British & Irish Lions 2021: Who Will Be the Fly-Half for the First Test in South Africa?

The Six Nations hasn’t been finished long and rugby fans have an even bigger competition to focus on – a British & Irish Lions tour. They only come around every four years, so it’s not as if the players can rewrite any mistakes within 12 months like they do in the Six Nations.

Plus, this time it’s against South Africa, the current world champions, in their backyard. If there are to be the special performances that punctuated the New Zealand tour in 2017, the fly-half position is going to be vital. But at the minute, there are three main options, so who should be given the No 10 jersey for the first test in July?

Finn Russell

It’s not often that Scottish players are afforded opportunities in the pivotal roles within a Lions squad. In this case, an exception has been made as Finn Russell is every bit a world-class number 10 who deserves recognition for controlling Scotland’s new style of play under coach Gregor Townsend.

In the 2021 Six Nations, for example, it was Russell who set the standard for Scotland’s historic victory against England at Twickenham. Also, the fly-half was the main reason the Scots finished second behind eventual winners Wales. His statistics were incredibly impressive, scoring 35 points overall six of which were penalty goals, and making six offloads. For the latter, there were no other fly-halves on the list.

He may not be as prolific a scorer as the other players listed, but his creativity with his hands and feet are what make him the main man at Racing 92, the 2020 European Rugby Champions Cup finalists.

Owen Farrell

England’s main man has been at the top of the fly-half tree for several years now thanks to his performances on the world stage. In 2019, for instance, he led England to a World Cup Final showdown with South Africa and lost out 32-12.

Farrell is also a Six Nations winner, the top points scorer in England’s last Grand Slam victory in 2016, and one of the core members to almost secure a victory over the All Blacks four years ago. There’s no doubting that his presence in the squad is one of the integral reasons why the rugby union betting market has the Lions as 4/6 favourites over the 6/5 world champions.

However, Farrell’s versatility could be his downfall concerning the fly-half role because he has been used in the No 12 position on several occasions for England to accommodate George Ford. With so many quality options at Warren Gatland’s disposal, the same could happen again in South Africa.

Dan Biggar

You can’t leave out a man who helped mastermind Wales to a somewhat surprisingly dominant Six Nations victory fewer than six weeks ago. Although he doesn’t have the offload stats of Russell, his kicking game is still very impressive at the age of 31.

In the 2021 Six Nations, he scored 36 points in total, including eight conversions and five penalty goals, highlighting his consistency. But Biggar’s problem is that he isn’t as reliable as Farrell – England’s ten scored 14 more points in a bad campaign for former champs – or have the innovation of Russell.

He’ll certainly be in the squad because Gatland knows and trusts him from his time as Wales’ head coach, yet he’s by no means a shoo-in for a starting berth.

Going off the stats and experience, it’s a straight fight between Finn Russell and Owen Farrell, with many backing the latter as the favourite. However, he could easily end up in the 12 role if the Lions prefer someone who can open South Africa up. That way, you get the best of both worlds.

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