Jan 15 2013
Head coach Stuart Lancaster hailed Owen Farrell as a unique young talent - and believes his goal-kicking prowess should strike fear into England's rivals in the RBS 6 Nations.
Farrell's 32-point haul in Saracens' Heineken Cup victory over Racing Metro on Saturday extended his run of consecutive successful shots at goal to 29. Lancaster has also been impressed with the development of Farrell's all-round game and the way he has used England's victory over New Zealand as a springboard to improve.
"I can't think of a time when I have seen someone kick 11 from 11 before," Lancaster said at the launch of the Natwest RugbyForce scheme at Millwall RFC on Monday. "A proven goal-kicker is crucial at the highest level. It is not just that but his management of the game has improved, his maturity."
Lancaster continued: "He has really moved on since that New Zealand performance. He is playing in big games now and playing extremely well. He has that competitive fire and temperament you look for in elite players which is quite unique among young players.
"From the moment he came into the England camp as a 20-year-old his maturity, his game understanding, his inner confidence and temperament has shone out. It was that which gave me the confidence in the Six Nations last year to promote him to start."
Lancaster was also quick to praise the performances of fly-half Freddie Burns, who scored 26 points in Gloucester's Amlin Challenge Cup win against Bordeaux Begles, and Toby Flood. As part of the drive to bring competition for places, Lancaster will not name his captain for the Six Nations until the squad come into camp.
It will also mean that Farrell cannot rest on his laurels, although those who know Lancaster knows he puts a great deal of stock in those with "credit in the bank". Farrell certainly has that. He was at fly-half for England's victories over France and Ireland and he outplayed Dan Carter at Twickenham, having reclaimed the jersey after a dip in form.
In between time, Farrell also received a a world player of the year nomination.
"Toby got his opportunity in South Africa and Owen went to bench. He understood the reasons why and we had a good chat," Lancaster said. "The one thing about Owen is that he never sulked or moaned, he just rolled his sleeves up and worked harder at his game. He is playing extremely well.
"We've got an idea in our mind (of who will play at fly-half in the Six Nations) but you don't want to create any complacency. I want Toby, Freddie and Owen to be competitive and competing for the shirt."