Eddie Jones believes Owen Farrell is developing the composure that is the hallmark of great fly-halves after naming him as England’s playmaker-in-chief for tomorrow’s opening Test against Australia.
Farrell makes his first start in the position under Jones at the expense of George Ford after featuring at inside centre for the recent march to the Grand Slam.
While he has been outstanding throughout Saracens’ double-winning season, Ford has suffered a loss of confidence at Bath and missed six of seven shots at goal when Wales were routed at Twickenham 11 days ago.
The contrasting fortunes have seen the close friends exchange places in the pecking order and Jones has been impressed by the changes to Farrell’s game over the past 12 months.
“Now he’s got a greater appreciation of how you win games of rugby. There’s his ability to read the game better,” said Jones.
“He’s always been a physical, in-your-face sort of player. He’s still got that about him but now he sits back, has a look where the space is and be a bit calmer about his decisions.
“All the great 10s in the world, they’ve all been unflappable guys. They never look like they’ve got a hair out of place. They know exactly what they’re going to do.
“Have you ever seen Dan Carter sweat on a rugby field? Never. He’s always in control. Jonny Wilkinson was the same. Steve Larkham was the same. That’s what you want from your 10.
“When you’re a big physical guy like Owen is, you develop that through experience and maturity and that’s what he’s starting to do now. It comes from age and winning trophies.”
Ford drops to the bench amid a promise from Jones that his supporting role at Suncorp Stadium will be “significant” once the early physical onslaught from Australia has been weathered.
The Australian is keen to stress the 23-year-old remains central to his long-term plans. “George is unhappy not being the starting 10 and I’d be bloody disappointed if he wasn’t. That’s how he should be, but he’s taken it on the chin,” Jones said.
“He’s a fantastic little guy. As I said after the Wales game, I don’t think England rugby appreciates what a good player he is. He is all class.
“(Skills coach) Glen Ella had one look at him and said, ‘This kid can play.’ He’s going to be a fine player for us. He’s a fine player now and he’s going to get better.”
Ford’s demotion was expected, but the elevation of Marland Yarde above Jack Nowell on the left wing is surprising given the role played by the Exeter Chief in the Grand Slam and his side’s passage to the Premiership final.
The power and athleticism of Yarde has caught Jones’ eye, but the Harlequin needed grounding from England’s head coach. “Marland is close to our quickest wing, maybe Anthony Watson shades him but he has got power and he is raw,” said Jones.
“He hasn’t had a lot of experience. He hasn’t had a lot of coaching. And he’s very coachable. He is a bit of a character.
“He has probably blown a bit of his career by being too big for his boots. He’s back down to earth now and has the potential to be a really special player for us.
“I got him into camp and had a look at him. He had a bit of an attitude on him so I sorted that out. From there on in he’s been really wanting to get better.”
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