sport

NZ hold no fear for Farrell

Owen Farrell's no-fear mentality marks him out as a special player - and that is how he will approach England's clash with New Zealand.

Farrell will start opposite fellow world player of the year nominee Dan Carter on Saturday after reclaiming England's fly-half jersey from the injured Toby Flood.

The 21-year-old's inclusion on the International Rugby Board's shortlist for the award alongside Carter, Richie McCaw and Frederic Michalak was as much a shock to him as anyone else.

Farrell's reaction to his nomination was so grounded as to be positively subterranean - and he is not in the least bit fazed about the challenge of taking on Carter and the world champions.

"It is very humbling to be alongside the other players on the list. They are all world class," Farrell said, after an embarrassed chuckle.

"I didn't really understand it at first. I was getting all these messages and I didn't know what was going on.

"The lads have congratulated me and so-on but the main focus is this weekend.

"New Zealand are a world class team. They are unbeaten in 20 matches.

"That is the challenge to look forward to. There is no point being scared of it.

"It's a game that I love. It's not a game that I'm scared of.

"It may be a game against the best team in the world but it is still another game of rugby."

Farrell was nominated for the award on the back of his Six Nations performances, when he took over at fly-half in his maiden international campaign and guided England to victories over France and Ireland.

Stuart Lancaster was immediately impressed with Farrell's temperament and his "warrior spirit", even when his form appeared to dip on the summer tour.

Farrell lost his place after the first Test defeat to South Africa but played a key role off the bench when England rounded off the series with a 14-14 draw in Port Elizabeth.

Farrell has not always been Saracens' preferred fly-half this season - but it is that no-fear temperament which convinces Lancaster that starting him against the All Blacks is no gamble.

"He has huge qualities," Lancaster said.

"I don't think the nomination has made any difference to Owen. It hasn't made him any more apprehensive or more confident in his own ability.

"He is a pretty grounded lad. I don't think he will be getting carried away.

"He will be concentrating primarily on the challenge of managing an England team against the All Blacks and playing against Dan Carter.

"One thing Owen has got above a lot of players, he has temperament, big game temperament. It is a quality that is very important in international rugby."

Farrell first became aware of Carter's genius during the 2005 British and Irish Lions tour, when the All Black fly-half produced a complete performance in the second Test victory.

"The thing about him is the way he is always in complete control of what he's doing," Farrell said.

"He's always in control of everything going on around him and he almost looks like he could play it in his sleep.

"A lot of work goes into that and the way he puts things behind him as well means nothing really affects him during a game. That is a great quality to have."

Last weekend, Farrell very publicly disagreed with Chris Robshaw over the captain's decision to kick a penalty goal when England trailed 16-12 to South Africa with just two minutes remaining.

It was an unedifying moment at a key time for England - but it will not stop Farrell from taking the lead on Saturday and voicing his opinion

"There was a debate, but there wasn't an argument," Farrell said.

"I'm sure most captains like the leaders in the team around them to discuss the decision. I will definitely speak up."

Farrell's inclusion is the only change to England's starting XV from last weekend's 16-15 defeat to South Africa, although Northampton lock Courtney Lawes and Gloucester fly-half Freddie Burns are on the bench.

England concede a gulf of experience to the All Blacks, with Lancaster's starting XV boasting a combined total of just 206 caps compared to New Zealand's 788.

The world champions head to Twickenham on the back of a 20-match unbeaten run while England are desperate to put two frustrating defeats to bed.

"I know we've been on the wrong side of two results, but we've got better and better as the weeks have gone on and we've pushed teams right to the end," Farrell said.

"Hopefully it's time to win one this weekend."