Farrell Tackle A Sign of England’s Surge To Better Days
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One month on from his infamous tackle against South African full-back André Esterhuizen and Owen Farrell’s flashpoint moment of recent times remains one of international rugby’s most divisive topics. In a tackle that is already banned in the league form of many domestic competitions across the world, the co-captain went shoulder-first into Esterhuizen, stopping the 110-kilogram behemoth dead in his tracks.
It was over in a flash but Australian referee Angus Gardner deemed Farrell to have tackled legally, with an attempt to use his arms in the challenge. Had Gardner acted differently, as many in the South African camp furiously remonstrated that he should, then a penalty and a red card would have been forthcoming. Barring a horrendous miskick, that would have seen South Africa add to their tally of victories at Twickenham.
On this occasion, Farrell has escaped a citation and it is a development that has met the approval of ex-internationals like Lewis Moody and Brian O’Driscoll. Even so, the latter man has advised Farrell to ‘improve’ on how he goes into tackles. Those of a more neutral mindset than the seething South Africans have called for more clarity in the aftermath. Yet, even though Farrell can consider himself to be fortunate to have avoided serious repercussions, the element of surprise he brings to the England setup remains well-appreciated.
Farrell has previous for tackles of the contentious type.
Pluck of the English
The advice given by men like O’Driscoll is very much for Farrell’s own good, as, without him, England are always destined to struggle. This is evidenced by his most important stat – namely kicking. Prior to the start of the 2018 Six Nations, Farrell’s success rate from the kick stood at 83.5%, putting him just under 3% behind Jonny Wilkinson, and comfortably ahead of Marcus Smith and George Ford.
Farrell’s meticulous means of preparing for a conversion is also a huge part of rugby folklore in Europe, and his patient build-up only serves to unnerve the opposition. Once again, this will be a feature of the 2019 Six Nations. As one of the major upcoming events in rugby, it will naturally be crucial towards England and their Six Nations rivals gaining momentum ahead of the World Cup. Naturally, the Six Nations is one of the largest rugby events for bettors, and England’s momentum going into this has seem installed as second favourites, only behind Ireland.
Given that the Irish and Welsh squads boast some deadly kickers amongst their own ranks, Farrell is still England’s only realistic match-winner from the spot. As ever, Ireland and Wales will be the biggest bars to England recapturing the trophy, and, with the likes of Welsh duo Dan Biggar and Leigh Halfpenny continuing to significantly eclipse Farrell’s kicking form, England need every point they can muster.
Ireland were worthy champions in 2018, and await England on home turf in 2019.
Co-captaincy a stroke of genius
Away from the bluster of tackles and the geometrics of the penalty spot, the essence of leadership will also be a massive boost to England, with away games in 2019 against Ireland and Wales. In the short-term, the decision to appoint Farrell as a co-captain – and restore him to his strongest position – appears to be a masterstroke of genius. His appearance from the bench against Japan was a very real testament to this, and tournaments – such as the 2003 World Cup – can often be won by the form of a talisman.
With Eddie Jones promising that this system will be maintained into the New Year, England are all set to astonish after finishing a once-unthinkable fifth in this year’s Six Nations, but that is just the first part of the road to redemption after a tough year. In time-honoured tradition, the presence of 2016 Grand Slam winners Farrell and Hartley will act as a beacon of inspiration for the new blood coming into the England ranks.
In relation to how this ‘new blood’ will gel with their co-captains, Joe Cokanasiga is a prominent newcomer, scoring in both of his autumn appearances for England, and playing with a swagger reminiscent of boyhood hero Jonah Lomu.