Analysis: Farrell leads by example as England hit the heights

When the final whistle blew and the Wallabies had been walloped, Owen Farrell allowed himself one solitary punch of the Oita air.

When the final whistle blew and the Wallabies had been walloped, Owen Farrell allowed himself one solitary punch of the Oita air.

This victory, probably England’s most complete showing at a Rugby World Cup since the past masters of 2003, was certainly worth celebrating.

But no sooner had England’s captain let rip, than he was back to the basics. Calming down his players, jabbing his temple and reminding them – there is work still be done here in Japan, and plenty of it.

But before attention turns to Yokohama and a first England semi-final in 12 years, for a moment let us revel in this ruthless Red Rose rout.

All week, the talk of the town was whether Eddie Jones had got his team selection right. That talk looks pretty cheap now.

Farrell was restored to the No.10 jersey, and epitomised everything Jones wanted from his team.

There was nothing ‘clunky’ here. Every kick was slotted, every pass was fizzed – Kyle Sinckler’s try will live long in the memory for the prop’s galloping grin but do not forget Farrell’s defence-splitter that released him.

He also made 17 tackles from fly-half, no-one else in England’s back-line managed double figures.

The Saracens star was back to the form – and position – that makes him such a born-winner.

George Ford has been superb this World Cup so far, but Farrell is Jones’ main man, always has been and, after this showing, probably always will be.

But it was not just about the technical stuff, this was an England performance that also answered a lot of questions about their top two inches.

During the 2019 Guinness Six Nations, the Calcutta Cup specifically, it all came to a head. England’s tendency to throw away leads was becoming chronic.

Jones spoke out about it, and admitted it needed addressing.

Whatever they have done, and there have been at least two different sports psychologists brought into camp this summer, is working.

Out here in Oita, and in truth all throughout this World Cup, England have been cold and clinical. Australia started each half like a runaway train, but England rode the storm both times.

Their defensive line bent under an Aussie onslaught but it never broke and then they went right up the other end and did what they do best.

On the occasion of his 50th cap, Jonny May was the man chosen to lead England out onto the pitch at the outset.

The winger sprinted into the clear out of the tunnel onto the Oita turf, and Australia barely laid a finger on him for the next two hours.

His try double in the first half was all about his clinical instincts, he touched the ball three times and three times only, but in those three touches came two tries. That’s 19 in his last 25 Tests if you’re counting.

The first was a simple run-in, every winger loves those, and the second was all about his speed, chasing down a Henry Slade grubber to dot down and double their early advantage.

But it was probably his second half that should be more fondly remembered for it was then that his all-round skillset came to the fore.

He bundled Reece Hodge into touch, he chased and harried Kurtley Beale with charge-downs, he carried into the teeth of the Wallaby defence and he even came across from his left wing to try and chase down Marika Koroibete at the death.

He appeared to twinge something thereafter and came off immediately. Jones and every England fan will hope it is nothing too serious.

Tom Curry is still only 21 years old, and has only won 17 caps for his country. An openside flanker by trade, he is now wearing No.6 for England.

That is a heavy load for young shoulders to bear but he continues to rise to the occasion.

This might have been the best showing yet in his young career, and it came on the biggest stage.

Alongside Sam Underhill, his twin destroyer in the back row, they were ferocious and feisty in equal measure.

The Curry tackle on Reece Hodge in the first half was emblematic of what England’s defence under John Mitchell is aiming for.

Underhill couldn’t help but grin when it came up on the big screen, these kids were enjoying it.

Against the best in the business in Michael Hooper and David Pocock, England’s back-row boys were having fun and it showed.

That Curry also chipped in a turnover on the deck, and produced the try-scoring pass for their opening try says something about his all-round talents.

Indeed, if it wasn’t for a late drop at the lineout, you would say his performance was perfect.

England have only shipped three tries in this World Cup so far. Their defence is the backbone of their approach and it appears to be getting better.

The key to this win, was undoubtedly the goal-line stand on the hour mark under their own posts.

Phase after phase, England repelled the Wallabies as Isi Naisarani and Samu Kerevi came charging at the line.

It was Sinckler who produced the key turnover, because you just can’t keep that man out of the headlines.

England made over 100 tackles more than the Wallabies on Saturday. Their defence does not just stop opponents though, as Mitchell likes to remind his charges, it is their first form of attack.

Dominant tackles, the sort of which Mako Vunipola has made his calling card and here he looked like he had never been away, slow teams down.

But interceptions were a key part of their threat in this year’s Championship, and Henry Slade is becoming a master.

Back in the No.13 jersey here, he reads play so well on the edge and picked off Pocock early on before dinking through for May.

Their set-piece was not flawless, particularly at scrum time where Australia gave as good as they got.

There are still things to work on, as Farrell is no doubt already reminding them, but this performance touched new heights for them out here in Japan.

It will take something special to beat them.