Farrell should play in the back row - he won't fail

Andy Farrell's move from rugby league to union last week has drawn flak from doubters and moaners just as my switch from union to league did 16 years ago. My advice to him is to ignore it and my advice to them is to wait and see before rushing into ill-considered judgements.

When I made my move, union was still amateur and the barrier between the codes was far from being broken down. There isn't a barrier any more but there are still plenty of diehards on either side who do not like to see players move from one to the other.

There is still a strong anti-league feeling in union and those who share it will be happy to see Andy fail so that their ancient prejudices can be satisfied.

I do not believe that he will fail. As it did with me, everything depends on how he applies himself. He will need a bit of luck, but knowing him as I do he will not be lacking in application or attitude.

I first met Andy in 1993. I played in the same Great Britain team when he made his international debut at 18 years of age and I have been an admirer ever since. A couple of years ago I called him the best British rugby player in either code and he is still one of the most talented rugby footballers we have ever seen.

Of course, it's a gamble when a player switches but it is well worth the risk for him, the Rugby Football Union and for Saracens. It is unfortunate that his injured knee will keep him out of action until May, but he will be using the time to get more closely acquainted with his new game.

As for the doubters, I just do not see where the downside is. By today's standards, the money involved is not massive - it is easily affordable by club and country, and both are getting a player capable of making a big impact.

Certainly, the money is not the lure as far as Andy is concerned. He is hardly going to be better off, so if the motive for him is not financial what is it?

Purely and simply it is the challenge - and the more difficult it looks the more determined he is to have a go. He has achieved everything in league, apart from being involved in winning a Test series against Australia - and no Briton has done that in over 30 years - and he could have continued his successful career without hassle or worry. It reveals the character of the man that he has chosen instead to throw himself into a new game in which the expectations and the pressure placed on him will be immense.

At a time when English rugby union is not exactly bulging with heroes, I would have thought that his arrival would have caused excitement not doubts. Some say he is too old to change. That's nonsense. I was 27 when I turned to league and 34 when I returned, and I can promise you that he is not too old.

Neither would I worry about what position he is going to play in. He will come in slowly and immerse himself in the game. Like I did, he will watch, listen, read and become a pain in the arse with all his questions. It would be a good idea to get a referee to explain every aspect of the rules in detail, over and over again.

The biggest mistake people will make will be to under-estimate his ability to be a success in his new environment. Apart from his playing pedigree he is a great bloke and fully aware of everything around him.

Saracens will be getting more than a superbly skilled player, they will be getting a top club man. He has been 13 years with Wigan and they will miss him off the field as well as on. He will add so much to Saracens because he is a big character, dominant and humorous and an excellent leader.

When the time comes to select a position, I do not see him slotting in at centre as has been suggested. I have been quoted as saying that he might lack pace at international level but I meant as a centre. I would play him in the back row as a No 6 or No 8 and I would have no worries about him adapting. Apart from all else, of course, he is a terrific goalkicker.

Whether he makes the England team in time to face Wales in the opening match of next year's Six Nations' Championship at Twickenham is going to be fascinating to watch.

England need someone who knows how to win. Although they weren't convincing against Wales, they lost by only two points. Had they won, I am convinced they would have beaten France and the whole Six Nations picture would have changed.

But that's taking nothing away from our new Grand Slam champions. Wales, their players and their management team have all been magnificent and they'll take so much confidence to Twickenham. Perhaps every English-man will be delighted if they have got Andy Farrell to help them cope.

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