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Owen Farrell branded 'a liability' by former England flyhalf

By Ian Cameron
Owen Farrell of Saracens celebrates with the fans after their sides victory during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Saracens and Bristol Bears at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on March 26, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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It hasn’t taken Owen Farrell long to start making headlines in the sport after returning from injury to star for Saracens over the weekend.

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Farrell was instrumental in steering Sarries to a 27-23 win over Bristol Bears at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

It was Farrell’s first game in four months after returning from surgery on his ankle and the 30-year-old kicked 12 points before being forced off with a HIA after 70 minutes.

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Chris Ashton | Rugby Roots
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Chris Ashton | Rugby Roots

Yet it was a no-arms tackle attempt that went unpunished that was the talk of many pundits after the win.

It’s the type of tackle that Farrell has become known for and a subsequent lack of punishment has become something of a running joke for his critics.

Now former England flyhalf Stuart Barnes has branded Farrell a potential risk given the abundance of red cards being brandished at Test level of late.

In a Times article headlined ‘Owen Farrell’s reckless tackling is a liability England can’t afford’, Barnes said unless his tackling is corrected, it could put England in trouble in Australia.

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“For all the questions asked about Marcus Smith’s lack of size and perceived defensive weaknesses, Eddie Jones’s first-choice England captain has returned to the sport with the same tackling issues as he left it.

“There was not even a hint of arm-wrapping, which would have offered a display of legality. It wasn’t a swinging arm and it wasn’t malicious but if he commits a similar infringement in Australia this summer, England could find themselves in trouble.

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“He’s as hard as nails. But until he can warn roaming forwards and charging centres out of his defensive corridor with the controlled violence of Jonny Wilkinson, his non-tackling technique is more of a negative than a positive.

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“A solid shoulder seems a strange aspect to single out but the Test game is hugely aware of its audience and the obsession with health and safety occasionally borders on the paranoid. The game will ensure it does its best to protect players from Farrell’s edgy aggression; maybe even from himself.”

One thing is clear, Farrell’s stock has certainly risen in his absence. While Smith was brilliant in flashes during the Six Nations, England missed the Wigan-born pivot’s leadership and game management.

Many believe that Farrell will come straight back into the team, quite possibly at 12.

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