Question mark hangs over Farrell ahead of Australia Test

England's George Ford in action against Samoa on Saturday.England's George Ford in action against Samoa on Saturday.
England's George Ford in action against Samoa on Saturday.
England head coach Stuart Lancaster has confirmed he will retain George Ford at fly-half for Saturday’s QBE International against Australia – but dropped a strong hint that Owen Farrell’s place is now under pressure.

Ford is to be rewarded for his assured full debut in the 28-9 
victory over Samoa at Twickenham by continuing in the No 10 jersey worn by Farrell for most of Lancaster’s reign.

And the experiment of moving Farrell to inside centre may be abandoned after just one match with Lancaster giving serious consideration to selecting Billy Twelvetrees in the position he last called his own in the second Test of the summer tour to New Zealand.

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Twelvetrees impressed as a second-half replacement against Samoa and is locked in a two-way duel with Farrell to face the Wallabies in the climax to England’s autumn campaign.

“George has earned the right to start again. He’s played well enough for that,” said Lancaster.

“Billy Twelvetrees impressed me from the bench. He did well and brought good energy to the team.

“He’s worked hard on the feedback we gave him when he came back into camp and he’s a genuine prospect for us at 12.”

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Lancaster insists Ford’s first start was made easier by the presence of a second playmaker at inside centre, a role that both Farrell and Twelvetrees can fulfil.

“Owen helped George out a lot in terms of his on-field communication. George benefited from having someone like Owen alongside him,” added Lancaster.

“Owen provided that extra voice and obviously having (scrum-half) Ben Youngs inside him helped as well.

“It’s an option we wanted to look at and obviously we have a decision to make now.

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“It didn’t go all our own way in terms of execution in the backline, but that’s something we need to look at as a backline in general.”

Ford kicked intelligently, threatened the line and withstood some ferocious hits. His ongoing presence at fly-half is a cause for genuine excitement for England fans and Lancaster insists his shift was every bit as impressive upon review.

“At the time I felt it was a good performance and a good first start for England, and after looking at it again it definitely was,” said Lancaster, who is “cautiously optimistic” that lock Courtney Lawes will be available for Saturday after hyper-extending his knee against Samoa, while No 8 Billy Vunipola has been ruled out of contention after being concussed on club duty for Saracens.