Robinson keen to lure Farrell the phenomenon

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Andy Farrell is not a union player yet, but voices coming out of Twickenham suggest he soon will be.

"Obviously there are negotiations going on at the moment," said Andy Robinson, England's head coach, yesterday, "and we hope it turns out that Andy Farrell becomes a rugby union player.

"We want him, otherwise we wouldn't have gone into negotiations. We want him to become an England rugby union player. I have met him on a couple of occasions and he is just an outstanding character. Watching him play, he is just a phenomenal rugby player."

How England's aspiring back-rowers - presuming the Wigan and Great Britain league captain shifts to No 8 or No 6, unless outlandish rumours of a switch to inside-centre prove true - react to that assessment will be interesting. The likes of Chris Jones, Andy Hazell, Hugh Vyvyan, James Forrester and Andy Beattie might have a different view of the arrival of a 29-year-old with next-to-no union experience and a dodgy knee - and a pay packet of around £600,000 a year. Farrell will miss three months of the Super League season after an operation.

Negotiations over the move continue, with Farrell believed to be unsure. If he needs any persuasion, England's former league coaches - Phil Larder, Joe Lydon and Dave Alred - might oblige.

"These guys have worked with him and they know about him," said Robinson. "He has great leadership qualities. He is an outstanding rugby player of his generation. They are still in negotiations and it could be that he stays in rugby league and therefore that's it, you walk away.

"But it could be that he comes to rugby union and that's the time we can talk more about it, but obviously we have highlighted him as someone who is an outstanding player. His qualities speak for themselves."

The former Wales rugby union and Great Britain rugby league fly-half Jonathan Davies was on hand to suggest what those qualities might be.

"If Andy Farrell does decide to move I have no doubt he will be a success because he is a great player," Davies said. "He is a very big, talented guy with wonderful handling skills and he is a superb footballer.

"I think he could play second row in rugby union but I assume they are buying him for his mobility, passing and ball-carrying. He would be there to replace someone like Lawrence Dallaglio, and I think he would play as a ball-carrying No 8.

"The two codes are so different," added Davies. "People might think it is an easy transition but it is not, and he would take time to adjust. But he is such a good player I am certain he would not have any problems."

Farrell has an OBE for his services to rugby league. He has played for Wigan since he was 16 and has won 34 caps for Great Britain, 29 in a row as captain. His experience of union extends as far as a win with Wigan in the 1996 Middlesex Sevens, and the same year's cross-code challenge match with Bath.

"He would be a massive loss for rugby league," said Davies. "But, as a rugby player, you want to be playing in the biggest events. Union has more media attention and the World Cup is a massive occasion." Farrell will be 32 in 2007.

The Rugby Football Union have nominated the former England coach Jack Rowell as chairman of their management board. "I'm delighted," said Rowell. "My aim now is to prepare for the SGM and convince the game I'm the right person for the job."

An RFU Special General Meeting on 29 April will decide the position.

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