England World Cup winner: 'Pick a fly-half and two centres'
By Rugby Onslaught

England World Cup winner: ‘Pick a fly-half and two centres’

The biggest debate in English rugby currently is what should be done with Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell. Does Steve Borthwick continue with the No10-No12 partnership or does one get dropped?

Eddie Jones was clearly set on the partnership, and though it did bear fruit in flashes, particularly for ten minutes against the All Blacks, England failed to fire consistently, and it was expected the Borthwick would drop the combination. But a spate of injuries meant he had to opt for the duo against Scotland, and while it was not necessarily a disaster, England did lose.

Now the England fandom wait to see whether the head coach will stick or twist with Smith and Farrell for Italy this Sunday at Twickenham.

One person that is keen on the partnership being broken up is former England centre Will Greenwood. The World Cup winner made his view clear to Sky Sports this week although he did stress that England’s faltering attack is not necessarily down to those two.

“I’ve felt, pick a fly-half and two centres,” Greenwood said. “I sound a little bit like a broken record, we were talking about this in the summer on Sky for the summer tour games we had. Steve’s hand has been slightly forced. He could have picked Manu [Tuilagi], but Dan Kelly is out, which is where they would have gone. [Henry] Slade out, so they might have gone with Slade. [Elliott] Daly out. So a lot of his centres were unavailable, but that’s not to excuse us for the performance.

“I still think England should pick a No10 and two centres, but if you take away from the individuals and then explore what those individuals are doing… everything is just a little too deep. It’s actually not relevant to the personnel. You could take screenshots of rucks and go ‘get your binoculars out, where are the Scots? They’re a long way away.’ You compare that to a [Romain] Ntamack, [Matthieu] Jalibert who came on, [Johnny] Sexton, or specifically a Finn Russell in the build up to the second Duhan van der Merwe try. The ball from the No9 at times, whichever No9 was on, if a player was coming around the corner was just given a yard or two safely. But safely isn’t risk/reward, safely allows Scotsmen to lie in wait and gang tackle and turn over.

“So without going back to the Smith-Farrell question, although I still think a fly-half and two centres is where I would go, I actually think it’s more of an issue for Nick Evans and the coaching staff to give players the confidence to go ‘there’s the opposition’s nose, get there! Don’t be back here and give them the initiative.'”