When it comes to the best fly-half in the world there are two very obvious names that keep popping up.
Those are the All Blacks’ Beauden Barrett who had the unenviable task of filling Dan Carter’s boots and England’s Owen Farrell who has been compared to Jonny Wilkinson countless times.
Barrett is undoubtedly skilful, the Hurricanes playmaker has incredible decision making and his speed of thought is matched by his quick feet. He is among the quickest players in Super Rugby.
Farrell is a metronome when it comes to kicking, he takes points with ease, add into this being a defensive presence, he wins most of his collisions which has become an evermore analysed part of the game as it gets more physical.
Here, we compare the two under five headings: attack, defence, goal kicking, leadership and natural talent.
Farrell and his Saracens team were long regarded as boring but that tag has long gone and it is easy to see why when you look at Saracens danger men, Alex Goode, Sean Maitland, Marcelo Bosch, serious international finishers.
That attack though has evolved from a forward dominated power game into a creative masterclass coming from Farrell.
He has reinvented his game it is no longer just kicking and tackling. Farrell expresses himself and that allows Saracens to be more potent, more deadly and a better-attacking team.
Barrett has always had that knack for being a deadly attacker.
He is extremely fast, some people don’t understand just how quick this man is and sometimes pace is something that cannot be matched.
Barrett also seems to have a telepathic understanding with his half-back partner, he uses that to exploit space. He is an attacking genius, the All Blacks are lucky to have such a talent.
Verdict: Beauden Barrett
Saracens, are the current benchmark for European sides despite a recent slump in form. They are built on a powerful forward pack, a dominant set piece and rock solid defence.
Farrell is key to this.
He may miss a larger number of tackles than his Premiership rivals such as George Ford or Danny Cipriani, but when he does make a tackle it counts, it’s powerful, he wins the collision and his forwards are given the front foot at the breakdown which allows Saracens to build an attack.
Farrell is arguably the best defensive fly-half in the world.
Barrett can tackle and he doesn’t shirk his defensive responsibility. He is brave and hits his man when it is asked of him.
Having said that Barrett is not the most dominant man in a collision, his strength is making sure the man goes down but that sometimes comes at the cost of his player breaking the gain line.
Verdict: Owen Farrell
3. Goal Kicking
Beauden Barrett has had his troubles off the tee and is an inconsistent kicker, as often as he shines and can knock them over from the touchline he will miss a couple of sitters.
Since the Lions tour, his kicking vastly improved during the autumn tour.
Barrett is getting better at kicking but there is still the potential for the All Blacks prized possession to have a bad day at the office when it comes to kicking his goals, similar to the second Lions Test.
In contrast, England has Mr Consistent.
That is one thing Owen Farrell has always been no matter if it’s Saracens, England or the Lions this man is ice cool kicking his goals.
You would put your house on Farrell nailing his kicks.
Verdict: Owen Farrell
The modern fly-half needs to be a leader and Owen Farrell has taken his responsibility as a key leader for England well and a has been touted as Dylan Hartley’s successor as the next captain for the national team.
There is no doubt Farrell is a good leader, often you can see him barking the orders, directing the troops. He also leads by example it’s hard not to follow him when he’s putting his body on the line in each and every tackle he makes.
Beauden Barrett is developing into a wonderful leader, at the Hurricanes he is regarded as a senior player in that unbelievably skilled back division. Everything the Hurricanes do goes through or is initiated by Barrett.
His arcing runs and silky running also show him lead by example, playing whats put in front of him, he has a go, attacks the fringes, targets the slower defenders. An exemplary man for the All Blacks.
Verdict: Owen Farrell (just about)
5. Natural Talent
In my opinion, Barrett seems to have that little extra in terms of his ability, that telepathic ability is something that has always been there for the All Black.
He knows what is going to happen before it happens and that is a natural gift.
Farrell has this but he has had to learn it and that is why we have seen the progression of his game and in turn Saracens game over the last few years.
Verdict: Beauden Barrett
There is no doubt these two are both extraordinary players and both are key for both club and country.
In this writer’s mind though Owen Farrell wins it 3-2.
Fred Blagden, Pundit Arena