British and Irish Lions: We have the firepower to shoot down the best - Owen Farrell
Owen Farrell insists the British and Irish Lions are heading to New Zealand confident they have the firepower to tame the All Blacks. Warren Gatland’s 41-man squad fly out from Heathrow today facing one of sport’s toughest away series and, with it, the chance to etch their names in rugby union history.
There is still considerable work to do before the tour’s curtain-raiser against New Zealand Barbarians on June 3, not least the introductions and integration of a squad that has been pieced together in phases determined by end-of-season club commitments.
But England back Farrell was typically forthright about the belief among the Lions, who must topple the sport’s dominant force in partisan conditions and turn the 2005 whitewash emphatically on its head.
“It’s a tough challenge for the squad and a massive tour,” he said. “They’re obviously the best team in the world so playing them in their back garden is going to be a massive challenge.
“I don’t think anybody is going out there just to take part. Everyone firmly believes we’re going out to win and that’s the way it should be.
“It’s a brilliant squad that’s going out there, full of world-class players. If we get it right and make sure we’re on the same page as soon as possible, I’d imagine this squad would challenge anyone.”
As ever on these much-cherished trips, the bonding process will be critical to maximising the Lions’ clear potential.
Just a couple of months after going head to head in the RBS 6 Nations, the cream of English, Irish, Welsh and Scottish rugby will pitch in for a shared cause.
Gatland has already delivered on his promise of getting the players to, quite literally, sing from the same hymn-sheet by having them sing songs from all four nations, while personal relationships are also being forged through room-sharing and a selection of tour committees being formed.
“Yes, we’re a choir,” Farrell said with a chuckle. “I’m enjoying it. That’s one of the things that will bring you together... there’s been a fair amount of it, to be fair, and I hope it will be good.
“It’s just about trying to get to know each other, the same as anyone else when you first meet. Last week I (roomed with Ireland’s) Robbie Henshaw. I’ve played against Robbie a few times, so it’s good to get to know him a bit more. We’ve all been out for food a couple of times, had coffees, catching up with people we’ve met before and trying to get to know each other.
“It’s pretty natural. Everyone’s a good lad here, it’s not cliquey, not hard to be part of. Everyone is on the same page with what we’re trying to do and all I can say about the last week is being part of it has been brilliant.”
On a personal level, Farrell offers some welcome versatility to Gatland and could conceivably make the Test XV at either 10 or 12. He offered no real hints on his likely deployment when pressed, saying: “It’s mix and match, really. There were only 30 of us here last week so a few of us had to fit in here and there.
“I’m easy — that’s not up to me to decide. (Fly-half) is where I’ve played the majority of my rugby but that’s not to say I feel more confident. I’ve played enough of 12 as well. It depends on what other people see me as, not about what I think.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital