Lawrence Dallaglio believes Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola are the two most improved players in World rugby and their key roles in Saracens European Champions Cup 28-17 win over Clermont Auvergne has given the British and Irish Lions a template of how to tackle the All Blacks this summer.
Farrell, named the European Player of the Year, and Vunipola powered Sarries to a second successive Cup triumph at Murrayfield that keeps them on course to repeat last season’s double, although they face a tricky Premiership semi-final play-off at Exeter on Saturday.
While the six Sarries Lions, Farrell, Vunipola and his brother Mako, Maro Itoje, George Kruis and Jamie George, only have eyes for the Exeter match, Dallaglio is confident the style of rugby that defeated Clermont can be equally effective in New Zealand.
Dallaglio, a BT Sport analyst and double European Cup winner with Wasps, said: “Saracens have six British Lions in their team and they could all be in the test match squad against the All Blacks this summer and that is a huge asset. They are all either World class or else nearing that status. Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola are the two most improved players in World rugby. Farrell was always destined to be a great player and has consistently improved his game and the sport is in his DNA. He is the England player of the year and now the European player of the year.
“It is hard to believe that Billy had a four month injury lay off and that rest could mean he is now able to play his very best rugby because he is so fresh and hungry. His ball carrying game has been taken to a whole new level and while Kieran Reid, the All Black No8 and captain, has rightly been heralded in the past as the world’s best No8 but on this evidence Billy is going to be giving him a serious run for his money on the Lions tour. He is unbelievably good.
“Warren Gatland will have his own idea on the way he wants to play but he is taking Farrell as a No10, but he will also get an opportunity at No12 and with the form he is in you just want to have his hands on the ball as much as possible. The template Saracens are giving the Lions is what you can achieve when every single player in the team knows his role and they have really improved their attacking game from winning ugly to becoming the most effective outfit in the Northern Hemisphere.
“The way to beat the All Blacks is to have those multiple ways of attacking as Saracens showed with options either side of Farrell and also with width.”
Chris Ashton created a new European Cup record with his 37th try and Dallaglio has been impressed with the input of players like the ex-England wing who is off to Toulon in the summer. “You have to give credit to Mark McCall (director of rugby) who has marshalled that squad with all the injuries and then recruited well. They have a lovely balance of current world class internationals and guys like Richard Wigglesworth, Brad Barritt, Chris Ashton and Schalk Brits who could still be playing test rugby supplying the experience. They the most important commodity to any club and offer serious firepower.
” There is no doubt that Saracens have become the European rugby powerhouse and their story is quite incredible. However, Exeter have an opportunity against the champions because of their home advantage and it will be a really tight one to call. Having won the European Cup, Saracens will want to put the icing on the back by winning another Premiership title.”
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as seen in Evening Standard