Owen Farrell will struggle to make the Lions' 23 for South Africa Test series, reckons Will Greenwood
Owen Farrell may struggle to make the British & Irish Lions 23 for the three-Test series against South Africa later this month, reckons three-time tourist Will Greenwood.
Warren Gatland’s men kicked off the 2021 Tour with a 28-10 Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup win over Japan at the end of June, in which England skipper Farrell featured as a 55th-minute replacement for Ireland centre Bundee Aki.
The 29-year-old, from Billinge Higher End in Wigan, is set to wear the No.12 jersey in the Lions’ clash against the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday, earning the first start of his third Tour, having already picked up four Test caps.
But with the likes of Aki and Robbie Henshaw battling for a spot in the midfield - as well as Dan Biggar impressing at No.10 against Japan - 2003 World Cup winner Greenwood isn’t sure Farrell’s versatility will be enough for him to make the cut when it matters most.
“I wouldn’t have him in my 23 at the moment,” said Greenwood, who earned two Test caps during the Lions’ Tour to New Zealand in 2005. “I think he’s reached the elbow at Aintree and he’s three horses back.
“If you want someone to kick a goal to save your life you probably want Owen Farrell, but the reality is that Dan Biggar delivers that now.
“I think he’s strongest as a ten. I understand the George Ford-Owen Farrell combination for England, but I think at the top level he hasn’t quite got the pace needed at 12. I think he’s plenty good enough as a 12 at club level, but at Test match and Lions level - I’m not sure.
“Farrell is an incredible athlete and leader, but I think on this Tour he’s coming from the outside and he needs to find something else. There are a lot of people who are doubted in sport though and bounce back, so I’m certainly not ruling him out.
“In reality the fact he can play both positions means he’s probably ahead of Finn Russell in the race for the No.22 shirt, but we’re just going to have to see what happens.”
Biggar’s eight points during the Lions’ win over Japan at BT Murrayfield re-affirmed Greenwood’s belief that the Welshman is in pole position for the fly-half spot, having also kicked Wales to Six Nations glory earlier this year.
The Northampton Saints stalwart will sit out the Lions’ first match in South Africa having enjoyed a strong start to his second Tour in the famous red jersey.
Greenwood, who is helping to connect rugby fans across the country with the British & Irish Lions, with Land Rover having launched a nationwide rugby themed treasure hunt, added: “I think Biggar is a great player. We get excited about what he does with the ball in the air and the command of his kicking game, but his pressure conversions and penalties are amazing.
“He’s one of those players where you don’t know how much you rate him until you miss him. I think he’s a lovely human being and a quite brilliant rugby player, and I think he’s nailed on to start the first Test on July 24.”
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