England face leadership crisis - Barnes

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    18 Mar 2019     Getty Images

Sunday Times columnist and former England and British & Irish Lions five-eighths Stuart Barnes said Owen Farrell was not the answer as England's leader.

"He was terrible," he said of Farrell's display in the 38-38 draw with Scotland which dropped England to fifth place in the Six Nations.

"He was not the only one, but he is the captain, and the fly-half. There are times when blame has to be apportioned. I am afraid this is one of them," Barnes said.

Whereas Scotland, led by their first five-eighths Finn Russell, had recovered from a halftime deficit of 7-31, England had imploded.

"Physically strong for 40 minutes, mentally weak for the second 40, England lack the mentality to win a World Cup," he said.

When its play disintegrated, there was no order, no shape and no sense and nothing had changed since the Stuart Lancaster era which ended at the roundrobin stage of the 2015 World Cup, Barnes said.

After halftime Russell took control of the game starting to weave 'those wondrous spells of his', he said.

"The looser the game, the more his magical imagination comes into its own. The teaser and tempter of England 12 months ago in Edinburgh was suddenly cutting England open with his startling array of touches.

"He thrives on fresh air, the oxygen of open space. Create claustrophobic conditions and Russell reacts badly. He is the intrinsic opposite of Farrell, who relishes controlled environments. Yet the England captain played faster and looser as England unravelled.

"Tactically questionable in Cardiff, there were no question marks here. Just a bloody great exclamation mark," he said.

England coach Eddie Jones had a long-term leadership problem and had a pre-season game and four friendlies in which to solve it ahead of the World Cup.

Without that the only way England could win the World Cup was by overpowering every team they played. They were, physically, outstanding.

In four of their games in the Six Nations they had been fantastic for long periods.

"On a roll, even the All Blacks would be tested by their combination of power, pace and no shortage of skill.

"But the beauty of rugby is the side of the sport overlooked in England; the rugby intelligence that makes the sport a rough and rugged chess.

"England, however, have an inability to counter an opponent who anticipates their moves, an inability to change their game when demanded – as happened against Scotland at Twickenham.

"They are one-dimensional. Amazing athletes, but rugby is about more than athleticism and even skill," Barnes said.