Farrell dipped into acid test

Andy Farrell will face the biggest examination of his short lived rugby union career on Saturday when he lines up for England against Ireland at Croke Park.

Farrell’s ex-rugby league team mate Shaun Edwards has urged him to use his muscle and impose himself on the Irish centre pairing of Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy.

The Irish centre pairing are widely regarded as the best in the Northern Hemisphere and will provide Farrell with a huge test of his union abilities on Saturday.

Farrell was thrown in at the deep end, so to speak, when he was selected in Brian Ashton’s first England team after only a handful of appearances for Saracens, and is now expected to deliver against Ireland.

The key to Farrell succeeding against the rated Irish duo, according to Edwards, is for him to use his size and strength to his advantage.

“Andy Farrell has got to try and impose himself on the Ireland centres,” said Edwards.

“He’s considerably bigger than Gordon D’Arcy in particular. Faz has got to assert his physicality and make that a feature of the game.

“He’s got to bash them up a bit if he can because they’ll be looking to test him out with their speed and their understanding. Faz is well aware of that and has got to work out his own way of making them think twice.

“He’s got to get into them because if you give that pair, who are the best centre combination in the northern hemisphere, too much space, then you’re in trouble.”

Ashton has also been boosted by a clean bill of health to his England contingent who played in the Guinness Premiership this weekend. He can also take heart from a series of top performances from the like of Jason Robinson and Magnus Lund, showing some promise for the trip to Ireland.

Edwards witnessed Robinson’s (another former league team-mate of his) performance first hand as the Sale man almost scored from the kick-off against Wasps.

“We’d practiced all week to defend just that,” added Edwards.

“I had a few ideas about how we could stop him. So much for that, eh? It looks to me as if Jason has really got his confidence and energy back.

“That’s brilliant news for Brian Ashton and for English rugby. What used to make him so special was his unpredictability. That element is back big time.

“It’s all good news for England. You look at Jason’s name on the team sheet, and then see Jonny’s (Wilkinson) and suddenly you feel a lot more reassured.”

Wasps’ victory over Sale also saw Tom Rees and Magnus Lund go head-to-head in a battle of the England candidates.

Rees was superb for Wasps, but will still only provide back-up to Lund for his country, but Edwards had nothing but praise for his man.

“We’re seeing the benefits of all the hard work that Tom has put in,” Edwards said.

“We all know he’s got fantastic leg-power in open play but he’s showing that he can get his nose over the ball as well.”

365 Digital

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