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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 January 2007, 18:23 GMT
Ashton gives backing to Farrell
Andy Farrell
Farrell has impressed for Saracens at inside centre
New England coach Brian Ashton says he would have no problems putting Andy Farrell in the side to take on Scotland at Twickenham on 3 February.

The rugby league convert, 31, made his union debut less than five months ago but is widely tipped to start at inside centre for the Calcutta Cup contest.

"I would have no concerns over playing Andy against Scotland," said Ashton.

"I have been watching him play since he was 17 with Wigan. I know exactly what he is capable of."

606 DEBATE: Is Farrell good enough for England?

Farrell switched codes in 2005 but a series of injuries delayed his union debut until September last year.

The move was part funded by the Rugby Football Union and Ashton says Farrell has shown enough for his club Saracens to challenge strongly for the number 12 shirt.

"He has only had a handful of games in rugby union but, in terms of what I am looking for in an inside back, he has been playing like that all his life in rugby league," added Ashton.

It would be an understatement to say I wasn't keen on him playing at blind-side flanker

England coach Brian Ashton

"He has a very wide skill set, with brilliant handling skills and defensive work.

"I think he has played sufficient rugby and he feels he has the sufficient experience.

"The key thing is he has had 13 years experience at the top of world rugby. I know it is in a different code but I think he is playing union more on instinct now.

"He has very strong leadership qualities. He is a great communicator, that is very important in that position and in the team as a whole."

When Farrell first moved to the Premiership from Super League giants Wigan, Saracens insisted his best position was at blind-side flanker.

But the RFU disagreed and persuaded Sarries to switch the former Great Britain skipper to inside centre.

"It would be an understatement to say I wasn't keen on him playing at blind-side flanker," said Ashton. "I couldn't understand it.

"It was a case of getting him in the right position to start with and then playing some rugby.

"It might not have held back his rugby union development because it gave him a chance to learn all the little tricks that go on at the contact area, which do not occur in rugby league."

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