Lawrence Dallaglio backs new England coach Steve Borthwick to move Owen Farrell as captain

Time for change? Owen Farrell  (Getty Images)
Time for change? Owen Farrell (Getty Images)

Lawrence Dallaglio believes Owen Farrell should be England’s “spiritual leader” – but not captain under Steve Borthwick.

World Cup winner Dallaglio has urged new head coach Borthwick to move Farrell to fly-half, and tipped Ellis Genge as England’s new captain.

Borthwick will name his first England squad on Monday, with Farrell due to be available for the Six Nations opener against Scotland on Saturday, February 4 after suspension.

Dallaglio hailed Farrell as one of England’s greatest-ever players, but believes Borthwick’s new-look England must use the 31-year-old differently in order to maximise his impact.

“Owen Farrell is a brilliant, brilliant rugby player and it’s in the blood,” Dallaglio told Standard Sport.

“He’ll go down as one of the greatest of all time. But I think we need to unlock his footballing ability and his potential in a way we haven’t seen enough in an England jersey.

“So I would go with either Ellis Genge or Maro Itoje as captain – but probably Genge at this moment in time. I think Genge brings England a point of difference, I think he’s a very straight talker.

“I’d still expect Farrell to be the spiritual leader, the talisman and the guy that’s driving the team. And when the team are in a huddle I’d still expect him to be driving the team forward.

“But I just think England have to do something different to almost announce themselves; it’s a real opportunity.

“Steve Borthwick was named captain of England by Martin Johnson, no less, in his first game in charge. Steve Borthwick decided to name Ellis Genge as captain of Leicester. Maybe that raised a few eyebrows but it proved a masterstroke as Leicester won the Premiership.”

Dallaglio captained England but was also led by Martin Johnson in the Test team that claimed 2003 World Cup glory.

‘Farrell will go down as one of the greatest of all time’ (PA)
‘Farrell will go down as one of the greatest of all time’ (PA)

The former Wasps talisman believes Saracens fulcrum Farrell would be wholly comfortable playing under a new skipper, and in fact could thrive without the leadership tag.

The 50-year-old thinks England would be better-served being led by a forward, especially when it comes to the careful balance of managing referees.

Bristol prop Genge numbered among the vice-captains under Eddie Jones, while Saracens lock Itoje has been tipped as a future England skipper for the course of his career.

“Owen Farrell is a world-class player, and of course he’s a brilliant leader and a brilliant captain,” said Dallaglio. “But I just think the best situation for me is if the captaincy is taken on by one of the forwards.

“That’s nothing to do with Owen Farrell’s ability as captain: the majority of penalties and free-kicks are given away in and around the breakdown and the scrum.

“Therefore, the relationship with the referee and the game management, the referee’s game management and your game management as a team, is just so much easier if the captain is up front.

“I’m still not comfortable with a captain having to walk aggressively towards the referee to have a conversation. It doesn’t sit comfortably with me and it doesn’t sit comfortably with referees.

Ellis Genge is the favourite to replace Farrell. (Getty Images)
Ellis Genge is the favourite to replace Farrell. (Getty Images)

“Steve might stick with Owen Farrell which will be absolutely fine because he’s been doing it for a long, long time. But if you give it to a forward you’re not losing anything, because Farrell will still be Farrell the captain, Farrell the world-class player.

“He’s not about to suddenly not be like that just because he’s not captain. I wouldn’t want him to change his role in any way, still be that spiritual leader, that dominant player.”

Farrell featured at inside centre for the duration of the autumn campaign that cost Jones his job.

The 101-cap playmaker started at 12 with Harlequins’ Marcus Smith at fly-half across the autumn Tests, but England failed to click an ambitious, expanded gameplan into gear.

Dallaglio believes Farrell can best serve England at 10, with Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade in the centres, and Smith on the bench as an attacking change option.

“There’s a reason why Mark McCall doesn’t pick Owen Farrell at 12,” said Dallaglio. “I’m sure if you sat down with Mark McCall and asked him ‘why don’t you pick him at 12?’ He’d say ‘because that’s not where he plays’.

“When Alex Goode is fit, when Alex Lozowski’s fit, they still play Owen Farrell at 10. There’s nothing wrong with having Owen Farrell and Marcus Smith on the pitch at the same time, but should they both start together? No.

“There’s more to Owen Farrell’s game, and the challenge for England is to find a way to unlock that potential.”