FAR­RELL A FRON­TRUN­NER

Play­maker in line for Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions cap­taincy

New Straits Times - - Sport -

ENG­LAND play­maker Owen Far­rell is a world class player and among the con­tenders to cap­tain the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions on this year’s tour of New Zealand, coach War­ren Gat­land said on Mon­day.

Far­rell, who plays at fly-half for Sara­cens and in­side cen­tre for Eng­land, Wales flanker Sam War­bur­ton and Eng­land cap­tain Dy­lan Hart­ley were all in the mix to lead the Lions, Gat­land told Sky Sports News in an in­ter­view.

The New Zealan­der, who names his squad on April 19, said the cap­taincy had be­come some­thing of an “ob­ses­sion” in the me­dia but said Far­rell’s flex­i­bil­ity meant he filled at least one of the cri­te­ria for the role — be­ing a likely starter in the Tests.

“I know his name has been dis­cussed,” Gat­land said. “The beauty of him at the mo­ment is that he can cover two po­si­tions, 10 and 12.

“He’s a great goal kicker, I think the way he has de­vel­oped in the last three or four years, he is ab­so­lutely world class and I’m prob­a­bly not giv­ing too much away by say­ing he has a good chance of be­ing se­lected.”

Gat­land said Far­rell, who came off the bench in the de­cid­ing third Lions Test in Aus­tralia four years ago, had not been at his best against Italy but apart from that per­for­mance had ex­celled in the Six Na­tions.

“He’s a fighter, he’s a winner and I just re­ally ad­mire the way he has de­vel­oped as a player,” added Gat­land. “He is po­ten­tially in the mix to dis­cuss (for the cap­taincy) as well.”

War­bur­ton, who skip­pered the Lions on the tri­umphant 2013 tour Down Un­der, did not lead Wales in the lat­est Six Na­tions but the flanker was among the tour­na­ment’s top per­form­ers and Gat­land said he was un­der con­sid­er­a­tion for the Lions role.

“He’s def­i­nitely some­one in con­tention but the first thing for us, and there seems to be an ob­ses­sion with the cap­taincy, is to pick the squad first and then look at po­ten­tially who can cap­tain the Lions,” he said.

“For me, the first thing with a Lions cap­tain is, if you’re pick­ing a Lions start­ing XV tomorrow, I’d look at it and go, ‘Do I think that per­son’s likely to start?’

“There would be no guar­an­tees, of course, but that will po­ten­tially nar­row it down for the cap­tain of the Lions.”

Eng­land failed to win con­sec­u­tive grand slams or set a top tier record for con­sec­u­tive wins due to Satur­day’s de­feat by Ire­land, but Hart­ley did lead them to suc­ces­sive Six Na­tions ti­tles.

“You have to look back be­yond the week­end and the dis­ap­point­ment Eng­land had, he (Hart­ley) has done a fan­tas­tic job,” the for­mer Wales man­ager added.

“He’s bounced back from crit­i­cism and a bit of con­tro­versy with a lot made of the sin bins, sus­pen­sions and send­ings off, but I ad­mire the way he’s fronted up.

“You have to take your hat off to what he’s achieved as Eng­land cap­tain. He needs to be some­one we con­sider also.” Reuters

AFP PIC

Eng­land’s Owen Far­rell (right) is tack­led dur­ing the Six Na­tions match be­tween Ire­land and Eng­land in Dublin on Satur­day.

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