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Mike Brown: It’s hard to see Owen Farrell return to England’s starting XV

Mike Brown: It’s hard to see Owen Farrell return to England’s starting XV … Marcus Smith’s winning exhibition at Twickenham felt like a changing of the guard

  • It’s hard to see how Owen Farrell can get back to England’s starting XV
  • He is not the best 10 or 12 in the country and he only deserves a place on the bench.
  • Marcus Smith and Henry Slade are the best players and they deserve to continue


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It felt like a true changing of the guard moment at Twickenham. We experienced a similar transition four years ago, when Sam Underhill and Tom Curry replaced James Haskell and Chris Robshaw. This time, however, it feels like an even bigger rotation.

With the arrival of new talent, it is difficult to see how Owen Farrell can return to the starting XV.

Farrell is on the team because of his leadership qualities, but, right now, he’s not No. 10 or No. 12 in the country and deserves only one spot on the bench. Marcus Smith and Henry Slade are the best players and you must let their partnership flourish.

It's hard to see how Owen Farrell (right) can get back to England's starting XV.

It’s hard to see how Owen Farrell (right) can get back to England’s starting XV.

Slade could have been the man of the match. He looked brilliant and was the architect of two attempts from England. It makes a huge difference when you are allowed to play freely. He has a rugby brain like Will Greenwood. So clever.

I’d say he’s better than Greenwood in terms of athletic ability and distribution skills – long pass, short pass, kick. If he were a New Zealander, he would be a starter for the All Blacks.

Last week, Smith was not in full control of the attack with Farrell at No. 12. Last night, he seemed confident and in control. If everyone is fit, you have Smith, Slade, and Manu Tuilagi.

Fly-half Marcus Smith delivered the killing blow as England toppled South Africa on Saturday

Fly-half Marcus Smith delivered the killing blow as England toppled South Africa on Saturday

Fly-half Marcus Smith delivered the killing blow as England toppled South Africa on Saturday

It’s been a while since England played so well. You probably have to go back to the World Cup for such a tough performance. They played fast when they got into the right areas and I was impressed by the restarts; mixing it up, kicking short and down the middle so South Africa couldn’t box.

They had to take a couple of phases to work to the limit, allowing England’s D to make a few shots and earn a loss at one point from Curry.

The game could have escaped England when the Bomb Squad came in, but they fought for each other. That is a good sign for a renewed team. Courtney Lawes led the youth brilliantly. He has found another level and should be captain of the Six Nations.

Henry Slade was brilliant and also the architect of two attempts by England against South Africa.

Henry Slade was brilliant and also the architect of two attempts by England against South Africa.

Henry Slade was brilliant and also the architect of two attempts by England against South Africa.

Freddie Steward is a rock and now he’s the man in my old number 15 jersey. No one else comes close. The Springboks always pose the toughest challenge for a full back and they did it with flying colors, all but one or two in the end. He could have done it with more help from his teammates with better guard lines and protection.

England need to look at their discipline because it almost cost them the game.

Ultimately it is three wins out of three and England will be satisfied with their fate. There are many promises. A mix of the new and the old. If they continue on the way they are going, it will be difficult to overcome them.

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