Owen Farrell's performance against Scotland was undoubtedly a seminal moment in his international career. He showed, for the first time, an adventurous side to his game; that he could attack the gain-line and throw audacious passes.
It was a joy for England fans to witness. For all his kicking ability and undoubted temperament, he was yet to show this aspect of his game. The coaches were convinced that he had it, and last Saturday it finally came out.
The night before, up in Newcastle, another young prodigy who has been hailed as a future England fly-half was having a rather more torrid time of things. George Ford, who is two years Farrell's junior, found himself floundering in the mud as the England Saxons slumped to a 13-9 defeat against Scotland A.
The young Leicester player, who has signed for Bath from the beginning of next season, gifted Scotland the opening try within minutes of kick-off when his misguided up-and-under fell into the hands of pacey winger Duncan Taylor.
Ford never seemed to recover, and scuffed several place kicks over the course of the match too. Granted, conditions were horrible underfoot for the kickers, but it is an area of his game that he has been struggling with this season. His average in the premiership this season is just 68%, while by comparison Farrell's is 81%.
Farrell and Ford came up through the junior ranks together, and it was always Ford who was preferred in the outside half role at age group level. He even won the IRB Young Player of the Year award in 2011, becoming the first Englishman to do so.
Why is it, then, that Farrell is the one making the headlines for the national team? Certainly, those two years' extra experience are important. Let us not forget that two years ago Farrell was barely breaking into the Saracens team - he only made his international debut this time last year. Ford still has plenty of time to catch up.
What is equally true, however, is that Farrell has been given vastly more opportunities to play first-team rugby than Ford. He is a consistent starter for Saracens (although not necessarily always in his favoured No.10 shirt), and playing week in week out is a pre-requisite of international recognition.
This is perhaps why young Ford has agreed a move away from the Leicester Tigers, his current club, for next season. Toby Flood, another England international, is the undisputed first choice at the Tigers, and a frustrated Ford has had to bide his time on the bench this season.
It is a risky move, no doubt about it. The Tigers are renowned for producing international players - Flood himself can attest to that, as it was his move there that ultimately signalled his progression to the national team.
Ford, however, has decided to join Bath, a team with a great vision for the future but yet to put it into practice on the pitch. Ironically, they also have on their books the young Scottish fly-half who completely outplayed Ford last Friday - Tom Heathcote. One suspects he might have something to say about Ford waltzing in and claiming the No.10 shirt.
Farrell and Ford are both outstanding players for men their age. Farrell's temperament may trump that of Ford, but the Leicester man certainly seems to have a more rounded game. The potential he showed last season may not have been seen yet this campaign, but it certainly can't have gone away completely.
Ford will come good again, and when he does it is certain to herald an almighty battle for that England shirt.
- Sports & Recreation
- Owen Farrell