Farrell Forced to Delay Debut Again

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Byline: PETER JACKSON

ANDY FARRELL'S painfully slow initiation into rugby union is to be delayed yet again with the estimated time of his arrival now put back until shortly before Christmas.

The player, in whom the RFU have invested more than [pounds sterling]500,000 to be a key element in England's defence of the World Cup, has suffered a series of setbacks since completing his transfer from Wigan to Saracens at the end of last season.

He was due to start playing next month, but the Watford club say that he will not be seen until the middle of December.

Farrell, whose three-year deal is jointly financed by the RFU and Saracens, had planned to launch his charge into Andy Robinson's squad at a preseason friendly at Bedford in August.

But a toe injury in training left the player needing an operation which removed any faint hope of immediate promotion to national colours.

Sarries have now amended an earlier claim that their prize asset would be back in eight weeks. Any further delay until the New Year would inevitably end any realistic prospect of their new inside centre featuring in the Six Nations, which starts in February.

England head coach Robinson, a driving force behind Farrell's switch from League, said: 'It will be great if he is playing by December. We hope he will be available for the Six Nations.' Farrell, whose first appearance as a Saracen in the final weeks of last season had to be aborted because of a knee injury from which he has since recovered, has not played any rugby since Wigan's final Super League eliminator against Leeds 12 months ago.

Steve Diamond, Sarries' rugby director, said: 'We are now expecting him to be fit for the second batch of Heineken Cup games in December. …