Saturday 20 January 2018

Owen Farrell backs France to ruin Brian O'Driscoll's farewell and hand England the title

England's Owen Farrell is tackled during the RBS Six Nations match at Twickenham
England's Owen Farrell is tackled during the RBS Six Nations match at Twickenham

Julian Bennetts

Owen Farrell believes that France can ruin Brian O’Driscoll’s farewell to international rugby next weekend – and help England to win the RBS Six Nations title.

Ireland will almost certainly claim the trophy if they win in Paris on Saturday as their points difference is 49 superior to England heading into the final round of fixtures.

Yet a France victory would open the door for England, who will hope to pile on the points against Italy in Rome earlier in the day. Farrell believes that the French can spoil O’Driscoll’s party as he retires from Test rugby on what is sure to be an emotional day.

“Ireland have been playing well and there is a lot of emotion going into that game as it is Drico’s last one,” the England fly-half said. “But it’s a strong French side that can beat anybody on its day.

“You never know what will happen – rugby is all about what will happen on the day so we will see. All we can do is try and improve on this and try and be better as that is what good teams do. Everything else is out of our hands.

“Will we think about the points difference in Rome? It depends when in the game it is.

“We are always looking to score tries, get points on the board and build a lead. All we want to do is make sure we get better. You want to win silverware. There is no point getting better if you don’t perform. We have to back it up.

“The drive is coming from inside in this camp. We are putting pressure on ourselves by the work we are doing, and to make it worthwhile you have to go out and perform.”

Farrell believes that back-to-back wins against Ireland and Wales at Twickenham have made a huge difference to Lancaster's young side – and to their home crowd.

“I love playing at Twickenham in front of this crowd and atmosphere,” Farrell said. “It is getting better and better at this place and I think it is because of the intent we are showing, the want to attack.

“To win the Triple Crown is a brilliant feeling. They are three very strong Home Nations so to get the win over all three is pretty special.”

Stuart Lancaster also believes that France can beat Ireland in the final round, having struggled to get past Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.

“Ireland are a quality side,” the England head coach said. “But France on their day at home, with something to play for – who knows?

“But we can’t control that, we’re first up. We’ve got a proud Italian side to play against who gave us a hard time two years ago and gave us a hard time last year at Twickenham. So we’ve got to get our heads right and do what we can do and control the controllables for us.”

Lancaster’s only regret was that his side did not score more points to ram home their advantage against the Welsh – and narrow the points gap ahead of the final round of matches next weekend.

“Because of the significance of the game last year and obviously the pressure on the boys to deliver, in light of the World Cup in a year-and-a-half’s time and playing at Twickenham, the boys wanted to win this game and I’m delighted for them that they did,” he said.

“If Luther [Burrell] had gone in for that try in the corner, I think it would have been reward for our counter-attacking and our intent to play.

“I think Leigh Halfpenny’s goalkicking really kept the scoreline close for a long period of time.

“But overall, if you’d have said to me at the start of the day this was going to be the result I would have taken it, 100 per cent.”

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