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'Obviously there have been conversations' - Stuart Lancaster on Owen Farrell

By PA
Stuart Lancaster has signalled his intent on capturing the services of England fly-half Owen Farrell (photos via Getty Images)

Stuart Lancaster has confirmed Racing 92 are interested in recruiting Owen Farrell from Saracens but insists a deal has yet to be agreed.

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Lancaster watched his Top 14 leaders lose 29-25 to Bath in a pulsating Investec Champions Cup clash at the Recreation Ground that was billed as the west country club’s biggest game for nine years.

Farrell, the England captain who is to miss the Six Nations in order to prioritise his mental well-being, has been in talks with Racing over a possible move next season that would make him ineligible for international selection.

The 32-year-old was given his Test debut by Lancaster in 2012 when the Cumbrian was England coach and the new Racing director of rugby is keen on taking him to Paris.

“Racing are often linked with key players and I’m lucky my relationships with players from England and Ireland are all part of that, but we’ll see,” Lancaster said.

“He would be a great signing, who wouldn’t want a player like Owen Farrell? We’ll see how it plays out. No deal has been done, there is no confirmation of anything for next year.

“I have signed for four years and what I’m trying to do is build a team that can win this year and a team that’s going to be really competitive over the next couple of years as well.

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“Obviously there have been conversations. It’ll be me (who has the final say on signings).”

Bath celebrated one of their greatest wins in Europe and an important test of their revival under Johann van Graan by registering a bonus-point victory against star-studded Racing.

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They were forced to come back from a 22-8 deficit to remain on course for a home tie in the round of 16, with Alfie Barbeary, Joe Cokanasiga and Will Muir scoring the crucial tries.

Barbeary was outstanding and even at 23-years-old the number eight was the key figure in a win that was only marred by two yellow cards, resulting in his dismissal with six minutes left.

His dangerous tackle on Max Spring and shoulder-led carry into Nolann Le Garrec will result in a disciplinary hearing this week, but Van Graan is confident the England prospect will avoid a ban.

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“When I signed Alfie I said, ‘You can become the premier ball carrier in European rugby’. He carried exceptionally well against Racing,” Van Graan said.

“In terms of his turnover just before half-time and his ball carrying, he kept fighting. He is a special player. He is a big personality in our team. We are working on his fitness.

“Neither of the two incidents were on purpose. That’s rugby and I felt the referee dealt with that pretty well.

“Alfie was gutted when he came off, but hopefully he can play next weekend because it’s two yellow cards and you look at both incidents individually.”

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Jon 1 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

I think the main problem here is the structure of both countries make up. They are going to have very similar.. obstacles(not problems). It will just be part of the evolution of their rugby and they’ll need to find a way to make this versatility more advantageous than specialization. I think South Africa are well on the way to that end already, but Ireland are more likely to have a hierarchical approach and move players around the provinces. Sopoaga is going to be more than good enough to look up one of those available positions for more than a few years I believe though. Morgan would definitely be a more long term outlook. Sacha to me has the natural footwork of a second five. Not everything is about winning, if a team has 3 players that want to play 10s just give them all a good go even if its to the detriment of everyone, this is also about dreams of the players, not just the fans. This is exactly how it would be in an amateur club setting. Ultimately some players just aren’t suited to any one position. The example was of a guy that had size and speed, enough pace to burn, power to drive, and speed to kick and pass long, but just not much else when it came to actual rugby (that matched it). New Zealand has it’s own example with Jordie Barrett and probably shows what Reece Hodge could have been if the game in Australia had any administration. Despite the bigger abundance of talent in NZ, Jordie was provided with consistent time as a fullback, before being ushered in as a second five. Possibly this was due to his blood, and another might not have been as fortunate, but it is what it was, a complete contrast to how Hodge was used in Australia, were he could have had any position he wanted. When it comes down to it though, much like these young fellas, it will be about what they want, and I think you’ll find they’ll be like Hodge and just want to be as valuable to the team as they can and play wherever. It’s not like 63 International Cap is a hard thing to live with as a result of that decision!

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f
finn 10 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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FEATURE Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma
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