Andy Farrell has insisted England are developing into one of the most feared defensive sides in world rugby, even though they missed 21 tackles in the win against France.
Farrell is not concerned with those bald statistics from the 23-13 RBS Six Nations victory, arguing that some missed tackles should be seen as a natural consequence of the high-pressure defensive system England use to rattle the opposition.
Courtney Lawes was identified as a case in point. Lawes was criticised for the number of tackles he missed against France, including one in the build-up to Wesley Fofana’s try. Farrell acknowledged the miss on Fofana was a mistake but Lawes’ main job was to instil fear and doubt in the minds of the French. And when Italy arrive at Twickenham on Sunday, Farrell vowed that Grand Slam-chasing England will be ready to send them into some very dark places.
“Everyone goes off the missed tackle statistics. I look at it differently,” Farrell said. “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’ 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, ‘S***, where is Courtney Lawes?’.”