Farrell happy to play with Ford


Published: Friday 21st November 2014 by The News Editor

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Owen Farrell is happy to concede centre stage to George Ford when the former school friends start their first England match together in Saturday’s QBE International against Samoa.

Ford, the Aviva Premiership’s form fly-half, has been told “you’re the boss, so get bossing” by Stuart Lancaster as the head coach seeks to address the lack of tried and tested depth in the position.

As Lancaster’s first choice 10 for most of his reign, Farrell has become accustomed to the role of team general and the vocal 23-year-old is at ease with the responsibility of giving orders.

But against the big-hitting Pacific Islanders he must play second fiddle at inside centre, taking directions from Ford and relinquishing the goalkicking duties he treasures.

“It’s George’s first start so it’s good for him to have the whole responsibility. I know he’ll be brilliant,” Farrell said.

“He’ll love it and it’s good that he’s going into the game with the whole package. I agree with what’s happening. I’ll concentrate on my job, which is helping him out.

“I like the responsibility of goalkicking, but I’ll not be too down heartened about not doing it because I have a job to concentrate on.

“If George asks me if I want a crack at one, I’ll say yes! Him doing the kicking hasn’t stopped be practising this week, but I’m sure I won’t be needed.”

Despite his competitive nature, Farrell does not resent losing his cherished fly-half jersey to his former England age grade team-mate.

“I’m chuffed to be playing. I didn’t for one second think that even if things were going brilliantly and we were winning every game that I was going to start every game from now until whenever,” Farrell said.

“I’ve never been that naive to think I’d play every game. This is a chance to try something different.”

Lancaster has been longing for the chance to start Ford and Farrell as twin playmakers, a partnership that has been seen only been seen briefly during the Bath 21-year-old’s previous appearances as a replacement.

But the selection has drawn criticism with Lancaster forced to deny Farrell is ‘undroppable’ in response to his poor performances in the three-point defeats by New Zealand and South Africa.

Former England scrum-halves Austin Healey and Matt Dawson have also questioned the logic of picking a fly-half like Ford, who stands flat and attacks the line, only to then deploy a limited offensive midfield outside him in Farrell and Brad Barritt.

There is also a sense of stagnation as Farrell and Barritt was the centre combination used by Lancaster in the first two games of his reign in February 2012.

The head coach referenced Mike Catt’s occasional presence alongside Jonny Wilkinson in the 2003 World Cup-winning team in explaining the need to develop the option of having two fly-halves in the backline and Farrell gives his view on how his partnership with Ford will work.

“As far as I see it you’ve got another 10 playing at 12. A lot depends on what you want from your 12,” Farrell said.

“I’m not an out and out classic centre. What we will try to do is get some organisation to hopefully give a couple of options. I’ll obviously be playing one pass out, but I’ll still be playing the same way.

“I don’t think I’ll pipe down, it’ll be a different way of talking, more about feeding information in.

“It will be more about giving George options and there will be times where I’m sure we’ll swap around. We can afford to interchange like that.”

Farrell’s fitness has been a source of concern with a thigh strain restricting him to just starts for Saracens this season heading into England’s autumn campaign.

The British and Irish Lion is satisfied with his conditioning, although with restrained understatement admits to finding the cramp that troubles him late in matches and that forced him off the field against South Africa as a “bit annoying”.

“I feel all right. I’ve always felt good, I’ve always kept myself in decent shape. I’ve always had decent fitness levels anyway so I’ve never felt unfit,” He said.

“The cramp is a bit annoying, to be fair. It might come from going from one game of rugby to two high intensity games of rugby. But I have no worries about the cramp, I’m sure it will be fine.”

Published: Friday 21st November 2014 by The News Editor

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