Saracens strike back over England blueprint for Farrell

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The Independent Online

Saracens last night entered the Andy Farrell debate and admitted to being confused over what position best suited the former rugby league player.

When Farrell, 31, joined Saracens in March last year Andy Robinson and Steve Diamond (Saracens' director of rugby at the time) believed the former Wigan and Great Britain player should have a gentle introduction to the game by playing in the centre, before moving to the back row. Since then, throughout a prolonged spell out with injury, Farrell has been working on playing in the specialised back-row role of blind-side flanker.

The England management said this week that they wanted Farrell to play outside the scrum in the No 12 rather than the No 6 shirt.

But Saracens said yesterday: "The club is confused as to the apparent turnaround in position of England head coach Andy Robinson who, after being in regular contact with Saracens' coaching staff, appears to have had a change of mind about the position best suited to Farrell, who has played just 85 minutes of first-team rugby following 18 months out of action through injury.

"When Farrell's switch of codes was announced last March, Andy Robinson was quoted as saying: 'I've got this picture of him attacking off the back of line-outs, or playing at No 8 in a scrum that's going forward and running off that scrum'."

Mark Sinderberry, Saracens' chief executive, added: "The correct process for him to go through is to learn the game over the next few months, be successful with Saracens, get into the England team and then be a part of the World Cup if he deserves a place."

Robinson was scheduled last night to meet Diamond's successor, Alan Gaffney, to clarify the position, but the club announced that Farrell would be on the bench against Cardiff on Sunday.

Robinson had to add another name to his lengthy injury list. The Northampton winger Ben Cohen has been dropped out of Saints' starting line-up against Newport-Gwent Dragons in tomorrow's EDF Energy Cup match with a rib injury.

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