Owen Farrell was worthy of the Lions captaincy according to many, and the England fly-half appreciates that he must be at his sparkling best if the side are to return to winning ways against the Crusaders.
The last two seasons have boded incredible success for Farrell, as he has been instrumental in both of Saracens’ Champions Cup victories as well as England’s initial victory and retention of their Six Nations title. Saturday will be Farrell’s first start of this year’s tour, as he looks to cement his place in the test side ahead of Ireland’s Johnny Sexton, against a Crusaders side brimming with All-Blacks superstars that remains unbeaten in their current Super Rugby campaign.
Despite the Lion’s defeat to the Blues, Farrell feels that the Lions are improving steadily although he does admit that that imrpovement needs to be turned into wins before the crucial first test on June 24.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Farrell said:
“To concede a late try the way we did after having fought back twice was disappointing. I don’t think we would want to go into the Test series having lost five games. Apart from losing, the Blues game was a step in the right direction.”
The England fly-half’s kicking ability as well as his all-round contribution could prove pivotal on this summer’s tour, with widespread suggestions that Farrell is seen as a far more reliable outlet for points than his counterparts Jonny Sexton and Leigh Halfpenny. It is also questionable as to where Warren Gatland will field Farrell should he start the first test against the All Blacks, does he put his star player in his usual international position? Or does he take a gamble and deploy him at centre like at club-level?
After replacing Sexton to secure an unconvincing opening victory for the Lions with some incisive passing and clinical kicking, few would disagree that Farrell is a preferred option to his Irish counterpart given recent form.
A second consecutive defeat could prove calamitous for the Lions momentum and morale, and Farrell acknowledged the difficulty of the task which lies ahead:
“It only takes one moment for Crusaders to create something and show how clinical they are. We have to make sure we stay in games for 80 minutes. They are a quality side, they’ve got strengths all over, you only need to look at the team they’ve announced to see that.”
The Lions come up against a Crusaders side fully loaded with All Blacks superstars, including Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Luke Romano and captain Sam Whitelock.
In what is sure to be the toughest test yet, Farrell is certain he and his counterparts will rise to the occasion.
Jordan Norris, Pundit Arena.