Saracens star Owen Farrell has benefited from Lions tour, says McCall
09:00 27 March 2014
PA Wire/Press Association Images
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall believes Owen Farrell has benefited hugely from the British and Irish Lions tour last summer – but can still get better.
The fly-half scored 17 points including a try to claim the man of the match award as Sarries beat Harlequins 39-17 in front of a world-record 83,889 club rugby crowd at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.
At 22 years of age, Farrell is firmly placed as England’s first-choice goal-kicker ahead of next year’s World Cup in England.
And, despite Saracens’ squad rotation policy, his starts in the big games suggest he pips the Premiership’s all-time record points scorer Charlie Hodgson in the pecking order.
“He can get better, of course he can,” said McCall. “You can all see how much he’s improved since last summer.
“I think the Lions tour has made a huge difference to him. He’s in great form at the moment and is such a mature 22-year-old.
“We rotate the squad regularly throughout the season, so Owen’s game time is exactly what it should be at the moment – just using him as an example.
“There was no necessity to rest Owen and everyone knows that, in the weeks to come, Charlie will start some games for us as well.
“We’ve got this Ulster match looming in a couple of weeks’ time [in the Heineken Cup quarter-final] and it made sense to us to involve Owen in training.
“He’s been away from the club since the beginning of January so it suited us to include all the international contingent in this game with a view to the Ulster match in two weeks’ time.”
Saracens set the previous world attendance record at Wembley in 2012 and, asked about doing it again, McCall said: “It was a brilliant occasion, wasn’t it? To have a world record crowd for a run of the mill Premiership game was brilliant.”
As a Wigan native and son of rugby league legend and four-time Challenge Cup winner Andy Farrell, Wembley has a special place in the heart of Farrell junior.
He said: “It’s a massive privilege to play [at Wembley] in the first place. Growing up watching Challenge Cups here has always made this a special place for me.
“Wigan were there a lot when I was younger and they had an unbelievable team so it seemed to be every year. It wasn’t just me, everybody from Wigan made the trip. The whole town was behind it.”