Owen Farrell: I'll never feel comfortable in the England squad
Owen Farrell still does not feel at ease in the environment of an England camp despite being on the brink of winning his 50th cap.
Farrell will reach the milestone in Sunday's RBS 6 Nations clash with Italy at Twickenham when he could be moved to fly-half as part of a rejigged midfield including Ben Te'o and Elliot Daly.
As the heartbeat of Eddie Jones' England side, the architect of Daly's match-winning try against Wales 11 days ago is the player they can least afford to lose, with forwards coach Steve Borthwick noting that his team-mates improve through his presence alone.
Yet Farrell still refuses to view his selection against Italy as the certainty it is, fearing it might lead to a fall in the standards that have secured the Grand Slam champions 16 successive victories.
"I don't think you ever feel comfortable and I don't think that anyone here would tell you that they feel comfortable," Farrell said.
"And that's the way it should be, because there has to be a drive to constantly improve.
"I've not thought about winning the 50th cap too much. I need to get picked first and have a good week.
"The thing here is that it's all about getting better and I go on about it, but that's all I concentrate on."
Farrell made his debut against Scotland four years ago and in the intervening years he has developed into a more rounded player, adding vision and a great range of passing skills to the kicking, defence and competitive hunger that have always been his calling cards.
"I hope I have improved a lot and have come a long way since my debut. It was all right - there were quite a few new caps at the same time as me so there were a few of us in the same position," he said.
"Of course I was nervous. You probably build it up into something that it is not. It is another game, but you are going into the unknown."
Farrell's development as a playmaker has accelerated under the guidance of Jones, who has also elicited a more measured temperament from a 25-year-old whose fiery nature would often lead to clashes with opponents.
"The more aware you are of things, the more control you can have," Farrell said.
"It's not something you can really work too hard on. I guess you can have an awareness of it and therefore be more in control of it."
Farrell - the son of rugby league great Andy Farrell - made his debut for Saracens in 2008, the same year that Borthwick arrived at the club.
"Owen has got pretty good genes with the family history," Borthwick said.
"I was fortunate that I saw him coming through as a youngster at Saracens. There are a lot of different moments that I can think of, but the one that struck me was when we played a Heineken Cup games against Racing Metro.
"There were three different times in the game when we were down by 13 points and we had him playing when and he was always totally composed saying 'how are we going to win this game?'.
"He led us back into the game and was tremendous. This was from a 21-year-old. He's got a tremendous competitive spirit and brilliant composure under pressure.
"He led in the changing room even as a teenager. He had the ability to stand up in front of a group and tell them how we were going to win the game.
"In challenging circumstances he has that clarity of thought as well as the fantastic skills he possesses."