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Gaffney backs Farrell for England start
January 28, 2007

Saracens coach Alan Gaffney believes code breaker Andy Farrell is certain to start for England in the RBS Six Nations Championship opener against Scotland.

The former Rugby League star was rested from Sarries' 19-8 win over London Irish and will resume training with the national squad in Bath tomorrow.

Farrell has made only seven first team starts since his injury-plagued move into union from Wigan two seasons ago.

But Gaffney insisted he ``definitely justifies selection'' and expects Brian Ashton to hand him the number 12 shirt when the England side is named, with Gloucester's rejuvenated Mike Tindall his likely midfield partner.

And the Australian - who controversially started the season by playing Farrell in the back row - admitted he was startled at the rate of the former Great Britain skipper's progress as an inside centre.

``I'm delighted for Andy Farrell that it looks like he'll start against Scotland,'' said Gaffney.

``I must admit I didn't think he would progress as quickly as he has done. It's been a delight seeing how far he's come.

``He's got the ability to play the game going forward and laterally, and there aren't many players like that. He's made tremendous strides and definitely justifies selection in the national side.

``When you've got a left-footed kicker at 12 it's a huge plus if you're going with a right-footed fly-half so he's got a lot going for him in that respect.

``I thought for a while that he might be exposed defensively at 12. Although he's a good tackler it's a difficult position to defend in but he's developed very well in that area too.''

With Farrell starting, a place on the bench looks most likely for Exiles' veteran Mike Catt, who came through his first game since December 15 at Vicarage Road.

The World Cup winner played a full 80 minutes but could not do anything to halt a powerful performance from the Saracens pack who controlled the game.

``Catty put his hand up,'' said Irish boss Brian Smith.

``On a losing side he played well and if Brian Ashton wants someone in midfield then Mike put his best foot forward today.''

Saracens were awarded a first-half penalty try with fly-half Glen Jackson converting and kicking four penalties.

Irish were lucky to escape a thrashing, though, after television match official Chris Rees ruled out three scores and left Smith lamenting their ``lack of precision'' in attack.

The win moved Saracens into fifth place in the Guinness Premiership - three points behind Wasps - as they chase a top-four finish and the chance of a place in next season's Heineken Cup.

Irish, though, are still in danger of being sucked into the relegation battle and struggled to create any scoring chances until Delon Armitage touched down two minutes from time to add to Riki Flutey's penalty.

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