Lindsay hails 'champion' Farrell

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The Independent Online

The Wigan chairman, Maurice Lindsay, has urged the critics of Andy Farrell to "get off his back" and warned that the player would be welcomed back into rugby league at any time.

Farrell, Great Britain's record-breaking captain, stunned the 13-man game when he decided to switch codes almost two years ago in a move funded jointly by Saracens and the Rugby Football Union, who earmarked him for a role in the 2007 World Cup.

However, Farrell spent a year out because of a series of injuries and has struggled to make an impact in his two appearances at blind-side flanker for the Guinness Premiership club.

There is confusion over whether Farrell should play centre or flanker. Though he was last month named by the England rugby union coach, Andy Robinson, in the élite player squad for this season's internationals, there are doubts that, at 31, he will make the grade in either position.

However, Lindsay, who for three years combined his role with the Warriors as chairman of Orrell Rugby Union Club, insists that his former captain must be given time to adjust to the change. "Even Jason Robinson took nine months to adjust and that was in a more easily accommodated position," he said. "Andy has got to learn completely new skills as a forward in rugby union. Andy will learn and adjust and I think he will eventually make a success of either position but he needs time."

Lindsay added: "I think some of the comments coming from people in rugby union are unfounded and unfair. Andy Farrell is a champion rugby player, a champion athlete and a champion person. He is inspirational on the rugby field, is a born leader, a born winner and has been since he was 14. No one can captain Wigan to such success at such a young age as he did without having those qualities. I have got a simple message for the rugby union critics - Wigan would love to have him back in their side. He would be a magnificent player for us once again.

"Knowing Andy as I do, I would think he will want to stay and prove people wrong. But there is a limit to the wild comment that anyone should have to put up with and, if it resulted in him playing for Wigan again, he would be welcomed not only by the Wigan public but by the rugby league public. Whatever he does, it will never alter my opinion that Andy Farrell is one of the greatest rugby players that we've ever seen."

Farrell captained Great Britain from the age of 21 up to the 2004 Tri-Nations Series final and won 34 caps. He won the Golden Boot as the best player in the game two years ago and received an OBE in the 2005 New Year Honours list for services to rugby league.

Farrell will be on the replacements' bench for Saracens' match against Cardiff tomorrow, after which he is due to rejoin his England squad colleagues for another two-day camp at Loughborough.