England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster is plotting pairing George Ford and Owen Farrell together against the Springboks this weekend after defeat to the All Blacks.
Lancaster was already considering the move but his hand may now be forced with news that Kyle Eastmond is suffering from a stomach bug. Lancaster said “I’m sure he’ll get over the sickness and diarrhoea but it’s about how much it takes out of him and the knock-on effect of not doing the work,” the England coach said. “The obvious options are to put George in at 10 and Owen at 12, or bring someone like Billy Twelvetrees in at 12.
“We have to be careful not to make too many changes going into this weekend. We have to give the players a second chance but, having said that, one of the reasons we brought George Ford and Ben Youngs on [against the All Blacks] was to improve our ability to exit our own half. Some of our kicking from nine, particularly, and also 10 wasn’t quite good enough. The combination [of Ford and Farrell] is something we have looked at, did look at, and will look at in the future, without a doubt.”
Courtney Lawes and Dylan Hartley are both also being monitored after picking up knocks against the All Blacks. Semesa Rokoduguni and Dave Attwood also picked up knocks although these are believed to be of a less serious nature. London Irish hooker David Paice has however been drafted in as injury cover.
Lancaster confirmed the entire squad had held an honest postmortem on the New Zealand match. “It was pretty straight,” he said. “We didn’t gloss over anything and we know we have got to improve. I think there will be a reaction from South Africa to their loss against Ireland.”
England’s players are also desperate to atone for their disappointing second-half effort against the All Blacks. “From speaking to the players and sensing the mood, there is a lot of frustration with ourselves,” Lancaster said. “I don’t think self-belief has been dented in that we’re on the wrong direction but it has made it more important to put in that 100% performance.”
Lancaster brushed aside French newspaper speculation that Hartley is contemplating a move to Montpellier after next year’s World Cup. “That’s the first I’ve heard of it,” Lancaster said. “It’s definitely never been mentioned in camp.”
Do you think a Ford – Farrell combination can work for England?