sport

Farrell earns glowing review

Stuart Lancaster hailed Owen Farrell as a unique talent - and thinks his goal-kicking should strike fear into England's Six Nations rivals.

Farrell's 32-point haul in Saracens' Heineken Cup victory over Racing Metro on Saturday extended his run of consecutive successful shots at goal to 29.

Just as they did when Jonny Wilkinson was in the 10 jersey, England's opponents will know that Farrell has the ability to punish any indiscretion within kicking distance.

Lancaster has also been impressed with the development of Farrell's all-round game and the way he has used England's victory over New Zealand as a springboard to improve.

"I can't think of a time when I have seen someone kick 11 from 11 before," Lancaster said at the launch of the Natwest RugbyForce scheme at Millwall RFC.

"A proven goal-kicker is crucial at the highest level. It is not just that but his management of the game has improved, his maturity.

"He has really moved on since that New Zealand performance. He is playing in big games now and playing extremely well.

"He has that competitive fire and temperament you look for in elite players which is quite unique among young players.

"From the moment he came into the England camp as a 20-year-old his maturity, his game understanding, his inner confidence and temperament has shone out.

"It was that which gave me the confidence in the Six Nations last year to promote him to start."

Lancaster was also quick to praise the performances of fly-half Freddie Burns, who scored 26 points in Gloucester's Amlin Challenge Cup win against Bordeaux Begles, and Toby Flood.

The England management are anxious to drive competition for places, a policy which means that Lancaster will not name his captain for the Six Nations until the squad come into camp.

It will also mean that Farrell cannot rest on his laurels, although those who know Lancaster knows he puts a great deal of stock in those with "credit in the bank".

Farrell certainly has that. He was at fly-half for England's victories over France and Ireland and he outplayed Dan Carter at Twickenham, having reclaimed the jersey after a dip in form.

In between time, Farrell also received a a world player of the year nomination.

"Toby got his opportunity in South Africa and Owen went to bench. He understood the reasons why and we had a good chat," Lancaster said.

"The one thing about Owen is that he never sulked or moaned, he just rolled his sleeves up and worked harder at his game. He is playing extremely well.

"We've got an idea in our mind (of who will play at fly-half in the Six Nations) but you don't want to create any complacency.

"Owen had the shirt in the last game and he's going to want to hang onto it. It's all down to performances before the camp and training within the camp. We'll have a good few days.

"I want Toby, Freddie and Owen to be competitive and competing for the shirt."

Lancaster is confident full-back Alex Goode could be fit for the start of the Six Nations but he is less certain about prop Alex Corbisiero, who is struggling with a knee injury.

Manu Tuilagi and Tom Youngs both suffered calf problems in Leicester's draw with the Ospreys and Lancaster should know more on their fitness on Tuesday.