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Opinion: Owen Farrell Is Europe’s Premier Out Half – Play Him At 10

PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 19: Owen Farrell of England kicks a penalty during the RBS Six Nations match between France and England at Stade de France on March 19, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

After reading Stuart Barnes’ column for Sky Sports last week, I took particular notice to his comments concerning the leading fly-halves in Britain and Ireland. He said that while Owen Farrell and George Ford had fine games against Ireland, they were still nowhere near the category of Dan Biggar and Jonathan Sexton. For one of the two I would completely agree, but not the other.

Prior to the Six Nations, Owen Farrell was above and beyond any fly-half playing in Europe bar Dan Carter at Racing Metro. He was kicking superbly and has come on leaps and bounds in his attacking decision making, as demonstrated when he tore apart the Ulster defense both at Ravenhill and Allianz Park.

I believe most people want a player that will try anything from anywhere, and if they do not get it quite right they applaud the effort and label it as ‘unlucky’. A player with this trait is George Ford. To his credit, on form he will try and succeed with his line breaks and sets up tries – but not this season, where nothing has gone right.

Sexton is another, as well as Dan Biggar, who is developing a need to try things when they really are not on.

Farrell is a player who is starting to make the perfect decisions at the most crucial moments. He is a sensible player who does what is necessary to win rugby matches. It is as simple as that.

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - JUNE 14: Owen Farrell of England runs with the ball during the International Test Match between the New Zealand All Blacks and England at Forsyth Barr Stadium on June 14, 2014 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Take the two moments that really started to change audiences’ opinions of him. On the back foot against Ulster he goes to set up a drop goal, Ruan Pienaar rushes out of the line to smash the Englishman to the floor, but Farrell quickly dummies the kick and runs at the disjointed defensive line. Here he could easily have chipped the ball into the corner or drawn the defender and passed to Duncan Taylor or Brad Barritt. Instead, he sees the space, beats one defender with pace and side steps another, before drawing the last man and sending a soft pass into the hands of Duncan Taylor to score.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4fJTQZnomg

Video via Rugby Highlights.

No fly-half in world rugby could have done a better job in that situation. If you think they could you are trying too hard to not see that Owen Farrell conjured up a magic moment out of nothing. On this night he had uncharacteristically missed four kicks. This would knock the confidence of most players, notably Ford, but not Farrell.

The second moment of magic was in the return fixture at Allianz Park. Again, Saracens were on the back foot after a loose ball was kicked out of a ruck, gathered by George Kruis who fed Chris Ashton, who in turn drew the first man and sent the pass to Farrell.

Farrell first looked up and saw a gap to the right of the upcoming defender, he then looked wide to analyse his options, before dummying that way and gassing the first defender. He sprinted into the gap, with Ulster players busting a gut to get back and bring him down.

Here, a fly half such as Sexton would have put his head down and charged for the line with a 50/50 outcome of whether a try would have been scored. Instead, Farrell quickly drew the last man and sent a beauty of a pass wide to Taylor, who benefitted from another moment of brilliance.

Throughout that entire game, no one came close to matching Owen Farrell’s game management. His decisions may not be the most extravagant nor light up the match with every step he makes, but they win matches for his team.

It is no coincidence that Saracens were so dominant in the first half of the season. His ability to judge every situation perfectly is what stands him apart from any fly-half in Europe at present.

LIMERICK, IRELAND - OCTOBER 24: Owen Farrell of Saracens runs with the ball during the European Rugby Champions Cup match between Munster and Saracens at Thomond Park on October 24, 2014 in Limerick, Ireland. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

He may not have the pace to skin defences at every phase, but he will put his outside backs and heavy ball carriers through gaps every time.

Let’s examine two assists of his in the Six Nations. He timed his pass to perfection for Nowell to score against Scotland, and received a ball from Ford and sending an exquisite long ball, which sucked in the last defender out wide, for Brown to have the necessary space to run in and secure an 11 point advantage. Farrell is a decision maker of the highest quality.

Video via RBS 6 Nations.

If I had to describe Farrell in won word, I would say he is a winner. He gives off an aura of someone who is born to win, and he is the man to dictate England’s play for another decade and beyond.

On form, Ford is a handy little player and will always provide competition for Farrell, but he can never be the starting fly half for England if they want to become the best team in the world.

He folds too easily, Farrell never folds.

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With the return of Manu Tuilagi and the eventual return of Henry Slade, Farrell will not be deployed at inside centre for much longer, despite the fact that he has impressed in the role thus far.

England’s back line has the potential to be the best in Europe, and eventually will challenge New Zealand and Australia for class, but only if Owen Farrell is at the helm.

England’s general is ready now more than ever to step into the role he was born to play, all Eddie Jones needs to do now is give it to him and watch him shine.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.