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Will Carling hits out at criticism of England captain Owen Farrell

Will Carling hits out at Owen Farrell criticism
© Reuters
The former skipper believes Farrell is world class.

Owen Farrell has received a vote of confidence from one of his predecessors as England skipper amid ongoing scrutiny of the fly-half's captaincy.

Will Carling has acted as leadership mentor to Eddie Jones' squad since last autumn and has been present for all but four of Farrell's 13 matches at the helm in a sequence that dates back to the 2018 Six Nations.

Farrell was criticised for his confrontational style of communicating with referees during the summer tour to South Africa and in November.

And in the recent Six Nations he was unable to instigate a tactical shift in the face of collapses against Wales and Scotland that ultimately limited England to a runners-up finish.

The theme of crumbling when in command was established on his watch in South Africa where substantial leads were thrown away in the first two Tests of the 2-1 series defeat.

The concern is that England's fiercely-competitive talisman – viewed by Jones as their "spiritual leader" – is overburdened as he must also shoulder the goalkicking and playmaking duties as well as fulfilling the captaincy.

Carling, however, insists Farrell merely needs time to develop and points out that even 2003 World Cup winner Martin Johnson was supported by on-field lieutenants.

Martin Johnson was England 2003 World Cup-winning captain
Martin Johnson was England 2003 World Cup-winning captain (Hannah McKay/PA)

Carling said on Twitter: "No Grand Slam – time for theories! I read that Owen Farrell is not a leader! Captain less than a year!

"Why do pundits think leadership and fortunes of a team rest with one man? Did Johnson win the World Cup on his own?

"Farrell is a fearsome competitor – a young captain with a real desire to learn, improve. I might be biased, but he has all the traits that I would follow.

"He needs help & support from his senior players – and he will get it. I know articles need to be sensational to entice readers – but come on, the man is a world-class player and just needs time before he is the same as a captain."

Farrell is expected to lead England into this autumn's World Cup as Dylan Hartley fights to regain fitness following knee surgery.

While Carling insists the 27-year-old requires the chance to mature into the role, there are only four warm-up Tests between now and when Japan 2019 begins.

Alternatives for the captaincy are Saracens lock Maro Itoje and Leicester fly-half George Ford.


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