France v England Betting: Farrell's echo of Keane can lead a new era

Owen Farrell
Best feet forward - Owen Farrell will captain England in France
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England have a new captain in Paris and Ralph Ellis believes it could be a significant change ahead of the World Cup...

"What Eddie Jones really needs is a thumping bonus point victory – England winning by more than 13 points is [2.7] in the Winning Margin market and if he’s to achieve that then it will be the leadership of Farrell that can make the difference."

Think of Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira. Think of all the trophies, all the brilliant goals, wonderful tackles, amazing passes, towering headers.

Then be honest. The first thought that actually came in your head was of the two of them locking horns in the tunnel at Highbury in 2005. It's one of those legendary incidents that has come to define the art of captaincy.

Vieira tried to intimidate Gary Neville. Keane told him to pick on someone his own size - United ended up winning 4-2 because they had a leader who helped them believe they couldn't be bullied.

Now I'm not suggesting that, 13 years later, Owen Farrell chasing Ryan Wilson down the tunnel when the Scottish Number 8 tried to pick on George Ford before the Calcutta Cup is quite in that class. Apart from anything England went on to lose the game.

But it still does tell you a thing or two about the leadership skills of Farrell, who will captain England from the start in the Six Nations in France on Saturday.

Bonus point victory

And if, as seems highly likely, today's announcement that Dylan Hartley isn't fit and Farrell is in charge ushers in a more permanent changing of the guard, that has to be a good thing for the World Cup that's now just 18 months away.

England are [1.38] in the Match Odds to bounce back from their Murrayfield shock and you'd like to feel that a win should be a formality.

But what Eddie Jones really needs is a thumping bonus point victory - England winning by more than 13 points is [2.7] in the Winning Margin market and if he's to achieve that then it will be the leadership of Farrell that can make the difference.

Get that and it's still not too late to beat Ireland in the final game at Twickenham and land the [5.0] currently on offer for England to retain their title as Six Nations champions.

Jones has for more than a year been resisting the campaign to end Hartley's era and appoint Farrell as his skipper.

The argument goes that the veteran hooker hardly ever finishes 80 minutes - he's only seen out the whole game twice in 25 appearances under Jones. Meanwhile Farrell has only ever been replaced three times in the same period.

But there's more to that to justify the change. Farrell has grown hugely as a player, seeing the game unfold and able to dictate.

Mike Brown axed

He's calm under pressure, hugely physical when he needs to be, and while he has that spikiness that showed in his clash with Wilson he's also got the diplomatic skills to do and say the right things off the field.

After the disappointment of Murrayfield and the way the last round of matches worked out, you get the sense this could be a pivotal weekend in England's World Cup planning.

Jones is wary of the powerhouse threat posed by France's Mathieu Bastareud and so has brought Ben Te'o into the side, but has also axed full back Mike Brown in favour of the more dashing Anthony Watson.

Get things right in Paris and it could be the start of a new era - and one that Farrell may be leading. Roy Keane, you sense, would approve.


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