Farrell calls for England backline to lay down marker

  • England Backs Coach wants team to learn from Dunedin defeat
  • Farrell cites Burns and Ashton as examples of players who have impressed

Andy Farrell says England’s new-look backline for the final Test against New Zealand on Saturday is full of players that are itching to prove their worth.

From tomorrow’s three-quarter division, only full back Mike Brown started matches in this spring’s RBS 6 Nations. However, the likes of midfield duo Kyle Eastmond and Manu Tuilagi have turned out potent attacking displays over the course of this series.

Citing fly half Freddie Burns and wing Chris Ashton – who scored one of the tourists’ two late tries during the final stages of last weekend’s 28-27 defeat in Dunedin – as two examples, Farrell suggested his squad’s depth was extremely healthy heading towards Rugby World Cup 2015.

As driven, determined set of individuals strive to make England stronger as a collective, the task of selection will be tougher for coaches. Thankfully, Farrell does not seem to mind.

“Freddie’s display in [in the first Test at Eden Park] typifies what this whole group is about,” he explained. “Everyone is comfortable in the systems and comfortable in their own skin. Therefore, they can go out and perform – that’s what we’ve seen on this tour.

“In terms of selection, a few circumstances have taken things out of our hands with injuries to our half-backs, so there’s turnaround there.

“As coaches you get a feeling over where the group is at in training in terms of confidence and energy so late in the season – that tends to influence your decision as well.

“Like everyone, Chris is super-hungry to do well. There is competition all over the place and that can only be good for us. That’s what it’s all about – people wanting to put a marker down.”

Malakai Fekitoa replaces Conrad Smith at outside centre in the All Blacks’ only backline change from Forsyth Barr Stadium, and Farrell says the young Highlander is an “X-factor performer” whom England “will have to contain.”

Finishing with a glance at the progress of Lancaster’s team, he reiterated the importance of this trip – and some gut-wrenching reverses – in terms of building for the future.

“The scorelines tell us how close we are [to New Zealand]. Learning from those narrow defeats is the main thing. In 2007, the All Blacks learned a lot from their exit from the World Cup and at the minute they’re the best side in the world in terms of getting over the line.

“We can put that down to the fact that they’ve been there and done it and are very comfortable when the game is at its fiercest. We’ve got to learn those lessons as well.”