The 2017 Six Nations championships holds personal significance for home nations players as with a British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand looming, the Six Nations is the perfect audition for those on the cusp of selection to stake their claim.
Lion head coach Warren Gatland has already taken noted of Ireland’s injury prone Jonathan Sexton and gone so far as to suggest he needs to prove his fitness if he wishes to entertain any notions of selection this summer. Gatland might well be so blunt as he has plenty of world class options to choose from come the summer.
Now, former England legend and Lion Austin Healey has, in his column for the Telegraph, completely dismissed the likes of Sexton, Dan Biggar, Geroge Ford and Finn Russell and instead backed England’s Owen Farrell for the number 10 jersey.
Dedicating the majority of his column on Tuesday to the natural out-half who plies his international trade at inside centre, Healey insists that not only should be be ‘nailed on’ for the Lions squad, but he should do as the first choice out-half.
“Not only is Farrell nailed on, but I think he is nailed on at fly-half. I know Jonathan Sexton, Dan Biggar, Finn Russell and George Ford will have their supporters, but Farrell is a better all-round fly-half than all of them, even if he plays with 12 on his back.”
Gushing with praise, Healey continues to extol the virtues of the versatile half-back,
“Biggar may have a kick-chase game and Ford plays closer to the line, but Farrell really has no glaring weaknesses in his game. And perhaps his greatest strength is his reliability. Pressure does not faze him and he is durable. Now Gatland has one name on his teamsheet, there are 14 others that need filling.”
As far as the former England international is concerned, Farrell is the only choice for Warren Gatland when it comes to the Lions number 10 jersey and based on his current form in the Six Nations, not many could argue with him.
He even goes so far as to suggest in his in the league or even better than World Cup winning legend Jonny Wilkinson.
Little hand grenade… is Farrell a better all round player than Wilko??
— Austin Healey (@IamAustinHealey) February 12, 2017
Farrell, at inside centre, is able to offer world class options in attack and defence and when it comes to game management, there are not many who can top him.
Is Healey then correct? Has Gatland got the easiest decision of the lot when it comes to starting out-half? Is Farrell a shoe in?
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
This week’s edition of The Oval Office, we speak with Niall Ronan, David Arnott and talk all things Six Nations.