Farrell can fill Jonny's boots

Saracens midfielder is most accomplished of the newcomers

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The Independent Online

Owen Farrell plays some of his club rugby at outside-half, some of it at outside centre and the remainder of it as a de facto inside centre, performing the first receiver's role whenever called upon to do so. He also kicks goals by the gross, hence Stuart Lancaster's eagerness to fast-track him into England's Six Nations squad without further ado. The coach did not quite say so yesterday, but of all the uncapped players in the party – and there are no fewer than nine of them – the 20-year-old Saracens midfielder was the nearest thing to a no-brainer on the selection front.

It seems certain that he will make his international debut against Scotland next month and may well be cast as the first-choice marksman to boot. "We'll think about that side of things in good time, but he is clearly a very good goal-kicker," Lancaster acknowledged yesterday, effectively letting the cat out of the bag.

"Look at what he's achieved over the last couple of seasons in coming out of academy rugby, playing in a Premiership final and helping his club to a first title. If I were a betting man, I'd back him not to be fazed at all by international rugby."

The likelihood as things stand is that England will field two new centres in Edinburgh next month: Farrell and his club colleague Brad Barritt, outside a third Saracens midfielder in the recalled Charlie Hodgson, whose chances of a start have been greatly enhanced by Toby Flood's knee injury. Even when Flood and another stricken Leicester midfielder, Manu Tuilagi, return to active duty, the smart money is on Farrell to hold his place. A Jonny Wilkinson for the post-Wilkinson age? A lot of good judges consider the newcomer to be precisely that.

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