England smashed the United States 45-7 with an impressive Rugby World Cup performance in their second match. But the win has raised a few questions about England’s games to come.
Over the past few years coach Eddie Jones has alternated positions with George Ford and Owen Farrell. Each has occupied the number 10 jersey, each has had a go at inside centre, each has been shifted around on occasion.
The duo, both from rugby league backgrounds, have an excellent combination together and work well in tandem.
And after the Red Rose put seven tries on the Americans, with Ford leading the charge, Jones has a dilemma to solve before their crunch match against Argentina.
Does he stick with Ford at 10 and Farrell at 12? Or does he swap them around, handing the keys to the team to his captain Farrell as chief playmaker, or leave Ford out completely?
Ford was excellent against the United States, finishing with a personal haul of 15 points, 40 passes and 11 kicks from the hand. The 26-year-old was calm and composed, and missed just two of his seven conversion attempts.
He barely made a mistake. But he arguably got better when Saracens star Farrell come on to the field in the second half.
Ford and Farrell were paired together at 10 and 12 for the tournament-opening win over Tonga. But earlier this year, in the warm-up matches, Jones has mixed and matched. Farrell was preferred at fly-half in the victory over Italy in Newcastle, but Ford got the start against Ireland, and for the two matches against Wales.
However, in the 2019 Six Nations where England finished second, it was Farrell who got the nod at fly-half in all five matches. Jones kept changing his inside centres, such as Henry Slade and Ben Te’o, with Ford used as impact player off the bench.
Of course, the United States and Tonga as opposition do not compare with the likes of Argentina and France, who England play next in Japan.
But Jones will have noted how well the teams’ attacked flowed with the Oldham-born Ford in the pocket. Farrell is the much bigger body, the much stronger defender who can handle the more sizeable traffic that comes in the centre channel.
At 1.75 metres tall and 87 kilograms, compared to the 28-year-old’s 1.86 metres and 96 kilograms, Ford is a lot smaller than Farrell. At number 10 a lot of his defensive work can be shared. That way the Leicester playmaker can be saved for when England attack with the ball in hand.
Jones was pleased with how side took apart the Americans. They are on top of Pool C with 10 points, grabbing a bonus point in each game, and back-to-back victories, with only a single try conceded in 160 minutes of rugby. They have not been perfect, but still got the job and improved from game one to game two.
“I’m pretty happy,” Jones told ITV. “We’re getting used to the conditions.”
Now England’s coach just had to decide – does he make room for both Ford and Farrell in his starting XV, or does Ford make way for his captain.