Former British & Irish Lions and England flyhalf Stuart Barnes says Owen Farrell’s tackle technique could put England in deep trouble during their upcoming Test series against Australia.
Farrell has found himself in the headlines for the wrong reasons after making his injury return for Saracens in their Premiership win over Bristol Bears on Saturday.
In his first game in four months, Farrell kicked 12 points to help Saracens win 27-23, but was once again involved in a no-arms tackle, something he has made a habit of throughout his career.
During the second half of the match, Farrell appeared to drive into Bristol back Piers O’Conor with only his shoulder, without the use of his arms.
The tackle was reviewed by the TMO, but referee Christophe Ridley said that there was only shoulder-to-shoulder contact and that the tackle was passive, only awarding Bristol a penalty and deciding not to card Farrell.
Writing in a column for the Times UK, Barnes says the England captain could be seen as more of a liability for his national team, given the abundance of red cards being issued for dangerous tackles.
“For all the questions asked about Marcus Smith’s lack of size and perceived defensive weaknesses, Eddie Jones’s first-choice England captain has returned to the sport with the same tackling issues as he left it,” Barnes writes.
“There was not even a hint of arm-wrapping, which would have offered a display of legality. It wasn’t a swinging arm and it wasn’t malicious but if he commits a similar infringement in Australia this summer, England could find themselves in trouble.
“He’s as hard as nails. But until he can warn roaming forwards and charging centres out of his defensive corridor with the controlled violence of Jonny Wilkinson, his non-tackling technique is more of a negative than a positive.
“A solid shoulder seems a strange aspect to single out but the Test game is hugely aware of its audience and the obsession with health and safety occasionally borders on the paranoid. The game will ensure it does its best to protect players from Farrell’s edgy aggression; maybe even from himself.”
England will travel to Australia in July for a three-Test series against the Wallabies. Many expect Farrell to return to the team, after missing the entirety of England’s Six Nations campaign.