Owen Farrell last night hit back at criticism from Leicester head coach Matt O’Connor and dismissed his claims that England are negative and take the field simply “trying not to lose”.
O’Connor’s comment formed part of a stinging attack on the way Leicester’s out-of-favour half-backs Toby Flood and Ben Youngs have been treated by England’s interim coach Stuart Lancaster. Flood has dropped behind Farrell and Charlie Hodgson in England’s fly-half pecking order and will not be involved in Sunday’s RBS Six Nations game against France.
Youngs, who has been struggling for form, is expected to be on the England bench in Paris but he has lost the starting scrum-half jersey to Lee Dickson.
Furious O’Connor claimed Lancaster’s interim management team are not interested in creative players and that England are wasting their best attacking threats.
But Farrell insisted England’s new-look side proved against World Cup semi-finalists Wales that they are prepared to take on the best in the world.
“He is entitled to his own opinion. We have our own views. We are excited about the way we are playing,” said Farrell.
“The way we played against Wales was a massive step in the right direction for us and we all thought that.
“It was still disappointing to lose a game when we created quite a few chances but we are massively excited about the way we are going and I hope we can build on that.
“I don’t see how else you go into a rugby game (but trying to win it). I don’t think I have ever had a mindset to just avoid defeat otherwise you don’t play how you want to do. The way we played the game against Wales the other week proved that.”
England struggled to showcase Lancaster’s attacking gameplan as they battled to away wins against Scotland and Italy, with Hodgson scoring a charge-down try in each game.
But with Farrell impressive at fly-half, England turned in a more encouraging offensive performance in their 19-12 defeat to Wales two weekends ago.
Dickson, Manu Tuilagi and Ben Morgan all came into the starting XV and injected a pace and tempo into England’s attacking game that had been missing.
“We have got brilliant players all over the field and we are using them right at the minute, we just need to finish our chances,” said Farrell.
Leicester have decided not to use Flood in Saturday’s LV= Cup semi-final, giving him a weekend off and starting with recent Leeds loanee George Ford against Bath.
O’Connor claimed England’s handling of the Leicester pair had contributed to an unnecessary “self-doubt” in both players.
Halifax-born Hodgson, former Leeds lock Tom Palmer and York-born Rob Webber are among the 24-man squad for the trip to Paris.