- Andy Farrell on the evolution of England’s personnel
- Backs Coach discusses Burns, Foden, Strettle and Twelvetrees
Stuart Lancaster’s team remains in a state of evolution meaning England are striving to improve by their own internal standards, regardless of the opposition they face on the pitch.
That’s the view of Backs Coach Andy Farrell, who, speaking at the announcement of the revised Senior and Saxons Elite Player squads in Leeds, believes the historic victory over New Zealand last December is only of value if they build from it.
Farrell’s evolutionary assessment is evidenced by the emergence of Test debutants Joe Launchbury and Tom Youngs into key performers last autumn, and with players pushing for starting places there will be no let up for the RBS 6 Nations opener against Scotland at Twickenham on February 2.
“We’re a side that’s progressing and wants to keep evolving and getting better and better,” said the dual-code international. “Effectively, that is about us and that’s what counts and if that’s not motivation within itself we’re in the wrong place.
“We’ve got to reaffirm the points we were making for five or six weeks, fortunately the gap between the autumn and the Six Nations is not that vast. We feel we should be 20 to 30 per cent better off than where we started in the autumn and that can only be good to keep the progression going up until the Scotland game.”
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With that in mind, Farrell has revised 15 backs at his disposal, bringing in one-cap fly half Freddie Burns, uncapped centre Billy Twelvetrees and wing David Strettle for Jordan Turner-Hall, Anthony Allen and Charlie Sharples.
While the balance of the group is important – a fly half, a centre and a (newly positioned) left wing have replaced two centres and a right wing – Farrell has picked players on form who deserve the chance to play international rugby.
“It’s about rewarding people who have been playing well and who are desperate to play international football. David Strettle has swapped wings and over the last five or six weeks has been trying to make a difference and has been playing outstandingly well for Saracens.
“Billy and Freddie have come in too and their form has spoken for itself all season. We’ve had snippets of them during the autumn and we now want them to be exposed to international football on a six-week basis where we can look at them in training and games.
“It’s exciting to keep pushing people through.”
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England are unbeaten in five matches against the Auld Enemy Scotland but after a 15-15 draw in the 2010 clash at Murrayfield, England’s margin of victory has only been by a single score (six in 2011, four in 2011 and seven in 2012).
Farrell is enthused by the availability of Northampton Saints’ Ben Foden, who appears back to his game-changing best after being ruled out of the four QBE Internationals with an ankle injury, believing his ability to break the defensive line could be critical in tight games.
He added: “What you need in international football is people who can make a difference and we’ve seen in recent games that Ben has that point of difference of being able to breach the defensive line, he’s strong and he’s quick.
“You need these people because often international football is stalemate – you have two good teams against each other and you need the guys who are hungry enough to make the difference.”