Austin Healey Column
Hodgson move could damage Farrell
Austin Healey
January 10, 2011
Saracens fly-half Owen Farrell tackles Sale's Charlie Hodgson, Sale Sharks v  Saracens, Aviva Premiership, Edgeley Park, Stockport, England, January 2, 2011
Owen Farrell and Charlie Hodgson are set for a different kind of battle at Saracens next season © Getty Images

Charlie Hodgson's move to Saracens at the end of the season is one that will have repercussions at both ends of the Premiership table, but it could also be a damaging blow to the development and future prospects of Owen Farrell.

Sarries' standout player in the last two months has been their young fly-half and this is exactly the sort of situation that I hate to see, an established international playmaker coming in and potentially blocking the development of another young player.

I hoped Hodgson wouldn't go to Saracens, they've got a very good 10 in Farrell and have got a number of options to stand in when he's not fit. He looks to have seen off the recent challenges posed by Gavin Henson and Alex Goode and I want to see him play more, not less.

As for Hodgson, I'm not surprised that he's leaving Sale. That's fair enough. He's coming to the end of his career and he wants a new challenge. What I am surprised about is that he's going to another UK club. If you want a challenge, why not go and play in France? He knows what the Premiership is like.

It's easy to see why Saracens were keen to bring him to Vicarage Road. I think they've seen how good Charlie is and how well he has played for Sale during his time there, they want him and they've got the money to be able to afford him.

There are numerous other clubs that he could have gone to and I believe that Northampton should have been signalling an interest in the wake of their recent fly-half struggle between Stephen Myler and Shane Geraghty.

If Hodgson had moved to Franklin's Gardens it could have absolutely transformed the Saints from being a very good side to one of the best in Europe. They're undoubtedly already a better side than they were last year, particularly in the pack, but they need to sort out their No.10 conundrum.

"If Hodgson had moved to Franklin's Gardens it could have absolutely transformed the Saints from being a very good side to one of the best in Europe."

With Northampton in mind, I don't think we should be reading too much into their loss to Leicester at Welford Road on Saturday. It wasn't a turning point for either side. They are clearly the top two teams in the league and it was always going to be tight.

Northampton will argue that injuries to Courtney Lawes and Chris Ashton cost them in the first-half, as did their lineout. Dylan Hartley couldn't get close to making his throws thanks to great work from Craig Newby at the front. Nevertheless, honours are even between the two sides and from here it's going to be about which one arrives at the knockout stages in the best health and form.

Finally, some thoughts on Martin Johnson's squad for the Six Nations, which will be announced on Wednesday. I think James Simpson-Daniel has to be considered. He's been absolutely outstanding for Gloucester. Everything the Cherry and Whites do revolves around him and he looks to be back to his very best form.

The question is, where do you play him? Can he fill the void at outside-centre? In the Six Nations, I think he can. He's looking strong. Matt Banahan is a good player and needs another chance but Simpson-Daniel, David Strettle or Delon Armitage offer something different in midfield with their added pace. They can break and stretch defences on the outside and that could be useful for England.

Of course, Johnson could also look at him on the wing. England have got two very good wingers in Mark Cueto and Ashton, they've got Strettle knocking on the door, but it doesn't hurt to have another option, especially in a World Cup year. I'm not sure what Johnson thinks but I'd like to see him give an exciting player one more shot.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Austin Healey is Lead Analyst for ESPN Rugby

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