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England 00:00 New Zealand

Farrell told to get tough

By Paul Higham.   Last Updated: 20/02/07 12:21pm

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Ireland v England, Croke Park, RBS Six Nations, Saturday February 24, 5.30pm kick-off

Wasps coach Sean Edwards has urged his former rugby league team-mate Andy Farrell to use his muscle as he faces his biggest test in rugby union to date against Ireland.

The exceptional centre partnership of Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy, regarded as the best in northern hemisphere rugby, will be waiting to test Farrell's credentials at Croke Park on Saturday.

Much has been made of Farrell's fast-track into Brian Ashton's England team, and he now has to deliver against the Irish.

Former Wigan team-mate Edwards, now coach at Guinness Premiership side Wasps, believes Farrell must use his size and strength if he is to have any chance of coming out on top.

"Andy Farrell has got to try and impose himself on the Ireland centres," said Edwards.

"He's considerably bigger than Gordon D'Arcy in particular. Faz has got to assert his physicality and make that a feature of the game.

"He's got to bash them up a bit if he can because they'll be looking to test him out with their speed and their understanding. Faz is well aware of that and has got to work out his own way of making them think twice.

"He's got to get into them because if you give that pair, who are the best centre combination in the northern hemisphere, too much space, then you're in trouble."

Ashton's fears were not realised over the weekend as his top stars came through the Premiership fixtures without injury, with some good performances showing some promise for the trip to Ireland.

Edwards was at close quarters to see Jason Robinson continue his sparkling return to form, with the Sale man almost scoring direct from the kick-off against Wasps at the weekend.

"We'd practised all week to defend just that," added Edwards.

"I had a few ideas about how we could stop him. So much for that, eh? It looks to me as if Jason has really got his confidence and energy back. That's brilliant news for Brian Ashton and for English rugby. What used to make him so special was his unpredictability. That element is back big time.

"It's all good news for England. You look at Jason's name on the team sheet, and then see Jonny's (Wilkinson) and suddenly you feel a lot more reassured."

Wasps' victory over Sale also saw Tom Rees and Magnus Lund go head-to-head in a battle of the England candidates.

Rees was superb for Wasps, but will still only provide back-up to Lund for his country, but Edwards had nothing but praise for his man.

"We're seeing the benefits of all the hard work that Tom has put in," Edwards said.

"We all know he's got fantastic leg-power in open play but he's showing that he can get his nose over the ball as well."


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