Lancaster puts faith in Farrell
England coach Stuart Lancaster has hailed Owen Farrell as a rare talent and insisted his selection at fly-half to face Wales on Saturday was no gamble.
Lancaster knew the day he was appointed as interim head coach that Farrell would be in his team and it was only a matter of time before the 20-year-old was thrust into action at fly-half. The opportunity has now come earlier than expected due to an injury to Charlie Hodgson.
"It is a great testament to him as a person, his game understanding, his core skills and his temperament that he is able to do it," Lancaster said of Farrell. "No-one is concerned in the slightest. As a management, we know he is a quality player and a grounded person. It's a great opportunity for him and I'm sure he'll be excited by it."
Farrell's temperament and relentless pursuit of excellence has already seen him compared with Jonny Wilkinson by ex-England flanker Richard Hill and former Wales fly-half Neil Jenkins.
Lancaster was wary of echoing those thoughts, preferring to let Farrell carve his own niche in the England number 10 jersey.
"I wouldn't want to compare any young player to Jonny Wilkinson because I think it sets them up. Owen Farrell is Owen Farrell," Lancaster said.
"Owen has got the ability to deliver quality passes, put people through gaps and play the ball.
"His core skills, his basic skills, are very good. He is one of the best young players I've ever coached in that regard."
Lancaster was in bullish mood ahead of the Wales clash following England's hard-fought wins against Scotland and Italy, and said: "This is a very exciting crop of young English players coming through. We want to play a brand of rugby that excites the crowd."
Farrell's switch to fly-half opened the way for Manu Tuilagi's return at outside centre while Ben Morgan, Lee Dickson and Geoff Parling will all make their first England starts.