Farrell move could revolutionise union, says Robinson

Andy Farrell finally crossed rugby's equivalent of the Rubicon in the glare of the media spotlight at Saracens' Vicarage Road base in Watford.

Andy Farrell finally crossed rugby's equivalent of the Rubicon in the glare of the media spotlight at Saracens' Vicarage Road base in Watford.

"I think this move can revolutionise rugby union," said the England head coach, Andy Robinson, already drooling at the prospect of the multi-skilled Farrell's entry into the 15-a-side code.

If the head coach of Saracens, Steve Diamond, is to be believed, then Farrell should have no problem grasping the principles of the union game.

"We don't need to educate Andy on a daily basis, he's got the basics. It is more a question of teaching him what not to do." Since neither Diamond nor Robinson is given to exaggeration it would seem that Farrell is going to be worth the wait.

The Great Britain captain has made the move without a qualm. He did not even bother to talk things over with two other rugby league converts, Jason Robinson and Henry Paul.

"I talked mainly to my family," said the 29-year-old Farrell. "I didn't need to think about it, I've always known deep down it's the right thing for me. I have no fear of failure, none whatsoever. If I were a betting man I'd back myself to succeed."

Robinson, for one, sees great times ahead for English rugby, or more specifically England and Saracens, because of Farrell's conversion. "I think he will put bums on seats for Saracens," he said and I think he will be great for the Zurich Premiership."

But only until Robinson deems Farrell is ready for England. The Rugby Football Union is not shelling out its £350,000 share of the £700,000 three-year deal to see Farrell help Saracens see the benefits of the crossover. England will, no doubt, at some point require their share.

"I will pick him for England when he is ready. When he has proved he is better than anyone else in that position," said Robinson, who refused to say when that might be.

If he cottons on to the intricacies of union as quickly as Diamond and Robinson anticipate then that debut will be sooner rather than later.

Robinson has been a long time fan of Farrell's, since the mid-Nineties when the pair of them came up against each in the cross-code challenge between Wigan and Bath. "We exchanged jerseys at the end of that," recalled Robinson. "That match affected me hugely. The professionalism of Wigan, who scored three magnificent tries against us." Farrell chipped in: "We had battered them in the game played under rugby league rules the week before and we should have hammered them at Twickenham, but it wasn't until half time when we decided to revert to our league style and fling the ball about a bit that we managed to do anything."

Farrell will be brought into the England training squad for a couple of days before the party leaves, without the former Wigan player, for the Churchill Cup in Canada in June.

But Robinson does intend including Farrell in the Elite Player Squad when it is announced in the autumn, by which time the player should be up to speed.

Both Diamond and Robinson envisage a gentle introduction to union, with Farrell starting at inside centre, but ultimately Robinson admitted he sees Farrell moving up the back row. That of course will depend on how quickly the code-breaker assimilates all there is to assimilate in union.

If Diamond is to be believed that will not take long. "He has more skill than most Zurich Premiership players."All Farrell has to do now, once his right knee has recovered from a cartilage operation, isprove it.

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