Owen Farrell engenders “less sympathy” than Johnny Sexton because he gives out as much physicality as he receives, believes Brian O’Driscoll.
Ex-Ireland captain O’Driscoll has defended Sexton against England boss Eddie Jones’ latest criticism of the Leinster and British and Irish Lions fly-half.
England head coach Jones this week suggested Ireland star Sexton receives more protection over late tackles from referees than Saracens playmaker Farrell.
O’Driscoll believes Jones raised the issue mainly as a tactic to divert attention away from full scrutiny on England’s clash with New Zealand at Twickenham today – but also then revealed he thinks Farrell is every bit as physical as anyone else in the Test arena.
“It’s throw the banger over in that direction to take attention away from what is the mainstay point,” said O’Driscoll.
“Here we are talking about it, rather than the actual point, which is who’s going to win the match.
“It’s a side plot to the bigger theme of what’s more important, the game on Saturday.
“Do I think Johnny Sexton’s more protected than Owen Farrell?
“Farrell throws it around a lot more than Johnny Sexton, so maybe from that perspective there’s less sympathy when he cops a late one, because he’s prone to the odd loose one himself, as the end of the South Africa game showed.”
Farrell is nursing a sore hip heading into England’s clash with the All Blacks, after copping a late hit from Andre Esterhuizen in last weekend’s 12-11 win over South Africa.
The England number 10 then escaped any sanction with a much-debated physical hit on Esterhuizen himself in the closing stages of that slender victory over the Springboks.
“If he was Johnny Sexton, then we’d be able to complain about him, but because he’s Owen Farrell he’s allowed to be hit late,” said Jones.
“He gets up and plays on. He’ll be like that this week.”