Owen Farrell is full of praise for Jonny Wilkinson ahead of the Heineken Cup semi-final clash between Saracens and Toulon at Twickenham this weekend.
The 21-year-old is seen as England’s long-term answer at number ten, having made his debut for the red rose in 2012 – less than a year after Wilkinson retired from the international stage.
However, the 33-year-old appears back to his best in the south of France, and after staying injury-free in recent times, has even been mentioned as a potential British & Irish Lions candidate.
Farrell is also in contention for the trip to Australia, and the Wigan-born youngster knows he needs to meet the high standards set by Wilkinson to compete with the former Newcastle star.
"Jonny set the standard and pushed the bar right up as far as fly-halves are concerned," Farrell told Saracens Rugby TV.
"He's an unbelievable player - everyone wants to follow in his footsteps."
It’s not just Wilkinson’s kicking ability that Farrell is wary of either, with the Sarries starlet admitting his ability in defence is also a quality that must be respected on the big stage.
"Not only does he control the game, and everyone talks about the work he puts into his kicking, but he smashes people in defence as well,” he added.
"He gets stuck in and puts his hands up for the team. A lot of people respect him for that."
Farrell also knows that Wilkinson won’t be the only danger when the two sides meet on Sunday, with Matt Giteau and Mathieu Bastareud two others to watch out for in the line-up of the Top 14 outfit.
"[Former Australia international] Matt Giteau's there and he's a special player and just outside him is [France outside centre] Mathieu Bastareaud, so you can't afford to focus on one player," Farrell concluded.
"Their squad is unbelievable, full of established internationals. This tournament is the best of the best, so to be involved in a semi-final against a team like Toulon is a massive privilege.
"I've never been involved in a Heineken Cup semi-final before, so that makes this a bit special."
Toulon are five-for-five against English opposition in the Heineken Cup, and will have their eyes on a final place against either Clermont Auvergne or Munster.
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