Like father, like son! Winning is the only option for the Farrells
As Owen and Andy Farrell prepare for their England debuts as player and coach, there aren't too many signs of tension – they're too busy nurturing a well-established father-son rivalry.
When it comes to golf, Owen concedes that his dad is superior, but the sticking point is table tennis. Both claim the ascendancy. Both are ultra-competitive, so neither will back down.
'He can't beat me, that's for sure,' said Andy during a break from England training in Leeds. Farrell Jnr responded: 'Don't listen to him. He's not better than me at table tennis. I've been practising, he'd better watch out.'
Competitive: England's Owen Farrell
The fact that the pair were comfortable engaging in idle talk
reflected their comfortable state of mind despite the challenge ahead.
Eight days from now, Saracens' goal-kicking fly-half-cum-centre Owen and
Andy, the club's coach who is on secondment to the national team, will
try to enhance the family's good name with a two-pronged assault on
Scotland in the RBS Six Nations opener at Murrayfield.
In the case of the son, this will be the next step in a rapid rise to
prominence. Little more than a year ago, he was on loan at Bedford. But
after returning to Saracens amid an injury crisis, the former rugby
league prospect from Wigan kicked his side to the Premiership title,
culminating in a display of staggering assurance for a rookie in the
final victory over Leicester in front of a crowd of 82,000 at
Owen believes that experience will stand him in good stead at
Murrayfield. 'The crowd's irrelevant when you're out on the pitch,' he
said. 'Last season, I was nervous before the final but once I got over
that line I was ready to play. You have to know your job inside out. If
you do, it allows you to focus on your job.
Focused: England coach Andy Farrell
'It will be a dream come true if I play. Wigan is pretty relevant to
what I am now, not only picking up skills, but growing up watching a
very successful Wigan team. I would watch my dad training, surrounded by
some pretty special players. That's where I learned a culture of
excellence – that winning was the only option.'
For his father, a sense of not achieving all he had wanted as a player
in union, following such a stellar career in the 13-man code, fired his
desire to forge ahead as a coach.
He said: 'To get another chance to be involved is great. This is the top
of the tree. It's a grand final every week: sold-out stadiums,
unbelievable atmospheres, brilliant players all going at it.'
Farrell Snr insisted the presence of his son in the squad would not be a
factor in his selection input, although Owen is expected to start at
Andy said: 'It's good when you get home to be a father
again and talk rugby like you would with your son. But when you get to
the club or a Six Nations camp, he's a player I coach like the rest of
Asked if his son can handle the maelstrom of a Calcutta Cup game at
Murrayfield, Andy added: 'I think so. Good players and decision-makers
are able to cut out what is going on in the background. They concentrate
on the game, not the occasion.'