Owen Farrell: TMO referrals slowed the game down
Owen Farrell insists England's plan of using their conditioning as a weapon in their quest for World Cup glory could be undermined by the lengthy TMO referrals that have scarred the opening weekend of the tournament.
A gruelling 10-week summer training camp, including a fortnight at altitude, has given Stuart Lancaster's men the conviction they are among the fittest teams in the tournament with lock Joe Launchbury stating they want to take opponents to "dark places".
The aim of capitalising on this strength hit a buffer in Friday night's 35-11 victory over Fiji, however, when six TMO referrals lasting a total of 10 minutes and eight seconds contributed to their inability to test the Islanders' stamina.
The first half alone lasted 53 minutes and Farrell hopes the repeated consultations with the TMO will be a temporary feature of the World Cup, but hints at the frustration they caused England at Twickenham.
"There was a lot of ball out-of-play time so we didn't really get going as a team which I thought was tough, but that is due to the circumstances," Farrell said.
"I think the ball out-of-play time maybe took it out of us at times. Once we got going again I thought it was good again.
"We want to keep the ball in play for as long as we can, we want to play rugby, we want to make the decisions and we want to stay infield as much as we can. I'm sure there are other teams that want to do that as well.
"It's the start of a massive tournament and there were a few stoppages that slowed the game down.
"They are trying to get as many decisions right as possible and that takes a bit more time.
"As the tournament goes on there will probably be a bit more feel for how the game is going and it will probably speed up a bit."
Farrell is among several players, including Saracens team-mates Richard Wigglesworth and number eight Billy Vunipola, who are pressing hard to start Saturday's pivotal match against Wales after impressing off the bench.
England's set-piece remained shaky against Fiji and they lost three of their nine put-ins at the scrum, including one on their own five-metre line, and there is a fear that the team is in the unusual position of being underpowered up-front.
Wales' game is based on launching waves of hard-running ball carriers, but Farrell is convinced they will be stopped at Twickenham.
"Yes definitely we can match Wales physically in the forwards. We back ourselves up front against anybody," Farrell said.
"These are the games that you love playing in. We'll build it up nicely this week and make sure that we are ready for it.
"I think the scrum still will be a strength in this tournament. I don't know what went on against Fiji and why things happened during that game, but I know everyone here will work as hard as they possibly can do to make sure it is in the best place possible for us to go forward.
"The lads are international rugby players who were playing at the highest level. It will always be a case that the front-row lads will be looking at the set piece inside out to perform at the weekend."
Farrell believes Fiji have the capacity to trouble Wales and Australia when they meet the other Pool A heavyweights.
"I think they definitely have an upset in them, especially with some dry ball. They have got some game-breakers in their team and different kind of game-breakers as well," Farrell said.