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JOE MARLER: Owen Farrell is Englands Cristiano Ronaldo

Scotland game was chaos but England are still much better than in 2015… and Owen Farrell is our Cristiano Ronaldo

  • England led 31-0 but needed a late try to draw 38-38 with Scotland in London
  • Saturday’s game was total chaos but I don’t think it’s anything to worry about
  • England took their foot of the gas but they are much stronger than in 2015
  • Captain and kicker Owen Farrell is England’s only indispensable player
  • Farrell is to England what football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is to Portugal

Two weeks before the 2015 World Cup, I remember picking up the newspaper and the headline splashed across the back page was: ‘WE’LL PEAK IN THREE YEARS!’

Rob Andrew had made the comments in an interview and it seemed like a bit of an a***-covering exercise.

I was sitting around with Geoff Parling at the time. He wasn’t too impressed and he said to me: ‘Oh, cheers, well I won’t be at the f****** 2019 World Cup so can we have a go at this one please?’

It wasn’t the right thing to say at the time, even though it was probably the truth.

England are much better than they were in 2015 but Saturday's draw with Scotland was chaos

England are much better than they were in 2015 but Saturday's draw with Scotland was chaos

England are much better than they were in 2015 but Saturday’s draw with Scotland was chaos

Four years on, England are in a much stronger position going into this year’s World Cup in Japan. The pressure of that home World Cup was suffocating and England will be better for that experience.

Saturday night’s game against Scotland was chaos but I don’t think it’s anything to worry about. They took their foot off the gas and I think the return of a few senior players like Maro Itoje and Mako Vunipola will help fix that.

Since 2015, Mako and Billy Vunipola, Itoje and Owen Farrell have all come through, while Manu Tuilagi is back, too. Those five would all make a World XV and I don’t think Kyle Sinckler is too far off, either.

There is some real depth. It’s not ideal to lose a Billy, Maro, Manu or Mako, but there are guys who can fill in. The victory over Ireland in Dublin revolved around those guys carrying the ball. You can probably afford to lose one of those guys, but not two. That starting XV that beat Ireland is their gun XV for the World Cup — even though Anthony Watson was injured.

Owen Farrell has come through since 2015 and the England ace would feature in a World XV

Owen Farrell has come through since 2015 and the England ace would feature in a World XV

Owen Farrell has come through since 2015 and the England ace would feature in a World XV

The only indispensable player is Farrell. He is to England what Cristiano Ronaldo is to Portugal, or what Steph Curry is to the Golden State Warriors. With his leadership, ability and drive, England are a different animal. Owen takes things by the scruff of the neck, just like his dad.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Dylan Hartley. Farrell has really made his mark as a captain, while Jamie George has made the No2 jersey his own. Dylan hasn’t played in a long time but he’s still Eddie’s right-hand man and I think he’ll make the World Cup.

Whether Eddie picks George or Hartley depends on the balance of the pack. If Mako, Sinckler, Courtney Lawes and Billy are in your pack, then you can afford to have an experienced ruck-hitter like Dylan. If you’ve got Ben and Dan Cole, then you’d probably go for George. I think it would be pretty hard on George if he ended up on the bench.

Farrell is to England what Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo is to the Portuguese football team

Farrell is to England what Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo is to the Portuguese football team

Farrell is to England what Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo is to the Portuguese football team

For me, Mark Wilson is the biggest find over the past 12 months. He’s been a revelation at No 6 and he’s been at the heart of England’s revival.

After the defeat by Wales, there were a lot of questions about England’s lack of ‘Plan B’ but I’m sure Eddie will have a few tricks up his sleeve at the World Cup. He’s got a lot of Test experience and the players will lean on that. People forget that 2015 was Stuart Lancaster’s first World Cup. Eddie reached the final as Australia coach in 2003 and again as a technical adviser for winners South Africa in 2007. He also did pretty well with Japan in 2015.

Why can’t he reach another final? England, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia are my four contenders. New Zealand are still the team to beat. 

Farrell gave an impassioned speech to his England team after Saturday's Six Nations finale

Farrell gave an impassioned speech to his England team after Saturday's Six Nations finale

Farrell gave an impassioned speech to his England team after Saturday’s Six Nations finale

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