Owen Farrell is the key to a Lions win

wre01 Roar Guru

By wre01, wre01 is a Roar Guru

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    Owen Farrell may not be the best player in the world, but he is close to it.

    Without doubt he is the key player for the British and Irish Lions in 2017. If Farrell continues in the fashion he has played for England and Saracens over the past 18 months the Lions have a better than 50/50 chance of winning the series against New Zealand.

    Sadly, the early rumours and selection signs suggest that Warren Gatland may not select Farrell in the starting XV.

    While it is always difficult to separate tabloid mischief from well sourced steers, the selection of Ben Te’o seems like a pursuit of Jamie Roberts Mark II.

    That is particularly the case given the numerous sources in the British and Irish media that suggested England’s 13 Joseph, was lucky to make the plane and that Davies is Gatland’s preference at 13.

    Gatland has form. He has been heavily criticised in the Northern Hemisphere for refusing to steer away from ‘Warren Ball’.

    The predictable Welsh side of the 2015 World Cup lacked imagination and much of that was a result of Gatland’s obstinate midfield selections that showed a reluctance to ‘move with the times’.

    It is entirely possible that the Biggar, Roberts, Davies Welsh combination will be replaced with a Sexton, Te’o, Davies Lions axis. That would be a mistake. In fact it would be a tragedy for all neutrals too.

    Gatland’s reasoning for such an approach seems to be that no side can beat the All Blacks with a distributor at 12.

    Yet this almost assumes that a ‘distributor’ in the midfield will be a compromise defensively and at the gain line.

    Farrell is a vicious competitor and rock solid tackler. While he can take the ball to the gain line hard, his real talent is in bringing big runners into the game in a manner that is not always predictable and exploits weaknesses in defensive patterns.

    There was no better example of this than the Saracens versus Clermont European Cup Final. Time and again, Farrell kept the fence guessing and ensured that hard running team mates like Brad Barritt, Chris Ashton and Billy Vunipola were cracking open the game.

    If Gatland adopts the approach of past Welsh sides and picks Te’o as well as Davies in the midfield then the Lions will have no chance.

    The All Blacks are easily good enough to sit back and soak up the battering, just as the Wallabies did at the World Cup with 13 men for much of the game.

    On the other hand Farrell’s Saracens have almost created a blue print for how to beat New Zealand. Clermont play a very similar off loading game to the Kiwis with superbly talented back rowers and a mobile front 5.

    They score most of their points from broken field play and counter attacks, just like the All Blacks.

    In beating Clermont, Farrell was sure to control the tempo of the game. All of Farrell’s options were right, a trait Eddie Jones loves. He ensured the game was played in Clermont’s half.

    The exchanges at the breakdown were ferocious, Saracens dominated at scrum time and the ball only went wide after Saracens had drawn in Clermont’s big men.

    But when it did go wide there was imagination. There was no one obvious tactic, like a crash ball at 12 or a futile box kick that dominated the game.

    Farrell’s passing and carefully judged kicking made it impossible for Clermont to sit back and wait to get Saracens through a breakout counter attack.

    It was as if Farrell and Saracens had listened to the ghosts of school boy coaches. Passing was in front of runners. Players did not run one out. Kicking was not aimless. The ball did not go wide until the forwards had earned the right. Who would have thought game of rugby could be won so simply!

    Speaking of Saracens, Gatland must surely have watched the European Cup Final and it is difficult to see how many of the 6 Saracens Lions he can leave out of the first choice side.

    Farrell along with Mako and Billy Vunipola, Maro Itoje, Kruis and Jamie George must be all at least certainties for the Test match 23.

    It makes a lot of sense to maintain that spine for the Lions and preserve combinations where at all possible.

    All neutrals and even allot of Kiwis must be hoping that the Lions side is at its strongest for the First Test. If Owen Farrell is not selected, it won’t be.

    My Lions XV: McGrath, Owens, Furlong, Itoje, Kruis, Stander, Warburton, Vunipola, Murray, Sexton, Watson, Farrell, Joseph, North, Hogg.

    Reserves: M Vunipola, George, Cole, AWJ, O’Brien, Webb, Te’o, Daly.

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    The Crowd Says (102)

    • May 15th 2017 @ 11:17am
      R2D2 said | May 15th 2017 @ 11:17am | ! Report

      With Farrell , it will be a risk to reward approach. Farrell is a fine player, but the position he plays in , is the key. Farrell to me, is a FH and that is where the problem lies. The BLs have so may good FHs , that Gatland’s head is spinning and that is a great situation to be in . Farrell is only part of the key, Gatland selection is the key and if he thinks that Farrell is a FH and not a IC, then Farrell will become a part player in the series, which isn’t a bad thing. The British media will put enormous pressure for Farrell to start .

      • May 15th 2017 @ 1:51pm
        DanFan said | May 15th 2017 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

        You mean the “English” media.

        • Roar Guru

          May 16th 2017 @ 7:43am
          Poth Ale said | May 16th 2017 @ 7:43am | ! Report

          They’re all the same in the SH.

          British=English=UK=British Isles=Poms=Irish=Welsh=British.

          Don’t waste your breath. ?

          • Roar Guru

            May 16th 2017 @ 2:57pm
            ThugbyFan said | May 16th 2017 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

            Poth Ale, oh shame on Ye. Begorrah, you left out your celtic cousins, the Scots! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • May 15th 2017 @ 7:01pm
        Keith said | May 15th 2017 @ 7:01pm | ! Report

        Not sure you can really say Farrell is a 10….
        He played 12 for both of England’s 6 Nations titles. Reminds me allot of Aaron Mauger and Matt Giteau.

        • Roar Guru

          May 16th 2017 @ 5:09am
          taylorman said | May 16th 2017 @ 5:09am | ! Report

          He played there to accommodate Ford. If Ford were injured who would be 10? No one else but Farrell.

          • May 16th 2017 @ 6:13am
            wre01 said | May 16th 2017 @ 6:13am | ! Report

            And why couldn’t he play at 12 to accommodate Sexton then?

            The idea is having a second distributor and Farrell is excellent at that role as well as being a brilliant kicker and defender.

            Having him at 12 allows coaches to select a 6/2 split on the bench or to have a 9 as well as 2 outside backs for extra options…

            • Roar Guru

              May 16th 2017 @ 3:01pm
              ThugbyFan said | May 16th 2017 @ 3:01pm | ! Report

              Similar to the Michael Cheika philosopy. IC is a distributor such as M.Gitteau, K.Beale or M.Toomua.

            • May 17th 2017 @ 3:14pm
              jemainok said | May 17th 2017 @ 3:14pm | ! Report

              In my memory he doesn’t fit the bil for WG IC imo Wre01 happy to be proven wrong as I feel you should try to get your best players on the field. But WG said he see’s him as a ten so we will see .

    • Roar Guru

      May 15th 2017 @ 1:06pm
      Machpants said | May 15th 2017 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

      Gatland has said he had picked Farrell as a teen, whether that means top no ten, or he maybe obfuscating. He’s a great player, tho a stroppy type.

    • May 15th 2017 @ 1:13pm
      P2R2 said | May 15th 2017 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

      …sorry but Clermont is NOT THE AB’s….no team is…what Clermont did (in losing) and what Saracens did (in winning) has no relevance….the ABs on full-fire are almost impossible to hold let alone halt….comparisons are irrelevant….

      • Roar Rookie

        May 15th 2017 @ 9:51pm
        Kirky said | May 15th 2017 @ 9:51pm | ! Report

        P2R2 ~ You’re right mate, no relevance whatever!

        Also your analogy re the All Blacks is correct, and as you say ” the All Blacks on fire are almost impossible to hold”!

        That being true, I’d go as far as saying the only way the Lions, or the English will beat the Kiwis is by kicking goals and with the dreadful hopeless and unnecessary in a lot of cases Laws/Rules in place these days, the Referees who are from up North, will very likely have a field day and the Northern Teams have without doubt the best Kickers on the Planet will kick the goals, simple.

        Neither Side Lions or England will beat the All Blacks on top of the ground, they’re just too good, but therein lies the problem as I dare say the Referees would have been spoken to regarding the Refereeing quality needed, so that could very well be the catalyst for winning the game proper!

        Wilkinson did it in 2003 so who knows!

    • May 15th 2017 @ 1:22pm
      moaman said | May 15th 2017 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

      Easily the most accomplished goalkicker around….but close to the greatest player?????

      • Roar Rookie

        May 15th 2017 @ 1:27pm
        piru said | May 15th 2017 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

        Nothing like a bit of hyperbole.

      • Roar Guru

        May 15th 2017 @ 2:10pm
        Fionn said | May 15th 2017 @ 2:10pm | ! Report

        Farrell is, probably, in the top 5 fly-halfs in the world. That said, I would rank Barrett, Cruden, Sopoaga and Sexton all above him.

        Also, I think I’d still rather have Morne Steyn kicking my goals than Farrell.

        • May 15th 2017 @ 3:11pm
          BBA said | May 15th 2017 @ 3:11pm | ! Report

          I think the margin that Farrell is a better defender than Morne Steyn is much greater than Steyn is a better goal kicker then Farrell.

          And to be fair I think Farrell has done more than Sopoaga has for him to be ranked above Farrell in my opinion.

          • Roar Guru

            May 15th 2017 @ 3:18pm
            Fionn said | May 15th 2017 @ 3:18pm | ! Report

            I never said that I’d rather Steyn over Farrell (I wouldn’t), but I think Steyn is a better goalkicker.

            Farrell has achieved more than Sopoaga because Sopoaga was the 4th best fly-half in NZ until 2016, now he’s the third best. He won’t get a chance to shine internationally until at least Cruden moves on.

            I’d still pick him above Farrell at 10 if I had the choice of both of them.

            • May 15th 2017 @ 4:03pm
              moaman said | May 15th 2017 @ 4:03pm | ! Report

              Steyn of circa 2010 was the best I have ever seen….I was talking of current international kickers…..

              • May 16th 2017 @ 10:53am
                P2R2 said | May 16th 2017 @ 10:53am | ! Report

                oooohhhhh…I think many would have Carter ahead of everybody…??

            • May 16th 2017 @ 10:02am
              BBA said | May 16th 2017 @ 10:02am | ! Report

              I suppose it was a funny comment then as I didn’t quite see the relevance, is Morne Steyn still playing at a high level and goal kicking? If not then we might as well add that Hugo Porta and Naas Botha were probably better goal kickers.

        • Roar Rookie

          May 15th 2017 @ 9:56pm
          Kirky said | May 15th 2017 @ 9:56pm | ! Report

          Fionn! ‘Carn’ mate there’s five better first fives in New Zealand than Farrell, I’ll give him the kicking slot tho’!

      • May 15th 2017 @ 7:07pm
        wre01 said | May 15th 2017 @ 7:07pm | ! Report

        Moaman
        Farrell has just won European Player of the Year. He was unlucky not to win it last year.
        I think Sexton and Barrett are both better 10s at test level. But Farrell hasn’t played 10 at international level since 2015. In all of England’s 18 straight test wins and throughout back to back 6 Nations titles he played at 12, outside of George Ford.
        Farrell is on 23/24 but is already superb. He distributes well, has no weakness in defence and is the best goal kicker and open play kicker around at both provincial and test level. Reminds me of Aaron Mauger but better.

    • May 15th 2017 @ 2:01pm
      Perthstayer said | May 15th 2017 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

      Wre – Excellent article.

      BL have cattle to match ABs. But WG has had the cattle with Wales over 10+ years to take many SH scalps, but he has failed, bar one.

      WG made a pretty good fist of nearly losing to WB’s 4 years ago. I was saddened he was re-selected when there were genuine alternatives. I think Vern Cotter would be a good BL coach.

    • May 15th 2017 @ 2:04pm
      Raa said | May 15th 2017 @ 2:04pm | ! Report

      Close to the best player in the world. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA that has made me laugh out loud. So funny. He would not even be in the top 5. Come on Roar can we please be publishing articles by people who actually know something about rugby, you are just going to lose credibility.

      • May 15th 2017 @ 3:13pm
        BBA said | May 15th 2017 @ 3:13pm | ! Report

        Yeah since when has the Roar been about anyone being able to share an opinion, oh wait …

      • Roar Guru

        May 15th 2017 @ 4:15pm
        The Neutral View From Sweden said | May 15th 2017 @ 4:15pm | ! Report

        You should prepare for a diet of humble pie very soon.

      • May 15th 2017 @ 7:10pm
        wre01 said | May 15th 2017 @ 7:10pm | ! Report

        Raa
        We are all entitled to opinions.
        Interesting that Farrell just won European Player of the Year though. People who know allot more about rugby than both of us must have thought he was pretty good.

        • Roar Rookie

          May 15th 2017 @ 10:01pm
          Kirky said | May 15th 2017 @ 10:01pm | ! Report

          wre01! That’s the European area, didn’t think it would be that relevant, ~ but hey! he’s a reasonable player and good on him for the European POTY!

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