Have England struck upon a midfield mix capable of winning the 2019 Rugby World Cup ? They made a decent case in Oita on Saturday as they swept aside Australia to reach the semi-finals. Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade were the chosen ones in the 10, 12 and 13 jerseys, but that meant head coach Eddie Jones, in the biggest match of his four years in charge, trusting a trio denied to him since the Six Nations by Slade’s knee injury. Doing so meant jettisoning fly half George Ford, arguably England’s best performer of the pool stage, dumped to the bench now that the stakes had been raised. The switch not only worked on the day but suggested England will take some stopping at the tournament’s business end. For Farrell, restored to fly half from inside centre, there was vindication after some patchy showings in Japan that included an uncharacteristically disastrous goal kicking display in his previous outing, against Argentina. Flawless from the tee this time, he also supplied a standout moment in the shape of the stunning cut-out pass that sent Kyle Sinckler through the green-and-gold defence to claim England’s third try. When it comes to the crunch, England revert to type and choose their more cautious or physical pivot, usually alongside powerful but one-paced centres For Ford, there was a sense of history repeating after he was dropped by Jones’ predecessor Stuart Lancaster during the last World Cup, when England capitulated to Wales and Australia with Ford’s ability to influence matters minimised. The early part of Jones’ tenure drew considerably on a Ford-Farrell axis at 10 and 12 that gave England their most vibrant attacking game in years, and the results to match. Ford, after all, had demoted Farrell to second fiddle before: he was named World Rugby junior player of the year when he played 10 and Farrell 12 in England’s run to the final of the 2011 world under-20 championship. A Six Nations grand slam and title were won in Jones’ first two seasons in charge. Two years of stalled progress followed before Jones returned to Ford as fly half last month, and had his faith repaid. Widespread surprise at Ford’s latest omission came very much in the context of England historically binning their midfield – and with it seemingly their entire philosophy – mid-tournament, and their fortunes tending to nosedive. They used three different No 10s in 2007 and a revolving-door centre policy, then lacked the verve to back the in-form Toby Flood in 2011. In 1999, England leant towards installing a youthful Jonny Wilkinson as first-choice 10 before bringing back the conservative choice, Paul Grayson, and crashing out. When it comes to the crunch, England revert to type and choose their more cautious or physical pivot, usually alongside powerful but one-paced centres. In Slade, though, they gained a ball-playing option at 13 to compensate for Ford’s absence. Against the Wallabies, he interchanged at first receiver with Farrell, tending to step into that role at line-outs and taking the ball flat. Manu Tuilagi, too, was used as a first receiver with Slade outside and then Farrell beyond. Despite the efforts of Australia’s ball-poaching flankers David Pocock and Michael Hooper, England’s ball retention was accurate enough from Tuilagi’s inroads to make use of the decision-makers fanned out across their backline. Defensive assessments are skewed by the freakish brilliance they faced in Marika Koroibete, and, in flashes, Jordan Petaia and Kurtley Beale, but there was at least a lack of apparent ring rust or communication breakdown for Slade. Considering this new, old midfield threesome had last been seen together in England’s implosion against Scotland, shipping 38 unanswered points before Ford’s try salvaged a draw, Saturday’s quarter-final counted as a qualified success. Ford was on the field from the hour mark onwards, shunting Farrell back to inside centre, and his role hereon may be that of “finisher”. It was a blend that worked against Australia. The question now is whether England will stick with it.