Oval Talk

RFU will regret Farrell decision

Oval Talk

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Stuart Lancaster, Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree are unveiled at Twickenham

Stuart Lancaster, Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree

England's brave new world under Stuart Lancaster was bound to hit a few snags but not many were predicting that his coaching staff would pose the first problem.

It is surprising, if not understandable, why Andy Farrell turned down the opportunity to become England's full-time defence coach.

It would have meant leaving Saracens, the club which gave him his chance in Union and helped him make the England squad for the 2007 World Cup.

Farrell has a sense of loyalty and gratitude towards Saracens. The last thing he would want to do is annoy them and burn any bridges especially as he has to think about the career of Owen, his son.

However, whatever the reason for Farrell rejecting England, it now means Lancaster faces a very difficult summer tour to South Africa.

Farrell coupled the roles of defence coach and backs coach which brought cohesiveness to England as a unit. It will not be the same against the Boks.

Lancaster is highly unlikely to find a like-for-like replacement in time. In fact it will probably be two new coaches as the number of coaches who can do the dual roles of defence coach and backs coach are at a premium. That will potentially be another step back with two new coaches pulling in two different directions.

If the reason for losing Farrell was that he wants to complete the job with Saracens then fair enough. The heavy defeat to Clermont Auvergne in the Heineken Cup last week shows there is still a lot of work to be done. But why then did Saracens and the RFU hold two weeks of negotiations?

As ever, it appears the issue boiled down to money and how much compensation the RFU were willing to pay. Saracens did not want to lose their head coach unless it was for a significant amount of money but the RFU were never going to meet their demands.

Lancaster has been very open that it was a team effort along with Farrell and forwards coach Graham Rowntree for the relatively successful Six Nations campaign England enjoyed. But Lancaster is left to pick up the pieces and will have to rethink his strategy for trying to make England world beaters once again.

Who is the likely replacement for Farrell? New Zealand's Wayne Smith is looking the most likely candidate; he was part of Graham Henry's winning team in last year's World Cup but is contracted to Waikato Chiefs until September.

So for the South Africa tour there is likely to be another interim — London Irish's Mike Catt or Clermont Auvergne's Alex King are candidates — but England will have to wait another five months before they can move forward as a solid unit.

Had the RFU stuck by Lancaster that team could have been in place last week. Was their reluctance to land Farrell because they had other names in mind?

Had Farrell been the number one choice he would have been unveiled alongside Lancaster a few weeks ago. The RFU will come to regret this decision while Lancaster and the fans will begrudge it.

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