Owen Farrell can become world’s best No10, says Sir Clive Woodward

Former England head coach Sir Clive Woodward believes Owen Farrell can emulate Jonny Wilkinson

Former England head coach Sir Clive Woodward believes Owen Farrell can become the world’s best outside-half.

The Saracens playmaker renews his personnel battle with England legend Jonny Wilkinson in the Heineken Cup final in Cardiff.

Farrell has learned to control and channel his aggression—just as Jonny has always done—and his greater maturity has improved his game

Sir Clive Woodward

The current first-choice England 10 will be looking to avenge last season’s semi-final defeat by Toulon when Wilkinson kicked all 24 of the French club’s points, including a trademark drop-goal that Farrell attempted—but failed—to charge down.

Wilkinson was the last English outside-half to be dubbed the best in the world in his heyday and many fans still believe that he remains so even as his illustrious playing career comes to an end and he begins to think about a move into coaching.

“Jonny is rightly earning huge praise as his career is about to end,” said Woodward in his Daily Mail column.

“At his peak he was the best in his position in the world and I believe Farrell can achieve the same status. Perhaps we may soon see Wilkinson coaching him as part of the England set-up—now, that could become a great partnership.”

Farrell, 22, has become a mainstay in the Saracens starting XV after transitioning from 12 to 10, much like Wilkinson did at Newcastle Falcons 17 years ago and Woodward, who gave Wilkinson his break in the England squad, admits there are many similarities between the two.

“It’s normal to compare and contrast opposition players but these two have many similarities,” he added “They faced each other in the semi-finals last year and, if anything, Owen has become more like Jonny since then.

“Farrell comes across as quite shy off the field, uninterested in the limelight and wanting to focus on improving his game, just like Wilkinson.

“On the field, both are in their element running the show. Farrell has learned to control and channel his aggression—just as Jonny has always done—and his greater maturity has improved his game.

“Defensively, Wilkinson set new standards for his position and Farrell is a hugely committed tackler. He has the same toughness his dad Andy was known for in rugby league and union.

“Owen wants the ball all the time, more so than Jonny, but still has to learn when not to commit to rucks. We spent a lot of time stopping Wilkinson from getting drawn into the breakdown and Farrell tends to be in there more than he should.

“He will learn it is not a slight on his toughness to keep out of that contact area and focus on running the show. He needs to be on his feet, ready to act as first or second receiver.”

Despite a series of injuries which threatened to derail his career, Wilkinson continues to be instrumental to Toulon’s success days short of his 35th birthday and Woodward believes having former Australian international Matt Giteau alongside him at inside centre is a key part of that.

“One of the reasons Wilkinson has been so effective for Toulon has been the presence of Matt Giteau,” he said. “Having a ball-playing inside centre alongside him is key for Jonny and Giteau is one of the few players I’ve seen who would have pushed hard to make my 2003 England team.

“He has special qualities, like Will Greenwood and Mike Catt had, which they used to help bring out the best in Jonny.”

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