Thursday 21 September 2017

Dan Carter backs Owen Farrell to start over Johnny Sexton for Lions tests

Dan Carter, Brand Ambassador for SoftCo financial software products. Picture: INPHO
Dan Carter, Brand Ambassador for SoftCo financial software products. Picture: INPHO
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Three-time World Rugby Player of the Year Dan Carter has backed England fly-half Owen Farrell to start ahead of Irish counterpart Johnny Sexton for the Lions opening test against New Zealand next weekend.

Farrell and Sexton are both expected to compete for the starting out-half spot for the test matches with both players having already started there during the warm-up games.

Sexton started at 10 in the opening win over the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians earlier this month, while Farrell played the full 80 minutes during last weekend's 12-3 win over the Crusaders.

The two pivots have yet to start alongside each other in a warm-up game on tour, despite Farrell starting at inside centre during both of England's Six Nations wins over the last two seasons.

Carter predicts that a Sexton-Farrell partnership will form at some stage throughout the tour, however, the former All Blacks fly-half also noted that the Lions lack of a true stand out centre could ultimately lead to Farrell getting the nod over Sexton.

"I originally thought Farrell," Carter told Newstalk's Off The Ball  at the launch of the SoftCo Foundation when asked what way Gatland should lean at fly-half.

"He's probably the most in form player of the last season or two in Europe and I just thought the way he directed the team in the last 20 minutes against Crusaders showed what a classy player he is and he's a great leader of the team.

"But then having someone like Johnny that is also a fantastic player as well and you want him to be setting tries up and directing the play.

"Having playmakers like that, there's a benefit as well so I'm at a bit of dilemma at the moment.

"The thing is there are no midfielders that are really standing out. I don't even know who they're going to pick as a line midfielder in the midfield.

"If there was one Lions midfielder who was leaps and bounds ahead of the rest, then I'd go with Sexton and Farrell and then that midfielder.

"But because there isn't that one person, I think you're going to have to try and build a combination at 12 and 13 together.

"Who it is I'm not sure, and we're looking at having Farrell playing and then as the game develops, hopefully for you guys, that they can match the All Blacks and potentially be ahead with 20-30 to play and bring on a Sexton.

"You've got two fly-halves controlling the game and closing the game out. I think that's where your strength is." 

The Lions will play the Māori All Blacks this weekend in Rotorua before taking on the Chiefs next week in Hamilton, and then finally the All Blacks in the first test in Auckland next weekend.

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