Farrell to take control

Andy Farrell has been backed to "bark out the orders" when he makes his Test debut in a new-look England team against opening RBS 6 Nations opponents Scotland on Saturday. [more]

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Andy Farrell has been backed to "bark out the orders" when he makes his Test debut in a new-look England team against opening RBS 6 Nations opponents Scotland on Saturday.

Farrell, his former Wigan rugby league colleague Jason Robinson and a fit-again Jonny Wilkinson are the headline acts as England target a show-stopping display less than three months after a capacity Twickenham audience booed them off.

While memories of the demoralising autumn displays – three defeats in four Tests and a first home loss to Argentina – clearly remain, head coach Brian Ashton has already started shaking things up.

Only two players – flanker Joe Worsley and number eight Martin Corry – remain in their starting positions from a 25-14 reversal against South Africa 10 weeks ago.

England have a new captain, Wasps prop Phil Vickery, yet the side contains eight World Cup-winning squad members, although that will drop to seven if full-back Iain Balshaw’s groin injury sidelines him following fitness checks later on Friday.

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Wilkinson, who has missed England’s last 30 Tests because of repeated injury setbacks, is the man most likely to make things tick, but ex-Great Britain league skipper Farrell can offer an immediate 2007 World Cup statement in the number 12 shirt.

Farrell’s union experience is limited to less than a dozen starts, yet those who know him best have no doubt he can deliver on the big stage.

"Andy makes decisions exceptionally well under extreme pressure every time," said Farrell’s one-time Great Britain playing colleague Daryl Powell.

"The hype surrounding his debut will not faze him at all. He is a dominant leader who sets himself very high standards and expects the same off his team-mates.

"He will be out there barking out the orders at Twickenham on Saturday like a Test veteran, and that is just what England need.

"Playing at centre will suit his capabilities because he is a strong ball-carrier, he can pass long and short with equal ability, and he has a big left foot.

"There will be some things about rugby union that are not second nature to him yet, but the positives far outweigh the negatives."

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