Premiership: Owen Farrell one of our standout England players from the weekend’s action as the Six Nations draws nearer

Time is running out for players to stamp their mark in the Premiership to earn a spot in Steve Borthwick’s maiden England squad, but there were some standout performers this weekend. It is reported that Borthwick will name a 36-man England squad on January 16 ahead of the Six Nations. We look at six players who may have improved their chances of selection through their performance in the Premiership.  Credit: Alamy
Time is running out for players to stamp their mark in the Premiership to earn a spot in Steve Borthwick’s maiden England squad, but there were some standout performers this weekend. It is reported that Borthwick will name a 36-man England squad on January 16 ahead of the Six Nations. We look at six players who may have improved their chances of selection through their performance in the Premiership. Credit: Alamy

Time is running out for players to stamp their mark in the Premiership as they look to earn a spot in Steve Borthwick’s maiden England squad, but there were some standout performers this weekend.

It is reported that Borthwick will name a 36-man England squad on January 16 ahead of the Six Nations. We look at six players who may have improved their chances of selection through their performance in the Premiership.

Owen Farrell

It wasn’t just Farrell’s brilliant pass to assist Alex Lewington that impressed this weekend as the Saracens fly-half produced a spectacular all-round performance to defeat Exeter Chiefs comprehensively.

In horrid conditions, Farrell dictated proceedings, steering his side to their largest victory over Exeter Chiefs in the Premiership.

He set Sean Maitland up for a try with a stellar grubber before his brilliant pass for Lewington, for a round-high of two try assists, while he also made a round-high of two break assists.

Borthwick will undoubtedly stamp his mark on the squad by bringing in fresh faces, but Farrell, a mainstay in Eddie Jones’ teams, must be one of the first names he adds in black ink.

His Test experience and leadership aside, the 31-year-old is the form fly-half in the Premiership. At the weekend, he ranked fourth in Round 14 for kicking metres (587), but more importantly, Saracens retained three of his 15 kicks – a joint round high.

The win over Exeter came off the back of a shock defeat to London Irish, Saracens’ first loss of the season, and coach Joe Shaw waxed lyrical about Farrell’s performance in the response and performance of the side.

“Trying to lead a team in those conditions is tough. It is where you see the ultimate game managers and leaders, and Owen is still at the very forefront of that,” he said.

“When you look at the whole of this season, and you see some of the performances we have put in and the tries we have scored, the person who has been at the centre of that is Owen, showing off his skill set.

“His kicks into space put Exeter under pressure, and he backed it up with how physical he was in defence. I thought he was superb.

“If you know anything about rugby, you realise what an unbelievable and special talent we have had for this generation.”

Tom Curry

Another who is almost certainly going to remain in the England squad as they transition from the Jones era to the Borthwick era.

Curry put in a strong performance against Borthwick’s former side, as the Sale Sharks claimed their biggest win over Leicester Tigers in their 133-year history of playing against them.

Combing superbly with his brother Ben, Tom topped the tackle count for Sale, making 12 tackles without missing and impressed with his 15 carries, beating four defenders and gaining over 40 metres. He also made a joint round high of four offloads and hit 24 rucks in a dynamic performance.

It’s the kind of performance we have become accustomed to from Curry, but hitting this kind of form so close to the Test window will please the new England head coach.

Borthwick and his assistant coach Kevin Sinfield were in attendance for the match, and Sale defence coach Mike Forshaw hopes Tom and Ben can make the England squad.

“We’re a different side with the Curry twins in the team. Both of them were magnificent, and they just hunt teams down. Steve Borthwick was here tonight and saw what Tom and Ben are capable of,” he said after the match.

George McGuigan

The new head coach will likely go with the tried and tested options of Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jamie George for his top two hooker positions, but the third hooker in the squad is wide open.

Jack Walker was in the running under Jones last year, and while he has impressed for Harlequins this term, McGuigan has quietly gone about his business scoring tries for Newcastle and is now starting to make his mark with Gloucester.

McGuigan put in a sturdy shift against Leicester Tigers on debut in Round 13 and backed that up with another strong showing against London Irish off the bench. He made all eight attempted tackles, and while the Exiles did manage to steal two of his lineout throws, his 12/14 completed lineouts ranked him in the top four in the League in Round 14.

The departure of Matthew Proudfoot is further proof that Borthwick is determined to get England’s set-pieces back to the highs of 2019, and McGuigan could aid him in that respect with his 91% success rate in the league.

Lewis Ludlam

Ludlam fit the cliche of ‘leading from the front’ as Northampton Saints dismantled Harlequins steering the side to a dominant 46-17 win on New Year’s Day.

Their 46-point tally is the most Saints have scored against the Famous Quarters in a Premiership match, and Ludlam led the charge on attack making 19 rampaging carries, gaining 76 running metres.

No forward made as many metres as the Saints skipper at the weekend, while he also made 30 metres in contact as he pumped his legs through tackles, consistently getting his side over the advantage line.

He further contributed on attack with a lineout win, two offloads, and five passes while making all seven tackles in a remarkable 55-minute shift.

Ludlam’s explosive power on both sides of the ball and lineout capabilities make him a contender for the blindside flanker role, but his versatility could also make him an ideal candidate for the replacement back-rower role.

Ted Hill

Staying with the England back row, Hill is putting his hand up for selection once again, having yet to add to his two Test caps in 2018.

Again, it is worth noting the ridiculous amount of options Borthwick has in the back row positions, but Hill is pressing for another shot and could become a regular in the squad in the coming years.

Since moving to Bath, Hill has been in superb form, and he showed it again in the win over Newcastle Falcons.

He had another solid display in all facets of the game as he carried strongly into contact, scored a try, made his tackles and piled into the rucks. He also denied the Falcons a try, making an exceptional cover tackle.

There might be little flash to his performances on most weekends, but he gets stuck in and gets the job done in an abrasive manner with little error.

Tommy Freeman

A key cog in the Saints’ attacking machine that tore Harlequins apart, Freeman ticked all the right boxes on New Year’s Day that could see him retained in the England squad.

He roamed around the pitch, punching holes in the defence making three linebreaks, just one less than the round high from James Ramm.

His try assist for Ramm was absolutely brilliant as the pair pounced on an error from Andre Esterhuizen and ruthlessly made the most of the chance with an excellent 2-1.

He showed his strength by making 28 metres in contact and completed all of his eight tackles.

Jones replaced Freeman at halftime in the loss to South Africa in November, and the 21-year-old said after the win over Harlequins that he hopes to force his way back into the squad, having taken some lessons from that match.

“In a Test match, you might not see the ball for a good 10 minutes. It’s about staying alert, staying in the game, and not switching off,” he said.

“Eddie obviously helped me a lot. He believed in me, which was really nice. I had a look back at the South Africa game and spoke to the relevant coaches. Hopefully, I can get myself back involved.”

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