After Eddie Jones announced his 33 man squad for the 2016 Six Nations on Wednesday there was much speculation on who will form the all-important 10-12 axis, a real problem area for England in recent years.
One of the real possibilities could see George Ford and Owen Farrell reunite a partnership that was extremely effective for England in age-group rugby, particularly the under-20’s side and has been used in Test rugby before.
With Henry Slade injured and Manu Tuilagi only recently back from a long absence, Jones gave surprise call-ups to young centres Sam Hill and Ollie Devoto. While there is no doubt these two have exciting futures ahead of them, it would be a surprise to see them thrust straight into starting XV for the Six Nations opener against Scotland.
Farrell began his Test career at inside centre at Murrayfield in 2012, that day he played outside Charlie Hodgson, kicking two penalties and a conversion in a 13-6 for England. But the Saracens star has spent the majority of his rugby at fly-half.
But with the lack of experience available in that area, Farrell could move back into the 12 jersey. Jones has always favoured playing a playmaker at inside centre and spoke about Farrell’s ability to play as a second receiver, saying: “Owen is quite capable of playing as a 10 or a 12.”
While Ford’s form for Bath hasn’t been as strong as last season, his attacking threat and distribution skills transformed England’s fortunes in last season’s Six Nations.
Centres vie for Six Nations spots
With Farrell pencilled in to the number 12 jersey, Elliot Daly and Jonathan Joseph will compete for the outside centre berth. Joseph was the top try scorer in the 2015 Six Nations and was England’s star man.
He struggled with injury issues during the World Cup and hasn’t been at his electric best in an inconsistent Bath side. In contrast Daly has been in sparkling form for Wasps and his call-up was fully justified.
It will be interesting to see which way Jones go with the outside centre spot. Will it be the proven form and class of Joseph or the explosive inexperience of Daly? Either way we are going to see a very different England in attack with two real distributors at 10 and 12.
Image Credit – Martin Dobey (Flickr)