Owen Farrell’s influence on England hailed ahead of 100th cap

100 up: Owen Farrell  (Getty Images)
100 up: Owen Farrell (Getty Images)

Sam Warburton has hailed Owen Farrell's transformative influence on England, ahead of the Saracens playmaker's 100th Test cap for his country.

Farrell will bring up his century in Saturday's Autumn Nations Series clash against New Zealand at Twickenham. The 31-year-old has regained the England captaincy this autumn in the wake of Courtney Lawes' head-injury absence.

Former Lions captain Warburton paid tribute to Farrell as one of the most skilled operators in Test history, praising the England talisman's leadership qualities, tactical vision and physical fire.

"You know he fronts it physically, but he's also got a phenomenal understanding of the game," Warburton told Standard Sport. "Owen has amazing technical and tactical nous, but he also brings the fire, which is what I love about him.

"I've always loved Faz as a player, a guy and a competitor, and England are a different team with him out there. He'd have that impact on me now, I'd love him to be in a huddle with me now, so imagine what impact that would have on a 21 or 22-year-old."

This weekend England face New Zealand for the first time since defeating the All Blacks 19-7 in the 2019 World Cup semi-final in Japan.

Farrell has featured at inside centre amid a nascent partnership with fly-half Marcus Smith so far this autumn. Head coach Eddie Jones has insisted England are not wedded to that combination, but a George Ford-Farrell 10-12 axis proved pivotal to that 2019 World Cup win.

Warburton won 74 caps for Wales between 2009 and 2017, captaining the Lions in both 2013 and 2017.

The 34-year-old believes England should stick to the twin playmaker system.

"I think you need two playmakers, I think it's too much on Marcus to non-stop feel he's the first attacking threat off almost every phase," said Warburton. "I think it's great for him to step back and try to reload.

"The best centres are yelling at people, telling them what to do in attack. You always want more communication, and having that vision at both 10 and 12 is gold dust. It worked brilliantly in 2017 on the Lions tour, and Owen and Marcus can combine beautifully."

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