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SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Owen Farrell has to face Johnny Sexton at number 10

England may have made a mediocre start to the Six Nations, but they are the only team in the first two rounds claiming a win on the field and now, with two home games on the jump, they are in a very strong position to finish days before the championship.

I don’t see Eddie Jones making many changes for the Ireland game. His decision seems to have been made with regard to Tom Curry at No. 8, although he clearly misses the point.

Of course Curry can do well at number 8 – he is a great rugby player – but by playing him there, England robs himself of perhaps the best flanker in the world.

Owen Farrell is one of the world's best at number 10 and that is where England needs him now

Owen Farrell is one of the world’s best at number 10 and that is where England needs him now

Farrell in direct opposition with Johnny Sexton would provide a fascinating fight

Farrell in direct opposition with Johnny Sexton would provide a fascinating fight

Farrell in direct opposition with Johnny Sexton would provide a fascinating fight

After a bad start, the win over Scotland left Eddie Jones in a good position

After a bad start, the win over Scotland left Eddie Jones in a good position

After a bad start, the win over Scotland left Eddie Jones in a good position

A lot of attention will be focused on the two captains, Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell, and I would like to see them in direct opposition on fly-half.

I have not always been a supporter of Farrell at number 10 for England, simply because I always want two play makers and George Ford and Farrell offer that. But the World Cup Final convinced me to change my mind.

My main reason for switching is that although Farrell is an accomplished number 12, he is one of the world’s best tens and that is where England needs him.

See it in a different way; I’m sure Sexton could make a very decent Test 12, but why would Ireland bother with that if he played 10? I feel that if an Ireland or indeed a Lions coach asked Sexton to play in the middle, he might get a very short and immediate answer!

Farrell in top form at 10 can continue a team, as we saw during England’s excellent win over Ireland in Dublin last season.

Midfield that day was Farrell, Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade and, all in all, that game is still the best display under the Jones regime, even better than the semi-final against New Zealand.

It would be tough for Ford, but Test Rugby is full of difficult selection decisions. The only thing I can promise you is Farrell’s father, Andy, that he would like to see his son play 12 and not 10!

Farrell is a young leader, but he is not the best at managing referees during the game

Farrell is a young leader, but he is not the best at managing referees during the game

Farrell is a young leader, but he is not the best at managing referees during the game

Both Farrell and Sexton deviate from one extreme to the other in their dealings with referees

Both Farrell and Sexton deviate from one extreme to the other in their dealings with referees

Both Farrell and Sexton deviate from one extreme to the other in their dealings with referees

When observing Sexton and Farrell, I want to talk about one aspect of both of their make-ups. They are good captains – although not as experienced as leaders – but cannot properly treat or ‘manage’ referees, something that is traditionally considered an essential part of the captain. Although for me the most responsibility of a captain comes into play during training and construction.

Both are fiery characters who have a lot to say on the field, but it is fascinating and sometimes funny to see how they swing the referees from one extreme to the other.

On some occasions they are clever, warlike and use their position as captains to question almost every decision, while on other occasions they appreciate being a little complete, trying the diplomatic, almost conforming approach, and saving their real ire. for what they consider a grade of injustice.

I’m not sure if both work. Martin Johnson was a great captain, but he was not a very good manager and cajoler of referees and I am polite.

Martin Johnson was a brilliant leader but was not a good manager or cajoler of referees

Martin Johnson was a brilliant leader but was not a good manager or cajoler of referees

Martin Johnson was a brilliant leader but was not a good manager or cajoler of referees

I’ve always assigned that task to someone else, usually the scrum half, and Matt Dawson was excellent at it.

The thing about scrum halves – which are all frustrated referees – is that although only the captain is meant to talk to the referee, the No. 9 develops a natural dialogue during a game. They work with and constantly talk to the referee at scrums while the lineouts are formed and at the base of rucks or mauls. It is very easy and undisputed for a scrum half to have a quiet word with the ref.

I have always asked Matt to loudly repeat all the referee’s instructions and pass them on to the team, first because the referee wants all players to hear it and those instructions must be followed, and secondly it gives the impression that the referee listen to him and work hard to make his calls.

The scrum half is in charge of all instructions from the referees and the quasi-coaching that goes on – “back foot, hands away, go back to the side, let go, use it” – really works and so many referees said to me and they publicly enjoyed “coaching” England while the players seemed to be listening to and following their instructions.

Matt Dawson had the responsibility to deal with referees during the reign of Johnson as captain

Matt Dawson had the responsibility to deal with referees during the reign of Johnson as captain

Matt Dawson had the responsibility to deal with referees during the reign of Johnson as captain

Matt Dawson had the responsibility to deal with referees during the reign of Johnson as captain

Matt Dawson had the responsibility to deal with referees during the reign of Johnson as captain

Matt Dawson had the responsibility to deal with referees during the reign of Johnson as captain

I think Conor Murray plays a similar role for Ireland by taking a little heat off Johnny. I would like to see Ben Youngs or Willie Heinz do it a bit more.

My other early thought about this game is: what an opportunity for Andy Farrell to go back to Twickenham as the man in charge of Ireland.

He has made a great start this season as head coach and, although I believe England will win, I would also love to see an English coach like Farrell taking such a remarkable scalp.

We really have a number of exceptional English coaches.

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