Austin Healey exclusive: Owen Farrell is better than ever - his battle with old schoolmate George Ford will be decisive

Austin Healey highlights the key talking points for Saturday's Premiership final as Leicester Tigers and Saracens meet at Twickenham for the first time since 2011 - live on BT Sport

Published: 24 June 2022 - 9.33am
Premiership Rugby Final

England colleagues and old school mates George Ford and Owen Farrell will go toe-to-toe in the final of the Gallagher Premiership

Saturday sees Leicester Tigers return to Twickenham for the first time in almost a decade as they face off against five-time champions Saracens in the final of the Gallagher Premiership.

Back from the brink of relegation in 2019, it caps a remarkable turnaround for the club under director of rugby Steve Borthwick as they eye a fitting finale to their historic season.

Tigers became the first club to go through the entire campaign as table-toppers before ousting east Midlands rivals Northampton last weekend to set up a mouth-watering heavyweight battle for English rugby's biggest prize.

As two titans of the game prepare to lock horns in this weekend's final, BT Sport spoke to four-time Premiership winner and Tigers legend Austin Healey to get his take on the key talking points.

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Tigers back from the brink

Even at their lowest ebb, I never doubted Leicester would make it to another Premiership final.

When you’ve got a fan base like Leicester’s you’ve always got the capacity to build back bigger and better.

They had a bad few years where it looked as though they might go down, but a club of Leicester’s size was always going to find a way to get back to English rugby's top table and Steve Borthwick has played a crucial role in that rebuild.

He has done a remarkable job in turning Leicester around in such a short space of time.

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There's no single secret to his success but the most important thing to have as a coach is a clear message.

You can have the best playing style but if you’re constantly trying to change it all the time players lose track.

What Borthwick’s done well is be very precise in what he wants from his players. 

Then he builds on that, stage by stage, step by step – it’s a very gradual process.

But it all starts with defence and Kevin Sinfield has done a fantastic job in that area.

Leicester have conceded fewer tries than any other team in the league and that's testament to the strength of their zonal defence.

Farrell vs Ford: The battle at number 10

The head-to-head between Owen Farrell and George Ford will be a decisive battle.

Whoever comes out on top in that duel, either individually or as a result of how dominant their packs are, will dictate who lifts the trophy.

Having watched him in recent weeks, I think Farrell is better than he’s ever been.

His overall game since he returned from injury has improved.

He’s taking the ball to the line, offloading more, distributing well and his goal-kicking has never been better.

I don’t know if he’s changed his diet, but we’re seeing a new and improved Farrell on the field since his return from injury.

Away from the pitch he seems to get a fair amount of criticism, which I think is unfair.

I don’t know if he’s got a funny side, but he doesn’t reveal that side of himself very often and people might want to see more from him off the field but that’s not in his character.

His character is to be a winner and a leader and that's all that matters.

Fine margins mean discipline is king

It's first versus second on Saturday so I'm expecting a tight affair.

High tackles are in the spotlight again after last weekend's semi-final at the StoneX Stadium where five yellow cards were handed out.

The biggest games demand the best officials so it's no surprise to see Wayne Barnes taking charge of his tenth Premiership final.

Games of this magnitude are always decided on big moments and more often than not that will be a red or yellow card.

The last thing we want to see is a player being sent off in the first five minutes but it will be a fiery atmosphere and I wouldn’t bet against that happening.

In terms of a prediction... Leicester’s success this year has been built on their defence, but that will not be enough to beat Saracens.  

I make Sarries five-point favourites and Leicester need a moment of brilliance from Nemani Nadolo otherwise Tigers could be left scratching their heads.

Watch the Gallagher Premiership final from 2pm live on BT Sport 1HD & BT Sport Ultimate, right here on btsport.com or on the award-winning BT Sport app.