Owen Farrell is only getting better as he enters his 30s and deserves to lead the England squad to the 2023 Rugby World Cup, according to his predecessor Dylan Hartley. However, Hartley believes the fall internationals provide the perfect time to pass Farrell to the inside center so brilliant young opener Marcus Smith can have an extended run at No.10.
Hartley is well aware that Eddie Jones knocked out a number of senior players, including himself, James Haskell and Chris Robshaw, as the final Rugby World Cup began to unfold. Still, he believes Farrell still has a lot to offer, despite the emergence of 22-year-old Smith.
“Everyone has a lifespan, but Owen is not at the end of his lifespan,” said Hartley, who has played 97 tests for England over 16 years and will be a cover expert by Amazon Prime Video of Fall Internationals.
“He’s just getting better and better trained. Brilliant things don’t motivate him, success does. He adds so much on the court, first and foremost, and so much outside. “
“He is your accomplished professional, through his diligence, his training, his preparation.
“When you have that in your surroundings with your captain, it just rubs off everywhere. Do I see him being replaced before the 2023 World Cup? No.”
Hartley still believes Smith, who led the Harlequins to their first Premiership title in nine years before making his debut for England and the British and Irish Lions, deserves to start against Tonga next month.
“I’m not saying put all the young kids in it, but it’s a really bold statement of what this England team is if Marcus gets a hit,” he said.
“It’s not fanfare, it’s justified. It does all the silky flash stuff that captures Instagram reels and YouTube highlights, but its basics are pretty solid as well. He is not scared. He is physical. And he makes his tackles. There are a lot of half-flies who throw the ball and have that flair, but fear the physique. But it is none of those things.
“He’s still a young kid, but the sooner we do it the better for 2023,” Hartley said. “Eddie obviously needs to ask himself, ‘Who is my opener for this World Cup final in France?’ and rebuild.
“It would be a show of confidence and a show to everyone of how they want to move this team forward. I would like to see it. I say, give him the keys to Grandpa’s car, let him take a ride and be surprised if the car comes back.
Smith impressed for England in July, beating the United States 43-29 and Canada 70-14 before being selected as a replacement for the Lions tour of South Africa.
Despite not participating in any tests, Lions coach Warren Gatland later claimed the 22-year-old “was going to be a superstar of the game.”
Hartley agrees, but he believes England can find a way to accommodate Smith and Farrell at 10 and 12, with Manu Tuilagi at 13. – play, kick, defend and then seize opportunities when they present themselves – like Jonny May’s wonderful try against Ireland, ”he said. “But I think he would benefit from a more offensive mindset.”
“I don’t think we should be catastrophic and alarmist around Owen’s position – he played 10 and 12 on this team. Just because Marcus is playing so well doesn’t mean Owen is gone. Owen does the basics very well, and the credit he has in the bank with Eddie – who ultimately chooses the team – just like I had credit, and his job is not invisible. Just because Marcus is playing so well doesn’t mean Owen is gone. I would love to see him play with Marcus.