Signing Owen Farrell is like getting Jonny Wilkinson, says Stuart Lancaster

Stuart Lancaster and Owen Farrell
Lancaster has previously coached Farrell with England - Getty Images/David Rogers

Stuart Lancaster has backed Owen Farrell to emulate the French successes of both Dan Carter and Jonny Wilkinson next season.

The French giants, for whom Lancaster is in his first season as head coach, announced the signing of Farrell on Monday evening. Saracens, the fly-half’s current club, are yet to speak publicly on that theme, however. Telegraph Sport reported on Tuesday how a transfer fee of up to £500k was delaying the deal between the English champions and French league leaders but Lancaster confirmed on Friday that all was “sorted”, with just a medical to complete on the Parisian outskirts next week.

“He’s got a game this weekend so it’s been quite hard to get a medical done,” said Lancaster. “It’s just subject to medical and that will be done this week.”

Lancaster said that he expected the medical to be a formality and added that Saracens’ lack of fixture next weekend – the Premiership will have a Six Nations spring break – meant that it made better logistical sense to postpone the examination by a week.

Farrell, 32, will depart his boyhood club at the end of the season having won six Premiership titles and three European Cups. Lancaster said that the fly-half “fancied a new challenge” after stepping down from Test rugby after the World Cup – a tournament where Farrell skippered England and surpassed Wilkinson as the country’s leading points scorer – in order to protect the mental health of him and his family.

‘Owen will have to reinvent himself’

It was Farrell’s winning mentality which drew Lancaster to Farrell, even if the pair have enjoyed a working relationship stretching back over 20 years, with Lancaster confident that the fly-half could have the same effect as both Wilkinson during his time at Toulon and Carter at Racing 92.

“The winning mentality and the track record of being involved in winning teams [is what stands out],” Lancaster added. “His integrity as a player and a person, too.”

“Owen will have to reinvent himself as a player and a leader and he’ll enjoy that challenge - he’s ready for it. I can’t help but look at Jonny Wilkinson, at a similar time in his career, and what Toulon did for him.

“Even the players who play in his position are excited. The experienced players, who have played against him, the likes of Siya [Kolisi] and Gaël [Fickou] etc, were the first to come to me and say how great a signing it was. That’s good enough for me.

“Why did Siya come to Racing 92? Because Dan Carter recommended it. There are a lot of similarities between Jonny Wilkinson and Toulon, Dan Carter and Racing, and Owen now.”

Lancaster believes it is still possible for Farrell to represent the Lions on the 2025 tour to Australia but, regarding the fly-half’s international future, admitted that Farrell was “not looking beyond” his two-year stint with Racing 92.

“He’s excited by the challenge of something different,” Lancaster said. “It’s not about finance, irrespective of what people think, it’s about the opportunity and the challenge. And we 100 per cent wanted him to come and build something.”

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