ENGLAND head coach Stuart Lancaster has praised fly-half Owen Farrell’s knack of rising to the occasion and urged him to do so again when world champions New Zealand visit Twickenham tomorrow.
Masterminding the All Blacks’ bid to complete 2013 unbeaten and make amends for their defeat on the same turf 12 months ago will be their own No10, Dan Carter, who is set to earn his 100th cap.
Lancaster believes Saracens back Farrell can be similarly influential to England in their efforts to end the year on an emphatic note, following lukewarm victories over Australia and Argentina.
“I think he shows great leadership. He is the brains of the team but also the energy of the team as well,” Lancaster, who has made just one change to his team, said of Farrell.
“He is still a young player and developing but he has a big-game temperament, as we saw last year. He delivered in that game [against New Zealand] and I think he will deliver again. He is that type of player.
“He inspires others around him and breeds confidence. You can’t go into a game without being good at managing games, playing in the right areas but also playing at the right time.
“We have been working on all the areas; set-piece, attack, defence and game management. New Zealand have got it to a tee. They really manage the game well and Dan Carter is the linchpin in that.”
Lancaster’s sole change to the starting XV from last week’s defeat of the Pumas sees Leicester prop Dan Cole – one of only seven who started last year’s 38-21 win over the All Blacks – replace Bath’s David Wilson.
“Dan has been around the team in every game I’ve been involved in,” Lancaster added. “He’s started virtually every game and we wanted his experience.”
Notable absentee Alex Corbisiero is facing months on the sidelines after the Northampton and Lions prop was told he needs surgery on a knee injury.
“Losing Alex is a big blow,” said Lancaster, who is also without Mako Vunipola. “We’ve lost two British and Irish Lions looseheads from our 23, but we’ve got a great opportunity now to look at other players and be tested at the highest level against the best team in the world.”
Starting XV: M Brown; C Ashton, J Tomkins, B Twelvetrees, B Foden; O Farrell, L Dickson; J Marler, D Hartley, D Cole, J Launchbury, C Lawes, T Wood, C Robshaw (c), B Vunipola.
Replacements: T Youngs, M Mullan, D Wilson, G Parling, B Morgan, B Youngs, T Flood, A Goode.