Farrell must deliver

Two years ago the Rugby Football Union splashed out big money to sign Andy Farrell from Wigan with England's World Cup defence specifically in mind. [more]

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Two years ago the Rugby Football Union splashed out big money to sign Andy Farrell from Wigan with England’s World Cup defence specifically in mind.

The former Great Britain rugby league captain now has two months to prove that he was worth it.

That was the challenge laid down by England head coach Brian Ashton after he named Farrell in England’s 47-man World Cup training squad.

Farrell’s rugby union career has been ravaged by injuries and he missed the chance to press his World Cup claims on the summer tour of South Africa, after going down badly with the virus which swept the camp.

And there is plenty of competition at inside centre, with Toby Flood, Shane Geraghty, Jamie Noon, Josh Lewsey and Olly Barkley, plus Jonny Wilkinson and Charlie Hodgson, all capable of wearing the 12 jersey at Test level.

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But Farrell has training camps in Bath and Portugal plus Tests against Wales and France to convince Ashton before the final 30-man squad has to be submitted on August 14.

Ashton said: "Andy’s got to show that he’s on top of his game and on top of his fitness.

"One of his problems has been his fitness levels and his ability to train on a regular basis.

"He also needs to show he’s better than other players in the squad in his position.

"South Africa was a massive disappointment for him and for us. It must be quite a shattering experience to travel out to South Africa for three weeks and not play in a Test match."

England were horribly out-muscled in South Africa and Farrell lends a physicality to the inside centre position that none of the other specialist 12s could match.

Ashton has addressed that issue of physicality across the board by including the likes of Farrell, Dan Hipkiss, Fraser Waters, Simon Shaw and Lawrence Dallaglio.

He left out attacking talents Iain Balshaw and James Simpson-Daniel because they are not considered "durable" enough to survive a World Cup campaign.

Dallaglio, 34, returned to an England squad for the first time since the 2006 RBS 6 Nations after an impressive return to form as Wasps won the Heineken Cup.

He is joined in the extended party by 10 Wasps team-mates – the most of any Guinness Premiership club – and 14 other members of England’s victorious 2003 World Cup squad.

"Someone like Lawrence is never off the radar for a whole variety of reasons," explained Ashton.
On his own admission he wasn’t playing well enough to be picked for the Six Nations.

"Once the Heineken Cup got to the knockout phases he suddenly demonstrated he is good enough to play again and influence a game at that level.

"Leadership has been one of our issues and Lawrence obviously brings that to the table but it was purely on the playing side that he came back into consideration for selection."

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