England coach Borthwick must ignore sentiment and use Ford not Farrell vs Japan

Rugby World Cup: Borthwick gets hands on in England training drill

George Ford was so good last week against Argentina that he should have nailed down the England No 10 jersey. A World Cup runs week by week but there’s no way Steve Borthwick could leave him out of the side at the moment. 

That means either Owen Farrell plays at No 12 when his ban is completed or he misses out on a place in the starting line-up. For me, as things stand, it’s the latter. I’ve never been a fan of the Ford/Farrell double act – it has to be one or the other – and with the form Ford is in, Farrell is just going to have to make do with a bench role.

It’s tough on the England captain but there is no room for sentiment in professional sport. Borthwick has to do what is best for the team. And right now that means Ford as the No 10. He orchestrated the performance we have all been waiting for in Marseille – that was the real England we saw on show last weekend. And individually, he was outstanding.

He was dropping goals like Jonny Wilkinson in that first half but the stand-off he reminds me most of is Charlie Hodgson in the way he distributes and he kicks – even in the way he moves. George’s dad Mike was the England defence coach when Charlie was in the squad and young George used to come along and watch us train. Maybe watching Charlie back then rubbed off on him.

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I’m expecting England to make it two wins out of two tomorrow against Japan with some comfort. The pressure valve has been released now and I think we will see a more relaxed team.

That doesn’t mean they will be throwing the ball around like it’s a Barbarians game – they will stick to Borthwick’s tight template – but that’s no bad thing. Dominating forwards, strong kicking game – that is England rugby. The difference against a less physical defence like that of Japan is that when it is on to play a bit more, they will be able to so I’m confident we will see some tries.

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The one pity is that Tom Curry won’t be out there after his two-match ban. I understand that World Rugby are trying to minimise head contact in the game but that red card against the Pumas was wrong. It lacked rugby understanding.

If I’m teaching my son to tackle I tell him to bend at the knees to go low into contact. Fair enough. But if you are chasing a high kick, as Curry was, you need to be looking upwards to watch the ball – and the catcher – come down otherwise there’s no chance of getting your timing right.

As it was, Curry got his fractionally wrong but there was no intent and that was a yellow card offence at worst.

Mark Cueto was speaking in partnership with broadband provider The 4th Utility.

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