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Monday, February 20, 2017

Martin Johnson reflects on England win over Wales in Lions context

England legend and former Test coach Martin Johnson has reflected on the thrilling Wales vs England Six Nations clash from round two, singling out Owen Farell as a key man in Eddie Jones' ambitions of claiming back to back titles.

If selected by Jones to play against Italy at Twickenham, Farrell will win his 50th England cap; he has also already amassed over 500 international points, appeared at a World Cup in 2015 and toured with the British & Irish Lions in 2013 in Australia.

Farrell was selected on a six-man shortlist for World Player of the Year in the summer and despite missing out on the top gong, he has become England’s Mr Reliable; both off the kicking tee and with his creativity behind the scrum.

He has been promoted to England’s vice-captaincy role and skippered the side during the last-gasp win against Wales in Cardiff following the withdrawal of skipper Dylan Hartley after just 46 minutes.

Farrell, who helped Saracens win the domestic and European double in 2016, has formed a formidable midfield pairing with Leicester-bound George Ford and is now the first name on England boss Jones’ team-sheet. 

Last week Johnson and legendary Ireland skipper Brian O’Driscoll described Farrell as an outside shot at captaining the Lions this summer in New Zealand, while World Cup winning boss Sir Clive Woodward thinks he’s the heir apparent to Hartley’s leadership crown for England.

“I think he can do either, fly-half or centre, that’s the great thing with him,” said the former England captain, who is running the rule over each of the home nations’ candidates for this summer’s Lions Tour to New Zealand.

“I just like his demeanour, I always have. He’s been through a World Cup, he’s been around for five or six years now with the England team, he’s very experienced.

“He took a hit from [Ross] Moriarty, that’s that type of game, but he took it, got up and got on with it, and then at the end of the game made the pass when he needed to, to put England in to win the game."

It was Farrell’s combination with Ford that set up the try for Elliot Daly in Wales, expertly capitalising on Jonathan Davies’ failure to find touch with a kick.

And while the Welshman still made Johnson’s team of the week as well, it was Farrell that was the most talked about centre of the weekend, stealing 62 per cent of the conversation on Twitter to go with his four carries, 11 points, one clean break and one defender beaten.

Martin Johnson is an Ambassador for British & Irish Lions Principal Partner Standard Life Investments.

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