Farrell’s inclusion a risk to England’s 2022 Six Nations chances

2022 Six Nations
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Eddie Jones has picked an initial squad for the 2022 Six Nations which is full of young blood and promise. The controversial pick given how little rugby he has played is Owen Farrell coming back as captain. Marcus Smith’s electric form for club and country surely means he will keep hold of the number ten jumper? There are some interesting decisions to be made in the 10/12/13 positions particularly as Manu Tuilagi is injured. There are some exciting newcomers headed by Wasps backrower, Alfie Barbeary, who has been outstanding in recent weeks. But it is the England captain and where he plays which has grabbed the headlines.

2022 Six Nations: Can Farrell get his game going again?

The arguments surrounding Farrell’s selection are well documented. There are pros and cons to one of England’s greatest servants. A 100 caps says it all on what Owen Farrell has done in an England jersey. A fit and on form Farrell is an asset to this England team. But here lies the two biggest challenges to Farrell’s international future. He has played no rugby since November and therefore his fitness must be a concern. We saw the effects it had on Farrell’s game last year when he had months of no rugby.

 

The second problem is his form. Farrell has not hit the heights for a very long time. He led England well and was solid as ever during the 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign. However, when was the last time we saw Farrell take a game by the scruff of the neck? The talent of Marcus Smith and the renewed energy of Henry Slade is leaving Farrell’s ability behind. We also have to consider how well Mark Atkinson and Joe Marchant have been when they had an opportunity.

The assumption for Scotland away at Murrayfield is that Farrell will join Henry Slade in the midfield beside Marcus Smith. It is a combination that is very new and without the physical presence of Tuilagi to get England over the game line. It also brings back how effective can Farrell be as a playmaker in the midfield. His partnership with George Ford blew hot and cold and raised more questions than answers. Jones will have his reasons for persisting with Farrell the player as well as Farrell the captain. England’s 2022 Six Nations campaign could be determined by the on-field relationship between Smith and Farrell.

It has been said a lot since the 2019 Rugby World Cup and that is how long will Jones allow Farrell to find his game? George Ford has been excellent for Leicester this season but he is now firmly on the outer. Ford is one of Farrell’s best mates but even he will be miffed about how he can’t get a look in and Farrell is straight back in with no rugby to speak of since November.

Barbeary to put pressure on England’s back-row options

The selection of Alfie Barbeary is another shot of adrenaline for Eddie Jones’ ‘new’ England. Two irrepressible performances against Leicester and Toulouse have catapulted him into the squad. Tom Curry’s excellence should be utilised back in the blindside jumper leaving a spot open at number eight. Alex Dombrandt, Sam Simmonds and now Barbeary are all very viable options. They are all on form and it will be fascinating to see what Jones does here.

Barbeary’s skill sets are not just about breaking tackles but his ability at the breakdown. He was immense against table-topping Leicester two weeks ago and even more so against the might of Toulouse last week. Barbeary will only get better and against a much improved Scottish defence, he could be very useful for England.

Northmore a bolter

Luke Northmore’s try-scoring form earns him a well-deserved call-up. The England management are continuing to tap into Harlequins’s attacking DNA as they seek to evolve their backline threat. It is unlikely Northmore will feature against Scotland but if Marcus Smith is to run this team in the future, Northmore might well get his chance sooner rather than later.

You can add in the rapidly improving Joe Marchant to the list of names that are serving Harlequins very well at the moment. Despite being the hunted this season after last year’s heroics, Harlequins are coming to the boil nicely. They are again scoring a load of points and the likes of Marchant and Northmore are key cogs in their attacking arsenal.

It is great to see Ollie Hassell-Collins be rewarded for his consistently prolific performances for London Irish. The dynamic Adam Radwan looks surplus to requirements for the time being, hopefully for not too long as he is something special. Let’s not forget about the return of Jack Nowell. At his best Nowell will squeeze through the tightest of defences and it is good to have him back.

Start fast against Scotland

England have three tough away games in this year’s 2022 Six Nations. Scotland are first up, followed by Italy before finishing away to France. Scotland therefore is absolutely crucial to their chances of winning the tournament. England were flat-footed and lethargic in last year’s opener at Twickenham and Scotland were all over them. Fast forward to Murrayfield and England must tear into the Scots in the first twenty minutes. Scotland for all of their promise can still ships points and England has the firepower to make that happen.

This is why Alfie Barbeary may leapfrog Dombrandt and Simmonds into the starting number eight jumper. He can offer real ballast going forward leaving both Simmonds and Dombrandt to show off their running skills in the second half.

We hope that England do not revert back to a kick and chase game and therefore come out playing. There is pace, guile and youthful energy in this England team which can take the spoils in Murrayfield if they are brave. Owen Farrell will have a say in how England play against a confident Scottish outfit. He is under ever-increasing pressure to deliver – as captain and starter. It makes for a compelling opener in this year’s 2022 Six Nations.

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