Farrell's best is still to come
SIX NATIONS SPOTLIGHT: Owen Farrell wins his 50th cap against Italy on Sunday with England coach Eddie Jones forecasting his best years in the international game are still ahead of him.
Farrell has been a central figure in Six Nations champions England's 16-match unbeaten run and not simply because he is the team's first-choice goal-kicker.
That there is more to his game than a big boot was evident when the centre's well-timed pass sent in wing Elliot Daly for England's match-winning try in a 21-16 win over Wales in Cardiff earlier this month.
Jones, who has won all 15 of his games as England coach since taking charge after the hosts' lacklustre first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup, knows Farrell better than most.
It was the Australian who gave a 17-year-old Farrell a professional debut when director of rugby at Saracens and the former Wallaby and Japan boss knew then he was dealing with someone out of the ordinary.
"You could tell when he was young that he would always be a driven player - driven to be his best. My first impression of him was how driven he was and how much he wanted to get better and wanted to make the most of his career.
"I don't think he's as good a player as he can be yet, and that's the great thing because his next 50 caps will be better than his first 50 - much better. I look at him now and he's developing. He's faster now than he was in November, he's got better footwork than he had and his catching and passing are more consistent," Jones said.
Only Jonny Wilkinson, at 24 compared to Farrell's 25, reached the 50-cap for England at a younger age. But Jones had no interest at all in making any comparison with the 2003 World Cup-winning flyhalf, who is now a kicking coach to both Farrell and current England flyhalf George Ford.
"I don't think Owen should be compared to other players. He is Owen Farrell and he is a different player. In his first 50 Tests, he will be disappointed that his winning record is less than Jonny Wilkinson's.
"But I'm guaranteeing that in his next 50 his winning record will be better than Jonny Wilkinson's," he added.
Farrell has sometimes found himself in needless trouble because of a short fuse, although there has been less evidence of that fiery temperament in recent matches.
"Being more mature and calmer comes with age. Everyone, when they are young, is quite hot under the collar. You don't have patience, you learn patience and you get patience with age.
"I want my players to win, as long as they are doing everything they can to win. You can do that in the most overt way and be yelling and screaming and punching your chest or you can do it in a quiet way. Either way, it doesn't matter.
"You look at George Ford and Owen Farrell - there is no difference in their desire to win, it's just one expresses it in a different way," he stated.