Owen Farrell was today axed by England having failed to transform himself into an inside centre in one of three changes for the crucial clash with Australia at Twickenham on Saturday.
Farrell, who has been hampered by knee problems this season, made way at No10 for George Ford in the 28-9 win over Samoa and was shifted to No12 by head coach Stuart Lancaster who has now decided to recall Gloucester’s Billy Twlevetrees to the inside centre role.
It is the latest example of England’s “revolving door” selection policy in mid-field with Twelvetrees now partnering Saracens Brad Barritt for the third time in a test match.
The other two changes were expected with Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley regaining his place at the expense of Bath’s Rob Webber and Northampton flanker Tom Wood taking over from James Haskell with both players expected along with Farrell, to make significant contributions from the replacements bench.
England 28 Samoa 9 player ratings
England 28 Samoa 9 player ratings
1/16 Mike Brown - 6
Enjoyed scoring his try, unusually a couple of high balls went astray and knocked on during a promising first-half attack. Did not reach the high standard achieved a week earlier against the Springboks.
2/16 Anthony Watson - 6
Far more involved than a week earlier and contributed significantly to Brown's try. A potent threat that England need to use more but still learning the game at elite level
3/16 Brad Barritt - 5
A midfield rock who must still be uncertain what is going on around him. Makes his tackles, attacking ploys limited - grub kicks did not come off - but needs a consistent partner
4/16 Owen farrell - 5
Threw himself into breakdowns with usual gusto but still limited coherence in the midfield attack. Important role in first England try but another game - against better opposition - needed to validate his place
5/16 Jonny May - 7
After nine-minute rest for a blood injury, returned to run straight and true for his first-half try. Second try a walk-in but showed there's no substitute for raw pace and consolidated place
6/16 George Ford - 7
Did well on first start, steadied the first-half ship, kicked goals when it mattered and showed himself an attacking threat with front-foot ball. Made his tackles too for a good evening's work
7/16 Ben Youngs - 5
Undemonstrative return to the starting jersey, oiling the works for others. Greater accuracy with his kicking needed, England are still not testing opponents under the high ball enough
8/16 Joe Marler - 6
Part of a sound scrum which squeezed out two early penalties. Samoa never found a way round this set-piece boulder and Marler showed his customary zeal in loose play, as ball-handler and tackler
9/16 Rob Webber - 6
Another hard-working game, good set-piece work and justified his selection ahead of Dylan Hartley. Did not get his hands on the ball as much as he does at Bath but deserves another opportunity
10/16 David Wilson - 7
Did all of the above and also showed flare as a defender by covering back and stifling a Samoa attack down the left flank. He and Marler left early to give game time to replacements
11/16 Dave Attwood - 6
Another perfect lineout display by England, in which Attwood played full part. Greater first-half fluidity would have given him more chances in loose play and missed a try at the end by knocking on
12/16 Courtney Lawes - 6
Equal contribution to Attwood at lineout time and ran the ball effectively. Can be pleased with his showing after taking that heavy knock against New Zealand first time out
13/16 James Haskell - 6
Typically industrious showing from a player bursting to find a regular starting place. Over-eagerness accounted for concession of penalties but covered the ground well and aggressive in the tackle
14/16 Chris Robshaw - 7
Named man of the match for doing everything he does every week. Important lineout presence and good hands in May's second try, bustled around the field to great effect and made over 20 tackles
15/16 Ben Morgan
Would have liked to make a greater impact. England need more potent running from their big men and though Morgan lifted his game after the break, he became a bit lost as the game broke up
England used all their bench, of whom George Kruis made the greatest impact. The Saracens lock stole one lineout, popped up in midfield more than once and has made a distinct impression. Marland Yarde made one flaring run as May's first-half replacement and returned eager for more but the game had broken up by the time the rest of the bench appeared.
England cannot afford to lose this match and end the Autumn series with a 1-3 record having lost to South Africa and New Zealand before finding better form to defeat Samoa.
Lancaster said: “It’s good to be able to give Billy his first start of the series. He took on board the feedback we gave him when he first came into camp and he has worked hard both with us and at Gloucester and deserves his chance.
“Owen is a key part of our squad and I am sure he will make a positive contribution should he get the chance. The Samoa game gave us the opportunity to give James Haskell and Rob Webber a start and they made a good contribution. Tom and Dylan were disappointed not to be in the XV last week and they are desperate to go out and perform on Saturday so we finish the series on a high.”
Lancaster has kept changes to a minimum believing the team is capable of finally producing the standard of rugby he has been demanding throughout a campaign shaped injuries to key players including Manu Tuilagi and Joe Launchbury.
The head coach did not opt to reunite Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell , of Northampton, who did so well for England in last season’s Six Nations, preferring to stick with Barritt, who is in charge of England’s defence. Samoa failed to crack the English line thanks to Barritt’s organisational skills which will be tested to the full by the Wallabies on Saturday.
Australia are in England’s World Cup pool – along with Wales – and a win 10 months away from the tournament will give English rugby a major lift.
Veteran back Adam Ashley-Cooper has shifted from wing to centre to replace the injured Tevita Kuridrani in one of three changes to the Wallabies.
The Wallabies, coming off three-point losses to both France and Ireland, have recalled Rob Horne on the wing and selected Sean McMahon on the blindside flank to replace Luke Jones. The pack features lock Rob Simmons who will earn his 50th test cap.
England team to face Australia:
Mike Brown; Anthony Watson, Brad Barritt, Billy Twelvetrees, Jonny May; George Ford, Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley, David Wilson; Dave Attwood, Courtney Lawes; Tom Wood, Chris Robshaw, Ben Morgan.
Replacements: Rob Webber, Matt Mullan, Kieran Brookes, George Kruis, James Haskell, Richard Wigglesworth, Owen Farrell, Marland Yarde.Reuse content