Ashton Gambles on Farrell Factor; League Star to Start against Scots

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Byline: NEAL COLLINS

BRIAN ASHTON will kick off his career as England's new head coach with one of the biggest gambles in Six Nations history when he names former Great Britain rugby league captain Andy Farrell in his team to play Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday.

Ashton, charged with the task of turning around the nation's rugby fortunes after the disastrous Andy Robinson era, knows the choice of Farrell at centre could backfire.

Farrell spent the 18 months of his RFU assisted switch from Wigan to Saracens battling injury.

And when he finally took the field at Vicarage Road, Farrell found himself caught in a battle between club - boss Alan Gaffney wanted him to play at flanker and country - Robinson insisted he was a centre.

Farrell has started just seven union games in two years - he was even rested for yesterday's 19-8 win over London Irish but with six days to go before the big Six Nations kick-off, Gaffney insisted: "Andy definitely justifies selection. I must admit I didn't think he would progress as quickly as he has done. It's been a delight seeing how far he's come.

"He's got the ability to play the game going forward and laterally, and there aren't many players like that. He's made tremendous strides. I thought for a while that he might be exposed defensively at 12.

"Although he's a good tackler, it's a difficult position to defend in but he's developed very well in that area too. …