England defence finds favour
England defence finds favourSHARE
Andy Farrell believes England's defence is reaching world-class standard, even though they missed 21 tackles against France.
Nevertheless, England defeated Les Bleus 23-13 at Twickenham last time out to remain on course for a first Six Nations Grand Slam since their World Cup-winning year of 2003.
And former dual code international Farrell, now a member of England's backroom staff, said missing tackles was a consequence of the high-pressure pressing game the side were opting for in defence.
France centre Wesley Fofana scored a superb solo try at Twickenham, with England missing several tackles including one from flank Courtney Lawes in the build-up.
But Farrell, speaking ahead of Italy's visit to Twickenham on Sunday, insisted creating uncertainty in the minds of opponents was just as a big a factor in a successful defensive system as making the tackles themselves.
"Everyone goes off the missed tackle statistics. I look at it differently," Farrell said Tuesday.
"I wouldn't want us to be a passive defensive side that back off and doesn't put pressure on the opposition. If you do that, there will be misses here and there.
"There is a difference between a glaring one-on-one missed tackle when you are isolated [like Lawes's on Fofana] and the team going, 'Let's go and get them'.
"If somebody like Courtney gets off the line and puts the fear of whatever into somebody's mind, the next time that guy is taking the ball up he is not thinking pretty thoughts.
"He is thinking, 'Shit', where is Courtney Lawes?'.
"We are a side that likes to force errors on the opposition and make sure they realise it will be a physical, hard game. It is definitely part of our mantra. That is why we are hard to play against.
"We want to have a reputation that we are a force to be reckoned with as far as defence is concerned," added assistant coach Farrell, the father of the injured England fly-half Owen.
Farrell senior, asked if England's defence was something their opponents feared, replied: "If you ask most teams we have played against so far, they would back that up."
Owen Farrell, widely regarded as England's best defensive No 10 since Jonny Wilkinson, is set to miss Sunday's match but Andy Farrell had every confidence in likely stand-in Toby Flood.
"A lot goes down that fly-half channel. Toby has been dealing with that all his life. He is definitely very comfortable in that area," Farrell said of the 55-times capped stand-off, now England's most experienced international.
This England side made a name for themselves with a record 38-21 win over world champions New Zealand in December, since when they've defeated Scotland, Ireland and France, and Farrell said: "Building a reputation is massively important.
"Teams can already see the difference in what we are trying to do.
"There will be other implications we need to be mindful of along the way. No defensive system is unbreakable.
"Teams will play against us in a variety of ways and we have to be good enough to deal with all types of scenarios."