Family affair, as ‘Farrell takes on Farrell’ in Six Nations showdown

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Sunday represents the first Andy vs Owen clash as Farrell takes on Farrell as head coach vs opposing captain. They faced one another in a World Cup ‘warm up’ game last August but the parameters were very different.

Working together now facing each other

Farrell senior was Ireland’s forwards coach that day, the game was played in 30 degree heat and England put 50 points on their emerald green opponents. Sunday’s environment will be considerably different so don’t expect a try fest in the sunshine.

Owen first caught our attention in 2011, as the then unknown teenager guided Saracens to their first Premiership title. Andy was the Sarries defence coach and ‘dual-code’ international nurturing his son into the professional game. They went on to work again with England and the British Lions (and with some success). However since Farrell Senior’s acrimonious departure from the England setup after the 2015 World Cup, they’ve faced each other in three fairly ‘low key’ encounters. Sunday will be different when as leaders of their respective teams, the pre-game focus will solely be on them.

Stepping out on his own

For Andy Farrell, his elevation to Ireland’s head coach represents a defining moment for him in Rugby Union. As a player he was a ‘legend’ for Wigan & GB and his cross-code switch was treated with great excitement. The England team (at the time) was ‘crying out’ for a creative centre and Farrell fitted the bill. Though he won a handful of England caps, he failed to make the impact he and many had hoped. This was and still is however common of many Rugby League converts to the 15 man game.

As a coach his stock continually rose but he was then swiftly cast aside after the 2015 World Cup. The disappointment of the host nation failing to reach the knockout-stages. The fallout from the Sam Burgess saga. A lot of the blame, (fairly or unfairly) was laid at his and Stuart Lancaster door’s and their reputations suffered because of this.

He’s made a strong comeback within the Ireland setup. Not many can say they’ve beaten the All-Blacks but he’s coached teams to three victories against the ‘men in black’. Good number two’s don’t usually ‘step up’ to become successful number ones (Andy Robinson is case in point) so now is Farrell’s chance to dispel that myth.

Time to rediscover some much needed form

Farrell junior’s form is clearly suffering following the end of the World Cup. Throw in the chaos at Saracens into the mix and it’s not hard to understand why. He was quiet against France and the wind and rain made everyone look average in the Calcutta Cup clash. In those key moments though it was George Ford and not Farrell who controlled the match with his kicking game.

Owen’s great strength though is his mental toughness so disappointment and outside interference’s don’t usually effect his on field performance. He’s that one player in world rugby you want to take that pressure kick because he always ‘nails it’.

He needs to rediscover his ‘mojo’ for England to win the tactical and territorial battle against Ireland. Ford alone against the combination of Murray and Sexton might be too much for one half back to handle.

The trouble with family

When father and son are part of the same team setup cries of ‘Nepotism’ are never too far away. It will have been a nagging issue in the back of both Farrell’s minds as Owen started his career. Is he only in the team because if his Dad? Is he good enough to play at this level? Such doubts can effect player, coach and the general team environment.

Dai Young (then of Wasps) has said he had be harder on his son Thomas than others in training. This was to the extent that it reached a stage where the other coaches felt he was effectively bulling Thomas.

In football the best example of ‘tough love’ could always be seen within the Clough family. Nigel Clough, was always given a tough time, in training, on TV and in in public by his father Brian. The no-nonsense tough talking Clough senior was never shy about commenting on anything. Only upon retiring did he publicly state that his son was one of the most gifted players he’d ever coached. So being the son of the head coach doesn’t always have its advantages.

Farrell takes on Farrell at Twickenham

The Farrell’s have always had a coach/player first dad/son second relationship and have talked about this publicly when questioned. For sure bragging rights will be up for grabs on Sunday evening but where Andy and Owen are right now, points and performance should of far greater importance.

England vs Ireland – 3pm (GMT) Sunday, February 23.


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