RFU clears path for Farrell's code switch

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The Independent Online

The England head coach Andy Robinson revealed yesterday that an agreement had been reached with the rugby league club Wigan Warriors for a switch in codes by Andy Farrell.

The England head coach Andy Robinson revealed yesterday that an agreement had been reached with the rugby league club Wigan Warriors for a switch in codes by Andy Farrell.

The Rugby Football Union had been given until yesterday by Wigan's owner, Dave Whelan, to get things sorted out, or the deal would be called off. Farrell, the Great Britain captain, has been recovering from a knee operation and there has been a certain reluctance on the part of the union side of the fence to move things along. However Robinson said yesterday that Farrell had had his medical on Thursday and that the specialists were now poring over it.

If, as is expected, Farrell, who will be 30 in May, is given the medical all-clear - and a statement from Wigan yesterday suggested as much - then the RFU will be able to assign him to a Zurich Premiership club. Three are known to be interested in a player-share deal with Twickenham - Leicester, Northampton and Saracens. That three-year deal would see the RFU bearing some of the burden of Farrell's salary which is expected to be in the region of £200,000.

The RFU will also have to pay Wigan compensation, believed to be in the region of £400,000, since the player is contracted to them until the end of the 2006 Super League season. If he does make the move it will end a 14-year association between Farrell and Wigan.

Once Farrell's new base has been agreed Robinson promises to reveal where he sees Farrell fitting in on the field. There are those who contend that he would make a fine No 8 (including the England management), others who insist the obvious place for him in the 15-a-side game is in the backs.

Wherever he is slotted in Farrell would bring an immense talent to union. His ball-carrying ability, handling skills and footballing brain are peerless, but he has only played one game of union, against Bath at Twickenham in 1996. Robinson, who sees Farrell as being an important part of his plans for the 2007 Rugby World Cup, promised: "After the last two Six Nations matches I will sit down and paint the picture for you of how I see Andy Farrell. Then you will know the club he's going to. There is a clear position for us. When we know the club we can really start talking about how we will progress."

* Gloucester's second row Adam Eustace yesterday agreed a new two-year deal. Eustace, 26, has made 127 first-team appearances for the club.

* Wasps' James Brooks was last night called up into England's squad for the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Hong Kong in place of Matthew Tait who has an eye infection.

Premiership team news

Bath V Worcester (Today; 2.0)

Bath have 18 players unavailable through injury or representative calls. The Wales Under-19 centre Tom Cheeseman plays with Joe Maddock in the centres. Worcester have Ben Hinshelwood on the left wing.

Gloucester V Northampton (Today; 2.0)

Jake Boer returns to the flank, but the No 8 Adam Balding keeps the Gloucester captaincy. Wylie Human replaces Ben Cohen on the Saints whing, while Mark Soden comes in at No 8 in place of Darren Fox.

Harlequins V Newcastle (Tomorrow; 2.0)

Simon Miall is in for Harlequins' ex-All Black lock Simon Maling. Jonny Wilkinson could be on the Newcastle bench, while the prop Ian Peel returns as captain and Dave Walder replaces Mark Wilkinson at fly-half.

Saracens V Sale (Tomorrow; 3.0)

Dan Scarbrough is on Saracens' bench having recovered from a shoulder injury. Steve Hanley starts at full-back for the Sharks and the hooker Andy Titterrell may play if he does not feature for England today.

Wasps V Leeds (Tomorrow; 3.0)

Wasps have Peter Richards back at scrum-half and Paul Sackey returns on the wing. Leeds bring in Craig McMullen for Gordon Ross at fly-half and the South African Andre Snyman for Iain Balshaw at full-back.