A slap on the wrist for Farrell… but he's in ahead of Fred to replace Flood
22:30 GMT, 26 November 2012
Owen Farrell was given a stark warning on Monday about the need to respect the decisions of his England captain, then cleared to replace the injured Toby Flood at No 10 against New Zealand in preference to the country’s form fly-half.
The 21-year-old Saracens stand-off will be handed the conductor’s baton for Saturday’s showdown with the world champions at Twickenham, having been reminded about the need to follow orders.
Four days ago, Farrell challenged Chris Robshaw’s decision to kick for goal rather than for the corner in the closing minutes against South Africa and his prolonged objections were condemned as public dissent.
Warned but still selected: Owen Farrell (right) was rebuked but will play in a key role on Saturday
When the squad held their weekly review, he was left in no doubt that a repeat rebellion will not be tolerated.
Asked if Farrell had been admonished, head coach Stuart Lancaster said: ‘The players said it rather than me. The captain makes the decision and we get on with it. Everyone has got that lesson learned now. Nothing more needs to be said to an individual.’
Having shown solidarity with his captain, Lancaster then supported Farrell for the task of replacing Flood, who has a toe injury.
The inclusion in the squad of uncapped Gloucester fly-half Freddie Burns offers an exciting option. But Lancaster said: ‘Owen has a lot of credit in the bank from what he achieved for us in the Six Nations.
‘He had a long, hard season but I don’t think his form dropped off as dramatically as people made out. I know he has been a bit frustrated; he had a slow start to this season because of an injury.
‘We base a lot of our selection on what we see in training. He has trained well and he looked accomplished when he came on against South Africa. I have no problem with Owen whatsoever.
Red hot: Freddie Burns is in good form but was overlooked
‘I am disappointed for Toby but excited to get Freddie in, to have a player like that — in form, confident, coming in to make potentially his first appearance, against the All Blacks.’
So Farrell will take the No 10 shirt and Burns must wait for his chance on the bench.
But Lancaster acknowledged that the creative newcomer provides different qualities to the established No 10s and suggested that the revitalised environment at Gloucester has been a major factor in Burns’ rapid rise this season.
‘Nigel Davies deserves a lot of credit for Freddie’s form, due to the way Gloucester are playing,’ said Lancaster, referring to the club’s Welsh director of rugby.
‘He also benefits from having Billy Twelvetrees outside him — he feels comfortable playing alongside Billy. Freddie is a quality player. I want more strength in depth in every position and he gives us that. It is a great opportunity for him.’
Burns has played with highly effective freedom for Gloucester this season and Davies said: ‘Freddie is really maturing. He is putting us in the right areas and he’s turning the opportunities into points. He’s on top of his game at the moment, playing superbly well. I think he’s got everything an international outside-half needs. His game-management has been excellent and he’s always a threat.
Missing: Toby Flood will not be able to play against New Zealand
‘Even on a boggy field with a wet ball, he looks dangerous. You just can’t move off him too early. He’s an exceptional player.’
Lancaster made it abundantly clear yesterday that Robshaw, despite the storm of debate around his penalty decision last Saturday, will lead England against the All Blacks and retains his full backing.
‘We have the New Zealand game coming up and I definitely won’t be making any changes in that regard,’ said the head coach. ‘Chris Robshaw had a fantastic game for us. He was the top carrier, the top tackler and he hit more breakdowns than any other player in the squad. He has done a great job for us in this series.
‘It was a difficult decision (about the late penalty). It is the captain’s responsibility to make the decision and we are disappointed we didn’t make the decision work for him, so ultimately we feel responsible as a group.’
England’s coaches are optimistic that Alex Corbisiero’s knee injury will clear up in time for him to start Saturday’s match, despite Nick Wood being brought into the squad to provide additional cover at loosehead prop.