Can Gatland Trust Farrell On The Lions Tour?

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Owen Farrell, more than most of the British and Irish Lions squad – has a point to prove against South Africa in the three-match Test series. The Springboks defeated Farrell and his England teammates in the 2019 World Cup final to secure the crown for the third time.

Farrell failed to break down a ferocious South Africa rearguard in Yokohama. The Red Rose threw everything at Siya Kolisi’s men, but the Boks held firm to prevent England from crossing the try line. Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi capitalised on Eddie Jones’ tiring side to storm their way to the Webb Ellis Cup.

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Farrell has come under fire for his form and captaincy for England since the tournament but was still selected by Warren Gatland for the 2021 Lions Tour. Gatland and his men are backed in the 2021 Lions Tour odds at 4/5 to win the series against the reigning world champions.

His squad contains 12 England players in the ranks, therefore, the Red Rose will have a huge say in whether the Lions will be triumphant for the first time in South Africa since 1997.

Farrell faces a battle for his place in the starting line-up. Gatland might be tempted to play his former number 10, Dan Biggar, at fly-half instead of the England captain. Biggar was in far superior form in the 2021 Six Nations as Wales clinched the title along with the Triple Crown.

The difference between the two players was evident in the Dragons’ triumph over England at the Principality Stadium. Before Biggar was withdrawn due to injury, he placed Wales in command on the contest, and although Farrell was on point with the boot, control of the game eluded the England skipper. It could weigh on the mind of Gatland during his selection process.

It will also be noted that Farrell has had numerous warnings regarding his discipline or lack thereof. His frustration was palpable against referee Pascal Gauzere in England’s loss to Wales, remonstrating with the official after being penalised inside his own 22.

Farrell’s tackling has also attracted attention for all the wrong reasons. He was given a red card for catching Wasps full-back Charlie Atkinson around the head in the Premiership in 2020. The England skipper also escaped punishment for a similar incident against Doncaster Knights in April 2021.

Farrell’s technique has been put under review for his failure to wrap his arms as well as his approach to grapple the shoulders rather than the waist and the legs. That must also come under consideration for Gatland. One mistake could cost the Lions the series, such is the tight nature of contests against the sides from the Southern Hemisphere.

The 29-year-old is an exceptional player at the peak of his powers and a good leader on the field, as was evident in the 2019 World Cup. However, his poor qualities have been on display in 2021, and it could cost him the chance to play an influential role in the series. Farrell may have to settle for a place on the bench throughout the tour.