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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 August 2005, 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK
Farrell still centre of attention
By Phil Harlow

Farrell has been learning the ropes on the training pitch with Saracens

The most telling moment of Andy Farrell's pre-season news conference was the barely audible "yes" he let out when his interrogators finally moved on to other targets.

After 20 unwanted minutes in the spotlight, Farrell's relief was clear when attention momentarily switched to former All Blacks captain Taine Randell and Cobus Visagie, a South Africa prop with 29 caps.

But Randell and Visagie may as well have been the kit man and the tea lady for all the interest the assembled journalists showed.

Farrell was the centre of attention, and the former Great Britain rugby league captain is going to have to get used to it after being picked in England's elite squad before playing his first serious game of union

The 30-year-old, who had been due to make his Saracens debut in Saturday's pre-season friendly against Bedford before suffering a toe injury, is keen to play down early expectations.

Farrell does not lack self-belief after his glittering career in league, but realises the need to prove his mettle in the Guinness Premiership.

ANDY FARRELL FACTFILE
Farrell has one almost every trophy in rugby league
Born: 30 May 1975
Family: Wife Colleen, son Owen
Nickname: Faz
Former club: Wigan Warriors
Great Britain caps: 34 (29 as captain)
Honours: Challenge Cup wins (1993, 1994, 1995, 2002); League wins (1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998); Young Player of the Year (1994, 1995), Man of Steel (1995, 2004), International Player of the Year (2004); OBE for services to rugby league

"I need to get my feet under the table at Saracens," he said.

"I'm very fortunate but I've got a long way to go. The squad's only picked to keep an eye on people.

"You have to play well to get picked for the actual England games so I'm not reading too much into it."

Farrell is recognised as one of rugby league's all-time greats, but his switch to union has come relatively late in his life as a professional sportsman and negotiating the minefield of rugby union laws is a priority.

"What's one of them?," joked Farrell, when asked if he had read rugby union's law book.

"I'm picking things up constantly. I'm finding there are things that have been brought up in training that everybody doesn't understand fully, but I have been doing a bit of homework.

"But you don't know if you've got it right or not until you start playing the game."

One of the biggest talking points surrounding Farrell's cross-code switch has been the debate about his best position in his new sport.

FARRELL FANS
He's a world-class player and his distribution skills will make him a major decision-maker for us
Saracens director of rugby Steve Diamond

He knows how to pass, kick and go through defences - he reminds me of Yannick Jauzion or Damien Traille
Saracens centre Thomas Castaignede

At 6ft 4in and almost 18 stone, Farrell's size and physical presence suggest a natural back-rower, but his extraordinary handling and kicking skills also mark him out as a potential play-maker in the backs.

Saracens appear to have settled on an initial position of inside centre, with a view to a move into the pack as Farrell's understanding of the more technical aspects of the game improves.

"It's irrelevant what number he has on his back at set-pieces because it's after set-pieces we feel he can do some damage for us," said Saracens director of rugby Steve Diamond.

"We'll start him at inside centre and see how he does. In six or 12 months we may look at other positions - we want to get him in areas where he can do the most damage."

Andy Farrell
Farrell is likely to start the season with a number 12 on his back

Farrell, who played at prop, second row, loose forward and stand-off in league, said he would be happy wherever he was selected.

"I'll play wherever I'm picked, that's up to the coaching staff," he said.

"In rugby league I played all over the park and if I start off at centre in union then that's not to say I'm going to stay there. I'll do whatever's best for the team."

After more than a decade at the top of rugby league, Farrell's brave switch to union leaves him with something to prove all over again.

And despite admitting to missing Wigan's famous pies, Farrell should have what it takes to win over a whole new ball game.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Interview: Saracens' Andy Farrell



SEE ALSO
Farrell debut delayed by injury
20 Aug 05 |  English
OBE honour for captain Farrell
31 Dec 04 |  Rugby League
Robinson excited by Farrell move
24 Mar 05 |  English
Classy Farrell will be a success
24 Mar 05 |  Rugby League
Farrell 'deserves higher praise'
04 Nov 04 |  International


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