Monday 11 December 2017

Farrell holds the key for England

Mick Cleary

Stuart Lancaster does not have to look very far from his hotel to see where the sharks circle in the Indian Ocean.

On the eve of his first engagement with one of the southern superpowers, the England coach must be aware that another set of predators is waiting to feast on his sporting carcass should this series against South Africa result in a dispiriting whitewash.

A three-Test match-up lends itself to resolution and definition. England are there to be judged by what they are, not by what they might become. And that process begins at Kings Park this afternoon.

South Africa are far more experienced than England, with 458 caps to 187. You do not have to think too hard to figure out the Springbok game plan: bash 'em, kick, chase and smash 'em. While it is all very well being aware of it, it is quite another being able to deal with it.

England have responded by picking two full-backs, Mike Brown of Harlequins with the usual wearer of the No 15 shirt, Ben Foden, switching to wing. England will have to be firm in midfield, centre Brad Barritt the rallying point for the youngsters alongside Manu Tuilagi and Owen Farrell at out-half.

South Africa expect the match to be decided by the kickers, with Morne Steyn a proven performer. Farrell has to stay firm. If he does, England might well sneak it. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

South Africa -- Z Kirchner; JP Pietersen, J de Villiers (capt), F Steyn, B Habana; M Steyn, D Hougaard; T Mtawarira, B du Plessis, J du Plessis, E Etzebeth, J Kruger, M Coetzee, W Alberts, P Spies. Reps: A Strauss, C Oosthuizen, F van der Merwe, K Daniel, R Pienaar, P Lambie, W Olivier.

England -- M Brown; C Ashton, M Tuilagi, B Barritt, B Foden; O Farrell, B Youngs; J Marler, D Hartley, D Cole, M Botha, G Parling, T Johnson, C Robshaw (capt), B Morgan. Reps: L Mears, P Doran Jones, T Palmer, P Dowson, L Dickson, T Flood, J Joseph.

REF -- S Walsh (Australia).

South Africa v England,

Live, Sky Sports 2, 3.30

Irish Independent

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