Saturday 21 September 2019

Internationals confirm Farrells as Europe's premier rugby family

Andy Farrell and his son Owen in conversation on last year’s Lions tour to New Zealand. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Andy Farrell and his son Owen in conversation on last year’s Lions tour to New Zealand. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Mick Cleary

The Farrells - rugby's ultimate power duo, father and son, Andy and Owen, two men on whose shoulders Irish and English hopes for World Cup glory in 2019 reside.

As a family alliance of possibility there will be no more intriguing plotline to follow over the next 10 months than this one. Perhaps Netflix should commission a series.

Events at the weekend confirmed what has been evident since Andy moved the clan south to pursue a union career with Saracens over a decade ago, with Owen initially a reluctant emigre.

The pair's influence in November alone has been striking, be it the clattering, contentious hit by the England fly-half on Springbok centre Andre Esterhuizen, a tackle that was minted in Wigan, or the "hurt arena" defensive heroics of the Ireland team coached by Andy, the man who has had more success against the vaunted All Blacks than any other northern hemisphere figure in the past half-dozen years.

Saturday at the Aviva Stadium was the ultimate PowerPoint presentation in Farrell's putative job interview for the vacancy, were Joe Schmidt to call it a day at the end of the World Cup.

Of course it would be a step up. Of course there would be risk involved in that Farrell has never been a designated head coach. Perhaps he might work in tandem once again with Stuart Lancaster?

There would be few in Ireland who would demur at such a result. Farrell is a hero of the land, while Lancaster has long been the toast of Leinster.

And with England? Eddie Jones has pledged himself to the end of the World Cup. Wiser and more experienced, why should a Lancaster-Farrell management team not be high up the Rugby Football Union's agenda, assuming either man would wish to return to the scene of their dismissals?

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That is a big assumption, as Lancaster was shoddily treated following failure at the 2015 World Cup.

Farrell was initially retained, but only until Jones decided he preferred to start with a clean slate.

There are many sound reasons why neither Lancaster nor Farrell would waste time in taking a call of inquiry from Twickenham.

Irish rugby has invested in them and that loyalty merits a return. But if it were to come to pass with Farrell alone, there would be a question hanging in the air.

The issue is not new and was raised when Owen first came into the Test ranks in 2012 with Andy as England defence coach.

The notion there is any nepotism at work in terms of Owen's selection was nonsense then and it is even more of a ludicrous suggestion now.

Owen is a warrior figure with a Mensa-rated rugby intellect. The 27-year-old is the centrepiece of this England side, its brain, its heartbeat, its conscience. Who would not select him?

There might be legitimate concerns regarding Andy's inexperience, but there should be none whatsoever as regards his objectivity.

Jones tried to entice Andy back in the summer when he needed a defence coach to replace Paul Gustard, but Farrell was not for leaving. The IRFU will do all in their power to keep him.

The technical detail of coaching is one thing, but getting that knowledge across, getting players to buy into what you are saying, is an altogether different proposition.

That is what Andy Farrell is all about. That is why he is such a precious commodity. And that is why England should do all they can in the post-World Cup shakedown to make a play for him.

The family issue regarding Owen is an insult to their integrity. They have blood ties, but more than that, they are inextricably linked by their zeal, their awareness, their competitiveness and their will to win. Who would not want that in their ranks?

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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