Mike Catt says England fly-half Owen Farrell is pushing for British & Irish Lions spot
Last Updated: 05/02/13 10:45pm
Owen Farrell: will be hoping to star for the Lions Down Under this summer
England skills coach Mike Catt says Owen Farrell is a growing candidiate for a spot on the British & Irish Lions tour.
Farrell will line up opposite Jonathan Sexton this weekend with the Ireland star widely viewed as the favourite for the Lions No10 jersey when Warren Gatland's team head to Australia this summer.
But following another impressive performance for England against Scotland last weekend, Farrell is shooting into contention to face the Wallabies during the three-Test series.
Catt believes Farrell has "exceptional" mental toughness, the like of which he has only ever seen in England World Cup winning fly-half Jonny Wilkinson.
"Owen's mental toughness is exceptional. I haven't (come across many players like that). Wilko was one of them."
"I guess a lot of people are going to look at it as a head-to-head thing from a Lions point of view," Catt said.
"Both played exceptionally well last weekend and it is another game for both to put their hands up and say: 'right, take me on the Lions tour'.
"Owen's mental toughness is exceptional. I haven't (come across many players like that). Wilko was one of them.
"He is such a focused individual; he is so good at blocking out all the hype and everything that goes with it. He won't worry if it is Dan Carter, Sexton or Ronan O'Gara opposite him.
"What we want from our 10s is that ability to play flat or sit back in the pocket and kick. It's about getting that balance right at Test level, that's where Sexton is so very, very good.
"Now, it's about making sure these young (England) guys see it too. We're focusing on the detail of how to break down defences and that is helping him.
"Owen's enjoying himself at the moment, he's buzzing like everyone else."
Farrell kicked 18 points in England's 38-18 victory over Scotland on Saturday, but it was his enhanced attacking play which really caught the eye.
Forwards are now encouraged to pass before contact and offload from the tackle, to keep moving the point of attack and not allow the opposition defence to settle.
Catt's recruitment as skills specialist has helped head coach Stuart Lancaster layer that detail on to the game-plan foundations that were laid last year.
"They are slowly starting to understand about speed of running, tempo, that sort of stuff. That's the detail we've gone into," Catt said.
"It did help with the speed of the ball which meant Owen could come on to the ball much flatter and bring everyone else on to the gain line.
"You've got to remember where this team's come from. It's only a year down the line and they're producing some fantastic performances. All credit to them.
"I think it's remarkable they've got this far."