The responsibility of being sole captain and chief playmaker is a “massive ask” for Owen Farrell, said former international Paul Grayson after Englands rollercoaster 38-38 Six Nations draw with Scotland.
Fly-half Farrell was replaced by George Ford in the second half at Twickenham, moments after he was fortunate to avoid a yellow card for what appeared to be a late tackle on Darcy Graham.
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England surrendered a 31-point advantage as Scotland produced a stirring second-half comeback to take the lead, before Ford salvaged a point in the highest-scoring draw in international history with a converted try in the 83rd minute.
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“I feel Owen Farrells job spec is so big that the full captaincy on his own is a massive ask,” former England fly-half Grayson told BBC Radio 5 Live.
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“He got himself into another messy collision which maybe happens when he is under stress and trying to fix things on his own.”
We set a goal of winning the second half, not winning the game – we thought that was gone when we were 31 points to seven down.
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Farrell, the sole captain in the absence of joint-leader Dylan Hartley, also made two mistakes that resulted in Scotland tries as England lost control of the match.
The Saracens number 10 had a kick charged down by hooker Stuart McInally, who collected the loose ball to score Scotlands opening try five minutes from half-time.
The 27-year-old also had a pass intercepted by opposite number Finn Russell, who raced clear to score a converted try under the posts as Scotland stunned Twickenham with five second-half tries.
“He has got so much on his plate as fly-half that when England got into trouble against Wales and Scotland, maybe he tries to do it all and he loses himself,” said Grayson.
“Maybe having finishers like Dylan Hartley coming off the bench in the final quarter with a calm head, is something Eddie Jones looks at.”
The visitors were just seconds from securing a first victory at Twickenham in 36 years, and former Scotland international Andy Nicol said “a little moment amongst all the madness” prevented Gregor Townsends men from a historic win.
Avenging last year's bitter defeat at Murrayfield was now England's aim and as they ran in four tries to build a 31-0 lead inside half an hour, they were on track to mark their last competitive match before the World Cup with an ominous statement.
“George Ford scored a good try but its devastating for Scotland who have done so much to get back into contention. Its incredible to even be disappointed with a draw after being 31-0 down.
“They dug themselves out of a massive hole with proper rugby but they had a little moment in amongst all the madness. Had Hamish Watson put Jonny May into touch it would have been game over, but England went down the other end and scored the try.
“I dont know how to feel – am I elated we got back in the game or am I gutted we got into a winning position and didnt make it?
“There were clearly system errors in the first half and the body language wasnt great but they turned it around and the positives definitely outweighed the negatives.
“Finn Russell pulled the strings in the second half beautifully, he had a no look pass for Sam Johnsons try and you probably saw the best attacking stand-off in world rugby bring it all out.”
Scotland were 31-0 down at a place where they havent won since 1983. They were injury ravaged and players were embarrassed, having a go at each other under the posts. To then lead 38-31 was ridiculous and that is why we love sport.
It was an amazing achievement by Scotland and they will be gutted because they could have seen that game out and were in control. England had to go 80 metres but there was so much pride salvaged by Scotland, who needed it after a poor tournament.
There are so many questions that remain about England. However brilliant they look when they are good, when they are off it they can look like the wheels are falling off.
Before today, England, Ireland and Wales looked very evenly matched. That still looks the case, however, Wales showed a hard-edged ability to win tight Test matches and live up to the pressure, England can still fall off the cliff in the second half and Ireland have possibly peaked a year too early.
I think Eddie Jones was candid enough to acknowledge there are massive things to fix, but then he said there was still time to do it. This was the last competitive game before the World Cup. They have four warm-up matches, with one against Italy, so is that going to be enough to solve it?
Or are we going to go to another World Cup where you still worry about England when the chips are down and the momentum is swinging?
Eddie Jones promised an explosion. What we got was one firework after another. A match that England had under lock and key at half-time was seconds away from becoming the greatest comeback win in the history of this championship until George Ford crossed and converted with the clock already well into the 84th minute.
Ford was only on the pitch after captain Owen Farrell was removed, having twice been charged down for Scottish scores and bumping Darcy Graham in a collision that clearly intrigued the officials but not to the point of issuing a card.
Taken in the moment, Fords score plunged a dagger into Scottish hearts, but on reflection it will surely represent a flesh wound. Yes, there will be hurt that a first…
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