

Bigger Issues

England have more questions to answer beyond the issue of who wears the number ten jersey. There will be decisions made in every position from one to fifteen in the lead-up to the World Cup in September.

With no Autumn Internationals this year, the fixture list shows four warm-up games this summer. England will take on Wales twice before matches against Ireland and Fiji. Those ties will give the coach one last chance to identify his final XV for France 2023.

There could still be an option for Owen Farrell to switch to centre, with a different choice at fly half, but the skipper remains in pole position for that number ten berth.