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'I can't emphasise enough how important he will be to the Lions' - Nigel Owens

By Ian Cameron

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Retired referee Nigel Owens is backing England star Owen Farrell to shine on the British & Irish Lions series in South Africa, saying the Saracen will be critical to a successful tour.


Owens believes that despite a ‘below par’ Guinness Six Nations, Farrell will come good for the tour. What’s more, Owens has the utmost respect for the Wigan-born tyro, who has been named on the bench for today’s match with Japan in Murrayfield.

Writing in his WalesOnline column, Owens also says that it is a straight shoot-out between Farrell and Wales flyhalf Dan Biggar, suggesting Finn Russell will likely be a de facto third choice at a standoff.

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“As for the role Farrell will play on tour, I can’t emphasise enough how important he will be to the Lions’ prospects of winning,” wrote Owens.

“People say he wasn’t at his best during the Six Nations, he and the other Saracens players maybe weren’t looking sharp enough after a year outside of the top flight at club level.

“I’d respond by saying form is temporary, class permanent. There were lots of other players from differing countries who were below par in the Six Nations, it certainly wasn’t only Farrell.”

Owens believes Farrell has matured to point that any communication he has with officials in SA, or Lions management, will be respectful.


“Make no mistake, if the Lions are to be successful in their three-Test battle with the world champion Springboks, then Farrell will be pivotal to that.

“In his role as a player, whether that is in the inside centre position he often occupies for England or as Gatland’s 10, but also in his role off the field with what happens behind the scenes.

“If these Lions have any issues or grumbles on tour and want those concerns raised with Gatland, then Farrell is the type of individual who will have no compunction in putting across that viewpoint to the management.

“But he will do it in a respectful way, whilst also making his point.”


“Gatland knows the value Farrell will bring to the team and so, evidently, do the other players given how that afore-mentioned vote went.

“Farrell might have to play at 12 again, as he did for two Tests in New Zealand last time out with Jonathan Sexton at 10, because Dan Biggar is pushing hard to be the starting fly-half this time.

“But they’ll each be right up for the battle with the world champions, the kind of players Gatland will want.

“Finn Russell has great qualities, he’ll suddenly produce moments of match-winning magic to get you two tries – but he also might make errors that cost you a couple as well.”


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